Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apples: Never lost in the sauce!

I've had it with summer: Bring on the fall -- and its abundance of apples. Although I eat apples year-round -- even summer's mealy ones make it into my luncheon salads -- I crave the crisp, juicy apples that are now taking over the markets.

I only buy organic apples, which to me makes sense since apples always top the list of the dirtiest fruits and vegetables. The problem with organic apples is that they don't have the variety of conventional ones, but that's a small price to pay.

Apples are a great source of fiber, in addition to some vitamin C and the flavonoid quercetin, which has antioxidant properties.

At market, look for apples with no bruises, dents, scapes or soft spots. Once home, pop them in the refrigerator, where fresh apples will keep up to three months. Of course, for long storage periods, check them daily and discard any apples that are beginning to rot. You know what they say about one rotten apple.

At room temperature, apples should be OK for about a week. Again, check them daily. When my kids were small, I always kept a big basket on the counter, ready for eating. And it worked! Today, all three of my kids still love apples.

And they also love my applesauce.

I cut at least 10 McIntosh apples into quarters, and throw them into a pot, compelte with stems, skins and seeds. Place the pot on simmer, and cook until the apples are mushy and soft.

I use Macs because of the high-water content in the apples. No water needed for applesauce.

Once they are soft, I place them in a hand-cranked Foley food mill, which immediately turns the apples into sauce -- minus the skins, stems and seeds. But by doing it this way, you capture the fiber from the skins, which pumps up the nutritional value of the applesauce. Add some cinnamon and call it sauce!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The cycle of abuse

Yesterday I listened to Denise Brown talk about her sister, Nicole's, life struggle with OJ Simpson. The event was the annual luncheon of The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County, an organization that helps keep thousands of women safe each year, in addition to educating anyone who will listen about domestic abuse and sexual assault. We all know Nicole's story, and for years, we watched her anguished family seek justice for the daugther and sister they loved.

As I listened to Denise, I began thinking how someone's actions 17 years ago changed her life forever. Denise is now an advocate, appearing before Congress and organzations such as The Center, trying to get people to understand the cycle of violence -- that abusers are not abusers 24/7. That in many cases, abusers are charming and lovely, until some event turns them into monsters. Her plea is that we all work together, to be on the alert at all times, searching for evidence of abuse in our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors and our co-workers.

So what does the Brown family's fight for justice have to do with dieting? Absolutely nothing. Sort of. On the way home from the luncheon I started to look at my life, which although not perfect, is pretty darn close. There has never been a day since I married Jack that I have been afraid to come home. My home is my safety net, a place of love, a place of comfort. I am so fortunate, and I want to be able to live this life for many years to come.

And the best way to do that: Eat healthy and exercise daily.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Four Agreements

I learned about the Four Agreements last year during a yoga class, picked up the book by don Miguel Ruiz, and have been trying to put those four principles to work ever since. The principles are practiced to create love and happiness.

I am using these four principles to become less cynical, which in turn I know will bring contentment, peace and happiness. Cynicism is a requirement of a journalist -- a healthy attribute to keep you questioning the people you are interviewing. But here I am, four years after leaving my profession, still trying to erase those years of not trusting anyone from my present life.

What do the Four Agreements have to do with my weight? I am an emotional eater, and eat to feed a hunger deep within. Tame my inner beast, and pounds be gone. That's my theory.

Reading The Four Agreements is simple. And lovely. I read one each morning, and work on that concept the rest of the day. Still, living the principles has become one of the hardest tasks I have ever set forth to accomplish.

So here they are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cheese puffs out! Pirate's Booty in!

Before I would buy a piece of clothing for my kids I would ask them: "Do you love this (fill in the blank)?" If they said "yes," we took it home. If they hesitated for even an instant, it stayed in the store.

Yesterday, I was thinking about why I love The Food Lovers system of eating so much, and that flashback popped into my mind. If my kids loved their clothes, they would wear them.

The Food Lovers system is based on the premise that you eat only the foods you love. Period. Do not waste calories on food that is unappealing or not satisfying. The key to eating is portion control, and once you understand that, everything else falls into place.

I have to admit that the past few weeks have been a real eye opener for me. I can eat everything in the store, as long as the food does not contain what Food Lovers calls the dirty dozen (primarily sugars that fill our processed foods) in the first four ingredients. But for every food in the store that is made up of one or more of the dirty dozen, there is a healthy substitute waiting to be tried.

