Monday, May 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

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

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Letting Go

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Willing Are You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you? What are you willing to do to lose weight? And what are you not willing to do?
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

And the Winner is...

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

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

Highlights of the night:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Loved Miggy's new, short haircut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

What I Do to Stop Myself from Emotional Eating

One of the first things I had to learn to do to combat my emotional eating issues was develop the ability to ask myself and answer honestly: Am I experiencing physical hunger or emotional hunger?

To do this successfully, you need to learn to recognize the signs of physical hunger, such as a growling stomach, lack of energy, light-headedness, a headache, or grouchiness, and the signs of emotional hunger. Have you eaten enough that day that you should not be hungry yet? Are you eating for reward or because you think you deserve a treat? Do you have an almost uncontrollable urge to eat, but you have no idea what you want to eat and nothing you do eat satisfies you? Are you feeling an emotion that you don't want to acknowledge? Learning to recognize the difference between physical and emotional hunger is a skill you can develop over time. I'm fairly good at it now if I say so myself.

When I am confronted with an urge to eat for emotional reasons and not for physical reasons, to eat for reward, or even to binge eat, I try to stop and recognize why I want to eat. If I think I want to eat for emotional reasons, I will tell myself that I’m not hungry and don’t need to eat. This is not always enough to stop me.

I’ll try to distract myself. Can I start doing something else that will distract me from the siren’s call of emotional eating? This can work.

I’ll try to find some kind of external motivation or “sign” that will stop me from overeating. This journey can be very challenging, and I’m willing to use any tactic that will help me succeed. One of my colleagues at work shared how she was obese for years and lost a lot of weight and successfully kept it off by going to overeaters anonymous. She’s always been slender since I’ve known her, and you’d never know she used to be fat. Sometimes I’ll think of her or walk by her office if I want to overeat at work. That can help me resist the urge. I’ve walked by her office on my way to the vending machine and the sight of her will make me turn around to return to my office instead of buying junk food.

Sometimes the urges are so strong that you give in, or you are already in the midst of a binge when you realize you are doing some emotional eating. I will try to set a stop point or end point for myself if I can’t find a way to stop myself immediately. I’ll try to keep it limited to one meal and promise myself I’ll get back on the wagon immediately afterwards.

If it is the hour after or the day after a big session of overeating, I’ll try to make myself record all that I ate in a food diary. It may not be as bad as I’m feeling it was. I may not have eaten as much as I thought or lost control as much as it seemed. Even if the amount of food is as bad as I thought or worst than I feared, the mere act of writing it all down helps me to regain control. It helps me put a stop to it and go back to practicing healthy eating.

Like anything, the ability to stop yourself from overeating or talk yourself out of it grows and strengthens over time. Here is how I talked myself down from overeating after a tough day at work last September.

I had a miserable day at work and felt like I deserved a treat. Every part of my being seemed to be urging me to overeat. I briefly considered walking by my colleague’s office, but knocked that thought down. I left work planning to stop at Five Guys to buy a bacon cheeseburger and fries and glory in all that fat for dinner. I’d get back on the wagon the next morning. I started walking to Union Station, where I got the subway home, and I saw a familiar guy walking towards me. He said hi, and I recognized him as someone in my Weight Watchers Group.

It was a sign! What did I want? My leader to walk up to me and tell me I did not want to overeat for dinner. I let that sign convince me to rethink my dinner plans as I sat on the subway for my commute home. I started to think of all the healthier take out options at home. As I got on my second train, I convinced myself to get two tacos at Baja Fresh and stay within my calorie count for the day. By the time I got off at my metro stop, I decided to walk home and just eat one of my healthy turkey burgers. In less than an hour, I’d talked myself out of overeating.

I'm very proud that I've developed the ability to stop myself when I feel the urge to do some emotional eating. I'm not perfect, but I'm much better than I was for years and years. While many of the immediate tactics I described above are very helpful, I've also found ways to stop the urge to binge before it even starts. I'll start exploring some of my long-term strategies to combat my emotional eating issues in upcoming blogs.

Do you have tricks for talking yourself out of giving in to the urge to eat for emotional reasons?

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, May 23, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

Reality check: you can never, ever, use weight loss to solve problems that are not related to your weight. At your goal weight or not, you still have to live with yourself and deal with your problems. You will still have the same husband, the same job, the same kids, and the same life. Losing weight is not a cure for life. ~Phillip C. McGraw, The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom
Continue Reading...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Different Kind of Meatloaf

Part of my journey to becoming a healthy writer is learning how to make healthier choices in terms of my eating habits. That does not mean I can no longer eat the kinds of food I've always loved. I just need to be smarter about it.

I love meatloaf and have a favorite recipe that may not be the healthiest choice to make all the time, so I've made it a mission to find healthier alternatives to add to my cooking repertoire. I used to participate a lot in the cooking conversations on the Weight Watchers online message boards, and one participant posted a different kind of meatloaf recipe. I'm a big fan of it.

