Monday, December 20, 2010

The week before Christmas

Christmas kind of snuck up on me. It seems like only a few days ago that I was buying Halloween candy, and now I am wrapping presents.

Which got me thinking: Halloween was 50 days ago -- 7 weeks -- and if I had stuck to a diet, any diet, I could have been down a good chunk of weight. True to form I have been yo-yoing, and right now that yo-yo is is in the up position. I just admitted that the last seven weeks flew by, gone in a snap, and if I look at it that way, it should be easy to stay on a diet.


On August 1, I signed my exercise contract with my friend, Ann, stipulating that I would exercise at least five times a week. We wrote up the contract, and one day after walking, grabbed a cup of coffee and signed our contracts. Sounds silly but it has worked beautifully. When we first signed the contract, we would report to each other daily the exercise we did to fulfill our contract. Sometime in September we both stopped our daily reporting, because exercise had become part of our life. Four days a week we meet at the mall and do a brisk 45 minutes around and around. The time flies. And we have to have a really good excuse not to make our early morning walking dates.

I also found yoga this year, and if I am not at Yoga4Everybody in Fairfield, I am in my meditation room, at the top of my house, practicing this ancient form I have come to love.

I did what experts have always preached: Find something you love, and you will stick with it. Exercise is now an important part of my day, and for that I am so very thankful. Before every practice, when I first sit on my mat, I say a prayer of thanks to God for guiding me to yoga. It has been life changing.

2010 has been my year of exercise. 2011 I will tackle eating. And I think I have a plan....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reasons to break the fast

I am definitely a morning person but I really don’t like eating breakfast. But I do know that if I eat the right kind of breakfast, come lunch, I really do eat like a sane person.

A 2002 study by the National Weight Control Registry, a group of more than 3,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year, found that breakfast eaters were more successful at maintaining their weight loss. OK, I get this, but putting it into action is not easy. First, since I am allergic to wheat and lactose intolerant, cereal and milk has never been my thing. I know there are non-wheat cereals, and I know I can use almond or coconut milk, but the cereal thing is just not for me.

Oatmeal? I like it fine. Most people are perfectly sated on a bowl, and need nothing more till lunch. Oatmeal has the opposite effect on me, similar to Chinese food: two hours later I am famished.

Which leads me to eggs. I am so not a fan, but I find that if I scramble one for breakfast – and adds lots of veggies and spices to dull the egg flavor – I am fine until lunch. It’s just setting aside the time to make this breakfast happen that is often problematic. But I must, especially after reading a post on SparksPeople about the importance of breakfast.

It seems that scientists have proven that eating at regular intervals helps your brain send a signal to your body, telling it not to store the calories as fat—that you literally aren’t starving. When you skip meals, your body can switch into "starvation mode," hanging onto every calorie because it doesn’t know when, or if, the next meal is coming.

Every morning, 10 to 12 hours have passed since your last meal and your body is in fasting mode. Eating soon after rising will literally break this fast and fire up your metabolism for the day. If you aren’t hungry as soon as you get up, have something nutritious to eat anyway, even if it's small. After two to three weeks of eating even a small breakfast (like yogurt or fruit), your body will reset your appetite and you'll begin to naturally feel hungry in the morning.

OK – I can buy all that, but it’s the next info I find even more convincing:
• Breakfast boosts memory. Eating breakfast improves memory and learning ability. One study of college students found that those who ate breakfast scored 22 percent higher in word-recall tests than students who skipped breakfast. Breakfast raises your blood sugar, which is needed to make the memory-boosting neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
• Breakfast boosts mood and performance. A Harvard study showed that children who ate breakfast had 40 percent higher math grades and missed fewer days of school than non-breakfast eaters. Kids who skipped breakfast were twice as likely to be depressed, four times more prone to anxiety, and 30 percent more likely to be hyperactive. When children who "rarely" ate breakfast began eating breakfast "often," their math grades increased one full letter grade, and their levels of depression, anxiety and hyperactivity all decreased. While this study looked at children, it is natural to assume that adults would see similar results related to work performance and mood.

• Breakfast boosts nutrition. Breakfast eaters consume more nutrients each day than breakfast skippers. Eating an a.m. meal particularly increases one's intake of important nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, B vitamins and fiber.
• Breakfast boosts heart health. Blood tends to become "sticky" overnight, making it more prone to clots in the morning. According to researchers at Canada’s Memorial University in Newfoundland, eating breakfast "unsticks" your blood. Skipping breakfast triples the blood’s clot-forming potential—and the risk of morning heart attacks and strokes. Recent studies have also found that cold cereals fortified with 400 micrograms of folic acid help curb homocysteine, a blood factor that boosts the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Time to go scramble an egg….

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sloooooow cooking!

It’s finally winter – and that means it’s time for some new recipes. The following two are from EatingWell, truly one of my favorite magazines – for many reasons. The mag is gorgeous, the recipes really healthy, and most importantly, each works with amazing results. And the best part of both recipes: They cook in a slow cooker.

The first is the perfect antidote when snow starts falling because it reminds me of summer. This recipe uses chicken instead of pork, and the result is really yummy. And although it reminds me of summer, it is hearty enough to be called winter fare. EatingWell suggest topping it with sliced jalapenos, sliced red onions and sour cream. The next recipe is vegetarian, and we can always use a hearty veggie recipe to break up the week. I promise that you won’t miss the meat.

1 8-oz. can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
3 Tblsp. cider vinegar
2 Tblsp. honey
1 Tblsp. sweet or smoked paprika
1 Tblsp. tomato paste
1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. ground chipotle chile
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

• Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground chipotle and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.
• Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours.
• Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 184 calories; 8g fat; 68mg cholesterol; 8g carbohydrates; 20g protein; 1g fiber; 257mg sodium; 303mg potassium
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Serve over brown rice or steamed spinach.

3/4 cup dried chickpeas
2 1/2 lbs. kabocha squash, (see Note) or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
1 Tblsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. saffron, (see Note)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

• Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain when ready to use.
• Combine the soaked chickpeas, squash, carrots, onion, lentils, broth, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker.
• Put on the lid and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 1/2 hours.
• Stir in lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 294 calories; 7g fat; no cholesterol; 48g carbohydrates; 14g protein; 11g fiber; 578mg sodium; 1029mg potassium
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Notes: Kabocha is a squash with a green-streaked rind and tender, sweet orange flesh. An average kabocha weighs two to three pounds.
• Considered the world's most expensive spice, saffron contributes a pungent flavor and intense yellow color. It is sold in threads and powdered form.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


...I have none. There was a time when I would get up each morning, and the first thing I would do would log onto my blog and write. The last few weeks, this obviously has not been the case.

Part of the reason was a death in the family, which affected me greatly. But there is so much more to it than that.

It's all about discipline. And if I really think about it, isn't that what losing weight is all about as well?

I started the blog by saying I have no discipline, which really is not the case. But I do let things slide. When there are cookies around, somehow they find their way into my mouth. When I wake up in the morning emotionally drained, it is so easy to walk right past my computer than to sit down and write in my blog.

If I equate everything I do to discipline, not to willpower, maybe I really could make serious changes in my life. Learned behaviors. New patterns. Little steps toward change. Aren't all these simply buzz words for plain old discipline?

If I focus on one word, maybe I really could eventually make some serious changes. Discipline. Say it loud. Say it strong.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


...sort of. I just finished reading two books: Geneen Roth's "Women Food and Good" -- a book all about not dieting. Concurrently, I was also reading everything I could about the Paleo Diet, which is exactly what Roth is so not about.

But first, I want to talk about Roth's book, which I recommend highly. Her premise sounds too good to be true: when you finally stop dieting, in addition to living her Eating Guidelines, you will eventually free yourself from obsessive eating, lose weight, and of course, feel so much better about yourself. Her Eating Guidelines are seven little rules that just make sense. That's not to say they are easy to do, because I break each of these rules daily. But I am trying.

Each day, I plan to work on one rule. Since there are seven, that means a rule a day. I will continue to work on these rules until each becomes part of my DNA.

The Eating Guidelines:
1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

See -- that's not so hard. HA!

I break Rule 4 daily, because I started the Paleo Diet Monday, which is exactly what Roth is telling everyone not to do. But here's how I rationalize that decision: The Paleo Diet removes all wheat (which I am allergic to), dairy (I am lactose intolerant), and beans and legumes (definitely a problem when I am doing yoga). So actually, this diet seems to be more of a prescription for health rather than a restrictive eating plan.

And it's this line of thinking that has made me what I am today: overweight. But thank goodness I am smart enough to realize that "Women Food and God" must become compulsory reading -- daily.

Friday, December 3, 2010

31 Days in December

SparksPeople is a community of people with a common goal: to lose weight, eat better and exercise more. My kind of Web site.

A few days ago, I downloaded a calendar Sparks compiled, “31 Days to Healthier Holidays.” So here we are, three days into December, and this morning was the first chance I got to read each day’s suggestions.

Dec. 1 was the day to take inventory of all the situations coming up that will make it difficult to eat wisely. Yesterday was a reminder to exercise at least 30 minutes each day – and if you can’t find 30 minutes at one stretch, to break it up into smaller segments.

