Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle

By Jody Wallace

Recently, I kicked the lardy butt of a healthy writer milestone. Last year, to my great surprise, I reached my goal weight in Weight Watchers after a year of trying, and as of this week I've successfully hovered there for ten consecutive months. Booyah! My Weight Watchers clerk happily awarded me a wee gold key with the promise of more to come if I continue to work the program. Because you know the reason I did this was for the dangly bits to load onto my already gargantuan keychain.

Total loss of self during my adventure: I estimate I'm minus a leg. Or a really huge turkey. I dropped forty-five pounds, give or take, ignoring the time I crawled to check-in after a nasty stomach virus and clocked in at a fifty-pound deficit. (And incidentally, if this happens to you, do not go buy any awesome black pants and expect them to fit the following week when you’ve been able to keep down something other than crackers.)

Total loss of wardrobe: pretty much everything, and a certain really stupid pair of black pants. Even some shoes had to go, but I did get to keep the cool Halloween socks. (Oddly, despite the smaller sizes, my closet's still overcrowded. It’s magical that way.)

How did I do it and keep doing it? The trick was finding the proper fit (and clearly, it’s not those black pants). I tried any number of touted diets in my 20's and 30's to no avail. But then 40 stared me in the face with a contemptuous, Regency Duke sneer, and one of my local writer buds (Marie-Nicole Ryan) recommended Weight Watchers.

With a rude gesture at the Duke, I decided why not? It’s only money and the crushing disappointment of another calorific failure. So when I started to shrink, you could have knocked me over with a one-ounce piece of mozzarella cheese that's worth 2 points. I shrank and shrank
and suddenly I'd done it. I'd actually accomplished what I'd set out to do.

I mean, how often does THAT happen? Seriously. As writers we know we can't guarantee certain things we totally deserve, no matter how earnestly we strive or how creatively we curse the industry. However, a healthy writer journey doesn't end when you meet your goal. It never
ends, and you've got to find a way to live with that. You've got to stay motivated through thick and thin, which certainly applies here, don't you think?

Last year, paying the monthly fee motivated me because I hate to waste cash. Seeing the scales budge motivated me because I hate to waste time. Shopping for new clothes motivated me because...obviously. Now that my meetings and check-ins are free, now that the scales are
supposed to remain stable, now that my wardrobe has overflowed my closet again, everything has shifted around, and I don't mean my belly flab. (Which, incidentally, you should learn to love unless you plan on getting it surgically removed, because parts of you aren't going anywhere, but you'll be surprised how much skin you can squeeze into a pair of size OMG 6 jeans without looking like a sausage.)

Anyway, where was I? The thing is--this healthy writer journey isn't a diet. It's a lifestyle.

And here's where I'm going to draw what I feel is a stupendously clever parallel, so feel free to praise it in the comments. Finding your healthy writer body and keeping it is a lot like finding your healthy writer mind and keeping it.

Wait, you don't think that's stupendously clever? Let me explain. When you decide you want to be a writer (or to have a healthy body), you will probably struggle for a long time on a path that too often resembles a downward spiral. You might try this plan and that plan, you might join this group or that one (but not that other one, they’re total jerks). You might buy this book, take those classes, or go to that conference, and none of it might work for you.

You will have setbacks. You will get discouraged. You will want to eat the whole pie.

But eventually, once you figure out how your writer brain works--or how your writer's body works--you can dislodge the frozen scales. The needle will creep in the direction you want it to go, as long as you make sure what you're doing is a lifestyle, not a diet. You have to be
able to swing the loss of personal time, the rejections, the other rejections, the episodes of despair, the deadlines, the bad reviews, the ugly covers. You have to understand there will be industry professionals more interested in folks who mastered a different healthy writer program than the one that works for you. You have to accept the thick parts of being a writer with the thin parts, and you have to truly feel that the trade-off isn't a trade-off at all.

It's just you. Your life. You and your stories and your balance and your concealed excess belly flab in your size OMG 6 writer's jeans.

Check out Jody's Web site at for info on her, her books and the wonderful world of mean cats. :)
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Portion Size

Since Tawny has her nose to the grindstone trying to meet a book deadline, I'm filling in on her Tawny Thursday today. Hope you all don't mind. :)

If you're like me, you're not exactly sure what a portion size actually is for most foods. So I found this article on WebMD's site very useful. I particularly liked how they used common items such as a baseball, four dice and a CD to illustrate correct portion sizes for specific types of foods. There's also a section of the site that has many more items listed than in the side show/article above. Click here to pick a type of food and see its portion size. You can even download a printable PDF portion size pocket guide.

Here's an article from the CDC on portion size.

And it seems someone else was thinking about portion size about the time I was because here's an article on the topic from the Denver Post.

Do you have any tips that have worked for you regarding portion size?


I've started using an computer program to track my calorie intake and exercise. I'm in the initial 7-day trial now before I decide if I want to buy the program. I'll let you know how it goes and what I decide.

I haven't met my 10,000 steps the past couple of days. Yesterday, I was pretty much restricted to my office since we had workmen here cleaning the air ducts. They were here for 10 hours, in and out of all the rooms, so I didn't even approach the exercise equipment. Today was better with 15 minutes on the bike and 1 hour and 15 minutes of cleaning the house (all that dust that came from the duct cleaning). I think the duct cleaning will be worth it this winter when the heat runs a lot. The ducts were -- oh how shall I say this -- gross! No wonder my allergies acted up every time the AC or heat ran. Duh. And if I can keep the allergies and respiratory issues under control, I'll feel better and be able to exercise more. Yay, me!

Calorie intake yesterday: 1,046
Calorie intake today: 1,376 (but burned 304 through exercise)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Biggest Loser, Week 7

Rudy is the man! With another fabulous one-week loss in the double digits, Rudy broke the record for fastest loss of 100 pounds in show history, hitting the mark in Week 7, one week sooner than last season's Dane -- who made an appearance on tonight's show to congratulate Rudy.

This week's episode was about one-on-one faceoffs. The blue team won the first challenge, which required them to hit two discs on opposite sides of a horizontal pole. Unlike some of the other challenges (like last week's digging in the sand), the shorter, smaller contestants seemed to have an advantage in this one because it was easier for them to do all the bending to get under the pole each time. Rebecca and Amanda rocked at this challenge, but it was Rebecca who brought it home for the blue team. And for that win they got to choose who they would each compete against.

But the black team wasn't without a win and an advantage tonight. They won a challenge in which they had to pick up baseballs scattered over a baseball field and use them to eliminate members of the other team from the challenge. My mom called in the middle of this challenge, so I missed who was the last person standing. But I did see that the black team won and got a two-pound advantage at the weigh-in. Unfortunately for them, it was for naught. They gave both pounds to Amanda, who has had single-digit losses each week and was competing against her best friend on the show, Rebecca. Even with the two-pound advantage, she wasn't able to beat Rebecca.

The black team fell short in the weigh-in, and they voted Abby off at her request. She said she'd gotten the kickstart she needed to go home and reclaim her life after the tragedy of losing her husband and two children two and a half years ago. I hated to see Abby go, but she really seems to be doing wonderfully. Her story really touched me, and it was obvious tonight that it had touched her fellow contestants and the trainers. I think that's the closest I've ever seen Jillian to breaking down. She appears to be using her tragedy and the success from the show to continue to touch lives. She seems like one of those genuinely wonderful, caring people the world needs more of, and I wish her every happiness life can bring her. And she looks great!

