Sunday, February 28, 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.

"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."

-Louisa May Alcott

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, February 27, 2010

Smoked Fish Soup - Scottish Cullen Skink

Are you a fan of smoked fish? It is a way to add a lot of flavor with no extra calories. My dad is a huge fan. When I was brainstorming Christmas gifts for him this past fall – what do you get for a man who has everything he wants? – my friend Elise Hayes suggested I get him smoked salmon. At first, I was skeptical, but then I thought about it for awhile. He seems to get more and more nostalgic with every year he adds to his age. If I could find out what smoked fish was popular in 1950’s Worcester, Massachusetts, I could make him a great smoked fish basket that would also help him reminisce, and I would enjoy listening to his stories.

I did a lot of online searches and stumbled across a smoked fish store in Springfield, Massachusetts. It wasn’t Worcester, but it had been around for decades and was only 15 miles from my parents’ house. I went there right before Christmas and got him smoked trout, smoked white fish, smoked salmon, smoked scallops, smoked mussels, white fish salad and pickled herring in wine sauce. It was a hit!

It was an incredible amount of smoked fish though. After a few days, we were looking for ways to use it besides eating it on crackers and bread. Once again, we turned to my sister’s Christmas gift – 1 stock, 100 soups. We found a hearty, Scottish classic. When my Dad had a bowl of this soup, he said it reminded him of the fish soups he ate growing up.

Scottish Cullen Skink

Serves 6


1 lb 2 oz/500 g smoked white fish (traditionally smoked haddock)

1 large onion, chopped

4 fresh parsley springs

6 cups broth (your choice: vegetable, fish, chicken, etc.)

1 lb 10 oz/750 g potatoes cut into chunks

4 tbsp butter

3 ¾ cups milk (your choice: whole, 2%, 1% or nonfat)

salt and pepper

chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley to garnish

crusty bread, to serve


Put the fish, onion and parsley into a large pan. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the flesh flakes easily.

Remove the pan from the heat and lift out the fish with a slotted spatula. Remove and discard the skin and bones and flake the flesh. Strain the broth into a clean pan.

Return the pan to the heat, add the potatoes, and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tender.

Remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a bowl. Add the butter and mash until smooth. Return the pan to the head, add the milk, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mashed potatoes, a little at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Gently stir in the fish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately with crusty bread.

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, February 26, 2010

Tweeting good info

A while back Michelle started a Twitter account for Healthy Writer. In addition to tweeting about our posts here, she's regularly posting links to great information and articles she's finding online that would be of interest to our readers here. Recent links led to articles about how eating slowly can help you consume less and lose weight, rules for writing fiction (hey, we are writers), how we burn more calories sleeping than watching TV, and 10 free ways to lose weight. Check out the Twitter feed with the links here. And if you have a Twitter account, be sure to become a follower.

As we head into the weekend, remember that we're here for support and inspiration seven days a week. Saturdays are devoted to healthful cooking, and our new Inspiration Sundays is back for its second installment.

And while cruising Yahoo! Health's site, I came across an article about the 10 worst sandwiches in America -- as in the worst for you health-wise. Check out the jaw-dropping stats here.
Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tracking, and retracking

One of the best weight-control tools I’ve found is to plan out my calories. For the week, as much as possible, but definitely each morning I enter what I plan to eat into my FitDay program so I can gauge where I’m at with calories, nutrients and because its a specific concern for me as a vegetarian, to make sure I’m getting enough protein.

By tracking like this, ahead of the meal, I find I’m no longer starving at dinnertime and already at my projected calorie limit for the day. Or worse and what I faced more often, the clock saying nine pm and I’m still short two or three hundred calories for the day.

Now, this tracking isn’t written in stone. It’s on the computer, so like all of our writing endeavors, the delete key is my friend :-) But it is a great tool to help me stay in control – especially at times when I have events, RWA meetings, girls nights, and that kind of thing to factor in and stay on the right path.
So what happens with something throws it out of control?

We had an unexpected call to celebrate last weekend. My oldest daughter got a monster huge promotion. One she’d worked really hard for, taken management training courses in addition to her college classes and working 30 hours a week. I was so button-popping proud of her. And when she got home to tell me, as soon as we got through dancing around and whohoooing, she asked if we could go out for ice cream to celebrate.

Ice cream? But... I’m trying to lose weight. I’d already planned out my calories for the day. It was too late in the day to add in another workout, and on top of that, my weekly weigh in was the following morning.

So what’s a girl to do? Revise my plans, of course. The first thing I did was go to the Baskin Robbins website and look at their offerings. I chose three options, since I wasn’t sure what they’d have in our little store. I used the highest caloric choice and keyed it into my FitDay program, then adjusted my dinner calories accordingly.

And then, still on track, I took my baby out for ice cream, toasted her success with a tiny pink spoon and loved every second of it. And I’ll admit, half the love came from knowing I was still on track!!!

How about you? Do you ever check out restaurant menus/nutrition info before you head out the door? Have you found it makes the healthy choosing that much easier?

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, February 24, 2010

Health Benefits of Music

We've probably all used music to relax from time to time. My favorite relaxing tunes are some selections from music soundtracks and Celtic music like that of Enya. Studies have shown that music has many health benefits. For instance, listening to 30 minutes of the right music each day can lower blood pressure, according to research done at Italy's University of Florence. Researchers there found that test subjects on blood pressure medication further lowered their BP levels by listening to music and breathing slowly.

Music has the ability to evoke strong feelings when we listen to it, especially if a certain song is tied to specific events in our past. If we are having a particularly stressful day, listening to relaxing music or certain songs that bring to mind happy memories can help us let that stress go. In some cases, it can help us forget trying life situations we might be living through such as rejection letters, health problems of family members or ourselves, uncertain economic situations, etc.

The growing field of music therapy has been used in numerous types of medical situations, and additional benefits have been boosting immunity, staving off depression, and easing muscle tension.

An interesting article on how music promotes good health can be found here.

Here, for your relaxing pleasure, is "Watermark" by Enya.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Causes of Back Pain

I'm like many people who experience back pain from time to time. I attribute most of mine to hours at the computer, bad posture and lack of the proper exercise over time to make my back strong and occasional stress. So when I saw an article recently talking about back pain, I took the time to read it. It was surprising, and yet it wasn't, that back pain is the second-leading cause of doctor visits behind the common cold. The article, in Prevention, quoted Todd Sinett, a chiropractor and co-author of The Truth About Back Pain, as saying that normal back aches are not usually caused by one thing but rather a combination of contributing factors.

I'm all about trying to prevent back pain, so I read on about the 14 most common mistakes we could all be making that lead to a pain in the back and how we can avoid them or fix them when they happen. Perhaps for writers, the first thing on the list is the biggest culprit. According to the article, sitting puts 40 percent more pressure on our spines than sitting.

Yoga is recommended to help with back pain, and some study research backs up the claim that it helps. This tip is accompanied with a link to some yoga videos on

A culprit for us women is too-heavy purses. I think this would apply to any students out there carrying monstrous book bags or anyone carrying a laptop case on the shoulder.

Another of the potential problems is one that hits home for me -- having a mattress that is too old and doesn't provide the right support for the back. I need to watch for mattress sales and nab a new one.

In further evidence that emotions and physical woes can be interconnected, the article cited a Duke University Medical Center study that found that test subjects who practiced forgiveness and didn't hold grudges had several positives health results, including less back pain.

