Friday, January 29, 2010

Another week gone

And another week closer to Kara's wedding, and I am no where close to where I want to be with my weight.

And this is where I begin to bore myself, because once again I am starting at the beginning of my weight loss journey. I know what I should be doing, I just can't seem to get there. Maybe I just want it too much.

So here is my strategy for the next week. Each day I will do something new, and keep doing what I did the days before, so that by next Friday, seven new things will be part of my life.
Today, I am going to drink 8 glasses of water.
Saturday I will not have any alcohol.
Sunday I will exercise at least 30 minutes.
Monday I will chew each bite of food 20 times.
Tuesday I will eat two salads.
Wednesday I will not eat any sugar.
Thursday I will eat 3 pieces of fruit.

Baby steps.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eating disorder

I always DVR-ed past seasons of the The Biggest Loser, watching only the weigh-ins and the weekly update. This season I am watching it on demand because NBC does not allow fast forwarding. I am forced to watch the highs and lows of what each of these courageous contestants is going through. Talk about emotionally upsetting.

It has caused me to have lots of conversations with myself, and now I am finally able to admit that I have an eating disorder. And although there is no name for my disorder, that does not diminish the effect it has played in my life. In a group, I can laugh at my on again/off again diets that I have tried over the years, but they are so not funny. In fact, nothing about the way I eat is amusing.

The only thing that separates me from The Biggest Loser contestants is the switch that goes off in my mind that makes me start dieting when I reach a certain weight. But our issues are the same.

I'll never forget my oldest daughter, Caitlin's, reaction to our family Christmas card when she was in middle school. Our three children were kneeling in front of that year's Christmas tree, which we had just chopped down at Jones Tree Farm in Shelton, CT. Caitlin despised the picture, because she thought her thighs looked fat. Instead of going on a diet, Caitlin decided to start exercising, which eventually led to her lifelong love of running. I should have followed her example.

But finally admitting that I have an eating disorder is huge. Now I have to figure out how to fix it. Heather Wellness: You listening?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pick of the Week: Arugula

When I made the switch to organics decades ago, my green salad choices were dismal. I would shop in specialty stores and hope that there was something else besides Romaine to take home. Thankfully that scenario is long gone.

But I do have my favorite salad mix, a combo of baby spinach and baby arugula. I love the peppery, pungent taste of the arugula contrasting with the mild yet distinctive flavor of spinach. And where once a diced apple was added to my noontime mix, I find grapefruit's sharp bite is a wonderful addition. And like all greens, it is a dieter's friend: A cup has about 10 calories. Volume eating!

Selecting: The arugula I buy is marked "baby," and comes wrapped in a plastic bag inside a plastic case, so I really have no choice. But good arugula has fresh, small green leaves,with no signs of yellow or wilting. The larger the leaf, the more pungent the taste. Old arugula can be really bitter.

Storing: Arugula should be fine if kept in a plastic bag for about five days. After that, it will begin to wilt. But like any green, it's best to eat it as soon as you can.

The following recipe is from "Lettuce in Your Kitchen" by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, and it really is quite special. Serve it with pride. They also suggest drizzling the dressing on grilled tuna or swordfish.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 grapefruit, peeled, separated into sections, and sections halved
1 orange, peeled, separated into sections, and sections halved
1 red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
1 bunch arugula, trimmed, washed and dried
1/4 cup loosely packed whole fresh basil leaves
2 Tblsp. toasted sesame seeds, optional
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, optional
  • In a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together well.
  • In a large bowl, combine the grapefruit, orange, onion, arugula and basil leaves. Stir the dressing well and add just enough to moisten the ingredients (there will be some dressing left over), and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pomegranate seeded if you have them, and serve. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My tiny experiment

I tried an experiment last week that I am now ready to share. Each time I looked at a food, instead of calling it a good food or a bad one, I decided to think of every food as either a friend or acquaintance.

So something like ice cream, which I would once have called a bad food (and one of my favorite things on Earth), is just an acquaintance I should see from time to time. My nutrition and lifestyles coach Heather Pierce is trying to banish negatives from my mind, because positives will give me the power over food and food is no longer my enemy. The friend/acquaintance thing is my interpretation of Heather's advice.