One thing that stuck out to me tonight was when the contestants walked onto that baseball field and saw the big blowups of their pictures when they came onto the show. It's amazing the changes that have happened already. Shay said it best when she said, "That's not who I am anymore."

Next week's previews indicated that the time of reckoning might be on the horizon for Tracey. We'll see if that's true or just a clever device to encourage viewers to tune in.

What were your favorite moments from this week's episode? Any light bulb moments?
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fast Food Tips

I was on the road again this past weekend, and that always gets me to thinking about the eating choices at fast food restaurants. We all know that fast food can torpedo a daily calorie count faster than just about anything, but it is possible to make some choices that don't involve consuming your entire daily calorie allowance in one meal. Luckily, most fast food restaurants have their nutritional information available online, and they're often included in calorie count books you can keep in your purse or the glove compartment of your car. If you keep your calorie counts lower for the other meals in your day, you can consume some fast food for one -- whether by choice or necessity. I have to admit sometimes I crave specific fast foods like Chicken McNuggets. No, it's not haute cuisine, but I like what I like.

I saw an article today that mentioned how fast food restaurants in New York are now not only making the nutritional info available online but also displaying it prominently in their restaurants -- very handy for customers trying to make the best decision possible. This article, which can be read by clicking here, also includes some tips for making better fast food decisions.


After a weekend at a writers retreat where I was speaking, I was afraid the scales would reveal a weight gain today. But it didn't! Awesome. I really need to increase the exercise though because I've hit my first plateau. I'm sitting at the 12 pounds lost mark, and I've been here for awhile. I want to hit the next milestone of 15.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Holiday Season and Your Health Goals

Today is one of the busiest and most important work days of the whole year for me as the annual conference for the association I work for has just begun, and tonight is the awards ceremony for a program I manage. To say that the stress of getting ready for this has posed challenges to my journey to becoming a healthy writer would be an understatement. While I will work to make sure I enjoy as much of this week in Denver as possible, part of me looks forward to returning to a normal pace and the chance to devote more energy to my journey to becoming healthy and other personal goals.

I will return to the D.C. area on Thursday night just days before Halloween, the start of the holiday season for many people. Halloween through New Year’s Day poses many challenges to people trying to become or remain healthy. While I think it is really important that you let yourself enjoy the festivities, I also think we all should think about what we want this two-month period to do to our health goals. Do you want to continue losing weight? Do you want to maintain? Do you want to give yourself permission to gain a little weight with the intention of losing it in 2010?

I intend to lose more weight in the next two months. Now, I’m not so militant that I expect to lose weight Thanksgiving week or the week of Christmas, but I think I can lose weight during most of the other weeks. I will plan around the big (eating) events in the next two months and will be extra good on the days and weeks that don’t have holiday parties or other festive occasions. I will also focus more on the social aspects of the holidays than the culinary delights.

What do you plan to do during the holiday season? Do you have any advice on how one can still lose weight during November and December?

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Experiment with Eggplant - Part 2

Right after I graduated from college, I spent a lot of time in New York City interviewing for various jobs.  I stayed with Rory, a college friend of mine, and her aunt many nights.  I was jobless and broke, but I wanted to pay back their hospitality.  I often cooked dinner for them, and my friend was going through a vegetarian stage.  The following recipe was a favorite of hers.

Eggplant Florentine

1 large eggplant, cut into 8 diagonal slices

¾ cup dried bread crumbs

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

dash freshly ground black pepper

2 cups frozen chopped spinach (one 10-ounce package), thawed and drained

1 ¾ cups part-skim ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1 ½ ounces grated Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  On large sheet of wax paper, dredge eggplant slices in bread crumbs, coating both sides; place on 1 or 2 nonstick baking sheets.  Bake 15 minutes; turn and bake 15 minutes longer, until tender.  Cool slightly.

3.  Meanwhile, spray large nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray; add onion and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, and red and black pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes.  Set aside.

4.  In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Spread 2 heaping tablespoons of spinach mixture on each lice of eggplant and roll to enclose.

5.  Pour half the sauce into 13-by-9-inch baking pan.  Arrange eggplant rolls seam side down; pour remaining sauce over top.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake until heathed through, about 25 minutes.

Makes 4 Servings

Each Serving Provides:  2 ½ Proteins; 3 ¾ Vegetables; 1 Bread

Per Serving:  394 Calories, 27 g Protein, 15 g Fat, 42 g Carbohydrate, 667 mg Calcium, 581 mg Sodium, 96 mg Cholesterol, 7 g Dietary Fiber.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Finding Your Muse (Exercise Muse, that is!)

By Kirsten Scott

I am a reluctant exerciser. However, I am also exceedingly vain AND have a horrible sweet tooth, so I have a long history of torturing myself with everything from aerobics to running to biking. Over the years I have been a dedicated gym rat, spending hours in agony on machines to make myself sweat and, hopefully, lose some pounds. I even went through a period in college where I was what you might call an exercise bulimic. I would work out for two hours at a time, just so I could binge in the cafeteria later.

But it never really worked. I never really lost any pounds. I have always been a good, healthy weight, but have never been THIN the way I always aspired to be. And let's be honest here -- health had nothing to do with my exercise behavior. It was all about looks.

Now I don't want to sound overly dramatic. I do like sitting on the exercise bike or the feeling you get after going for a run, when the endorphins are kicking around and you know you've done something good for your body. I've always liked being strong, and knowing I could go hike up a mountain if I wanted, or go for a long bike ride with my family. And there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you set a goal and then reach it --like when I finished my first triathlon. But deep down, I dreaded my sessions at the gym. I had to work hard to distract myself the whole time I was exercising because it was such a miserable experience.

Then I tried yoga.

It started in December 2008. I'd been feeling particularly puny in my upper body, since I don't lift weights and don't have babies to lug around anymore. I'd seen a few videos that showed women with these gorgeous arms doing yoga, and I wondered if that might happen to me, too, if I did yoga.

(See? Vain. I'm telling you, it's true.)

I started small. I did ten-minute videos I found for free on Web sites and iTunes. I moved up slowly. From ten to twenty, twenty to thirty. I found more Web sites I liked. I downloaded podcasts. And you know what? I loved it. For the first time in my life, I didn't hate exercising.
I had found my muse.

I am still completely in love with my yoga practice. I don't have the time to go to yoga studios, and I love the flexibility of being able to do 20- or 30-minute classes whenever and wherever I want, so I mostly do podcasts and videos I have downloaded on my computer. I bring my yoga mat with me whenever I travel. I do my yoga early in the morning, late at night, and sometimes sitting in my office chair at work. I do it because it feels GOOD. Something I'd never associated with exercise before. I feel beautiful when I stand in tree pose, strong when I move from high to low push up. I learned to do a headstand. I learned to breathe. For the short time each day I'm on the mat I tune out all the things I'm worried about, all the stress and tension and I FLOW.

And here's the amazing thing -- I didn't lose weight, but I did drop inches. Almost an inch and an half from my waist, same from my hips. My arms don't look like Michelle Obama's, but I've got TRICEPS now. I never had those before. I dropped a full pant size.

Crazy, huh? It was only when I stopped torturing myself that I actually saw some results.

I've basically stopped running and doing the other forms of workouts I used to dread. I do yoga and walk. I discovered my pace in the gym is something radically different from what I was trying to force it to be, and I'm so much happier now. I am at peace with my body and worry much more about my health, flexibility, and strength than the numbers on the scale.

