Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution Time

Its New Years Eve... again. Time for a new beginning, new resolutions, new goals. That fabled fresh start. How can you make this fresh start even fresher than the starts of New Years Eve's past?

By turning to one of my favorite things - and probably yours - books!

While going through the lessons for the online workshop I'll be giving with Beth Andrews in January called Dreams to Realty - based on using goal setting tools to make your dreams come true - I came across my recommended reading list.

  • The Success Principles – Jack Canfield
  • Awaken the Giant Within – Tony Robbins
  • Unlimited Power – Tony Robbins
  • You’ll See It When You Believe It – Wayne Dyer
  • Real Magic – Wayne Dyer
  • The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Deepak Chopra
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
  • The Secret – Rhonda Byrne
  • The Key – Joe Vitale
  • The Seven Principles of Success – Stephen Covey

The workshop is focused on writing goals, but they are easily adapted to weight goals, health goals, financial goals, etc. so I thought they'd be fun to share here and see if you've read any of them, if you have any to add to the list and what you think about motivational books as a whole...
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Do to Improve Your Mood?

One of the aspects of exercise that I enjoy the most is how it improves my mood and increases my energy level. It's my experience that I need to work out at a moderate to high level for at least 30 minutes 3-4 times a week to really get that positive impact. To me, moderate to high level means that walking does not cut it anymore. I need to do the elliptical or one of the classes at my gym.

An interesting article at the New York Times explores how much exercise one needs to do to improve her mood. If you are not active at all, as little as 20 minutes a week (and no, that's not a typo) can work, but the sweet spot is 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.

In case the link above did not work, here it is spelled out:

Have you discovered that working out regularly affects your mood? Is there a minimum you need to do to get that positive effect?
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tis the Time for Making Goals

Now that all the Christmas travel is over, things are gradually settling back into normalcy. For instance, today was the first day I'd stepped on the scales in more than two weeks. Considering those two weeks held a vacation and all the holiday eating, I was truly surprised to see I'd not gained any way. That gives me a great point at which to refocus my weight-loss efforts. Surely if I rededicate myself to daily exercise, my goal being at least one hour but preferably two, and keeping that all-important food diary, I'll be able to start seeing the scale inch downward again. I challenge all of you to do the same so we can all start 2010 on the right foot and in the right frame of mind.

This week each year is when I go into serious goal-making mode. Like Michelle mentioned in a previous post, I look at how much I've accomplished on the list I made last year, move some things I haven't to the next year, and add new goals I'd like to accomplish. I break these goals down into weight loss/fitness, other personal (including bucket list items), home improvement, and writing. Considering my holiday traveling didn't end until last night, I haven't created my lists yet. But I've been thinking about them. Here's a teaser to what will be appearing on them:

1. Weight Loss/Fitness -- Lose 30 pounds.

2. Other Personal -- Take swim lessons.

3. Home Improvement -- Get new driveway poured.

4. Writing -- Spend 8 hours a day working on writing, like I would at a regular day job. I know I have on some days, way less on others, so I want to start keeping track of it.

I'm a firm believer in the power of writing down goals helping them come to fruition, so I'll also challenge all of you to take some time this week, before the New Year's Ball drops Thursday night, to create your own goals lists for the first year of the new decade. Put some goals that are easier to achieve, and then some that really stretch you. How do you break down your goals? This is a great place to share some of the things you aim to accomplish in 2010 -- hint, hint. :)
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Fear of Success

My brilliant Weight Watchers (WW) group leader Melvin has brought up fear of success twice this year. The first time was in early spring. He mentioned that a member in his other group had lost more than 50 pounds and was struggling with her fear of success. She was very uncomfortable with all the attention and compliments her weight loss brought her, and she missed the invisibility she had had as a fat person. He asked if anybody in the room could relate, but nobody did. The woman sitting next to me and I laughed and said we loved the compliments.

I did not share that earlier in my life I had felt like this woman. I have joined Weight Watchers more times than I can remember. The last time I reached size 12, it was 1996 or 1997. I lived in Nashville and went to WW meetings regularly there. I can clearly remember one day looking in the mirror and noticing how thin and pretty my face looked. It freaked me out.

This did not make sense to me. Just 3 or so years earlier, I’d been a very healthy 135/140. Why would I be scared of getting thin or prettier? I brought up this fear in a meeting. The group leader really did try to help me find answers, but I don’t think I was in a place to hear or feel what she was saying. Within a month, I’d dropped out and started gaining the weight back. I never got close to a size 12 again until this fall.

I really did leave that meeting in early 2009 believing that fear of success was not an issue for me anymore. I was very proud that I had done the necessary inner work that needed to be done so I could succeed at my efforts to finally lose all the weight I needed to lose to be healthy. I did not want that invisibility anymore. I was not going to be more comfortable as a fat person than as a thin person.

Fast forward to early October 2009. Melvin, my brilliant leader, brought up fear of success again. He asked if anyone was confronting that or was it too soon. The guy behind me said he was. This was the third time he had reached 67 pounds down. He’d been bouncing around the same 10 pound range for months. Another woman said this was the third time she’d reached her goal weight. She could lose the 20 pounds easily, but she couldn’t keep them off.

Something in my face must have given me away because Melvin challenged me on this fear. Earlier in the meeting, I had joked with a woman sitting next to me about fliers that were on all the chairs. The handouts invited members who were at or close to their goal weight to sign up to be receptionists. The gist of my joke was how I was so not qualified. He had called me on that statement, and I had responded with the fact that I was more than 30 pounds away from even being eligible for goal. He circled back to that conversation and said what if the real issue was that I am ONLY 30 pounds away from goal. Was that frightening me?

People, the waters practically parted. I had one of the strongest visceral responses of my life. My whole body tingled, and it was like I was looking down a tunnel at Melvin, and I could barely hear him. Everyone else blurred. I’ve no recollection of what I said, but it was enough that he started talking to someone else.

This was such an oh crap moment. I really thought that fear of success was no longer an issue for me – at least in terms of weight loss. I no longer subconsciously wanted to be fat or felt more comfortable being fat. I thought I was over that. I have been told many times that fear of success was an issue in terms of my writing. That completely resonates, but I’ve yet to figure out how to deal with it. If I’m completely honest, I can come up with arguments for how fear of success has affected me in other areas of my life. I was stunned how much this was still an issue in several areas and had no idea what to do.

I started to listen intensely to what everybody else had to stay. A couple of ladies both complained that they were being told online that they were losing weigh too quickly. Both of them said they took that subconsciously as permission TO EAT and subsequently had gained more than 2 pounds the past week. A couple of other folks shared experiences of self-sabotage. In these stories, there were no answers to how one could stop this self-sabotage, so I asked Melvin.

He said something that I did not get at all. I came back with, so you are saying that you have to work out the emotions that are convincing you to do this. He said, yes, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I wanted to say, no this is not obvious. Assume I know nothing. You need to break it down step by step. I’ve no idea how to combat this, and I now know this is still a huge issue for me.

So, I left that meeting with the knowledge that fear of success is still a big issue for me, and I needed to work it out. Great. Where did I start? I didn’t know, and I gained weight the next week. Things were not getting better.

I decided I’d work it out by blogging about it. I started a word file for this piece in early October. It’s now late December. I still have no great answer. I know I need to work it out. One of my big goals for 2010 will be to figure out ways to get a handle on my fear of success. I was able to get a handle on one of my other big issues in 2009 – emotional eating – so I know it’s possible to make progress.

