Sunday, June 27, 2010

A New and Improved Healthy Writer Blog is at

As we've discussed before, holidays, anniversaries and birthdays are wonderful times to pause, evaluate where we are, celebrate what we've accomplished, and make plans for needed improvements. This kind of self-reflection inspired Trish Milburn to start this blog in anticipation of the big 4-0, and we all continue to embrace that same spirit with everything we do. With the approach of the Healthy Writer blog's one-year anniversary at the end of July 2010, we saw a wonderful opportunity to push even further with what we can achieve individually and as a group.

The celebration begins with a new, improved, redesigned Healthy Writer at!

Come visit us there!
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Keep Moving Forward!

Among the many changes you'll see in the next few weeks at Healthy Writer blog we've discontinued Inspiration Sundays. However, I hope you’ll agree that this simple quote still deserves a post:
Keep Moving Forward

I’m always inspired by Walt Disney and his words. A man who started with only a creative vision and a talent for drawing began an empire. Growing up near Walt Disney World, it was easy to see the awe inspiring buildings, theme parks, and man-made lakes, but sometimes hard to remember that it all on the same shaky ground as my own writing career.

You probably didn’t know it, but Walt struggled in his early years. He did any work he could including a series of Army education films that would be considered very politically incorrect these days. Like many writers and artists he suffered setbacks: the first studio he founded went bankrupt, he lost the rights to one of his creations (Oswald the Lucky Rabbit), and he couldn’t find a distributor for either of the first two Mickey Mouse films.

Through it all, Walt kept moving forward. He tried new things and refused to look backwards for too long. His philosophy is as useful to writers as it is to people who strive to be healthy. If you’ve missed a work out, eaten an unhealthy meal, skipped a deadline, or failed horribly on a pitch, don’t dwell on it, move forward, and do better next time. As we work hard to reach our goals it’s easy to get sidetracked by the things we should have done instead planning the things we’ll do next. Don’t. Instead, give yourself a little time to look backward, then get back to work. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be a household name just like Walt.

(This is the first in a series of posts that focus on Walt Disney World, the location of the next Romance Writers of America Conference. I’m not just a rabid Disney fan, I’m also a former employee. I’ve had the honor and the thrill of working in the Disney Reservation Center where we booked all restaurant and hotel reservations. If you have any Disney questions, please post them in the comments.)
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

I've got a question - how do you push yourself to exercise when you're sick? Or do you? Should you?

I've heard arguments for both sides. I've read that your body needs a break when it's sick so it can focus on healing. And I've heard the arguments for staying in the groove and not letting yourself get out of the habit. I guess it depends on how sick is sick, right? A headache means keep on running. The flu, OMG please stay in bed. But what about things like miserable allergies or a cold, or something that isn't totally debilitating but still feels miserable? Do you exercise then? The Mayo Clinic says it depends on the symptoms. If they are located above the neck, then go workout. If they are below the neck, then take a break. Prevention agrees - a stuffy nose and itchy eyes or sniffles aren't enough to cancel the workout. But a chest cold or body aches? Skip it. I like their reminder for people who exercise at gyms, too! If you're contagious, don't do it.

This begs the question - who wants to exercise when they are sick? Its been my experience that when I'm sick, I feel crappy and don't want to do anything except whine and moan and be miserable *g*. But the reality is, exercise taps into those feel-good endorphins and can kick that whining and moaning to the curb, giving a burst of energy, too.

And what about eating? For me, at least, comfort food is necessary for the healing process -and comfort food never seems to be found on my healthy menu, ya know? Now, granted, the last thing I ever want to do when I'm sick is cook. But I'm more than willing to hand someone a recipe and look pathetic, hoping they'll make it for me *g* A quick google search found a bunch of healthy recipe makeovers, so I'm thinking eating healthy while sick is definitely doable. The trick is non-recipe comfort foods - and I can't think of any *g* How about you?

Do you exercise when you're sick? Or skip it? And what about comfort food? What's your favorite comfort food and how healthy is it?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday Workout

Are you ready for another Wednesday Workout?

But, first how are you doing this week? Are you taking work breaks?

This week, my workouts fell by the wayside. Between a bout with viral bronchitis, graduation parties, Father’s Day, and the end of the school year stuff, any uninterrupted minute was spent vegged out in front of the television. Not my best week. But, I'm ready to jump back into my routine today.. :)

However, in between my soap opera viewing (Anyone an All My Children fan?), I did stumble across, attempt, and enjoy this arm workout below… Check it out.

Don’t forget to stretch when you’re finished.

So, what did you think?? Did you try it out?

Happy Wednesday!

*Disclaimer – The author is not responsible for any loss or damages suffered from participating in any of the above-mentioned physical activity or links as she is not qualified at this time to suggest or recommend exercise programs. The author is merely informing readers of what she does. No one should ever begin an exercise program without consulting a doctor first.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Wii Fit

Today I'm happy to host a regular reader of Healthy Writer, Sally Kilpatrick. Sally has guested with us before, and we're thrilled to have her back. Today's she's talking about the pros and cons of the Wii Fit. Welcome, Sally!

First and foremost, let me say thanks to the Healthy Writers for letting me blog today. I’m inspired by everyone’s journey and the great tales they tell, and I’m learning some great strategies as well.

I’m writing today because I finally succumbed to the hype and bought a Wii and then, in short order, the Wii Fit. I can’t tell you that I’m now fit enough to model for Victoria’s Secret, but I would also have to confess that I let my fitness goals slide in the spring as I finished up my Masters. I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t be in worse shape without having had the Wii Fit to chastise me when I started getting too far out of line. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about it so far and then please chime in with questions and comments.

First the Cons:
• While some of the yoga and strength training activities are challenging, I can’t see getting a really, really good strength training session from the Wii Fit. Similarly, some of the cardio activities will cause you to break a sweat, but it’s nothing like a treadmill run or a stair climber binge.
• You have to turn the blessed thing on. Before I bought mine, I asked my best friend if she liked hers and/or found it effective. Her response? I suppose it would work if I used it. As in all things, discipline will be required.
• The electronic voices and trainers sometimes make me want to throw things at them. I suppose I’m better at suppressing the urge if it’s an actual human being who’s asking me to identify the reasons I’ve gained weight or who’s telling me I’m “a little shaky.”
• The suggested weights for women seem to be about right—the Wii Fit thinks a woman of my age (30-mumble, mumble) and my height (5’4”) should weigh 129, but the recommended weight for men seems to be skewed—163 for my husband who is 6’2” and has a large bone structure. Trust me when I tell you he would be way too skinny at that weight, and it’s not quite 30 pounds more than my recommended weight even though I’m much shorter than he is.

And the Pros:
• The Wii keeps up with your progress and throws electronic confetti when you reach a goal. Yay, positive reinforcement!
• As someone who had never done yoga before, I love the yoga program and now feel more confident about taking a class with the real people. The Wii Fit Plus “My Routine” is especially good for putting together a yoga program. You can also combine yoga and strength training.
• The aerobic activities as well as the Wii Sports package that generally comes with the Wii are a fun way to burn extra calories. (I love rhythm boxing, advanced step, and tennis.)
• Using the Wii Fit is a great way to supplement your regular routine and/or get a workout on a rainy day. When our treadmill died, my husband and I combined sets of stairs with Wii Fit activities, and it helped us break our respective plateaus.
• Some of the strength training exercises—particularly core ones like the traditional “plank” are quite grueling. And helpful. But mainly grueling.
• The Wii does help you with your form in yoga and strength training exercises as well as emphasizing posture and flexibility.