And today’s thought: splurge wisely, a dose of reality to remind us that we don’t have to eat everything in sight. Just because something is in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat the whole thing.

Case in point: Wednesday night we were having dinner in NYC, and I made terrific food choices – salad followed by fish. We were a table of 10, and when it came time for dessert, my very trim sister-in-law ordered two desserts – a tiramisu and a cheesecake. Those two desserts made it around the table twice, with each person taking little slivers, which you could really taste and savor. And when the dessert plates were finally put down, there was still a little bit of dessert on each plate.

And here is the key: Desserts are OK, but do you really have to eat the whole thing? Isn’t it better to take a sliver, really taste that sliver, and perhaps have a second sliver, rather than big bites of dessert, sometimes without even tasting what you are eating? And maybe, just maybe, my sister-in-law’s tactic of not depriving herself really is important for keeping those extra pounds from piling on.

So yes, Sparks, I intend to splurge wisely this holiday season. At the very least, I am going to try my hardest to accomplish this goal.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am so in the mood for soup. So today, I am passing on two of my favorite soups, just in case someone else is in the same mood.

The first is a new fave, which comes form Spark People, which, if you haven’t checked it out, is worth a glance. It’s filled with inspiring thoughts, lots of chatter between members, tips for staying true to a healthy eating plan – and recipes – lots of them.

The second recipe is from Weight Watchers, which I will be making for Thanksgiving. It will be the perfect way to start our feast.


7 large baked potatoes
3 Tblsp. butter, unsalted
1 1/2 cups onion, diced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup celery, diced fine
3 Tblsp. flour
2 cups chicken stock, low sodium
4 cups skim or 1% milk
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 Tblsp. scallions, chopped
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

• Remove skin from the baked potatoes and chop potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
• In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium until melted and frothy. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add celery and garlic to the saucepan and continue to "sweat" the vegetables for 3 minutes. Lower the heat slightly so the vegetables do not brown.
• Add flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon and cook for 2 minutes; make sure to scrape the spoon against the bottom and edges of the saucepan to pick up any of the mixture that might of settled on the bottom of the pan. Slowly whisk in the stock until all is incorporated.
• Add diced potatoes to the mixture. Slowly add the milk. Once the milk is added do not boil the mixture and stir occasionally. Cook soup over medium to low heat for about 20 minutes.
• While soup is cooking, cook the bacon until crisp in a skillet. Remove bacon from pan and blot excess fat with a paper towel. Crumble bacon and set aside for garnish.
• If you prefer a smooth soup, puree the mixture using a food processor, blender or immersion blender. Serve in warm bowls with a garnish of chopped scallion, a pinch of bacon, and 3/4 tablespoon of cheese.
• Makes 15 1-cup servings. Per serving: 260 calories; 9g fat; 3.5mg fiber.

2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onions, chopped
2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
32 oz. canned chicken broth, reduced-sodium
2 Tblsp. fresh sage, chopped
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
2 Tblsp. fresh sage, chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups water, or less

• Heat a large nonstick saucepan. Swirl in the oil, then add the onion. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Add the squash, broth and sage; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, adding the water 1⁄2 cup at a time, until the squash is very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 30 minutes. 

• Pour the mixture through a strainer; reserve the liquid. Transfer the squash mixture remaining in the strainer to a food processor; pulse to a very smooth puree. Add 1-to-1 1⁄2 cups of the strained liquid, 1⁄2 cup at a time, until the soup has a fluid but creamy consistency. (Refrigerate or freeze any leftover strained liquid for another use.) 

• Transfer the soup back to the saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until just heated through. Garnish each serving with a tablespoon of the sour cream and a sprinkle of the additional sage, if using. Makes 4 1-cup per servings. 4 POINTS per serving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What me worry?

My mom was a worrier, something she would never, ever admit. If I worried about anything as a child, she would always tell me: Worrying is like a rocking chair -- it gives you something to do but gets you no place.

This little tidbit annoyed me to death, and it's something I NEVER told my kids. That's not to say I didn't pass the worrying trait on to them. Unfortunately, it's in our blood.

The last few months I have made a real effort to stop worrying -- at least about the things I cannot control. Sure, worrying gives me something to focus on, but what good does that do anyone, especially me?

For years, I worried about what people thought of my fat tummy and quarterback shoulders. Now, I simply don't care what people think. If they think poorly of me, there is nothing I can do to change their opinion. But this is just one example. There are hundreds of examples I could list, things I used to worry about and now I just let them go. I do acknowledge my worry-item du jour, and then I mentally place the concern in the belly of a bird and let the bird fly away. I let it go, and with that flight, comes a freedom I have never before experienced.


And as this becomes more a part of what I do, I find myself happier with me, my life, and I am making better food choices each day. It really does feel good to be happy. It's time to let go of my worry wrinkles and bring on the laugh lines.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Love those capers!

I love capers, with all their salty greatness, which is a bit surprising since I rarely over-salt anything. But capers, ah capers, with their tangy lemony flavor. There really is something special about these little green pearls, the ripened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly, perennial plant.

The following recipe is something I have been making for years, but recently forgot all about it. I just came across it in my recipe files this weekend when I was searching for Thanksgiving recipes. I smiled when I looked at the recipe card. Yes, this recipe is just that good. And it's a snap to throw together and really quite good for you. Guess what we're having for dinner tomorrow night?

Lemon Chicken with Capers
3 medium lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 Tblsp. drained capers, rinsed
2 tsp. butter
3 Tblsp. chopped fresh parsley, divided

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place lemon slices on paper in a single layer. Brush the lemon slices with 1 teaspoon oil. Roast the lemons until slightly dry and beginning to brown around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cover chicken with plastic wrap and pound with a rolling pin or heavy skillet until flattened to a thickness of about half an inch. Sprinkle the chicken with pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken to coat both sides; shake off excess.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in capers. Boil until the liquid is reduced to the consistency of syrup, 5 to 8 minutes, turning the chicken halfway. Add the roasted lemons, butter, 2 tablespoons parsley, and more pepper, if desired; simmer until the butter melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mind games

This month, my book group at my yoga studio is reading Geneen Roth's "Women Food and God." I haven't underlined sentences and dog-eared pages this much since I was in school.

Gradually, what she is saying is sinking in. But when I read the following -- Eat with your body, not your mind -- something hit home, and why I eat is finally beginning to make sense.

That sentence got me thinking about food and its effect on my body. I am allergic to wheat. Not gluten. Wheat. It brings on symptoms of asthma. I know this. And when I start wheezing and begin to feel listless, I know I have to stop eating wheat.

BUT WHY DO I EAT IT AT LAA? I KNOW IT DOES HORRID THINGS TO MY BODY. You would think that that alone would keep me from eating wheat.

And then there is dairy. Too much of it, and my nose clogs up. But that's not all it does to me. Each time I eat dairy, I have to take something to counteract its effects. Same thing for beans: Without Beano you really don't want to be around me.

Monday, I began an experiment.For three days, I have only eaten meat, poultry, fish, eggs and lots of fruits and veggies. I use olive or walnut oil sparingly on my salads, and I eat mindfully -- when my body tells me I'm hungry not at a specific time. (That's another Geneen rule.)

And after three days I am beginning to feel less congested, although my eyes are still watery and red and my nose is still clogged. But I'm beginning to feel a lightness in my chest, and my breathing has definitely improved.

And I have a ton more energy. And this is after only three days.

And did I mention I dropped three pounds. That's a pound a day.

I want to also make it clear that I am not measuring or weighing my food, but eating sensible portions, asking myself after each bite it I am full yet.

I asked Jack this morning if he thinks I can sustain this way of eating, and he couldn't say "no" fast enough. He's probably right, which makes me sad.

But one other thing I am learning from Geneen: It's time for me to stop putting the needs of everyone else before mine. It's time for me to listen to what my body is telling me. And it's time for me to stop listening to my mind, because for some reason, my mind really loves all things wheat, dairy and sugar.

In the old days, I would have been told to write the following 100 times, and then maybe it will sink in. Instead, I think these next seven words will become my new meditation mantra, to be repeated often throughout the day. Eat with my body, not my mind.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Support when you need it

I have to be one of the luckiest women in the world. You would think that after years of being on every diet imaginable, cooking specific foods to eat at specific times, my family would be rolling their eyes whenever I say the word diet. But they don't.

At least, I am not seeing the eye rolling.

Last week, we visited our daughter, son-in-law and two adorable granddaughters in the South, and my wonderful daughter, Caitlin, called me before our visit to ask me what I am now eating. When I told her anything, I'm not sure she believed me, and she asked again, so I finally told her to pick up some eggs and broccoli for breakfast, and I would eat the same as the rest of the family for lunch and dinner.

But this little exercise made me think of the thousands of people who get no support from their families. In many cases, families take great pleasure in sabotaging diets, and that must be the most frustrating experience for the person trying to stay on a healthy eating plan.

All this brings me to today's message: If your family is not supportive, find a diet buddy who you can turn to when you need help. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and often, our non-blood relatives work better than our families.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My reward!

And now for the last of 10 steps to start my wellness plan.

10. Reward yourself. It’s OK to feel good about yourself! And it’s OK, and beneficial, to reward yourself for your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. A meal at your favorite restaurant, a date at the movies, a new outfit, a bubble bath… whatever you wouldn’t normally take the time to do, as long as it contributes to your well being, is a great reward!