I’m aware of the issue. Now I can start working on how and why it’s an issue. Can I figure out and address the underlying concerns? Can I develop coping strategies? Can I figure out ways I can break it down into addressable pieces? Can I figure out ways I can make forward progress on this and promise myself to try to do them? Can I be aware of what I’m doing so that I can learn to recognize when I’m self-sabotaging and get to the point where I can stop those attempts?

I think I can. That’s a start.

Do any of you have fear of success? Have you figured out how to address it? I’d love any and all tips.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Chuckle

For all of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very Merry one today. And in the spirit of giving, I'm sharing this holiday humor with you. Just remember as you read it you can laugh, but to stay Healthy Writers in 2010, please do the exact opposite! :)

Holiday Dietary Rules


Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.


Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare ... you cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnogoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!


If something comes with gravy, use it.. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.


As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.


Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it.. Hello?


Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a ten-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.


If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.


Same for pies. Apple, pumpkin, mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day? If your southern, substitute pecan for mincemeat, No true southerner would eat that anyway...


Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards..


One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOOHOO! What a ride!"
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Craziness and Healthy Habits

As the craziness of the holiday season draws to an end and the reason for the season comes to a head, I was reminded of how similar this time of year is to our healthy writer journey.

We might be planners, and have our gifts bought and wrapped by Halloween, just like we might have a solid diet plan, exercise regime and writing discipline laid out for ourselves.

Or we could be in that last minute, mile long line of shoppers paying prime dollar at the twelfth Toys R Us for the season's most popular princess baby doll that we knew three months ago our niece wanted as her most favorite present and we called dibs on. Which is very similar to the "oh man, conference is next month, I have to fast and exercise like crazy to lose thirty pounds so I can get cute new conference clothes!! In between kick boxing and spinning classes, I'll polish that partial that the editor requested last year so I can get it submitted" thinking.

And then there is all that middle ground in between. The diet plans we hope to stick with, the exercise regimes that we carry through for a few months, then drop. The stories we intended to have turned in before Thanksgiving (really, I meant to have it in early!!) and the shopping/decorating/baking/card sending/family visiting/fence mending/emotional healing we wished we'd handled a little differently this year.

Do I have a conclusion to this little epiphany? Not really *g* Mostly I came to realize that one of the healthiest things we can do is to learn to recognize our 'style' and habits, and if they aren't working for us, to come up with a workable plan to fix the them.

Which leads us nicely into the new year and all those fun new goals we get to set, right?

I hope you all have a healthy, happy and wonderful holiday!!!
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking for food contributor

As I listen to the waves crashing on the shore outside and dread heading back north to colder temps tomorrow, I'm working on the scheduling for Healthy Writer for the next several weeks. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not a very reliable blogger when it comes to the topic of healthy cooking. Michelle does a marvelous job every other Saturday, and I'm just...lame. So, I'm looking for someone who would like to take over the alternating Saturday healthy cooking/food posts. Any takers? I would love you forever. :)

Or if someone would just like to guest post on the healthy cooking/food topic one Saturday, we can work with that too.

If you are interested in either option, please e-mail me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thinking about fitness at the beach

I'm a bit late posting today, but let's just chalk it up to the fact that I was mesmerized by the sound of the waves. You see, I'm at the beach on the Florida Panhandle with the hubby for a last-minute pre-Christmas vacation. I LOVE coming down here when it's cold at home. It makes me feel positive and happy and healthy. I've gone walking both days I've been here, and I don't feel the need to listen to the iPod to make the time pass. Instead, I listen to the waves, the birds, the wind in the palm trees. I let myself daydream about living in one of the brightly painted beach houses, able to go walking on the beach anytime I want and never having to deal with snow and ice. I think that will be the image in my head from now on when I don't feel like writing -- write a lot, become successful, get a place at the beach. :)

This lovely time at the beach got me to thinking about the positive health aspects of getting away every once in awhile. We get go busy in our home environments, going fifty different ways, doing fifty different tasks, overscheduling to the point where we don't get enough sleep and end up feeling run down all the time. And when we get to that point, our immune systems are compromised and it's easier to fall victim to whatever bug is going around. We tend to grab food on the run, stuff that is not healthy for us. Our mental health suffers when we feel like we have no time to relax, to engage in things we like to do rather than what we have to do, to just "be." Even when we take a couple of hours to relax at home, to watch a movie or read a book, sometimes we can't turn off our awareness of all the other, more productive things we could be doing. But when you're away from home, with the sole purpose of relaxing, the body and mind are able to shift out of "do, do, do" mode and recharge.

Even though I had to bring an editing project with me because it had a short deadline, I only worked on it in chunks while the hubby was napping or while he was getting ready in the mornings. I finished it as he snoozed earlier today. But I've also made sure it didn't own my time away. I've sat on the balcony and listened to the waves and watched dolphins rolling in the surf. I've walked up and down the island. Hubby and I watched UP (so good) on the DVD player the first night and went to see Avatar at the theater yesterday (loved it, btw). We've gone out to eat a couple of times, but we also bought groceries at the local Publix and have been eating here at the condo to save money and not succumb to eating huge meals (both of which add to the collection of positive feelings this place brings about).

I think my biggest challenge will be the inevitable letdown when we have to go home, back to where it's been cold and gray lately. I will hate leaving the warmth and sunshine behind. But I've made a goal for the new year to take at least one "me" day a month and get away as often as I can. I firmly believe it's healthy as well as fun.

What about you all? What type of getaway replenishes you? Do you feel recharged and healthier when you return home as a result of the time away?
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Monday, December 21, 2009

New Year's Resolutions vs. Goals

I made variations of the same three New Year’s Resolutions for years and years. They were:

1) To Lose Weight
To Write a Novel
To Be More Social

I shared this with a friend once when we were talking about what our New Year’s Resolutions were going to be. Her immediate response was: how is that working for you? I wanted to take her head off, and I’m sure my verbal answer was pretty defensive. At times, I had made some progress on any one of these resolutions, especially number 3, but I never accomplished anything sustained for numbers 1 or 2.

Fast forward to the end of 2007. In some ways, that year was tough, and I felt like my life was in a rut. I read online – probably on – an article about losing weight that really was about setting good goals for the New Year, and it had two important parts. It said that you had to look at your life in its entirety - and not just one part. You shouldn’t think that achieving one goal, such as losing those 50 pounds, is going to make your life perfect or make you happy. You had to look at all the parts of your life – do a 360 to use a buzz phrase. The other big point was you had to evaluate the past year first. See what went well, what did not and figure out where you had to build from and where you had to change.

I love setting goals, but I was not as keen about evaluating the past. What did I have to lose though? I decided I’d give it a try and started the process sitting at the gate in Bradley International Airport waiting for my flight back to DC. I came up with six areas to evaluate and set goals for 2008: professional, writing, personal/social, financial, health/fitness, and spiritual.

The evaluation of 2007 was painful at times, but it was the most revealing part of the exercise. I celebrated the accomplishments. I tried to write a triumphant narrative as opposed to a victim narrative, but I also tried to be 100% honest. For example, I was achieving my financial goals, but it wasn’t making me as happy as I thought it would. I was more social than I had been for several years in DC, but I could do more. Opportunity was knocking in the writing world, but I was doing my absolute best to ignore it and not be ready. The other areas all needed work. After the evaluation, I started to set goals. I could feel myself already cheering up and feeling more optimistic.