So what about you? Have you found your exercise muse? If you haven't, I urge you to keep trying different things until you do. Try a dance class. Go hiking. Do some karate. Investigate pilates. We aren't all made for treadmills and elliptical machines. I have a feeling if you find your muse you won't have to struggle to motivate yourself. You'll want to do it. You'll look forward to it. It will be the reward, not the punishment. And that's what we should all be seeking.

Kirsten writes adult romance and young adult fantasy. Her first novel, Delcroix Academy: The Candidates, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in August 2010. You can find her blogging with the Romance Bandits on the first Saturday of the month.

Progress (Trish):

I've been getting my 10,000 steps in every day this week prior to today (in the 7,000s today). I had a high-calorie day yesterday, but I did 1 1/2 hours of yard work that included using various implements (including a hand saw) to cut the large, woody weeds out from between the line of trees separating our yard from our neighbor's. It brought me up to 5 1/2 hours of yard work this week. I didn't do any today because I've been working to get ready for a speaking engagement this weekend. Calories are better today, but the steps are less because of all the computer time. The weight has been yo-yoing within a couple of pounds, so I've lost between 11 and 13 pounds, depending on the day. I'm going to be away the next three days, but next week I'm going to get back to the yard work and add in some walking, weights and sit-ups. Still several pounds to go by Thanksgiving if I want to meet my ambitious goal of having lost 20 pounds total by then.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

It Really Is A Merry-Go-Round

By Tawny Weber

This weight thing isn’t easy. And it's not like I expect easy, you know? After all, writing can be termed a pretty tough career, right? Between the creative struggles, the rejections and bad reviews, the stress and ups and downs, this isn’t a job for wimps! And so much of its completely out of our control, yet we keep on trying, focusing, working until we achieve the goal.

So I keep telling myself if I can jump into the deep end of the writing gig, I can handle something that’s theoretically totally WITHIN my control. My weight. My attitude toward food and exercise and the way I address my health. My willingness to use the spare half hour I have each day to exercise instead of cruise the net.

And yet it seems to be the furthest outside my control so much of the time.

Years ago, a good friend of mine, Betty Hanawa, and I joked about this theory that we are each given a finite amount of dedication and willpower. And when we’re writing, it all goes to that, so we have nothing left over to focus on getting our body healthy.

Now I have to admit, that depressed the heck out of me.

Four years later, I think I’ve finally figured it out. This weight thing is like a merry-go-round. It’s the big picture, if you will. If writing one book is an achievement (woot, and it is!) then a career of writing and selling books is a lifestyle. So it is with being a healthy writer. It’s never going to be about the one shot diet deal, or the four weeks of dedicated exercise before sliding into sloth. It has to be the long-term commitment. Or to quote Mad Eye Moody – constant vigilance – of keeping my eye on that brass ring. You know the one, the healthy, balanced, well-exercised and successful writer brass ring.

That’s doable, right?

Tuesday's progress (Trish):

Calorie intake: 1,682

Exercise: 2 hours 15 minutes yard work (cutting and hauling brush, weeding, weedeating); 30 minutes housework

Steps: 13,376
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Biggest Loser, Week 6

Okay, I know I picked on Tracey in last week's post, but the first thing that hit me in tonight's episode was how emotional she got when she said she hated going into the elimination room. I honestly can't decide if she's being honest or a very good actress. It seems so at odds with the little outtakes they film with each individual and pepper throughout the show. Like tonight, when talking about the black team being at home and hoping they ate cake and drank sodas. That just seemed mean-spirited. Yes, I know this is a competition and you want to win, but to me it's much different than other reality shows where it's all about the money at the end. In this one, it makes perfect sense that you'd want to win, but I think you can genuinely want everyone else to do really well, too. After all, we're talking their health and very lives here. I am very curious to see the finale, to find out if there's a lot to Tracey we're not seeing because the editors feel the show needs a "villain."

The challenge tonight of digging in the sand for the boxes of keys looked exhausting. There was one point where Rudy and Alan were standing next to each other with sweat dripping off them. I'm thinking that was a very good workout in and of itself. While the blue team's decision to give up the tickets home to stay at the ranch proved a wise one since they won the weigh-in, I have to say I'm impressed with the black team's trial run out in the real world. To have only one person gain weight and that only one pound showed determination and dedication. My jaw dropped when Danny registered a 15-pound loss while at home! But something I noticed was that he was the only one who didn't eat out. But even for those who did, I was happy to see them making wise food selections. Hopefully, they'll be able to continue doing that when they're back home for good. And it was interesting how they viewed their families' eating habits now, the same habits they had before heading to The Biggest Loser ranch.

Rudy is continuing to kick butt, registering a 14-pound loss this week. He has been in double digits every week, racking up an impressive 87-pound loss in 6 weeks. If he can hit a 13-pound loss next week, he will set a new Biggest Loser record for the fastest loss of 100 pounds.

When the black team voted Dina off tonight, I have to admit I was surprised. With Daniel posting the first weight gain of anyone this season and this being his second chance at the show, I thought it was logical to vote him off. I think his being positive and a big cheerleader to other contestants is what allowed him to stay around another week. I was really impressed with Dina's continued weight loss at home. And how cute is it that her son goes to the gym with her? And she looked great after her makeover.

What were your favorite moments this week? Things you took away from this episode?
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Energy Zappers

When I signed onto Yahoo yesterday to check my e-mail, I noticed one of the headlines said, "Bad Habits That Leave You Exhausted." Always looking for ways to improve my productivity and to feel rested, I clicked on it. The article talked about 9 habits that affect our productivity in negative ways and tactics for eliminating or lessening these habits.

As a big multitasker, I wasn't happy to see that doing more than one thing at the same time depletes our energy. The article specifically mentioned e-mail and voice mail, and how we are constantly stopping our work in progress to check them. To combat this, the article suggests perhaps not checking our messages at all during our most productive hours. I have done this while on tight deadlines, and it does work. That said, I tend to be a frequent e-mail checker.

Visual clutter in our surroundings actually causes us stress. This might be a surprise to some, but I have experienced this. Sometimes I just have to take a day to clean and declutter my office because it's driving me batty. And afterward? I find I'm way more able to focus on my writing.

Other bad habits discussed in the article are: being bored, poor posture, breathing toxic indoor air, eating too much at once, living in artificial light, listening to Negative Nellies, and holding a grudge.

To see the full article, click here.

Monday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,400

Exercise: 2 hours weedeating, pulling weeds and other yard work; 30 minutes vacuuming and cleaning house

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Let Nature Comfort You

One of my biggest challenges on my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer is conquering my emotional eating – or at least developing ways to keep it under control. To do this, I have to find other, healthier methods that comfort and soothe myself so that I don’t turn to food and overeat.

This may surprise some folks, but I’ve realized that one of my healthy ways to comfort myself when I’m stressed, unhappy, etc. is to soak in nature – though often through a car window. When I was upset or depressed with stuff in grad school, I often turned to my friend Delia and said, "Hill Country."

She’d do the same to me. We both knew what it meant. The absolute, next, free afternoon we had we were going to drive into the Texas Hill Country, look around at the pretty sites and the Texas Wildflowers in the spring, and often ended up in Gruene, Texas, where we’d eat at The Gristmill and sometimes take in a live, music show at Gruene Music Hall.

Nature can soothe when it’s much more extreme than regular life stress. On a commuter flight from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I insisted the person sitting in my assigned window seat move so that I could look down on the patchwork fields of Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota.

I let it comfort me as I got closer and closer to my grandmother’s funeral and the eulogy I was giving.