And I've found some foods I really love. Like Pirate's Booty, the healthy alternative to cheese puffs. First, it doesn't turn your fingers and teeth orange, a very good thing for adults. And Pirate's Booty tastes terrific.

I've become a shopping detective, searching for new and interesting foods, and then reading labels to see how healthy they really are. I've also been reading the labels on some of our mainstays, and was amazed by the amount of junk so many of them contain.

But the most amazing thing of all: In the past two weeks, I can honestly say there was not one food that passed my lips that I didn't love. As for my weight: I cannot weigh myself until a week from today, but I can tell I have dropped a few pounds. I already feel it in my clothes. Wow! I feel so normal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


There was a time when I considered my body as my temple, something to honor, cherish and protect, something to feed with only nutritious, healthy foods.

I'm not sure when my temple became the holding place for cheesecake, Twizzlers and enormous amounts of food, but I so wish I had never let this happen. And I'm also sure that this didn't happen overnight, but gradually, over the years.

Two powerful thoughts there:
1. Our bodies should be our temples.
2. It took time to look the way I do now, so to get them back into shape will take time. There is no overnight fix.

Which brings me to Aretha Franklin, who sang one of my favorite songs, Respect. What a powerful word.

If we all respect our bodies, feed them with foods and vitamins that will make them thrive, we will simply feel better, look terrific, and have more energy. We will be able to be true participants in life, not merely bystanders watching everyone else have fun.

I don't have to listen to the song. Aretha spelling out that one word, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, is now ingrained in my mind. I mentally spell it to myself several times each day, and eventually, it will become part of my DNA.

My body. My temple. It's time I protected it more, and showed it some respect.

Monday, September 19, 2011

This joke's on me

There is something comforting about old friends. We joke, we talk, we've watched our families blossom -- but most of all, we laugh.

Friday night we had book club at Bloodroot, the feminist vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport that is perfect for a group of women to get together for hours to chat. After we discussed the book, Sarah's Key, the conversation naturally drifted toward diets, the subject that has occupied our lives since our kids were small. This night we talked about the worst diets we had all been on, which made us laugh so hard we had tears in our eyes.

If there is one thing we have all been, it's consistently on and off diets.

I told the story of signing up for Jennie Craig, and as I was leaving, bumping into one of the women at Bloodroot this night. We laughed and laughed, but when I was alone in the car, on the way home, this fact hit me hard: We have all spent too much of our waking days obsessing about our weight.

I wish I could turn back the hands of time, go back a few decades and appreciate the importance of reaching a goal weight and sticking to it. It's time for me to stop fooling around. Consistently eating lean protein, tons of fruits and veggies, avoiding sugar and exercising daily can add years to my life. And now, I need all the extra years I can get.

Enough laughing. It's time to get serious.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dr. Hunk

I have to admit that that the Doctor's TV show is one of my guilty pleasures. That I owe to Dr. Travis Stork, the one who is so cute I just want to pinch his cheeks. Among other things.

So when I saw his sweet, smiling face gracing the cover of Woman's World, it took one second for that grocery check-out pulp magazine to make it onto the conveyor belt. Whatever he was selling, I was going to buy.

He was selling water. Just water. Actually ice-cold water. Dr. Hunk says that if you drink six 8-ounce glasses of ice-cold water daily, at specific times of day, you'll not only boost your overall health, but speed up your weight loss.

Can it be this easy?

According to Dr. Stork it is. He cites research from Virginia Tech that discovered people who drink water before a meal automatically consume 13% fewer calories at the meal. Dr. Stork says to think of your tummy as a balloon that expands and contracts depending on how full it is. Fill it with zero-calorie water and there's not much room left for food.

And why the ice? When you drink ice water, your body has to heat it up to body temperature, which shoots up you metabolism by 25% for the next 60 minutes.

So why haven't we heard this before? According to Dr. Stork, there's no money to be made from encouraging people to drink water. No profit, no publicity.

His formula for adding water into your diet is simple. Drink an 8-ounce glass:
As soon as you get up in the morning;
Before lunch;
Before dinner;
At 8 p.m.

I'll toast to this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Be prepared!

Be prepared -- the Girl Scout motto that I recited over and over for years. Too bad I haven't brought those two little words into my food life.