I am going big time, planning a weekend at Kripalu, that wonderful yoga retreat in the Berkshires. I think Spring would be best – the time of rebirth and new beginnings. But Spring, I will be ready to be a sponge, embracing all that Kripalu has to offer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

And now for steps four through nine, which according to SparksPeople, will start anyone on a wellness plan.

7. Learn from your setbacks
. Making mistakes and experiencing failure is all a part of being human and living. Rather than getting down on yourself, take that setback and turn it into something positive – something you can use to reach your goals. Sometimes life is indeed two steps forward, one step back! 

I love this advice because it’s all about not beating yourself up. And I really need to stop doing this. My friend Mary Ellen told me last weekend that I am too hard on myself. I’ll try to remember this.

8. Spend some time “cleaning house.” This is intended to be both literal and figurative. When our homes are a cluttered mess, it’s impossible to function well. Ditto for our schedules. Create a list of your activities and decide which ones aren’t contributing to your overall purpose in life. “De-fluff” that schedule and concentrate on those activities that bring meaning to your life, and ultimately to others!

I actually started this last weekend. We finished redecorating a bedroom, my meditation room is complete, and I filed every single lose paper yesterday. When I got rid of that last piece of paper, I looked around the house, took a deep breath, and just smiled. It was such a relief.

9. Stop comparing yourself to others. We’re bombarded by images of “perfect” bodies every day. It’s easy to get caught up in all of it and feel as though we’ll never measure up – and chances are, we won’t. Let’s get real! These images are results of computer imagery, great lighting, professional make-up artists, self-starvation, plastic surgery and really good genes. Stop comparing yourself to a fantasy and just be the best you that you can be. 

Again, I’ll remember Mary Ellen’s advice. I have a lot to celebrate, and I really need to pat myself on the back every now and then.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Steps 4-6 on my wellness campaign

The next three of 10 steps that according to SparksPeople, will start anyone on a wellness plan.

4. Start a journal. Your goals, desires, barriers, obstacles, excuses, solutions and plan should all be a part of your journal. Make your journal yours. Set it up so it’s easy to use so that you will use it. Include space to just let your thoughts flow. Use it to let out your feelings, vent, rejoice, or celebrate. You’ll be amazed at how freeing it is!

This is a hard one for me. I HATE to journal. But I am willing to give it a try. I was going strong with one a few months ago, actually liked doing it, but one day I just stopped.

5. Begin your journey where you’re standing now. Where are you right now, this moment, on your journey? Accept where you are and where you need to be and begin the steps necessary to bridge that gap. If, however, you find that old issues keep popping up, preventing you from reaching your goals, you may need to seek counseling. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to first go backward. 

This one I have to think about a bit. Not sure about the issue thing. And although I know why I have body and eating issues, I am tired of blaming my mom. Enough.

6. Take one step at a time. What happens when a builder forgets an important step in building a house? Or a chef leaves out an important ingredient in a recipe? Doesn’t work so well, does it? It’s the same thing with your life. You must take certain steps in order to reach a place of wellbeing—and make it fit your lifestyle. 

I am so trying this one step at a time thing. So one step it is. For me, I know the foundation is exercise, and in my case, yoga is it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Goal setting

Today, I offer the first three of 10 steps that according to SparksPeople, will start anyone on a wellness plan. Instead of reposting all 10 steps at once, I am breaking them down because I truly think little steps are the best. Our minds can absorb just so much at one time.
We all know what to do – but sometimes gentle reminders and nudges go a long way in helping self-improvement. So here are the first three.

1. Write out your goals and desires. What’s your wellness vision? Where do you envision yourself three to five years from now? Set three-month and weekly goals based on your wellness vision. Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic and Time-oriented.

My wellness vision: To wake up each day knowing the day before I exercised and made terrific food decisions.
Five years from now: A closet full of one-size clothes.
Three-month goal: To lose 10 pounds, do yoga daily, and cardio at least three times a week.
Weekly goal: Drink 8 glasses of water each day.

2. Ask what, when and how. Make a list of the hurdles that keep getting in your way of living a life of wellness. Then determine which ones are true obstacles – things that you need to work around or find solutions to. And the excuses – ‘nuf said! 

My hurdles: Eating tons of meals this week on the road. It’s an obstacle, but if I pay attention to my body, really look for cues that say I am hungry, hopefully I will make good food choices.

3. Have a plan. Rarely, if ever, is any major task or project accomplished without a plan in place. Lay out a plan for accomplishing your goals, as well as solutions for overcoming the hurdles. This is your game plan – it should be flexible, but have fortitude, fun, but not “fluff.” And make it active. Include specific steps you will take to reach your goals. 

• Do a morning meditation to set the tone for the day.
• Do at the very least 20 minutes of kundalini.
• Walk with Ann as much as possible.
• When I want to eat something I really shouldn’t, to remember: Stop. Drop. Stroll. Stop and think. Drop the food. Walk away.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Every Monday I wake up committed to a week of healthy eating. By Tuesday, I start fighting with myself, and by Friday, I've kissed all my resolve good-bye.

So here's my latest attack plan to keep me on track: I have notes everywhere I sit for more than 10 minutes. That means at my desks -- work and home -- in the kitchen, in my car, in my bathroom, in my bag. And all notes say the same thing: Be strong.

For me, this is the simplest way to remind myself often that I need to stay the course. And sometimes, just seeing those two little words are what keeps me from reaching for something I shouldn't eat.

On days when I don't get enough sleep, and I know eating well will be problematic, I take a cue from Sarah Palin -- I write those two words on my palm. Cheat sheet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another thanks...

...this time to my friend Susan, who talked me down yesterday. I had decided that this Sunday morning I was going to attend an Overeaters Annonymous meeting, because it is exactly what I need.

Susan suggested I read my past posts instead and really comprehend what I wrote. I did, and I understand what Susan is saying. I think by coming to terms with the fact that I am a compulsive eater, I just might be able to get to the bottom of this compulsion and do something about it.

For years, I knew I binged, but it was something I kept a secret. Binges are horrid in all aspects. I don't even taste the food that's passing my lips, which is a shame, because I really love food. It's all about stuffing as much down my throat as I possibly can without vomiting. I had always said that if someone could identify the switch that takes me from eating normally to eating like a maniac, they would make a fortune. I think I have become to understand what turns that switch on. It is not one thing, but many things.

For some reason, the thought of being a binge eater was a lot easier for me to digest than the thought of me being a compulsive eater. Who me? Compulsive?

Susan, if you are reading this today you have probably uttered at least one "duh!" But self-realization is a hard pill to swallow.

But guess what? It's also a bit freeing. I have been fighting with myself for years, which has made me an angry person -- at least internally. Now that I know the diagnosis, I am going to fight like hell to make me healthy again -- this time from the inside out.

And now a quote from what is becoming my bible, Geneen Roth's Women Food and God. At 2 a.m. today, I read this sentence and a light went off in my brain:
"....eating compulsively is eating without regard to the body's cues; it therefore follows that when you develop the capacity to steer your attention back to your body, are aware of what it says and are wiling to listen to it, compulsuion falls away."


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thanks, but....

Yesterday, one of my friends left a comment and said she is proud of me for resisting the chocolate chip cookies yesterday. And believe me, I loved the comment, but it really got me thinking.

I was proud of me too, but I also recognize that it doesn't take much for those cookies to be sitting in my pantry one minute, and in my stomach the next. And as I am eating those cookies, there is usually a dialogue going on my mind, telling me that yes, once again, I have lived up to my worst fears and given into temptation, that I am no good, that I have no willpower, and that how could anyone love such a wimp?

So now I am tyring to fix myself from the inside out. Yoga is helping tremendously. But I need more. Some would call it mindful eating, others might call it awareness, but what I am trying to do is pay attention to everything I decide to put into my mouth, and take stock of my feelings at the time. If I am reaching for a bag of licorice, I want to know if I am tired, depressed, angry, stressed, etc., etc., etc. One thing I do understand is that when I am reaching for licorice, I AM NOT HUNGRY.

I am reading Geneen Roth's "Women Food and God" with a group of women at my yoga studio, Yoga4Everybody in Fairfield. I am also taking Roth's online retreat that reinforces the book's ideas, all with the hope of discovering what makes me eat. Why can I be perfect on a diet for as long as six months, and then wake up one day, start eating off plan, and before I know it every pound I lost has come home.

I call this blog Diet? Not again! because I honestly don't want to be on a diet anymore. I am so tired of counting POINTS, of counting calories, of marking fat grams, of eating cardboard, and when I do eat something I think I shouldn't -- waiting for the guilt to take over.

Enough. I want to be normal. I want my obsession with food to go away.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2 accomplishments and it's only 6:30 am

First accomplishment: I voted.

And as soon as I exited the polling place, the cutest little girl was asking me if I would like to buy something at the bake sale. Without thinking I told her no, but I would give a donation. Success.

No sooner had I put my contribution in the jar that hubby, Jack, walks out of the polling room and says in his booming voice, "Got any chocolate chippers?" Of course they did. And now, so do we.