I have a lot going on at work right now due to an upcoming, large event next week and just the general uncertainty of my industry and today’s economy. The past holiday weekend I flew back to Connecticut to visit my parents and to spend several days with them soaking up the beautiful, New England fall with all its vibrant color. We spent time around my hometown, a day at Block Island, and a day driving in Vermont and Massachusetts.

I love to soak up the beauty of New England – natural and man made (e.g. architecture) - whenever I go home, and it’s always at its prettiest in the fall.

Does nature ever comfort you? What other healthy ways have you find to comfort and soothe yourself so that you don’t turn to food?

Photos: The first two are of Block Island on Sunday, Oct. 11 and the final two are in Vermont on Monday, Oct. 12.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Health Recipes at Your Fingertips

There is no telling how many times I've wondered how I ever got by without Google and the vast expanse of knowledge housed on the Internet. Everything from the name of who sang that one-hit wonder song from high school to what the weather is going to be like for the next 10 days. This awesomeness extends to healthy recipes. Prior to my new commitment to counting calories, I often looked up recipes on, with good results. So I was happy to see that when I Googled "low-cal recipes", AllRecipes was one of the top search results.

When I clicked on the link, all kinds of yummy sounding seasonal recipes popped up -- things like Ham and Potato Soup and Acorn Squash Gnocchi. I next clicked on the link for the Healthy Sides and Snacks area, recipes for items that have 100 or fewer calories per serving. I found a yummy looking recipe for Chickpea and Couscous Delight that I'm going to try this weekend because I have all the ingredients.

Another link from the initial page took me to Calorie-Cutting Tactics. Among them were some smart switches (instead of eating this, eat that) and a tip stating that you should eat soup first. Studies have evidently shown that people who eat soups, especially broth-based ones, end up eating fewer calories in a day without feeling hungrier.

A sidebar takes you to areas with recipes with 100 or fewer calories per serving, 200 or fewer and 300 or fewer. And if you so desire, you can sign up for the Healthy Bites newsletter.

Do you all have any favorite healthy recipe sites you go to when you're itching to try out new dishes?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,095

Exercise: 30 minutes dance aerobics

Steps: 7,614
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Friday, October 16, 2009

I'm Not a Runner!

By Anna Sugden

Really! I’m not very sporty, if truth be told. I love watching sport (hockey and football/soccer, etc.) and have played sport (I was good, but not great), but I’m not a devoted athlete. I have always enjoyed keeping fit, but I’ve always found it easier to keep up a regular routine if I do it with a friend. Whether it’s going to aerobics classes or swimming or going to the gym, I’m one of those people who starts off with great gusto and then needs the push of another person to stop me from crying off because I’m too tired/busy/cold *g*. The one thing I was committed to was Fitness Boxing, which I took up in the U.S. with an awesome trainer - until we moved home to England.

As for running, it has never been my thing. Even at school, I struggled with the 400-yard run every year. It kept me from getting my Presidential Physical Fitness award, the few years I was at school in the U.S. I just don’t think my legs were made for running.

My lovely hubby, on the other hand, is a major runner. He’s completed the London Marathon and several half-marathons. He still runs them; he completed the Royal Parks Half-Marathon only last weekend. He regularly runs 6 miles or more several times a week.

What is the point of all this back-story, you ask? LOL.

Well, it’s to put my latest achievement into context. In July, I ran in and completed a 5k race called The Race For Life. It’s a run, solely for women, in aid of breast cancer, that is held in many cities around the UK. Yes, I ran 5k (3.1 miles). Note from Trish: If you look closely, you'll see Anna in the middle of the photo with her arms in the air and wearing sunglasses, behind the girl in the light blue.

How did this come about?

Let me start by saying that moving country is not good for the body or mind. When we moved out to the States, I put on 1 stone (14 lbs). When I moved home to the UK, I put on another stone! Worse, moving home was so disruptive to my writing schedule that after six months, I was still struggling to put it back in order.

Now, I’m not one to mind too much what the scales say - but I do mind when I can’t fit into my clothes! So, earlier this year, I knew I had to act when even my ‘fat girl’ clothes wouldn’t fit. But what to do? There wasn’t a decent boxing trainer around and I wasn’t up for starting classes. We had some gym equipment at home, but getting motivated to keep fit regularly was hard - especially with so much going on.

Then, one weekend, my lovely hubby’s daughters were down for a visit and the older one started talking about wanting to take up running. The younger one was keen too and before I knew it, the three of us had agreed to start running and training and to enter The Race For Life!
The problem was, we didn’t all live in the same area, so we had to train by ourselves and keep ourselves motivated.

The two girls trained using a book called Running Made Easy, which they swear by (and obviously works!). I went for a different method (recommended by lovely hubby) of running in stages, three times a week; increasing the distance a little every week, working up to the full distance. I used a cool Web site called ‘walk, jog, run’ ( which uses Google Earth, to plot out a 3-mile route, with different interim stages. E.g. I knew if I ran to the local garden centre (nursery) and back, that was just over half a mile, while the BMW garage was 1 mile and so on.

The first week was hell! I could barely make half a mile without being completely exhausted and gasping for breath. I felt awful. I knew I was reasonably fit, but I’m not a runner and that was giving me problems! I was miserable. What had I signed myself up for?

But, I had to keep going. I couldn’t/wouldn’t give up. I couldn’t let the others down! By this stage I’d also told a bunch of my Romance Bandit pals what I was planning and they were cheering me on. Having to report my progress to them was key to me continuing!

Then, my lovely hubby advised me to give myself permission to walk if I had to, but keep doing the distance. He promised it would get easier. Wise man!

The second week was indeed easier. By the end of the third week, I was pushing for half a mile. Soon, half a mile became three-quarters and a whole mile!

Unfortunately, trouble set in with my left ankle. It didn’t like me running on anything but flat surfaces and seized up. In the old days, that would have been the cue for me to give up. But, I’d made the commitment, so I couldn’t. And I couldn’t tell those Banditas I’d given up either!

Also, I’d noticed that on days when I ran, my brain was clearer and I was writing better. I’d found this when I was boxing and was really surprised to see that it was true with the running too. That spurred me to really be strict with myself and those around me about my writing routine, and my running routine.

All that pain was clearly worth it!

So, I went to a running shop and got a pair of proper running shoes, which were suited for the way I run (They videoed me running on a treadmill and discovered my feet roll out. My Nikes weren’t helping!). I also changed my running route slightly to run on flatter pavements.

By the end of the second month, I was up to 2.5 miles! And come race time - I was running 5k three times a week.

Then, on July 5, 2009, I ran the race. I not only survived it, but completed it in decent time. Crossing that finish line was amazing!

I haven’t lost much weight, but I have lost inches because my clothes definitely fit better. And that was really what counted.

And just this week, I finished a new writing project that I’m really proud of (hopefully an editor will love it too!)

So, what did I learn from all this?

1. I’m better at keeping to a fitness challenge if I’m in it with others.

2. I’m more likely to keep up a fitness challenge if I have a clear objective and a deadline. (i.e. I will run a 5k race on July 5!)

3. Don’t try to do it all at once; bite-size chunks. Essentially, these are interim goals. Both the book and my own training routine focused on taking us to our goals one stage at a time.

4. Allow yourself to ‘fail’. If I hadn’t allowed myself the short walking periods, I’m sure I would have given up, because I couldn’t do it. It was more important to finish the distance, even if I did have to walk a little bit of it, than not to do it at all. And then, work on doing the whole distance.

