Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Motivational Triggers

Last week, I talked about negative triggers that get in the way of our weight loss, good eating habits and exercise goals.

This week I want to talk about the positive side -Motivational triggers. Things that will have the opposite effect and instead help with weight loss, assist you in keeping your good eating habits and encourage exercise.

If you took a few minutes to track or recognize your negative triggers, you can see how the connection is made. Repeated behaviors, things you do over and over, create a trigger, a sub-conscious 'on' button that will elicit a specific behavior. Cool, huh?

So how can you use this? Create pre-meditated triggers.

Ask yourself what you want to trigger. Lets use eating breakfast as an example. Say you know that eating breakfast would be a healthy choice. You know all the smart reasons. But you don't 'like' breakfast. Or you don't have time. Or you just aren't hungry. In other words, you have plenty of excuses.

The first step is to set the excuses aside and plan to do it anyway. Look at them realistically and find answers to them.

Figure out what you like to eat and a way to make it available. It could be making something the night before, or earlier in the week, like an egg bake, that you can have individual servings ready to go (takes care of that time issue, since it's a grab and go). It could be pre-cutting up fruit into sealable packages, or buying (healthy, please) toaster waffles.

Then find the trigger that will work for you. It might take a few until one clicks.

  • Set the table with a pretty place setting the night before.
  • Get up an hour earlier, eat breakfast at your laptop while reviewing the previous day's writing.
  • Move your exercise to morning, eating something light before and a protein-rich meal after your workout.
Can you see the trigger for each new habit? The place setting, reviewing, exercising are all going to create connections that, if repeated, will create a signal to your sub-conscious, tying the behavior (seeing a pretty place setting in the morning) with the automatic reaction (sitting down to eat breakfast at the pretty place setting).

I created a trigger for exercise by doing a short, 15 minute Bosu step workout in the morning as soon as I get up -before I eat. Its not too long a workout to be difficult on an empty stomach, it burns more fat than if I workout after eating and it sets a signal. If I do this morning workout, I always follow up with my afternoon run. Always. I've told my body that I'm going to exercise today and my body knows that this beginning will be followed by the running ending.

It keeps me motivated to exercise, I don't even have to think about it, just get up, brush my teeth, throw on the exercise clothes that are waiting in the bathroom, strap on my heart rate monitor and plug in my headphones. It took me three weeks to create this trigger.

What about you? What is a healthy habit you'd like to create and what kind of triggers can you think of to anchor it? Can you think of at least three possibilities for each habit, just in case the first doesn't work?

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
Continue Reading...

The Biggest Loser

It looks like I'm doing the Biggest Loser summary again. Again, this won't be as good of a job as Trish does. I saw more than half of it, but my sister called, and it was on mute for a good period of time.

The former contestants who had been voted off returned, and two were allowed to stay at the ranch. It was sad to see how large some of the former contestants still are. The Brown team was particularly striking in that area.

To determine the first person who could stay, the contestants still on the ranch voted for who they wanted to remain. In a very touching move, three of them voted for Victoria to stay. You may remember Victoria was the daughter on a mother/daughter team (blue team) who lost the bike marathon race on the first show and was not allowed to stay on the ranch. The blue team competed at home with the yellow team (Sunshine/Oneal), who also were not allowed to stay on the ranch, to see who could lose the most weight at home. The yellow team won that contest. Basically, this is the first time Victoria will be able to stay at the ranch, and it was very sweet and moving to see everyone's reaction to that.

There was a 1,000-step challenge to determine the second contestant who would return to the ranch. It was a contest between 4 people, but red team's Melissa was the fasted to do those 1,000 steps and she beat Miggy, her husband and the pink team's mom to be able to return. She will make everything more dramatic. There were some mixed reactions among the contestants still on the ranch about how they felt about Melissa and Victoria returning.

Koli was trying to convince Ashley (daughter on the pink team - may have it wrong) that her roommate Stephanie threw her weight the week that Ashley's mom was on the chopping block. While I had the show on mute, there was much, much, much boo-hooing as the younger members on the ranch confronted and talked to each other.

Then, the big weigh in started. It seemed like the results were a little smaller than normal this week for The Biggest Loser, but they were still much larger numbers than that 1-2 pound healthy rate of loss that folks can expect at home. (And, I'm much closer to the 1/2 pound a week rate of loss.) The two folks who fell below the yellow line and faced elimination were Sam and Stephanie. They voted off Stephanie. It was still on mute, so I'm not sure of all the reasons why.

The where are they now moment at the end of the show for Stephanie was just beautiful. She went with a bunch of her friends to buy a beautiful dress for her 30th birthday party at the white/black market. She is now in a size 12 and looks very lovely. We saw her triumphant entry to her 30th b-day party, and she got to make a little speech about all the great changes in her life since she went to The Biggest Loser - she lost nearly 100 pounds, she's now a size 12, she fell in love (not sure with whom), lots of personal growth. Anyway, I found it all lovely and moving. I would have loved to shop for a size 12 dress for my 30th b-day. She hopes to be a size 8 by the finale of the show.

This was not the end though. A fan of the Biggest Loser was inspired by the show to try to lose some weight. He was morbidly obese and started at 674 pounds. He weighed in live and came in around 248. Yes, he lost more than 400 pounds. He seemed like a very unassuming, sweet man, and it was very lovely and inspiring to see how much he has accomplished.

Did you watch The Biggest Loser last night? What did I miss? Do you have a favorite contestant for whom you are rooting?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Great April Experiment

Only two more days until my experiment with more intense exercise and calorie counting. Beginning this Thursday, I will be devoting four hours per day to exercise. I will be strict with my calorie count, and I'm going to keep track of my measurements. It's like my own mini version of The Biggest Loser. I'll chronicle my progress here each Tuesday, and I'm hoping that it will be productive and inspiring. This comes at a good time because I've been traveling for two weeks now, and though I haven't seen a big weight gain (probably because of the amount I've walked), I can feel the need to get more strict with both exercise and food intake.

Since it's spring now, my activity options have opened up. There's the yard to be mowed and flower beds to be weeded. Walking outside is always more fun than on the treadmill. And that feeling of renewal and happiness that comes with spring and warmer, longer days fuels the desire to better oneself. So that brings me to my question to you all -- what fitness/health goal would you like to set for yourself in April? Share them in the comments, and each Tuesday tell us how you're doing. Stating a goal publicly and reporting in regularly are proven ways to meet those goals, and we want to see all of your meet those goals on the road to being a healthier writer.
Continue Reading...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Is This For Real?

I am now heading towards having lost 35 pounds since January 2009 and 45 pounds from my highest weight ever, and that just amazes me. I can’t believe what I have accomplished. It’s astonishing. Is this for real?

The problem with asking is this for real is that there is a little voice in the back of my mind that sometimes answers no. It’s not. You are right to doubt this. Come on, do you really think that you can continue to lose weight and keep it off once you reach your goal weight? Get real. The real, fat Michelle will come back out and make sure you return to your obese state, where you were for more than ten years and where you really belong. Why do you think this time will be different?

I’m not swamped by these doubts and negative emotions, but they are there at times. Given that I am an emotional eater and can let unacknowledged emotions self-sabotage my good intentions and induce me to overeat, I can’t ignore these thoughts and feelings. This disbelief can also grow when I’ve had a stretch of time when I’ve not lost weight or even when I recognize that I’ve been backsliding a little and eating more while moving less. That pretty much describes where I’ve been in the past month or so.

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into Weight Watchers and found out I had gained .2 of a pound. That’s nothing to get upset about, but it was the third week in a row of fairly negligible movement on the scale. I was getting set up for my doubts to grow.

I walked into the meeting, sat in my usual spot and noticed a newcomer in the front row. She was slender and was wearing a pantsuit that I liked and could see myself wearing. She had a similar hairstyle and was probably in her 30s. She screamed professional and in many ways, she reminded me of myself. I thought she might be a big shot from Weight Watchers there to observe the meeting. She was way too thin to be there to lose weight.

It turns out that she is going to be a group leader, and my brilliant group leader is mentoring her for a few weeks. As part of this process, she conducted part of the meeting and shared her weight loss journey. I almost cried.

When she walked into Weight Watchers for the last time several years ago, she was attending one of the best colleges in the country. She had a handsome husband and an active, good life. She was successful by almost every measure of success, but she could not control her weight. She could control everything but the weight. She could accomplish just about every goal she set for herself, but she could not lose the weight. Her rock bottom came when she had to get bigger clothes for a nice vacation because nothing she owned fit anymore. Pretty soon after that vacation, she began her weight loss journey. Now, she is 45 pounds down from her highest weight and lost 35 through Weight Watchers. Do those numbers sound familiar?

