Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Biggest Loser, Week 3

It was the week of choices on The Biggest Loser, and Tracey made two choices that I think are going to haunt her the rest of the game. First, she chose to go the week without the trainers for a measly 2-pound advantage at the weigh-in. And she did it without consulting her teammate, Mo. I felt like he was put in a bad position because he didn't agree with the decision but he's a team player and thus supported Tracey. I totally understand Jillian being upset at Tracey's decisions, but I didn't like how she chastised Mo for being a supportive teammate. There wasn't anything he could have done after Tracey's decision was made.

It was interesting, and inspiring, how many of the contestants knew they needed the trainers and weren't about to accept the pound advantage so easily. Liz said it best when talking about how much she needed the trainers: "I know myself. I didn't get fat by pushing myself."

Tracey's second choice, to eat cupcakes during the temptation challenge so that she could be in control of who weighed in for each team in the weigh-in, was an even worse decision, in my view. She made a lot of enemies tonight by choosing who she did to weigh in for each team. She made the pink team mad, and she made Shay cry because she was one pound from where she needed to be to keep her team above the yellow potential-elimination line. Now Tracey has a big bull's-eye on her, and that's not fair to Mo.

What's an even sadder result of Tracey's decisions was that no one was happy for her when she posted an impressive 11-pound loss this week. I mean, these people are here to lose weight and get healthy, and I don't think she could even rejoice in her own weight loss.

After the weigh-in, the tears flowed again back at the house when the two teams below the yellow line (red and yellow) discussed how much it meant to them to stay and continue their journeys. But then in a moment of incredible, admirable self-sacrifice, the red team of Sean and Antoine basically told everyone to vote them off because they felt they could continue the weight loss at home, that Shay needed to stay in the game because she didn't have a support system at home like they did. These guys have won lifelong friends because of their selfless actions. And they did continue the impressive weight loss at home. Sean is now able to run with his kids, and he and his wife are expecting a baby girl very soon, one they plan to name Jillian.

And in a moment that was already wonderful because of the weight loss success, Antoine's "how are they doing now" segment spoke to my romance writer heart, too. On top of his successful weight loss, he's found love -- with Alexandra, who was the first person eliminated this season. How awesome is that?! They keep each other going with their continued weight loss efforts.

What did you think of this week's episode? Do you think Tracey can redeem herself and find a way back into the group's good graces?
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Monday, September 28, 2009

Inaccuracy in Labeling

Since I've been counting calories, I've paid a lot more attention to the nutritional labels on food products. So I was not happy to see an article today that talked about how testing has shown that nearly 1/4 of the labels are inaccurate to some extent. To me, there is something fundamentally and morally wrong with inaccurately labeling food products when consumers' health depends on the accuracy of such listings. This isn't just true of people counting calories in order to lose weight. My mom has to buy a lot of sugar-free things now, but according to the article, sugar was found in a pie labeled sugar-free at a major store chain.

If you'd like to read the entire article, you can see it here.

I guess until the labeling becomes more accurate, maybe I'll overestimate a bit on the calorie counts. When unsure, I tend to do that anyway. I'd rather overestimate how much I'm eating than underestimate. I've often wished there was a machine you could put a prepared dish into and it would tell you accurately how many calories are in it. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,123

Exercise: I'm still recuperating from being sick, but I made myself get outside and walk for 30 minutes today. Sure, I was exhausted afterward, but it was a first step back toward my normal hour of walking. Hopefully, I can get up to at least 45 minutes tomorrow. And an extra bonus -- it was a gorgeous fall day today -- cool, clear blue sky, low humidity, breezy. Perfect walking weather.

Steps: 10,120
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Recognize and Celebrate Non-Scale Victories

The scale is not my friend. It’s a necessary part of tracking my progress, but I can’t let it become the “be all” of my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer. Sure, there are times when I love the number it shows, but it also breaks my heart on a regular basis. I’ve got to come up with other ways to acknowledge what I’ve accomplished and give me motivation to continue. Learning to recognize and celebrate non-scale victories is an important part of making my journey a success.

This was a week where the scale was not kind. I knew why it went up 2.4 pounds. I had lost so much the week before (4.6 pounds) because I was sick that I couldn’t be surprised by a gain. I also ate too much during my writers’ retreat. Knowing that still didn’t keep me from getting down, so I started to compile a list of non-scale victories to keep my mind in the right place.

I sleep better. I remember having troubles falling asleep all the way back to my childhood. I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and they are maddening. I have a hard time shutting down my brain at night and have tried lots of tricks but nothing works as well as working out at a high level on a regular basis. Honestly, a stretch of insomnia will get me back to the gym quicker than anything else.

I have more energy. I am a goal-oriented person, and I just didn’t think I’d have the energy to work on all I wanted to accomplish if I didn’t find a way to make some permanent changes. I hate it when all I can do when I get home from work is sit on the couch and stare at the TV. A better diet and exercise gives me the extra energy I need to work on what is most important to me.

I have a better attitude. I’m more confident. I’m happier. I’m more optimistic. I feel really good overall. I’m just in a better place emotionally since I started to make these healthy changes in my life. I don’t want to go back.

My clothes fit better. First, all the clothes that were uncomfortably tight began to fit well. Then, they got loose. When they got too big and baggy to wear in public, I started to buy clothes a size down. I’m now a couple sizes below what I was in January 2009, and I love it. Just this week, I wore two new pairs of pants that were too tight just a few weeks ago. You can see one of those pairs in the photo posted of my two critique partners and me 2 Sundays ago. I’ve no idea how far I can go, but I can’t wait to see where I end up.

I’m smaller. I did not take my measurements in January, but I did in mid-May when I started to go to the gym regularly. I’m now 10 inches smaller in just 4 months.

I’m stronger. On the advice of a kind lady at my first weight class, I only lifted 2 kilograms that first time. I cannot exaggerate how sore I was for days after that. I’m now lifting up to 17 kilograms for the biggest muscle groups, and I can do “man” push-ups. I love it.

I’m more fit. I wasn’t completely out of shape in January since I walk a decent amount for my commute, but I’m in much better shape now in terms of endurance and speed. I can work out for 1 to 2 hours straight or I can really, really push myself for stretches at a time.

I’m more in control of my eating. I just don’t overeat or binge like I used to. When I get stressed out, my first recourse is not stuffing my face anymore. I think my appetite has decreased or my stomach has shrunk, but I just can’t eat as much as I used to. I also feel better for eating healthier and can feel the difference if I eat a very unhealthy meal. I’m not completely there yet, but food does not control me. I control it for the most part.

I’m getting compliments. They started when I had lost around 10 or 15 pounds, and they have continued steadily since then. There are a few people at work who refer to me as skinny. I absolutely love how I almost always get a compliment on a day when I’m feeling weak about making wise choices, I’ve actually just gained weight or I’m just feeling fat. I let them keep me going on the right path.

I’m inspiring others to make healthy changes. Tuesday, just hours before I was weighed in and told I’d gained 2.4 pounds, two work colleagues at separate times told me what an inspiration I was. They were so impressed that I had kept going and had not fallen of the wagon. I had inspired them to try once again to lose weight. Several other work colleagues have told me that in the past few months, as have friends and family members. Hearing that makes me feel good and always increases my motivation to just keep going. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s hard, but in the end, both work.

What are some of your favorite non-scale victories since you started your own journey to becoming a healthy writer?

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekly Goals

Time to hold myself accountable for the goals I set last week:

1. At least one hour of dedicated exercise every day -- something like walking, biking, cardio.

Did on some days, not on others. Some days I got more than one hour. The past couple of days, I haven't been able to exercise much because my allergies/sinuses are killing me again and I feel like my head is going to explode. I loathe high pollen counts.