So ice cream, my new acquaintance, is a food I will bump into from time to time, and when I decide to spend some time with it, I should do so with care. Perhaps I might decided to take a few bites, or decide a big scoop is what I need. But since it is an acquaintance, I will not see ice cream the next day.

When I spoke with Heather last night for my weekly check-in, I didn't tell her about my little experiment. For some reason, I wanted to write about it first to be sure it didn't sound too far out. And as I'm putting my thoughts together this morning, although this whole thing is a bit weird, I'm actually liking what I just wrote. Whatever works!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Monday

A segment on last week's Biggest Loser was hammering home the point that Americans have lost touch with portion control. No surprise here.The show also showed some of the favorite foods ordered out, including what most of us consider healthy: a main-dish salad. We feel virtuous ordering one, but in fact, it could prove to be one of the more caloric items on the menu. Add in nuts, fruit, sugar, salad dressing and croutons, and in one big bowl you could be consuming more than 1,000 calories.

If you stick with greens, veggies and grilled fish or poultry, and dress you salad with measured amounts of oil, you should be fine. You could also get bored. The following suggestions come from, terrific for adding more interest to greens, upping the nutrients, and preventing salad burn-out. I've added a few of mine own suggestions as well.
  • Choose a darker, more nutrient-dense green, such as baby spinach, arugula, or a spring mix, rather than iceberg lettuce.
  • Opt for squash, eggplant, artichoke, and zucchini grilled with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil, instead of (or in addition to) more traditional ingredients, like tomatoes and cucumbers.
  • Try avocado or olives for a touch of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
  • Toss in grilled salmon, tuna, shrimp, or even tofu, rather than grilled chicken.
  • Top with measured amounts of pecans, sunflower seeds, or another more exotic nut or seed, instead of buttery white-bread croutons.
  • Chop up on apple or grapefruit. If you chose the grapefruit, add the juice to the dressing.
  • Sprinkle your salad with two chopped scallions and some freshly grated ginger.
  • Instead of celery, add chopped fennel for crunch and a hint of licorice.
  • Make your own salad dressing with a mix of extra-virgin olive oil, mustard, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Store-bought dressings are fine, too, as long as they don't contain more than three grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving. Or try sprinkling your salad with plain balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Word power

At my Monday meeting with my lifestyle and nutrition coach Heather Pierce, she instructed me to pepper my home, office and car with little notes that will subconsciously help me stay true to my diet. What I wrote on those notes was up to me.

The first note I wrote was "stop," which I was going to place on my fridge. But then I thought -- "how negative" -- and ripped it up. Instead, a happy face now adorns the refrigerator door, and a message that says "think" greats me when I open the freezer. "Good choices" is what I chose for my pantry. And "the power of 12," my lucky number, is on my computer to greet me each morning when I sit down to write my blog.

But I needed something powerful in my car, at work, on my bathroom mirror and in my wallet. I first wrote, "What do you want," because it immediately makes me think of Kara's wedding, Kara and Bryan saying their vows in 99 days at the edge of the ocean, and me looking very much like Moby Dick.

I ripped that note up and wrote, "What do you really want." Adding that one little word changed the whole meaning of the note. Really!

Because besides world peace, this is what I really want:
  • To live and long and healthy life;
  • To be vibrant of mind and healthy of body so I won't be a burden to my three children, their significant others, and my husband;
  • To be able to play, laugh and hike with my grandchildren, so when I spend a morning at Monkey Joe's bouncing with Sammy, I won't have to take masses of ibuprofen to get me through the next week;
  • To not be the old drooling woman in the corner at holidays.

Could these little notes be the key that makes me stay on a diet, to eat only healthy foods and exercise? Or should I say that once again Heather Pierce -- -- came to my rescue and made a simple suggestion that might actually save my life

Only time will tell. But for right now, whether I actually see any of those notes or subconsciously know they are there, I have been eating three healthy meals a day and reach for good snacks when I am hungry between meals.