Her talk gave me chills, and I could have cried if I let myself. I had a strong, visceral reaction to this. It wasn’t as strong as the one to the Fear of Success talk, but it stands out as the second strongest reaction. I’ve heard much more dramatic weight loss stories, but her story could have been mine.

She could have been talking about me. I don’t have the handsome husband, but I have attended one of the best colleges in the country and succeeded in many other areas. With all that success, I had still been haunted by the fact that I could not lose the weight no matter how much I could succeed in other areas of my life. My most successful attempt ever in terms of weight had started in January 2009, and I had lost about the same amount as she had: 45 pounds from my highest weight and about 35 with Weight Watchers.

And, now, I was staring at a woman who had lost the same amount I had, and it challenged those little doubts I’d been having lately over whether my weight loss journey was for real. It forced me to see just how dramatic a 35-45 pound weight loss could look when I compared her current appearance to her before photos. I couldn’t help but ask was the difference as startling in me. Why wouldn’t it be?

Her story could have been my story, and hers had a happy ending. She has been at her goal weight for three years and has managed to keep it off. If it is real for her, why can’t it be real for me?

Just in case I had missed the lesson I needed to learn that night, it was reinforced again before the conclusion of the meeting. A newer member was complaining that it was hard for her to keep going because she couldn’t really believe this time would be any different from her previous failed attempts to lose weight. The group leader said that this time would be different. He then turned to look at me and asked, “Right, Michelle?” I nodded in agreement.

Yes, this time is different, and it is for real. I’ve added the woman who reminded me of myself to the unofficial list of success stories I keep. Collecting other people’s success stories gives me hope and helps me believe that I really can lose this weight and keep it off. They can inspire me to believe I can do it and think about how I can make my journey to becoming a healthy writer a success. Forcing myself to confront and analyze what happened to me, how did I gain the weight, what behaviors made me gain weight and in turn what behaviors made me lose weight ultimately give me more confidence that this is for real.

What do you do to encourage yourself when you start asking is your weight loss success for real? How do you find ways to encourage yourself when you start doubting the possibility that you can lose weight?

Continue Reading...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Inspiration Sunday is a series at the Healthy Writer blog. Every Sunday, we post a quote, anecdote, fact or other item that will inspire you to keep moving forward on your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

-Reinhold Neibuhr

Let us know what you think of this prayer, this series, and if you have any suggestions for further items to be shared here.

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
Continue Reading...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More Comfort Food

I'm finding the maintenance part of weight loss a challenge. Being able to have a little of something, or a bit of everything, has brought up a whole new struggle. Portion Control. So, I've returned to weighing and measuring my portions so I can keep myself aware of how much I'm eating.

This past couple of weeks I've tried out some healthy recipes for Macaroni and Cheese. The following turned out well. But, I did cut the recipe in half so I wouldn't be tempted to eat all the leftovers.

Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 8
WW Points 6


-12 oz uncooked macaroni
-1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
-12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
-8 oz low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
-1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
-1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
-1/8 tsp nutmeg
-2 Tbsp bread crumbs
-2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese


-preheat over to 350 F
-cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and pour into large bowl. While pasta is still hot, stir in sour cream. Set aside.

-heat milk in saucepan over med. heat until tiny bubbles appear jsut around the edges. Reduce heat to low, add cheddar cheese, and simmer, stirring constantly until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mustard and spices.

-add cheese mixture to pasta and mix well. Transfer into a casserole dish

-combine bread crumbs and parmesan and sprinkle mixture over pasta.

-bake about 30 mins.

-a serving is 1 cup, but you should be able to just cut it into 8 pieces.

Anne MacFarlane is an unpublished writer from eastern Canada. You can visit her blog at Read about her weight loss journey and see before and after pictures at Soon To Be Skinny Me.
Continue Reading...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yoga: The Right Exercise for Me

By Elaine Fox

I knew yoga was the right exercise for me when one of my early teachers passed on this favorite yogic maxim: “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

Like any woman with normal body obsessions, I’ve done my share of exercise videos and aerobics classes; I have a closet full of free weights and stretchy elastic bands; and I’ve wasted my share of gym memberships. It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I learned there was something out there for which I did not have to make deals with the devil in order to go. I did not have to motivate myself with the fact that I’d feel better afterward. And I didn’t have to grit my teeth to get through it.

I remember early on lying in an incredibly comfortable reclining half twist, feeling my body melt into the mat as my lower back released and my spine stretched and my brain sank into tranquility, thinking, “This is nice, but am I getting in shape?”

A few short months later I was noticing how much more comfortable my jeans were, how my arms had muscles I could actually see (though not in any gender-bending way), how much more energy I had.

I graduated from the sheer, blissed-out stages of early yoga, where I reveled in the fact that every pose was followed by a rest and every challenge was doable, to get into such things as headstands, backbends and power yoga. I have sweated so much I could feel it dripping from my earrings and landing in rainy-day patterns on my mat. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that yoga is not aerobic!

But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be. To start out, all you have to do is move. Just a little. Just in this way that feels good.

I could go on and on about all the positive changes I’ve seen in myself -- I’ve become quite the yoga zealot -- but here’s what it means for writers: It means sitting in a chair for hours at a time does not leave you doomed to pull a muscle or throw out your back when you suddenly have to do something active. It means those aching neck and shoulder muscles can be unknotted, stretched out, loosened up with just a once-a-week class. It means focus and concentration can be practiced, learned -- achieved! -- and used in your daily work.

But most of all what it means is that all those neuroses, all those head-centric, mind-wearying, running around in plot circles problems, and the is-my-career-doomed-to-failure worries can be soothed by using the body. I always knew you could use the mind to relax the body. I had no idea you could use the body to relax the mind.

What a revelation! You don’t have to think your way out of everything. You can stretch, breathe, lift, breathe, hold, breathe, and finally lie down in corpse pose (really!) and know that your only task is to stop thinking. After a while you realize that this process will bring you back to writing in shape to be more productive than you’ve ever been.

(P.S. I would like to add one last thing. Many people take one yoga class, often at a gym, and end up with a teacher who treats it like a high school football practice with the goal of making the participants suck it up and sweat, stretch beyond their means, and try things their bodies can’t do. This is not yoga. Yoga should feel good and get progressively more challenging when you decide it should. I recommend going to an actual yoga studio for classes, because the teachers there are generally more schooled in yoga philosophy, but some independent teachers are good too. Just don’t decide you hate yoga because you got an instructor who tried to kill you. :)

Be sure to visit USA Today best-selling author Elaine Fox's site here.
Continue Reading...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

All those Triggers

Have you ever been hypnotized? There is a tool in hypnosis called triggering. This is used in a variety of therapies as well. Basically, it's creating a connection between actions, or between an action and a message.

Negative triggers are ones we often develop over time, and are usually unaware of.

Reaching for sweets when we feel hurt. ("Here, baby, have a cookie while momma puts a bandage on that skinned knee.")

A soda and large popcorn - with butter - at the movie theater. (We've ordered it so many times, we don't even thing twice. And the popcorn is halfway empty by the time the previews are over.)

A donut at the monthly writer's meeting as we chat with friends. ("What? I always have a donut. Its only once a month and everyone else is having one.")

Bailing on exercise when we've had a bad day. (Sure, we know it'll probably make us feel better. But the first day it happened in our exercise commitment, it was easier to collapse on the couch with the excuse that the day sucked and just be done with it. The second sucky day was even easier to justify. By the fourth one, we just head straight to the couch, no justification needed.)

A bad number on the scale, despite dedicated, hard work toward losing weight. Its so hard to do everything right and not see results. This is one of those purely emotional triggers, and this number on the scale often pushes us to throw up our hands, cuss and give it up. After all, we did our best, didn't we?

Usually, we don't even hear ourselves make the decisions for these choices. They are simply habits. Habits triggered by circumstances and whatever emotional tie we've created over time.

How do we break triggers? The first step is awareness. The second is interruption. The third is consistency.