2. No eating out.

Ate out twice.

3. Try two new recipes from my Hungry Girl cookbook.

Bought the items for one recipes but haven't done this.

4. Lose a pound.

I had at one point during the week. Actually, at one point it said I'd lost a little over two pounds, but I think the couple of days of higher calorie foods and little exercise brought me back up. I think I'm going to buy a new scale -- one the hubby can use because it has a higher weight limit and something I can compare weights on.

5. Cull from a different room each day, getting some extra physical activity in and prepping stuff for a yard sale.

Didn't do every day, but I did cull from my dresser and closet. That yielded several things for the yard sale pile, and a big bag of stuff that just went in the trash. Plus, you can walk in my closet now. :)

6. Writing: Read through women's fiction manuscript and send to my agent for submission to editor she met at National. And do an editing/read-through for a friend.

I'm part of the way through my friend's manuscript, but I didn't even look at mine. Instead, I had to proof the Romance Writers' Report. I'd forgotten that it was about time for that arrive when I set my goals last week.

Okay, so it was a mixed bag of results. Let's see if I can do any better this week.

1. Finish reading friend's manuscript and return to her.
2. Finish culling dressers and closets.
3. Prep work for workshops I'm giving at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference next weekend.
4. At least one hour of dedicated exercise each day.
5. Lose one pound plus the pound I wanted to lose this week.
6. Renewed effort to get my 10,000 steps a day. Don't let myself go to bed each night until I have those steps in.
7. Weight/resistance band work each day.

How about you all? Don't leave me all alone out here in the land of goal-making. What do you want to accomplish toward your health/fitness and your writing this week?
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grilled Turkey-Herb Burgers

I love to cook, and that really helps me on my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer. I find it a creative outlet and love to experiment when I have the time and energy. I’ve also learned that I need to plan ways to help me stay on a healthy diet for the days cooking seems more like a chore. When I’m dragging my tired self home from a long, tough day at work, I’ve got to have a healthy meal already prepared or a good idea of how I can easily throw together one in minutes or I will give in to the lure of take out.

These grilled turkey-herb burgers have become a staple of mine since I finally got over my preference for beef long enough to give this recipe a try. The mayonnaise and mustard you mix into the burgers give them enough moisture to overcome how dry and boring ground turkey breast can be on its own. Knowing I have a stash of these burgers in the freezer help me resist the temptation of Five Guys, Wendy’s or another local burger joint.

Grilled Turkey-Herb Burgers

Makes 4 Servings

1 pound ground skinless turkey breast

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons seasoned dried bread crumbs (or oatmeal as a healthier alternative)

3 tablespoons minced parsley

3 tablespoons reduced-calorie mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1. Preheat the broiler.

2. In a large bowl, lightly combine the turkey, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, mayonnaise, basil, mustard and pepper. Shape into 4 equal burgers.

3. Spray the broiler rack with nonstick cooking spray; broil the burgers 5" from the heat, until well done, 4-5 minutes on each side.

Per serving: 210 Calories, 4 g Total Fat, 1 g Saturated Fat, 74 mg Cholesterol, 476 mg Sodium, 11 g Total Carbohydrate, 1 g Dietary Fiber, 30 g Protein, 34 mg Calcium.

Serving provides: 1 Bread, 3 Protein/Milks, 1 Fat

Points Per Serving: 4

I’ve slightly modified a version of this recipe that appears on page 141 in the Weight Watchers Simply the Best 250 Prizewinning Family Recipes cookbook published in 1997. I like to play with the herbs I include, and I bet you could experiment with the vegetables you mix in. I've even heard of folks including chopped apples in their turkey burgers. You can also use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs.

These burgers freeze very well. I put each burger into a sandwich bag and then place all the baggies in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. I’ve made up to 16 at a time to freeze, and I don’t really notice any difference in taste or quality between the frozen burgers and never frozen burgers.

I often come home from work, pop a baggy in the microwave to defrost the burger, broil it and serve it on an Arnold’s thin roll (100 calories/1 point) with veggies and condiments. The side will be equally easy – a piece of fruit, some veggies, etc, and I find it a very satisfying meal. Enjoy!

What are some of your go-to, staple recipes when you don't have much time or energy to cook?

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Power of Positivity

Today, we're happy to host Theresa Ragan as one of our special Friday guest bloggers. Theresa and I have been friends since 2003, when we both finaled in the Golden Heart for the first time. To date, Theresa has seven GH finals to her credit, and she's one of the coolest, most positive people I know.

By Guest Blogger Theresa Ragan

On January 1, 2007, I decided I was going to change my life by training myself to think positively. I was tired of the negative path I was on. At the time, I had never heard of Eckhart Tolle or The Secret. I just knew my life needed to change. I wasn’t a horribly negative person before that but I wasn’t happy. I had a few moments of “road rage” and I was known to let a store clerk have a piece of my mind on occasion. I would complain about everything wrong with my house and I didn’t like the weeds in my yard or the fact that I couldn’t afford to leave the air conditioner on when it was hot outside. When my husband would come home after work, he would immediately look for the negative (Why is the door open? How did these flies get in the house? Turn off that light. Shut that door). I was done with negativity. No more complaining. I decided I was going to change myself first and then hopefully my positivity would rub off on those around me. I decided to start exercising on a regular basis and if my kids or husband said something negative, I was not going to react. Not reacting to their complaints worked amazingly well because it gave their negativity nowhere to go. All their negativity just disappeared into thin air because I was no longer giving their fire any fuel. Within days of my transformation, a friend left The Secret DVD on my doorstep. After I watched the DVD twice, I felt sure that my positive energy had pulled the DVD right to my door!

“We become what we think about, all day long.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Secret DVD has flaws. Don’t we all? If you watch the entire DVD though, hanging on to the stuff that works for you, it could change your life (no, if you wish long and hard for a new shiny bicycle, it’s not going to come to your doorstep). Anyhow, I was excited because I knew I had already started using some of the principles of the Law of Attraction. Like attracts Like. Negative attracts Negative. (Have you ever been in a bad mood and watched how quickly those negative vibes rub off on those around you?) Positive attracts Positive (a smile, a hug, it doesn’t take much).

“Most people treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is Life itself, it is an insane way to live.” –Eckhart Tolle

Here are some of the things that helped me. Remember, the Law of Attraction is only ONE tool to help you get on a positive track and improve your life.

Take responsibility. Take some responsibility for the things, good and bad, that have happened in your life. Scientists have proven that we are all made up of energy. Think of yourself as tiny particles. Quantum physicists have proven that like energy attracts like energy. Whatever it is you choose to focus on is exactly what you are drawing to you (keep thinking and talking about how sucky your life is, and yes, it’s probably going to be sucky). Instead, begin to focus on things you want in life: happiness, financial freedom, a stress-free life, a publishing contract, etc. And then begin to visualize these things as if they have already happened to you. It only takes seconds to feel the power of good, positive thoughts. When you’re tired, don’t think “tired.” Think energizing thoughts. If you can’t take a nap, what good is thinking about how tired you are going to do you?

You have nothing to lose by thinking positively. Nothing.

Take all negative words out of your life. If you keep telling yourself that a task is going to be hard, then guess what? It’s going to be hard!

Be grateful. For me, this is THE most important thing to do if you truly want to change your attitude and your life. Be grateful for every single thing you have. If you aren’t getting along with someone, remember all the good things about that person. Look around you and be grateful for your eyesight. Be grateful for your legs that get around. If a messy house drives you nuts, be grateful you have a roof over your head. Be truly grateful, and you’ll make room to receive more wonderful things into your life.