I want to dance at my grandchildren's weddings. I have a lot of living to do, not only at Kara's wedding, but for many years after that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pick of the Week: Shallots

I owe my love of shallots to Perla Meyers, the first cookbook author I ever interviewed. I was a young bride, an insecure albeit adventurous cook, and a journalist for just a few years. I was smitten with Perla, a no-nonsense European woman, who was hyping her "Peasant Kitchen" cookbook. She was so secure in her abilities to teach Americans what cooking was all about, and I was her sponge, soaking up all the cooking advice she was willing to share. Just as Julie Powell whipped up 524 of Julia Child's recipes in a year, I cooked my way through all of Perla's cookbooks. Perla has never gained the acclaim of Julia, but for me, she is just as special.

I met Perla many times after that first meeting, and wrote about her each time she published another cookbook. I would often attend her fabulous cooking classes in her Litchfield County, Connecticut, county home because to me, Perla knew everything there was to know about cooking. Her technique was impeccable, her knowledge unrivaled, and it was from her that I learned two very important facts:
1. Philadelphia cream cheese has so many chemicals in it, it can stay out of the fridge for hours.
2. A good kitchen is never without shallots.

So today, I'm thinking of Perla and how dull life would have been if I never discovered shallots. This petite member of the onion family has cloves like garlic, but that's where the similarity ends. Shallots are the mild, delicate children you want to keep around as much as possible.

Choose shallots that are not sprouting, wrinkled or moldy.

Store unwrapped, in a cool, dry place for up to a month.

Today's recipe is from Perla's "Peasant Kitchen," and one I used to make all the time. I'm glad I started to think about Perla and shallots today, because soon, (OK after Kara's wedding!) I will make her version of the classic Coquilles St. Jacques. She writes in the cookbook that this recipe is "an excellent if rather expensive appetizer for last-minute entertainment. It is quickly prepared, and the result is both elegant and delicious." I couldn't agree more. And except for the butter, it is really quite healthy!

3 large shallots, finely minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
10 Tblsp. softened butter
2 Tblsp. finely minced tarragon
1 Tblsp. finely minced fresh chervil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
36 to 42 bay scallops
1/2 cup softened bread crumbs
1 Tblsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
  • Combine the shallots and wine in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook the mixture over high heat until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons, then remove from the heat.
  • In a bowl, combine 7 tablespoons of the butter with a little of the shallot mixture. Add the tarragon, chervil, salt and pepper and blend well.
  • Rub the inside of 6 scallop shells or dishes with the tarragon butter. Top with 6 to 7 scallops, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, and top with the remaining shallot mixture. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Add the bread crumbs, parsley and garlic and cook the mixture for 1 minute, stirring until it is well blended.
  • Preheat the broiler
  • Set the scallop shells under the broiler about 5 to 6 inches from the heat source, and broil for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the scallops with a little of the bread crumb mixture, then return them to the oven for another 2 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are lightly browned.
  • Serve the scallops immediately with French bread and a well chilled dry white wine. Serves 6.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

100 days

I just recounted -- and it's an even 100 days until our daughter, Kara's wedding. Yippee: An extra day to shed some pounds!

Today, Friday, is my favorite day of the week, my time to reflect on the past week and set goals for the next seven days. I actually loved this past week because I set some goals and accomplished them all. I cleaned out our kitchen cabinets, pantry and refrigerator, which was monumental. De-cluttering really is cathartic. I made an appointment -- and then kept the appointment -- with Heather Pierce, my nutrition and lifestyles coach. Another monumental feat!

For next week:
  • If you read yesterday's comments, you'll see that Heather knows I have lots of work to do. So this week, I will be more positive and remove the word want from my vocabulary.
  • I will eat the way I ate this week, because honestly, I feel great this morning. Breakfast: vegetable and part-skim mozzarella; Mid-morning snack: whole grapefruit; Lunch: Arugula, spinach, chicken breast slices, diced apple, 2 scallions, ginger, all dressed with just Balsamic vinegar; Mid-afternoon snack: apple, 6 rice crackers; Dinner: grilled poultry, fish or beef, green vegetables, salad, baked apple for dessert; After-dinner snack, if hungry, with my tea: 6 rice crackers.
  • I will continue to drink 8 glasses of water each day.
And that's enough!

What's a negativity diet?

I finally gave in and saw my nutrition and lifestyle coach last night -- Heather Pierce, aka Heather Wellness. I few weeks ago I admitted in this blog that I have avoided Heather for more than two months now, because although I might think, write and try to stay on a diet, I have been yo-yoing more than ever. And it was hard for me to face this person who is really committed to my success.