Read the entire article here.
Continue Reading...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is This a Laughing Matter?

Walking to the metro with a bunch of folks after last week's Weight Watchers meeting, a guy who has lost more than 40 pounds turned to me and said, "I think I have to go see a physical therapist."

All concerned, I asked, "Why?"

"To learn how to walk without my gut."

OK. That was kind of weird. After a few moments, I came up with, "Well, change can always be difficult."

He changed the topic, and we kept chatting. His statement kept gnawing at me though because I didn't quite get it. What a strange thing to say. A day or two later, I realized it was a joke.

Wow! How healthy. I didn't get it because I could not even imagine making a joke about weight loss. Even though I had been motivated by the weekly meeting, I was still in a funk over the fact that I had gained .4 of a pound. And, I knew I had been eating more and moving less the past few weeks, so it should not have been a surprise. I was not quite in the depths of self-loathing that I felt the 18 or 19 times I gained in 2009, but I was still down and completely overreacting to the "bad news" the scale gave me.

I swear I have a sense of humor, and I have been known to make jokes about the urge to overeat but never about this journey to becoming a person with a healthy BMI. Honestly, nothing feels more like an emotional roller coaster than my feelings about this process, and I can feel so full of ugly emotions at these meetings that I wonder why anyone would want to be near me or talk to me. It's raw Michelle with no emotional energy to keep her barriers or boundaries up, and there may be no filter. Oh, the drama, the pain, the suffering, the threat of tears. Some of that can be replaced with joy, hope, pride, optimism, and a positive attitude as the journey is becoming more successful overall but never humor.

Why not? It seems like such a healthy reaction to make a joke about this. I've tried to come up with one, but I've not even come close to thinking of one. Why can't I do that? Why does every part of this journey have to be so dramatic? Why can't I just let go and laugh about it a time or two?

It may be asking too much of myself right now. I hope to come up with a joke before the end of the year. I think it would be a really healthy sign.

Can you see the humor in weight loss? Can you think of any good jokes I could make? Do you think it's easier for men to joke about this than women? Is this a laughing matter?

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, February 21, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

We are starting a new feature at the Healthy Writer Blog: Inspiration Sunday. Every Sunday, we'll post a quote, anecdote, fact or other item that will help inspire to keep moving forward on your journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved."

-Helen Keller

Let us know what you think of this new series and if you have any suggestions for what should be posted here on Sundays.

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, February 20, 2010

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

By Rachel Kleinsorge

One of the things I do to be a healthy writer is attend dance class twice a week. I love the way dancing makes me feel glamorous and strong, the way it lets me step outside of myself for an hour. However, I don’t love the way I have to squeeze in dinner between leaving my day job at five and arriving at the dance studio at six-thirty. With drive time, I have about 45 minutes to eat and dress for class. At first I would grab something quick on the way, a burger or a wrap, but I quickly realized my not-healthy meals were undoing all of the work I did on the dance floor. I’ve solved the problem by bringing out an old favorite in the kitchen: the slow cooker.

This recipe is for red beans and rice. Traditional New Orleans style red beans and rice is a meal served on Mondays with women setting the beans out to soak on Sunday while they do the laundry. That recipe usually includes sausage or ham. This recipe has a Caribbean twist that replaces the meat with tomatoes, and thanks to canned beans, you don’t have to wait for anything to soak. You can have this modern version Wednesday, Friday, or any day of the week when you’d like a hot, healthy, meatless meal waiting for you. You can even prepare it the night before and use a kitchen timer when you’re in a real rush.

A few words about why this recipe is healthy. It’s low in fat, but still packed with fiber and protein from the beans. The tomatoes give the dish a high amount of lycopene, vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
¾ cup water
1 small onion, diced (approximately 1 ½ cups)
¼ cup diced green pepper
1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaf
Dash pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small to medium slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on low for four to six hours, until hot throughout. While the beans are cooking, make your favorite rice in the usual manner. Serve the beans over brown rice for health’s sake or white rice for tradition’s sake.

You may not have noticed it yet, but I hate spicy food. I’ll cheerfully eat whole cloves of garlic or sautéed onions while picking out any chili peppers or bell peppers that might sneak into a meal. The recipe above is made to my taste, with the ingredients in italics for all of you who like your food with a little kick. I find slow-cookers bring out even mild flavors. What are your slow cooker favorites? Will your red beans and rice be super spicy or just rich and wonderful?

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, February 19, 2010

How I Broke My Digestive System*

By: Linda Rohrbough

One of the things I discovered when I had weight loss surgery was my digestive system was broken. And I’d unwittingly helped to break it.

They say the truth will set you free. My journey to this truth started one day after my surgeon and I decided to do a book together about the adjustable gastric band surgery. I’d been banded for over a year at this point and I was doing pretty well, I thought. But evidently I still didn’t get it.

He got frustrated with me and quipped: “Where were you during your high school biology class?”

Like I was asleep at the wheel. I wasn’t. I told him I had straight A’s in high school but no biology teacher I knew taught me how anything inside worked, much less how to take care of it. We just drew where the organs were and memorized the names.

He looked thoughtful and answered, “I had a great biology teacher. Maybe that’s why I decided to become a doctor.”

I’m not sure why he was so curious about what motivated him to become a doctor. But I was glad to have the information in the simple form I’m going to share with you. Here is what I learned hanging out with doctors, and what I’ve learned on my own, about how my digestive system works, and how to break it. This may sound discouraging, but trust me - when I know how something works, it becomes much easier to take care of it.

First, and this is important, the body is an intelligent, dynamic system and it adapts. We all know our bodies are designed to heal themselves. But I found my body has smarts of its own, works to maintain fuel for me, and alters itself based on changing conditions, always aiming at survival. It is also determined and quite creative about all this.

So, here’s how I understand my digestive system is supposed to work. It starts when the stomach sends chemical and nerve signals to my brain to let me know it’s time to eat. So I eat, which means I break food into pieces, put it in my mouth and my teeth and tongue break it down more using fluid called saliva. Then it travels to my stomach where it’s further broken down.

The stomach acts as a repository and is designed to release food to my intestines over a period of time. The intestines do the work of removing nutrients from the food and releasing those nutrients into my blood stream as fuel. Anything my body cannot use is gathered together as waste products and pushed downstream until it exits at the other end. When my stomach is empty, it asks for more and the process starts all over again.

What I didn’t know is different parts of the intestines specialize in extracting different nutrients. Also, my stomach moves when it processes food. A critical point is my stomach has sensors that send messages to my brain to let it know my stomach is full. The majority of those sensors are near the top, which means I have to nearly fill it before “full” signals are dispatched to my brain. Plus it can take a few minutes for my brain to get and process these signals. Another critical point, and a big surprise for me, is my stomach is flexible and expands like a balloon depending on how much is in it.

Those two facts - my stomach can stretch and the sensors are near the top - have major implications when it comes to weight loss. Think of a child’s birthday balloon. When expanded either by air or water, and then the air or the water are removed, does it go back to the original shape? Nope. After being stretched, it is bigger, even though it’s empty. This means if I stretch my stomach, it will take more food the next time to trigger the sensors that tell my brain I’m full.