Be positive. Positive that today is going to be the best day ever. Positive that you will get everything done that you need to. Positive that any financial problems will take care of themselves. Positive that you will lose five pounds, that you will do your best to eat right, that you will squeeze exercise into your busy day, that you will be published some day, that you will get an agent or a contract, etc.

You need to take action.

Action. Don’t just sit on the couch wishing. Do something. You might not know what to do, but putting yourself out there, even if it’s going for coffee with a friend, will lead to the next thing or idea. The very ACT of being, thinking, and feeling positive will make you feel happier. If you want to lose five pounds, you need to eat healthily. If you want to be rich, you need to come up with an idea or go to work. If you want to have a stress-free life, you need to stop sweating the small stuff.

You’ll look and feel younger. Amazing changes will occur. Once you start thinking positively, everyone you come into contact with, including your family, will react differently toward you. They will become more accommodating and/or cooperative. You’ll relax more and worry less.

Life still happens. Think positively, but also keep your logic intact and know that your car might still break down, your kid might not make the soccer team, you might lose your car keys or stub your toe, but HOW you REACT will make all the difference in the world. Since surviving cancer, Lance Armstrong has said, “I now have good days and great days.” You don’t have to survive cancer to feel the same way.

“We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Being positive, for whatever reasons, doesn’t appeal to everyone.

Read up on the Law of Attraction and positive thinking, and convince yourself to give it a chance. If the idea seems strange, give it a try anyhow. You have nothing to lose, only to gain. Ignore what others might say or think about you once they discover you are changing the way you think. My son pointed out that people weren’t changing around me, but that I was seeing people and the world in a new way, perhaps even through rose-colored glasses. Maybe he’s right. But you know what? It worked for me. I remember coming home from a two-hour PTC meeting and my daughter asked me how it went, and I said, “AMAZING.” My husband rolled his eyes and said, “Everything that happens to you can’t possibly be amazing.” I laughed and said I would stop using that word around him so much and I could see his mind reeling, probably remembering the not-so-positive me from the past, and he said, “No. No. Keep doing whatever you’re doing. I like it.”

Now, three years later, I found myself slipping back into my old ways. Complaining more often and thinking life wasn’t fair. My older son, the one who once suggested I might be seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, asked me what happened to my positive self? I reminded him that he made fun of me and wasn’t exactly the most supportive with my new and improved self. That’s when he told me I was wrong. In actuality, my happy, positive vibes had rubbed off on him, made him grateful for the little things, made him see life a little differently. He told me how he’d told all of his friends of the changes I’d made and how proud of me he was. He made me see that I was on the right track after all.

Letting go of the negative energy in me was much easier this time. It’s like riding a bike…once you’ve truly learned how to think positively and be grateful for what you have, it’s much easier to get back up if you trip and fall every once in a while.

This might sound strange, but I think it’s worth repeating. I truly had to “train” myself to think differently. It’s easy to slip back into the complaining mode or to not be happy about little things. Like getting down on life because of a dirty house, especially when you don’t have time to clean it. Let it go! You’ll be doing yourself and everyone around you a favor. Life is too short. If you knew you only had a year to live, would you care about the floor needing to be mopped? No. You wouldn’t be sweating the small stuff. You would want to cherish every moment you had with your loved ones. So why wait another day? Start training yourself to think positively and watch the grass grow greener right before your eyes. It worked for me and my family. My husband has become more positive than me! My entire family is happier than ever. I kid you not. Just last night, my daughter’s boyfriend told my daughter that he wished his family could be so loving and happy.

I wish I could take away all the bad things that happen in the world, but I can’t. None of us can. We only have the power to change ourselves. And, IMO, it’s a great start.

“We are shaped by our thoughts, we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” — Buddha

Thursday's progress:

I don't have an accurate calorie count for some of the things I ate yesterday, but it was a high-calorie day. Amazingly, the scale continues to tick downward. Still, I'm aiming for 1,000-1,200 calories today. I had 8,902 steps yesterday, and worked on house cleaning for 2 1/2 hours. Can you say fall cleaning/culling time? :)
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

10 Ways To Get More Fruits and Veggies

By Tawny Weber

Before, I wrote about using salads as a way to pile up those servings of fruits and vegetables each day and wasn’t surprised to find that it’s a challenge for most of us. The USDA recommends 3-5 servings of vegetables a day, and 2-4 servings of fruit. Most of us sounded like we felt good to get in one or two servings totally.

Here are 10 tips to add more vegetables and fruits to your day:

1. Add banana, berries or peaches to your cereal, pancakes or oatmeal.

2. Have a veggie omelet, with extra veggies.

3. Carry a box or two of raisins in your purse for snacking on the go.

4. Add broccoli, green beans or squash to a casserole or spaghetti sauce.

5. Add chopped apples, pears or dried fruit to your salads.

6. Order a side salad instead of French fries when you do fast food.

7. Pre-cut veggies and fruit and store them in individual serving size containers, ready to grab.

8. Make a smoothie from fresh fruits, fat-free yogurt and ice.

9. Switch one soft drink a day with vegetable juice.

10. Substitute salsa for higher fat condiments or cheese.

Want more ideas, tips and tools? You can check out the MY Pyramid site here.

Note from Trish: From now on, Tawny will be blogging with us each Thursday instead of every other Thursday. So, we'll have Tawny Thursday each week. Woot!

Tuesday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,255.375
Exercise: 30 minutes cardio, 15 minutes yard work
Steps: 7,862

Wednesday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,460
Exercise: 30-45 minutes house cleaning (forgot to time exactly), 20 minutes cardio
Steps: 10,269

I've ticked a little past the 10-pound loss mark. One of my goals for the week was to lose another pound, so hopefully I'll make it.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Biggest Loser – Week Two

So, week 2 is hard.  Mentally and physically.  The rush is over.  Historically, the contestants see a significant drop in their loss from the previous week because their bodies have been shocked and hold on to the weight even though they worked just as hard or even harder.  Lots of doubts start flooding in, and they have to start facing their demons in order to keep going and make their journey a success. 

To give the contestants extra motivation to conquer week two, Allison told them that they could all be guaranteed an extra week on the ranch with nobody being sent home if they all lost at least 150 pounds total.  I was frustrated by that because I thought they were being set up with an impossible goal, but once again, The Biggest Loser had some important lessons for me.

You need to set challenging goals.  They did it.  I sold them short, and maybe I sell myself short at times.  Enough said. 

Don’t starve as it won’t make you lose weight faster.  At the beginning of the episode, Bob and Jillian were telling the contestants how they could possibly accomplish their weight loss goal.  Starving would not work.  They had to make sure they ate enough to feed their workouts.  It seems like the ratio they shoot for on the show is 1200 calories in (eaten) and 6,000 to 8,000 calories out (exercise).  Did I get that right?

Focus on nutrition.  There are a lot of healthy food choices you can make that will help you lose weight and get in shape.  They include watch your portion size (3-4 ounces of protein is a single portion), eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, include a portion of protein in your snacks, recognize that salads are not necessarily healthy, avoid soda, cook without oil (steam, bake or poach), and count your calories.  Did I miss any?

Chill Out.  Stressing about what you have to do, dwelling on how hard it is and obsessing over how you think you can’t do it will not help you lose weight.  Bob mentioned that he has seen contestants not lose weight or even gain because they were so stressed.

Focus on Yourself.  What somebody else is doing or NOT doing doesn’t ultimately matter.  Shay spent a lot of energy obsessing over how hard Julio was working, and I think that was a needless distraction from what she had to focus on – and ultimately all that she could control.  Her efforts.  And yes, my heart broke for her during her conversation with Bob.