Think of an unhealthy habit and try to figure out the trigger for it. Say the movie theater popcorn, soda (and sometimes redvines, right?). The movie is the trigger for the junk food. This is awareness. Now find an interruption. For me, I knew I didn't want to give up the popcorn, so I pop my own and smuggle it in my purse (shhhhh). For you it might be a smaller soda and popcorn. Or water instead of soda. Or... well, figure out what works. Now -as you start to place your order, interrupt the habit and replace it with the new one. Less junky movie-snacking. The consistency part is pretty much self-explanatory, right? *g*

The most important thing, though, is to be very aware of why you want to change the habit. What's your motivation? Is it strong enough to overcome the trigger urges? If it isn't, you need to find a stronger motivation or avoid the situation until you're able to control the urge.

Next week, I'll talk about motivation triggers and how to create positive triggers that can help you make healthy choices, push you to exercise and inspire you to stick with your program.

So... what are some habits you have, and do you know what triggers the bad choices?

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
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Headed for Home on The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser contestants experienced a week at home during this week's episode. It's always interesting to see how their families and friends react to the changes in the contestants and how the contestants fare weight-wise after a week back in the real world. But what would The Biggest Loser be without a twist? After arriving home, each contestant learned a large wooden crate had been delivered ahead of them. And when they opened them, they found stationary bikes and a video from Alison telling them they would be riding the marathon again, this time in front of the same family and friends in front of whom they'd done their initial weigh in. And the prize was $10,000. To complicate matters, the contestants also had cupcakes they could eat in order to add time to their competitors finish times.

Poor Sam got the most cupcakes against him -- enough that even though he won the race, he ended up in 8th place. Lance was the contestant who ate the most cupcakes at 17. At 100 calories per cupcake, that's an extra 1,700 calories he had to work off. Koli came in second place, and since no one had eaten a cupcake against him, he won the prize.

A heart-warming moment was when the cameras following Daris showed him out on a date with a girl who'd previously been just been a friend. Considering his pre-ranch video in which he said he'd never been on a date and never kissed a girl, I was so happy to see this change in his life.

The weigh-in saw some significant and powerful moments. O'Neal went below 300 pounds. Daris went over 100 pounds in weight loss. Stephanie lost 9 pounds, huge compared to her recent loss numbers, and left the 200s behind by hitting 199 pounds. Michael lost 8 pounds despite having to go home another time when he got the call that his grandmother was possibly nearing the end of her life. He was proud of his weight loss because he feared the stress would cause him to not lose or even gain. His mom, Maria, told him that he had to focus on his health because his grandmother's weight was what had led to her severe health problems.

The night's biggest losses were Sam with 14 (this guy is a machine!), Ashley and Koli with 10, Stephanie with 9, and 8 each for Sunshine, Lance and Michael. The black team, led by Sam and Ashley, finally won a weigh-in by posting a combined loss of 3.86 percent, which bested the blue team's 2.58 percent. Thus, blue had to vote someone out, and it ended up being Lance to go home despite Daris having the lowest loss with 4 pounds lost this week.

What were your favorite moments from this week?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Let's Play Portion Control!

I'm on the road back from Florida, so I thought I'd post a quick, but fun and informative, post today. We've talked about portion control and its importance quite a bit here at Healthy Writer, but did that information sink in? Can you apply it when it's staring you in the face? Take this quiz to see how you do and report back your results. While you're taking the quiz, be sure to read the little boxes of information that pop up after you've answered each question. For the record, I scored a 48.
Continue Reading...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reward Yourself!

About a year ago, I finally passed the ten-pound loss mark. It was an exciting milestone. Yes, it took me nearly 3 months to lose those 10 pounds, but it was the fastest 10 pounds I'd ever lost, and I know I can be a slow loser. I’ve even accepted that I can’t or won’t lose weight fast. In 2009, I was prepared to give it my all for a whole year to lose weight and accept whatever results came my way. I didn’t let how long it took me to lose those 10 pounds ruin my feelings of happiness at the accomplishment.

I wanted to acknowledge the achievement, celebrate the accomplishment and reward myself. In the past, I’d often used food as a reward. Going out for a nice dinner with friends did not feel like an appropriate way to celebrate losing weight. I also knew I needed to change some of the habits that had helped me gain and maintain my obese status. I needed to come up with another way besides food to reward myself.

I decided to go buy some new make-up. A year ago, I’d almost run out of it. I had a little bit of powder, a brown eyeliner, very old mascara and a couple of lipsticks left. In 2008 and perhaps even 2007, I’d really stopped caring so much about my appearance, and replacing make-up was not a priority. I’d stopped wearing it to work. In fact, it was getting so bad that I wasn’t bothering to put my contacts in half the time I went to my office. Given the fact that I always feel much, much less attractive or even worth acknowledging when I wear my glasses, I was really wallowing in some bad vibes about myself. I’d given up on my appearance in ways that were not healthy or any good for my self-confidence level.

Going to the mall to replace all my old make-up was a great way to celebrate this new effort in caring for myself. As I’ve continued to lose weight, I’ve started to pay more attention to my appearance. This has helped increase my self-confidence, and I’ve kept it from crossing the line into an unhealthy or harsh and judgmental obsession with how I look. Around the 15-pound loss mark, I started to shop for new clothes as a reward.

Over the long haul, I’ve found passing a 5-pound milestone (20, 25, 30 pounds down) or a 10-pound milestone such as getting into the 180s from the 190s was enough of a reward on its own. I then started to reserve the rewards for when I was feeling fat or discouraged about my journey to becoming a healthy writer. I’ve been known to go straight from a Weight Watchers meeting where I found out I had a gained a little to an Ann Taylor Loft to buy a new pair of pants that would not have fit a month prior.

Even just trying new clothes on at my favorite stores and getting into a smaller size could be a reward or a way to encourage myself. I don’t have to buy the clothes to get the thrill. Sometimes when I’m down about my last weigh in or feeling discouraged, I’ll walk over to Ann Taylor at lunch and try on some outfits that catch my eye. Yes, sometimes I buy them, but I often don’t, especially if it’s not a good price. I just admire myself in smaller clothes in the mirror and acknowledge all that I’ve accomplished and what I will continue to accomplish if I keep going.

I’ll also do this at home. I’ll go to my closet and pull out a favorite piece of new clothing or an outfit I’m still working on getting into. I’ll put it on and acknowledge how good it looks on or how much closer I am getting to it fitting. I’ll also hold it up and force myself to acknowledge how small the clothing looks and that I now can fit into it; therefore, I’m small.

It also helps to look at clothing in sizes that used to fit but are now too big. It is thrilling to put on a 12 or 14 that is very roomy. I've given away most of my too big clothing, so I have to go to the stores to find 16s or plus-sized clothing. Saturday I walked into a Lane Bryant, formerly one of my favorite stores, and hunted down a pair of size 20 plus cropped pants. I held it up to myself, and I was about half that size. I could wrap it around my body, and I do think I might have been able to step my entire body into one leg. I wore a pair of size 20 shorts for many years. It was kind of amazing stuff to think about as I looked at those now way too large pants.

These kinds of rewards really help me feel good about myself and keep moving forward.

Do you use rewards to keep you going on your journey to becoming a healthy writer?

Continue Reading...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Inspiration Sunday is a series at the Healthy Writer blog. Every Sunday, we post a quote, anecdote, fact or other item that will inspire you to keep moving forward on your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

"If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place."

-Nora Roberts

Let us know what you think of this quote, this series, and if you have any suggestions for further items to be shared here.

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
Continue Reading...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Expanding My Cooking Repertoire

I am in the fifteen month of what I now can call a lifestyle change without fear or the urge to choke back the words. To help me succeed on my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer, I often ask myself how can I keep my efforts satisfying and fun. One of the ways is to play with cooking and change up what I eat. I'm always trying to expand my cooking repertoire while focusing on making healthy yet delicious meals.

I've struggled with weight most of my life and really started to lose that battle around the time I was 20 or 21. When I first started to build up my cookbook collection and form my cooking habits, I was already in Weight Watchers (WW). Most of my cookbooks are from WW or are labeled healthy or low fat. Other helpful sources are the American Heart Association (AHA) or Cooking Light.

While I have a set number of recipes that I know I really like, I like to keep things fresh and experiment with new dishes on a regular basis. Cooking one day for the month lets me increase my meal variety every week too.

Last year, I dabbled a bit more with vegetarian cooking. I found a lot of appealing recipes in my AHA One-Dish Meals cookbook and several WW ones. I enjoy watching cooking shows, and Christina Cooks is getting me to the point where I might attempt some vegan meals. I have no intention of becoming a vegetarian or vegan, but experimenting with both adds a lot of variety and even fun to my diet.