So after we got the hugs and how are yous over, Heather looked me in the eye and said: "How many days until the wedding?" Heather meant business. I could see it in the look she was giving me. And I thought, if Heather means business, so must I.

There are 101 days until our daughter, Kara, marries Bryan, which means my wiggle room is gone. If I don't want to look like a beached whale when they say their vows at the edge of the ocean, I better do something -- and quickly.

We talked a lot last night. Heather asked me some questions I had never considered before, and about the time our session should have ended, she told me she is putting me on a diet, one she calls the Negativity Diet. Of course, it's anything but.

She told me that whenever I use a negative word to describe my diet, or my lack of being true to my diet, I should turn the word or phase into a positive. So when I have been eating really badly, instead of beating myself up, I should turn that into a learning experience, consider what was the trigger that made me reach for the bag of Jelly Bellies rather than a celery stick, and tell myself that that is past, and the celery will help me reach my goal. That's positive.

Heather also mentioned some phrases -- "I wish," "I hope," "I want" -- that I must banish from my vocabulary whenever I think about losing weight, which is always. Heather explained these phrases take the power to succeed away from me, and I am no longer in control of my life. I have to admit that hit home, because if there is one thing I am, it's a control freak.

Instead, I will be strong and confident in my thoughts, and rephrase everything in the present tense:
  • "I will lose weight."
  • "I am eating well."
  • "I am eating what I want to eat and I feel good about it."
Heather says this simple trick, stating everything pro-actively and in the present tense, will put me in control. She also suggested I start writing positive affirmations on note cards or Post-It notes, and scatter them around my home, car and office, in places where I often go. Even if I am not directly looking at the notes, my subconscious is registering that they are there, acting as the first-line of defense to keep me strong and in control.

The first note went up on my computer screen this morning, before I started writing this post. My fridge and pantry will be next. And I think for added reinforcement, my side of our bathroom mirror will get one as well.

And then there's my car. I admitted to Heather last night that after a long day at work, my hour drive home is sometimes curtailed by a stop at a grocery store. And although I am often picking up things for dinner, if I am really tired, sometimes some cookies or red licorice magically appear in my grocery bag. So besides the note, Heather suggested a brilliant way to break that pattern: Stock my car with apples. I love apples -- the taste, the texture, the experience. It is the only fruit that can take me an hour to eat, perfect for my drive home. I take little bites, and chew each bite at least 25 times. By doing this, I can also eat the seeds and the inside core, which prolongs my apple experience. And if I am really hungry, I could eat two apples, or even three. That's a whole lot better than eating a bag of Twizzlers, and will make me say, over and over again: "I am eating what I want and feel really good about it."

In addition, if I have the urge to reach for something that I will not feel good about eating, I will e-mail or call Heather, my own personal diet lifeline. I am back on schedule, seeing her in person every two weeks, but on the off weeks, we have set up a time for me to call and check-in. And yes, I will be regularly checking out her Web site,, because that alone will inspire me to succeed.

I am also ending each column from now on with the number of days till the wedding: 101. I told you my wiggle room is gone.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I spent my weekend reorganizing my kitchen cabinets, including the walk-in pantry that had become impossible to walk into, let alone find the food I was searching for. I realized how out-of-control my kitchen had become when I hosted a Pampered Chef party last week, decided to make some cookies for my guests, and could not find even one of my four cooling racks.

And then my husband came down with the flu Friday, so I thought that since we were not going anyplace this weekend, this was the perfect time to tackle the kitchen. And everything I have ever read about eating healthy says the first place to start is your kitchen, purging it of everything that does not fit into your eating plan.

I'm purged. The kitchen cabinets are pristine, the walk-in pantry spotless and organized, and all my herbs and spices are back in alphabetical order. I even made it to the grocery store, so I'm ready to cook this week, but even more importantly, I know where everything is.

My weekend was not fun, but it was satisfying, and with each old pot, pan or kitchen-cabinet detritus I threw out, I was renewing my resolve to live a healthier, simpler life. And last night, before I went to sleep, I made a list of tasks to accomplish this week, something I used to do every Sunday night but have not done in years.