My conclusion?
I think Wii Fit works really well in tandem with an exercise routine that involves more vigorous cardio and strength training routines. I generally go to the gym proper on Monday and Wednesday and use the Wii Fit on Tuesdays and Thursdays—as long as that routine is going well, I see great results. I’ve also noticed recently that I do much better with smaller goals and more frequent “celebrations,” and the Wii Fit starts with two-week goals.
The Wii Fit might also be an excellent purchase for someone who is new to fitness and needs to work up to more strenuous exercises or for someone who either can’t pay a gym membership or who doesn’t live near a gym. Like anything else, some aspects would get boring, but the Wii Fit does offer a lot of variety.
Most importantly, the kids like to play balance games and do some of the aerobic activities so exercise becomes a family affair. We also like to play some of the Wii Sports games like tennis as a way to blow off steam or to burn a few extra calories if we splurge on dessert. Our newest obsession is the “Just Dance” game for Wii; trust me when I tell you MC Hammer will have you panting at the end of that dance routine. Of course, the kids have seen us fuss at our weight so much that my eight-year-old will say, “The Wii Fit is evil.” I don’t have the heart to tell him that it’s not the Wii’s fault that his mother has a chocolate addiction.

And now it’s your turn…
I’m looking forward to trying some of the Biggest Loser programs or the Jillian Michaels one. Does anyone want to share an experience with those programs or the Wii in general? Has anyone thrown something at the television because they stepped on the balance board and the voice said, “Oo” in that electronic mock-horror way only the Wii Fit can do? I’d love to hear your Wii Fit stories, and I’ll answer any of your questions that I can. Thanks again to all these lovely ladies, the Healthy Writers.
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Do I Keep Going?

I recently acknowledged that I have accomplished almost nothing in terms of weight loss this year. On November 17, 2009, I first hit 28.8 pounds down. This past Thursday (6/17/10) I weighed in at 29.2 pounds down. .4 of a pound is not a lot to show for more than 6 months of effort.

Yes, I did gain some weight in December and entered 2010 on January 5 at 26 pounds down. On March 30, 2010, I reached 33.2 pounds down and felt like 35 was just a week or two away. In actuality, it was a start of a couple of months stalled in a two-pound range between 31 and 33 pounds down that was broken by a two-week trip to California where I gained 5.2 pounds. On May 25, 2010, I was just 27.4 pounds down.

I need to figure out what I can do to continue to lose weight, but that is not actually the point of this post. I'm more interested in what keeps me going. Why am I still putting in all this effort when I can make a valid argument that I've barely lost any weight since last summer when I first hit 20 pounds down on June 23?

The brilliant group leader of my typical Weight Watchers meeting always says we need another reason besides losing weight to keep attending meetings and keep putting in all this effort. He often mentions that a lot of people actually lost weight at the last meeting they attended with the implication that success was not enough to motivate them to keep trying. Why do I keep going?

Promises and Planning: In my post Plan and Prepare for Success, I mentioned that I ask myself every so often: What kind of support systems and habits can I build into my life that will help me lose weight and ultimately maintain a healthy lifestyle? These support systems, habits and commitments I've made have saved me from the temptation of considering quitting or losing hope.

The diet and fitness promises I made to myself in the beginning of 2009 and renewed in January of 2010 to attend 45-50 Weight Watcher meetings and work out at least 100 times a year
ensure that I can't ever give up for long stretches of time. In August of last year, I started to blog at least weekly at the Healthy Writer blog, and that forces me to confront the emotions that may be holding me back on a regular basis. I'm also presenting a workshop on being a Healthy Writer with Tawny and Trish at RWA National in Orlando July 29th, and I want to be able to feel like I'm giving it my all and have accomplished a lot when I talk about my journey.

Clothing: I've blogged a lot about the total joy I feel when I can fit into smaller sized clothing and how I have donated all my plus-sized clothing and most of my size 16 and 14 clothing to charity. Whenever I gain some weight or even start longing for some of the outfits I've given away, I can start worrying about what will I wear if I go up a size. There's no way I'm going to buy a whole new wardrobe in a size I've eliminated in my closet. I can't go back. I can just keep moving forward wearing my newer, smaller clothes and perhaps dream about getting even smaller. I love the fact that I am now in regular sizes and can go into any department store and find flattering clothes that fit. I'm not going to lose that, and I'm fairly confident that if I gave up on my journey to becoming a healthy writer I would start gaining the weight back.

Appearance and Positive Body Image: I like how I look and feel better. I'm becoming more comfortable with the fact that my changed appearance can inspire a lot of reactions from people I've know a long time. The majority of the attention is positive, and I am better at handling it all now - even the negative reactions such as jealousy. It's not necessarily right that people are nicer and more interested in me now - particularly men - but that's how the world works, and it has its benefits.

I also like the fact that I am developing the ability to appreciate and even rejoice in my body. I spent a lot of years feeling guilty for being able-bodied, wallowing in the typical, female body image issues that can go over-the-top when you are overweight or worse, or just numbing myself out/being totally unaware of my body and what it was feeling. In the past 6 months to a year, I have gloried in what I've been able to do physically at the gym and have caught myself admiring how I look from the neck down in the mirror. It's very new, and it's nice. It's also something I don't want to lose.

The End of Self-Destruction: I know when and why food became an issue for me. I know why I first developed this coping mechanism that has me overeating to ignore or repress emotions or to comfort myself in a way that in the end does much more harm than good. I want to stop this pattern. It is ultimately so self-destructive, and I don't want to do that to myself anymore. As we've discussed before, self-destruction is not the best reaction to tragedy.

One of the many promises I have made to myself on this journey is to learn to treat myself as well as I treat others. This has meant I am to encourage myself as opposed to judging harshly or criticizing how I'm handling stuff. I may have occasional issues with food and eating for the rest of my life, but I want to make these healthy changes permanent. I need to follow my new healthy lifestyle for all its many rewards. I am fairly confident that I will eventually reach a healthy weight, and I plan to do my best to stay there for the rest of my days.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep trying - in your healthy living efforts and in your writing? Any advice for me?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at
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Friday, June 18, 2010

Prey animals

My harshest editor weighs only 4.2 pounds. He waits for me each morning, eager to read over my shoulder. Occasionally he stomps the delete key, erasing whole paragraphs and forcing me to rethink a scene. A grumpy old man trapped in the body of a cuddly bunny, he always thinks I could do better, start earlier, and write more. Except for this Monday, when he wasn’t waiting, already annoyed at my lateness. Instead he sat on his litter box, lethargic and unwilling to move. I raced to the call the vet, frantic at what could happen.

For those of you that don’t know a rabbit intimately, here are a few common aliments and their outcomes:

Illness Outcome
Pink eyedeath
Nose colddeath
Stomach upsetdeath
Torn Toe Naildeath

I’m exaggerating but only a little. Rabbits are prey animals. They make wonderful pets and great writing companions, but veterinary medicine can only do so much to extend their fragile lives.

Is your writing a prey animal? If you hit a stopping point in the middle of a new manuscript does the whole piece die? What if you turn out a clunky, poorly worded sentence, is that a cause for certain death?

Is your health a prey animal? If you find that running isn’t for you, does that mean you give up on all your plans to start exercising? If you can’t find a healthy breakfast do you kill the rest of the day by eating bad-for-you-food?

I can only do so much to keep my furry editor alive. Healthy food in the right amounts, a clean living environment, and lots of love will extend his natural lifetime from one year to ten times that amount. Thankfully, healthy writing doesn’t have short lifespan.