But that's OK. A few days ago I probably would have eaten one. Today I stared them down. It's my new game, and right now it's working. I looked at those homemade gobs of chewy goodness and screamed at them (it was a mental scream) "I am better than you. I deserve more."

Then I walked away, whipped up my new favorite breakfast -- coconut milk, a tablespoon of flax seeds, a scoop of whey powder and a cup of strawberries -- drank it with gusto, and am sitting here writing this with a big smile on my face.

Baby steps.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The day after THE day

Halloween is the holiday I love to hate. I outwardly talk about how much I cannot stand to have candy in the house, while secretly my mind is screaming "Bring it on!"

This year, I bought our candy Sunday, because I really could not risk having it in the house any sooner. I put it in a closet -- still in its original packaging -- and I was so busy yesterday, I swear I didn't give it a second thought until it started to get dark. Out came the candy -- but as I was putting it into the bowl, I stared it down while repeating over and over again: "I am better than you. I deserve more"

I now talk to candy. Great. But it worked.

Of course this year, not one trick-or-treater stopped by. The FULL bowl of candy was on our staircase as I was walking upstairs to go to bed last night, and my hand automatically slipped into the bowl and grabbed two pieces of chocolate. I looked at my hand, stared the candy down, and repeated yet again, "I am better than you. I deserve more."

I ate not one piece of candy yesterday. Zero. Nadda. What a feeling of accomplishment.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Thursday was really awesome. First, I slept 7 1/2 hours Wednesday night, which for me is remarkable.

I started the day before dawn, decorating my new meditation room. When I finished, it was still dark, so I turned out the light, lighted the candles, and deep breathing meditation for 35 minutes. Thank goodness I set my alarm, because I really was transported to another place.

I then met my friend Ann at the mall, we walked for 45 minutes, and I was back at my home desk, ready to work by 9. I was organized, productive, and so in control. I ate well, and yes, I felt energized enough to cut up vegetables so two big salads marked lunch and dinner. I journaled throughout the day, and the happy mood I was in Thursday morning continued throughout the day.

I finished the day taking a yoga class.

As I sit here this morning thinking about yesterday, I'm wearing a big smile. Sleep, exercise, meditation, good food choices, journaling, combined with a committment to make time for myself, really does work.

Leading a healthy life takes work. But isn't everything good worth all the effort you can put into it.

I am printing this post out and putting it in my journal. If I have day when I am not as positive, I hope I will pull this out and read it carefully.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Emotions at work

Yesterday, I wrote about learning to say "NO" and creating a plan for tackling new tasks.

Then I read a post on Everyday Health, which adds to yesterday's blog. It was talking about emotional eating, something I know about all too well. It's usually never hunger that causes me to reach for foods, but my mood or emotions that keep me from making good choices.

I know when I am tired, I eat more than I should. Ditto for days when the sun's just not shining on my life. Food becomes a distraction, and I usually eat it without thinking twice about what's going in my mouth.

That happened to me two nights ago. We had leftovers from Monday's Thanksgiving feast, and instead of filling my plate with turkey and greens, my plate had a white look to it. Turkey, turnips, corn, stuffing, mashed potatoes. Could I cram anymore starch into my mouth? Yes: a slice of apple pie. And yes it was a small slice, but I really did not need it at all.

Tuesday I was more than exhausted. I didn't sleep well Monday night -- the bowling ball of food rattling in my belly made me very uncomfortable. And now we all know that lack of sleep sets us up for a day of bad eating. When I got home Tuesday, I had enough energy to heat up leftovers -- and not more. We ate dinner on the couch watching TV -- two more no nos -- and then I promptly fell asleep.

Everyday Health claims there are ways to prevent our emotions from getting in the way of weight-loss, and yesterday I gave them a try.

1. Journal: I did that throughout Wednesday. Each time I felt like eating, I wrote down why. It was an interesting exercise, because "bored" and "tired" won out. I also wrote down what and when I ate.
2. Keep yourself distracted. Everyday Health says that instead of focusing on cravings, engross yourself in a good book, listen to music, watch a movie, call a friend, or better yet, hit the gym or head outdoors and get some exercise. At work, I could do known of these things, but I did get up and take a walk around the office. I also drank one glass of water before each walk, and put the kettle on to boil for a cup of tea. It really did help.
3. Cook something healthy. No time last night because I went to yoga. That was my priority. I had a piece of wheat-free bread and some peanut butter for dinner. Everyday Health says if you make the effort to prepare a wholesome meal rather than grabbing convenience food, you’ll really enjoy eating it. Cooking is also great way to take your mind off what’s bothering you.
Before you grab that doughnut, think, “Is this going to make me feel any better?”

Baby steps.....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yes vs. no

I recently read a post on Daily Health News, which cited a study that found Seventh-Day Adventists who are vegetarians rate themselves happier than fellow church members who eat meat. The researchers said the vegetarian diet elevated their mood. The writer was making the case that these vegetarians are comfortable saying "no" to themselves when it comes to food, and that it is this self-control that helps make them happier people.

Interesting premise and one I have been giving a lot of thought since I read the post. I have been super busy the last three weeks. Last Saturday I allowed myself one hour of downtime, and I felt so guilty, I took 30 minutes. I am busy at work, busy with freelance assignments -- all of which I love -- but I am also busy at home. Last week I had to cancel three yoga classes because of commitments, and I despised doing that.

And don't even talk to me about my house. It is a nightmare. We are painting one bedroom, the extra stuff from that bedroom is in another bedroom, and I am trying to change my closet over to winter clothes. Let's not even mention my office, or my built-in 6-year-old fridge that died Sunday.

And guess what this has led to: BAD food choices. I have no time to plan, and the thought of cutting up vegetables is too much for my brain to absorb. Of course, there is not much real food in my house since everything from our built-in fridge is crowded into our small garage refrigerator, bought at the same time at Home Depot for $250 and is still going strong. But I digress.

I just need to say "NO" more often. Loud and clear.

On the post, they talked to life coach Lauren Zander, who said that saying yes to anything and everything is not freedom. Instead, it is a guarantee to bring trouble. "To accomplish anything important or wonderful in your life means that you’ll inevitably have to deny yourself," Zander adds. "Implicit in every choice is the loss of other choices... and that is where real freedom lies -- in being able to say no to yourself."

Zander says that the parts of our lives in which we feel the most dissatisfaction tend to be the ones in which we practice the least self-control. (Like my weight?) Organization and a plan bring control.

Her advice: pick out an area that isn’t going well, one you’re not so fond of discussing, one you’re not so happy about but don’t think you have the power to change. Zander urges: "Literally verbalize aloud the reason you handle this area poorly." She said that she can virtually guarantee that the first word will be "because"... and, she says, you must pay attention to what comes next. That will be what she calls "the Big Lie" -- the fallacy that keeps you stuck where you are.

This is most especially true when what follows your "because" is "this is just the way I am."

The good news: We can change if we put effort and discipline into transforming a part of our life. And if successful, it will make us feel proud of yourself and more in control.

I'm all over this. So I am giving myself some homework:
1. I'll say "no" to one event between today and Sunday.
2. I will put that free time to good use by turning my closet over and painting one wall in the bedroom (it's a big one!)
3. I will visualize what I am most unhappy about -- my weight -- and do the "because and what comes after" exercise.

And I would wager a bet: I will find more time to fit in the things I love to do, and that includes cutting up vegetables. Just writing this down makes me feel so much more in control.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thanksgiving came early

Who holds a Thanksgiving feast on a Monday night in late October? We do, and the bowling ball that is my stomach this morning is proof of our dinner.

But why?

Six weeks ago, our daugher-in-law, Kim, invited two Dutch women to our Monday-night family dinners -- social worker interns in the Bridgeport school system, where Kim is a social worker. We immediately loved these sweet, smart Dutch women, who have joined our Monday-night group ever since. Last night was bittersweet: They are going home this Friday, so in their honor, we decided to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

We also added to our guests list: two more of the Dutch interns (there is a group of a dozen or so who have been studying here), and one set of parents, who came to see New York City and take their daughter home. So there were 12 of us.

And what a feast it was. Lots of laughs, lots of wonderful food, lots of stories. It was a night none of us will forget for years to come.

But of course you know what Thanksgiving dinner means: butter and more calories than I probably should have consumed this whole week. And right now, having all the leftover food in my house is really scary.

But I promise that by 9 a.m., I will formulate a plan, call Jack to tell him what to do with all the goodies, and come home knowing the pies will be gone -- or at least hidden -- as will assorted other goodies I really should not touch.

If I don't, this just could set up a week of bad eating. I CANNOT AFFORD TO DO THAT.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An old favorite

Friday night, I made an old favorite -- sauerbraten -- and it really was amazing. A big hunk of bottom round was marinated four days in a spiced vinegar mix, followed by hours spent in the oven. The result, as always, was a flavorful brined beef, a true stick-to-the-ribs meal.

Later that night I clicked on my email, only to find the following recipe for Bavarian Beef from SparkPeople. Yes, that site is flooding my email box daily, but honestly, some of the advice and recipes are truly food for thought.

When I compare this recipe for Bavarian Beef and my sauerbraten, there are similarities, but there are also big caloric differences. I made my sauerbraten the way my grandmother taught me so many years ago. The gravy base is one big roux, made with 5 tablespoons of butter. Gingersnaps give it zing. This recipe omits the roux and goes straight to the gingersnaps, which cuts down incredibly on fat and calories.