I periodically reread my goals during the year to check in with where I was. One thing I really liked about goals vs. resolutions is that resolutions felt like all or nothing propositions while there's much more flexibility with goals. For example, I resolve to do X and not do Y. If I do Y, I've already failed. It's kind of like when I vow to give up candy for lent and mindlessly eat a piece of chocolate after lunch on Ash Wednesday. It's all over. I need to come up with something else quick to give up for Lent or just give up. If I set a goal to do X and not Y, there is more give and take. I can ignore one goal for months at a time, remind myself of it again, and come back at it with renewed determination. I can also work at another goal a little bit every so often and then reach a point when I shock myself with what I've managed to accomplish in the past 6 months.

At the end of 2008, I once again evaluated my past year and set goals for the upcoming year. I had not achieved my biggest goal for 2008, but I was still a fan of what a combination of evaluation and goal setting could accomplish. I am starting this same exercise for 2009/2010. One thing that has really surprised me is that the whole process builds on itself. Success in one area can help in another AND each year is a bit better/more successful than the year before.

Writing my evaluation of 2009 will be fun! Some of the goals I’ve accomplished in 2009 that seemed impossible for years include:

-Lost 30+ pounds (I did not set a specific pound goal for the year but I did promise myself I'd work on it all year - really give it my all)
-Went to Weight Watchers 50 times (original goal was to go 45-50 times)
-Worked out more than 100 times (and consequently am stronger and in much better shape)
-Really got a handle on my emotional eating issues and developed coping strategies
-Finished a first draft of a novel – oh happy day!
-Entered the GH for the first time
-Prepared for and took the CAE (certified association executive) exam to increase my employability
-Joined Eharmony (actually done on 12/22/08) and kept up with it at times
-Was social at least 4 times a month (often much more than that, but I have to remind myself to do this.)
-Considered refinancing my condo
-Increased my emergency savings fund
-Increased my retirement savings

And, in case you are wondering, 2009 was not a perfect, stress-free year. The economy has sent shock waves through the industries I work in, and job insecurity is a reality. Several people I love had cancer scares. My car died. I could so easily have gained 30 pounds this year instead of lost them. Through it all, I tried to foster positivity, gratitude and compassion. I stayed focused on what I wanted to accomplish. I did not beat myself up the times I slipped. I kept moving forward.

I have a lot of success to build on in 2010 especially in the writing and health and fitness categories. I also have areas where I need to do more. I can’t say I’ve had many spiritual successes in the past two years. There are so many ways I can cheat in the social arena, and I want to address that. I need to come up with some good professional goals and figure out an appropriate financial plan for the upcoming year, but I know I can do it. I’ll share some of my biggest goals for 2010 in the coming weeks, and I’d love to hear what some of yours are. This can really work!

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

I started the holiday season with the goal of still losing some weight during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. I didn’t want to give up all hope that I could lose weight over the 5-6 weeks, and I also recognize that I’m likelier to maintain my loss if I have the goal of losing as opposed to maintaining. I find it easier to overeat and make unwise choices with the latter goal. It’s a slippery slope.

If I was going to make this goal, I needed to keep up my exercise and to be extremely wise about what I made to eat on the days I had no holiday or other social activity planned. That meant, I needed to make more vegetarian, fish or turkey-based dishes. I’ve been expanding my collection of tasty options in those categories, and here is one of my favorites.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

½ cup uncooked white rice (I often use brown and up it to 1 cup uncooked.)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 plum tomatoes, diced, or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (often use balsamic)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (often skip or use a few red pepper flakes)

2 15.5 ounce cans black beans

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1. Cook the rice according to package directions.

2. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the onion, red and green bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, cumin, coriander, oregano, and pepper sauce; cook 2 minutes. Add the beans, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with the pepper and serve with the rice.

Makes 4 servings. 7 points each.

Per serving: 372 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 372 mg sod, 68 g carb, 4 g fib, 16 g prot, 141 mg calc

While this recipe can help you lose weight over the holidays, do make sure you take some time to enjoy the festivities. I’m really not going to beat myself up if I maintain or even gain some weight when I’m in Connecticut for Christmas. I doubt I’ll even count points. I’m going to enjoy spending time with my family during a festive time. I hope you do the same.

Happy Holidays!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Punching Your Way to Healthy Writing

Note from Trish: I apologize for the late posting today. Anna sent me her post and photos several days ago, but I quite simply forgot to prepare the post last night. So, sorry Anna. Hope you all enjoy Anna's post nonetheless.

By Anna Sugden

With the holiday season upon us, it’s a good time to be thinking about how we’re going to recover from all the indulgences (and overindulgences), as well as what our New Year’s resolutions will be.

I know I will be endeavouring to be a healthier writer. I saw the difference it made to me last year when I took myself in hand and became more disciplined about both my writing and my health and fitness. In particular, I’m going to make the effort to add back an element to the health and fitness part of my routine. It’s something I’ve been missing.


Yes, you read that right. Boxing. Fitness boxing.

You might think it strange that a sport in which grown men, and indeed women, go around beating the heck out of each other is of value to one’s health or one’s writing … but, I can promise you it is.

First, let me clarify. I don’t climb into the ring and go for the knock-out. No one hits me. And, I don’t really hit anyone either. Not like a real boxer. The boxing trainer wears punching mitts and a body shield - that’s what you punch. Oh, and punch bags, of course. (As an aside, did you know it’s really hard to do that thing boxers do when they punch that little bag back and forth?! They make it look so simple, but getting the rhythm right so it works is really difficult!)

Second, fitness boxing isn’t all about the punching. Sure, that’s a fun part - especially, on days when you’ve had a rejection! But, throwing a punch is only part of the story. It’s about body positioning, how you move your feet, how you hold your hands, timing and concentration. And, when you do get to the punching, each punch has to be thrown a certain way. Plus, there’s ducking and dodging. While my trainer would never hit me, he mimics punches so you move to get out of the way! That too is harder than it looks, when you have to remember to keep your fists up and be ready to dodge another way!

Seriously, my brain probably gets as good a workout as my body when I go to a fitness boxing session. So many things to remember! A good boxing trainer will work you as hard mentally as he will physically.

I always do my best writing after a fitness boxing session. Always. Because, my brain is cleared of all the clutter and is energized by the exercise.

Third, I get bored by doing the same thing over and over again. I used to love aerobics, because it was a combination of dancing and exercise. I’ve often thought about doing jazzercise too. Boxing is something different again, because it isn’t just boring reps and routines!

If you only have a short time to give up to exercise, boxing is a great way to burn calories and make your whole body fit. It builds strength, flexibility and endurance. Each punch works so many muscles. Let’s try a little demonstration to show you.

1. Stand with your feet apart (shoulder’s width), one foot slightly in front of the other, knees bent a little. [I’m right-handed, so my left leg is the one in front]

2. Bring up your hands in a classic boxer’s pose, fists clenched, on either side of your jaw.

3. Punch straight out with your right arm, at shoulder height.

4. Bring the arm back in and set up in the starting pose.

5. Punch straight out with the left arm.

6. Repeat, being careful to set your position each time.

Did you feel the muscles working - in your legs, your arms, your back, your core? Did you feel the energy needed just to throw those two sets of punches? Can you imagine repeating that ten times? Can you imagine repeating that ten times and hitting something solid instead of air?

