Monday, August 31, 2009

Feeding the Brain

We all know that a high-fat diet isn't good for us if we're trying to lose weight or trying to avoid serious issues like heart disease and obesity, but according to a study at Oxford University those high-fat diets may also affect not only our physical abilities but our mental ones as well. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't need what I'm consuming to slow down my brain. I need all those brain cells firing to be able to write and create, thanks. You can read the article in Science Daily here.

So if the high-fat diets affect our brain function in a negative way, what can we eat to potentially improve it. What is some good brain food? According to this article, eating to benefit the brain (which evidently uses 20 percent of our daily calories) is very similar to eating to benefit the body as a whole.

For a little fun (as well as good information), try out this quiz about brain food. I only got 3 of the 7 questions right. Oops.

Today's Progress:

Calorie intake: 1,226.16

Exercise: About 30 minutes of walking while running errands.

Steps: 7,679 (not back up to 10,000, but at least about 3,000 more per day than I've been getting lately)
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The Expectations I Really Struggle With

By Michelle Butler

Last week, the extremely enthusiastic, very chatty, 100-pound, perky, blonde body pump (weight lifting) instructor called out halfway through the class, “Yell if body pump has changed your life!” My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but it was quickly followed by, “Well, I have gone down a size since I started taking this class.” I didn’t think that was the dramatic impact she was looking for and kept my mouth shut. A few people halfheartedly shouted when she pressed to get some kind of response. She then said, “I lost 85 pounds in three years because of body pump.”

The two women in front of me turned to face each other and said, “Whoa, 85 pounds!” The part I fixated on was the three years. She didn’t say she lost 85 pounds in 6 months, 1 year or even 2 years. It took her 3 years. And, that was the lesson I really needed that night. This journey, this lifestyle change, this really changing yourself physically and internally takes a long time, and I struggle with my desire for it to happen overnight or at least a lot quicker than it is taking.

The standard answer for what equals a healthy rate of weight loss per week is 1 to 2 pounds after the first 3 weeks. I’m not even averaging a pound a week. I’ve never lost weight fast, and this attempt is no exception. Since January 6, 2009, my biggest weight loss has been 4.4 pounds in one week, and my biggest weekly gain was 3.4 pounds. Yes, this is a big struggle for me, and I do have weeks when I gain weight. 12 of the 32 times I’ve weighed in at Weight Watchers this year, I’ve gained weight. I definitely go up and down week by week, but I need to remind myself that overall I’m consistently losing weight.

In my past attempts at getting skinny, I would have let my frustration with the slow pace of my weight loss convince me to think it’s impossible and quit. The only reason I haven’t done that this time is I promised myself in early January that I would give myself a whole year to lose weight. No matter what I would keep trying until the end of 2009 – also sometimes referred to as the year of me or the year of amazing change. Lately, I’ve also realized that I really need to accept that this journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer is going to take a long time. In fact, it will never end. I truly believe accepting that will make this less of a struggle for me.

What expectations do you really struggle with? Do you have any recommendations on how to accept this is a lifestyle change that will have setbacks as well as forward progress?

Deadline was kicking me yesterday, so I didn't post. So here's the info for yesterday and today (Saturday and Sunday).


Calorie intake: 1,069.125

Exercise: None

Steps: 4,225


Calorie intake: 1,242.125

Exercise: None

Steps: 4,379

The good news is that I finally finished and turned in my book today (Yay!), so I can really start focusing on some other things like making sure I get my 10,000 steps each day, dedicating the time to exercise, and providing some more thoughtful posts here.

Let's all have a great week!
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Saturday, August 29, 2009


So, hair is still on fire with deadline. I promise to be way more inspirational after Monday, 'kay? :)

Anyway, I went through some of the links I've been saving, and while this site isn't specifically targeted toward healthy recipes, I still think it's cool. Have you ever looked in your cupboards and seen all the various ingredients you have on hand but not had any idea what to do with them? Well, with Supercook's site, you can enter your list of ingredients and it gives you a list of dishes to make with them. The links to these recipes will take you to various recipe Web sites, but Supercook is a nice one-stop-shopping type of site.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,409.69

Exercise: None

Steps: 4,640
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Little Tweaks

I'm going crazy as my deadline approaches (book due Monday), so it's a quickie post tonight, but it's a link to an article I saw yesterday about some little tweaks that yield very nice results. I'm living proof that the food diary thing works. Check out the article by Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of SELF magazine, here.

Two other tidbits from yesterday:

1. I had to go do a bit of shopping at several stores, and let's just say all those mall walkers are smart. Shopping really increases my step total, as you likely noticed with my high step count yesterday.

2. I got into a pair of jeans that was a size smaller. Granted, they are still snug, but I bought them anyway, curious to see how the fit changes over the weeks ahead.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,332 (largely because I had a higher calorie breakfast than normal)

Exercise: None

Steps: 3,780 (If only keystrokes on a computer keyboard counted.)
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Clothes Make the Diet

By Tawny Weber

I’m always all about “once I lose this weight, I’ll dress like ‘this’ and wear ‘that’.” I’m also super stubborn, so I refuse to buy new clothes in a bigger size, so when I gained weight, my wardrobe possibilities went from walk-in closet range to these-three-outfits-fit range. And since I work from home, and writer-dress seems to lend itself to baggy sweats and big tee-shirts anyway, I found that along with the weight gain I’ve become a hermity ragmuffin, more often than not.