Writing can be made stronger, through classes and workshops, or just plain writing more. You can resurrect works that have lain nearly dead for years by getting a fresh pair of eyes to make suggestions. You may need to amputate bad scenes or even cut away everything but the healthy subplots, but there’s always something you can do.

You can do the same for your health by not letting yourself be stopped by little problems. It’s fun to daydream about how much weight you’ll lose and how fit you’ll look when you join a new gym, but don’t let those dreams go because the membership is too expensive. Don’t stop yourself from seeking out ways to get enough sleep, relax at the end of the day, or eat a healthy meal. Find ways around problems instead of giving into them.

As of Monday afternoon, my editor was waiting for our usual after-work rereading session. The tummy trouble brought on by indulging in sweets cleared up before his vet could work him into the schedule. I don’t know how many more mornings I’ll have with him, but I know I’ll work hard to make as many of them happen as I can, the same way I’ll work hard to keep my writing and my health.
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh, Really?

I read an article the other day in which a doctor stated that during menopause, women would (not might, not could - WOULD) gain 10-20 lbs.

Like it was some kind of guarantee.

It blew my mind. Not only because that kind of absolute statement seems incorrect, but because it's both emotionally dispiriting and physically discouraging. And, of course, it's not true. At least, not that I've seen since both my grandmother, my mother and my stepmother have all gone through menopause without gaining weight. Since all three are from different gene pools (my grandmother is my father's mom), I have to say it's pretty solid proof that the weight gain isn't a given.

Call me Pollyanna (okay, don't) but I've always believed that as long as you put your mind to something and worked hard, you'd see results (perhaps not the exact results you were aiming for, but still...) Its so negative to read or hear something like this. To me, its tantamount to saying "you have no choice, go ahead and give up".

Its along the same lines as someone stating that you're eating for two now, and you'll gain 50-60 lbs when you're pregnant. Yes, you'll gain weight. Yes, you need to eat to nourish the baby. But an absolute 'you'll gain this much weight no matter what', again, makes me feel defeated before I even get a fork in my hand.

Now, all that whining aside, I'm not trying to say that I don't believe that hormonal changes bring major body challenges. I totally do believe the studies that show that a percentage of women will have weight challenges during menopause (and during pregnancy). But I also see that as a warning, like bone density, that we need to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.

So I guess the bottom line of my blog today is that this article really irritated me (can you tell? I know, I'm usually so subtle).

So here's my question for the day - have you ever heard an 'absolute' and refused to believe or live it? Have you ever heard one and gave in to it?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday Workout: Should I Work or Workout?

Should I work or workout? This is a question I struggle with almost everyday. Sometimes I don’t want to give up thirty minutes I could use to finish a manuscript, squeeze in some publicity, or revise a piece I’m working on, to stop and exercise.

How about you? How do you make the decision to take a break and workout? And how can time crunched writers fit in a workout?

A few weeks ago, I came across this study about the health risks of not taking a break from work. Yikes… After I read the article, I literally stopped typing and began working in breaks and/or workout sessions because I realized if I didn’t, I could be halted for a long time with a health crisis.

So, today try to take a ten to thirty minute break and go for a walk or a run. In between or after your walk or run, try this leg workout - walking lunges.

Check out the video and link below for a step-by-step guide.

Here's another lunge step-by-step video with weights - LIVESTRONG's Lunges

What do you think? Do you like lunges?

Happy Wednesday!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Losing It with Jillian

Losing It with Jillian debuted a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't get around to watching the debut episode until last night. I was curious how Jillian could inspire and instill necessary lessons with these families in just five days when it's a miraculous thing to do it in five months during The Biggest Loser.

In the first episode, she worked with the Mastropiestro family in Wilmington, Mass., one that was only weeks away from the daughter's wedding. They were also similar to many American families -- full of excuses why they couldn't exercise of lose weight. Well, you know Jillian. She doesn't like excuses and pretty much calls BS on them.

Jim, the dad, had gone through gastric bypass surgery, but he was still obese. He, and the rest of his family, pretty much ate until they went to bed at night.

Michelle, the daughter, had undergone the same surgery, and even though she was at a healthy weight, she hadn't dealt with the underlying issues that had made her overweight in the first place. She still felt like the fat girl inside and lived in fear that the previous overweight version of herself was going to return at any time.

Agnes, the mom, had gained and lost more than 100 pounds an amazing seven times! Her body fat percentage was a stunning 56 percent. When she and Jillian went for a walk to talk about why, a very old hurt came to the surface. She and her husband had lost a baby boy after only a month of life 22 years before. Jim had never been able to talk about the loss, and so Agnes had suffered and grieved alone for all those years. Jillian helped the family finally open up and talk about that loss. This part was hard to watch for me. Not only was it incredibly sad, but it hit home. My mother lost a boy, stillborn at 7 months, four years before I was born. I have never heard my dad talk about him, and to my knowledge he has never visited my brother's grave since my grandmother was buried beside him when I was 10. Like the Mastropietros, our family didn't talk about this or many other issues. But the thing is, when you don't talk about things that bother you, they fester like an untended wound. Like Jim said, "If you don't talk about things, it doesn't get easier."

Jillian, in true Jillian fashion, got the family exercising immediately. Within five minutes, Jim and Agnes were ready to quit. That's when Michelle and her brother, Michael, went off and yelled at their parents. When Agnes said she was trying to ride the bike, Jillian shot back that "trying is planning to fail." That's an interesting quote. Maybe I'll put it up somewhere I can see it. Maybe I'll put it next to the one by Yoda from Star Wars: "Do, or do not. There is no try."

Jillian was appropriately disgusted by the family's eating habits. Even though Michelle knew what she was cooking for her family (fried, greasy foods with not a green vegetable in sight) were bad for them, she did it anyway to make them happy. "I'm an enabler," she finally admitted.

If you're wondering if five days with Jillian made enough of a difference in the family's life, the answer is yes. Six weeks later, at Michelle's wedding, the family made an impressive showing. Jim had lost 48 pounds and 10 inches off his waist. Agnes had lost 34 pounds and looked lovely in her mother-of-the-bride dress, something she'd worried about six weeks before. Michael had lost 25 pounds. Michelle, who didn't need to lose weight, looked radiant and seemed happier than she had when she'd broken down in tears in the gym while talking to Jillian about the fat girl inside her that haunted her.

I didn't record the second episode last week, but I plan to watch it online soon and will start regularly recording the new episodes tonight. If anyone wants to watch, it's on at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central.

Has anyone watched the show yet? If so, what did you think?
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Acknowledging and Working Out an Emotion: Loneliness

In last week's post, I wrote about long-term strategies to stop my emotional eating. A key paragraph from that post was:

I try to force these emotions to the forefront so I can figure out what they are, what is causing them, how and why they are affecting me, and how can I work them out. Basically, I have learned that unacknowledged emotions, particularly when they are negative, often drive me to overeat or binge. They’ll hurt me more long term if I ignore them than if I make myself go through the sometimes painful or uncomfortable process of acknowledging them, figuring them out and working them out. It is helpful to not judge myself through this process.

How do I do this? How do I acknowledge an emotion and work it out? It varies. Self-awareness is very important to this process, but serendipity can be as well. It can often start with reading, writing, attending Weight Watcher and even RWA meetings or talking with friends or
family. I try to pay attention to what resonates, and often, the greater my reaction the greater the emotion is tripping me up.