Since I only make beef once a week, I'll wait a few days before giving this a try. But if I read it correctly, this has all the makings of a great meal, and just might replace my sauerbraten. I also plan on cooking this in my slow cooker -- 8 to 10 hours on low will turn the stew meat soft as silk.

This classic German stew is made with lean trimmed beef stew meat and cabbage.

1 1/4 lb. lean beef stew meat (trimmed of fat), cut in 1-inch pieces
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tblsp. sugar
1/2 small head red cabbage, cut into 4 wedges
1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps

* Brown meat in oil in a heavy skillet. Remove meat and sauté onion in remaining oil until golden. Return meat to skillet. Add water, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/4 hours.
* Add vinegar and sugar; stir. Place cabbage on top of meat. Cover and simmer 45 minutes more.
* Arrange meat and cabbage on a platter and keep warm.
* Strain drippings and skim off fat. Add enough water to drippings to yield 1 cup of liquid. Return to skillet with gingersnap crumbs. Cook and stir until thickened and mixture boils. Serve with meat and vegetables.
* Makes 5 servings. Per serving: calories: 304; fat: 11.9g; carbs, 12.7g; fiber: 2g protein: 35.8g.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Go away guilt!

My inbox is flooded with diet tips and motivational advice from all sorts of websites. But the following from, really hit home and just in time.

This week I have been exhausted, and have been doing battle with myself every day, throughout the day. In most cases I was able to pass up the temptation; a few times I was not. And when I did give in, that slip dd not lead to uncontrollable eating.

But I did feel guilty. Ah guilt: that niggling little thing that has been ingrained in me since birth.

Hopefully, the following thought will at least get me through today. I love the first line.

From SparkPeople:
If you can do your best and forget your worst, you've already got a head start on tomorrow. As long as you lay it out there every day, you can relax when yesterday is behind you.

Of course, the only way this will happen is if you give yourself permission to forget. You can use this approach in anything: Pick up a problem, do what you can with it, and then put it down. Work your tail off at the office, then leave it there (the work, not your tail). Deal with a personal crisis by finishing off one day at a time. There's a great deal of satisfaction in leaving things be for a moment.

There's a great deal of freedom in knowing that you could do no more. And there's a great deal of success awaiting the person who gives it her all, no matter what.

Thank you SparkPeople.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Not my fault!

There was a time when I could sleep for hours and hours. But it seems the last two decades, sleep some nights is as elusive as a mansion on the ocean.

And now it seems that could be why I have a hard time losing weight. IT REALLY IS NOT MY FAULT!

It's all about two little hormones -- leptin and ghrelin. Have you ever tossed and turned one night and found yourself eating everything in sight the next day? Those two little devils are at play.

Ghrelin, produced in the gastrointestinal track, stimulates appetite. Leptin, produced in the fat cells, signals your brain that you're full. Not enough sleep drives leptin levels down, so no matter what you eat, you won't feel satisfied. Ghrelin levels go up, so you want to eat.

In simple terms: You're brain is screaming "feed me, feed me!" And in many cases, I do. And when I eat too much, I gain weight.

The really scary part is that the latest study says this happens in people who don't get eight hours of sleep each night. EIGHT HOURS? The last time I slept eight hours in one night I had the flu. If I average six hours a night I think I am doing well. I am in the danger zone, because the study found those who slept between 5 1/2 and seven hours were most at risk.

Perhaps the real key to losing weight is a good sleeping pill? I've been known to try worse things....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mind games

Yesterday I did something no one should ever do: grocery shopped when I was famished. I had just did 3 miles in the Connecticut Lymphoma Walk, and on my way home, decided to shop at Whole Foods.

Two steps into the doors I knew I had made a mistake. My stomach really started growling.

I made it through most of the aisles, and then I hit the nuts. I had my hand on this glorious bag of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit, when I flipped it over to read the calorie count. Reality smacked me in the face: 330 calories in 3 tablespoons. Since there were 10 servings in the bag, I knew by the time I got home I would have consumed 3,300 calories, just a tad more than my daily allotment.

But I needed something -- and fast. My solution was a dark chocolate and cherry cashew Kind bar, which weighed in at 4 Weight Watchers POINTS. I pared it with a bottle of mint water -- 0 calories -- and had my treat on the way home.

It did the trick. I felt in control and really proud of myself. And when I got home, I made myself a healthy lunch. Another baby step in the right direction.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A word to live by. At least, it's how I am beginning to view my daily eating plan.

There was a time in my not-too-distant past that if I ate something I knew I shouldn't, that led to a whole day of eating, followed by another day and another day, until I was out of control.

Now -- and I honestly have no idea why -- if I eat something naughty, I don't beat myself up anymore. What that has done -- and again I have no idea why -- is to stop my uncontrollable eating. It has also made me calmer and more focused.

I don't waste my energy reprimanding myself for my lack of self control. And once I stopped doing that, I started making much better food choices.

A few days ago I ate one of my favorite treats -- Trader Joe's Gingerly Nutty Mix. I think it's the chunks of preserved candied ginger and the macadamia nuts that I have a hard time resisting. Usually, I would eat this treat, never considering what harm I had just done to my diet. And this treat was always followed by another treat, and another treat -- you get the picture. I had blown my "diet" so I might just as well continue eating.

This time, I did something I had never done before: looked at the nutritional label to determine how many Weight Watchers POINTS I had just eaten. Suffice to say I made a huge dent in my weekly allotment of 35 extra POINTS.

That was an eye opener. And mentally, instead of calling myself an out-of-control loser, I simply said, "I'll never do that again."

And I really believe I won't. That was stupid. And not at all worth the POINTS. Sure they taste good, but so do other things that won't pack on the pounds.

And the other thing I did after my nutty feast: Went home and had fish and veggies for dinner. That was a breakthrough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Only 110 calories

So what's 110 calories? 1 tablespoon of mayo, a little factoid that arrived in my email this morning from the Diet Detective.

Thank goodness I don't like mayo, but I like lots of other things that are equally caloric -- those little extras that we often just smear on food or take little handfuls of thinking there's no need to count them in our daily calorie totals.

Face facts: to burn off those 110 calories you would have to:
•Walk for 28 minutes
•Bike for 16 minutes
•Run for 12 minutes

No wonder we are a diet/exercise obsessed nation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall recipes

I am so in the mood to cook, something that happens as soon as the air starts cooling and the sun starts setting earlier each day. I love the fall, and adore my days when I am firmly ensconced in my kitchen. The first recipe has been in my files forever; the next two are from Weight Watchers.

What follows are a few terrific seasonal recipes, all of which are too good not to pass on.
6 medium thinly sliced leeks
2 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 14-oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 tsp.n each salt and white pepper
1 quart buttermilk
8 oz. light or fat-free sour cream
1 Tblsp. lemon juice

* Wash leeks well. Place olive oil in a Dutch oven, add leeks, and cook until tender. Remove a little less than half of the leeks and transfer to a small container; cover and chill until an hour before serving.
* Add potatoes, chicken broth, lemon peel, and salt and white pepper to the Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly.

 In a blender or food processor, process mixture in small batches until smooth and transfer to a large container. Stir in 1 quart buttermilk. Cover and chill for 8 to 48 hours. Bring to room temperature. 

Just before serving, ladle into cups or bowls.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice; drop a small spoonful of the mixture onto each serving of soup. Top with the reserved chilled leek slices. Makes 16 servings.

1 tsp. table salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 lb. uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast (four 4-oz. pieces)
3 sprays cooking spray
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large Vidalia onion., chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 lb.)
3/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice, or basmati rice, rinsed
3/4 cup(s) dried apricot halves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups canned chicken broth, or more if needed
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh, minced

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
* Rub salt and pepper all over chicken; set aside.
* Coat a large oven-proof pot with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add oil; heat until it begins to shimmer. Add cumin, coriander and cinnamon; cook until fragrant, stirring, about 30 second to 1 minute. Add chicken; cook until lightly browned, flipping once, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate; set aside.
* Add onion and squash to pot, scraping down sides and bottom of pot to incorporate pan drippings. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to turn translucent and squash begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Add rice and apricots; place browned chicken on top. Pour in broth; bring to a boil for 1 minute.
* Cover pot and bake in oven until rice and squash are tender and chicken is cooked through, checking half way through to see if more broth is needed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving. Yields about 2 cups (including a piece of chicken) per serving 4 servings, 8 POINTS per serving.