Sometimes we need a Coach Mo and sometimes we need a Bob or Jillian.  I loved how positive and focused Coach Mo was at the beginning.  He had a plan with three strategies everyone had to keep in mind in order to succeed, and he was there to help if they needed it.  I also think we all need a kick in the butt at times to make us push to meet our full potential, and Bob and Jillian do that.

What did you guys think?  Did you have any favorite moments?  Any favorite lessons?  Who are you rooting for?  You can watch video from or read a recap of this episode on

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Seriously, Eat Your Breakfast

We've all heard that we should eat our breakfast, that it's the most important meal of the day. That assertion is especially true for anyone wanting to lose or maintain weight, according to researchers at Imperial College London. According to their study, skipping breakfast actually causes us to crave higher-calorie foods later. Of course, these high-calorie foods are more likely to cause us to gain weight. Brain scans showed the "reward centers" of the brain lighting up in people who hadn't eaten breakfast when they were shown photos of high-calorie foods versus low-calorie foods.

Just because you should eat breakfast doesn't mean it has to be eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, and pancakes -- although I did just make myself hungry. Typically, I have fruit for breakfast. Today it was a banana and six strawberries. About 3 hours later, I'll have lunch. Three hours later, a snack. And finally, dinner 3-4 hours after that.

To read more about the breakfast study, click here.

And don't forget, a new The Biggest Loser is on tonight.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,624.75 (Still a bit on the high side, but I did actually get exercise today.)

Exercise: 45 minutes walking, 10 minutes biking, 5 minutes resistance band

Steps: 11,766 -- Woot!
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Finishing That First Draft

I met Trish at an MCRW meeting in 1996.  At that time, I’m pretty sure she had one completed manuscript, a historical romance, and had started a second.  I might have written ten pages.  Since then, we’ve pretty much maintained that ratio though that may be generous to me.  To say I took a long time to complete a first draft would be an understatement.  I made that accomplishment the equivalent to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or something equally impossible.

In the last few years, I poured over every touchy-feely writing book out there.  I attended and listened to recordings of as many writers’ life and inspire your muse workshops as I could.  I explored every process and trick recommended.  Club 100 was particularly helpful. 

Friends kept telling me that nothing would feel as good or be as helpful as finishing that first draft.  I started several manuscripts and wrote enough pages total for a completed manuscript.  I even got halfway through two different novels.  I just couldn’t seem to get to the end.

I did finally write those two words at approximately 10:30 a.m. on June 22, 2009, and everybody was right.  Nothing has felt better or meant more in terms of my writing.  The trick that finally did it was to go on two different writing retreats with my critique partner Carol Hayes.

In August 2008 Carol and I rented a two-bedroom apartment in Berkeley Springs, WV, for four days and three nights.  While we did hang out, dine at local restaurants, talk shop, explore the town and socialize, we spent the majority of our time writing or brainstorming.  Carol finished a draft of one of her historical romances, and I wrote more than 40 pages.  Both of us were amazed by our output and wanted to make this a regular practice.  Getting away from all other responsibilities and distractions to focus entirely on our writing was very freeing and productive and incredibly fun. 

We returned in June 2009 for another four days/three nights.  This time, we dragged along fellow WRW member Vanessa Lillie and rented a small house.  We all set goals that were ambitious yet realistic as we drove north one Friday afternoon.  I wanted to finish a draft of Honor’s Redemption, my regency-set historical romance.  I wasn’t sure if that was possible, but I really wanted to try.

 I spent the first day re-reading my manuscript and feeling a little overwhelmed by the task in front of me and even lost as to where to begin.   It’s exactly how I started the last retreat, and Carol is a pro at asking the right questions to give me direction and get me going.  I spent a lot of time outlining Saturday morning what needed to be accomplished that weekend and by that night, I started to believe I really could finish a draft before we left Monday.  Sunday night I knew.  I told Carol and Vanessa, who were thrilled, and went to bed with only two scenes remaining to be written the next day.

I woke up Monday morning singing Celine Dion’s song I’ve been waiting forever in my head and quickly sat down to write.  Carol and Vanessa told me to tell them when I started writing the last scene.  I did, and they took photos.  Right after I wrote the end, they came running back into the room to celebrate.  I loved how we were able to make such a solitary moment communal and fun.

It was so awesome!

I can’t overstate what getting to this point meant to me.  To use another cliché, I got the monkey off my back.  I no longer had to feel like a complete fake.  I could face my fellow writers as a peer.  I have a complete draft.  It’s rough.  It’s short.  Stretches are almost purely dialogue, but it has a beginning, middle and end.  There are several arcs including a strong romance, a main storyline, subplots, and character growth for the hero and heroine and secondary characters.  There’s already texture and great historical detail.  Once I revise it, I swear it will sing.

If you are struggling to get to the point to write the end for the first time, I can honestly tell you that nothing will feel better and mean more to your progress as a writer.  You can do it!

I highly recommend these writing retreats to help get you there.  In fact, I’m on another one with Carol and Laura Graham Booth, the third member of our critique group, this weekend.  I’m working on revising Honor’s Redemption because I’m going to enter the Golden Heart Contest for the first time this fall.  I even plan to pay for it as soon as it opens up to commit myself fully to meeting that goal.  Wish me luck!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Weekly Goals

Sundays are a good time to assess how you did with your goals for the past week and to set goals for the upcoming week. With that in mind, we've decided to dedicate Sundays to discussions of goals. I encourage everyone to post your fitness/wellness goals for the week, and since we're all writers, why don't we throw writing goals into the mix too just for fun. :) Also, if you have any tips about how you keep yourself on track as the week progresses, we'd love to hear them, too.

So, for this week, my goals are:

1. At least one hour of dedicated exercise every day -- something like walking, biking, cardio.

2. No eating out.

3. Try two new recipes from my Hungry Girl cookbook.

4. Lose a pound.

5. Cull from a different room each day, getting some extra physical activity in and prepping stuff for a yard sale.

6. Writing: Read through women's fiction manuscript and send to my agent for submission to editor she met at National. And do an editing/read-through for a friend.
I'm happy to report that as of Friday morning, I hit the 10 pounds lost mark. Yay!

Yesterday's progress:

Calorie intake: The above goal about not eating out comes because of another high-calorie, eating out day, with approximately 1,999 calories. Ugh. It's SO easy to overdo it if you're not cooking at home or if you're eating at a restaurant where it's not easy to calculate the calorie counts. It's much easier when you're at a restaurant that's a chain and which has its nutritional information online. Not so much when it's an independent. Though I didn't do well yesterday, I did resist two items at the hockey game that I love -- nachos (which when I looked them up beforehand have something like 1,100 calories!) and funnel cake.

Exercise: Not much other than climbing stairs at the arena when I went to a hockey game last night.

Steps: 7,225
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Adventures in Cooking

Welcome to our first Cooking Saturday. Since Michelle, who is much more the chef than I, is away on a fun and productive writing retreat this weekend, you're stuck with me. :) A couple of weeks ago, I made it a goal to make two new recipes from my Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 cookbook each week. Well, I haven't quite managed that, but I did recently try out my first recipe from there. It was called Freakishly Fantastic Faux Fried Zucchini. This came from a section of the cookbook where all the recipes use Fiber One cereal in some way. In this one, I had to use a blender to grind some Fiber One along with some ranch dressing mix, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano, then coat the zucchini in it and bake it.

I'm not sure I'd call the result freakishly fantastic, but it was fine. I mean, I didn't immediately throw it in the garbage or anything. I'd say on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being best, I'd give it a 5 or 6. One good point was that it was only 78 calories per serving. I served it (as seen in the photo) one night with fried chicken (courtesy of the Kroger deli), hominy (hey, I'm a southern gal), and steamed broccoli.