I feel more in control today. I'm hoping this control spills over into the food choices I make today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Waist whittlers

eDiets recently sent out a post, naming five foods that will help anyone get flat abs. I have no idea how much science is behind this claim, but I do know that certain foods bloat me tremendously, while others do not.

Of course, the eDiets list is how we should be eating anyway; it just refines things a bit.

Today being Friday, my day to identify goals for next week, I decided to incorporate these foods into my diet next week and see what happens. So here's eDiet's list, including why these foods are waist whittlers:
  1. Orange Fruits and Veggies: A recent review from Copenhagen University Hospital suggests that replacing carbohydrates from sugar and refined grains (like white bread) with carbs from orange-hued fruits and vegetables will shrink your waist. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which keep you sated longer, and researchers believe the high levels of antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene fend off the belly fat. Get a good dose of beta-carotene from carrots, cantaloupe, squash and peaches; vitamin C from oranges and berries.
  2. Lean Protein Sources: 25 percent of your daily calories should come from lean protein sources such as poultry, fish, low-fat yogurt, and fat-free milk. Nuts are also high in protein, but can also be high in calories, so eat in moderation, about a handful a day. Protein also helps fill you up, boost energy, which helps you lose weight. If you're older than 40 (like me!), research from Skidmore College and Copenhagen University Hospital suggests protein is especially helpful for your weight-loss journey.
  3. Selenium: A recent survey of more than 8,000 Americans found that selenium, a cancer-fighting mineral, seemed to also lower rates of abdominal obesity. The recommended dose is 55 mcg per day and the best sources are nuts (especially Brazil nuts), whole grains, poultry, red meat and seafood. Foods rich in vitamin E, such as nuts and seeds, will increase the effectiveness of selenium in the body. Your best bet to get enough selenium is to eat a varied, balanced diet or try a supplement containing the mineral.
  4. Wine: Love this: Several studies suggest that light drinking -- one 4-ounce glass of wine daily -- compared to teetotaling, protects women against weight gain around the waistline. Unfortunately, having more than one glass will add inches to your waist.
  5. Fish: Eating good fats -- the monounsaturats and omega-3s found in fish, nuts, olive oil and avocado -- make it easier to stay slim, according to recent research. eDiets cites a six-year Wake Forest University study that found participants whose only source of fat was trans fats -- those bad-for-you no-nos found in butter and pre-packaged baked goods -- gained 30 percent more fat in their abdominal region and had early signs of diabetes.
For more information, check out

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grocery shopping experiment

Years ago I followed a nutritionist through a Grade A market in Stamford, as she led a class on how to grocery shop. The one thing that has stuck in my mind was her advice: Shop the perimeter of the market and avoid the aisles.

Obviously, this advice does not work all the time, because there are lots of fattening things around the perimeter. But the items you really should avoid -- the candy, cookies, soda, chips -- are down the aisles. Of course, the aisles also have healthy foods, such as olive oil and beans, but overall, the aisles are stocked with science experiments that taste good.

Around the perimeter you find produce, fish, meat and poultry, dairy products, and the in-store baker section, the food categories that should be filling your basket. And if you shop the perimeter, and then compare your shopping cart with the person on the check-out line next to you, your cart will look clean! It will not be filled with foods loaded with ingredients you can't pronounce. The food is, well, just food.

Give it a try, just once, and see how you feel at the end of the week. More alive is my guess.

Here's a recipe to get you started shopping along the perimeter. Yes, there will be some cans in your basket, but they are good-for-you food. If you must, you can throw in a pound of ground chicken or beef into this chili.


Olive oil spray
1 large white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 large green pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 1-lb. can fire roasted tomatoes,
undrained and diced
Half of 1 canned
chipotle chile in adobo sauce, diced (you can use the whole chile if you really like food spicy, or add more adobo sauce)
1 cup vegetable stock
Tblsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one fresh lime
Garnish: chopped scallions, low-fat shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream
  • Spray large saute pan or Dutch oven with olive oil. Add onion to pan and saute over low heat about 10 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent.
  • Place frozen corn in colander, rinse with hot water until no longer frozen, and set aside to drain.
  • Add bell pepper to saute pan and saute another 5 minutes.
  • Add garlic and saute 5 minutes more, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in black beans, tomatoes, chipotle, vegetable stock, chile powder, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and sinner 30 minutes.
  • About 5 minutes before chile is done, add corn and cook 5 minutes more.
  • Just before serving, taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed. Add lime juice and mix well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pick of the Week: Kumquats

How can anyone be afraid of a food? But when confronted with a kumquat, most adults I know clamp their mouths closed and refuse to pop one in their mouth.