What did this do for my inspiration to lose weight? Well I still had the whole plan to wear cute clothes to go with my growing collection of gorgeous shoes as soon as I lose weight. But that plan wasn’t doing much to motivate me. I’ve tried Michelle’s suggestion of hanging a perfect outfit on the door as inspiration, but after a couple weeks, the outfit always seems to blend with the wall and I stop seeing it (maybe I should set my shoes out instead... that’d keep my focus!!)

But last month, after we moved into our new house and I’d spent a few solid weeks in sloppy packing/cleaning/moving clothes, I had the urge to dress nice. You know, without the elastic waistband nice. Talk about inspiration!!!

After a couple days, I realized I was more focused on exercise and healthy eating because I was dressing nicer. Yes, I still had sweatpants days –plenty of them. But a couple days a week became ‘nice’ days. Makeup and hair days. Dress like an author instead of a writer days (in my little world, authors dress for book signings, writers dress for hours of slouching over the keyboard). It's made SUCH a difference for me. I feel better. I’m more motivated and as I search through my closet for more cute things that fit, everything I have to pass over encourages me to be able to wear IT soon.

It’s really helping.

How about you? Do you dress for comfort, or dress to feel great in your clothes? Do you find your weight affects your dressing choices?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,196.5

Exercise: Lots of walking while shopping, though I didn't time it.

Steps: 18,311 (Holy mall walking, Batman!)
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fruits and Veggies

I was busy finishing up the first draft of my book that's due, oh, next Monday, last night and totally forgot to update this blog for yesterday. But I do want to share with you another Web site I stumbled upon called You are able to do searches in your area for restaurants that have healthy dining options as determined by the nutritionists employed by this site. I don't think it's comprehensive, but it might give you some ideas if you've got the hankering to go out to dinner and don't want to blow your calorie count sky high.

Also on the site you'll find lots of tips and nutrition guidelines about topics like body fat, fruit and vegetable consumption, reducing sodium intake, and eating a variety of complex carbs. For instance, by clicking on the area about fruits and vegetables, I learned that the latest guidelines issued by the Departments of Health and Human Services suggests that we eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of veggies each day (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). Even those who eat a total of 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day have only half the risk of cancer of those who eat less than a cup a day. They also combat other serious conditions like heart disease, obesity, stroke, diabetes, etc. Considering all those things run in my family, I'm going to make a concerted effort to up my fruit and veggie intake. The page linked above also has a nice chart of fruits and veggies, what they contain, and how they help your body and overall health. There are also tips about how to add fruits and veggies to your daily diet.

Yesterday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,200

Exercise: 35 minutes mowing

Steps: 7,693

Good news: As of this morning's weigh-in, I've lost 6.2 pounds. And that's within the month since I started this blog. Yay!
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Monday, August 24, 2009

News about Fast Food Lunches

I've been doing a lot more looking at restaurant Web sites lately for the nutritional information. I was pleasantly surprised by how many have this information available, but I wish it was universal. For instance, Cracker Barrel doesn't have one, and other restaurants (like Famous Dave's BBQ, from which we got takeout tonight) only has a partial listing. When the official lists aren't available, it takes a bit more investigation and sometimes estimating. I estimate on the high side when I'm not sure because I don't want to think I'm taking in fewer calories than I actually am.

When I do eat out, I've made different decisions than I've made in the past. As I mentioned in a previous post, most of the time I cut the portions in half and make the meal last for two. I also am trying out different menu items. For instance, at Famous Dave's I used to get the BBQ chicken wings and dip them in ranch dressing. I really wanted them tonight, but they aren't listed in the nutritional information -- which leads me to believe they're one of the higher-calorie options. Instead, I tried the char-grilled chicken sandwich and only ate half of it for 222.5 calories.

I saw an article today (read it here) about how high the average calorie counts are with fast food lunches. I cringed as I thought of all the times I had a burger and fries and an apple pie from McDonald's or a Frito Pie and cheese tots from Sonic. I can still have these on occasion, but not all at once and I have to plan for them. And they need to be the exception rather than the rule, no matter how much I crave them.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,335

Exercise: 45 minutes mowing (I feel better because of the exercise, and perhaps the neighbors won't stage a lawn intervention.)

Steps: 7,502
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Healthy Expectations

By Michelle Butler

You have probably heard the advice of using a favorite piece of clothing from thinner days as a source of inspiration as you try to lose weight. For years, the piece of clothing I longed to get back in was at the back of my closet. It was a very smart looking, grey and white pencil skirt with a big black belt. I even tried it on during past, semi-successful attempts to lose weight. I had last worn it when I weighed around 115 pounds, and it was a size 5 or 7. No, I don’t mean a 6 or 8. It had been purchased in the junior’s section, and I had last worn it when I was a freshman in high school.

Yes, dear blog reader, I was a reasonably intelligent adult woman trying to get back into something I had worn as an adolescent girl. How whacked is that! Even if I ever got back to 115 – which would mean I was underweight – I’m curvy, and I’ll never have the hips of a 14-year-old girl. Nor should I try. I finally came to my senses in my late 20s and sent that beautiful, preppy skirt to Goodwill.