I was lucky enough to find a great boxing trainer - a former golden glove champion, who was also a fitness expert. You can see a cool video which shows the kinds of things we did on his Web
site ( … and if you look closely, you might even spot me! Not only did he teach me to box (and to do that cool skipping that boxers do - which in itself is a great workout!), but he also showed me how to use boxing to make me healthier and fitter.

Sadly, since we moved home (and he wouldn’t move with us!) I haven’t been boxing. But, I do have a big punch-bag and my gloves and I’m determined to start again. Fifteen minutes of skipping and punching is worth at least double that in lifting weights and crunches! And, we all know it’s easier to fit in shorter exercise sessions to our busy lives *g*.

Hopefully, I will make myself fitter and healthier … and make my writing fitter and healthier too!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2010, with lots of great writing!

How about you? Do you like strict, repetitive routines or do you find it easier to exercise when things are different and changing? Do you find it hard to fit in exercise routines? Do you find exercise clears your brain? Does boxing interest you?
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Soup Secrets

Trish blogged the other day on Romance Bandits and reminded me of how wonderfully warm and comforting soups are this time of year. Its cold, rainy or snowy out. We're inevitably running ragged and juggling twice as much responsibility as we normally do. Its soup time!!

I love soup. But I don't eat canned soup at all. It just doesn't seem to appeal in the same way. Maybe its that savory scent that fills the kitchen that holds half the allure?

Vegetable soup is a standard in our house, or as my kids call it, Stone Soup (based on the story about the guy who only had a stone, and convinced many others to contribute to the soup pot. A potato here, a tomato there and soon he and his stone had a big, steaming, delicious pot of soup for everyone). Minestrone with yummy homemade noodles. Or my all time favorite, my MIL's Potato Leek soup. Creamy, warm for the tummy goodness. Its an all time family favorite.

But with 6 tbsp of butter and 2 cups of half and half, it wasn't exactly low-fat. So I figured out a way to cut the butter in half (just used half LOL) and found fat-free half and half to replace the full fat version. I also substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, but that's because we're vegetarian, although it has the added benefit of slipping a few more calories off the total.

Ever since I adjusted the recipe and nobody noticed the difference, I've been on the lookout for other ways to slim down favorites. Soups are one of the easiest. The most fattening soups are usually cream based, so use fat-free milk or half and half. Cut back the butter, or if you can't cut it back for sauteing the onions, for instance, instead increase the broth and veggie ratio so the butter is spread among more servings. Use low sodium broth or make your own whenever possible.

How about you? Are you a soup fan? Do you have a favorite soup or recipe to share? And have you any suggestions that you use to slim down your soup recipes?
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dressing the Part

I'm always looking for ways to inspire myself to keep to my exercise regimen, and I've discovered that if I dress the part of someone who is serious about exercise then I feel that I'm serious and have better results in time spent exercising. With that in mind, while Christmas shopping a few days ago I also picked up some exercise attire for myself -- three pairs of pants, two shirts, a light jacket and a heavier fleece jacket for outdoor use. It's all very comfortable, which is a must for exercising.

Here's one of my indoor looks.

Add the fleece jacket and some gloves, and I'm set to walk around the neighborhood during cooler weather.

Do you all feel any different when you wear clothing that is made specifically for exercise?
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Healthy Brain

I've become a big fan of Prevention magazine and the magazine's Web site. But as if I needed another reminder that past age 30, things start taking a lot more work to maintain, I saw an article today that began by mentioning that at age 30 our brains start a slow, steady decline. Hey, I'm a writer. I need all the brain power I can muster. But, luckily, there are ways to help keep our brains sharp.

1. Doing Internet searches has been shown to stimulate brain activity. I knew I wasn't doing all that Googling just for the fun of it. :)

2. Exercise. Hmm, this seems to be the cure for lots of things, doesn't it? The article also cites a study that says walking in tree-filled areas is even better for our brains.

3. Brush and floss. This one surprised me, but there's a link between good oral hygiene and brain function.

4. Limit your alcohol consumption. The more a person drinks, the less brain volume he/she has.

5. Eat blueberries. Studies have indicated positive effects on the brain derived from anthocyanin (the dark blue pigment in blueberries).

6. Do puzzles. An amazing University of Alabama study showed some amazing results when 3,000 senior citizens who did brain-boosting puzzles were studied.

7. Meditate. Good for stress relief, and evidently good for cognitive function.

For more detail on all of the above ways to increase your brain function, read the entire article here.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Dark Side of the Holidays

By now, you have probably heard more times than you care to how much weight the average person gains over the holidays. The usual assumption is that people gain weight because they can’t resist the temptation of all the yummy foods that are everywhere this time of the year. I think some of that weight gain may be caused by the darker side of the holidays – the negative thoughts and emotions this time of year can engender. If you are an emotional eater, you may want to dive into that plate of Christmas cookies to push down those unsettling feelings. Many people turn to food for comfort, and I can be at the front of that line.

I honestly believe that one of the best ways to combat emotional eating is to try to work out the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you’d rather suppress by eating. Furthermore, working out these feelings can help you control other, more negative reactions than stuffing your face. This is hard stuff, but awareness is the first step of that battle. Are you feeling any negative thoughts or emotions because of the holidays? Does any of the following sound familiar?

Stress: The holidays are supposedly a time of joy and happiness and all you feel is stressed out. There is so much to do this time of the year, and a lot of it is left to the wife or mother to accomplish. You may be struggling to get it all done and feel resentful that you aren’t enjoying all the work you are putting into the holidays or the fact that nobody seems to appreciate your efforts. You are starting to skip doing the stuff that you do just for yourself and sliding back into bad health habits. You may resent that this seems so much easier for everyone else. You may even be looking forward to January when things return to normal. You deserve a pick-me-up in the form of a cookie or two or three. Eating for reward is so tempting.

Financial Concerns: The holidays are so expensive. I’ve often thought that I just can’t save during the holidays and have, at times, worried about acquiring debt from the presents I feel I have to purchase or the travel plans I make to spend time with family. This is an even tougher year financially for most. Are you worried about money and feel like the holidays are making you lose control? How many presents do you need to give your children so that they aren’t deprived? How much do you splurge on your plans for the festive meals? How do you pay for it all – especially if you are worried about being laid off or you have recently lost your job?

Loneliness: The holidays are supposedly about family. If you don’t have one, you’re estranged from your own, or you live far away from them, you may feel lonely now. You may not feel like you should fuss over the holidays or decorating if it’s all just for you. All the commercials, holiday specials and holiday movies show perfect looking people bonding over their family ties – or at least that’s how it looks to you. Single people may feel their lack of a life partner most keenly right now. Many profiles on EHarmony or have been completely rewritten in the past few weeks. The latest version of those darn match and eHarmony commercials are showing up on TV during your favorite shows. You feel like everyone in the whole world has someone to share this special time with but you, so why shouldn’t you bake dozens of your favorite cookies and eat them this weekend.

Who’s Missing at the Celebration?: Is someone you love currently deployed? The year my father was in Panama for Operation Just Cause instead of in Connecticut for Christmas Eve is not my favorite holiday ever. Has someone you loved passed away in the past year? You’re going to miss them keenly at the holidays and relieve part of the grieving process. You may miss someone who passed away 10, 20 or 30 years ago. The loved one may be at the celebration but seems so changed that you still miss him or her. You may be with your in-laws or friends and wish you were with your own family or vice versa.