I have subscribed to Oprah's O Magazine for years. Reading it gives me a boost of positivity or optimism and plenty of ideas on how to improve my life. Each issue has a theme. Several years ago, I picked up my mail and saw that the theme for that month's issue was loneliness. I thought that was such a strange topic for a magazine. What could anybody write about that? Curiosity more than anything else
convinced me to pick that magazine up later that week and start reading it.

A couple of hours later, I closed the covers of that magazine having read it word-for-word, and I was shocked. Every
article on loneliness had resonated - even the one about a single guy and his cat. I just sat on my futon for a couple of minutes feeling lost and tried to process it all. This was not good. I had a new filter through which to view the past several years of my life, and I did not like what I could see. Some of the stuff I had even been proud of, such as my ability to go out to a restaurant and eat alone, did not look so healthy when I acknowledged how much I would overeat at those meals because I was probably feeling lonely. What should I do?

Luckily, the Martha Beck article in that issue was all about what one should do when she felt lonely, so the first thing I did was reread that article. She talked about levels of loneliness and what one should do at each level. I pretty much felt like I was at the rock bottom level and used her advice in that section as a starting point as to how to evaluate my current social life and make some positive changes. It was typical stuff - join groups centered on what you are interested in, do volunteer work, start reaching out socially, etc.

Figuring out what to do and implementing these changes did not happen overnight, and it was often uncomfortable. But, as Beck had said in her article, one can reach a point that maintaining the status quo is worse than making the necessary changes. So, I forced myself to think about what was wrong and right with my current social life, what had worked well with my social life in the past, and what I could do to recreate that.

The biggest problem with my DC social life at that point was all my friends were married, and some were even starting to procreate. Our lives were diverging, and these married friends were going to become less and less a part of my life and less like me. I had an active, online social life, but it was nowhere near meeting my social needs. (An interesting editorial on that topic can be found
in Saturday's New York Times.) It became obvious that I needed to make some single friends in DC. How could I do this?

The easiest places I'd ever made friends in my adult life were at school or at RWA meetings. Work, my closest equivalent to school, and RWA were full of married people, so I couldn't rely on those two groups to meet my social needs. I did reach out to single people at work and in RWA, but I needed to do more. I had to do what had been almost unthinkable. I
needed to go to singles events.

I did research online, again thought about what I had done in the past and remembered that I had gone to alumni groups in the past. I looked up the alumni groups for my undergrad school, my grad school and even my sorority, and started attending some of their events. It turned out there is an organization called Ivy Singles in DC and other major cities. To quote from the DC Web site, it is: "a coalition of Ivy League, Seven Sister and other prestigious schools' regional alumni associations that sponsors social activities. Our events are open to all single alumni of member schools and their guests. Most of our attendees are in their 30's, 40's or 50's, but all ages are welcome." This Web site also had links to other single groups in the DC area, and Single Volunteers looked really interesting.

So, I signed up for my first Ivy Singles event. I'm as much an introvert as the next writer. I hate walking into a room of strangers and having to socialize, but I have to do it for work, and I needed to do it for myself. I dressed up in a suit that I thought was the most flattering one I owned. It was a plus size suit, I weighed more than 200 pounds, I didn't expect to get a date, but I had to do something to improve my social life.

The first few minutes were tough, but it got better. One of the first people I spoke to was a 22-year-old recent graduate of Stanford. He had just talked to another woman whom he thought I should meet, and he introduced me to my new friend May. This reception just got ten times easier and gave me forward momentum to continue these efforts. I did some single volunteer projects and went to the next Ivy Single event and met even more new friends. The majority of the participants at these events did feel like they were in their 40's and 50's, so the late 20 and 30-somethings at this one started a list of "younger" Ivy Singles and started to plan alternative, free events. Eventually, I helped organize some of them. A few of my new "Ivy Single" friends introduced me to some of their other single friends. Slowly, I built a circle of single friends whom I greatly value.

With that base set, I felt comfortable reaching out socially in other places and started to do a high level of volunteer work in my local RWA chapter and built more ties there. Most of my closest adult friends have come from RWA because we seem to get each other. I've even heard an author call her RWA friends her soul sisters or soul mates. I needed more soul sisters in DC.

Through this process of acknowledging and addressing my loneliness, I learned how important my social life is to my happiness and well being. I need to be social. I'm willing to organize social events, and that helps so much. The photos in this blog are from my birthday last week. I organized a dinner with my single friends the night of my birthday (Friday, June 4) and an afternoon tea with my local female friends, married and single, over the weekend. I've done many things for my birthday. I celebrated my 30th by going to Italy with my sister, and I've done nothing but make up stories of how I celebrated with friends to tell my parents and sister so they wouldn't give me a hard time or feel bad for me. I'm much happier if I do something social to acknowledge the occasion.

Acknowledging and working out an emotion does not seem to mean that it will never bother you again. I'm sure that I've occasionally overeaten since I made my group of single friends in DC because of loneliness. Loneliness is a very real thing to many of my single friends, and we'll talk about it. I know what I need to do to ward it off. I even set an annual goal of doing at least 4 social things a month and touch base every so often to make sure my inner hermit has not come out and taken over my life temporarily. I'll occasionally ask myself: Are there other things I should do to maintain or improve my social life? I've dabbled with online dating and may try to do more there. Some of my beloved single friends are starting to pair off, and I may need to do some outreach to make more single friends. I'm slowly realizing that I may even have to go to some more Ivy Singles receptions and Single Volunteer events by myself to make sure I meet new people.

Yes, making sure I'm aware of whether or not I'm feeling lonely and whether or not I need to do more social things take work, but my life (and butt) are better for me making this effort. I do this same kind of work for other emotions. I realize that many of the followers of this blog are married and stories about loneliness may not resonate, but the process of acknowledging and working out an emotion that troubles you may be similar to what I just described.

How do you acknowledge and work out an emotion that may be negatively impacting your life? What works best for you?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at:
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Remember: You're in charge.

The characters in my latest work in progress are behaving badly. They started out just fine: two tough as nails cops, one from homicide, one from robbery. They loved each other but it turned to hate, and now the death of her partner means they had to work together. They fight a lot, snipping at each other over crime scenes, each feeling a romantic and sexual tension but refusing to acknowledge it. But some how they were holding hands, and she was crying, then he was remembering how it used to be and suddenly, after work, they went to the zoo.

The zoo?

Yes, that’s right, my two tough characters ended up eating ice cream cones and laughing at the elephants. I sat down to read what I’d written the day before and realized things had spiraled desperately out of control. Thankfully, as a writer we're in charge. We can always hit the most important key on the keyboard: delete. I deleted line after line: no more zoo, crying, or holding hands. No more mushy stuff, I edited it back to tough cops and heady tension. That tension will be resolved but not with my characters turning into two zoo going softies. That’s not who they are.

The same thing happened in my own life recently. An opportunity came up that I’d long hoped for. I’d daydreamed about how it would be and here it was, all coming true. Except… Not exactly how I wanted it, more than a few significant details were wrong. Yesterday’s daydream was about to become tomorrow’s nightmare. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do but to delete the opportunity from my life.

In your life, as in your writing, it’s important to remember you’re in charge. You’re the one with the pencil, and more importantly, the one with the eraser. You can ask for an opportunity, but then decide it isn’t for you. You can order the chocolate cake but then throw it away. You can write whole chapters and then decide they don’t work.