My favorite vegetarian recipe from the AHA One-Dish Meal cookbook is:

Lentils Bourguignon

Serves 5, 1 2/3 cups per serving

2 cups robust red wine (burgundy preferred)
2 medium onions, chopped
5 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons no-salt added tomato paste
6 ounces button mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 medium carrots, thickly sliced
2 medium ribs of celery, thickly sliced
6 cups water, or 3 cups water plus 3 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth (I often use all broth because I don't have huge sodium concerns.)
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped (often use can of diced tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, sorted for stones and shriveled lentils and rinsed
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a stockpot, cook the wine, onions and garlic over high heat for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid part is reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Add the tomato paste, stirring until dissolved. Stir in the mushrooms, carrots and celery. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients except the salt, Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all excess liquid evaporates (no liquid should be pooled, but the bottom of the pot should be wet) and the lentils are tender. Stir in the salt.

Per Serving:
Calories: 435, Total Fat: 1.5 g (Saturated: .5 g; Polyunsaturated .5 g; Monounsaturated 0 g), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium 298 mg, Carbohydrates 84 g, Fiber 24 g, Sugar 13 g, Protein 23 g.

This is such a substantive, filling dish that I often get more than 5 servings from it and adjust my calorie/point count downward accordingly.

Expanding my cooking repertoire includes experimenting with foods I've never eaten. Until I tried to learn new areas of healthy cooking, I never knew how much I like lentils, barley, quinoa, oatmeal, other whole grains, and new-to-me vegetables such as kale or fennel. Honestly, I think I'm becoming a food freak. I read with great interest about cooking with whole foods, sustainable farming/local eating, the evils of processed foods and other ideas advocated by Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and others.

As I've learned more about nutrition and cooking, I've become more comfortable with using cookbooks or watching cooking shows that aren't stamped safe for diets. Julia Child's cooking shows have a lot to teach people who really value healthy cooking. I can identify the recipes that will not increase my calorie intake for the day, and I now know how to make healthier substitutes to keep the dish in the right calorie or point range for me to continue losing weight. Here is a recipe from the classic Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Lentil Stew

1 cup dry lentils
1 cup sliced leeks or chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
4 cups beef broth
1 7.5 oz can tomatoes, cut up (used small can tom. sauce)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano, crushed (used both)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped carrot (increased to one cup)
1/2 cup chopped celery (increased to one cup)
1/2 pound fully cooked smoked sausage links, sliced (used turkey or low-fat kielbasa)

Rinse lentils and set aside. In a large saucepan, cook leeks or onion and garlic in hot oil till tender but not brown. Stir in lentils, beef broth, undrained tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme or oregano, pepper, cumin and bay leaf. Bring to boiling and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add carrot and celery. Return to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes more or till lentils and vegetables are tender. Stir in sausage and heat through. Discard bay leaf. If desired, garnish each serving with snipped parsley. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

Yes, I really like lentils. I also really enjoy the flavor that meat adds to this dish. I'm learning the value of balance and all things in moderation.

Expanding my cooking repertoire sometimes means taking the time to look at my collection of cookbooks and taking down one that I've barely used. I discovered an old gem that way. The Professional Chef's Techniques of Healthy Cooking from The Culinary Institute of America was published in 1993, and many of the recipes serve 10 or more since it's aimed at restaurant chefs. While I have not made (or maybe even any) of the recipes, I have found this book incredibly useful for its nutrition guidelines, information on how to improve the nutritional content of meals while preserving taste, and step-by-step instructions for healthy cooking techniques. It gives me more skills to create my own meals and recipes, another way I'm expanding my cooking repertoire. In my next healthy cooking post, I'll share one of my first creations - a yummy sausage and veggie pasta sauce.

How do you keep your cooking fresh? Do you have any suggestions for how I can expand my cooking repertoire? Are there any cookbooks or cooking shows that you highly recommend?

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
Continue Reading...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let’s talk about Stress, Baby

Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
and the bad things that may be
Let's talk about it
-- Salt-n-Pepa, “Let’s talk about Sex”, 1991, London Records
On sunshiny spring days when you get enough sleep, you don’t have a deadline to worry about, and nothing disturbs your routine, being healthy is easy. You can exercise with no trouble. You have enough time to prepare a healthy meal. You get a chance to unwind with yoga before going to bed. Those steady bread-and-butter days help you meet your weekly writing goal, keep your calories in check, and let you conquer the world.

But stress happens. Good and bad events tax your body causing a physical reaction to emotional events. Good friends die in car accidents or the taxman tells you to prepare for an audit. You move to a new house or get a new puppy. What do you do then?

I’m going to ask you to do something a little uncomfortable and think about the stressful events that are coming up in your life. The plotters will have it easier than the pantsers, but everyone should be able to see the good and bad things that could happen in their future. Maybe your child will graduate from high school soon; maybe your car is making a noise that means a big repair bill. How will you deal with the stress those events bring?

Say you finally get the Call, the one that means you’re going to be published (or published again). Would you call up friends and immediately celebrate with a bottle or two of wine? When your editor sends back revisions that rip your heart to pieces do you dive for the chocolate? Is a favorable review the reason for a night out with a few clandestine cigarettes and dancing until dawn?

The ways you handle stress can help keep you healthy or they can tear you down. You can celebrate with a day at the spa or a bottle of wine. You can console yourself with a pedicure or an entire galloon of ice cream. Think about it and come up with a healthy stress relief plan. Remember, this isn’t an all or nothing decision. Maybe you’ll handle stress with a glass of wine instead of the whole bottle. When my agent offered to represent me I indulged in a pint of strawberries and a few hours at a nightclub, a good balance of healthy and indulgent.

What are the healthy ways you can handle stress? What do you already do to alleviate stress in your life? What do you need to stop doing when life stresses you out?


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Compounding Pessimism

My husband and I were talking about the frustrations I've had in my quest to lose weight. It was an easy discussion, since this has been a good, losing week for me. And I think that losing and upbeat mindframe is what helped me really see just how negative it can get while struggling to make this habit a lifestyle, and a lifestyle that pays off.

I've likened weight loss to the writing journey before. We begin with intentions, we learn the basics and add our own twists. We find a program, a writing method, an exercise routine or diet that work for us and we... well, we work it. And we sometimes see great early successes, we sometimes see huge letdowns and we often hit brick walls that just make us want to tear our hair out.

My writing journey has been like that. I started writing and saw some immediate success. A request from my first query. A final in my first contest. Multiple Golden Heart finals (not as many as some awesome people, but enough to keep me on the edge of joy/frustration). Rejections, firing an agent, almost-sale-then-the-line-closed close calls.

A lot of slides into pessimism. If you write, how often have you asked yourself if you'll ever sell (if you've already sold, admit it, you asked the question before the call, right?) How often did we take the rejections, the setbacks personally? See them as a prognosis of overall writing success. Or worse, as a measure of ability?

And with each one, it's just another layer of doubt. Layer upon layer upon layer.

My husband calls it compounding pessimism. Each hit, each rejection, each week on the scale without a loss - all add another layer of doubt. Of negative self-talk. Of whininess (maybe that's just me?) As a hypnotherapist, I know the power of compounding messages. What we hear over and over again, what we hear over and over again in different ways, we own. We take to heart. We embrace and embody.

The trick is, compounding optimism is just as easy. And the last few weeks, I'm seeing the results of it. Just like I refused to give in to the beat-down of rejections and quit writing, I've refused to give in to the frustration of not losing weight despite my best efforts. And by not giving up, by continuing to work it just as hard as before and tweak things here and there (just like in writing) I've started seeing great results. The weight is coming off. The inches are dropping away. I'm optimistic, and with each day, I add another layer of faith and optimism to my psyche, sure that yes, I will see this goal achieved.

Compounding messages. What kind are you giving yourself? Have you ever listened to that self-talk, those thoughts that seem to sneak in? Do you see the different ways you're giving yourself the same message, over and over? And does that message help or hinder your enthusiasm as you work toward your goal?

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
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Biggest Loser

Trish is traveling, so I'm taking care of The Biggest Loser post this week. I have to admit I was dancing around Clarendon last night trying on 10s and getting some kick-butt sports bras, so I did not start watching the show until the second hour when the contestants were already facing the scale. That is such a brave thing to do on national television.