2 spray(s) cooking spray
9 cups butternut squash, cut into large cubes*
1 Tblsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. fresh sage, minced
3/4 tsp. orange zest, finely grated

* Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat two large baking sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
* In a large bowl, thoroughly toss squash with oil and salt; spread onto prepared baking sheets, leaving room between squash cubes.
* Roast squash, stirring after 15 minutes, and rotating baking sheets to promote even browning, until squash is tender and well-browned, about 30 to 40 minutes.
* Transfer squash to a serving bowl; toss gently with sage and orange zest. Yields 6 servings, about 3/4 heaping cup per serving. 2 POINTS per serving.
* A medium sized, 2 pound squash will yield approximately 3 1/2 cups of diced squash cubes so you’ll need 5 pounds whole squash for this recipe.
* Peel a whole butternut squash with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Trim the ends and cut it in half lengthwise. Use an ice cream scoop or melon baller to easily scoop seeds and membrane from each half.
* Precut butternut squash is widely available in supermarkets and is a great shortcut for time-pressed cooks. Be sure to trim down the pieces to small, even-sized cubes or slices before roasting to allow for better browning.
* If you have one, a microplane grater makes quick work of finely grating citrus zest.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Broken record

There are times recently when even I think I am talking too much about yoga. I know that when I really love something, I tend to throw myself into it. But usually I tire of my obsession du jour fairly quickly, and move on to something else.

Not yoga. Instead of tiring of it, I am trying to fit in as many classes as I can each week. Friday was amazing: I started the day with a class that ran from 5-7:30 a.m., followed by another class at 1 p.m., a trip to the beach to read for an hour, and then my last class of the day, which began at 4. Did I also mention that I walked at the mall with my friend Ann about 9 a.m.?

When I finally got home about 6 p.m. Friday, I was calm, relaxed and so at peace. But what was most amazing is that I ate very well Friday, and never once had an urge to eat something I shouldn't.

As I said to one of my yoga teachers before my Saturday morning class -- yoga has been a life-changing experience for me. Each time I enter the studio, spread out my mat, and start my practice, I first take some centering breaths and thank God for my luck in finding something that brings me such happiness. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The skinny on low-cal diets

According to HealthDay News, diets that restrict calories can actually make it harder to lose weight and keep it off. Cutting calories increases production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is linked to added belly fat, a new study finds.

"For the first time in humans, we are finding out that cutting your calories increases cortisol," said lead researcher A. Janet Tomiyama, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of California, San Francisco. "We think this may be one reason dieters tend to have a hard time keeping weight off in the long-term," she said.

People who count calories feel stressed, she said, but it's the reduction in calories that increases cortisol, which, in turn, stresses the body and leads to weight retention.

"No matter how you cut calories, whether that's doing it on your own, or doing something like Nutrisystem or Jenny Craig, it doesn't matter, it's still going to increase your cortisol level," she said.

Oh good gravy: Now whaswt can we do?

At any given time, 47 percent of U.S. adults are dieting, but up to 64 percent gain back more weight than they lost, according to background information in the report published in Psychosomatic Medicine.

For the study, Tomiyama's team randomly assigned 121 women to one of four diets. One group tracked their calories, keeping them to 1,200 a day; another group ate normally but recorded the number of calories they consumed; a third group ate 1,200 calories a day, but did not have to record them, and the fourth group ate normally without any calorie-tracking.

At the start and end of the three-week trial, the researchers measured each woman's cortisol and stress levels. When calories were restricted, cortisol levels increased. In addition, calorie-counting also increased the women's perceived stress, the researchers found.

The best way to drop unwanted pounds is to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors that include eating a variety of healthy foods, physical activity, patience and a game plan.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said while dieting isn't easy, certain strategies can help reduce stress and achieve a healthier lifestyle.

"Food itself, a reliable source of immediate gratification, may be used to relieve stress," Katz said. "When food intake is restricted, something else should replace it."

In general, dieting alone is not all that useful, Katz added. "Eating well and being active for life is the way to go," he said.

"By eating foods of higher overall nutritional quality, fullness can generally be achieved on fewer calories, eliminating the need for deprivation," Katz said. "In addition, physical activity can accelerate weight loss, promote health and alleviate stress in the bargain."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To scale or not to scale

A few months ago, I decided to weigh in at Weight Watchers once a month, because getting on the scale weekly was frustrating. Depending on what I eat during the day can mean I lose a tad of weight – or at times – gain a pound.
But that doesn’t keep me from getting on my scale daily, before I jump in the shower. I am scale obsesses, and I really don’t think it is healthy. According to an article I read on, I’m right!
The website quotes Keri Gans, RD, a nutrition consultant in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.=: "People get frustrated with the movement of the scale, and it might take them away from sticking with their plan. Especially if they see it going up one day — that could affect their sticking to their plan.”
One study of Minnesota junior high and high school students found that girls who frequently weighed themselves often resorted to unhealthy dieting tactics such as skipping meals, smoking, and using diet pill or laxatives to reach a healthy weight. Frequent self-weighers also tended to gain more weight than girls who did not weigh themselves that often.
The problem is that a person's body weight can fluctuate wildly day to day, and even hour to hour. "If you weigh yourself first thing in the morning, you're going to have a different weight than if you weigh yourself at 5:30 p.m.," Gans says. "You weigh less in the morning because you're on an empty stomach, and you're usually a little bit dehydrated."
What you eat also makes a difference. For example, if your meal the night before was high in sodium, you might be a little bloated, with water affecting the weight on the scale. In addition, women's menstrual cycles can play havoc with the amount of water they are retaining. These hormonal variations can cause the scale to tip in a way not reflective of your overall healthy weight.
Gans recommends a once-a-week weigh in, at the same time of day on the same day so there is consistency. Starting today, I am going to try once a week at home, monthly at Weight Watchers.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall clean-up

Larrian Gillespie, MD, in her book “The Goddess Diet,” suggests shifting the groceries in your home to retrain your brain to crave healthy -- not junk -- food.
Since I’ll try anything, this weekend I am going to take her advice. Hey: It’s fall, and time for me to clean out my pantry and fridge.
Start at the top shelf of the fridge, and stock it with healthy and low-cal beverages: skim milk, 100% fruit and veggie juices (no sugar added) and calorie-free soft drinks. Why? Says Dr. Gillespie, “Staying well hydrated naturally helps curb your appetite." Use these slimming thirst-quenchers to cut just two sugary sodas out of your daily diet and University of Minnesota researchers say you can shed up to 33 pounds this year.
Second shelf is the place for fruit and veggies. Weird huh? What about those drawers? (More about those later.) Dr. Gillespie suggests: “For a double duty benefit, keep ready-to-eat, pre-cut pieces right at the front, and you’ll double your produce intake.”
Third shelf is for protein: hard-boiled eggs, precooked, skinless lean meats, nuts and reduced-fat dairy (such as yogurt and cheese). Women who add at least two ounces of protein to every meal eat 31 percent fewer calories daily, say Yale University researchers. Protein stimulates the intestines to release cholecystokinin, a hormone that travels to the brain and shuts down hunger pangs.
And about those crispers: Stash calorie-laden food, like leftover fast food and sweet treats. Plus, tucking diet-busting temptations out of sight can cut snacking by more than half, according to Cornell University studies.
Refrigerator door: Fill this space with spicy mustards, hot sauces, salsas, vinegars, marinades, flavored oils and zesty dressings. Why? Jazzing up the flavor of meals helps people feel genuinely full on 200 fewer calories daily, and can help them shed up to 18 pounds per year.
Freezer: Fill it with lots of healthy conveniences to make dinner prep easier: individually-wrapped fish fillets, lean chicken breasts and frozen mixed veggies, and low-cal, guilt-free treats, like fruit bars and chilled berries for smoothies.
Cupboards: Keep your tallest, most narrow glasses and smaller salad plate upfront at eye level; larger items are stored higher. You’ll ultimately drink and eat less.
The pantry: Those diet-sabotaging chips and snacks go in opaque containers, stored on the highest shelf.
Counter: Add a radio. Soothing tunes while preparing and eating dinner will help calm stress. According to a Johns Hopkins study, people who listened to relaxing music ate 40 percent less food without even realizing it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two salads

I have been eating my weight in salads these past few months. And since I will never confess how much I weigh, let’s just say it’s a lot of salad. But even when everyone else's thoughts are turning to soups and stews, salad for lunch is my year-round choice, although I am always changing what goes into my salads. Here are two of my favorites.

The Bean and Corn Salad makes a wonderful side dish, and if you ever need a fill-in for a buffet, double or triple it to feed a crowd. I also love adding some to a bowl of greens. It really makes them sing.
Romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
Baby spinach leaves, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 cup sliced red onion
1 4-oz. jar diced pimento peppers, drained
Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling over salad

I put the lettuce and spinach into a bowl.
Then I mix the artichokes, onion and pimento and place in a container. For me, this is enough topping for five days worth of salads.
I mix the vinaigrette and keep it in the refrigerator. I add about two tablespoons vinaigrette to my daily salad, and sprinkle it with Parmesan.
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups frozen corn kernels, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, diced, include some of the green parts
Half a red onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tblsp. fresh lime juice
1 canned chipotle pepper, diced (if you like your dressing milder, use half the chipotle)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all the salad ingredients.
Mix together all the dressing ingredients. If you have a min-processor, use it to mix dressing ingredients together. Add dressing to salad and toss to combine.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I love oils, but recently have been limiting myself to the unsaturated ones, and just a few tablespoons a day. I use them to flavor salads -- which are quickly becoming the mainstays of my diet.

Of course, the most famous one is olive oil. The South Beach diet website recently posted some information about some unsaturated oils -- most which I use all the time, but one -- pumpkin seed -- I have never tried and added to my shopping list the next time I drop by Whole Foods. To me, it screams fall.