It’s hard deleting, tough to remove big chunks that represent hours, especially when they still hold a perfect gem of a phrase or the shining glimmer of possibility. Hard, but not impossible, and it's so important; good writing requires good editing. Healthy living needs it too, you can’t be everyone’s friend, take every job, or do everything all at once. So when you’re adding in a healthy diet or healthy exercise, remember to edit out the things that don’t work. Even if you wanted them once, if you thought they were everything you needed, sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is delete.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back At It.

I've had one heckuva month. A major deadline, changes to a book the last week before it was due, the end of school, testing, a trip to Vegas, line edits, writing two short synopses for previous books, and a few dozen other things.

In other words life.

We all have it happen. It's a given that things are going to get crazy from time to time. That we'll have intense stress and demands on our energy.

I don't mind that. What I do mind is that I let it derail my awesome exercise progress. For over 100 days, I'd exercised 6 days a week for at least an hour a day. I'd kicked butt. I was in the groove and even more important, I was in the habit. I didn't even have to think twice about whether I'd workout, I just knew I would.

It was a great feeling.

I miss it.

Because I know darned well that when I get up today (its midnight as I write this, so it'll be later when I get up *g*) I'm not going to be in the habit. I won't recognize the groove. I won't want to exercise and will care less about how great it'll feel after I'm done. I'll look at the big pile of excuses (laundry, time with the kids after 16 nights of no kid time, cleaning the pantry, prepping the yard for the new patio, etc) and try and talk myself out of exercising. I know I will, even though I know I need to get back to it. Because, I swear, it's harder to get started than it is to keep going. It takes a good solid month before its not hard for me to convince myself to exercise.

I hate that. I'll do it anyway, but I know I'll be cussing at myself the entire time because I fell off the wagon and have to start all over.

How about you? Do you have any get-going-again tips? Do you find it harder to get started than to keep going?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday Workouts

Welcome to the first edition of Workout Wednesday!

I’m so thrilled to join the amazing gang at Healthy Writers. As a former registered nurse, personal trainer, and health and fitness writer, I can’t wait to dive into the health and fitness world once again.

But, before I get started, I need your help. My goal is to provide you with Wednesday posts that are both inspiring, motivational, and align with your wants and needs.

So, tell me, what would you like? How can I make the most of your Wednesday Workouts?

Here are some suggestions, but please feel free to comment away and tell me exactly what you would like to see.

1. One workout per week

For example, next week I’ll focus on lunges, the following week I’ll talk about bicep curls, etc..

2. Ten-minute workouts you can squeeze into your day

For example, something that would work for working writers with little or no time to fit in workouts.

3. Share my own experiences with working out

Please, don’t be shy and comment away…. Help me to make Workout Wednesdays the best they can be. J

Happy Wednesday and keep writing!

Keri J

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Healthy Writer Weekend

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to dedicate a lot of time to my writing with some healthy ventures sprinkled in. Three members of my local RWA chapter and I rented a cabin at a state park, intent on getting away from it all so we could focus on making lots of progress on our various writing projects. Gretchen and Lara were working on new projects while Kim and I were working on existing manuscripts. Kim was looking to lengthen her book, while I was doing a complete read-through and editing of a young adult manuscript in preparation for more substantial revisions. We all wanted a couple of days away from the Internet, TV, all the responsibilities and distractions that awaited at home.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, unloaded the cars and talked a little about what we were going to do over the weekend. I'd planned to go for a walk by the lake that afternoon, but it came a
rainstorm that nixed that idea. Instead, we enjoyed a meal together then got to work.

Throughout the weekend, we'd set
the timer on the cabin's stove and we'd all go off to various corners of the cabin to work for the allotted time, then come back and sh
are how much we'd accomplished. This worked well since we concentrated on nothing else during those time slots.

On Saturday morning, I took that walk by the lake. It's a very pretty park, and though it was beginning to get a bit muggy, I enjoyed the scenery and the exercise. Then came breakfast and more revisions for me. It felt good to make steady progress.

During the afternoon, we took a break and drove to another part of the park to see the waterfalls that give the park its name. A kind gentleman took this picture of us with the falls in the background. From left: Gretchen, me, Lara and Kim.

Years ago, my husband and I walked down to the bottom of the falls, and even then, when I was probably in my 20s, it was a strenuous hike back to the top of the trail. So we didn't hike it this time because it was really hot and we didn't have enough time.

We drove to another beautiful spot, this overlook where you can see for miles. It was nice to just listen to the wind in the trees.

That evening, Lara fired up the grill outside the cabin to prepare dinner, and almost immediately a raccoon showed up looking for a handout and
determined to get the burgers. He finally gave up and went back off into the woods. He was only one of the critters we saw during the weekend. While I was sitting out on the deck working, a squirrel came to sit on the deck railing in front of me, the tamest squirrel I've ever seen. While Kim was standing in the one spot in the road where she could get a cell phone signal, a young deer wandered by. It all added to the peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.

We're already looking forward to another of these relaxing yet productive weekends in the future.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Was it a positive experience?
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Long Term Strategies to Stop My Emotional Eating

In previous posts I’ve discussed how I started to combat my emotional eating and some of the tactics I’ve developed to stop myself from giving into the urge to overeat or even binge. Another step I try to take whenever I feel like emotional eating is ask myself why do I want to do this. What emotions am I feeling that are encouraging me to overeat as a way to suppress them? Can I address these emotions? What is causing these emotions? Why am I upset? Can I figure out ways to address what is making me upset and work out those emotions? Can I change the situation? Can I change my reaction to the situation? Can I change my thoughts about the situation and eventually change my emotions?

I try to force these emotions to the forefront so I can figure out what they are, what is causing them, how and why they are affecting me, and how can I work them out. Basically, I have learned that unacknowledged emotions, particularly when they are negative, often drive me to overeat or binge. They’ll hurt me more long term if I ignore them than if I make myself go through the sometimes painful or uncomfortable process of acknowledging them, figuring them out and working them out. It is helpful to not judge myself through this process.

I do a lot of this working out of emotions by writing in my diary or writing blog posts for Healthy Writer. Examples of blogs where I tried to work out emotions so that I would not overeat include fear of success, the dark side of the holidays, can you take a break, what’s in a number, oh jealousy, is this for real, why can I still get so upset when I gain weight, and I still struggle at times...and that's ok. I also find it helpful to talk some of this stuff out at a Weight Watchers meeting or with friends or family.

In addition to learning how to acknowledge and work out my feelings, other long-term strategies I follow to stop my urges for emotional eating are guidelines 7 - 10 from my ten healthy guidelines for healthy eating and losing weight. Following these guidelines can literally stop my urge to overeat before it develops.

7) Develop Ways to Comfort Yourself Besides Eating

One of the ways I combat my emotional eating is to find other healthier methods to comfort and soothe myself so that I don't turn to food and overeat. Nature can soothe me. Escaping into a great book has always worked for me. Other ideas include knitting, exercise, meditation, listening to music, dancing around your living room to said music, attending church services, calling a friend on the phone, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, and doing something social with friends or family.

8) Enjoy the Benefits of Exercise

In his book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, David Kessler argues that the only 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. I have been trying to do this since May of 2009 and have had a lot of success with it. I've taken the time to figure out what exercise I enjoy and focus on the benefits I get from exercise as opposed to thinking of it as something I have to do to lose weight. I'm learning to really enjoy and appreciate regular exercise. I miss it, and the benefits it gives me, when I've gone too long between gym visits.