Do you have your equivalent of a 14-year-old girl’s skirt in the back of your closet? If so, get rid of it. Becoming and staying a healthy writer is a long journey, and there’s no need to torture yourself with unhealthy expectations as you try to get there. Getting rid of that skirt felt good. I do have clothing and sizes I’d like to get back into, but I make sure that they are reasonable for a grown woman. I want to get to and stay in a healthy BMI range. Along the way I’m trying to strengthen and improve my body image to make sure it is realistic and healthy.

How do you maintain healthy yet ambitious expectations as you make this journey to become and stay a healthy writer? Any advice for your fellow travelers?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 870 (much lower today)

Exercise: None

Steps: 4,112
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Bad, Bad, Bad

Bad. That's what I was today. We went to some friends' house for their three boys' combined birthday party. I did pretty good considering the offerings were pizza and cake mainly. I only had 2 1/2 of those very small squares of thin-crust Domino's pizza and a small piece of chocolate cake. But I totally lost my mind when we got back to town and went out to eat. I love Mexican food, and I just checked my willpower at the door. Okay, not totally. I did just eat half of the chimichanga and brought the rest, along with some of the refried beans and rice, home for another meal. But, oh, the chips and cheese dip.

Well, I learned my lesson. First, very high calories. Second, cheese dip did not sit well.

Tomorrow, I must mow the lawn, and hopefully I'll sweat and work off a lot of these calories.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 2,008.5 (or thereabouts; had to do some estimating) -- Gulp!

Exercise: None

Steps: 4,766 (I think I need to take a hiking vacation so that I get like a million steps in.)
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Resisting Temptation

I had a long and tiring day, seven hours of which were in the car going to pick up my mom, take her to the kidney specialist, taking her home and then driving back home myself. By the time I pulled off my interstate exit, I was craving a DQ Blizzard like crazy. But I remembered that it had 660 calories and resisted the mighty temptation. That's my triumph of the day.

Anyone else have a triumph of resisting temptation this week? How is everyone doing on their healthy eating/exercise goals? What do you want to do differently next week?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,096

Exercise: None

Steps: 7,342
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hungry Girl

I got caught at Target today during a huge thunderstorm, so I did more wandering around as usual (good for Target's bottom line, not so much for my credit card). Among the things I picked up, however, were two pocket guide calorie counters -- one from The Biggest Loser and one from the Calorie King -- so I can look up calorie counts easily while traveling or when I don't have my computer on.

The other book I got was a cookbook -- Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories. I'm going to be trying out the various recipes in the weeks ahead reporting the results here. Perhaps I'll even go the extra mile and pot photos of my efforts. :) Hungry Girl is Lisa Lillien also has a Web site at where you'll find lots of good info about foods. Lillien is not a doctor or nutritionist, but according to her bio on the site she's a lover of food and researches quite a bit. I just signed up for her daily e-mail service, so I'll let you know what it's like when I start receiving them.

While we're on the topic of you all have any favorite cookbooks for healthier recipes?

Today's progress:

Calorie count: 1,373

Exercise: None. Was in a funk today and I let it get the better of me. Sigh. Tomorrow, I'm on the road again, but I plan to at least get my steps in tomorrow.

Steps: 3,916 (Lame, lame, lame. But tomorrow is another day.)
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Proper Posture & a Request

I've had terrible sitting posture for as long as I can remember. I'm a slumper. That's probably one of the reasons I have backaches so often. Since I'm not yet in the league with J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts and J.R. Ward, I'm not going to be able to go get a professional massage as often as I'd like. But I could improve things by being conscious of my posture and trying to improve it, particularly during all those hours at the computer. I found this site that has some good information on posture -- even if their cartoon illustration guy does remind me of Jay Leno. :)

Something else I want to do for my back soon is buy a new mattress set. I think they were still building the Stonehenge when ours was made. It has that horrible sag in it.

I also wanted to say that I'm excited that we're up to 10 followers of the blog now, with several other regular readers. I hope you all are getting inspired to live your healthiest life possible. And I'd like to know some of the healthy topics you'd like to see covered here. Go ahead, shout them out. :)

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,162 -- Much better today.

Exercise -- 50 minutes cleaning house (dusted, vacuumed and straightened the master bedroom); 35 minutes walking the cul de sac; 15 minutes step aerobics

Steps: 10,158 (made it back to the 10,000 mark -- yay!)
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Racing Against the Clock

In the midst of doing revisions on one of my books today, I needed to get up and move around and let my eyes focus on something besides typewritten words. Conscious that I hadn't gotten my 10,000 steps in the past several days, I decided to see how much housework I could do in 30 minutes. I was going to race against the clock, keeping track of everything I got accomplished. I ended up going 35 because I was in the middle of a task at the 30-minute mark, but here's the list:

1. Washed the dishes
2. Vacuumed the hallway, my office, the living room and the dining room
3. Cleaned the guest bathroom (countertop, toilet and floor)
4. Dusted the photo frames in the hallway and the furniture in the living room
5. Cleaned the kitchen countertops

Not bad, eh? I think I'll do this again tomorrow. I'm always up for competition, even with myself. :) Plus, the tasks need to get done anyway, so why not use it to add to my steps/activity?