5. Have the proper equipment and listen to the advice of experts! Sounds obvious, but how many of us don’t think we’re ‘serious’ enough for it to be worth spending the time and money?!

6. The fitter my body got, the fitter my mind got.

7. All of the above could be applied to my writing, as well as my running!

8. You can do it, if you put your mind to it!

What about you? Are you someone who finds it easy to stick to goals and plans, with your writing or with fitness and healthy eating, or are you like me? Do you have any tips that will help others achieve their goals? Are there any specific problems you have with achieving your goals and would like some advice?

Today's progress (Trish):

Calorie intake: 1,583

Exercise: 45 minutes dance aerobics

Steps: 10,051
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writer De Stress

By Tawny Weber

I thought I’d discuss a health issue we writers face today that may or may not be weight related.


Yes, we definitely have stress in life, regardless of if we write or not. But writing adds is own special brand of stress to the mix.

Submissions: Whether we’re published or not, we write to be read. It could be the idea of submitting to a friend, to a critique partner, to an editor or an agent. They all carry stress.

Readers: This goes hand in hand with submissions. We want feedback on our writing, or to know we reached readers. Sometimes the feedback is great. But sometimes the feedback comes in the form of rude contest comments, rejection letters or snarky reviews. And we never know which it’ll be. That’s a major stressor.

Deadlines: One of the biggest joys of being a writer is having a contract. But one of the stresses of having a contract is the deadline. If we’re serious about writing as a career, I truly believe we have to treat it like a career, with responsibility, goals and care. But at the same time, writing a book is a creative art, so calling it up at will can definitely be a source of stress.

So with all of these stresses that writing adds to regular life stress, how do we stay healthy. Here are my Four Fab Writer De-Stressors:

1. Meditate. Its proven to lower stress levels and bring a sense of peace and calm into your life.

2. Sleep. Whatever your body needs, whether it's 4, 6 or 8 hours – get it as many nights a week as you can to keep your stress levels under control.

3. Eat Healthy. Sugars and fats slow down the body, adding to the current stress levels. Healthier foods offer energy as well as helping to keep the body healthy to achieve all the work necessary to write.

4. Exercise. Exercise is a proven stress release. Not only does it keep the body in shape, it releases pent-up frustrations as well as creating those really cool feel-good hormones!

How about you? Do you have any great stress release ideas?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,482

Exercise: 45 minutes walking around the grocery store

Steps: 11,153
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The Biggest Loser, Week 5

Dude, does Tracey have a lucky charm hidden up the sleeve of her Biggest Loser T-shirt? I couldn't believe she won the "Choose Teams" challenge tonight, and I obviously wasn't the only one. I'm very conflicted about Tracey. On the one hand, I can understand her strategy of always doing what is going to get her more weeks on the show and thus more time with the trainers. After all, she's there because she needs to be, and I genuinely want her to lose weight and get healthy. But on the other hand, it seems every challenge she wins earns her more enemies. Take Liz, for instance. Up until tonight's episode, I hadn't seen her get really fiery. But, whooee, did she get fired up after Tracey split up her and Danny. I had to chuckle when she said that gals from the South don't get mad, they get even. Perhaps not the healthiest or kindest attitude, but I could understand it.

It wasn't until tonight that I realized Liz is from a little town probably an hour away from where I live. So, I've got to root for the local gal. Plus, I went over to NBC's The Biggest Loser site and watched her introductory video, and something she said rang true with me. She said something to the effect of, "I'm from the South, and we don't eat healthy. It's fried chicken and biscuits." Southern cooking is really tasty, but it's got to be some of the worst food in the world for anyone wanting to stay healthy and fit.

Back to Tracey -- when she started out by keeping Daniel and Shay together because they needed each other, I thought maybe she was taking this third challenge win to rebuild some of the bridges she'd burned in earlier episodes. Not so much. You can tell that even Bob and Jillian are not liking her much at this point. That's unfortunate because it sets her apart with no support system beyond herself. The only person who has had her back, Coach Mo, went home tonight.

I felt sorry for the teams that got split up tonight, but something Rudy said to Dina made me pause. He told her he wasn't happy about being apart, but that maybe this was what she needed to help build confidence in herself, to depend on herself. A lack of self-confidence seems to be a common theme with many contestants. I honestly think that's what's keeping Dina from hopping up on that stool. She's psyched herself into thinking she can't do it. It's a mental hurdle, not a physical one.

When the blue team lost the weigh-in, I thought Tracey was gone for sure. But, hey, I should have known better. I've watched Survivor enough to know that editing is everything, and the show's editors led us down that path until Coach Mo fell on the sword because he was in pain and didn't feel he was carrying his weight. But how cool was it to see how well he's been doing at home?

Favorite players of the week:

Liz -- for getting fired up and working so hard that she got immunity tonight -- she didn't even let passing out stop her. Also, for letting Danny watch his video from home instead of seeing her own.

Shay -- for losing 16 pounds! You go, girl!

Rudy -- for sticking by Dina and telling her what she needs to hear even though they aren't on the same team anymore.

What were the highlights of the episode for you? Anything you saw or hear really resonate?

Today's progress:

It's Day 1 of my Pre-Holiday Weight Loss Challenge (which, sadly, no one has joined me in), so I had that in mind all day.

Calorie intake: 632 (Too low, but I slept in today and my eating schedule was off and I had one less meal than normal.)

Exercise: 3 hours of push mowing

Steps: 16,591
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Big, Huge, Ginormous Challenge

I missed out on doing a goals post on Sunday because I was driving home from my 20-year high school reunion. But I've been thinking about a big goal I'm going to shoot for and take you all along with me.

With the holidays and all their edible temptations around the corner (pumpkin pie, yeast rolls, cookies...), I need a plan of attack for the remaining weeks before Thanksgiving. So I thought, let's have a Pre-Holiday Weight Loss Challenge. Now, remember, don't do anything that's unhealthy to lose weight. That's not what we're about here. We're all about smart choices and getting fit and healthy so we can enjoy all the other aspects of our lives.

There are six weeks before Thanksgiving, and I'm going to really push with the exercise and really watch the calorie intake. My goal? To lose 10 pounds before Turkey Day. That's a little less than 2 pounds a week. Will I make it? Is that overly ambitious? I don't know, but I'm sure going to try.

Now, I would love to have all our loyal readers of the blog post their goal for this time period. Be realistic, but maybe pose a goal that will make you really happy if you make it. And whoever wins the challenge will get their own day on the blog to tell us how they did it and how the accomplishment feels.

Today's progress:

A lot of computer time today prepping a report that is due tomorrow, so not the numbers I'd like to have.

Calorie intake: 1,764

Exercise: None

Steps: 5,006
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Enjoy the Benefits of Exercise

I’ve been an Oprah fan since she hit the national airwaves, and I’ve read almost everything she’s ever written about her weight struggles. She gets it, and I find reading about her lessons so inspiring. Ten to 15 years ago, she and her trainer Bob Greene wrote a book entitled Make the Connection. A lot of it is about the importance of regular exercise to weight loss or weight control. I’ve always believed that and often have used exercise to try to lose weight.

The problem with that is weight control has never been a strong enough reason for me to continue working out regularly. It falls too easily into the “have to” category then, and that doesn’t help me drag my butt to the gym on the days I really would rather stay seated on my coach reading or watching tv. I do my best with exercising regularly when I'm doing it for the value it brings itself - and not necessarily because I hope it will make me look better or lose weight. If I focus on the benefits - it makes me feel so good, it improves my mood and reduces stress, I have more energy, I sleep better, it keeps me "younger" – and even the fun or joy it brings, I’m much likelier to keep it up. It’s not a chore then but rather something I want to do.