9) Determine Why You Started to Overeat and Address that Wound

I learned this guideline by watching The Biggest Loser. A set of questions that the trainers want the contestants to answer before they leave the ranch is: When did you start overeating and gaining weight? What was happening in your life at that time? How did you feel? It all builds to the question why did you start overeating. The trainers firmly believe that this is the most important lesson of all for the contestants. In order to reach their current state of being morbidly obese, these contestants had to have some serious emotional eating issues. They have to figure out why they started overeating so that they stop and finally conquer this issue. They need to face these emotions and work out some kind of resolution, or they'll just gain the weight back.

Realizing how and why the urge to overeat all started was an important step in learning how to stop or moderate this behavior. Once you know this original wound, you can heal it or at least face it and change your reaction to it. Forcing myself to go through this exercise has made a profound impact on my weight loss and my confidence that I'll be able to keep it off.

10) Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food

The key to figuring out what a healthy relationship to food is may be realizing what it is not and what you can't look to food to provide. It won't fix your problems. It won't fill a void in your life. It won't heal an emotional wound you are trying to ignore. Any comfort, soothing or joy is temporary at best. It won't make you happy. Figuring out what will is a much better long-term strategy than overeating.

Do you have any long-term strategies that help keep you from emotional eating or other forms of overeating?

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Falling down

I’m a runner. I’m not fast, nor graceful. I am not a thing of beauty and strength on two legs. I’m a runner who sometimes falls down. I have plenty of very good excuses why I fall, but that doesn’t stop it from happening.

You would think running is easy: left foot, right foot, repeat as necessary. But thanks to a stroke, my left foot often responds to the call to go forward by saying “Who me? Sure, yeah, I’ll get right on that…” And down I go.

The beauty of falling down often is that you learn it’s not something to be afraid of. It hurts, yes. You end up bloody and bruised, but the first steps up are the hardest. After that you’re mostly just embarrassed and a little ashamed you did something so silly. I learned that falls on concrete take longer to heal than falls on dirt, so I run in the woods.

There’s a tree along my route in the woods, one I used to hate but now I love. The tree stood as a marker. My first goal was running to the tree, then past the tree, and then to the tree, past the tree, and back to the tree. The tree talked trash to me in the beginning, long taunts of “You really think you’re going to make it? You’re already panting. I’ve stood here longer than you’ve been alive little girl. I’ve seen would-be runners come and go, and you’ll go. Trust me.” I cursed that tree for standing just ten feet away from where my breath ran out, just steps from where I had nothing left but acid in my veins and two collapsed lungs.

But after weeks that turned into months, a magical thing happened: I did run to the tree, past the tree, and back to the tree. Suddenly my tree was a symbol of what I had accomplished, a sentry standing firm over the spot where I proved I could do it. After that, the tree only told me good things, and when I fell it told me to get back up and try again.

My tree often repeats a Japanese proverb to me “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” When it thinks I need it, it quotes Batman Begins “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” When the winter ice makes it dangerous to visit my tree, I think about it missing me. As a writer I can be forgiven that flight of fantasy and I’ve often walked out to see that tree in snow and icy conditions when running is a very dumb idea, just to wrap my arms around it and remember how it felt to run to the tree, past the tree, and back.

Maybe you don’t fall down in the woods. Maybe it isn’t a tree that taunts you but a Big Mac. Maybe the voice inside your head belongs to someone who loved you but hurt you a little too. It doesn’t matter, falling down works the same way for everyone: it hurts but you get back up, brush yourself off, and start going again. You’ll probably limp for a few days. People will see your bruises and cringe. None of that matters. Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

In the mood to share? I’m always happy to hear about how someone picked themselves up from a spectacular fall.
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Thursday, June 3, 2010

There is Only One Way to Fail

I started this topic four weeks ago when I blogged about the 4 steps toward achieving a goal as outlined in Dr. Wayne Dyer's book, YOU'LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT.

1. Visualize
2. Tell yourself whatever you visualize is already here
3. Be willing to do whatever it takes
4. and Realize there is no such thing as failure.

Three weeks ago we looked at step 1 - Visualization. the next week week we discussed step 2- Having Faith. And last week looked at step 3, Being willing to do whatever it takes. That brings us to the wrap up - Realizing there's no such thing as failure.

This is a biggie for me, because my biggest personal fear in life is to fail. But after awhile, I've come to realize that as long as we continue working toward a goal, as long as we don't give up -we haven't failed. It's only when we stop trying that we can actually accept the label 'failure'.

Take writing, for instance. When I first began writing, I read tons of author success stories. Unlike many authors, I wasn't one of those that started writing young, or had always written. So I didn't have a natural foundation to build from, other than English and a couple creative writing classes in high school. So I studied the how-to's. I researched. I noted that the average length of time it took many authors to sell their first book was 4 years. 4 was good. I liked that. So I set a goal of selling by December of 2005 (I started writing in Feb of 2002). I wrote this goal on a bright purple index card and tacked it to the bulletin board above my computer monitor. I saw it every day when I sat down to write.

My four years were filled with ups and downs. I got requests, I got rejections. I won contests, I tanked in contests. I hired an agent, I fired that agent. I was thisclose so many times, it reached the point that it was emotionally debilitating to keep picking myself up after yet another... hmm, it sounds like failure would fit here, doesn't it. But no - I'll call it a miss instead *g*

In the fall of 2005, I was really close to wanting to give up. The line I'd been targeting had closed - right before they bought my book (an offer was pending). The agent I had such high hopes for didn't work out and firing her not only made me feel like a loser, the ire from fellow writers at my nerve to fire an agent when so many were trying to find one was horrible. I had my hands full with two kids, homeschool, my own business, and so many other things that demanded my time and energy and I wasn't getting anywhere - I thought -with the writing.

It was like our discussions here about weight loss. We do all the right things. We try, we put so much of ourselves and our hopes into success... and we keep hitting roadblocks. Or backsliding. Or just not seeing progress. That's how I felt.

That December, as I sat down to make my new year's goals, I took down my index card. I'd promised myself I'd give it 4 years. And the 4 years were up.

But... if I gave up, I'd fail. Did I mention how much I hate failure?

So I tacked that index card back on the board, justifying that 4 years wasn't until February 2006, after all, so I still had time. And in March, I justified that I was really close to and just needed to keep on trying. And in May I shifted my picture of Captain Jack Sparrow a little to the left so he covered part of that index card so I didn't have to be reminded of it.

And on May 29, 2006 I sold my first book.

But if I'd given up when things were so dismal and falling apart, that wouldn't have happened.

Our main focus here at Healthy Writer is on the health side -weight loss, exercise, nutrition. But we're writers and that can't be ignored. I've come to realize that just as hard as it was to deal with all those misses and ups and downs as I worked toward my goal of selling my first book, it'll be that hard to stay on track to reach my health goals. I never gave up on the writing. And I won't give up on being a healthy writer.

Because the only way to fail is to quit trying.

So... what do you think? Can you buy into the non-failure mindset? Did Dr. Dyer's 4 steps resonate with you?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Now that I've got that Village People song in your heads (mwahaha!), I promised to tell you what I've been up to the past week, a new adventure. Yes, I joined the YMCA. A couple of weeks ago, I toured both a gym and the local YMCA to see what each could offer me in my journey to becoming healthier and more fit. Each had pros and cons.

The gym was pretty cheap as it was an express gym (aka no classes), had a racquetball court and a cardio gym (a bunch of treadmills in a movie theater). I liked some aspects, but I was bummed about them not having classes.