The smaller black team (the team of shorter women and one guy) had a five-pound advantage going into the weigh in, but the stacked, bigger black team (mostly big guys) still won the weigh in by posting some amazing, weekly weight loss numbers. (Again, please remember that they are devoting 24/7 to their attempt to lose weight, and these are not results we should expect to be able to achieve ourselves.) The black team once again had to vote a person off. Through lots of tears, they did vote off Mama Sherry. In the "where are they now" moment at the end, we got to see a triumphant Sherry weighing 138 pounds. I love the inner and outer transformations these contestants undergo and find it so inspiring to watch.

What did I miss in the first hour? What were your favorite moments of the biggest loser last night?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So Many Victories Along the Way!

My own post yesterday inspired me to go to the local Ann Taylor at lunch today and try on 6 pairs of pants in size 10. To my shock and glee, 4 of the 6 fit (though they were on the tight side), and I could get the two pairs of jeans on and might have been able to fasten them if I did something crazy like lie down before I tried to zip them. Oh, happy day! This was not the case just 2-3 weeks ago!! I need to pull out more of the 10s I got at the clothes swap Saturday to see if any of them fit. The one Armani pair I tried did not, and I just assumed the others would not either. Maybe the Banana Republic 10s will now.

People, do you know how small a pair of size 10 pants look when you hold them up? I can not believe I can fit into something so darn small. I'm hoping to get below 180 tonight at my Weight Watchers weigh in tonight (not sure where all the weight is given I now wear a 12/10 - can't all be in my chest, stomach, butt and thighs, can it?), but it does not matter that much. I can just tell myself I now wear a 10 as I get off that scale tonight. Yes, I really am going to stick to my goal of getting into the Weight Watchers healthy weight range of 124 to 155 for a person who is 5' 6", but there are so many victories along the way to acknowledge and celebrate. What joy!

What victories have you celebrated along your way to becoming a Healthy Writer?

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
Continue Reading...

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Third Vote of Confidence in Myself

For the third time in my life, I have done a full sweep of my wardrobe and pulled out all the clothes that are now too big. I seem to have a strong pattern to this process. Like the first and second times I did this, it starts in a frenzy of joy and celebration. It is so much fun to pull out all the clothes in a particular size, try them on, and discover that they are all to big. For more than ten years, I was much more used to trying on all the clothes in a particular size and "discovering" that they were all too small. The opposite is so much more fun.

When I go through my wardrobe to weed out what no longer fits, I pile all the too big clothing on my love seat or couch and glory in that sight for a day or two. Then, the freak out starts. Who am I kidding? Look at all that nice clothing that I'm just going to give away. How much money does that pile represent? Can I really keep off this weight or continue to lose? Odds are against me. Do I want to spend the money to repurchase this wardrobe if/when I ever get back to this size?

The freak out wasn't as strong this time though. I have two other examples to reflect on how this process really works for me. A Weight Watchers buddy said it was like Hernan Cortez burning his ships when he and his crew of Spaniards landed on Mexico. There is no going back. You have to keep moving forward and succeeding at this journey. I do know that getting rid of my bigger clothes the previous two times helped me keep from regaining the weight and getting back into those larger sizes.

I am a very solid size 12 now. In fact, I'm just starting to fit into the smaller side of the size 12 range (e.g. Tahari suits) and even into a-line size 10 skirts and dresses. Soon, I'll fit into curvy 10s (e.g. Ann Taylor Loft Julie pants). Give it a few more months, and I'll be wearing the smaller 10s (e.g. Ann Taylor Loft Marissa pants). By mid-summer, I may be able to contemplate wearing a-line 8s as the curvy 10s become too big. There is a very strong pattern to getting into smaller size clothing that I have now experienced many times through 20-plus (one pair of very hated shorts), several 18-plus, lots and lots of 16-plus, some 14-plus, regular 16, regular 14, regular 12 and just the barest glimmers of regular 10. I recognize, celebrate and love all the signs of progress.

L: May 2005 in Hydra, Greece. I'm pretty sure I'm wearing size 18-plus cropped pants from Dress Barn Woman.

R: March 13, 2010 - I'm wearing regular size 12 from Ann Taylor Loft. This was the first time I'd fit into the brown, size 12, Marissa pants pictured.

The current pile of clothing on my love seat contains mostly size regular 14 clothing and several of my favorite, "smaller" size 16 pieces. For more than a decade, losing 20 pounds and getting into a regular size 14 was an impossible goal. I walked into Weight Watchers in January 2009 half ready to prove that it was impossible and with tentative plans to join the fat is beautiful movement in 2010. Instead, I'm getting rid of those 14s and contemplating getting into a size 10 or 8. That is amazing.

Yesterday, I took the very best of my size 16 and size 14 clothing, most of which had only been worn half a season, to a clothes swap party that I've been fortunate enough to go to 3 times before. A successful member of my local RWA chapters hosts it every year. I was able to see many of my long-time friends take my size 14 and 16 clothing home as additions to their wardrobe or as aspirational pieces. I think that's so wonderful.

I went home with my own huge pile of aspirational pieces, costume jewelry and a nice pair of shoes. (By the way, my shoe size has gotten smaller with my now nearly 35 pound weight loss since January 09 and nearly 45 from my highest weight. I used to be a 8 - 8 1/2 and I'm now more of an 8 - 7 1/2 size shoe wearer.) The hostess of the party had lost 20-30 pounds herself this past year and had contributed many size 8s and 10s to the pile of clothes to be swapped. I seemed the most interested in them (or perhaps the most aggressive person to go after them), and I now have many amazing pieces I can add to those 3 size 10 clothes I bought last winter to use as something to work towards in the next 6 months to a year. In fact, one or two of the pieces from yesterday's clothes swap already fit well enough to be worn in public. I'm filled with confidence that the rest of it will eventually fit. No, this journey is not fast, but I do know that my patience and persistence will be rewarded.

What things do you do as a vote of confidence in yourself? As you get smaller, do you get rid of your bigger clothes?

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
Continue Reading...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Inspiration Sunday is a series at the Healthy Writer blog. Every Sunday, we post a quote, anecdote, fact or other item that will inspire you to keep moving forward on your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

-Thomas A. Edison

Let us know what you think of this quote, this series, and if you have any suggestions for further items to be shared here.

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
Continue Reading...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Broccoli & White Bean soup

The calendar reads March and the stores are filled with bunnies both chocolate and plush, but the view out my window is cold, gray rain. Dreary days are tough days for healthy eating. When the sky looks like slate and you need to turn on a lamp to see what you’re typing all I want is cake, muffins, and warm bread. Sadly, I’ve learned that carbohydrates are the devil for me. To stay healthy, I need to eat more protein and healthy fats, staying away from ‘white’ carbohydrates like flour, potatoes, rice, and pasta.

All of those are included in the soups I crave in bad weather. While diet plans encourage vegetable soups in light broth, for me a soup needs to be thick and hearty. Most cream soups are thickened with the flour I avoid. Other recipes get their creaminess came from pureed potatoes, usually the Yukon gold variety. Again, they taste great but they aren’t right for me.

After some experimenting I developed the recipe below that using cannellini beans to provide a creamy texture and lots of broccoli for a cheerful St. Patrick’s day green. With a little bit of a nutty flavor, lots of fiber, and lots of protein cannellini beans make this soup filling, smooth, and healthy. It’s easy to sip from a mug while I’m curled up under a blanket watching the rain and plotting how my hero will save the day.

Broccoli & White Bean soup

4 cups broccoli spears (including the stems, roughly chopped)
3 cups of water
1 14 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion
Dash of salt and pepper

Bring water to a boil. Add broccoli and cook until tender. Stir in beans and seasonings. Simmer for one minute. Puree mixture in a blender, one cup at a time. Serve warm, with a garnish of cheddar cheese or tomatoes.

What are your favorite rainy day foods? Are they healthy? Could you make them that way? Don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite recipes!


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.
Continue Reading...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wanna Workout?

By Keri Mikulski

Hey, everybody!! Thanks so much for having me! I’m loving this Web site.

Yes, I admit it… I’m one of those people who actually enjoys working out. Well, I love the feeling after I workout. The feeling before and during…. Not so much. So why do I do it almost every day?

Like writing, exercising saves me. When I’m stressed out, I work out. When I’m suffering from a block, I work out. And when I’m angry, I work out. Believe it or not, exercising literally saves me. I exercised throughout my entire first pregnancy and recently found out after some tests that working out prevented some major circulation complications I’m genetically predispositioned to. And that’s just one of the many healthy benefits of exercise I’ve encountered over the years.