Tex Mex Turkey Meatloaf

Mix together:

1 lb ground turkey
1 cup salsa (I use a smaller jar)
1 can black beans
1 small can green chiles
2 cups low fat Mexican cheese
cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper to taste

Bake at 350 degrees until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

This meatloaf seems to lose water while baking and does best baking not in a pan loaf but rather in a pan which allows some room around the sides. (I use an 8 X 8 pan.) When I take it out, there's usually liquid around the sides. Let it sit to reabsorb some of the liquid before serving. It is very yummy!

If you cut into 6 servings, it's 6 points per slice. If you cut into 8 servings, it's 4 points per slice. Enjoy!

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, May 21, 2010

Do Emergencies Matter?

The rain wept down, not hard enough to justify an umbrella, but somehow hard enough that after the brief walk from my car to my door every inch of my clothes held a frosting of wet. Inside I shook off, wiped my face on a towel, and immediately advanced on the kitchen. The smell of spicy-sweet bar-be-queue, one of my favorite foods, came out of the crock-pot, and while the insides needed a stir or two, dinner was well on its way to ready. Deep in consultation with my kitchen scale and a bag of tator tots, I heard something. Unsure, I asked my husband what it was, someone at the door maybe? Not the door, he confirmed, but then it came again, a quiet tapping, hesitating.

We made it to the door at the same time. Neither of us thinking to push aside the heavy coats, umbrellas, and caps that hung over the peephole. We don’t have many visitors and in a building where someone has to be buzzed in the weak tapping raised an alarm. Opening the door we found our neighbor, a frail Asian man, stooped and wrapped in a worn blue bathrobe.

“Need,” he began, but then ran out of breath. “Help,” he exhaled. In his hand, wedged awkwardly between the steel walker and his palm a cordless phone shook. His whole body shook and he repeated his phrase, “Need…. Help.”

Panicked, with visions of dead bodies and EMS, we rushed out of our apartment and into his. We’d never been inside but quickly passed the polished dark wood, the stunning purple orchards, and the clean white carpet. Asian character newspapers scattered on an ottoman were the only thing out of place. After our quick sweep we returned to the man who pointed the phone at the television and repeated his plea for help. Thinking he meant the room behind the TV, I swallowed my fear and checked: no body in the kitchen, no body in the dining room. Back in the living room the nature of the emergency became clear.

“Twenty-four,” the old man insisted, pointing at the TV. He then pressed the buttons on the phone with a violence borne of frustration. My husband, a man with patience I will never muster, calmly reached over and replaced the phone in the man’s hand with the television remote. While my heart rate returned slowly to normal a long debate took place about how to get to channel twenty-four.

An emergency had forced my elderly neighbor into the hallway, to knock on the door of someone he didn’t know. That emergency was not knowing how to change the channel on his TV.
Back home, I wondered about the nature of emergencies. I’m still wondering about it now. By nature, I’m a private person, I wouldn’t knock on one of my neighbors’ doors unless there was a grave injury, blood spilling, or some catastrophe. But the rules that make something an emergency are a little less clear. I miss a call from my agent, clearly that’s an emergency. Skip an evening’s work out, stop making a healthy snack, and get to that call. A friend calls in crisis, maybe not an emergency, certainly not enough to make me delay dinner, but maybe enough to keep me up too late, on the phone talking until I know I won’t get up in time the next morning to meet my writing goals.

Some emergencies send people into a spiral of unhealthy eating, skipping exercise, and isolating themselves. Other emergencies just elevate stress levels, breaking down the body’s natural defenses and leaving it vulnerable to illness and injury. But are they worth it? Are they really emergencies? What makes an emergency in your world? Can you separate the real emergencies from the not so important ones? When you do, can you find a way to diffuse the situation before it causes more problems?

I’ll be preparing for emergencies by putting a ready to go healthy meal in the freezer for nights when I lose my cooking time. I’m going to plan a few quick work outs for when phone calls eat up my exercise time. I think a few low impact, easy to do half-asleep routines will come in handy for the mornings after an emergency. As for writing, editing and organizing means I’m still accomplishing things on days when I’m too wiped out to be creative. I can’t stop emergencies from happening, but I can change how I handle them.


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, May 20, 2010

Having Faith

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

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

Last week I talked about step 1 - Visualization. This week I wanted to talk about having the faith to believe that the goal will happen.

One of the toughest things I've discovered is pushing on toward a goal when things don't look encouraging. Writing after rejection. Entering a contest after mean contest judge comments. Reading reviews after one of my books have been trashed. Exercising when the scale won't budge. Eating healthy when it doesn't seem to matter if it's carrot sticks or donut sticks, the weight is still there.

My take on step 2 of Dr. Dyer's outline is to have faith. To truly believe that those things we want -that we put the effort and energy into working for and visualizing, will actually manifest. They will come true. We might not have a solid handle on the when. Or even on the how. But if we visualize - we see a goal and really believe, without restrictions or rules or worries, but believe that it'll happen... then it will.