What follows are some of the more unusual heart-healthy oils South Beach suggests, and ways to use each:

Avocado oil: Pressed from the fleshy pulp surrounding the avocado pit, this nutty-flavored oil, like olive oil, is rich in monounsaturated fats. It has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying fish, chicken, or vegetables. It's also delicious in vinaigrette dressings or drizzled over vegetables.

Grapeseed oil: Extracted from the seeds of grapes, and typically imported from France, Italy or Switzerland, this oil also has a high smoke point, which makes it good for sautéing or stir-frying. It is equally delicious in salad dressings. Some of the imported oils have a rather grape-y flavor, but many are quite bland or even nutty tasting. Try a few to see what you like best.

Nut oils: The good thing about nut oils, such as almond, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio and walnut, is that they provide the same monounsaturated fats that are found in the nuts themselves (but they don't contain the fiber). Since overheating will diminish the flavor of nut oils, avoid sautéing and use them instead in salad dressings or drizzled over cooked pasta or vegetables. Nut oils can go rancid quickly, so store them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.

Pumpkin seed oil:
Made from roasted pumpkin seeds, this very flavorful, dark green, opaque oil is best used in combination with lighter oils for sautéing or in salad dressings. It can also be used undiluted to add a distinctive flavor to fish or steamed vegetables.

Safflower oil: Relatively flavorless safflower oil contains more polyunsaturated fats than any other oil and also has a high smoke point, which makes it fine for sautéing or stir-frying. You can mix it with more flavorful oils for heart-healthy salad dressings, too.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally fall

For me, the first clue that fall has arrived is my first cup of Pumpkin Spice coffee. I had one yesterday, so for me, autumn is officially here. And that means I start craving foods that blend in perfectly with the trees that are beginning to take on gorgeous shades of golds, oranges, yellows and vibrant reds.

It's time to hit the market and buy my fill of pumpkins -- not to eat, but to use as decorations, interspersed with mums and gourds. I have to admit that if I cook with pumpkin -- and I do -- I use canned.

Also in my basket will be tons of apples, because although I eat them year-round, now is when they are at there best. Squash, pears, sweet potatoes and turnips -- they are all too lovely not to bring home.

One of my favorite fall dinners is spaghetti squash -- my form of pasta 'cause I don't eat wheat. It is so easy to prepare but I do have to admit that the strands have never passed Jack's lips. His loss. I cut the squash in half, rub it lightly with extra-virgin olive oil, bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour, then start scraping each half, forming strands. I add some diced tomatoes (fresh is they are still available), some Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt, and call it dinner.

For dessert, I continue with my "fake" food, this time a mock apple pie. all I do is slice an apple, sprinkle it with cinnamon, and cook it on High in the microwave about 3 minutes, depending on the variety of apple. MacIntosh, loaded with water, take less time; Granny Smith, a harder variety, might take a minute more. OK: Even I admit it's nothing like the real thing, but it's warm and comforting and something a little different to enjoy after a meal. I also love throwing a diced apple into my chicken, spinach and arugula salad for lunch.

Pears are another fruit I love warm -- mock pear pie -- but I sprinkle pears with a bit of nutmeg. Same treatment in the microwave. Anther favorite combo is to spread Laughing Cow wedges on pear slices. It's a great mix of sugar and protein, perfect for that witching hour of 3 p.m. when a box of cookies begins to look really tempting.

1 1/2 lbs. lean pork loin, boneless, trimmed of all visible fat
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp canola oil
2 lbs. sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tsp. caraway seeds
4 oz. light beer

• Sprinkle the pork with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 6 minutes. 

• Place the sauerkraut, onion, apple, and caraway seeds in a slow cooker; stir to mix. Place the pork on top of the vegetables, then pour the beer over all. Cover and cook until the pork and vegetables are fork-tender, 4–5 hours on high or 8–10 hours on low. 

• Transfer the pork to a platter and cut into 6 slices. Spoon the sauerkraut mixture around the pork. Yields 1 slice pork and 3⁄4 cup sauerkraut mixture per serving. Makes 4 servings. 4 Weight Watchers POINTS per serving.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You gotta have friends

I love my friends. They are my companions, my rocks, the people who tell me when I am on the right track and are not afraid to tell me I am headed for disaster. My mother taught me from a very young age that having friends is just as important as having a wonderful family. Mom was certainly correct.

I recently read an article online citing a bunch of studies about the benefits of friends. And I apologize to the source, because although I forwarded the article to my email, I did not forward the info about where I got the info. Just know that I only surf well-done sites.

So here are some findings from a number of studies:

* Socially engaged adults age more successfully. According to surveys of women older than 60, those who are socially engaged and visit with friends and family throughout the week are happier as they age.
* Friends can help you achieve your weight and fitness goals. Encouragement and just sharing goes a long way to boosting your willpower.
* Happiness is catching. If you have a friend you consider to be happy, you are more likely to be happy and you are able to spread that happiness to the people around you. People tend to cluster into happy or unhappy groups, and happiness appears to spread not just to those immediately inside the social group, but to their contacts as well. Having happy friends who live less than a mile away was an especially powerful predictor of happiness.
* Building a circle of friends makes you happy. People who see themselves as a leader in their social circle are happier than those who see themselves as outsiders — another reason why actively building relationships instead of waiting for the phone to ring is important.
* Friends lessen grief. A series of interviews with parents who lost a baby during pregnancy or immediately after birth showed that those who felt they were receiving social support from friends or family were better able to cope with their grief. The most welcome forms of support were simply being physically present, listening, and offering sympathy, encouragement, and practical help, such as making meals or funeral arrangements. In contrast, feeling socially alone tends to worsen grief.
* Being social boosts your immune system. Being socially engaged leads to more positive emotions, which in turn may actually boost your body’s immune system and reduce the physical signs of stress.

The article went on to explain the importance of being a good friend yourself, providing the benefits of friendship to others. That alone will add to your happiness.

And one more thought from me: The importance of being a friend to yourself, something I am only beginning to understand. For years, I put the wants and needs of others in front of mine, because I thought that is what a good wife and mother needs to do. SO NOT TRUE. I now know that you have to love yourself first, take care of yourself and your needs, because if you don't, you will feel used and put upon.

I am not suggesting you become an ego-centric, who puts themselves first ALWAYS. I am talking about honoring yourself, which in turn, makes you happier, stronger in mind and body, and better able to spread love to your family and friends.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The E word

Exercise makes me feel great, but there are times when my lack of motivation (aka laziness) takes hold. So anytime I find some tips for squeezing esercise into my life, I read them with gusto.

These tipes come from Everyday Health, and some of the advice is so basic, I thought I would pass it on. But first, a recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) for healthy adults: We need to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread out over five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on each of three days a week. An ideal fitness routine also includes resistance or weight training to improve muscle strength and endurance at least twice a week.

Here are some suggestions:

Be less efficient. For example, bring in the groceries from your car one bag at a time so you have to make several trips. Put the laundry away a few items at a time, rather than carrying it up in a basket.

Shun labor-saving devices. Wash the car by hand rather than taking it to the car wash. Anywhere you go, take the long way. Walk up or down a few flights of stairs each day can be good for your heart. Avoid elevators and escalators. If you ride the bus or subway to work, get off a stop before your office and walk the extra distance. When you go to the mall or the grocery store, park furthest from the entrance, not as close to it as you can, and you'll get a few extra minutes of walking.

Be a morning person. Studies show that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to stick with it. It also sets a positive tone for the day.

Ink the deal. Whether morning, afternoon or evening, pick the time that is most convenient for you to exercise and write it down in your daily planner. Keep your exercise routine as you would keep any appointment.

Watch your step. Investing in a good pedometer can help you stay motivated. Start small and build up to 10,000 steps a day.

Hire the right help. While weight training is important, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you run the risk of injuring yourself or not being effective. It’s best to get instructions from a personal trainer at the gym. You also can buy a weight-training DVD and follow along in your living room.

Keep records. Grab a diary or logbook, and every day that you exercise, write down what you did and for how long. Your records will make it easy for you to see what you’ve accomplished and make you more accountable.

Phone a friend. Find someone who likes the same activity that you do — walking in the neighborhood, riding bikes, playing tennis — and make a date to do it together. You'll keep the date and the time will go by so much faster.

Do what you like. Whatever exercise you choose, be sure it’s one that you enjoy. You’re more likely to stick with it if it’s something you have fun doing rather than something you see as a chore.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What a weekend

This weekend, I surrounded myself with healthy people. And as I looked around the crowds, the division between those in shape and those who wish they could be in shape was striking.

Friday and Saturday was spent in Warwick, RI, at a high school cross country invitational. (My son, Tim, is the Fairfield Warde cross country coach; my husband, Jack, the assistant coach. How's that for role reversal?)

The kids were terrific. They also all made me really feel my age. My poor daughter-in-law, Kim, spent all day Saturday having to humor me, as I pointed out yet another unusual body maneuver a fit high school runner had just performed. For example, there was the boy who, with his two feet planted firmly on the ground, managed to jump at least five feet into the air with absolutely no effort. Or the girl who swung her leg, straight up, until it was parallel to her ear. Truth be told, the kids ran further just warming up and cooling down than I have probably ever ran at one time in my life. Running has never been my thing.