Next up from the cookbook -- BBQ Mango Tilapia.

Now it's your turn. Do you have any favorite low-calorie vegetable dishes? Do tell.

Today's progress:

Seven hours in the car torpedoed my good streak of steps.

Calorie intake: 1,375

Exercise: None :(

Steps: 5,118
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest Annie Solomon talks body shape

I'm happy to officially kick off our Guest Blogger Fridays with a long-time friend and fellow writer Annie Solomon. Annie took time away from penning award-winning, fantastic romantic suspense novels to share her love of a site I'm eager to explore myself. Here's Annie...

We all know that diet and exercise play a key role in health—whether or not you’re a writer. But there’s another aspect to health that is often overlooked: a healthy attitude. But when it comes to our bodies, most of us are so critical it’s hard to get to that zen outlook. I’m here to give you a tip on how the reach that seemingly Sisyphean goal.

It’s not a mantra or a potion or a pill. It’s a Web site:

MyShape helps you find clothes that fit and flatter your body. That’s the key to making you look great—no matter what shape your body is in. And we all know that looking great can make you feel great.

But before you can dress your body, you have to know it.

Are you an apple? A pear? A cello? A stick? It’s not always easy to figure out your shape.
MyShape does it for you. Like many things, there’s a certain amount of drudgery involved in the beginning: you have to measure yourself from head to toe. But once you’ve filled in all the requested measurements, the site will pick out clothes that suit your shape, and determine the correct size. You can narrow the focus by style (modern classic, artistic trendy, glamour, etc.) or lifestyle (casual, work, dressy, etc.). You can peruse outfits the site puts together, or create your own. The clothes are fashionable and interesting, and, once you’ve set up your Personal Shop, all shipping is free (oh—and 15% off your first order!)

Warning: this is not a discount site. But there’s a wide range of designers--from the moderate Rafaella to the pricey Nannette Lepore—and there are loads of sales throughout the year.
I bought the dress for my daughter’s wedding (at right) at myShape. I’ve also bought jeans and tops and a fun summer dress. I love everything and it’s all flattering.

Finding clothes that fit your body can not only make you look great, they can make you look thinner and younger—without losing a pound or forgetting a birthday. There’s nothing like looking great to give you confidence and motivation—for making it to the gym or finishing that last chapter. And that’s an attitude that can boost anyone’s health.

Tips and stuff for my shape, ‘M’:

What to wear by shape:


Wednesday progress:

Calorie intake: 1,200
Exercise: 20 minutes walking, 45 minutes house cleaning
Steps: 10,111

Thursday progress:

Calorie intake: 1,360
Exercise: None other than running lots of errands and my steps
Steps: 10,135
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Reading This Blog Can Make You Skinny

In early June, I invited my female friends who lived in the D.C. area to a ladies' tea at Teaism to help celebrate my birthday.  The invite list included people from all my groups of friends - my single friends, my writing friends, married friends, work friends - and I encouraged each of them to invite any neat woman who might enjoy attending.   We did not all know each other at the tea, but we all had at least one friend in common.  As you can see from the smiles in the photo, we had a great afternoon together.  

Last Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting piece in its magazine about the influence of social networks entitled, “Is Happiness Catching?”  You can read it online at:

It explores the idea that good and bad behaviors “pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses.”  This can mean that if you hang out with skinny, happy people who don’t smoke, you are likelier to be a skinny, happy non-smoker.  The opposite is true as well.  Spending time with people who are unhappy, fat or addicted to nicotine can increase your chances to become or stay that way too.  The influence can even skip a connection, so a friend of a friend who is not your friend can still impact your behavior.

The negative consequences of this are pretty apparent, and the cynical, still overweight or even obese part of me can think, “Great, another reason to ostracize fat people.”  If smoking is your addiction, you can insert smoker for fat people.  Social ostracism certainly won’t help the unhappy either, but I can think of examples from my life that back up the article’s conclusions.  I have been known to bond over the plate with certain groups of friends, and I’ve had friends who have influenced me to be more active and play sports.  There have been people in my life who are Debbie Downers – so much so that I started limiting contact with them.

From the title of the article, it’s obvious that its author Clive Thompson chose to focus more on the possible, positive aspects of this phenomenon, and I’d like to do the same.  The last two paragraphs of the article sums it up well:

Yet there is also, the two scientists argue, something empowering about the idea that we are so entwined.  “Even as we are being influenced by others, we can influence others,” Christakis told me when we first met.  “And therefore the importance of taking actions that are beneficial to others is heightened.  So this network thing can cut both ways, subverting our ability to have free will, but increasing, if you will, the importance of us having free will.”

As Fowler pointed out, if you want to improve the world with your good behavior, math is on your side.  For most of us, within three degrees we are connected to more than 1,000 people – all of whom we can theoretically help make healthier, fitter and happier just by our contagious example.  “If someone tells you that you can influence 1,000 people,” Fowler said, “it changes your way of seeing the world.”

I love this!  By writing this blog, Trish and I are helping ourselves meet our goal of becoming and staying healthy writers, but we are also potentially helping thousands of others do that too.  That’s powerful stuff.  Watching two of my friends lose more than 50 pounds each in 2008 convinced me to try yet again to lose weight in 2009.  In fact one of them can be seen in the photo above.  I'm pictured in the front right-hand corner of the photo, and she is seated across from me and wearing the purple sweater.  

I know I’ve influenced colleagues at work to think about making some changes in their life to become more fit and maintain a healthier weight.  My example has also encouraged some of my friends and family members to try again.  Hopefully reading this blog really can help make you skinny.  Passing this new lifestyle on is great, and it helps me stick with it more.  Isn’t it wonderful that you can help others by helping yourself?



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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Biggest Loser Premiere

I've heard Michelle sing the praises of The Biggest Loser for quite some time, but for whatever reason I never watched it. But in honor of this blog and my new, healthier outlook on life, I tuned in to the season premiere tonight. Yes, tears came to my eyes on several occasions. You can't listen to the stories the contestants tell and not get emotional. At least I can't. You have parents realizing they have to lose weight or they won't get to see their children grow up. Young people who have struggled with their weight their entire lives realizing they won't get much older if they don't shed pounds. People who have eaten to try to keep sorrow and unhappiness at bay -- as so many of us have.

I also heard contestants say something that sounded familiar -- "How did I let myself get like this? I'm not sure how it happened."

I found this group of contestants -- the heaviest in the show's history -- inspiring from the beginning of the episode. The determination on their faces as they struggled to go that one mile was both awesome and heart-wrenching. I'm fortunate that I can walk a mile pretty easily. I couldn't run it. First, I loathe running. I could hike all day, but I've never enjoyed running. Not even when I was a slim high school student on the track team. Hey, I wanted to do hurdles, but it didn't work out. Instead, I was probably the worst 800m runner in my school's history. But these people were determined. My heart broke for Tracey, who just about did herself in and had to be helped across the finish line when her legs would no longer support her. I think she pushed too hard too soon, but I have to admire her drive. I hope when she comes back she's able to go far. They've inspired me to at least try running a little even though I don't like it. I'll have to see how it affects my breathing, if it makes me wheeze.

I cried right along with Shay when her initial weigh-in showed she was the heaviest contestant in the show's history, more than any of the men. I was so afraid that when she "quit" her workout, she was truly giving up before she'd really gotten started. And I feared that decision would end up costing her life. I was thrilled when she found the inner strength to turn around and go back inside and face a yelling Jillian. She is a contestant who has the potential to really make a monumental and dramatic change in her life and appearance.