Merry Christmas from the Family: Have you ever heard this Robert Earl Keen song? It’s about a dysfunctional family celebrating Christmas, and it’s not Currier & Ives type stuff, but it may be much more realistic than your favorite holiday movie. Are there suppressed emotions, disagreements, or other unpleasantness that always seem to erupt at dinner – or are you so sick of seeing others ignore it?

Time Flies: How can it be the holidays again already? Where did the time go? It’s another year gone and you’re getting older. You had so many things you wanted to accomplish this year with nothing to show for it.

Spiritual Emptiness: Christmas is a major religious holiday for some, and Hanukkah has become more important than it was for centuries. Are you feeling it? Do you want to? Do you believe? Did you before but not anymore? Are you a Christmas/Easter Christian and feeling guilty? Do you resent the questions?

I’m not Christian and I wish everyone would stop talking about Christmas: You cannot escape from all the Carols. You are so sick of secular and religious celebrants of Christmas shoving the holiday in your face and making it more difficult for you and your family to stay true to your beliefs.

Does any of the above sound familiar? Are there other issues that you are struggling with right now? Are they making you overeat? Figuring out what’s bothering you may help you start working out the issues and help prevent the average weight gain of the holidays. More importantly, it’ll help you feel better and help you enjoy the festive aspects of this time of the year.

Photo: Elise Hayes and I enjoyed the festive aspects of the holidays at yesterday's WRW Holiday Party.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Five Healthy Writer Discoveries

By Sally Kilpatrick

First and foremost, I want to thank Trish for having me here at the Healthy Writer. I have been healthier than I am right now, but I did lose thirty pounds in 2008, and I’ve kept almost all of it off. No, really—almost all of it. At any rate, I’m going to start pumping iron again in 2010, and I’m going to undo the damage and take off a little more. In the meantime, here are the top five things I’ve learned about weight loss for writers.

5. Nonni biscotti. This stuff rocks, and I go into withdrawal when I run out. It’s less than one hundred calories per biscotti and goes well with coffee for those who need a little joe to get words on the page. It’s also endorsed by the Best Life people as a healthy treat. I can personally vouch that Nonni tastes far more decadent than the side of the box suggests. Did I mention that they come in various varieties that involve chocolate?

4. Discipline. Losing weight and putting words to the page both require discipline. When I originally set out to lose weight, I was afraid my writing would suffer. I soon discovered that the opposite was true because setting fitness goals strengthened my discipline to create and execute writing goals. To accomplish both, I was forced to think ahead and create a schedule: gym on Monday nights, writing on Tuesday mornings, writing on Wednesday while the kids are in choir, gym on Wednesdays after choir—you get the idea. When you have a lot to do, you have to think about when you can do certain things. Even though I thought my writing would suffer from working out, the opposite was true because I set aside smaller chunks of time that I would have wasted with the forethought necessary to put lots of activities into a finite amount of time.

3. Idea development. Who knew that running on the treadmill would be a great time to think about snags in my story? I learned to take my mind off my physical pain by thinking about my mental pain. Unfortunately, thinking about fitness while sitting at the laptop has yielded little results.

2. Souped up vitamins. I’ve been in really, really great shape a couple of times in my life, and I’m working my way back there after having two children. After two different fitness programs that required some serious vitamins, I’ve been at a loss to replicate the results on my own. I found a vitamin at a fancy supplement place that seems to be working, but I was excited to see that Centrum has a One-a-Day vitamin geared to women’s healthy metabolism. Not only does it includes some of the same elements of the proprietary blends that have worked in the past: green tea extract, guarana, cayenne pepper, but it also has the added advantage of a) being in Wal-Mart and b) being significantly cheaper than some of the other vitamins I’ve tried. Of course, you must consult your physician before taking any supplement, and you take any supplement at your own risk. (My lawyer made me add that.)

1. Keep on keeping on. I’ve never been an athlete. Working my body into submission takes a far greater effort than it does for all of those former swimmers and former cross country runners out there. Still, the frailty of my body has taught me a great deal about the limitations of my mind. When I can’t run my full three miles, I can forgive myself. So why do I always browbeat myself if I can’t get my ten daily pages written? Browbeating is counterproductive and makes me more likely to give up entirely. Getting physically fit has taught me to be realistic in all of my goals and that, when push comes to shove, the most important thing is to try, try again. We’re all humans whether we blow off writing to watch television or we eat chocolate cupcakes that we know we don’t need. We must remember that losing one tiny battle is no need to concede the war. To quote Churchill, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

What are some of your greatest discoveries along the way to both physical fitness and literary fame?

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Only Have Five Minutes?

As usual, my expectations of myself in the month of December (or any month, really) were way over-the-top. Here it is the 10th and I've only gotten in three full workouts, have no gifts wrapped and haven't even started baking. I haven't scheduled a cookie party for the kids and I still have a half-dozen gifts to find as well as a few dozen cards to address.

Argh - blowing it already!!! And its only going to get crazier, time tighter and stress higher as the month progresses. But I'm determined not to let the workouts slide completely. So I came up with a list of 5 things I can do in 5 minutes or less.

1)Jump rope, jog in place, or run up and down the stairs

2)Do 25 each of: Crunches, Leg lifts, Push ups without taking a break in between

3)Cut up a bowl of fruit or veggies for easy snacking later

4) Stretch, doing either easy yoga poses or simple stretches starting at the feet and working up to the neck, taking a few seconds to do deep belly breaths with each stretch

5) Do a little recipe research and find some yummy, low fat recipes to try out next week. Google low calorie, 30 minute or less entrees and see what fabulous choices you find. There's always the bagged salad, low-fat dressing, with some veggies and protein option, too!! A healthy meal on the table in less than 5 minutes!!!

So even if we don't have large stretches of time to exercise or make elaborate, healthy meals we can still stay on track and make it through the craziness of the season without totally abandoning our goals.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And the Biggest Loser is...

Danny. I had a feeling after last week's episode that Danny was on track to win the crown tonight, but I had no idea how close it was going to be between him and Rudy. Both men lost more than 50 percent of their body weight and more than 230 pounds each. That's amazing! There was only a five-pound difference in how much they lost, and I think Danny had a bit of an edge because he's shorter and started at a lesser weight (430 to Rudy's 442). That's not taking anything away from Danny; he has done a phenomenal job in just seven short months. Both men looked great and seemed really happy.

America voted last week on who to send to the final three with Rudy and Danny, and Amanda won that vote. She is also looking great and very happy. She's lost 87 pounds and currently weighs what I do. Liz didn't make the cut to be in the final running for the Biggest Loser title, but she looked wonderful tonight, glowing and very stylish. It was great to see how she's looking now because I interviewed her a couple of weeks ago via phone for the magazine I used to work at full time and for which I still do contract work. (If you're in Tennessee and get your electricity from an rural electric co-op, watch for the January issue of The Tennessee Magazine in your mailbox for the story about Liz's experience.)

The at-home prize for the contestant with the biggest percentage weight loss went to Rebecca who started out at 279 and now weighs 140. And she's blond. I liked her dark hair better, but hey, it's not my hair. :) Now she's slim, rocking a new 'do and $100,000 richer.