The amazing gang at Healthy Writer was kind enough to invite me today to share one of my favorite workouts for writers. Writing is tough enough without worrying about working out and there are plenty of painless ways to fit exercising into a jam-packed schedule. Check out one of the ways below.

Want to workout without having to worry about going to the gym or even getting out of your seat? Then, toss aside your desk chair for an exercise ball.

Easy to find in most sports stores, exercise balls are a cheap way to fit fitness into your day. The balls come in many different sizes and colors making this workout specifically targeted to your body’s needs.

Besides being easy, an exercise ball is beneficial in many other ways...

1. Strengthens your spine - By accessing the core, your spine will naturally align and strengthen.
2. Balance – Since you’re unstable on the ball, it forces you to stabilize your body and practice balance.
3. Abdominal workout – To stay on the ball, you must activate your core/abdominal muscles to keep yourself aligned.
4. Circulation – Because the ball makes you move, it will naturally improve circulation.
5. Burn Calories – The more you move, the more calories you burn.

Convinced to ditch? Toss your chair today and begin to feel fabulous.

Before the writing bug bit her, Keri Mikulski coached high school soccer and softball, taught seventh grade, worked as a personal trainer, and a pediatric registered nurse. Today, Keri is the author of HEAD GAMES (Razorbill/Penguin, 2011), teaches writing at Rowan University, and resides at the Jersey Shore with her family.
Continue Reading...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's All About the Process

I’m preparing to write my tenth contracted Blaze right now. After a few years, my editor and I have narrowed down and honed my writing process. For instance, we know I need a solid, clear-cut synopsis with the plot nailed down before I start writing. We know that the first three chapters will take me the longest to write, often just as long as the rest of the book. And because we know these things, we’ve established a pretty comfortable routine of me writing and turning in my synopsis, she edits and asks for revisions on it, I rewrite and resubmit, etc until its right. Then, with this solid foundation, I write.

This is my process. It works. It’s worked for a lot of books now. And it’s a process that I not only embrace, but actually do enjoy.

I know what I need to do. I know that it will work, once I get it all into place. I know that, while the completed project will take quite a few turns before we reach the bookstore shelf, the process of writing this book will be somewhat similar to previous books and will require a great deal of discipline, faith and creative energy on my part. I also know that because I have a deadline, I’ll stay on track and work the story until its right, but push myself to get it done in a timely way.

All good, right?

So what’s the problem? I’m stuck. I’m stuck and frustrated and stressed. I can’t get the synopsis right, I don’t have a handle on the plot and my characters are murky in my mind. What I’d thought this story would be is nothing like what I’m ending up with on the pages. I’ve started over three times already, each one feeling the weight of writer-doubts pounding at my confidence.

Sound familiar? Isn’t this the same process we often go through in our weight journey? After a few tries, we’ve figured out what works for us. We know the path, we know what we need to do, how to eat and exercise to see results. And we know we’ll hit bumps in the road, we’ll have to revise our plan and we will quite probably hit a few walls that hold us back longer than we’d like.

For me, it’s been a major mind-shift to take my acceptance of this being the norm in writing and realize that yes, it’s also the norm in weight loss. That for me, personally, I have to have a plan. I have to work that plan diligently, revising as necessary and when I get off track, bring myself back into focus. I have to work as if I have a deadline, so I push hard enough to see results. And I have to accept that where I end up might not be exactly where I thought I’d be when I started.

How about you? If you are a writer, do you see any similarity between your writing process and your weight-loss process? If you’re not a writer, does this seem familiar anyhow?

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
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biggest Loser Cheerleaders

When you try to lose weight, it's important to have people supporting you, keeping you pumped up -- cheerleaders, if you will. This week on The Biggest Loser, we got to witness team cheerleaders in action.

O'Neal, as soon as he saw Sunshine was still on the blue team after last week's vote, launched into a big inspirational speech to his new teammates. And during the reward challenge, when both teams had to pull a semi truck while one member of each team picked up puzzle pieces, he inspired them once again when he struggled past them despite his bum knee, helping them toward winning the free year of groceries.

On the black team, Sam, the only guy on the team, continued his efforts to keep his team believing they could win challenges and weigh-ins. And Sherry and Cheryl, who have become very close, continued to inspire each other. Their friendship was very heartwarming to see.

The contestants got a taste of what things will be like when they return home with Work Week. Everyone had to get up really early, work out, then ride the bus into L.A., where they worked a full week of 8-hour days at the L.A. Regional Food Bank. The limited gym time and the preparation it took to get healthful lunches ready to take with them really brought home the challenges of continuing healthy habits while living real life filled with jobs and family commitments. But, as we would see at the weigh-in, it is possible.

I liked how Steve, the food bank employee, came to talk to the contestants, and they shared their weight-loss tips with him. I really hope he's able to start on his own journey to a healthier lifestyle.

This week's weigh-in only saw two people, Koli and Lance, pull a double-digit loss with 10 pounds each. Lance was able to break through the 300-pound barrier and bid it adieu for the last time. The next highest weight losses were 9 pounds for Michael and Daris, 8 for Ashley, and 7 for Sunshine and Drea. Sam (4) and Stephanie (3) put up the smallest numbers, and Sam wasn't happy. But Jillian was quick to point out that Sam has lost so much fat weight that now his pound losses are going to decrease because he's building muscle. In the end, the black team lost the weigh-in and it was Cheryl who was sent home. Her dear friend, Sherry, was immune from the vote since she had the highest percentage weight loss this week.

While watching reactions to the weigh-in, a part of me worried that the early weeks of big numbers sets up unrealistic expectations of losing big numbers all throughout the show even though anyone who has watched the show knows the numbers decrease as the weeks left on the show decrease. I think we have to realize that in the real world, any week with a weight loss (whether it's 1 pound or 10) is a good week.

What did you think of last night's episode? Any predictions for the weeks to come?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eat When You're Happy, Eat When You're Sad

The title of today's post isn't a directive; it's what we tend to do from an early age. I was reading an article in one of the daily e-mails I get from Prevention, and it hit on a topic we've covered here several times because it's a constant battle -- emotional eating. It's ironic that this e-mail comes just a few days after I succumbed to a bout of emotional eating. Early last week, I got a call from my agent that my publisher was passing on a trilogy idea I'd submitted. And even though the editors liked the stories and really want to get me on the schedule for next year and let me know that they were just refocusing on their tried-and-true story hooks, I felt bummed out. I got that call while I was out running errands, and on the way home I succumbed to the allure of feeding the emotion with foods I didn't need -- egg rolls and chocolate cake from Jack in the Box. I knew I shouldn't be doing it as I was ordering, as I was sitting in the drive-through line, as I was paying, as I was driving home, as I was stuffing those horrendous calories in my mouth. And yet I did it anyway.

When you think about it, we're conditioned to deal with emotions -- good and bad -- with food from an early age. As this article states, if we feel bad when we're young, someone gives us a cookie. So as we grow older, when we're feeling sad, we reach for the sweets. I'm one of the worst offenders. But on the flip side of the coin, we also celebrate good times with fattening foods -- birthdays, Christmas, celebrations of book sales. Now I'm all for celebrating, but we need to recondition ourselves to eat tasty but healthful foods and keep our calorie-laden sweets and other treats to a minimum. And I need to take my own advice.

The article linked to above also mentions how stress is related to eating. That stress makes you feel hungry and creates body fat. And we writers know stress in the form of deadlines. I've been under two of them for the past month, and that stress combined with lack of exercise and not eating properly have caused a couple of pounds to creep back on. Luckily, I've trimmed them back off now, but I had still hoped to be much further along toward my goal weight by now. But there's nothing good to looking backward and chastising myself. It won't make the pounds magically disappear. I'm going to look ahead, plan my days so that exercise and eating properly/keeping my food diary doesn't get shoved to the side, and do my best to shed pounds by my birthday and by the National RWA Conference, where Michelle, Tawny and I will be doing a program on being a healthy writer. I certainly don't want to get up in front of a room of conference attendees and look like I don't practice what I preach.