Do you all ever compete with yourself, trying to outdo previous accomplishments?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: A bit higher today at 1,455.5, but it should go down tomorrow as my lunch won't be as high. I did the grocery shopping today and stocked up on Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones dinners.

Exercise: 35 minutes housecleaning

Steps: 9,834 -- almost back up to 10,000 (It helps when you wander around lost in the being-remodeled Walmart.)
Continue Reading...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

I haven't had much time to read health-related material lately because of the pressing deadlines, but I took about 15 minutes tonight to read a bit of the fitness magazine I have on hand. A couple of interesting tidbits hit me.

1. It's summer, and to me that means ice cream. Lately, I've been going for the Skinny Cow and Weight Watchers fudge bars, which run 100-110 calories each. And it's a good thing. There are 273 calories in one cup of vanilla ice cream, 380 in one cup of cookie dough ice cream. According to fitness, you'd have to bike for 45 minutes to burn off that cookie dough ice cream. My favorite ice cream treat -- a small Chocolate Xtreme Blizzard from Dairy Queen -- has 660 calories! No wonder I was packing it on. If I want this treat in the future, I'm going to have to break it into thirds and eat it over three days. Or maybe sixths.

2. I've been keeping the food diary lately, but an article in the magazine suggests keeping track of your steps or walking mileage every day and to challenge yourself to do more each succeeding day. The magazine has an interesting Run/Walk Planner and lots of information about walking, including the ability to map and save your favorite routes and the ability to find new ones suggested by other runners/walkers in your area. This is something I'm going to dive into when I get this book turned in and devote more focus to it.

What are some of your favorite places to go walking/running/hiking in your area? In other parts of the country? I love going to state and national parks and hitting the trails. I'm able to get exercise, fresh air and lovely views.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,129.66

Exercise: 15 minutes housework

Steps: 4,620
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

And now for our second installment of Michelle Monday by Michelle Butler. Michelle is traveling for work and might not be able to respond to comments until Tuesday, but keep them coming anyway.

As many of my friends know, I’m a news nerd. A few years ago, I saw a CNN documentary entitled Fat Chance that was all about losing weight. One segment focused on the National Weight Control Registry that investigates long-term, successful weight-loss maintenance.

According to the documentary, this study had found that there were seven keys to losing weight and keeping it off. They are:

1) Expect failure but keep trying.
2) Don’t deny yourself – aka have that occasional piece of chocolate.
3) Weigh yourself often.
4) Exercise an hour a day.
5) Add little bits of activity into your daily routine.
6) Eat a high-carbohydrate (complex carbs), low-fat diet.
7) Eat five meals a day.

If you have time, you may want to visit the Registry’s Web site at: to dig deeper into its studies and read the posted success stories. Another one of my goals is to become part of this study.

What do you think of these 7 tips? Have you followed any of them and found them effective?

Today's progress:

Good news -- the scale went down again. I'm approaching 5 pounds lost and hope to be able to announce that soon.

Calorie intake: 1,349

Exercise: None (but 21 pages written)

Steps: 3,503
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why I Need a New Phone

You might be scratching your head about the title of the post and what it has to do with being healthy, but here's the sitch. Today I went to my RWA chapter meeting. We always eat lunch afterward, but we don't decide where until after the meeting. We ended up at O'Charley's, and I thought, after looking over the menu, "I'll be good and have a salad." If I'd only had a phone with Internet capabilities, I would have looked up the nutritional info online and known that the Tortilla Salad was NOT a good choice. It had 590 calories and didn't really fill me up. I was still hungry when I got home. I ate a cheesey bread stick left over from dinner last night to tide me over until dinner, but I was going to have to go slim on dinner to stay in my 1,200-calorie range for the day.

But by dinnertime, I was about to chew my arm off I was so hungry. No way I was going to make it. Not to mention I've been craving Mexican food. And I know when I crave something I have to feed the craving or I will begin to obsess about it. So, I accepted I was going to go over the calorie count today but looked at the menu to figure out something that was much lower in calories than what I would normally get. I didn't need the queso dip or the sour cream or the entire bag of chips. I ended up with a single chicken quesadilla and a bit of refried beans and four tortilla chips. Higher in calories than most of my dinners of late, but not as not as bad as the giant burrito or slathered-in-cheese chimichanga I normally get. And it satisfied the craving so that tomorrow I can get back to a staying-at-home, healthier eating plan for the day, and thus a lower calorie count. I may shoot for something in the 1,000 range tomorrow to counter today's big number.

Have any of you ever eaten something, thinking it was a good choice, only to find out later it wasn't?

Anyway, my phone is ancient, and after my deadline I'm going to start exploring getting a new one that has some Internet surfing capability so I'm not attacked by a Giant Calorie Salad again.

Today's progress:

Calorie count: 1,674

Exercise: None again. Yes, I know I was going to do better today. Sigh. Not that this is good for the health (unless you count my stress level), but I am getting several pages written today. I'm up to 13 now and want to get at least 2 more. Was shooting for 20, but I'm beginning to get tired. If I could only write and walk at the same time.