Another moment in Biggest Loser romance history was made tonight when Antoine proposed (on one knee, no less) to Alexandra. Many tears and smiles, and I loved the happy hugs between who I assume were their mothers. Very sweet.

Shay inspired many people this season, and though she acknowledges that her journey isn't over she nevertheless looked so much better, healthier, happier. In recognition of her continuing journey, Subway issued her a challenge tonight. She's coming back to the next season finale in May to weigh in again. For every pound she loses between now and then, Subway will give her $1,000. She immediately said she'd be down 100 pounds. More good news for Shay came from Biggest Loser physician Dr. Huizenga. According to the latest tests, the weight she's lost has added 13 years to her life. And Daniel has added approximately 23 years to his life estimate for his two seasons of work.

Among the other contestants who showed off impressive losses were Antoine (152 pounds lost), Julio (180 lost; he looked like a different man); Sean (155 lost); Abby (100 lost; she looked absolutely fabulous); and Tracey (118 lost, though I have to admit I worried maybe it was too much -- something about how the loss presented itself on her face; had the same feeling about Rebecca, though all may be perfectly fine and it's just dramatic losses).

If you're a Biggest Loser fan, you don't have to wait long for more inspiration each Tuesday night. The next season starts Jan. 5.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making Veggies Their Healthiest

I've been reading the December issue of Prevention, and one of the articles was about how you should prepare several different vegetables for maximum health benefits. Lots of vegetables help fight off bad health issues, including cancer, but to get the most nutrition and disease-fighting out of them, it's important to know how you should prepare them. Raw isn't always the best option. Some examples:

Broccoli -- steam it. This helps the broccoli retain nearly 70% of its Vitamin C and nearly all of its kaempferol, a beneficial flavonoid. Broccoli is also high in beta-carotene, lutein and flavonols -- all potential cancer-fighting agents. We eat a lot of steamed broccoli at our house.

Carrots -- boil until tender. My husband eats a lot of raw carrots as snacks, but I'm going to start boiling some too to go with our steamed broccoli. We've all heard carrots are good for our eyesight; that's because of the carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which also may help reduce your risk of heart attack and some cancers. Boiling helps keep the carotenoids 14% more concentrated.

Tomatoes -- roast with olive oil. Roasting tomatoes causes their cell walls to burst, which releases more of the antioxidant lycopene. This is important because lycopene can help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease.

The article also covers how to prepare garlic cloves, root vegetables, brussels sprouts, asparagus, beets, and onions. It compares how each vegetable benefits us raw versus cooked in specific ways.

Here are a couple of online articles on the topic:

DON'T FORGET -- The season finale and revelation of the winner of The Biggest Loser is tonight!
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Resisting Food Pushers

In late summer, the management of the building where I work held an ice cream social. I had just returned from a work conference during which I had eaten way too much and was trying to get my eating back under control. I planned to skip the event.

Not one, not two, not three, but four people came by my office at different times to make sure I knew about the event and invite me to go downstairs with them. I was able to put off the first two by saying I was doing some work then but would try to go down later. The next two offered to wait for me and pushed hard to get me to commit to a time that I would go to the event with them.

Now, of course, I wanted to go eat the ice cream. I pretty much want to eat fun food whenever I have the opportunity, but I know I can’t do that and reach or maintain a healthy weight. I was really struggling with my weight loss in August 2009 and wanted to show I had what it takes to make this a success. I wish I could say this is a triumphant anecdote and I figured out a way to avoid going to the social. I went with the fourth person and had a big sundae. It was pretty tasty, and I gained more than three pounds that week.

It’s hard to resist food pushers - particularly when you combine their influence with your own desire to eat whatever they are currently shoving at you. This only increases during the holidays. Food pushers run amuck from Halloween through New Year’s Day. Thinking of strategies to resist their efforts can be very necessary.

First, you should plan how much you are willing to eat going into any given situation. You are ultimately in control of what you eat. You may want to figure out what treats you’ll allow and which ones you’ll avoid to try to balance out your calorie intake. This will make it easy to refuse the initial offers. You may get lucky and there is only one offer.

If the food pusher offers again or insists, you may want to expand on your simple no, thank you. You may say you had a big lunch and aren’t hungry. You could say you aren’t feeling well. You could offer many reasons why you can’t eat that big piece of cake.

Another helpful suggestion I heard was to say no and then change the subject. No, thank you. By the way, how is your kid, your favorite pet, or some other topic the pusher can’t resist talking about endlessly.

Another element that can make it harder to resist food pushers is if you are in a family situation where food is more than just food. I made this for my beloved daughter, niece, granddaughter, daughter-in-law because I know you love it. The implication of how can you refuse my culinary effort and my love for you can be a powerful force that convinces you to eat something you’d rather not. Or, you have a father like mine who just loves to order people to eat more for some reason. Understanding how the appeal to other emotions besides the desire for food can encourage you to overeat is helpful. You have to resist two powerful appeals at one time. Realizing this by being conscious of all that is working against you is very clarifying. Knowing that can help you find ways to resist eating more especially when you really are full, don’t want the food in question, or are motivated to keep up with your healthy journey.

I am getting much better at avoiding and resisting food pushers. Being aware of all the forces working against me and having strategies to resist them is extremely helpful.

Do you have any tips for resisting Food Pushers? What has worked for you?

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Quick and Healthy Meal during the Holidays

I’m sure you’ve heard before that the average person gains 7 pounds over the holidays. If you already have a weight problem, you tend to keep that new addition around permanently. While the holiday season can be a lot of fun, it’s also full of temptations and challenges to a healthy lifestyle. One of the ways you can keep yourself on the right path is to arm yourself with some very quick and easy but healthy and tasty recipes. I’ve got a great one for you!

Southwest Easy-Oven Chicken


1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 15 oz can black beans

1 15 oz can pinto beans (original recipe calls for kidney beans)

Jar of salsa (original recipe recommended ¾ cup – use your favorite)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Optional additions:

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

Cumin or chili powder – 1 teaspoon each


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Dump it all into a 13-by-9 inch baking pan. (Original recipe does say to rinse and drain the beans - I find that a waste of time.) I make sure the chicken breasts are buried by the liquid, beans, etc.

3. Bake, stirring once, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is reduced, about 45 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, shred the chicken and add it back to the pan.

There are lots of options in how to serve this. One day, I may eat it “straight”. The next day, I may serve it on a baked potato. I use it as taco filling and serve it on corn tortillas. I also like to cut the tortillas in quarters, bake them until they are like chips, and then use them to eat the southwest chicken dish like chips and salsa.

The original recipe appears on page 139 of Weight Watchers Simply the Best 250 Prizewinning Family Recipes published in 1997.

It makes 6 servings. Each serving is 4 points and provides: 2 breads, 2 protein/milks

Per Serving: 241 Calories, 2 g Total Fat, 0 g Saturated Fat, 42 mg Cholesterol, 385 mg Sodium, 29 g Total Carbohydrate, 3 g Dietary Fiber, 27 g Protein, 43 mg Calcium.

Do you have any favorite “quick and easy by healthy and tasty” recipes you’d like to share?

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Call for guest bloggers

It's hard to believe we're winding down another year. Didn't 2009 just start?

