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.