Just down the street was the local Y. Here, the down side was the monthly fee being three times as much as the gym. On the plus side, they have several different classes (Zumba, Pilates, yoga, step, spin, etc.) and a pool where I could take swimming lessons. Since one of my goals for the year is to learn how to swim and I felt that the other classes would really push me past what I'd do on my own, I sucked up the extra cost and went with the YMCA. Hopefully, I'll sell some books soon so I won't feel so guilty about the cost.

I joined the Y last Tuesday, and I jumped right in by going to a Zumba class. Ten minutes in, I thought I was going to die! I started doubting that automatic monthly charge on my credit card I'd just authorized. I was dripping sweat, my face was beat red every time I turned toward the wall of mirrors, and I felt like a goob because it seemed everyone else in the class knew all the steps. Thankfully, I'd parked myself in the far back corner. But I kept pushing myself, wanting to see how much of the one-hour class I could endure before I passed out. Halfway through, I'd already drained the bottle of water I'd brought with me and had formulated plans to bring a much bigger one the next time if I lived to see a next time. I can't tell you how many times I thought about quitting, but I didn't. I kept watching the steps the really-enthusiastic instructor was making and trying to copy them. Somehow, I was able to push myself all the way to the end. As I walked (teetered?) out of the room, a feeling of accomplishment swept over me. I'd just survived an hour of really intense cardio workout. I even followed it up with a few minutes on a treadmill. I read somewhere that a person can burn up to 600 calories an hour doing Zumba. Not sure what I burned, but I at least sweat off a couple of pounds.

The next day when I woke up, my first thought as I tried to get out of bed was, "OMG, what have I done to myself?" My muscles ached liked crazy. I thought I might take a day to recuperate. I'd earned it, right? No! That was the kind of thinking that had propelled me into Overweight Land. So I looked at the daily class schedule and forced myself to a yoga class. Once again, ten minutes in I was having big doubts. I'm not limber by any stretch of the imagination, and I was so tired. My arms and legs just simply wouldn't do what I wanted them to do sometimes. But, again, I gritted my teeth and powered through. The stretching even helped with the sore muscles I'd acquired the day before. The yoga instructor said something about a buildup of lactic acid from the Zumba workout. Part of this new YMCA experience is to try different classes and see what works for me and what doesn't. I don't think yoga class is for me. I may continue doing some of it at home, perhaps looking up yoga workouts online. But I'm not much for the "woowoo", touchy-feely aspect of the class setting. That's just me. I know lots of people love it.

I've made use of the 30-minute workout cafe, which is set up similar to Curves, the treadmills, the elliptical and a bike. Yesterday, I had my first consultation with one of the wellness staffers, who showed me how to use several pieces of weight equipment and created a beginning program for me with specific reps, sets and settings on the machines. I'll be doing the weight training three days a week and cardio five days a week.

After I mark a couple more things off my to-do list, I'll inquire about private adult swim lessons. I may brave contact lenses again for the first time in 20 years so I can actually see while I'm in the pool. And I'll have to face the horror that is bathing suit shopping. But I'm determined to finally conquer this crazy fear of putting my head below water.
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Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Today, I've got a few exercise-related tidbits for you:

1. Watch tomorrow for a post about my latest exercise adventure. I'll endeavor to be witty as well as inspiring. :)

2. Now that The Biggest Loser has wrapped another season, Wednesdays are getting a new look here at Healthy Writer beginning next week. Our newest blogger, Keri Mikulski, will be bringing us Workout Wednesdays to get us up and moving this summer. I'm excited to read her first post!

3. I've been in culling/cleaning mode lately, whether it be scrubbing the bathrooms or culling old, accumulated e-mails. Michelle has sent me links to many wonderful articles over the last several months, and I've saved them with the intention of reading them when I had some spare time. So yesterday, I took the time to read them. This article from the New York Times has some very interesting information about research into the psychological link to exercise.

4. Remember, tonight is the first episode of Losing It with Jillian. I'm going to check it out to see if it's helpful and/or inspiring for me personally.

5. It's the beginning of a new month. What goals do you have for this month -- writing and health/fitness? I want to complete revisions on a YA novel and get it to my agent. Exercise-wise, I want to work out for two hours a day at least five days a week and at least 30 minutes on the other two days each week. I want to try to drop 5 to 7 pounds this month. Ambitious, yes, but I've been stalled out for so long that I'm going to really try to up my efforts and urge my body into a different gear.
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Monday, May 31, 2010

What is a healthy approach to eating during holidays and vacations?

In mid May I spent two, lovely weeks in California. The first, several days were spent in L.A. for an annual industry conference I attend for work. It's always a fun occasion that I anticipate, and one of its highlights this year was an exclusive party at Universal Studios Park with a free concert by Maroon 5 at the Gibson Theater. After the conference ended, my parents met me for a vacation in central California and L.A. We drove along the coast and stopped in many cute towns, went to Santa Barbara and Solvang, toured three missions and Hearst Castle in San Simeon, visited the Reagan and Nixon presidential libraries and San Luis Obispo's tiny historical museum, and spent a day along the piers and boardwalks of three, tony beach towns north of L.A. We also ate a lot. All my meals were catered or eaten in restaurants, and I did a fair amount of snacking at receptions, coffee shops, bakeries and even in the car.

I never approach a holiday, vacation or conference expecting to lose weight. I want to enjoy my life and all the many opportunities I have to experience new things. Food is part of that. I don't want to spend time worrying about counting points or fearing I will gain weight while on holiday. At the same time, I am very aware of all the hard work and effort I've put into finding ways to control my tendency to overeat and my weakness for emotional eating.

I'm not sure it is healthy that I seemed to ignore most of what I have learned about healthy eating during those two weeks in California. I was aware of what I was eating every day, and there were moments when I had pangs about how bad my portion control, snacking and meal choices were. Some days were better than others, but I did not have one "good" eating day where I stayed within my point/calorie count for the day. I didn't beat myself up about this, but I do wonder if I'd given myself too much latitude to overeat.

I knew when I approached the scale at Weight Watchers on the first Tuesday after I returned from California that it wasn't going to be pretty. I joked with myself that I hoped I hadn't gained more than 5 pounds, so I wasn't surprised to see I had gained 5.2 pounds. I didn't freak. My clothes still fit. It's not time to panic, but I didn't like to see that I'm now down only 27.4 pounds since 1/09, and I'm not particularly fond of how much I weighed that night. I can't change what I ate in California, and honestly, I had a really good time. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I do want to figure out if I should develop a different approach to holidays or vacations in the future.

Since January of 2009, I have gained weight during weeks with work conferences, holidays or vacations. I always lost that weight fairly quickly and went on to lose more. In fact, the last time I gained 5 pounds in 2 weeks was during August 2009, and that gain was what finally broke the exercise-induced plateau that had been haunting me for months that summer. It could be that this 5 pound gain is what will finally break this 3 month streak I had going of staying between 31 and 33 pounds down, and I will be able to start a several month long streak of losing weight. Naturally, I would have rather broken this (possible) plateau by losing weight, but I'll take whatever works.

All of this may be way too much optimistic spin, and I still don't know if I should change my approach in the future. While today is a day to honor military personnel who have died for their country, many also consider it the unofficial start of the summer. I have several more holidays and vacations to anticipate the next few months, the rest of the year and even this week. My birthday is this Friday. I plan to enjoy all my special occasions for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure I want to have any more five pound weight gains in two weeks during my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

What do you think is a healthy approach to eating during holidays and vacations? Do you have any tips for me for my next holiday or vacation?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Great minds have purposes, others have wishes. ~Washington Irving

I love this quote. It makes me focus my energy on my purposes - on a healthy lifestyle and a writing career. Purpose is action, wishing is inaction. So if I focus on purpose, I'm actively working toward these things instead of just thinking about them
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Letting Go

At our blog we talk about being healthy and often focus on categories like healthy eating and healthy exercise. Today the most important categories for me are physical and mental health. Mentally, I’ve taken a beating this spring. On the one year anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death I buried my best friend from college. A few weeks later my grandmother passed away. Now, as if that stress weren’t enough, I’ve started a new day job and in another month I’ll be moving.