Now, back to how I broke my digestive system. One of the ways is to overeat. And I did that, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. When I was a child, I was made to eat whatever was placed on my plate. Wasting food was wrong in my home and the amount of food I was given was equal to that of my siblings, but never chosen by me. So I became a plate cleaner. If the portions were too big, I still ate all of it.

I also was under the mistaken notion I was shrinking my stomach when I didn’t eat. So as an adult, I would go all day without eating, then only eat in the evening. As I gained weight, I didn’t want people to see me eat. So I allowed myself to get very hungry and ate quickly because I was usually in a hurry. See how this was breaking my digestive system? I stretched my stomach out, then didn’t put fuel in it for my body during the day, but ate a lot each evening. And I ate fast, meaning big bites taken too rapidly for my sensors to keep up.

Further, by waiting all day to eat, my body adapted by storing fuel. It was like setting the idle down on an automobile to conserve gasoline. It became more efficient so I could be functional for so many hours without eating. I damaged my digestive system by training my body that it could not count on me to eat regularly and it needed to hedge its bets.

I also loved drinking straws and carbonated sodas. Those were treats when I was a kid and I took to them with gusto as an adult. Now that I have a band I’m very aware of how much air ends up in my stomach during activities like singing in church or talking during a meal. And a drinking straw is a great way to suck air into and expand the stomach. Think about how much of what’s in the straw is air. Carbonated drinks are the same way. They put extra air in my stomach and I end up burping or feeling uncomfortable. Both are expanding my stomach. So I no longer drink out of a straw or drink anything carbonated.

When I started to gain weight, the first thing I did was diet, which further deprived my body of energy. I was always hungry and thought eventually the hunger would go away. It didn’t. If you read my last blog entry here, then you know I stopped dieting after I was over 350 pounds because I didn’t want to get any bigger.

However, when I was heavy, the rail-thin husband of my former writing buddy asked me how to put on pounds. Smart man. He’d come to the right place. His doctor said he needed to gain and suggested he eat nuts. I said forget the nuts, go on a diet.

He said, “You don’t understand, I’m trying to gain weight.”

I responded with, “No, you don’t understand. What are all the fat people doing? Dieting. Based on results, that’s how to put on weight. Trust me. Diet for a couple of weeks, lose two to five pounds. Make sure you feel deprived and don’t eat when you’re hungry. When you go off the diet, you’ll pack back on that two to five, plus one or two more. You’ll have a net gain. Works every time.”

He decided not to take my advice, which is too bad, because it works. Ask any fat person. As far as I know he’s still underweight.

Dieting is deprivation. My theory, based on what I’ve learned from doctors and my own experience, is my body knows it’s not getting enough and it tries to compensate. It starts by reducing my metabolism. When I went back to eating what I ate before, there’s less ability to burn the fuel, so there’s more fuel available to be stored as fat.

What works with weight loss is a life-style change - a new method of operations. As they say, if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.

However, I think the biggest single thing that broke my digestive system was a brain injury caused by a horseback riding accident at age eighteen. I suffered a skull fracture. I don’t remember much about my week-long hospital stay, except that I gained five pounds in the hospital and had trouble controlling my bowls for another week after that. And I packed on the pounds especially in the months afterward. Did the feedback loop get interrupted? I think so. I do know when my adjustable gastric band is properly filled. I don’t spend my time fighting food cravings.

So there in a nutshell is my understanding of my digestive system and what I did to contribute to breaking it. There are many more ways to mess things up. Maybe you have a few you can contribute. Or a few tips on how you care for your system. Feel free to list them here. I know I’m interested. Inquiring minds want to know.

* Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or any kind of medical expert. I’m relating here my theories and experiences based on what I’ve seen and heard and based on my results. This is not medical advice. I advise you to consult a doctor about your own situation.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing professionally since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles, seven books, and numerous awards for her fiction and non-fiction. Linda’s latest book is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band (Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2008). Visit her Web site:

Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last week I blogged about support teams. You know, those people who keep you motivated on this weight and writing journey. Family, friends, workout partners, critique partners, dogs, magazines, etc...

We came up with a pretty solid list of support, didn't we? And it felt good.

But what about the opposite? That anti-support? You know what I'm talking about -the roadblocks. Roadblocks that deter us from our path. They're there in our quest to create a writing career and in our quest to be healthy writers.

Some are harmless enough. I mean, gramma's only showing her love by making my favorite meal when I come to visit - and I only get to Idaho about once a year, so this is one of those adjustable roadblocks, isn't it? Easy to find a way to overcome (as in, exercise before and/or after dinner - no way I'd miss that meal! I mean, we're talking gramma's cooking here. Stellar stuff!!!)

Others aren't so harmless, but they aren't personal. One of my local RWA chapters provides breakfast of sorts at the meetings. Bagels, fruit and donuts. I'm a big girl, I know I can avoid that tray of donuts. But man, oh man, its hard. Again, I can overcome this roadblock, though, right? I can avoid the donut (and the back of the meeting room to avoid the continuous temptation until all the chocolate covered old-fashioneds are gone), I can eat before going to the meeting so I'm not hungry, I can arrive late, I can skip the meeting altogether. Or I can even give into the donut, factoring it into my weekly caloric plans and exercise accordingly.

Then there are the not-so-harmless, very personal roadblocks. Oh, you know the ones. If you're a writer, you've probably met them up close and personal, right? Contest judges with their poison pen. Reviewers who gleefully wield a shredder. Writing friends who don't think you 'deserve' whatever rung you're currently standing on. Its hard not to take those personally, isn't it? Even though, really, the issues at hand aren't ours.

Maybe some of the roadblocks are family. The hubby who just doesn't understand why you are trying to kill him with all this rabbit food. The friend who's pissed that you won't meet her for Friday night drinks anymore (but wont' meet you for lunch at the salad bar). The snotty little skinny gal at the gym who rolls her eyes at your form and makes passive-aggressive suggestions that you need a lifelong gym membership if you're ever going to get that butt in shape.

So how do you get past THOSE roadblocks? What do you do to work around the people or situations in your life that keep adding to your challenge to meet your fitness and health goals?

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...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympics as inspiration

We don't have The Biggest Loser for a couple of weeks because of the Olympics, so I thought I'd talk about the Olympics today. I am a HUGE fan of the Olympics, always have been. I'll watch any Olympic event, summer or winter, but I'm a bigger fan of the Winter Games. I love figure skating, ice dancing, snowboarding, skiing, speed skating, you name it. And as much as the competition itself, I really love to hear the stories behind the athletes -- the stories of struggle and overcoming adversity, the details of how much time, effort, and sacrifice they put into their sports in the pursuit of an Olympic medal. I've heard at least three stories of torn ACLs during the Games so far this year -- ones overcome in the past and even one current. I don't remember who it was, but one of the downhill skiers was competing with a torn ACL. That's dedication, folks.

I find these athletes inspiring when it comes to health and fitness too. They are fit because they work at it every day, without fail, often without complaint. It makes me wonder why I grouse about having to put in an hour or two of exercise to stay fit when these people spend hours and hours a day in gyms, on the ski slopes, on the rinks, in the half-pipe. When I see their stories of dedication, it actually fires me up and makes me want to become a workout maniac. Several years ago, I think after the Nagano Olympics, I actually took a figure skating class. I'm not good by any stretch of the imagination, but I at least learned how to stand up and move away from the wall of the rink. And skating is really good exercise. You can feel it in your legs when you come off the ice.