Sunday, Tim, Kim, Jack and I were back at a race, this time the Bigelow Tea Challenge in Fairfield. Again, I was surrounded by fit people, and although I certainly do not have the body of a runner, I finished the race. Since Jack and I are not runners, but we do walk a 5-mile distance regularly, we decided to walk the 5K instead of the 2-mile walk. Throughout the race we followed an adorable 5-year-old boy who was running -- and yes he ran the whole race -- with his mom.

So when we crossed the finish line -- almost dead last -- all eyes were on the little guy and not Jack and me. That was my plan, and it worked seamlessly until the announcer -- after congratulating the boy -- had a special call-out to Jack, the assistant coach of Warde.

A few years ago I would have been mortified. First for crossing the finish line so late, and second, wondering what people would be saying about me. I really don't care anymore. I do what I can do, at my own pace, and if anyone wants to make fun of me, that's their problem not mine.

As the person who checked me in at the race said, after saying my age in a very loud voice: "At least you're not dead."

I'll second that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stretching myself

This summer, I spent every Saturday morning learning Tai Chi on Fairfield's Beach. I came to love those 7 a.m. sessions, so thankful that I live near the beach and that I am healthy enough to erperience and enjoy this wonderful ancient art.

But last night trumped every summer Saturday. Full moon beach yoga, followed by an hour of Kirtan, a call-and-response chanting performed in India's devotional traditions. It was a perfect night: a gently rolling sea, a slight breeze, and a nip of fall in the air, making my hooded Hilton Head sweatshirt the perfect garment for the evening. There was a huge bonfire blazing, and the full moon played peek-a-boo for half the yoga practice, until it finally broke free of the clouds, sending shimmering moonbeans across the water. It was the first practice that I found total peace with my eyes wide open, even during shavasana, the relaxation period at the end of each practice where I usually fight to stay awake. Last night I stared at the stars and the moon, and thought about how lucky I am.

After yoga, we gathered around the bonfire, led in the Kirtan chants by two women with the most magical voices. The wood was fragrant -- almost incense-like -- and the warmth of the fire kept my normally cold hands and toes toasty.

As the participants chanted around me, I stared into the fire, mesmerized by the dancing flames and crackling wood. I was incredibly relaxed, so at peace, and amazingly thankful for my life and where I am right now.

For three hours last night, there was not a second that I thought about my body and how much I want it to change.

I need to do this more often.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Winning the numbers game

According to the South Beach Diet's Dr. Arthur Agatston, there are seven foods that can help lower your cholesterol levels, and I thought I would pass the list along during National Cholesterol Education Month. So eat from this list -- often -- and you might be giving yourself more than great-tasting meals.

Wild Salmon (and other omega-3-rich fish)
Cold-water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, herring, mackerel, light tuna, anchovies, and sardines, can help lower bad LDL cholesterol when substituted for saturated and trans fats in the diet. Dr. Agatston recommends eating fish two or three times a week. He also cites studies that show including this type of seafood in a diet can also help reduce blood pressure and inflammation and play a positive role in improving mood and memory loss. One caveat from me: Mercury contamination is high in many fish, and although we eat fish about four times a week, we choose low-mercury fish for two of those meals. I do supplement with Omega 3 fish capsules daily, and make sure I buy ones that go through the process of removing the mercury.

Cruciferous vegetables
I have no problem adding cruciferous veggies to my diet -- broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale -- all packed with antioxidants that can help reduce cholesterol, help lower blood pressure, promote healthy eyesight, and improve gastrointestinal function.

Beans and legumes
All beans and legumes are loaded with filling protein and soluble and insoluble fiber, help lower bad LDL cholesterol, improve digestion, and the fiber helps reduce blood-glucose levels. I add beans to my lunch salad daily -- along with some chicken strips -- to up the protein level. It really makes for a meal that keeps me sated for hours.

Oats and whole grains
All whole grains, including wheat, wild rice, barley, quinoa, oats, millet, and barley, contain soluble fiber, which helps block the body’s absorption of cholesterol. Eating high-fiber whole grains also aids in stabilizing blood sugar and regulating insulin production, helping to lower your risk of diabetes.

Nuts and seeds

Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein, heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When substituted for saturated fat in your diet, nuts and seeds can help reduce total cholesterol as well as bad LDL cholesterol without affecting levels of good HDL cholesterol. Dr. Agatston recommends limiting daily intake to about 1 ounce (1/4 cup).

Powerful antioxidants -- polyphenols -- found in black, white, green, and oolong tea can help lower bad LDL cholesterol. Studies show that oolong tea increases LDL particle size, helping to prevent it from burrowing into vessel walls.

Red wine
Resveratrol, a plant-based chemical found in red grapes, may help lower LDL cholesterol and appears to protect against coronary artery disease, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Agatston suggests adding an occasional glass or two of red wine to your diet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Queen of Excuses

The Queen of Excuses really could be my title.
I can't lose weight because I'm old.
I can't exercise because I'm tired.
There's nothing healthy in my house to eat. (That actually is not an excuse, it is an outright lie, because I always have healthy things to eat.)
I have no time to exercise.
I have no time to cook, and a pizza is so much easier.

And all those came to mind without even thinking. But now that I wrote them down, I feel so much better.

I wrote these -- and a ton more -- in my diet journal, which is actually becoming a friend. I look forward to adding things daily, and have even gone back from time to time to read over what I have written.

In my journal, I wrote down 19 excuses I love to make, explaining why that excuse works for me. But then, and here's the key, I wrote down a way to fight the excuse.

So here goes, with the five excuses I admitted in my blog:
I can't lose weight because I'm old.
Why it works: I am old, and when most of my mom's generation were my age, they had begun to slow down and spend half the year in Florida.
Fight the excuse: If I don't lose weight, I will not get much older. How's that for a dose of reality.

I can't exercise because I'm tired.
Why it works: I work hard, and I deserve that spot on the couch.
Fight the excuse: I'm always tired. If I wait until I am not tired, I will never exercise and then I will not get much older.

There's nothing healthy in my house to eat.
Why it works: That statement alone gets me thinking about unhealthy food choices. I am not thinking cherry tomatoes or pineapple chunks.
Fight the excuse: Are you kidding me? There is always a fruit or veggie, and if for some strange reason there is not, there is always an emergency can of low-calorie/low-fat Progressive soup in the pantry. If I don't choose the fruit, veggie or soup I will not get much older.

I have no time to exercise.
Why it works: It's hard to fit in exercise.
Fight the excuse: If my sister-in-law Daria, who is leading a huge company, can find time to exercise, I can. If I don't find the time, I will not get much older.

I have no time to cook, and a pizza is so much easier.
Why it works: Sending Jack to Vazzy's for pizza is so much easier.
Fight the excuse: No, you are being lazy and do not want to cook. If I keep eating pizza, I will not get much older.

Do you see a pattern here? To negate it all, all I have to repeat, over and over: "Keep doing (fill in the words) and I will not get much older": Food for thought.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dream a little dream

I've written about Charles Stuart Platkin, aka The Diet Detective, before, and today, I'm passing on some of his sage advice once again, from his Web site, It's a mind exercise, one I did a few weeks ago, and one I now cannot get out of my mind. And the image that has taken over my mind is really helping me whenever I feel tempted to eat. So here's his advice, which he calls a Life Preserver, and in my case, it really has become just that.

The first thing he asks you to do is to visualize what your life will be like after you've achieved your weight-loss goals.

Next, develop a scenario, a scene from your future. This is your Life Preserver. Mine took me a second to develop: Going into my closet every morning, facing a closet full of clothes that FIT, not a closet full of clothes in assorted sizes. In my closet of the future, there is enough space so I don't have to put seasonal clothes away.

And here are his suggestions for finding your Life Preserver
* Sit in a comfortable, quiet place.
* Close your eyes and just let yourself dream.
* Think about what losing all of the weight really looks like — are you climbing a mountain, outside playing with your kids, or maybe you just love the way you look and finally feel like yourself again.
* Concentrate on and imagine exactly what you hope to achieve. (Remember, this should be inspiring for you and you alone. This doesn't have to be what other people imagine for you!)
* To make this fantasy a reality, keep this vision in mind when you face roadblocks. Always hold on to your Life Preserver and prepare for unplanned situations by mentally preparing yourself.

Thank you Diet Detective.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I did it!

Last Wednesday I wrote about how I was not exercising Monday and Tuesday, and decided on a plan to get up and moving. I did it, although I didn't follow my directions exactly. Sort of took a little detour.

I vowed to set my alarm for 5 a.m., and instead of hitting the snooze alarm, I would plant my feet on the side of the bed.

The alarm went off, and I didn't hit the snooze alarm. Instead, I reset it for 7. I have been feeling really horrid this weekend, and decided a few extra hours of sleep is what I needed. Five minutes later, guilt-ridden, I turned the alarm off, got on my exercise clothes, and walked 30 minutes with Leslie Sansone and her posse. And yes, I feel better than I would have if I had stayed in bed. Mentally, I am really proud of myself. And tomorrow, when the alarm goes off and I start playing my mental games (because I know I will), I will remember this morning, remind myself that 30 minutes really goes so quickly, and get my belly-fat bloated body out of bed.

'Nough said.