I like Mo. He seems like a great guy. One of the older contestants and the only one who had to compete alone this week since his partner is Tracey and she was still in the hospital, he still pushed hard and dropped a good number of pounds to keep his team in the competition. All this after an initial hospital stay himself.

I thought Rebecca had a great attitude and was very complimentary of her partner, Amanda, despite the fact that Amanda had lost the least amount of weight during the weigh-in. She was quick to point out that Amanda worked hard during the week and was a good cheerleader for her own efforts. I see that as what we're doing here on the blog -- being cheerleaders for each others' efforts to lose weight and become more fit.

I know I'm not alone in the fact that it was Abby's story that broke my heart the most. I can't imagine the pain she's gone through in the aftermath of losing her husband and two children in a car accident. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. Despite that horrendous loss, she is the most amazing, positive person. I want to see her stay on the show a long time. If she's not the eventual winner, I want her to be close.

During the first post-training weigh-in, it was amazing to see the number of pounds lost. Granted, we have to remember that these people are training all day every day -- something that isn't realistic for most of us. But if we can be inspired by these determined individuals and turn that inspiration into positive workouts, positive goals and positive attitudes, then we all benefit.

So, what did you all think? Who inspired you the most? Who are you rooting for? What did you take away from this premiere episode?

For more information on the show and the contestants, go to the NBC site for the show.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,410 (I didn't quite cut yesterday's intake in half, but it's still 600 fewer calories than yesterday. I'm going in the right direction.)

Exercise: 1 1/2 hours cleaning house, 15 minutes aerobics, 5 minutes exercise band workout

Steps: 10,139 (Yes! Back up to my daily goal.)
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Going Forward

Michelle and I had a phone conversation over the weekend about the future of this blog -- what we could do differently, how to cover a broad range of topics, what exactly being a "healthy writer" means, etc. So, we've come up with the following schedule. We hope you will look forward to the regular features and swing by to see what we're talking about on the "freebie" days. Starting this week:

Mondays -- Michelle Mondays

Tuesdays -- Open topic

Wednesdays -- The Biggest Loser recaps and discussion (Michelle and I are planning to alternate writing this one.)

Thursdays -- Tawny Thursdays every other Thursday; open topic on the other days

Fridays -- Guest bloggers (This week, we have the fabulous Annie Solomon, who will be talking about one of her favorite helpful sites.)

Saturdays -- Cooking (Michelle's and my adventures in healthy cooking and periodic recipes you can try yourself)

Sundays -- Goals for the week (Ours AND yours; we'll post our goals for the following week and report in on how we fared on the previous week's.)

Sunday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,480
Exercise: 1 hour mowing lawn
Steps: 6,738

Today's progress:

Let's just say that The Biggest Loser is debuting at a good time. I totally went off the reservation today.
Calorie intake: 2,073 (I'll will really try to cut this in half tomorrow.)
Exercise: 40 minutes walking
Steps: 9,431
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Monday, September 14, 2009

10 Lessons I Learned From Watching The Biggest Loser

I have been a faithful watcher of The Biggest Loser since the second season, and I can’t wait until tomorrow night’s premiere.  I am always motivated at the end of an episode to try harder with my own weight loss efforts.  Part of the reason I go to my weekly Weight Watchers meeting on Tuesday night is that I can go home and watch The Biggest Loser after and increase my motivation for the next week.  If I’m really bummed about my weigh-in results and the meeting doesn’t manage to pick me up, I know The Biggest Loser will.   I’ve even been known to sing the theme song in my head for a pick-me-up.

I know that critics have called it fat porn.  They say it’s demeaning to fat people; it sets up unrealistic expectations of losing 10 pounds or more per week; most people do not have the luxury of devoting all their time and energy to diet and exercise; kicking people off the fat farm for not losing enough that week sends the wrong message.  I’m sure you can think of more criticism, but I realize that the producers of the show must come up with good stories and produce two hours of dramatic television per week.  Some of it is the equivalent of genre expectations in reality television.  I consider the contestants’ journeys to be a condensed version of the journey I must make to become and remain a healthy writer, and the show offers many lessons. 

It is possible.  Most of the contestants have tried for years to lose weight and have never succeeded.  Some have even tried lap band or other types of surgery.  They’re willing to go on national television with the potential of humiliating themselves in front of the country because that dream of getting slim and healthy will not die.  And, the transformations towards the end of the season are phenomenal.  It always inspires me to think it is possible for me to change my life through diet and exercise.

There will always be temptations.  The contestants are often tempted to overeat.  This can come from over-the-top games where they are taken into a room full of their favorite food and told they may win money by eating the food to the more subtle temptation of given free time off the ranch when they often find themselves binging.  The contestants – and I - have to learn ways to avoid temptations and not overeat. 

Exercise can help.  The contestants’ guides to a healthy life are not nutritionists – they are trainers.  There is a very strong emphasis on getting fit through intensive exercise, and the assumption is that you cannot lose and keep off that much weight without exercise.

Try Weight Lifting.  Not only do the trainers stress cardio workouts – they make the contestants lift weights regularly.  I was very resistant to the idea of lifting weights.  I always found it so boring, but The Biggest Loser helped convince me to give it another try.

You Need To Eat Enough to Fuel Your Workouts.  Contestants are weighed every week, and the folks who have lost the most weight are safe from being voted off the ranch.  It makes an intense part of these journeys – the weekly weigh in – even more intense.  Every year, there is a contestant or two who is very disappointed with their weekly results, and he’ll sit down with his trainer.  The trainer will say I know you got the exercise right.  How much did you eat in terms of calories per day?   Invariably, the contestant will say about 500 calories, and the trainer will freak.  You can’t fuel the kind of workouts you are doing with just 500 calories per day.  Your body will go into starvation mode and hold on to the weight.  You need to eat enough to support the workouts.  I’ve always found it a useful lesson in the equation of calories in and calories out.

This is As Much About the Mind As It Is the Body.  Even with all the emphasis on the exercise and last chance workouts with the trainers, it is very clear that this is as much mental as it is physical.  You’ve got to get your mind into this and have the right attitude.  You have to change the way you think about food and exercise.  You have to be able to deal with your emotions - particularly if your usual practice was to anesthetize them with food.  The inner journeys of the contestants can be even more profound and moving than their physical journeys.

No Matter How Perfect You Are – Some Weeks You Won’t Lose.  Another staple of this show is the contestant who does everything right – gives 110% to his workouts while following the nutrition guidelines perfectly.  He or she will have a great attitude, and he could even be the most likeable of the bunch.  After an amazing, nearly perfect week, he or she will not lose that much.  This could even last a couple to several weeks.  There are just some times when your body won’t let go of the weight.  It’s just something you have to accept and not allow to discourage you.  Eventually, all that hard work will catch up.

There Can Be a Rhythm To Weight Loss.  Over the long term, you can see patterns to your weight loss.  Often a really big loss week is followed by a modest or small loss week and vice versa.  Women can really figure out a certain pattern based on their cycle.  Some weeks you get lucky, and some weeks your hard work is not rewarded.  You just have to keep going and keep trying and believe that in the end it will all even out.

Expect Tears.  This is a very emotional journey with lots of highs and lows.  Most contestants cry often and learn many lessons about themselves.  By the second half of the season, I cry with each show.  I absolutely bawled during last season’s episode when all the contestants ran – or walked in one case – marathons for the first time.  There is something so beautiful in watching folks realize how much strength they’ve always had and how they can do things that they always thought was impossible.  They change their lives and offer inspiration to others to do the same.