I wonder what I could accomplish if I could even spend half of each day dedicated solely to exercise. I'm already thinking of trying an experiment in April, after all my current deadlines and planned travels are over. I think I want to try exercising half a day every day in April just to see what kind of difference it will make. I'm excited about it, and I'll keep all the readers here at Healthy Writer updated on how it goes with regular check-ins.

Until then...go Johnny Weir, Evan Lysacek, Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, Tanith Belbin, Ben Agosto and the rest of Team USA!

Are you all watching the Olympics? Who are your favorite Olympic athletes and sports? Do the Olympics inspire you to spend more time getting fit?

Trish Milburn writes for Harlequin American under her own name and young adult fiction under the name Tricia Mills. Find our more about her books at
Continue Reading...

Get Rid of that Butt

We writers spend a lot of time sitting in our chairs at our computers (at least we should be), but a bad side effect of that is acquiring a less than firm posterior. Awhile back, I mentioned here that receiving regular fitness and health newsletters in our e-mail in boxes has been shown to help people stayed focused on their fitness and actually do something about it. At that time, I signed up for several newsletters from Prevention magazine's site. I've read lots of fun tidbits and tips, and one was a series of four short videos about exercises to firm up and trim down the butt. These are things we can all do in short spurts, even while we're watching TV or listening to a book or workshops on our iPods or other MP3 players.

Click here to view the videos of the balancing squat, single leg deadlift, banded shuffle and side leg lift. Let me know if you try them and if you see changes as a result. I'm off to try them right now as I watch the pilot of Torchwood, the next TV series I'm requesting from Netflix.
Continue Reading...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Am I Backsliding?

I've noticed an alarming trend the past few weeks. The amount of calories, or points for Weight Watchers followers, I'm eating daily is increasing while the amount of exercise I am doing daily is decreasing. This is not a formula for continued success with weight loss.

I'm not sure why this is happening. I'm in the fourteenth month of my diet, my lifestyle change, my latest journey to become a healthy writer, and I would have told you a few weeks ago that it's much easier now than it was during the first 6 to 9 months. I started 2010 completely motivated to get back on track after the challenges posed by the holidays and have done a meticulous job of keeping a food and activity/exercise diary since the beginning of the year. This is why I can say with full confidence that I have been eating more and moving less the past several weeks.

I don't think this is a case of emotional or stress eating. I have had disappointments and challenges the past few weeks, and I have had about an equal helping of successes and other moments of happiness. I don't think there is some unaddressed, underlying emotional issue making me eat more - though perhaps some of those disappointments did make me eat more on any given day. But, they have not started this several week trend of backsliding.

So, why am I doing it? The weather is definitely working to keep me from the gym. I haven't wanted to drive to the gym on the days it snowed. Since many of the roads are still a mess, I'm still wary about taking my car out. I also think that the fact that it's dark and cold when I get home from work has discouraged me from going to the gym on some nights. It's just easier to motivate to go to the gym when it's sunny, and I don't have to put on so many layers of clothes. The weather also kept me from going to work 3 out of 5 days this past week, so I did not even have my general commute walk to increase my daily activity.

But, I know that these are just excuses, and I need to find ways to work around the excuses if I want to succeed on my goal of reaching a healthy weight and BMI and stay there. Thankfully, I was starting to feel the lack of exercise in my body, and I did not like it. I wasn't sleeping as well, and I just didn't feel as good or as energetic as I do when I'm exercising more. I finally dragged out my step at home Tuesday night while watching the Biggest Loser. One of the Olympic athletes had challenged the audience to do lunges during the commercial break. I did it, and it was harder than it should have been.

That appalled me and made me get out that step and do about 50 minutes of step that night. I have continued to do step routines while watching television this week. I felt a positive difference in my body Tuesday night and that's continued. I've now committed to working out at least 3 times a week, above and beyond my normal commute, at home on my step or at the gym for the rest of the winter. I think this will stop my decrease in exercise and get my activity points closer to the range where I want it. I think incorporating exercise into my life every day will just naturally get easier in the spring and summer.

While I have made some strides to address why I'm not exercising as much as I want to, it's not as easy to understand why I'm eating more. I pulled out my trackers, or food diaries, since January 20th to try to see if I can figure out some answers for that question. As always, I tend to eat more calories on any day that I eat out. That said, I'm not willing to give that up. Eating out is a big part of my social life. I can work harder at making better choices when I eat out, but if this is a lifestyle change, it has to be "livable" and not lessen my quality of life. I need to "be social" at least once if not more per week to keep up my general level of happiness and well being. I'm even willing to accept that I may lose less weight on weeks that I eat out a few times with friends rather than eliminate all eating out to try to lose the weight quicker. I try to plan around eating out and treat those occasions as my treat(s) for the week.

But, this trend of eating more daily also occurred on days I was not eating out for social occasions. And, I can't say that I was just hungrier these past few weeks. After looking at my food diary for the past few weeks, I have noticed a new trend. About a month ago when I went grocery shopping, for some unknown reason I decided to check out the weight watcher and other lower-cal desserts in the freezer section and bought five different kinds of WW ice cream treats. I still don't know why I did this because it's unprecedented. Since then, only a day or so has gone by without me eating some kind of treat.

This is not good. I like desserts as much as the next person, but I've never felt like I needed to have one daily. I've noticed that I'm starting to think everyday about what will my treat be that day. For example, Saturday I went to Teaism to meet some girl friends for a late lunch/tea. I had the same order as I had when I went in January: mind and body herbal tea, curried chicken salad and two small carrot cake scones (a single serving there). This is totally acceptable to me, I ate a smaller dinner to compensate for my larger lunch, and this could have been my treat for the week.

The only problem was that I now have this new trend of having a treat a day. Friday, I had an oatmeal chocolate cookie. From Friday, February 5 to Thursday, February 11, I had at least one Weight Watchers ice cream treat a day. It feels like that eating that second or third Weight Watchers ice cream sandwich in late January has triggered this expectation or desire for some kind of "treat", preferably a sweet one, every day. I'm not sure if this is eating for reward or if it's just that this has triggered an increased desire for sugary treats.

I suppose this would be fine if I were decreasing the amount of other, healthier food choices I eat daily to address the fact that I'm starting to eat 100-200 extra calories a day of nearly empty, sweet calories, but I'm not. These treats are definitely increasing how much I'm eating a day. Now, I haven't been able to go to Weight Watchers (due to the weather) since Tuesday, February 2, so I haven't weighed myself since then. I do know that these past two weeks are when I should have my biggest loss in the typical monthly weigh loss pattern I have. Tomorrow night's weigh in will confirm if this backsliding of mine has hurt my total weight loss in February.

Even if I do have a big weight loss tomorrow night, I know I need to stop this pattern of moving less and eating more. I have addressed the exercise part this past week, and I'm starting to address the eating side this week. I have reconfirmed that I DO NOT need to have some kind of sugary treat every day, and I should not expect one.

I've also reexamined my definition of a treat. In the past few weeks, a treat has been a sugary dessert, but that doesn't have to be the case. In the past 14 months, I have gone through stretches when I've been able to look at very healthy choices as treats. As part of my goal to make this journey a lifestyle change and not a temporary diet, I've worked very hard to make all my meals healthy AND satisfying to me. I've thought a lot about what healthy foods do I really like to eat and how can I incorporate them more into my diet. I've increased my appreciation for fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy food choices while I've almost eliminated unhealthy processed foods from my diet. I need to renew this focus on eating healthy yet satisfying (to me) foods.