Steps: 4,925
Continue Reading...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Forgiving Yourself Without Forming Bad Habits

Ever had one of those days where you were a total schlub? Where you couldn't muster the energy or gumption to do anything productive? Well, that was me today. I managed to do some e-mail, prepare a blog post for tomorrow, go to the eye doctor and write maybe 2-3 pages. But there was no exercise and I should have written 20 pages today. I don't know why I just couldn't get going today. Granted, at least for a few hours, I couldn't see well enough to work because my eyes were dilated, but even when my vision went back to normal I felt totally lazy.

While I could wallow in this, I'm already making plans for tomorrow to be a super productive day instead. I have an RWA chapter meeting, but I still want to write 20-25 pages, get in 15,000 steps (including some needed exercise) and keep my calorie intake for the day to the 1,000-1,200 range. We'll see how I do.

I think we all have an off day here and there, and it's important not to dwell on it, to forgive yourself and move on. None of us is perfect. But that said, don't let one non-productive day turn into two which can too easily turn into three and so on.

Anyone have any stories or tips on this topic?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,339

Exercise: Nada

Steps: 3,709
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eye Health

I've worn glasses for my nearsightedness since 5th grade, and I have the ugly glasses photos to prove it. All kidding aside, however, I take eye health very seriously. One of my worst fears is going blind. Not only do I hate the idea of being dependent on others for anything, so much of what I do depends on sight. So I'm off to the eye doctor tomorrow for a checkup. I've been getting some headaches and squinting more, so it's time. I haven't had new lenses for awhile because I haven't needed them, but I think I will this time. And I'm afraid I might have reached that horrid place known as The Land of Bifocals. I say this because recently I got a splinter in my finger and held it up close so I could pull the splinter out and had to move the finger farther away to see it. That had never happened before. But wait! I'm not even 40 year. Sigh.

I'm going to a new optometrist tomorrow because we have new insurance the office I had been going to isn't covered. At the old office, they had a machine they used to check the back of my eyes, but according to the new place's Web site, I'll have my eyes dilated tomorrow. Great, while I'm on deadline. Sigh. Maybe I'll just take a nap when I get home. Sleep is good for one's health, right?

We writers sit in front of computers so much that having to have corrective lenses is almost a given. I'm not sure I know a single writer who doesn't wear glasses or contacts or had corrective surgery. But because we're writers, we also need to take very good care of our eyes as well as the rest of our bodies. So has it been awhile since you've been to the optometrist? Perhaps it's time for a checkup.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,033.5

Exercise: 35 minutes walking

Steps: Alas, 7,005. Probably because I was in front of the computer cranking out 22 pages today. Did I mention I have to finish two projects by Sept. 1?
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Are You a Stress Eater?

Sorry about the late post. I didn't get home until after 9 last night, and I was complete toast. But I'm so glad to present our next regular blogger, Tawny Weber, who writes for Harlequin Blaze. She's going to be blogging twice a month on Thursdays -- thus, Tawny Thursdays. Yes, I like alliteration. :) Take it away, Tawny!

Like most women, and especially most writers I know, I seem to live in a constant state of stress. Deadlines, sagging middles (of the story, although now that I think about it...), reviews, promo tours, the list goes on and on. Add to that the reality that writing is a very sedentary job, and I spend hours with my tushie planted in a chair, the only exercise my body gets being my fingers tapping away on the keyboard.

Stress + Sedentary = weight gain.

Then two months ago, I added a new layer to the stress load by buying a new house, putting mine up for sale and going through the crazy dance of moving. Throw in a lender that closed 12 days later than contracted, 2 weeks of all my ‘stuff’ being in a moving truck and a sudden dependence on potato chips and I put on 10 pounds and had to ask myself for the first time – was I a stress eater? I mean, I was definitely stressed. And I was DEFINITELY eating. A lot. Way more than normal, of way out of the normal foods. And I kept telling myself, I’d be fine as soon as the move was over. But still, after a lifetime of figuring any weight gain was metabolic (and that sedentary writer thing adding to the metabolic issue), I had to wonder. Because I was definitely stress eating.

Curious, I did a couple things. First, I found an interesting online eating quiz to take – check it out:

Then I went into observation mode and after the move, spent the last couple weeks watching my eating. I still have stress. I’m under deadline, I’m dealing with a new house and a lot of changes. Reviews are coming in on my September release and I’m gearing up to promote the book. But you know what? Things had changed now that I’m back to normal stresses. I was able to stop and ask myself why I was reaching for a cookie instead of an apple. I might have still went for the cookie anyway, if I hadn’t had any other snacks that day and it was only a single cookie –but I was able to hear that rational voice again. The one that pointed out how much exercise I needed to do already and asked why I wanted to do even more. You know the voice, right? The one that is there, even when you’re stressed, and metaphorically holds your hand through the eating choices and helps guide you in the right direction.

Finding out I’m not necessarily a stress eater was a good thing, even if I did turn to food for comfort during a high-stress time. How about you? Are you a stress eater? Do you turn to food when life’s overwhelming? Any tips on how to stay out of that trap in the future?