Is it because most Americans have no idea what to do with them? It can't be their shape: They look like mini football-shaped oranges, so vibrant in color, so cute. Is it because some might try to peel them -- an impossibility -- and then get frustrated?

Whatever has been keeping you from trying this wonderful fruit, banish it from your thoughts. Kumquats are explosions of flavor, and one of the easiest fruits to eat: Pop one in your mouth, skin and all. You want the skin, because that's the sweet part. The small amount of flesh inside is tart, but it's the contrast of flavors that makes kumquats so special. First you get the sweet, then the bitter, then a mix of sweet and bitter. There are a few tiny seeds, but they are so soft, you just eat them along with the fruit. There really is nothing else like them.

Choose bright orange kumquats, free of bruises, wrinkles or mold.

Store kumquats at room temperature up to a week. They will keep in the fridge, in a plastic bag, for about three weeks to a month.

Please try eating one as is, or slice them into salads for a winter pick-me-up. Or try poaching the fruit and serving them alongside roasted chicken or turkey. The following recipe is another one of my mom's: She would pair poached kumquats with two types of cookies, shortbread and Pepperidge Farm's Milano's. Yum! Poached kumquats keep in the refrigerator for months, making it the perfect antidote to spice up winter's chilly weather. You might also try slicing them and serving over vanilla ice cream or chocolate sorbet.

1 basket of kumquats
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
  • Wash kumquats, removing any stems and leaves that may be attached.
  • Combine honey and water in a heavy saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
  • Add cinnamon and kumquats and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. You want the kumquats to still be firm. Let cool and store in the refrigerator in the cooking syrup.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BIG Wii love

Today, a love note to my Wii.

Yes, I have given up Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds for the WiiFit. The last time I enjoyed exercising this much was when I took Nancy Strong's aerobic classes in the '80s. The only thing missing now is the group of friends I made back then, but then again, I look so funny when I exercise now that I am better off doing it the dark...where no one can see me.

My Wii checks my weight and BMI daily, and although the word "obese" flashing across my TV screen is still upsetting, I know if I keep it up, one of these days I'll simply be overweight. And when I reach that milestone, I am getting myself a massage, a treat for my sore muscles.

My only complaint about the Wii is that to do 30 minutes of exercise, I am on the Wii double that time because of the charts and set-up time between each exercise. But what I love most about the program is that each day I am working against myself, trying to improve the previous day's score. And the hour I spend each morning on the Wii is really FUN -- something we all need a little more of.

I feel like a kid again. And I am still sleeping better. I'm praying this euphoria lasts!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Pound for Pound Challenge

I just joined the "Biggest Loser's" The Pound for Pound Challenge. Anyone who wants to lose weight can join, and for every pound you pledge to lose through June 30, the Challenge will donate 14 cents to Feeding America, enough to deliver one pound of groceries to a local food bank. Our economic downturn has greatly affected our food banks, so for me, this is a simple way to help out my neighbors.

Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest – The Nation’s Food Bank Network) is a network of more than 200 member food banks, supporting about 63,000 local charitable agencies operating more than 70,000 programs, including food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs, Kids Cafes, BackPack programs and senior centers. Each year, the Feeding America network provides assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in the United States, including more than 9 million children and nearly 3 million seniors.

Joining the Challenge just made sense to me. And it seems I am not alone: More than 75,000 other Americans have pledged to lose more than 2 million pounds. Check it out:

Friday, January 8, 2010


Friday: My time to look over the past week and decide how I did.

Since Monday, I would have to give myself an A+ for sticking to my diet, but I'm actually giving myself a failing grade because I am doing exactly what I said I would not do when I started this blog: I am on a diet. I had sworn diets were out of my life and I was going to concentrate on healthy eating and exercise. But throw the holidays and stress into my mix, and all my good intentions went out the window.