On the way home from Teaism Saturday, I stopped at Whole Foods to buy healthy treats: organic pink lady apples, bananas, blueberries, a sweet onion, fresh garlic, milk and freshly baked, dark, Russian peasant bread. I've incorporated these healthy "treats" into my diet and stopped eating the Weight Watchers ice cream treats this holiday weekend. For dinner Saturday, I toasted the dark, high-fiber, whole wheat bread and enjoyed how the peanut butter melted on it. Sunday morning, I mixed three of my favorite high fiber, crunchy cereals and added blueberries (a healthy treat!), sliced almonds and milk to it for a very healthy, filling and satisfying (to me) breakfast. I plan to make old-fashioned oatmeal (with whole oats - not that instant or quick stuff) on Monday morning and cook it with milk, walnuts, a pink lady apple, cinnamon and just a tiny bit of brown sugar for a satisfying breakfast that incorporates some of my favorite healthy treats.

Hopefully, this refocus on healthy choices as treats instead of sugary desserts that are full of empty calories as treats will help me decrease how many calories I eat on a daily basis in the next several weeks. I really am bound and determined to reach a healthy weight for the first time since I was 20-years-old, and no temporary stretches of backsliding are going to grow to such a size that it knocks me off my journey to becoming a healthy writer.

Have you noticed that you have been letting some of your healthy habits slide lately? Can you figure out why you are doing it, and how you can address the excuses that are making you change your behavior? Do you have any tips for how to address backsliding?

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, February 14, 2010

Hearts, Flowers...Chocolate?

By Anne McFarlane

Valentine's Day is one of those special occasions when it’s tough to stick to putting only healthy food in your mouth. So, I say, indulge a little. But don’t bring anything into the house that’s going to linger past Feb. 14. Ask for something red and naughty instead of chocolate from your significant other. I bet he’ll be happier with that choice, too.

So, what to make for a special dinner for just the two of you? Here’s a recipe for Beef Stroganoff from Weight Watchers that I’ve been making for over twenty years and it’s GOOD!


8 ounces beef steak, cut into strips
1 tablespoon margarine
1/4 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
Dash each, salt & pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons each Dijon style mustard and tomato paste
2 packets instant beef broth and seasoning mix
3 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons parsley
2 cups cooked noodles (hot)


1. Coat a non-stick 9-inch skillet with cooking spray and brown the beef strips, cooking until done in the middle; set aside.
2. In skillet, heat margarine until hot and bubbly.
3. Add onion and garlic, and sauté briefly, about 1 minute (DO NOT BROWN).
4. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.
5. Sprinkle with flour and stir quickly to combine; gradually stir in water.
6. Add mustard and tomato paste, and broth mix and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened.
7. Reduce heat, add sour cream and parsley, and stir to combine.
8. Add steak and cook until just heated through. Serve over hot noodles.

6 points per serving (about 300 calories)

You can easily double this recipe to feed four.

Now dessert poses a special challenge. You want to indulge a little bit, but you still want to feel good in that something red and naughty your partner has given you. I would suggest buying a couple of single slices of your favorite cheesecake or carrot cake at the bakery – or maybe something to share. That way you limit yourself to a single serving and you aren’t tempted to eat the entire cake or pie that’s sitting in the fridge calling your name.

However, maybe the kids will be around and they can help you eat the leftovers. So here’s a recipe that will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth:


1 (4-serving sized) package fat-free, sugar-free, instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
1 3/4 cups fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 of an 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 of an 8-ounce container frozen light whipped cream (like Cool Whip)
1 (6-ounce) reduced-fat, chocolate-flavored crumb pie shell
1 cup fresh raspberries or blackberries
1 tablespoon grated semi-sweet chocolate

In medium bowl, prepare pudding mix as directed on package using the 1 3/4 cups milk. Stir in vanilla extract; set aside. Place cream cheese in large microwaveable bowl, uncovered, on high, for 15 seconds. Stir. Microwave on high for another 15 seconds. Beat cream cheese with mixer on medium for 15 seconds. Add half of the pudding mix; beat until smooth. Add remaining pudding mix; beat until smooth. Fold in half of the whipped cream topping. Spread mix in pie shell. Chill for 4 hours or until set.

Top servings with remaining whipped topping, berries and grated chocolate.

Only 180 calories per slice and 8 grams total fat. 4 points.

Anne MacFarlane is an aspiring romance writer living on the east coast of Canada. You can follow her writing journey at
Continue Reading...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tomato & White Bean Soup

The first soup my sister chose to make out of her cookbook 1 Stock, 100 Soups (written by Linda Doeser) was a tomato & white bean soup. Like every other soup we’ve tried from this book, it was yummy. It was also pretty easy to make, and it froze well.

I should also tell you that the 1 Stock recipe that Linda provides in her cookbook is for Vegetable Stock. Have you ever made a Vegetable stock? I haven't. I just can't imagine it could be that exciting as a base for soup. I'm much more of a chicken stock or beef stock girl. Actually, I should say broth since I almost always used canned, boxed or powdered broth or bouillon to start my soups. Right away, I'm going to modify some of Linda's recipes. That said, I still highly recommend her cookbook.

Tomato & White Bean Soup

Serves 6


3 tbsp olive oil (can use spray olive oil to reduce fat and calories)

1 2/3 cups chopped red onions (I’d never measure this - I’d just chop a large red onion)

1 celery stalk with leaves, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 cups peeled and chopped plum tomatoes (Ha! – I used a can of diced tomatoes)

6 cups chicken broth (again, use your favorite)

2 tbsp tomato paste (I’d probably opt out of this because what do you do with the rest of the paste??)

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp butter (I’m sure this could be optional too)

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 can cannellini beans

salt and pepper

3 tbsp chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley


Heat oil in large pan. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened.

Increase the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. Pour in the chicken stock. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar and sweet paprika. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mash together the butter and flour to a paste in a small bowl with a fork. Stir the paste, in small pieces at a time, into the soup. Make sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next. (This whole step seems completely skippable to me on several levels.)

Add the beans. Stir well and simmer for another 5 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

Continue Reading...

Friday, February 12, 2010

What If Your Digestive System Is Broken?

By: Linda Rohrbough

You’re struggling with your weight, right? Consider this. What if your digestive system is broken?

What does that mean? What would it look like?

Let me tell you what it looked like for me.* For starters, it meant no matter what I did, I was still hungry. I drank less water, avoided sweets, ate veggies until they were coming out my ears, cut carbs, worked out, and didn’t eat anything bigger than my head. But all I could think about is food, and not food that’s good for me.

Let me give you an extreme example. A mother had a sleep-over birthday party for her teenage daughter at her home and unbenounced to her, the invited guests brought Ecstasy. Her daughter tried the drug for the first time and in between the partying and the raucous laughter, her daughter got incredibly thirsty. So thirsty she ended up in the bathroom drinking straight out of the faucet. Her friends hid that from her mother, because clearly they thought they’d be in trouble (and they were right). The birthday girl ended up passed out on the floor from drinking so much water. She was rushed to the hospital and died. Like I said, this is extreme - who knew you could die from drinking too much water? But it’s a good example of a broken digestive system. Ecstasy misguided the feedback loop. No matter how much water this girl drank, she was not capable of judging when it was enough.