It's interesting that Tawny chose this topic for today because yesterday was a high-stress day for me. Combined with the limited food choices while you're traveling, my calorie count was slightly higher, though not as horrible as I'd feared. But I'd say the only healthy thing I ate all day was the nectarine I had for breakfast.

Wednesday's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,353

Exercise: 30 minutes cleaning Mom's apartment, and tons of driving if that counts :)

Steps: Surprisingly, 10,650. Guess I walked more than I thought yesterday.
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From the Freezer

When I went shopping yesterday, I picked up four Lean Cuisine meals for my lunches. They're quick, and I like the fact that they have the number of calories and fat grams right there on the front of the box. I've had good, bad and so-so luck with boxed meals before, but the one I had today (Salisbury steak, potatoes, gravy and carrots) was actually pretty good for the world of frozen meals. A good size meal for only 270 calories. It was enough that I didn't get a big hungry spell mid-afternoon. I only had a tiny snack to tide me over until dinner. I know they're high in sodium and carbs, but I'm focusing mainly on calories to see how this approach works for me long-term.

Right now, Lean Cuisine is even running a sweepstakes on their site to win free meals for a week or the grand prize of free meals for a year. When you sign up, you can also indicate if you want them to send you coupons and other info. But here's a tip whenever you're signing up for something like this -- you might not want to use your main e-mail address. I use one I set up especially for this kind of thing, anything that might generate junk mail if they sell my address.

Under the site's Inspiration header, you'll find more than 100 articles in the areas of lifestyle, healthy eating, fitness, and wellness. Under Tools, you'll find a menu planner, recipes, a fitness planner and an Ask the Nutritionist section.

Today's Progress:

Calorie intake: 1,007.17

Exercise: 55 minutes yard work, 45 minutes house cleaning, 15 minutes step aerobics

Steps: 10,403 (Didn't make the 12,000 I was shooting for today, but I did make up an extra 400 that I missed yesterday. Just need 1,200 extra over the next couple of days. Tomorrow will be difficult since I'll be spending most of my day in a car. We'll see how it goes.)
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Put Some Extra Steps in Your Day

First, thanks to Michelle for her great first post today, and to all of you who posted comments. You rock!

I had to do the grocery shopping this afternoon, and since it was right after rush hour the parking lot was fuller than when I normally go during the middle of the day. But this was actually a good thing. It forced me to walk farther. So that got me to thinking about ways we can all put extra steps in our days, getting us past that 10,000-step mark.

1. When you go shopping, park at the farthest point of the parking lot. This applies to the grocery, the mall, wherever you shop.

2. Same goes for doctor appointments (unless you're really sick), dentist appointments, basically anywhere you go that has a parking lot.

3. When you're working at the computer, set your timer for 45 minutes. Work for 45 minutes, then get up and move around for 15 -- doing housework, walking to the mailbox, maybe one or two trips up and down your street.

4. Instead of going through drive-throughs, get out and walk into the restaurant, pharmacy, etc.

5. Can't get out to go walking when it's rainy or cold and don't have a treadmill? Head to the mall. You can join all those mall walkers, and you can eyeball clothes in the shops that you want to get into when you're a smaller size. You'll be walking yourself closer to it every day.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,188.64 (Succeeded in having a lower calorie intake today. Back below 1,200.)

Exercise: 30 minutes house cleaning, and walking around the grocery store avoiding fattening things :) (I know, I know. I really need to up this despite the deadline.)

Steps: 8,439 (Didn't make my 10,000-step goal for the day, so I'm shooting for 12,000 tomorrow.)
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Why This Year is Different

I'm happy to announce that beginning today, my good friend Michelle Butler is going to be posting her healthy observations, tips and inspiration on Mondays. Michelle Mondays, if you will. So, without further ado, here's Michelle...

Throughout my adult life, I have resolved every New Year’s Eve that this was the year that I was going to get thin. At best I would lose between 10 to 17 pounds, but I’d always get discouraged, stop trying and regain most if not all of that weight back. My dream of reaching a healthy BMI range through diet and exercise seemed impossible.

At the end of 2008, I was once again evaluating my past year and setting goals for the upcoming year. Once again, I weighed the same or even a little bit more than I had on the past New Year’s Eve. If I really wanted to get thin, I had to figure out what I could do to change my ways.

Before: Michelle, third from left, and her family spending New Year's Eve last year at a pub in Ireland.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how my past attempts at weight loss had gone, what had I done well, where had I failed, and how could I plan my next attempt in a way that would succeed. I decided that my biggest mistake was that I never gave it enough time. I’d do Weight Watchers (WW) for a few months or work out regularly for several months, but I’d never done both for a sustained amount of time to see what I could accomplish if I really gave it my all.

For 2009, I set a goal that I would try all year to lose weight. No matter what I would not quit. I broke it down into smaller goals and resolved that I would join and stay in WW all year and attend 45-50 meetings. I would also go to the gym at least 100 times.

Resolving that I would try all year is the best thing I’ve ever done for my weight loss. Whenever I’ve gotten frustrated at how slow the weight comes off, I can’t contemplate quitting because I promised myself I would give it a whole year. Even if I had only lost 2 pounds, I would still be attending WW meetings in December 2009. All that energy that used to go into the discouragement I let myself feel and the angst over whether I should keep trying, should I just quit, could I really do this went instead into my continued efforts to lose weight. This determination even carried me through a recent, eight-week plateau.