I know that when I plan my meals for the week, grocery shop for the foods I need, and then make the meals I plan I STAY ON A GOOD EATING PLAN.

It's just that simple.

I run into problems when I don't prepare and am caught with nothing to bring to work for lunch, or nothing defrosted for dinner. The fastest track to meal disasters.

Now, thanks to Food Lovers, I not only have to plan my meals, I have to plan my snacks. It's a lot of planning but it makes me feel in control. Last weekend I sat down and planned meals and snacks for a week, and did a big food shopping. Tuesday we had a terrific quick chili, and last night, a wonderful citrusy Cuban pork kebabs.

I vary my snacks, keeping them in the 100 to 200 calorie range, and have such fun deciding what I should pick. Kind bars -- one of my favorite treats that I always felt guilty eating -- have become the go-to snack when I am really harried.

It's all about planning, or as any good Scout knows, just being prepared.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tricked up

My favorite food is pizza. It is also a trigger food for me. There is no way I can eat just one slice, and after devouring three, sometimes four slices, I'm ready for dessert. Add to the fact that I am lactose intolerant and allergic to wheat, and it's obvious that pizza really is not a food I should ever eat.

Especially now, when I am seriously trying to shed pounds. Monday, I was able to avoid pizza, thanks to a little trick I've learned from the Food Lovers Fat Loss System: Never go longer than three hours without eating.

Monday night is family dinner, when our two grown children, their spouses (and now our newest grandbaby, Kiley), come over for dinner. It was Kim and Tim's turn to cook, the day didn't turn out as planned, and they had no time to cook. Instead, they were bringing pizza, something I discovered when I heard Jack ordering a few pies. I panicked. Jack very nicely had ordered me a salad, but greens for dinner? No way.

But I was in control, because my new way of eating. Monday afternoon, I ate my snack on the way home, which always fills me up. When Jack told me about my salad dinner, I headed for the market and bought myself a veggie burger, soy cheese, and no gluten rolls. The greens served as a healthy side to my very healthy meal.

I was sated. But the funny thing: I didn't realize until Tuesday morning that the reason I was in control was because of the snack. This old dog really is learning some new tricks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good pain

There is no morning I hate more than Monday. I have never been the type that can't wait to get to work after the weekend.

Yesterday was no different. But yesterday, because of Sunday's bike ride, I could hardly move. There weren't enough props to pry me comfortably out of bed. And then I started thinking: Could I feel any more out of shape? No! So I decided to pop in a cardio workout DVD because it couldn't possibly make me feel worse than I did.

It didn't. And at the end of the DVD, I felt great. Sort of. Still sore. Very sore. But what a sense of accomplishment.

So this morning, without even giving myself the chance to say no, I exercised. In addition, from now on, stage forward in my mind, is the image of me standing on a scale reading "fat." In this case, a picture is worth a trillion words.

And once again, after exercising, I felt great. Another pat on my back, albeit a gentle one, because now, even my toes are aching!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sept. 12: New beginnings

Yesterday, I couldn't tear myself away from the TV. Jack wanted to avoid it all.

At noon, Jack announced he was going on a bike ride. I thought terrific, I can be alone. But as I was thinking that, I also started thinking about hitting the grocery store and buying everything I didn't want to eat. I knew his bike ride would be at least two hours, plenty of time for me to feed my sorrow with food.

Without warning, I got myself off the couch and told him I was going with him. What? He was headed to the bike trail, planning on doing a 15-mile loop that is anthing but flat. A 15-mile ride in Hilton Head -- the last time I was on a bike -- is a snap. Here, it's a feat.

When we hit our first hill, my immediate thought was to walk. Hey, it's still exercise. Then I thought of the people of 9/11 who found courage deep within themselves that day that they didn't know they had. I thought of the thousands who died, and those first responders who are suffering so from breathing in Ground Zero's toxic dust. So I offered my pain and discomfort up to them all. It took me longer than it should have, but when I reached the top of the hill, still on the bike, I had tears flowing down my cheeks. I felt great.

Not at peace. But not giving in gave me hope. My exercise pain is nothing compared to what all those brave people went through 10 years ago. It's time for me to stop being such a wimp and whip myself into shape.

I never went grocery shopping yesterday. Talk about achievements.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What a rut!

I'm not sure when I stopped eating cantaloupe, but for years, it has not found its way into my home. Recently, cantaloupes have been on sale, the perfect time to give them a second chance.