My physical health is better than it has been in some time. Healthy eating is suddenly a habit to me. I remember my vitamins on more days than I forget and I regularly get enough sleep. Thanks to Trish’s challenge I’ve had a streak of running every other day going since late March.

That streak ends tonight. Tonight, I’m choosing mental health over physical health. I made the same choice this morning when I put caffeine in my body. I normally avoid caffeine and high fructose corn syrup. I consider both of them to be about the same as alcohol and cigarettes. Still, today, dealing with all that stress, I know they’re the lesser of the evils in front of me.

There comes a time when you realize some transition, some battle is so hard you can let the other things go. You have a moment when you pray for strength to get through something or ask yourself if you really can do it. At that moment, when the darkness is so deep that you think dawn will never come, I urge you to focus on one promise, to focus yourself, and let the others go.

I’m not telling you that every torn-stocking-missed-the-bus-forgot-your-lunch bad day justifies going off your diet. I’m not giving you license to skip your writing goal for the day because your car broke down. I’m asking you to look at your circumstances and decide if this is a truly stressful time where doing things, even healthy things, will just make the situation worse. I’m giving you permission to take stock of the situation, evaluate your priorities, and say no to some things. Free yourself from guilt, set a date to come back to the habits you set aside, and move forward, focusing on what matters most. Sometimes you have to let go, let yourself drift, so you can come back stronger and better.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Willing Are You

Three weeks ago, I talked about the 4 steps toward achieving a goal as outlined in Dr. Wayne Dyer's book, YOU'LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT.

1. Visualize
2. Tell yourself whatever you visualize is already here
3. Be willing to do whatever it takes
4. and Realize there is no such thing as failure.

Two weeks ago we looked at step 1 - Visualization. Last week we discussed step 2- Having Faith. So this week we're on to step 3, Being willing to do whatever it takes.

To be honest, its this step that always trips me up. I'm the queen of visualization. I'm great with the faith thing. But the what am I willing to do? I always think 'anything!'. But the reality comes down to something more like, 'what am I not willing to do.'

To lose weight, I'm not willing to have surgery. I'm not willing to exercise more than 1 1/2 hours a day. I'm not willing to eat meat. I'm not willing to get up early to exercise.

You see what I mean? Its so easy to make a not willing list. Its more realistic and honest than the willing list. Because while I say I'll do anything, I really won't.

But what if the answer is in one of those things I'm not willing to do? What if the secret to weight loss is exercising at 5am for 2 hours, and eating boneless skinless chicken with each meal?

You know, if I had a guarantee, I'd probably do the first two and find a way around the third. Because if it works, I'd do anything. Right?

I think the hardest part of being willing to do whatever it takes is figuring out what it is that it does take. To try, give it time, allow for failures and eliminate things that don't work. And really, to not give up. Which brings us to next week's step, of course.

What about you? What are you willing to do to lose weight? And what are you not willing to do?
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And the Winner is...

Michael Ventrella! Yes, the biggest contestant ever to step on a Biggest Loser scale ended up winning the latest season of The Biggest Loser. I have to admit, I wondered if Diane was screaming when he weighed in and it was revealed he'd lost more than 50 percent of his weight, making him the big winner.

The thing that struck me about so many of the contestants tonight wasn't so much their weight loss (though that was striking), but their attitudes about themselves. So many went from depressed and lonely and not feeling much self worth to wide smiles and confidence. Can you imagine the Michael of eight months ago trying to pull off a huge, shiny skull bell buckle?

Highlights of the night:

1. Daris has a very pretty girlfriend. This made me smile. And he was announced as the third finalist, based on America's votes.

2. Shay weighed in and revealed she'd lost 52 more pounds, which made her eligible for a check from Subway for $52,000. Only when Jared from Subway came out, the check was blank and he offered her another challenge -- train with him for the next year to run a marathon. Do that and they'd double the check. She accepted.

3. So many of the contestants looked wonderful, but I was particularly struck by Maria, Michael's mom. I still felt that when she left the show, she was in danger of not making the change in her life that she needed. I'm so happy that she's succeeded in her weight loss. She looked beautiful.

4. Cherita's willpower helped her lose 91 -- all on her own!

5. O'Neal practically running down the stairs when he was introduced. He has come such a long way from the man who could barely pull himself up stairs. And I love the enthusiasm his sons have for him and particularly their sister, Sunshine, who was rocking a very appropriate bright yellow dress.

6. Loved Miggy's new, short haircut.

7. Darrell, proclaimed the sickest man on the ranch by Dr. Huizenga at the beginning of the season, dropped an amazing 189 pounds and looks the picture of health. He took away the top percentage of weight loss from Sherry, who'd held it during most of the weigh-ins of the night. He eventually lost out the $100,000 at-home prize to Koli, but I still think Darrell's accomplishment is so much bigger because he had to do more of it at home than Koli did and because he improved his health so much. Not that Koli didn't make a huge change in his own life, but I think Darrell's health situation was more dire.

8. Ashley proved you should never underestimate anyone, especially a pink ninja. :) She came in second place, losing 183 pounds. And there's part of me that wonders if there's something more than friendship between her and Michael. Hmm...

9. I know Melissa wasn't a lot of people's favorite contestant, but I thought she looked smashing in her red dress tonight.

The percentages of weight loss were impressive tonight, lots of them in the 30-45 percent range. Some people still have a ways to go -- Migdalia, Drea, James and John come to mind -- but they're already well on their way. I wish all of the contestants well, whether they're still on their journey to their goal weight or in maintaining it.

What was your favorite moments of the finale? Who impressed you?

Note: Jillian's new show, Losing It with Jillian, debuts in the same time slot as The Biggest Loser next week. I'm going to check out the first episode to see what it's like and decide from there if I'll continue watching. I have a feeling I will. I need all the inspiration I can get.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Say hello to the newest member of my family...a 7-cubic-foot deep freeze. Now I am no longer dependent on my small refrigerator freezer to store precooked foods and food items that I might get on super sale.

Hubby and I inaugurated the freezer by freezing a giant pot of hubby's homemade vegetable soup. He takes it for lunch on some days, and when we're pressed for time or don't feel like cooking much, we can pull out some soup, toast some bread, and call it dinner. That's way better for us than zipping around the corner to McDonald's.

As you can see, the freezer started out containing only some meat and some prepackaged meals. Even with the addition of the soup, there's still plenty of room. But I've already noted some recipes in my Cooking Light magazines to cook in bulk and freeze. And I've requested a couple of freezer cooking cookbooks from the library. I also thought, what better place to ask about great, healthful dishes that freeze well than right here at Healthy Writer.

So, what are your favorite freezable dishes? Recipes, anyone? And what things have you found that don't freeze well?

I'm making another big health-conscious change this week, but I'll save that story until my post next week.

And don't forget -- the Biggest Loser finale is tonight! Who will win America's vote to be the third contestant in the running for the big prize -- Koli or Daris? Who will be the overall winner -- one of those two guys, Michael or Ashley? Who will win the lose-at-home prize? I'm anxious to find out and to be amazed by everyone's transformations.
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