The key to this approach is finding the kinds of exercise that you will really enjoy. This is a very individual choice. A few years ago, I discussed with two friends of mine, Laura Graham Booth and Carol Elise Hayes, what form of exercise we liked the best. My favorite was step aerobics; Carol preferred running, and Laura enjoyed yoga. Each of us was intimidated by the others’ favorite. Jeanne Adams shared on Friday how martial arts does it for her. Trish likes hiking, and Tawny walks while listening to podcasts. One or two friends prefer playing tennis regularly while others train for 10Ks, marathons or triathalons.

It’s worth exploring lots of options to discover what you will enjoy the most. Sometimes, I feel like I tried it all. Growing up, I had a lot of jock friends. They got so excited before every sport season, and their enthusiasm would convince me to join the team once again. Within a week or two, I’d remember all that I hated about sports, but I was stuck because I had made a commitment. I played soccer for ten years and softball for five. I was always one of the worst players on the field, and I can only remember brief stretches of time when I enjoyed it. I just never cared if we won. Playing sports wasn’t for me and could never be my main form of exercise.

With the rise of Jane Fonda as the exercise queen, I dabbled with aerobics. I’ve always liked to walk and have tried speed walking. In college, I was introduced to step, and I still think it rocks. I always preferred it to low-impact or dance aerobics. I also did some regular weight lifting on nautilus machines, but it always bored me. I've dabbled with skiing (very fun), tennis, and golf. I even tried a little regular jogging, but I got killer shin splints.

When I first started making money after grad school, I joined a lovely, welcoming, supportive women’s gym in Austin, Texas. Once again, step aerobics welcomed me back with open arms. I really enjoyed the pool classes. I never could understand why folks were so excited about kickboxing. It never felt like it raised my heart rate enough, and I'm not into hitting or kicking. Weight lifting still bored me. I got better acquainted with the treadmill and the elliptical, and I liked the latter.

After I moved to the DC area, I joined another women’s gym and had a pretty similar experience to Austin though there was no pool. When this gym closed because the owner embezzled from it, I did what was once unthinkable and joined a co-ed gym. There, the biggest appeal was still the classes and the elliptical machine.

Even though I have belonged to gyms for the past 10 years, I can’t say that I always went regularly. There were vast stretches when my monthly dues were more like donations to the owners’ bottom line as opposed to payments for services rendered. But, when I was going, it was because I was trying to lose weight. I never did lose more than 15 pounds in any stretch. I hadn’t realized that not only did I have to change my relationship to food, but I also had to change my view of and approach to exercise.

I did first go back to the gym this year in May because I was trying to do “something more” in my journey to becoming healthy. I was wary of burn out and started slowly. I went two times a week and then three instead of my usual pattern of going whole hog from the very beginning. I slowly built up to my current average of four times a week. During busier weeks, I go three times, and other times, I’m able to manage five times, but overall, I'm maintaining my average of four times a week.

Around the same time I returned to Gold’s Gym (which is not dominated by unfriendly boxers and serious body builders as I always feared), I read David Kessler’s The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. It had a profound effect on me. He argued that the only healthy feeling of reward close to the one you get from overeating comes from exercise, and you can literally rewire your brain to want the healthy version and not the unhealthy version. When I first started going to the gym regularly, I'd sometimes tell myself I'm rewiring my brain. Somewhat to my surprise, it is working. Every time my body longs for exercise for its own reward - for stress relief - to feel good - etc. - I act on it.
 The books I’ve read on emotional eating also stress the importance and benefits of exercise.

I focus on doing exercise I enjoy. I started back with step classes and the elliptical. One day, I accidentally showed up an hour early for a step class. It was for a body pump weight lifting class. It had always intimidated me, but I took it as a sign that I should give it a try. To my great surprise, I loved it. I now attend this class two to three times a week. I can't overstate the difference it has made to how my body looks and how quickly that happened. It really firms up and sculpts your body. My positive experience with the weight lifting class convinced me to try some of the many other classes. Zumba, a Latin and international dance aerobics class, is a new favorite. We all grin our way through it.

I plan to continue sampling classes – especially if I start getting bored with my current fitness routine. The hip hop aerobics class, body jam, is not nearly as good or enjoyable of a workout as Zumba, so I never returned after the first time I went. I plan to return to some of the yoga, pilates or body flow classes. One of these days I’m going to try a spin class and perhaps body attack. I’ve also played with the idea of starting running following a couch to 5K plan. Really, exercise and thinking about new ways I can mix it up have become fun for me. I’m going to work to keep it that way.

Do you exercise? If so, what are your favorite things to do? If you don’t, what’s keeping you from trying it?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Experiment with Eggplant

We’ve discussed on this blog before how difficult many of us find it to eat 3-5 servings of vegetables a day.  I too struggle with that even though I tend to lose more weight in the weeks that I eat lots and lots of vegetables.  Some of the tricks I’ve found for increasing my weekly intake of veggies is to experiment with new or seldom-seen-by-me vegetables, especially when they are in season, and to find ways to increase the amount of veggies in my main dishes. 

I’ve had a lot of luck with eggplant, which is in season now.  It wasn’t completely unknown to me.  I’ve always liked eggplant parmigiana at Italian restaurants and had even had it at Chinese restaurants or in my mom’s ratatouille.  I needed to find ways to incorporate it into my own repertoire.  The following recipe is one of my favorite ways to do it.  It’s a lightened version of what I sometimes had at my favorite Italian restaurants.

Eggplant Parmigiana with Meat Sauce

1-teaspoon salt

2 medium egg

plants (1 to 1 ¼ pounds each), cut into ¼ inch slices

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup diced onion

9 ounces broiled lean ground beef (Ha!  Like I ever bother – I cook it in the sauce)

4 cups low-sodium tomato sauce (I often use tomato puree)

2 cups stewed tomatoes

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon dried oregano

(I like to play with spices and add garlic, up the basil and oregano, and/or add Italian seasoning mix)

6 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese (I sometimes use low fat cottage cheese bc I think it has more flavor)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2.  Sprinkle salt evenly over both sides of eggplant slices.  Place on large tray lined with paper towels to drain for 20 minutes.  (DON”T SKIP THIS! - PICTURED ABOVE)

3.  Dredge eggplant slices in breadcrumbs, coating both sides. 

Spray 2 nonstick baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray; divide eggplant slices evenly between prepared sheets and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

4.  Spray large saucepan with nonstick cooking spray; add onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients except cheese and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

5.  In medium mixing bowl, combine cheeses.

6.  In 13-by-9 inch baking dish, layer 1-cup sauce, one-third of eggplant slices, 1-cup sauce, half the cheese mixture, 1-cup sauce, one-third of eggplant slices, 1-cup sauce, remaining cheese mixture, 1 cup sauce, remaining eggplant slices, and remaining sauce.

7.  Bake until bubbly and completely heated through, about 40 minutes.  (Note:  If it looks like it is overflowing the pan, bake it on a cookie sheet.)  Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 8 servings

Each Serving Provides: 2 ½ proteins; 4 vegetables, ¼ bread, 10 optional calories

Per Serving:  300 Calories, 21g Protein, 13 g Fat, 28 g Carbohydrate, 307 mg Calcium, 653 mg Sodium, 49 mg Cholesterol, 5 g Dietary Fiber

Original recipe on pp 198-199 of Weight Watchers Favorite Homestyle Recipes published in 1993.