So yes, I've already shed the pounds I gained over the holidays -- there really is nothing better than the 1st Personal Diet for doing that. But it really is not the way I want to -- or can -- eat for the rest of my life. It's working now, and I pray it continues to work for the next four months.

Here is my plan for this week, with one long-term goal thrown in.
  • Long term: Stay true to the 1st Personal Diet until Kara's wedding in May.
  • Call Heather Pierce (aka Heather Wellness) this week. Heather is my Nutrition and Lifestyles coach, and I really need her to achieve ultimate success.
  • Daily: weigh myself, exercise and drink my fill of water.
  • Chew each bite 25 times.
And one more thing: Stop beating myself up. I cannot change what I did in the past. I can only make things better in the future.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All about control -- and a scallop recipe

I understand that restricting foods from your diet is not the way to eat, that eventually you will get tired of eating that way, and once again start gaining weight.

My problem is that I don't lose weight unless I go on a very restrictive diet. And because we have a wedding coming up, I have to lose weight, or I am not going to be happy with myself. And the only way for me to do that is to restrict everything I eat.

I also know that I have lost and gained more weight than I would ever want to admit, so I do know that when I lose the weight this time, I really need to figure out how to keep it off. Which is when Heather Pierce, my nutrition and lifestyles coach, will be an even more invaluable part of my life. She motivates me to eat only healthy foods, and right now, although I am being very restrictive, I am incorporating her suggestions into my food plan. (In case anyone is wondering, I avoided seeing Heather during the holidays, which is when I needed her most!)

But the last three days of my restrictive eating have felt terrific. I feel as if I am in total control, and since I am limiting my food choices, I'm not thinking about food all the time. And thanks to the Wii, I am exercising more than I have in ages.

I also have to admit that when I am truly being careful about every bite that goes into my mouth, we eat better. Last night I made a wonderful dinner -- scallops -- that is just about one of the easiest meals to make. I had a salad with my scallops. Jack had brown rice and corn. At the end of the meal, I felt sated and happy, not bloated and lethargic, the way I felt all during the holidays.

Now back to the scallops. I will only buy dry sea scallops -- fresh caught not farm-raised -- that have not been soaked in a sodium solution, which are called wet scallops. Wet scallops are easy to spot: They are milky white and very plumped up with water (sort of like me during the holidays). Dry scallops are a vanilla color and not uniform in color. The dry scallops also sear and brown nicely, something that is hard to achieve with wet scallops.

The first step is to remove the tiny muscle that is attached to each scallop -- just pull it off with your fingers. I then lightly dusted the scallops with Mrs. Dash's herb/garlic mixture, sprayed my skillet with Pam, and placed it over high to get really hot. The scallops cooked 3 minutes on each side, which meant that by the time I had placed the pound of scallops in the skillet, it was just about time to start turning. And that was it.

My only advice is to avoid the temptation to overcook scallops, which makes them rubbery. I'm convinced most people have never enjoyed a perfectly cooked scallop. If they have, there would be a lot more scallop lovers among us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pick of the Week: Grapefruit

There is something about grapefruit when the weather turns cold. I can ignore it the rest of the year, but come winter, a grapefruit a day accompanies my apple. It's tangy flavor wakes me up, and I find it the perfect antidote mid-morning, which for some reason is the time I most long for warmer weather.

Selecting: You want a juicy grapefruit, which means each fruit should be heavy for its size. Pick it up. The skin should be thin. Check it's shape: It should be round with slightly flattened ends. And there should be no signs of bruising or mold. Once picked, grapefruit no longer ripens,

Storing: Place grapefruit in the refrigerator's crisper drawer, and it will be fine for two or three weeks. It keeps at room temperature for about five days, but you never know how long it's been sitting at the market.

My mom would top grapefruit halves with either honey and a pat of butter or a sprinkling of brown sugar and a bit or brandy, and and pop them under the broiler to brown and caramelize. She called that dessert, and it really is very special. But sugar is eliminated from my diet, which means I'll have to wait for this treat. I"ll take mine plain, incorporated into a salad with grilled shrimp or scallops, or transformed into one of my mother's favorite appetizers, a chunky consomme. By the way, this consomme is a wonderful way to banish hunger pains, One tip: When you section and cut the grapefruit, capture the juice, since you need 2 cups for the recipe.