After: Michelle, far left, with friends in July at the RWA National Conference, showing what dedication to a healthier diet and exercise can accomplish.

This is my most successful attempt at losing weight. As you can see from my before and after photos, I’ve gone down 2-3 sizes and lost 22 pounds. I’ve reached my 10% at WW and lost more than 20 pounds for the first time in my life. I also honestly feel like I can reach a healthy BMI if I just give it enough time and sustained effort. I decided to join Trish on this blog to give me yet another reason to stick with it to the end. Look for my posts on Michelle Mondays.

What has helped you succeed in achieving your health or writing goals? What has made the difference between failed attempts and later successes?

Today's (Sunday's) progress (for Trish, not Michelle):

Calorie intake: 1,321

Exercise: 40 minutes aerobics while watching the pilot of Gilmore Girls. Two friends have been after me to watch this series forever, and one finally just up and bought me the first season on DVD for my birthday. :)

Steps: 10,151
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ah, Massage

One of my favorite gifts to myself is also good for me -- a massage. I try to get one after finishing up a stressful deadline that has had be attached to my computer for days on end. When I go in, I know I'm achy, but I don't know how knotted up my shoulders and back are until the therapist starts working the muscles. And the first time I got a full-body massage, I jumped at the discomfort in the sides of my knees when the massage therapist pressed there. She knew from that tenderness that I had a desk job. She said people who sit a lot for work will tend to have soreness in the sides of their knees and may not even know it. Go ahead, press there and see.

One of my goals as a writer is to eventually make enough that I can get a massage every week. :) Not only does it feel good, but it has definite health benefits. Among them:

1. Stimulates blood circulation (a concern if you see too long at a time)
2. Alleviates pain and tension
3. Helps you recover more quickly from injuries
4. Relaxes arm muscles that might be tender from too much typing or mousing
5. Improves posture (I'm a sloucher, so this is important for me.)
6. Combats anxiety and depression

I think after I finish up this deadline, the second of a back-to-back deadline situation, I'll treat myself again.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,315

Exercise: 40 minutes mowing, 10 minutes walking

Steps: 10,195
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Make it go away!

While I'm happy to be losing weight, something else I'd like to get rid of is cellulite. I wasn't even sure what caused cellulite, so I did a little reading and came upon this article on Prevention's Web site. After reading this short piece, be sure to click on where the words "exercise plan" are hyperlinked. This takes you to a piece about slimming your hips and thighs, where most cellulite seems to congregate like unwanted guests. I'm going to try the exercises this article suggests.

I did my first faster, shorter walk today -- 25 minutes around my cul de sac three times. So tomorrow I should do a longer, more normal-paced walk. I hope to get my page goal written early in the day so that I can walk without thinking about the pages I still have to write when I get back.

Short post today. Long day and tired.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,489 (will shoot for lower amount tomorrow)

Exercise: 25 minutes walking, 20 minutes yard work

Steps: 10,125
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coming Additions

My good friend Michelle (who has been posting in the comments the past couple of days) and I have been talking about ideas for content for this blog. I'm thinking about adding guests on certain days, ones who'll share their own journeys to healthier living and tips for those journeys. So if you're a reader of the blog and are interested in blogging here about some aspect of your weight loss/healthier living journey, contact me at trishmilburn AT yahoo DOT com.

Also, I'm going to start watching The Biggest Loser this year and doing recaps and encouraging discussion about each episode. What would be great is if readers of the Healthy Writer blog could watch too, be inspired and join the day-after discussions. I'm hoping to get my hubby to watch with me.

I read some more of my Walk Off Weight book today. It covered the five-day walking plan of two days of longer, normal-pace walks with three days of shorter, faster-paced walks. I think I'll try one of the fast-paced walks tomorrow, especially since I'm also doing yard work in the mornings to try to get a bunch of stuff ready at the curb for the brush guys, who are supposed to be in our neighborhood sometime soon. I can always tell without even looking at the city's schedule online because large piles of brush start showing up in all our neighbor's yards.

The book also covered some sculpting exercises. I'm glad no one sees me when I attempt these things (or yoga, for that matter) because I'm really clumsy and tend to fall all over the place. Oh well, as long as it works.

I've been looking online for activity calorie calculators, and I can't figure out why different sites have them listed so differently. But I did find one at Discovery Health today that I like and will be using. Still, it's calculations for my activities is quite different from my pedometer. Granted, it's a cheap pedometer and perhaps not super-duper accurate. If you use this site's calculator, keep in mind that each time you add an activity, the calorie counter is cumulative for all activities. Hit refresh after each one to clear it so you can see what each activity burned.

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,052.96

Exercise: 45 minutes yard work (chopping limbs and dragging them to the curb), 10 sit-ups and 40 minutes low-impact aerobics

Steps: 10,169
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Outrageous Goals

When a person decides to make a big life change for the betterment of her health, goals are set for things like exercise per day, calorie limits, end weight goals and the like. But I want to talk about even bigger goals -- those that seem like they're a little crazy, dreams even. I've long harbored a desire to walk the Appalachian Trail. This is no small undertaking. The AT runs more than 2,100 miles through all kinds of terrain from Georgia to Maine and takes at a minimum five to six months to through-hike. I know I couldn't do it now -- either physically or mentally. There are other challenges to being able to take off from life for that much time, but for right now I'm going to focus on the things I can actually control.