Something similar happened to my digestive system. There are a number of theories for how it gets broken, but no amount of self-discipline, self-esteem coaching or “character” will fix a broken digestive system. My body told my brain I was starving when clearly I was not. It made me miserable and drove me to do things not good for me.

And I felt like a total failure, guilty all the time. I blamed part of it on being a writer. But it wasn’t because I’m a writer. Granted, writing tends to be a sedentary job. But writing didn’t do it. After all, there are lots of thin writers.

No matter how disciplined I was in other areas of my life, nothing I did about my weight worked for very long. I could fight the hunger sometimes for an entire year, but eventually I ended up back to my old habits and the pounds packed on. Each time I quit a diet, I got bigger than before I started. I don’t know what my top weight was because my primary care doctor’s scale maxed out at 350 pounds. I do know I wore the largest size clothes Catherine’s and Lane Bryant made.

According to the National Institutes of Health, anyone’s odds of losing weight and keeping it off by dieting are five percent. That means I had a ninety-five percent chance of putting the weight back on. If in Vegas someone gave me a ninety-five percent chance that I’d win $100, would I take those odds? Sure. What if it was eighty-five percent? I’d take those odds, too. Well, there’s an eighty-five percent chance, according to the NIH, that if I had weight loss surgery, I’d lose the weight and keep it off.

Bottom line is it took surgery to fix my digestive system. For me, though, surgery was a big pill to swallow. My initial problem was the expense. (As it turns out, I got all the money back and then some because, as I discovered, it is much, much cheaper to be thinner.) Second, I was afraid to die. I felt certain types of bariatric surgery are very high risk, like gastric bypass. After doing research, I got an adjustable gastric band (LAP-BAND®) in January of 2003 and now seven years later, I’ve lost 130 pounds. I now wear a size 12 and I started in a size 32. My BMI is 33 and it was 53. It still surprises me how differently people treat me.

During my band journey, fill was removed from my band (meaning they removed some or all of the saline water that tightens the band). And just as sure as the sun rises, I gained weight. The weight did not go back off until the fill was put back in. This happened no matter how self-disciplined I tried to be and despite the “lessons” about eating I learned by having a band.

When I was so heavy, I received lots of advice, (most of it unsolicited) and tried most of it. One thing helped. I had a doctor tell me to forget dieting, start drinking one hundred ounces of water a day. It took me two years of concentrated effort to do it consistently, and my weight dropped down to 335. Nothing to write home about, but at least water drinking was a habit I could maintain with some success.

It seems to me no matter what I do with food combinations or exercise, it’s the total food intake that makes me gain or lose weight. But when my band is properly adjusted, I don’t count calories. However, I have trouble just sitting all day now that I’m thinner. I feel better when I move. So I write for fifty minutes, then exercise for ten minutes, usually yoga. To track the time, I use Cool Timer, available for free download on the website. This program also allows me to add my own alarm sound. I added ocean waves, which keeps me in the “zone” rather than be jarred by a loud, irritating noise.

Bottom line is I discovered obesity isn’t a character flaw; it is a symptom of a broken digestive system. The band surgery provided a fix for me, a lifestyle change I could manage without fighting every moment of every day. For that, I am eternally grateful.

I’m not a doctor, but I do know some of the things that break a digestive system, why drinking water works for weight loss, and some tips I learned about how to eat by having a band. If you’re interested, post here and I’ll share them with you. And feel free to share your story.

* Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or any kind of medical expert. I’m relating here my theories and experiences based on what I’ve seen and heard and based on my results. This is not medical advice. I advise you to consult a doctor about your own situation.

Linda Rohrbough has been writing professionally since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles, seven books, and numerous awards for her fiction and non-fiction. Linda’s latest book is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band (Da Capo Lifelong Books, March 2008). Visit her Web site:

Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Who's In Your Corner

I realized today that I'm very VERY lucky. Yes, for a lot of reasons, but today's realization was for a specific one. I have an incredible support in my life.

Because, lets face it, losing weight isn't easy. Maintaining weight isn't easy. Writing, for that matter, isn't easy. They all require a lot of focus, a lot of energy and a lot of motivation. And while we can probably generate those things alone, and do it quite well, its really hard to keep that going for the long term.

Which is where support comes in.

Studies show that people lose more weight if they have a support group. I don't think there have been studies done on the writing side of that, but I'd be willing to bet that people find more writing success if they, too, have a support group.

What's required to be a support group? Personally, I think it can be any number of things. My family is fabulously supportive and encouraging in both my health goals and my writing goals. My critique partner and I email daily with both our writing progress and what exercise we've done. A good friend and I check in weekly to report our weight gain or loss, keeping us both focused on our health goal. I belong to an exercise challenge group right now, too.

And then there's this blog. Right here is one great support group, isn't it? In addition, I listen to motivational podcasts (okay, granted,the speakers might not realize they are my support group... but they are).

That's a LOT of energy supporting my goal to get healthier, isn't it?

How about you? Can you list (yeah, yeah, I know, my favorite word *g*) your support people? Did you include this blog? And if the list isn't as long as you'd like, where can you look to add to it? Gym buddies, weight loss programs, good friends? Isn't everything easier if you have people in your corner rooting for your success?

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 will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Red Line, Yellow Line

Things got changed up quite a bit on The Biggest Loser this week. Allison first gave the contestants the good news that they'd be headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to train with Olympic athletes. Throughout the show, several Olympic and Paralympic athletes worked out with and gave tips to the contestants. Nutritionists at the center talked about the different types of meals and caloric intakes athletes had to consume depending on their sports.

On the not-so-good news side, the contestants were informed that two people would be going home. That darn red line was back as well as the yellow one. Whoever fell below the red line would go home immediately.

Koli struggled a bit emotionally this week. Not only was he already struggling with his own self-confidence and self-worth, but he was shaken by John's departure last week. He had it in his head that John deserved to be on the ranch more than he did. It took a talk with Bob to put him back on the right path to believing he deserved to be on the ranch just as much as anyone else.

Speed skater J.R. Celski was on hand for the slide board challenge (which mimicked the movements a speed skater makes as he races) in which the contestants raced to see who could get to 500 slides first. It was a heated race to the finish between Sam and Melissa, but Sam edged her out in the end. The advantages that Sam, Melissa and Sunshine won in the challenge by coming in in the gold, silver and bronze spots were for naught as they just aimed their extra shots in the biathlon immunity challenge at each other. For the immunity challenge, the normal skiing of biathlon was replaced with running, and the shooting was aimed at taking fellow contestants out of the running by shooting at targets by their names. It came down to a race between perhaps the two people least able to run -- Darrell and O'Neal. In the end, O'Neal barely finished ahead Darrell and won immunity.

The last chance workout included both a normal gym workout and a boot camp at 24-hour fitness with Olympic figure skater Rockne Brubaker.