Having a slice of melon is better than eating a Twizzler -- and for me, that is high praise. I could eat a pound of Twizzlers and not feel sated. Horrid yes; not sated.

But eating a slice of juicy, ripe canteloupe creates an explosion of taste in my mouth, which is not only yummy but so very satisfying. I really can eat just one slice!

Yesterday, as I was enjoying my melon, I began thinking of the food rut I have been in. Day after day I eat the same breakfast (an egg with veggies); lunch (greens, chicken, sliced apple); and dinner (protein and veggie). It's not that my meals aren't tasty. They are. They are just too consistent, so when something interesting (read loaded with calories) comes along, I cannot resist.

This weekend I am going to set aside an hour to plan my meals for next week. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I will write every meal down in my journal, make my shopping list, and then hit the market. Next week, there will be no rushing around at the last minute to find something interesting to eat.

But most of all, I plan on mixing up my foods. Boredom be gone.

There are millions of foods, millions of recipes, and next week, I'm going to try a few new ones. If I am ever going to lose weight -- and keep it off -- I need to be creative.

My rut has not been good for my gut.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The power of infomercials

Over and over again I swear I am not going on another diet. But then I have a sleepless night, and bam, I'm on the phone ordering the diet du jour that will solve all my problems.

Right after we got back from vacation in July I had one of those sleepless nights. And I "met" Robert Ferguson -- certified nutritionist, fitness specialist and a doctoral candidate in sports psychology. The fact that he is also an inspirational lecturer might have been the real reason I bought his program, "The Food Lovers Fat Loss System."

He had me with these words: "This is not a diet." I was putty, and my credit card was whipped out before he even finished his 30-minute pitch. What he was saying made sense to me: Eat every two to three hours, and only eat the foods you love. His theory is if you eat foods you really don't like, as soon as you lose the weight, the pounds start rolling back on.

Been there. Done that far too many times.

When my box of goodies arrived, I was beyond intimidated. It is a huge box, filled with all sorts of books, CDs and DVDs to get you started shedding pounds. I did exactly what he instructed -- began with the instuctional DVD -- and put my binder together, which has now become my bible and journal. It goes everywhere with me.

Day 1 was Tuesday, and he only asked that I listen to the CD for Day 1, and include a snack between meals, so I am eating every two to three hours. Easy? No! I actually had to set my BlackBerry's alarm to remind me to eat my snack. And there were times I was not hungry, but I did what he instructed.

The really wild part: At meals, I was sated. I ate normal meals, and not once did I even think of going back for seconds.

Yesterday, I began to learn how to make a Food Lovers Plate, which when done correctly, combines a protein, a fast carb and a slow carb. I am by no means a pro at all this, but I like the message. There is science behind what he is saying, and I am eating it all up.

My direction for today: Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up. Again, not easy, but I did it. And as I am writing my blog this morning, instead of thinking about how hungry I am, I am full and content.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Happy, happy new year!

When I tell people I write a blog, many just roll their eyes. I know they are thinking, "Just what the world needs. Another blog."

There are days when I feel the same way. I have absolutely nothing I want to write about that has anything at all to do about food. Of course, those are the days - or should I say weeks -- that my eating is out of control. Obviously, I've had more than a month of those days, since my last post was right before we left for vacation in July.

Yesterday I had a great eating day, and the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning was my blog. And truth be told, I write this blog for myself, although I know the world could stumble upon it. I decided to start the blog to help myself -- and hopefully some new and old friends -- wage the battle of the bulge together. When I write my blog, I tend to stay more focused and determined.

This week has always been about beginnings, the week school always started for me, even through college. New school supplies, a cute outfit to show off, and shoes fresh out of the box. A commitment to do well in classes, and perhaps make a new friend along the way.

When I was soaking up the sun in Hilton Head in July, sipping a glass of wine and eating some cheese and crackers, I picked Sept. 6th as the day to begin anew.

Yesterday was my new beginning. I decided I am not looking back, only ahead. I am not beating myself up over the pounds I didn't lose this summer. Yesterday I dusted off my food journal and wrote down everything that crossed my lips, every drop of water I drank, every morsel of food. I've read enough to know that those who write a food journal succeed at weight loss. I am not taking any chances.

Once again I am starting anew. And once again, I started today with a prayer, asking for help to make today as stellar as yesterday.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. On to step No. 2.