We're getting ready for an exciting 2010 here at Healthy Writer, and one of the things we bring you each week is a guest blog each Friday (except today). Are you a writer? Would you like to blog with us one Friday about your personal weight loss/healthy living journey? About some aspect of living a healthy life? If you or someone you know is interested, please have him or her contact me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com to be considered. We love to hear what other writers have to say about the challenges and joys of the journey to healthier living.

And speaking of which, I've worked a tad of running into my treadmill routine. I was on the treadmill for 65 minutes today, and about 2 1/2 of those minutes were running (split up; a minute is about all I can do right now). I'm hoping to gradually work in more. I don't see myself running any marathons, but any amount of running is more than I've done for years. It isn't my thing, but I'm trying. Even when I was a teenager and thin and on the track team, I wasn't very good. I might hold the school record for slowest 800m. :)
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

All Those Little Things Count!

‘Tis the Season of jammed schedules, overwhelming stress and cookie overload. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that people gain more weight during the months of November and December than they do the rest of the year combined. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and busy, and to skip workouts. Or in the rush from here to there, the busy shopping sprints and plethora of holiday parties, to make poor food choices.

So how do we avoid working our way to a Santa-esque silhouette? In keeping with the Twelve Days of Christmas, here are twelve ideas to keep you on track toward your healthy goals this holiday season.

1. Make your shopping trip a workout. Wear your pedometer. Park as far away from the store as possible. Use the stairs instead of the escalator. Bicep curl those shopping bags. Power walk from store to store.

2. Crank up the holiday tunes and dance. Sing loudly and move your bootie while you decorate, wrap gifts, bake and clean house. The music will pump you up, the movement will help energize you while giving you a little bit of a workout.

3. Make a one-a-day rule for holiday treats. Instead of denying yourself the seasonal goodies you love, allow yourself one treat a day. That means one cookie. One piece of fudge. One small piece of fruitcake. One treat will translate to roughly 100 calories – but for smarter tracking, calculate it before you eat. And don’t forget to write it in your food journal.

4. Speaking of, keep that journal up this season. Having to honestly track and write down everything you eat –before you eat it. That habit will force you to take a brief pause, usually enough to let you decide if the food is really worth the calories.

5. Eat a salad or light soup before you hit the holiday party. If you’ve already filled up with healthy veggies or soup, you won’t be as tempted to scarf down at the buffet.

6. Drink carefully. Most alcohol packs a caloric wallop, as well as lowering your inhibitions. And sometimes there is only one inhibition standing between you and that spinach dip, so losing it is bad news. If you do drink, alternate a lower calorie choice like a glass of wine between every two or three glasses of waters.

7. Bake goodies. Yes, I know, being surrounded by all that tempting goodness can be scary. But my experience is that after spending a day slaving over it, you’re so sick of even the smell of fudge, divinity, caramels and cookies that you won’t be tempted to even taste a bite (your mileage on this may vary, so use this tip with caution).

8. Take time to de-stress. Even if it’s only fifteen minutes stolen between commitments, allow yourself to totally relax. Meditate, power nap, read a chapter in your latest romance novel.

9. Add pampering yourself to your holiday to-do list. Get a massage, a facial, a pedicure (be sure to check out the cute holiday nail art, too!).

10. Create a budget and stick to it. Both for shopping, and for calories.

11. Find non-food ways to celebrate. Go caroling, walk the neighborhood and admire the decorations, ice skate. Dive into that snowball fight with the kids, go sledding, experiment with different ways to enjoy the wonder and magic of the season.

12. Cut yourself some slack. We’re often stuck on the Super Woman track. We expect ourselves to write, decorate, bake, shop, diet, exercise, party and be the perfect holiday hostess, wife and mother. If you give yourself permission to only do half of your list this year, you’ll be so much more relaxed and quite likely find yourself even more productive.

How about you? Do you have any tips or ideas to help keep the pounds off, the smiles bright and the joy of the season front and center?
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Biggest Loser, Week 12

We've made it to the final week of the show before next week's finale. It wasn't unexpected that we got a lot of retrospective in this episode, showing just how far the contestants have come. Seeing how unhappy they were at the beginning, I'll admit, caused me to choke up. We got to see their homecomings, including Danny asking his wife to renew their wedding vows and Liz telling her husband that they need to work on their marriage but that she wants it to work, for them to have a second chance like The Biggest Loser has given her a second chance.

The final four got surprise visits at home from Jillian and Bob, and they talked with the trainers about how hard it is to maintain a workout regimen in real life, when working out isn't their only "job." Rudy, especially, seemed to be struggling with this since he works really long days and wants to spend time with his wife and daughters.

Curtis Stone also showed up at Danny's house to give his family a healthy cooking lesson, and I have to say those baked potatoes he made looked fabulous. I'm going to have to give those a try. And bonus -- they were less than 290 calories a piece versus 850 calories for a typical loaded baked potato.

The shock of the night for the contestants was when they heard they were going to be running a marathon, an event that marathon runners train for well in advance. When marathon day came, Rudy continued to be a machine and ran the entire 26.2 miles in 5 hours, 12 minutes and 41 seconds, achieving the goal he'd set for himself -- run the entire thing and in less than 5 1/2 hours. Amanda came in second 16 minutes later. Danny and Liz, probably the closest team during this season, stuck together throughout the race and crossed the finish line about an hour and a half after Amanda. It was inspiring to see everyone keep going, determined to finish, despite their intense pain.

Then it was time for the weigh-in, time to see how the contestants had done at home over the past 60 days. Danny won the weigh-in by clocking in a huge 59-pound loss, bringing him to 229 pounds, down from his starting weight of 430. Next was Rudy with a 43-pound loss, bringing him to 253. Amanda and Liz both lost 16 pounds, putting them below the yellow line and in the position of asking America for votes to make them the third person vying for the title of The Biggest Loser. I just placed my vote, and I urge you to do the same at
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Starting Over, Feeling Good

Struggle is a part of most things we do to improve ourselves and our lives, and that's definitely been true for me the past couple of weeks with my weight-loss/healthy living efforts. As I have before and may have to again, I'm in a bit of a starting over spot. For the past two weeks, I've allowed myself to get away from tracking my calories and exercising/eating like I should. I have all manner of excuses (board meeting, stress in various areas, travel, Thanksgiving), but I hate that I let those things derail me. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it because that won't do me any good either. So, beginning today (Monday), I'm looking ahead and rededicating myself to this effort again. And I'm going to do it by sharing my actual weight with you. When I stepped on the scales this morning, I weighed in at 164.8 pounds. Tonight, I weighed a little more, as was to be expected since we weigh the least in the morning, but I used a new scale to check my BMI, which registered at 27 -- in the overweight range. I need to shave 3 points off that BMI to get back below the overweight range, and my goal weight by my birthday at the end of May is 140. My more immediate goal is to hit 155 by the end of the year -- yep, 31 days from now. So, how am I going to do that?

1. 2 hours of exercise each day, no excuses -- I got that in today with 1 hour 10 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes of stretching/elastic band work/sit-ups, and 30 minutes house cleaning.

2. Keep track of my food intake, no excuses -- 1,483 calories consumed today; need to shave 200-300 calories off that in the days ahead.

3. Read something to inspire me each day -- Today, I read a few pages in the latest issue of Prevention.

4. Writing progress each day -- This will help me to not feel guilty about taking 2 hours out of each day to exercise if I am also putting in the hours necessary to make good progress on my writing projects. I feel good about today's progress because I finished the second chapter of a new proposal, then printed out and read the first two chapters I'd written (copy edited, made notes about characters/setting to refresh my memory, jotted down ideas about future scenes) since those two weeks of dismal health choices also included dismal writing progress.