Physical -- Get into better shape, not just by losing weight and becoming more fit, but also by gradually walking more each day and then trying some shorter distance hikes, then on tougher terrain. I'm thinking it'll take 2-3 years to get to the point where I'd even want to attempt it with any hope of finishing.

Mentally -- Though I love the idea of doing a through-hike of the AT, I know that I sometimes suffer from anxiety. I think it might be genetic because my mom is even worse than me. But in the past I've read some books that have helped me to manage anxiety. I want to continue to read more and practice dealing with it whenever it tries to raise its ugly head. Let's face it -- the middle of nowhere on a mountaintop is not a place to freak out. Mental toughness with regard to fatigue, determination to finish, hunger, etc., will also be important.

Even if I never get to through-hike the trail, improving myself in all these areas is a worth goal. But I'm not ready to give up on the idea yet.

Does anyone else have an outrageous goal? To run a marathon? Hike across Europe? Sail around the world?

Today's Progress:

Calorie intake: 1,242.78

Exercise: Busy work day, so only 30 minutes of walking. Must do better tomorrow.

Steps: 10,182
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Low-Cal Dessert Snacks

The good news is...I lost another pound. 3 down, 37 to go!

Every time I've been on a diet in the past, my downfall has always been sweets. I love them. I've been doing okay so far with the sweet craving because there are some good, low-calorie options out there now. Weight Watchers Fudge Bars have 110 calories. Skinny Cow Truffle Bars have 100. I also just bought some 100-calorie Oreo Mini Cakesters packs, 100-calorie Milano cookie packs, and some Devil's Food cookies that have 60 calories per cookie (so I would limit myself to one or two per day).

Anyone else have some good low-cal dessert/sweet snack options other than fresh fruit?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,472 (When I did research online, it said I could have 1,500 a day to lose 2 pounds a week, but I've been trying to keep it lower than that. I've only gone over one day, but I still see ways I can trim out calories. It just takes more work, which I need to knuckle down and do.)

Exercise: 1 hour house cleaning (burned 238.6 calories); 45 minutes step aerobics; 10 sit-ups; no outdoor activities today because first it was too miserably hot and then started raining

Steps: 12,898 (I'm now officially caught up with my steps.)
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Two in One

I got finished with my revisions that were due today at 11:12 last night, then had to do two blog posts on other blogs that were to go up just after midnight. Needless to say, my eyes were crossing by the time I finished and I didn't get over here for an update. So, lucky you, today I'm giving you two updates in one. :)

Sunday progress:

Calorie intake: 871.1 (Wow, that was low.)

Exercise: 40 minutes mowing front yard (burned 477.2 calories)

Steps: @8,200

Monday progress:

Calorie intake: Made up for yesterday with 1,569 calories, but I was STARVING after mowing the back yard.

Exercise: 1 hour 10 minutes mowing back yard

Steps: 14,202 (Got in today's 10,000, plus the 2,000 shortfall from yesterday and 2,200 of the 5,000 shortfall from Saturday. So, I need to walk 12,800 tomorrow to be totally caught up. I'm not letting myself off the hook with these steps.)

So, I'm feeling a little alone out here in healthy living land. Let's have a challenge this week. Let's each challenge ourselves to do something healthy this week. Me, I'm going to add 10 sit-ups to my daily routine. What about everyone else?
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Trouble with Salads

So, I was on the road pretty much all day today, the first real test of eating while traveling. Let me just say it's difficult. I think I need a new phone that has Internet browsing capability so I can look up Dottie's Weight Loss Zone's restaurant nutritional info while on the go. Still, I tried to do well considering my trouble with salads -- they rarely fill me up if I'm hungry. I think of salad as something you eat before or with a main course. The only exception is the chef salad at Cracker Barrel. Plus, when you're on the road, it's difficult to actually eat a salad while driving. Thus, here's what my day looked like, culinary-wise:

Breakfast: Banana = 105 calories
Lunch: Wendy's Jr. Cheeseburger = 320 calories
Snack: 6 McDonald's Chicken McNuggets = 250 calories
1/2 Lenny's tuna sub = 415 calories! (OMG, I'm glad I only ate half of one.)
1 Weight Watchers fudge bar - 110 calories

So, overall I was right at the daily calorie count I've been trying to hover around. But I still feel like it wasn't a successful day, especially since I don't think driving and riding on a paddlewheel riverboat count as exercise.

Does anyone have any good recipes for yummy, filling salads that don't have a bazillion calories?

Today's progress:

Calorie intake: 1,200

Exercise: None -- unless you count me running to my car from the riverboat in the pouring rain.

Steps: I think it's going to be around 5,000 today. At one point during the day, I looked down to see that my pedometer had popped open. It stops counting steps when it's open, so I don't know how many I lost. So, my plan is to shoot for 15,000 steps tomorrow to make up for the lack of steps today. This will be a challenge since it's the final day before my deadline, but I'm determined to meet both the steps and the deadline goals!
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