This is not a quick recipe, but it is an absolutely delicious dish, and I just made it for myself again a couple of weeks ago.  Let me know what you think of it if you try making it. 

Do any of you have yummy suggestions for eggplant dishes or other ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet?

Continue Reading...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Short of Breath

By Guest Blogger Jeanne Adams

Earlier this summer, I realized I was short of breath. Now before you frown too much, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t like ME either. By nature, I’m an active (verging on hyperactive), extroverted Tigger-type. Which means, I was never heavy as a kid, nor as a young adult. In fact, I’ve only been over my “typical” weight levels twice in my life.

Now is the second time. The first time was in my twenties when my life fell apart. In the space of 45 days, my mother died, my marriage ended, I moved, and my now-thankfully-ex-husband left me thousands upon thousands in debt. It was the same month as my birthday and Christmas too. Ick. I cried a lot. I ate to fill the emptiness. The worst for me though, was that I didn’t move. I sat. I stared. I worked. I went home.

Not a lot else going on.

As I began to heal, I realized I was in my twenties, and short of breath. WHAT?? How could I, the quintessential bounce-out-of-the-chair-in-meetings gal be overweight, breathless? Well, sitting and thinking and moping will obviously do that to a body.

I tried yoga, aerobics, swimming, biking and all manner of other things. I discovered a very important thing. I really, really, really don’t like to sweat. I also don’t like chlorine hair. So vain! Unfortunately, even doing yoga makes you sweat if you do it right. If you want to move muscles and burn fat and gain health, you’re gonna sweat. Bummer.

It took me months, and dozens of false starts. Then, one day, I walked into a Tae Kwon Do studio.

Within two years, I was told, I could have a black belt. Wow. Cool! Engage brain AND body…I like it!

The first day of class was painful. There were push-ups in the warm-up routine. The 8-year-old kid in the green belt next to me was pounding them out. I couldn’t do any. It was two weeks before I managed one full, military-style push-up and made one lap around the dojo without huffing and puffing. When I resigned the dojo to move to D.C. just shy of two years later, I could easily do 25 push-ups, circle the dojo ten to fifteen times before I was breathing hard, break boards, and drop a man twice my size. I made it to high-red – a step below black.

Fast forward to now. Short of breath again. A move, a marriage, a decade full of fabulous life with two kids and two books out. Problem is, the fertility-drug-induced and pregnancy weight gain, plus a lot of sitting to write books has caught up with me. No excuses though, since my youngest child is nearly five and I don’t write 24/7.

I needed to lose 25 pounds. And I needed to not be short of breath.

Time to start, I decided, with what I knew. So, I did one push-up. I drank more water than Diet Coke. I took a walk around the block.

The body is pretty amazing. It remembers. I have my Tae Kwon Do handbook. I’m doing the forms – the patterned movements. I started Karate in between books. I don’t get to class much, but I do the forms.

Author Mike Dooley in his book Infinite Possibilities says that the body knows it’s ideal weight and it knows how to get there, if you’ll just be still and listen. I’m listening. I’m doing push-ups. I’m walking. I’m breathing. I’m moving.

I don’t need The Biggest Loser. All it took was being short of breath to remind me that if I want to sing and chase and yell and whoop and be there for my kids and my fantastic hubby, then I needed to start with one push-up. And keep going.

What was your start? What’s your motivation to keep going? I’m down ten pounds and going for twenty by my birthday in December. Do you have a milestone? I’m hoping that I can finally drop the last five by New Year's. I’m getting there, one push-up at a time. I’m not losing weight, I’m gaining health. What are you gaining by getting fit? I’d love to hear all about it!


Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,420

Exercise: Lots of walking during errands and shopping. Seriously, I should see how many steps it take from the time I walk into Walmart until I walk out. Some dancing around while I was uploading '80s music to my iPod for my 20-year high school reunion this weekend.

Steps: 16,157

Continue Reading...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Exercise Endeavor...Movement Motivation

By Tawny Weber

In addition to the step aerobics (haven’t managed to work the strength training in yet) I’m focusing diligently on using my pedometer and increasing my step count daily. So far, so so. But I’m working on it! One of the things I’ve found that helps a lot is relying on my iPod. I think Trish has mentioned walking to music before. I’ve tried that, and thought it’d be a solid hit for me since I write to music. But the writing to music on my iPod is so ingrained, as soon as it starts my fingers start itching to type -- LOL. Because I’m rather particular about not messing with things that work – like the basic self-hypnosis of "headphones on, playlist queued, writing commences,” I decided to shift gears and try something else.

Words. I started with workshops, loading the different RWA conference workshops. In one walk or intense housework session, I can listen to an entire workshop and come away inspired, informed or just amused. I’ve been able to catch up listening to friends’ workshops, to pacing workshops and to a few "how to write hotter" workshops. I’ve really enjoyed writing life workshops, with their yoga and motivation tips, too. But I could see that I’d pretty quickly get through my workshop stash and have to find something else.

I found it today. Podcasts. Some of my favorite authors do podcasts – Wayne Dyer and Eric Maisel, among others, and while I’ve listened here and there, I generally skip them because when I’m sitting at my computer I’m supposed to be working *g*. Music doesn’t distract me from writing. Actually, talking doesn’t distract me a ton, either, but it seems pointless to listen to someone if I’m just going to ignore them. But for exercise and walking, podcasts rock!!! And iTunes has an entire section of them, too. I found some specifically dealing with weight loss and have downloaded them to inspire me through the next week and am listening to Easy Exercising Motivation right now. I force myself to keep moving through the entire podcast, which really adds to my stepcount!!

How about you? Do you listen while you exercise? If so, to what? And have you ever listened to podcasts? Any suggestions?

Today's progress:

Now today was more like it! I got in two hours of exercise, and I feel good. It helped that it was a gorgeous fall day with clear, blue sky and low humidity. Perfect walking weather.

Calorie intake: 1,360

Exercise: 1 hour walking, 30 minutes dance aerobics, 30 minutes cleaning house

Steps: I rocked the steps today with...18,619
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The Biggest Loser, Week 4

This week offered more temptation to the contestants in the form of having to order out for every meal. Gone was the safety of knowing that all the foods in the stocked Biggest Loser kitchen were healthy, fresh and organic. Everyone was faced with having to really examine restaurant menus and determining which choices were healthiest. They had to learn how to order their food prepared and be willing to resist temptations and to send food back to the kitchen if it wasn't prepared as they asked.

As someone who loves to eat out and who doesn't enjoy the process of cooking like Julio said he does, this episode hit home. I am proud of the times that I've looked at menus online before going out to eat so I'd know which wise choices to make. Not so much the times I've given in to the temptation of things like chips and queso dip.

Considering the eating situation this week, the weigh-in was impressive. We've still not had anyone with a weight gain, though Daniel lost zero pounds this week. Rudy is continuing to put up double digit losses each week, and he's steadily becoming one of my favorite contestants. Even though she could do no exercise at all and actually was told by the doctor not to lose any weight, Tracey lost 4 pounds. This makes me wonder if she was getting in some exercise surreptitiously or if she just really watched her calorie intake.

This time around, it was Danny and Liz (brown team) and Julio (the only remaining member of the black team) who fell below the yellow potential-elimination line. More tears ensued as no one wanted either team to go home. In the end, however, Julio was voted out. One of my favorite parts of the show, though, is when they show how the person voted out is doing now. So far, they've all been doing great and have continued to work out, eat healthily and lose weight at home. Julio has lost a tremendous amount of weight and is really dedicated to going to the gym and working out, says he looks forward to it. It's really impressive. As he said, sometimes a person just needs a kick start.