Have you battled emotional eating lately? What are the best methods you've found to help you battle that tendency?
Continue Reading...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Learning to Face the Scale with Zero Expectations

The scale has the power to break my heart and strip me of any motivation I have to keep going on this journey to become a healthy writer and eater if I let it. I work very hard to make sure I don’t let the numbers on a scale convince me to quit. To do this, I try to walk into my weekly weigh in at Weight Watchers with zero expectations. This will make me ok with a loss or ok with a gain. I try to be “Zen-like” about it so that either way, I’ll keep going and keep trying to lose weight. I don't focus only on the outcome (e.g. the result on the scale) but try to enjoy the practice (e.g. healthy eating/following a healthy lifestyle) as a reward all in itself.

Naturally, I'm happy when I lose a big amount of weight in one week, and I do have to combat very negative feelings when I gain. I can better contain the emotional boomerang if I approach the weigh in with zero expectations. It helps me make sure I don't let the potential negative feelings I’d have with a weight loss or even a smaller or bigger than expected weight loss change my healthy behavior. Sometimes when you lose big, you can start thinking - I've got this - it's easy - and then you're not as vigilant with being aware of what you are eating. A gain or smaller than expected loss can make you start thinking it's hopeless and why even try. It may convince you to turn to food for comfort. The zero expectations/Zen-like approach can prepare you so that you don't have a strong reaction and let that make you do something stupid. You know what works. Just keep working at it and doing it and eventually it pays off. With this philosophy, I just have to be vigilant to ensure that I'm NOT lying to myself about how much I've eaten and exercised. That's where being 100% honest in keeping a food diary helps.

Obviously, the numbers of calories in and calories out are important, but I do sometimes think there is more mystery to weight loss than just 2 + 2 = 4. For example, during a three-week stretch in the fall of 2009, I lost 4.2 pounds. The first week, I neither lost nor gained weight. I stayed the exact same weight as the week before. The following week I lost .2 of a pound. The third week I lost 4 pounds. I cannot say my behavior - my calories in and my calories out - were very different those three weeks. I do think that sometimes the body is "ready" to let go of weight and sometimes it is not. If I had let myself get upset with the little to no weight loss results those first two weeks, I may have done some emotional eating and destroyed my chances at the 4-pound weight loss that last week.

There can be a rhythm to weight loss. No matter how perfect you are in any given week, your body may not let any weight go that week. Conversely, there are weeks you are just lucky and will be surprised by a big loss. Over the long term, you can see patterns to your weight loss. Often a really big loss week is followed by a modest or small loss week and vice versa. Pre-menopausal women can really figure out a certain pattern based on their cycle. Some weeks you get lucky, and some weeks your hard work is not rewarded. It’s just something you have to accept and not allow to discourage you. You just have to keep going and keep trying and believe that in the end it will all even out. I also think emotions and stress can play a big role in losing weight. If you are 100% stressed out about your weight loss efforts or because of other things going on in your life, your body may not want to let go of the weight - even if the numbers say it should.

To me, the key is to be patient and persistent. Keep up the good habits week by week and eventually you'll be rewarded. Take the long view and don’t let any single disappointing weigh in encourage you to overeat to comfort yourself or give up. It's only a few seconds of your week, and keep it in perspective. It shouldn't set the tone for the week, determine how you are doing or feeling in all aspects of your life or how you will evaluate the past week. Having zero expectations any time you approach the scale helps keep your mind and emotions in the right place and continue this journey.

How do you approach the scale? With fear? With big expectations? What works the 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

Continue Reading...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Inspiration Sunday is a new series at the Healthy Writer blog. Every Sunday, we post a quote, anecdote, fact or other item that will inspire you to keep moving forward on your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

-Bill Cosby

Let us know what you think of this quote, this series, and if you have any suggestions for further items to be shared here.

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
Continue Reading...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Comfort Food

One of the challenges I face as I  maintain the weight loss from last year, is finding recipes that replace the comfort food I've always loved and grown up with: lasagna, shepherd's pie, macaroni and cheese (yum.)

So I'm trying out some of the recipe's from Weight Watchers "Pure Comfort."

Here's a recipe for Shepherd's Pie that I love.

Hearty Shepherd's Pie
Serves: 6

1 3/4 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
   2/3 C fat-free milk
      1 T unsalted butter ( I used salted)
      1 t  salt
   1/4 t freshly ground pepper ( I use regular pepper)
       1 lb ground lean beef (5% fat or less)
       1 onion, chopped
       4 garlic cloves, minced
       1 t dried oregano
    1/2 C dry red wine ( I often skip this if I don't have any in the house)
        2 T tomato paste
        1 (10-ounce) package of frozen peas and carrots
        1 C reduced-sodium beef broth

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 2-quart baking dish with nonstick spray. To make topping, place potatoes in large pot with enough cold water to cover; bring to boil. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain; return to the pot. Add milk, butter, 1/2 t of salt, and 1/8 t of pepper; mash and set aside.

2. To make filling, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef, breaking it apart with a spoon, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Return the skillet to heat. Add onion, garlic, and oregano; cook, stirring, until the onion is lightly browned. Add wine and tomato paste, cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Add the peas and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables thaw. Stir in the broth and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Stir in the beef and remaining 1/2 t of salt and 1/8 t of pepper.

3. Transfer filling to the baking dish. Spread the potato topping over the filling and bake until filling is bubbly around the edges, about 20 mins. Remove pie from the oven. Increase the oven temperature to broil and broil the pie, 5 inches from the heat, until the topping is lightly browned, 1-2 mins. Let stand 5 mins before serving.

Per serving: (1 1/3 cups) 284 Cal, 6g fat, 3 g Sat Fat, 5 g Fib, 22g Prot
5 Points.

If you have a recipe for Shepherd's pie that you love, changing up the ingredients to lower fat substitutes would work just as well. Do you have comfort food you've managed to lighten up and still create something satisfying? Or do you like to go for the full, original version and just choose to eat less of it?

Next week I'm on the hunt for a macaroni and cheese recipe that my daughters (one is vegetarian) will love.

Anne MacFarlane is an unpublished writer from eastern Canada. You can visit her blog at Read about her weight loss journey and see before and after pictures at Soon To Be Skinny Me.
Continue Reading...

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Road Back

Please welcome guest blogger Nancy Northcott!

Nancy Northcott’s books combine adventure and romance in the development of true love for her characters. A two-time Golden Heart finalist, she has also finaled in the Maggies, the Orange Rose, Finally a Bride, the Daphne, the Windy City Four Seasons Awards and other chapter contests. Her manuscripts have won several chapter contests, including the 2008 Maggie Award for Excellence in Contemporary Single Title. A life-long book geek, she considers her blue belt in jeet kune do one of her greatest accomplishments. When she isn’t blogging with the Romance Bandits, she’s reading, writing, or trying to convince her husband that Prime Minister’s Question Time on C-SPAN is a really cool show.

I’m three pounds down from my top pregnancy weight. Great, right? Yes--if I were pregnant.

Since I’m not, I’m a bit depressed, a bit annoyed with myself, and a bit frustrated over my limited wardrobe choices. What I am not, however, is anxious.

You see, I know exactly how I got here, which means I know exactly what I need to do. And I’ve done it before.

Several years ago, I lost 35 pounds. I weighed less than I did when I graduated from college, was in the best shape of my life, worked out six times a week, and had developed a pretty solid right cross punch on the way to earning a blue belt in karate. I maintained that weight for two years, even working as a weight management consultant for a national company. Then injuries kept me away from the gym and family turmoil led to prolonged stress.

I’m a stress eater.

I love chocolate--not picky about the variety.

I give up on exercise first, anyway, so I never got back to the gym.

And here I am, way heavier than my favorite clothes can accommodate.

So what now? I’ve about reached the limit on my ability to ignore the inconvenience, not to mention the health risk, of this added weight. One thing I learned as a weight management consultant was that weight loss and weight maintenance are a journey. Weight doesn’t magically appear overnight, and it won’t disappear that way, either.

If only.

In the absence of magic fairy dust, I do have an effective, if slower, plan:

1. Stop eating junk except every once in a while. That means one actual portion (not a restaurant portion) of dessert no more than once a week OR a tiny, pre-measured ration, like two midget Reese’s cups or two chocolate kisses, each day if that works better for me, but it usually doesn’t) and eat healthy, unprocessed food instead. Bye-bye, Milk Duds, alas.

Instead, I’ll eat healthy food (lean proteins, fruits, veggies, brown rice, high-fiber cereal with skimmed milk, and whole grain pasta) in actual portions, not the mega-portions most Americans have come to view as normal, and without cream-laden sauces. A serving of pasta is one cup, cooked. A serving of meat is about the size and thickness of the palm of my hand. A serving of cheese is the size of a golf ball. Yes, really.