One grapefruit, sectioned, and each section cut in quarters
2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
1 1/2 cups beef broth or stock
2 tsp. dry Sherry
4 thin slices lemon, unpeeled
4 sprigs Italian parsley
  • Prepare the grapefruit sections, capturing the juice.
  • Place the grapefruit, juice and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add Sherry and simmer a few minutes.
  • Divide the consomme among four bowls, and float a lemon slice and a sprig of parsley in each bowl. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wake-up call

We decided that this past holiday season, there would be no presents. But we've had some issues recently, and honestly, hubby Jack and I decided we needed to laugh -- really laugh like we did decades ago. We recently spent the weekend with relatives who had a Wii, we played and laughed, and decided it might just be the tonic we need.

Last week, we bought a Wii. And after a few nights of trying to set it up, we were about to return it, when our son, Tim, stopped by Sunday afternoon and got it working in less than 30 minutes. How did he get so smart?

Anyhow, last night was game night. And we had so much fun, we decided this will be a nightly ritual. After we played a few holes of golf, a few games of tennis, and a bit of bowling, I decided to get really brave and hook up the WiiFit. The combo of the sports games followed by me trying to perfect the super hulu hoop in WiiFit gave us more than one belly laugh. We looked pitiful, but boy did we have fun.

In fact, it was the most fun I've ever had exercising. And I burned some calories -- albeit not too many -- but you gotta start somewhere. But since this is my week for confession, I will admit that my BMI is way too high, I do fall into the obese category, and it's a really good thing I decided to get serious about eating better. It was hard seeing the word obese taking up a good part of my TV screen, but it wasn't as if it came as any surprise.

One of my friends told me that a recently-released study found that obese kids were losing weight without dieting; the only thing they are doing differently is regularly using a Wii.

So here's my newest plan: In the morning I'll use WiiFit, and each night, Jack and I will play a round of golf, have a game of tennis, or maybe hit the Wii bowling alley. After we do some exercise, we can reward ourselves with a bit of couch potato-ing.

Want to know the most important thing the Wii did for me last night? I was tired when I finished, really had no desire to eat anything, and had the best night sleep I've had in a long time. That alone was worth the cost of the system. And one more thing: Yesterday I ate really well, exactly what I wanted to accomplish. So the first day of my resolve to look good for Kara and Bryan's wedding was a success. I pray I do as well today!

115 days to go....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

I was a very bad girl this holiday season. Had too many glasses of wine, which immediately makes me eat more, and today, the first day back to work in the new year, I'm feeling fat, bloated, fatigued and genuinely angry at myself.

Now that I've confessed, it's time to get over it and get back to work. So what did the holidays prove? That I'm way too normal, have the willpower of a toad, and have to learn to "just say no" this year.

Why? Because my darling Kara is marrying adorable Bryan in 116 days, and I am in no shape to assume my role as MOB. I know I am supposed to be eating healthy because it is the right thing to do, but fuggedabout that. I need a goal, and less than 17 weeks is scaring me into taking drastic measures.

Two years ago I went on a really ridiculous diet called the 1st Personal Diet. I lost a ton of weight, which I promptly gained back as soon as I started eating like a normal person again. Duh!

But I did come to love some of the principles of that diet, and plan to incorporate these into my daily eating.
1. Alcohol is gone from my diet until the wedding. That's really OK, since I had more than enough the past month to tide me over.
2. I will have "mushroom pizza" each morning for breakfast. Mushrooms, sprinkled with shredded mozzarella and cooked in the microwave for 1 minute. It certainly is nothing like pizza, but I actually like it. A lot. And it fills me up.
3. Water. It's back in my diet. It's been gone. There's just so much space for liquids each day, and between coffee and wine, I met my goal during the holidays.
4. No sugar. I already admitted to drinking enough wine over the holidays to get me through until the wedding. I ate enough sugar to get me through till next year.
5. My noon salad: spinach, arugula, a diced apple, and a grilled chicken breast, dressed with balsamic vinegar.
6. Dinner: vegetable, salad and grilled poultry or fish.
7. Two more fruits each day.
8. Rice crackers when I am really hungry, but no more than 18 a day.

OK -- Day 1. I'll let you know tomorrow how the day worked out. And just one more thing: It really is good to be back writing again. It just might keep me on track.