At the weigh-in, Michael didn't quite make the 100-pound record, missing Rudy's record from last season by 6 pounds. Still, very impressive weight loss with 11 pounds. The only other person in double digits was Sam, with 12. Daris lost 9, and Allison announced that he is the person with the biggest percentage of weight loss on campus so far. Miggy reached a milestone as she lost 7 pounds to go below 200 pounds. When everyone had weighed, it was Melissa's one-pound gain that sealed her place below the red line and automatic elimination. Cheryl and Darrell were below the yellow, but in another twist Allison announced that in the spirit of the Olympics their fate wouldn't be decided by votes but rather a head-to-head challenge. Everyone filed outside, and Cheryl and Darrell had to balance supports on their heads that were holding up their Olympic-style torches. I didn't see this coming, but the end of the challenge won't be shown until next week.

What moments did you enjoy this week? What surprised you? Is anyone like me in thinking that Melissa seems very genuine in her frustration about the inconsistency of how she loses and gains weight? She couldn't have meant to gain a pound this week, I don't think. Who do you think will win the challenge -- Cheryl of Darrell? And how adorable are Sunshine and O'Neal? They are just the cutest father-daughter team.

And in a total side note, anyone else really annoyed by the obvious product placements for products like Extra Sugar-Free Gum? I want to scream every time I see one. It's not that I don't think the products have value, but the obviousness of the in-show commercial just annoys me.
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Good Night's Sleep

It seems like I always have a million things to do, and on many an occasion I allow that fact to make me stay up way past when I should be going to bed to get some sleep. I can do this for a day or two without too many ill effects, but more than that I begin to get fatigued, cranky, and more susceptible to getting sick. Getting a good night's sleep is such a simple thing we can do for our health, but I'd venture a guess a lot of us aren't getting the suggested 8 hours. We think about what we could get done if we could shave off an hour here or there. But here's the thing -- keep this up for long and you might get sick (thus losing more time for work than you gained by not getting enough sleep) or experience lessened productivity. If you get the necessary sleep, you'll feel more alert and refreshed, able to work more efficiently.

Not getting enough sleep was listed as one of the 14 biggest health mistakes women make in a recent article on Prevention's Web site. According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, about 20 percent of Americans get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, and only about 28 percent get the suggested amount of between 7 and 9 hours. And it's not just fatigue or possible sicknesses such as colds that can result from sleep deprivation. Among the potential health risks caused by sleep deprivation over the long term are:

1. Higher risk of heart disease
2. An imbalance in weight-related hormones which can cause us to store more fat and decrease our ability to burn off that fat
3. Depression
4. Anxiety
5. Insulin resistance, which can lead to conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure
6. Car accidents (Drowsy drivers or those who have actually fallen asleep injure more than 40,000 people a year and kill around 1,500.)

Any one of those reasons is enough to make sure we get a good night's sleep. Taken all together, it makes those snoozing hours tremendously important -- for ourselves and those around us.
Continue Reading...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowed In? Time to Cook.

This past weekend, the Washington, DC, area was clobbered by a major snow storm. The local news stations had been shouting about it for days and days, and I knew I was going to be snowed in this weekend. What should I do?

Now, my local writers' group had a writing challenge this weekend, and I could have done that, but I didn't know about that until Friday. I also have to balance my goals at times. I plan to devote this upcoming weekend to a writing challenge and needed to give more emphasis to my healthy lifestyle goals this past weekend, so I'd already decided that this would be a perfect time for a cooking marathon.

I've fallen in love with cooking one day for the month or quarter, and my freezer and refrigerator were almost empty. I spent some time Wednesday and Thursday figuring out what I would cook and made a shopping list. I braved the frenzy at the local grocery store Thursday and waited nearly an hour to pay for my items, but I started the weekend well-stocked to cook and cook.

I made my Turkey Burgers Friday night (this time with oatmeal instead of bread crumbs to try a "healthier" option) and French chicken in a pot Sunday night, but I did the bulk of my cooking on Saturday when I made:

Ropa Vieja (cuban meat dish) with quinoa
Caldo Verde (portuguese greens soup - WW recipe toward the end in comments)
Picadillo (mexican ground beef stew) with quinoa
Beef Enchilada Casserole
Marinara Sauce
Filomena's inspired turkey sausage and veggie pasta sauce with whole wheat pasta
Bella Braised Chicken with quinoa or pasta

I fell into bed exhausted and even sore Saturday night from all the cooking, but I loved the sight of my beautiful freezer full of individual frozen meals. I plan to use some of the extra chicken from Sunday's roast in a mexican casserole and in a king ranch casserole, and I have the fixings for a very simple but satisfying meal of light or turkey kielbasa with zuchinni, yellow squash, italian stewed tomatoes and quinoa that I will make later this week - just as soon as I figure out how I can freeze these additional meals.

This cooking one day for the month is one of my favorite healthier habits I've picked up in the past year or so. It saves time, it increases the variety of my diet day-to-day, and it ensures that I am often prepared to eat delicious, healthy and appropriately portioned meals that will help me continue to lose weight. It also saves money and reduces waste. The last time I did a cooking marathon, I was craving lentils, barley and beans, so my grocery bill was a very inexpensive $122.31. This time, I was craving meat, so the grocery tab was a much more expensive $274.88. But, I am getting more than 100 individual meals for that, so I still say it's saving me money.

I highly recommend trying a marathon cooking session if you never have. Sunday, I alternated looking at the pretty snow out my window and feeling darn good about how much I had achieved on Saturday.

Have you ever tried a marathon cooking session? Do you have any tips or great recipes to share?
Continue Reading...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Creativity in a Salad

Thanks Trish, Tawny and Michelle for letting me guest blog today. My name is Nancy E. Gibson, and I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of America for ten years. Two years ago, I decided to dedicate myself to living a healthy lifestyle. Losing 47 pounds and adopting other healthy habits like regular exercise has impacted my writing in many ways. Leading the list is the fact that I’ve experienced a significant increase in energy and more focused concentration. My renewed energy and concentration increases my ability to set and meet writing goals quickly which in turn boosts my confidence. It’s a win-win cycle.

My weight loss/healthy lifestyle program is Intervent, a holistic program available in many hospitals across the U.S. One-on-one meetings with my coach/mentor cover a wide range of topics including nutrition, exercise, goal setting, emotions, and stress.

In my healthy eating plan it’s recommended I eat three servings of fruit a day. When my coach, Debby, looked at my food tracker she noticed that most days I was eating one or two servings of fruit, rarely three. I made a quick fix by adding half a cup of orange juice to my daily plan. On my next visit, Debby reminded me that although orange juice works in a pinch, I wasn’t getting the same nutritional fiber I would by eating a whole piece of fruit. Part of the problem was boredom; I was tired of grab-and-go, oranges, apples and bananas, all day every day. I knew I had to get creative. Hey, we’re all writers here and we’re all creative, right? :)

I solved my not-enough-fruit dilemma when I saw the following recipe for Summer Fresh Spinach Salad, a green salad which includes fruit. Now I’m hooked on all the ways fruit and greens can be combined to make delicious salads. Here are two quick, easy recipes to try. Recipes are from Kraft Kitchens.

Summer Fresh Spinach Salad

2 9-ounce packages of baby spinach
6 small ripe peaches (sliced thin)
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 cup pecans, whole or sliced (toast in microwave until fragrant and crisp, stir every 30 seconds)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 8-ounce bottle light raspberry vinaigrette dressing

To keep fresh peaches from browning, toss in a separate bowl with 3 tablespoons of dressing, then add to the salad. Combine all ingredients. Add remainder of dressing just before serving and toss. This recipe is best with fresh peaches but frozen or canned in their own juice works too.