When and Why Did You Start Overeating?  A set of questions that the trainers want the contestants to answer before they leave the ranch is:  When did you start overeating and gaining weight?  What was happening in your life at that time?  How did you feel?  It all builds to why did you start overeating?  The trainers firmly believe that this is the most important lesson of all for the contestants.  To get to the size of these contestants – most of who are morbidly obese – they have to have some serious emotional eating issues.  The contestants have to figure out why they started overeating so that they can stop and finally conquer this issue.   They need to face these emotions and work out some kind of resolution, or they’ll just gain the weight back.

Are you a fan of The Biggest Loser?  Have you learned any lessons from it?  Will you be watching tomorrow night?

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Workout Tips

I'm beginning to emerge from the sickness that has knocked me flat this week. It's been more than 24 hours since I had a fever, I'm almost back to breathing normally, and I might just be able to stay up an entire day today without napping. I hate being sick, and let's just say I felt like anything but a healthy writer since the middle of the week.

But, I'm back. While I was in bed, I did manage to read an article in Prevention magazine about workouts after age 40. Even though that's the targeted demographic, it had good tips for all of us. Strength training is important, and I admit this is the area I've not tackled as aggressively as I should yet. The article says that how you train is important. To keep our metabolisms in high gear (something I've always struggled with), you should target the type II muscle fiber. What is that, you ask. Well, evidently, they are the muscles that are the first to go as we age if they aren't worked out. And the article says the way to do this is by doing weight training faster. I want to caution you all to still be careful, consult your physician, take all the necessary precautions to not injure yourselves. I don't want anyone getting hurt. I'm just relaying what I'm reading. According to research done by Salibury University in Maryland, lifting weights faster "recruits more muscle and increases calorie burn by about 32%."

I'd encourage you to get the September issue of Prevention and read this piece for yourself, decide if this is something you want to tackle. It also includes several elastic exercise band exercises that will help target these muscles.



The past few days have been a bit of a haze. I think I've missed writing some things down, and my step counts were only in the 2,000-2,500 range. But I've already done twice that today, so I, my steps, and my exercise regime are slowly on the mend. I did step on the scales yesterday morning, and I seemed to have lost the couple of pounds I'd gained during Dragon*Con. So, once again I'm hovering tantalizingly close to having lost 10 pounds. I think if illness hadn't torpedoed my exercise this week, I might have hit that point already. But that's the goal for this upcoming week!

How is everyone else doing? How has this week been? Meet the goals you set for yourself?

I see we're up to 15 followers through Google. Thanks, everyone! And please continue to spread the word to your friends.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sometimes It's as Simple as Salad

Sorry about the late post. I managed to come down with the sinus infection, sore throat and aches hubby had earlier in the week, and I went to bed early. Still feel like crud today, so lucky for all of us that it's Tawny's blog day anyway. :)

By Tawny Weber

In my house, we’ve never been big fast food eaters, but often when our schedule gets a little crazy we’ll opt for takeout. Usually Mexican or Italian, always delicious and definitely loaded in fatty calories. Even though three out of the four people in my house are vegetarian, those takeout meals are still major fatty, high caloric and loaded with delicious badness. In other words, they’re making me gain weight. *g*

So lately, in my efforts to ease myself into a healthier (i.e.: skinnier) lifestyle, I’ve been focusing on homemade meals on a regular basis -- at least four nights a week, with leftovers or do-it-yourself on the other three nights. About a month into this home-cooked goodness goal, I realized that while the meals were much healthier, I was still skimping like crazy on the vegetables. Definitely nowhere near the suggested five servings a day.

Then it hit me. The perfect vegetable cornucopia. Salad. I love salad. Salad is like the perfect catch-all for veggies. Add a little dried fruit or nuts, a light dressing and it’s a perfect meal or side. Since I’ve been focusing on a big salad every day (usually big enough to provide lunch for the next day, too) I’ve been doing a lot better at hitting those vegetable servings.

What do you think? Are you a big salad eater? What do you add to yours? And do you have any hints on getting all those vegetable servings in daily?

Yesterday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,183

Exercise: 15 minutes house cleaning, grocery shopping (My plan to do more was torpedoed when I started getting sick halfway through the day.)

Steps: 6,179
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to normality

Have you ever noticed that after being away from home and away from your normal routine, that it sometimes takes a few days to get back in the groove? I chose not to take my computer with me when I went to Dragon*Con, so I've been digging out of the loads of e-mail since returning home. I did make myself take a break today and get outside to do some yard work and then back inside for a bit of housework. The step count is going back up, but it wasn't where I wanted it to be today. Hubby is a lot better today, so he should be going back to work tomorrow. So it should be the first truly normal day since my return home. I'm hopeful to meet all my goals tomorrow. Thinking positively here. :)

I just started reading the September issue of Prevention magazine, and there are several pieces about defying your age -- whether it's beauty/skin care tips, weight loss tips or boosting your brain function. It got me to thinking about that whole 20-year reunion next month. I really don't feel like I've been out of high school 20 years, and I wondered why. Other than not having children, I think it's attitude. I think if we take care of ourselves, strive for a positive attitude, make sure we take part in fun activities, maybe even embrace new advances in technology and styles (music, clothes, whatever), we can keep ourselves feeling younger for longer.

I write and read a lot of young adult fiction, and I've always been a fan of teen movies and TV shows. While I still love a good '80s hair band song, I listen to a lot of newer acts, too. I Twitter, have a Facebook account, am online a lot. These things, combined with my determination to get to a healthier weight and fitness level, are why I think I feel younger than I am.

Do you all have any tips for looking and feeling younger?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,135

Exercise: 30 minutes yard work, 30 minutes housework

Steps: 6,576 (will add 3,424 to tomorrow's 10,000 goal to make up for today's shortfall)
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Kingdom for a Foot Massage

Those were the words I uttered sometime Sunday afternoon after three days of walking around Dragon*Con. I had an awesome time, but I was on my feet most of it. The conference is spread out over four hotels, though all of the programming I was interested in was in three. That required a lot of walking to and fro. In fact, on each of those three days I walked more than 20,000 steps. According to my pedometer, that was between 7 and 8 miles each day. Though my scale had crept up a little this morning, all that walking helped keep the less-than-stellar dining options from destroying all I'd accomplished. With 40,000+ people walking around, most of them hungry about the same time, you took what you could get as far as meals. I'll admit to Mexican food, a very sub-par hamburger, fries, two ham-and-cheese sandwiches, a chocolate chip cookie and even two Cokes. Next year, Tanya (my roomie) and I have decided to take a cooler with some healthier fruit and sandwich options.

Still, I felt good about the fact that on Sunday, I was wearing my new pair of jeans that was a size smaller than I was wearing over the summer. Here I am in them standing next to some Lycans from the Underworld movies.

But I'm back on the straight and narrow today, being a good girl. I'm eating a banana for a belated breakfast. I was up late trying to catch up on e-mail and taking care of hubby, who was sick when I returned. He's feeling better today, but stayed home from work to recuperate some more. I have a lot on the docket today, including exercise that will help get me back down the couple of pounds that have crept back over the past week and will get me to my 10,000-step goal. Yesterday, I didn't meet that (only 5,520 steps) -- partly because I was driving part of the day, and partly because I didn't go walking due to the blisters on my feet. The shoes for my Alice Cullen (from Twilight) costume were not kind to my tootsies. :(

Thanks to Marie-Nicole and Michelle and everyone who commented on the posts the past few days for holding down the Healthy Writer fort while I was gone. I'm off to read all the comments from when I was gone and comment myself.