And eating out of the bag while standing at the sink or watching TV is a sure-fire way to eat far, far more than I realize, so I won’t be doing that, either. When it comes to sweets, the only safe road for me is pre-measured and separately bagged, and when the bag is empty, I’m done.

One of my favorite snacks is cut fruit from the grocery store or fresh melon with (don’t groan) fat-free cottage cheese. I put my favorite non-sugar sweetener on the cottage cheese, which has enough protein to keep me from being hungry again soon. An alternative is non-fat, unflavored yogurt similarly sweetened with fresh berries, pineapple or banana mixed in. Not as filling because it’s lower in protein, but it’s tasty and has fiber from the fruit.

2. Eat only when I’m hungry. This means really, truly, stomach-growling hungry. No “Hmm, I think that tingle in my stomach might possibly, if I work at it, be construed as hunger; I’ll have a chocolate bar.” The better philosophy is, “Wow, I’m famished; I’ll have an apple (per step #1).” Apples are loaded with good stuff, including fiber, which helps me feel full longer than foods low in it.

3. Go back to the gym. Yes, it’s embarrassing because I’ve been gone so long. Yes, it’s painful to work those slack muscles again. Yes, it’s annoying and frustrating to perform like a wimp. Yes, there are a gajillion and ten possible excuses. But no one else there cares or likely even notices my issues, so a lot of that is in my head. Which means I control it. Hah!

And I’ll feel incredibly virtuous, and I’ll lose weight, which I can no longer do without exercise, and I’ll tone up. Worth it.

I can’t take karate anymore. My knees won’t hold up to the conditioning part of the class. Instead, I take the class that started me toward karate, cardio kick-boxing. We punch and kick heavy bags, not the air. The impact helps bone density and can provided great catharsis when the writing isn’t going well.

I think the most important part of an exercise plan is liking it. I like kickboxing, as my buddy Anna Sugden likes boxing and other people like walking or Jazzercise or whatever. Of course, anyone with any medical concerns should consult a doctor before starting. Me, I’ve consulted my knees and will pamper them accordingly. Lucky for me, roundhouse and snap kicks don’t bother them.

4. Be patient. This means recognizing that the process will be slower than I’d like, uneven at times, and will probably involve some lapses on my part. Being patient means cutting myself some slack when I trip. Yeah, I might blow it one day. That’s no excuse to blow it the next day, and the next, and the next as well. It’s a pothole, not an abyss, on the road to success.

And oh, yeah, that dessert ration in step 1--I get that only if I comply with all other steps along the way. Otherwise the dessert is forfeit.

So that’s my plan. What’s yours? What do find hardest or easiest about losing weight? What do you most like or dislike about exercise?
Continue Reading...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Admit it, Size Matters

Oooh, this post could go in so many naughty directions. But since I just turned in my latest Blaze, I'll step out of the naughty zone and behave ;-)

I'm talking size when it comes to food. I know I'm reiterating quite a bit of what Michelle posted in these links, but it's worth hearing a few times. At for me, I know I need to hear things a few times before it sinks in.

Measure It! Use a food scale and measuring cups. It really won't slow down your meal prep by much, and it's hugely enlightening to see what an ounce really is. For instance, an ounce of cheese is much bigger than I'd thought, but a cup of rice was much smaller than I'd been acknowledging.

Here's a quick-tip portion size comparison:

3 oz. of meat = deck of cards
Baked potato = computer mouse
Fruit = tennis ball
Bagel = hockey puck
1/2 cup chips, popcorn, pretzels, etc. = teacup
Rice or other cooked grain = cupcake wrapper
1 oz. cheese = tube of lipstick
1 oz. nuts = egg
Pasta = light bulb

Frame It: If you choose a smaller plate for your meal, you'll eat less and still feel fuller. Over time, not only have our portion sizes gotten bigger, so have our plates. So if you're controlling your portion size, but putting it on a big saucer-like plate, you're going to feeling like you didn't get enough to eat before you even take your first bite. But if you're just-right portion is on a smaller plate - one that looks filled - you're mind will be satisfied that it's getting enough, and give your stomach time to realize that it's right.

Confirm It: Have you ever been fooled by a nutrition label? I have. For those crazy, on the run days, I'd stocked up a couple frozen meals in the freezer. Just in case. I pulled one out the other day, but before I heated it up I went in to log the calories/protein/fat/carbs in my FitDay program. It was only then that I happened to notice that my low-cal, low-fat, organic, vegetarian healthy meal (which was about 4x5 in size, if that) was supposed to serve 2. Two tiny vegetable enchiladas, to serve 2 people. If I ate only one enchilada, I'd definitely still be hungry. If I ate both, I'd have eaten over half my daily-caloric-allotment. Eeek!! What'd I do? Put it back in the freezer, of course, and had a salad. But I also learned a major lesson to read ALL the deets, not just to give a quick glance at the numbers.

So, really, size does matter, huh?

How about you? Any portion control tips or tricks? Did you ever suffer portion-blindness? You know, where you were clueless what a portion size was or were tricked into thinking you were only having one portion when you were really having much more?

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
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Biggest Loser Returns

With the Olympic flame extinguished, we got back to episodes of The Biggest Loser this week. The show started off where we left off, in the midst of the challenge between Cheryl and Darrell. In the end, Darrell lost and went home.

The contestants, including Darrell's daughter, Drea, didn't have much time to think about it though as they were faced with a temptation challenge that would yield control of the game for the winner. Drea and Michael were the only two contestants who volunteered to take part in the challenge that was a big game of memory. But each wrong guess meant having to consume calorie-laden foods like chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts and bagels with cream cheese. Though Drea's memory helped her make several matches, forcing Michael to end up consuming 2,310 calories, Michael ended up matching up the two golden tickets for the win. By winning, he was able to pick who would be on the new blue and black teams and who would have immunity this week.

As is typical, he made choices that made his fellow contestants angry. Right off the bat, he split up Sam and Koli. And Daris and Cheryl. He did give O'Neal the immunity, but he stacked the blue team with the contestants who typically lose more weight. The black team was made up mostly of women, many of them the smaller ones. Their only guy was Sam, but I had to smile when Sam painted his fingernails black just like all his female teammates.

When Bob and Jillian acted surprised at the choices Michael made, ones that clearly were for his own benefit, I had to think to myself, "Seriously?" Sometimes I think the surprise they exhibit is manufactured. While it might not be "fair" the way Michael split up the teams, he had it right when he challenged Bob and Jillian. He shot back that they were always telling him to think about himself. When he did that, they had to admit he had a point.

In a reward challenge, the teams had to lift their team's banner up a several-story hotel. The blue team, with more guys, won and were rewarded with letters from home.

Dr. Huizenga was back to check up with the contestants, to give them updates on how their work was paying off. Ashley had regained an amazing 8 years of her life for 7 weeks of work. And Sam's workouts, plus giving up smoking and drinking, lowered his real age from 51 to 46. Dr. Huizenga said that would improve even more if Sam stayed away from the alcohol and cigarettes for a year.

I am the first to admit I love an underdog story and tend to root for the underdog. And this week, the black team was the underdog and they knew it. And they worked so incredibly hard, determined to show Michael that they weren't going to be the automatic losers at the weigh-in, that Jillian was even impressed. And it paid off. They did, indeed, win the challenge, sending the blue team to the elimination room where Miggy was voted off. It was a close race though. The blue team lost 2.7% of their team's weight, while the black edged them with 2.82%.

This week's big losers at the weigh-in were Michael (15 pounds), Ashley and Koli (10 each), and Sam and Stephanie (8 each). Even O'Neal, who was immune, lost 9 pounds. He never slacks off even when he has immunity. That's someone who is serious about weight loss.

We got to check in with both Darrell and Miggy at the end of the show. Darrell is down to 293 pounds from his starting weight of 413 and can now fit into the jacket he wore 27 years ago when he met his wife. Miggy, who admitted that she was a very stressed person when she came to the ranch, has embraced meditation, which has helped her to lose weight. She's down to 179 from 240.

What were your thoughts about this week's episode? And do you think there will be any romances to come out of this season? I started thinking about that tonight when I saw that several of the younger, single people are still on the ranch.
Continue Reading...

Healthy Writer Copyright © 2009 Girlymagz is Designed by Bie Girl Vector by Ipietoon