Citrus Salad

4 cups packed torn mixed salad greens
4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1 large navel orange or 1 (11-ounce) can of mandarin oranges
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup thin red onion rings
3 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
1/3 cup light balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Add dressing just before serving; toss to coat.

Play with combining or substituting the ingredients in each recipe. Losing weight doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative, have fun, eat and enjoy. Do you have a creative way to get more fruit or veggies into your day? Do you have a recipe to share?

While working toward her final weight loss goal with great determination, Nancy E. Gibson also writes historical paranormal romances about love, danger, and intrigue in the court of King James IV. She is equally determined to see her books in bookstores some day soon.
Continue Reading...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Here I Go Again

By Joan Kayse

I have to lose weight. I want to lose weight. I struggle to lose weight.

These key statements will not be unfamiliar to those who swear every January to lose those extra pounds. I know. I’ve sworn that every January since high school.

Trish invited me to blog when I posted to our Romance Bandits loop about joining the YMCA. I’ve been doing Weight Watchers on and off also and had managed to lose 15 pounds. I understand the program. I KNOW the program and I feel better when I exercise and yet…here it is February 5 and I’m still languishing.

I offer no excuses but I do have explanations. Since October I’ve had two dear friends go through some traumatic life events. As a friend, I was there with them but I also worried for them and when I am stressed I eat. Then the holidays happened and now my brother had to have surgery. Running back and forth between houses, working 12-hour days and trying to keep up makes me stressed. So…I reach for the quick solution. I don’t get to the gym like I intend. I don’t follow the points like I should. No excuses.

No one can do this but me. No. One. I have to MAKE the time I need to exercise. I have to follow the program of Weight Watchers. I can do it. We all can do it. So I’m dusting the chocolate off my hands, tossing the buttered bread out the window and taking it one day at a time.

What about you? What are you going to do different today to get back on track?
Continue Reading...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Time Is It?

I usually write every night from around 9 or 10 pm until 2 or 3 am. In part, it’s because it’s the only time of day that isn’t slam-packed busy, in part because it’s the only time it’s actually quiet in my house. It’s a time that’s worked out pretty well for me over the last 7 years.

Except for one teensy problem.

Nighttime is my challenge time.

The lure of snacking time

The snacks fuel my writing time.

In other words, the one time of day that I’m most likely to make rotten eating choices, especially if the story isn’t flowing. You know how that goes, one thing’s stuck, skip to another to feel better. A sort of instant gratification writer therapy. The “uh oh, I wrote myself into a corner. Where do I go from here? Oh wait, what’s that I hear? Is it my stomach growling? I should find food. A break from the computer, a quick snack, I’m sure the answer will come to me.” And the worst part (or best, depending on your pov) is that it actually does work. At least, it does about 30 percent of the time, which is sadly enough to keep me trying it.

Smart thinking tells me to get all the dangerous junk food out of the house. To plot stronger from the beginning so I don’t hit those walls. To resist, or do something else (see last week’s list) when faced with this trigger. And I’m working on it.

But, really, I blame the clock. Nighttime is my weak time. But I’m working on it.

How about you? Is there one particular time of day that’s a bigger challenge for you than others? Is your challenge to stay away from the donut box during early morning meetings? Or do you get the after-lunch munchies that sends you straight for the vending machine or candy stash? Maybe it’s an evening thing? A big bowl of ice cream while watching TV? Or like me, maybe you get middle-of-the-night cravings?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Tough Cookie

This week's The Biggest Loser saw the return of the blue and yellow teams from their month-long stays at home, back on the ranch for a head-to-head weigh in to determine which team got to stay on the ranch. Even though Cherita and Victoria of the blue team lost a combined 63 pounds, they fell short of the yellow team's 76-pound combined loss. Sunshine lost 25, and O'Neal lost an eye-popping 51 pounds at home. I knew as soon as I saw him that he'd lost a good deal; it was that noticeable. By winning, they got immunity and would cast the only vote at the final weigh in of the episode, if one was needed (if a team with one player remaining fell below the yellow line, no vote would be needed).

In honor of Super Bowl week, the immunity challenge saw one player from each team hitting football tackling dummies. The first person to hit it 1,000 times won. It was a close race between Lance (red team), Sam (gray) and Michael (white), but Michael came out victorious by only 3 or 4 touches. Sam wasn't happy, but he directed the displeasure at himself, not Michael, admitting he wasn't a very good loser. He and Koli are very competitive, and I like that competitiveness in them. The pink team came in last, which meant they would each have a 1-pound disadvantage at the weigh in.

It was a tough week for Miggy, having to go back to the Biggest Loser house without her daughter and teammate, Migdalia. As if that wasn't bad enough, she had to be rushed to the hospital and into surgery to remove her appendix, a cyst and a mass. This is where the tough cookie part comes in. One day after the surgery, she came back to the ranch and walked 13 miles. The next day? 18 miles. Then 14 the next. Wow, is she tough and determined. Even after Dr. Huizenga told her that she had 8 or 9 extra pounds of water in her body from the surgery, she still managed to lose 5 pounds and keep herself safe.

The numbers were lower this week, with only three people hitting double digits -- Daris with 12, Michael with 13, and Sam with 10. Melissa of the red team hit a milestone when she lost 5 pounds to dip below the 200-pound mark. But with Lance only losing 4 pounds (the lowest of any of the guys), it looked for most of the weigh in that one of the red team's members would be going home. That was until John (the sole remaining member of the brown team) stepped on the scales and only posted a loss of 6 pounds. He needed 7 to be safe. His departure was hard for him, the trainers and the other contestants. He seems to be a genuinely nice guy, and one who made a lot of friends on the ranch. It was nice to see that he has now lost more than 100 pounds, and is working out with his twin brother, James, who was voted out in Week 1.

What did you think of Miggy's determination and toughness this week? Have you ever pushed through pain to do something you or others didn't think you could do? How do you feel about John's departure?
Continue Reading...

A Month Without Soda

On Sunday, I hit Day 31 without any soda, which for me means Coke. As happened with previous times I'd given up soft drinks, the first week was the hardest. I craved Coke -- the taste, the sugar, the caffeine. But once I got past those cravings, it got easier. I think I only truly craved a Coke once or twice during the month once I got past those initial days. Once was last week while in San Antonio and eating at a really good pizza place (no worries, I only had two slices, and drank water). With the exception of one Starbucks hot chocolate, which I had a few days ago when it was really cold outside, I drank nothing but water during all of January. It's nice not to crave the caffeine, even though today I needed it.

I've been in Texas the past couple of weeks, and I started home today now that I hope the roads are clear back home after last week's snowstorm. I woke up this morning (Monday morning) at 4:15 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep. So I was on the road by 5:50. A couple of hours into my trip, I started getting sleepy. Since I had many more hours to drive, I needed a boost of caffeine, even though I didn't particularly want the Coke. So I allowed myself one Coke, which I made last all day -- through parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Since I plan to get plenty of sleep tonight, I'm hopeful I won't need any caffeine tomorrow. And I don't think the one Coke was enough to start me on the path to drinking them again. In fact, I plan to spend the rest of February just drinking water. I actually like water, so it's not a hardship. But it's something that makes me feel good about my health efforts.

Do you all have anything that you crave but can live without once you've given it up for several days?
Continue Reading...

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