Have a happy, healthy day! Oh, and if anyone is interested in seeing more of my Dragon*Con pictures (including me with famous people), check out the blog on my Web site.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Vote of Confidence in Myself

I’ve struggled with my weight since elementary school, and it became a much bigger issue in college – pun intended. I first joined Weight Watchers (WW) in 1995 and have made many attempts since then to get back to a healthy weight range. My current effort is the most successful ever. Part of that accomplishment is due to the fact that I took the time to figure out what lessons I could learn from my past failures and semi-successes.

In 2004 or 2003, a colleague organized a Weight Watchers at work program that started the week before Thanksgiving and ran through mid-Winter. I participated and lost around 15 or so pounds. For the first time in my life, I did not regain all of the weight I had lost during one of my WW attempts. Furthermore, I hadn’t even started at my highest weight ever. After I moved from Texas to DC, I lost about 10 - 15 pounds because I drive less and walk more here in my day-to-day life.

How was I able to maintain this loss of 10 – 15 pounds? Part of it was the increased activity from living in a walking-friendly environment, but there is one other tactic I took that I highly recommend. At the end of the Weight Watchers at work program, I went through my closets and drawers and removed all the clothing that was a size or two too big at that point and gave it to Goodwill. Most of my size 16 plus clothing, all of the 18 plus and the most-hated, it-was-so-hot-in-Texas, and I-had-no-shorts-that-fit-and-I-was-desperate, size 20 plus shorts were gone, and I vowed never to buy clothes in those sizes again. Whenever the remaining clothes got tight enough that I started to long for some of the very nice clothing I had given to Goodwill, I got motivated enough to do something and lose 5-10 pounds. Part of this motivation came from my frugality, but some of it came from stubbornness.

The value of drawing this clear line in the sand was a very useful lesson, and I’m turning to it again. Yesterday and earlier this summer, I went through my closets and drawers and pulled out all of my clothing that was too big. I have a mountain of clothes on my loveseat that includes the following sizes: 16 plus (not a lot – most of it went the last time I did this), 14 plus, X and even some 1X, 16 regular (including several fabulous Jones New York suits), a few 14 regular, extra large, very few larges and a few men’s sizes and other stuff so random I almost don’t know how I accumulated it. Looking at that pile makes me very happy, but it is tinged with a little fear.

Even though this has worked in the past, it’s still scary. I’m giving away a lot of very nice clothing – stuff that would be very expensive to replace – and it’s been so long, more than ten years, since I’ve been in my size range – a pretty solid 14 with some “small” size 16 stuff and “big” size 12 stuff. I’m also more of a large or a rare medium on top instead of an extra large. Is this just a temporary fluke? Can I stay here or even get smaller? I’ve been fat most of my adult life, and for years, I accepted that as what I was meant to be.

Some of you may notice that I said I cleaned my closets earlier this summer. That too-big summer clothing has been sitting on my loveseat for more than a month because I couldn’t find the courage to bring it to Goodwill. It was good stuff, and I couldn’t completely convince myself that I wouldn’t need it again. The pile has now doubled. I need to believe in myself and that my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer will be a success. I need to acknowledge the fear holding me back, confront it, and get over it.

This morning, I sent an email to my local writer’s group offering this clothing to anyone interested (some of it really is very nice) and gave myself a deadline of next Sunday to get the remaining clothes to Goodwill. This is my vote of confidence in myself for the next four months – and beyond.

What kind of “vote of confidence in yourself” can you make for the next four months that will help you along your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer?
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Inspirational Reading

I'm still at Dragon*Con, so we're having a quickie question of the day today.

What books or magazines have you read that you find really inspirational in your efforts to live a healthier life?

And if you read these while riding a stationary bike or walking on the treadmill, all the better!
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trigger Foods

I've been getting daily e-mail newsletters from Hungry Girl, and earlier this week she talked about trigger foods -- those foods that once you take the first bite, you can't stop. She admitted that hers were chips, pretzels, a variety of salty snacks.

Me? Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and brownies. Scarf, scarf, scarf. I haven't had either of these since I started this blog and started counting calories, so it'll be a challenge when I finally do. I want to be down several more pounds before I attempt it. And then I'll need time to mentally prep myself, figure out how many calories are in each individual serving, and not allow myself to go over X amount each day. Maybe I'll get some sandwich bags and bag them up individually. :) And maybe I tell myself I can only have one for X amount of exercise -- a reward for good behavior.

So, what are your trigger foods?
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Friday, September 4, 2009

September goals

I'm writing this in the wee hours of Thursday morning when I should be sleeping since I'm headed to Atlanta in the morning, but I wanted to put up a few quick posts to keep the healthy conversation going while I'm gone. Thanks to Marie-Nicole for guesting yesterday. I look forward to reading and responding to all the comments when I get back.

So, my goals for September are:

1. At least 10,000 steps every single day.

2. Lost 5 more pounds.

3. No less than 1 hour of dedicated exercise per day.

4. Try out at least two recipes from my new Hungry Girl cookbook every week.

Okay, your turn. What are your goals for this month. Be specific. And we're going to have a check-in to see how we all did on Oct. 1. And if you're really good, there might be a prize involved. :)
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Success with Weight Watchers

By Guest Blogger Marie-Nicole Ryan

All my life I’ve had a weight problem. Either I was skinny as a rail growing up and wishing I had a few curves, or later I was on the verge of dieting, dieting, or falling off the wagon. On top of everything else, I’m short and small-boned and I don’t carry my weight well. I’m a pear as opposed to the apple. Now healthwise, the pear shape (big butt and thighs) is better than the apple (big belly). But once you cross the obesity boundary, it’s ALL BIG and there’s no hiding it or escaping the health consequences.

I’ve had the greatest success with Weight Watchers. And it has taken more than one membership to finally get it through my thick head that I can’t do it on my own. I’m a control freak kind of person, and it really gripes me to have to admit that I need the support of other people who’ve gone this route. It should be obvious, but I’m a stubborn person (not always a bad thing when directed in the right way).

In adulthood I’ve weighed everything from 103 to 238—with ups and downs many, many times.
I rejoined Weight Watchers for the third time February 2, 2008 and continue until now. This time I’ve lost 57 pounds from a maximum of 223.8 to 167 pounds. Now that’s not stellar success because I haven’t embraced the *ahem* physical activity portion of the plan. (Now it’s on the ‘Net, I’m afraid the WW police will hunt me down and make me exercise.) I hate exercise purely and simply, but I know I would already be at my goal weight right now if I were walking regularly. So I still have more work to do on myself.

Am I tired of going to meetings every week? Yes, and sometimes I go every other week, but if I don’t go for my fattitude adjustment, I start thinking like a fat person and wanting to eat like one, too.

I drink the 48 ounces of water and I track what I eat every day…still. It’s more than learning about portion control and healthy foods, and low “Point” snacks. There’s a camaraderie between members, and watching one young woman who has already lost over 160 lbs and is getting close to her goal weight is inspiring in a major way. A great deal of education takes place about our mental attitudes about ourselves and how we experience the world and temptations of that world. There are techniques to deal with the holidays and our families who may not always be supportive of our efforts.

Perhaps the second best benefit (other than the obvious health and emotional benefits) is that my sister and her niece have joined and both have lost 30 pounds at least. I encouraged my niece and she “encouraged” my sister who had to be dragged kicking and crying to her first meeting.

So the upshot of it is: I have to keep going for my health. While it’s true, each of us has her own journey, I’m the big sister and I’ve set the example and intend to keep setting it.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,026.83

Exercise: Lots of running errands, which added to the step count. Nothing outside out of that.

Steps: 11,869

I'm going to be out of town until Monday, so I won't be checking in each day. I will, however, be keeping track of my calories, exercise and steps and will give a full report when I return.
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