5. Don't forget to reward myself for good behavior. Today, I still had enough time in amongst all the writing, editing, exercise and other tasks to watch two episodes of Gilmore Girls (just started season 6). Just call me one of Pavlov's dogs. :)

6. Cook a healthy dinner at least 5 nights a week. This will also help in my husband's weight-loss efforts, something that is extremely important to me. I'm off to The Biggest Loser Web site now to look up a recipe for tomorrow night's dinner.

I have to say that Day 1 of this renewed effort has left me feeling good, physically and emotionally. I just need to remember that feeling to keep going.

How are the rest of you faring in your journey? Share your recent ups and downs. Anyone interested in joining me in my extra efforts this month. Let's see how many pounds the Healthy Writer community can lose in December! Seriously, I challenge yourself to weigh yourself today, post that number somewhere you'll see it every day (above your computer, on the refrigerator door) to inspire you to get in that exercise and make healthy food choices. Keep track of how much you lose this month, and report back on Dec. 31.

Here's to a great December!
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Monday, November 30, 2009

What Are You Working Towards?

Even though I now have lost 30 or so pounds, I still hate the scale. The number it shows almost always disappoints me, and it’s not enough of a reward to keep going. I’ve worked on finding other ways to measure my progress and establish short-term goals to work towards. One of my favorites is clothing.

The outfit you see to the left is one that I worked towards fitting into the past 11 months. I got the size 12, Ann Taylor, A-line skirt in New York City during a visit to my sister a couple years ago, and I always thought it would look very sharp paired with a red shirt. It was one of my fantasy outfits I dreamed of wearing when I finally got thin.

When I first tried on this skirt, I was able to fasten only the top button if I sucked it in, and the gapping sides formed a large triangle. Whenever I reached a particular milestone in my journey to becoming a healthy writer this year, I’d try on this skirt and watch that triangle get smaller and smaller until I was finally able to close all the buttons. Once there were no gaps between the buttons and the skirt was no longer too tight to wear in public, I proudly and very happily donned this outfit and wore it to work Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009. I even was able to top the outfit with a very stylish, size 12, Ann Taylor Loft, short, winter coat. I made a colleague take my picture so I could document this accomplishment.

I’ve used other pieces of clothing, such as the outfit pictured to the right, as ways to measure my progress this year as well. I discovered that once I started to fit into more and more pieces in a particular size, I needed to start using a size smaller pair of pants, skirt, dress or top to measure my overall progress. I still have plenty of size 12s that I don’t fit into: a lovely Ann Taylor pencil skirt suit, 3 Tahari pants suits, and several other pants, but now that I can wear several size 12 outfits, I need to have some size 10s to work towards.

I did not own any size 10 clothing until mid-October. It’s been a very long time since I could fit into any, and I did not keep my thin college clothes. I did have some clothing I’d bought massively on sale through the years to thin into, but I never dared to dream I’d get back into a 10. Contrary to the fact that I am admitting to how many pieces of clothing I’ve bought when they were still too small to wear, I really do have a frugal streak. I only ever bought clothes one or two sizes smaller than I currently was and only when it was really, really on sale. (Yes, the frugal Yankee in me does feel a little guilty about this.)

In the past month, I have bought three size 10 pieces of clothing: a size 10 Evan-Picone purple dress (very Michelle Obama), a medium (sizes 8/10) Ann Taylor green silk shirt dress, and a size ten Ann Taylor Loft pair of corduroys. All three pieces were bought massively on sale. The two dresses were in the 30s and the pants were $22.04. I even tried the clothing in a size that currently fit to make sure they would be flattering when I reached a size 10. For less than $90, I have great encouragement to keep going and something to measure my progress against. I think it’s worth it.

What are you working towards? Have you found ways to measure your progress other than the scale? What helps you succeed on your journey to becoming a healthy writer?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009


If you all are like me, you're recovering from the big meals of the past couple of days. We still have one more family gathering today, and then it'll be back to eating more sensibly. I haven't tracked my calories over the holiday, choosing instead to start anew tomorrow when I'm home. I also got my new pedometer, so I can start tracking my step counts again. I really want to challenge myself to see how much I can lose before Christmas. To be half way to my goal, I need to lose another 10 pounds by the end of the year. I think if I really dedicate myself to keeping the daily calorie intake to 1,200 and exercising a couple hours a day, I can do it. It will be a huge milestone, and I'll be at a weight I haven't seen for awhile. When I get to the 20-pounds-lost mark, I plan to do some before and after photos of myself here as inspiration to keep going.

This blog will also return to normal on Monday, once everyone is back home from visiting family and indulging a bit in foods we normally eschew. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and here's to all of us having a great rest of the year of healthy living and weight loss.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Here in the U.S., today is notoriously the biggest eating day of the year. A day of excess. Overeating, over drinking, over doing. How to keep from being an over-doer today? Here are 3 tips to stay on top of Thanksgiving overload...
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Biggest Loser, Week 11

We're down to the last day on the ranch and the final four contestants. Consequently, we had a lot of looking back and comparing where these people were when they arrived at the ranch and where they are now. We saw Rudy struggling with a 40-pound bar at the beginning and then lifting it like it was nothing in week 11. Same with Danny and a 30-pound bar. It really was awe-inspiring to see how far they'd all come in such a short time.

In addition to their physical health, they got a lesson in wealth health from Suze Orman (Michelle is on her way home for Thanksgiving tonight, and I know she's going to hate that she missed this). Orman shared some jaw-dropping statistics with the contestants, among them the fact that in the U.S. $147 billion is spent a year on obesity-related illnesses. O...M...G! That's just ridiculous.

The first challenge of the evening was a series of questions asked while the contestants were on treadmills. Get it right -- earn $1,000. Get it wrong -- your treadmill incline and speed goes up. The second challenge really appealed to the guys since all three played or coached football. Former NFL star Rod Woodson came by for a challenge in which the contestants had to pull a barrel with the amount of weight they'd lost on the ranch while carrying weighted footballs to set points on a football field representing the weeks they'd been on the ranch. Allen, the winner of the challenge, got two tickets to the next Pro Bowl.

At this week's weigh-in, no one had a weight advantage or immunity, and Liz and Allen fell below the yellow line. Amanda beat the odds and lost 7 pounds to ensure herself a spot in the final four. Her story really touched me this week, how she'd really made a breakthrough in learning to love herself. Her bond with Bob is so heartwarming, and it makes me smile to think that now she can live the rest of her life without those old feelings of self-loathing.

Rudy and Danny continued to be a weight-loss machines with Rudy losing 12 pounds and Danny 16 to help him set a new record of most consecutive weeks (7) of double-digit losses. Danny completely skipped the 290s to reach his new weight of 288. Liz's 5-pound loss and Allen's 8-pound loss put them below the yellow line, and Allen was sent home when swing vote Amanda voted to keep Liz on the ranch even though she potentially presented her with a bigger challenge.

Tonight there is a Biggest Loser special on in which we get to catch up with some former contestants, including one winner who has gained all the weight back. That makes me incredibly sad, but I'm hopeful I'll gain more inspiration for my own journey by watching the success stories.

What were your favorite parts of last night's episode?
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