What are your favorite moments and observations from this week's episode?

Today's progress:

Not proud of myself today. I allowed myself to stay in the lazy funk. This HAS to stop tomorrow. I know that I have to work harder once it starts getting cooler, the days get shorter and there are more cloudy days. I tend to get lazy and just want to stay curled up under covers. I need to keep reminding myself that exercise will help me stay warm and improve my mood.

Calorie intake: 2,522 (Wow, I'm embarrassed. This might be overestimated to some extent because I had to guess on some of the things I ate. That's never a good situation to get in.)

Exercise: None

Steps: 3,939
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tips from Around the World

It's a well-known fact that Americans are some of the fattest people in the world. No wonder when we're the land of fast food, buffets, and sedentary lifestyles. We don't have the healthiest relationship with food as a country. And in the South, where I live, I think it's even worse because we haven't met a food we didn't want to roll in batter and deep fry.

This outlook Americans have on food versus how the rest of the world views food is why I thought this article from Reader's Digest magazine was interesting. It explores some of the eating habits of people who live in parts of the world where citizens don't tend to be as rotund as Americans. One of the hardest tips to follow is the first one on the list -- Stop eating before you're full. For a variety of reasons, we tend to eat until we have to start unbuttoning our pants to get some relief. Seriously, that's not very smart. Food is supposed to bring comfort (and nutrition), not discomfort.

So, why not try some of these tips from around the world and see if it makes a difference in how you feel and in your outlook on food.


While I was away over the past few days, I admit I made some poor eating choices. I let desserts tempt me, and I had a couple of Cokes. However, because I had a friend along who has also been making the effort to lose weight and succeeding (we both arrived at the conference having lost 12 pounds since the RWA National Conference), I did get some good exercise. Two nights in the gym and one night of 2-3 hours of dancing. Tomorrow I go back to some serious exercise and back to logging my food intake in my food diary.
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Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Healthy Relationship with Food

In the second stage of guided communication on eharmony (yes, it can be complicated), one of the questions you can send is:

How do you feel about food?

A. I consider myself a gourmand and love to dine on elaborate meals as often as possible.

B. I just eat to live, trying to be healthy and consume little.

C. I like to eat and occasionally enjoy large meals.

D. I eat three regular meals a day without much additional thought.

I’ve never received or sent this question, but it does get me thinking. What is a healthy relationship to food? I know my past relationship with it was not healthy. How could it have been since I was obese for more than a decade? While I could really enjoy it and have many pleasant memories of past meals I’ve had, I also now realize that I’ve used it to anesthetize emotions I could not or did not want to acknowledge. I’ve eaten for reward: I’ve eaten when I was not hungry; I’ve eaten with abandon. For years food has controlled me more than I’ve controlled it, and I’m trying to change that.

I’m not sure what kind of relationship I should be working towards though. Is eating just for nutritional means the healthiest relationship one can have with food? The thought that I can reach the point that food is just food is a hopeful one, but I also feel a little sad at the idea that I should not let it bring me any joy. I love having great meals at delicious restaurants. I really like cooking tasty meals for myself or eating those cooked for me by someone who cares about me. I have had moments when I have thought of my next meal as only a source of energy, but I’m not sure I want to feel that way about all my future meals.

What is a healthy relationship with food? Do you know anyone who has one? What does it look like?

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Healthy Cooking Tips

Since I'm away from home (and thus nowhere near my kitchen), I decided to turn to Google for today's healthy cooking post. I was curious what listings would come up if I did a search on "healthy cooking tips." Here are the top five links:

1. The Top 10 healthy cooking tips from the American Heart Association
-- I'd heard some of these tips before but not others.

2. The Top 10 healthy cooking tips from Fitness and Freebies -- This listing makes note that it's just not the foods we eat but also how we prepare them that is important. This list also can help you meet recommendations put forth by the American Institute for Cancer Research for lowering cancer risk. There is some overlap with the first list, but some unique items too. The one that made me sad was the no charring of food. When we grill out, I like my meat blackish. But this produces cancer-causing compounds. :(

3. Lots of recipes and articles on healthy eating at Eating Well's site.

4. The tagline on Cooking Light's site is "Making healthy taste great," and it looks like they have lots of great information and recipes. When I just checked the site, the homepage has links to features on 20-Minute Meals, some Eat Smart Videos, 10 Foods for Strong Bones, Fall Soups, and a feature called Lighten Up in which they've taken some favorite recipes and made them more healthful by making some slight changes.

5. Lots of good tips and reminders at Diet Motion's site.

Friday's progress:

Calorie count: Don't know. Haven't had time to try to figure it out since I'm at the conference.

Exercise: 10 minutes treadmill, 5 minutes stretching and weights, 40 minutes elliptical, 10 minutes bike. Wow, I didn't realize I was in the gym more than an hour. And I decided I wanted the fancy elliptical with the TV on it. :)

Steps: 10,662
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feeling Virtuous

I'm out of town for the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta. Travel days usually end up being light on steps. Add to that the fact that I went out with friends to a favorite Mexican restaurant tonight, and it was shaping up to not be a good weight/health day. But after dinner, one of my dining companions and I hit the gym for some treadmill time. I walked for 35 minutes, even ran for a minute or two -- something that I normally don't do. I got my steps up over the 10,000 mark (10,821 as I write this), and I feel good (outside of the headache that won't go away).

It's times like this when I wonder why we avoid exercise so much. I feel good physically and mentally after the gym time. I would have felt like a slug if I'd avoided it and just gone to bed. I need to remember that every time I find myself tempted to be lazy and avoid working out.

Have you made any good health decisions lately that had you feeling virtuous and proud of your decisions?
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My Exercise Endeavor...Getting Started

By Tawny Weber

I’ve been riding this weight-struggle merry-go-round for quite a while. After having my first child, I carried extra weight for about 2 years before I got serious about eating healthy, and then to actually lose the weight, about exercising. Then after having my second child (and 4 months of bed rest, among other fun and exciting pregnancy issues) I carried twice as much extra weight as before, again, for about 2 years before I got serious about eating healthy, and then to actually lose the weight, about exercising.

Then I started writing. In many ways, it’s easy to compare writing to having a child. The thrill of conceiving an idea. The months of gestation and careful care to nurture that idea to birth, and the well-touted pain of getting that book out into the world (aka, sell that baby). And in that vein, I was amused to realize that since I started, I’ve gained as much writing as I did with my pregnancies. But given that I’ve birthed over half a dozen books onto the shelves, I guess I can understand why. But it’s time to get serious, and... (are you seeing the pattern yet?) get eating healthy and to actually lose the weight, get my chair-sized-tushie exercising.

And while healthy eating, focusing on getting those fruits and veggies in each day, cutting fats and watching calories are a vital component to lose this weight... I know the true key is exercise. At least, it is for me. It doesn’t matter how I handle the food, if I don’t add in the workouts, I won’t see progress.

So I’m making it a public statement here, and figuring this will work as accountability, I’m pushing myself to get that exercise in.

Because, unlike my pregnancies, I don’t plan on being through writing books.

How about you? Do you find that exercise is necessary to your weight journey? What forms of exercise do you prefer?

Tuesday progress:

Calorie intake: 1,590
Exercise: 40 minutes walking
Steps: 11,506

Wednesday progress:

Calorie intake: 1,490
Exercise: none other than running lots of errands, as reflected by the step number
Steps: 10,581
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