Its not easy. I get frustrated when I'm 'doing everything right' and not getting any results. In the past, that's usually the signal for me to just quit trying and focus on things I can get results from. But not this time, not now. Instead, I'm having faith that the images I so carefully visualize will become reality. I don't know when, I don't know if what I'm doing now will make it happen of if I'll discover something great tomorrow that makes it all click faster. But I do know that quitting guarantees failure.

How about you? Do you have any special tricks to keeping the faith and staying positive that your visualizations and goals will come true?

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, May 19, 2010

A Week of Challenges

This week's The Biggest Loser, the last episode before next week's live finale, was filled with challenges for the final four contestants. First, they had to go home for 30 days and face real life with all its distractions and temptations. Though they all knew they would have to weigh in again and run a marathon on the ranch at the end of the month, each admitted to struggling.

Koli couldn't focus with all the distractions of friends and family in California, so he left for Las Vegas and some intense training at a mixed martial arts facility. It struck me that he was perhaps way too focused on the game instead of the fitness/health aspect, and Bob pointed this out to him when he came for a visit. Koli even acknowledged this at the weigh-in at the end of the show.

Ashley was disappointed in herself for staying out too late with friends, even though she did make the positive step of saying she didn't want to go drinking like she used to. She and Michael agreed to run/walk the marathon together, to support and encourage each other. They seem to have gotten really close.

Daris is the one who really broke my heart this week. Despite being a running machine, he is still struggling with the emotional side of things. I think that despite having friends, he feels really alone. He seems like a quiet, kindhearted soul who internalizes much of what he's feeling. When he was videoing himself emotional eating in the middle of the night, I wanted to walk into that kitchen and say, "No! Don't do this." I think he's someone people can really relate to because his struggles are so like ours.

The marathon day was wet and cold, but all four contestants were determined to do the best they could and finish the race. Daris was determined to beat the previous record time, and he did so by nearly and hour, finishing in 4 hours, 2 minutes. Koli arrived a couple of hours later with a time of 6 hours, 8 minutes. Mike and Ashley arrived hand-in-hand at 6 hours, 26 minutes. Pretty darned impressive for people who could barely walk 5 months prior.

At the weigh-in, Michael hit another huge turning point, going below the 300-pound mark at 299. He broke down crying, and I admit I teared up too. He lost 23 pounds while at home; Ashley lost 18 (but had the biggest percentage of weight loss at 7.79 percent); and Koli lost 13. Daris actually gained 2 pounds, and I believe that was due to his emotional side wrecking all the working out he was doing. So at the end of the weigh-in, we know that Ashley and Michael are definitely in the running for the title of Biggest Loser, and America's votes will determine if the third person is Koli or Daris. Anyone want to guess who America will vote for? I'm off to vote online now.

And may I just say that I'm thrilled that for the second year in a row, a woman from Tennessee is in the final four. You go, Ashley!
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It Doesn't Take Much to Inspire

Over this past weekend, I attended the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon, where authors get to meet and mingle with a couple hundred romance readers in Huntsville, Alabama. This was my third year at the event, and it's always fun. But as with all travel, especially to events where there is a set menu, it's difficult to stay on target with the fitness and eating properly. During the event, the president of the Heart of Dixie chapter got up on stage to speak, looking very professional and stylish in her white blouse, killer black heels and black pencil skirt. I made the comment to a friend that I couldn't remember when I'd last been able to wear a pencil skirt. My shape just doesn't play nice with straight skirts. But I imagined someday getting to the point where I could fit into one again and not look like I'd stuffed a watermelon in it with me.

After the event was over, the same friend and I headed over to a nearby shopping area for dinner and to see the new Robin Hood movie. We had about an hour between dinner and the movie, so she and I started window shopping and ended up at one of my favorite stores, Coldwater Creek. She found some tops she liked, and while she was trying them on, I perused the store. I liked several things, but not anything enough to make me break out the credit card -- at least not until I got to this one outfit of white top, soft brown leather vest guessed it, a denim pencil skirt. Still with time to kill, I decided to try in on. What the heck, right? I deliberately pulled a size 14 off the rack, hoping I'd feel good if I could get into it. Miracle of miracles, I did. And I had a bit of room left. Feeling a little excited, I asked the salesperson to bring me a size 12, just knowing that there was no way I'd get into it. But I did! I could zip it and didn't feel like my blood circulation was being cut off. I'm not going to say it's overly attractive at the moment, but I bought the size 12. By the RWA National Conference arrives in July, I want it to look a lot better than it does now. But having that skirt to try on occasionally will be enough inspiration to get me through the next two months.

I know that sizing is different depending on who makes a clothing product because I still can't get into my size 12 jeans, but it was still a very nice boost on this sometimes frustrating, yo-yo, occasionally falling off the wagon journey.

Have you had any moments of inspiration that kept you working toward your goal recently? Do you have pieces of clothing that are smaller than can fit you properly now that inspire you to keep at your fitness and health goals so you can wear it in the future?
Continue Reading...

Monday, May 17, 2010

How I Started to Combat My Emotional Eating

A few years ago, I walked into my condo after a hard day of work and was completely stressed out, frustrated and upset with how the day had gone, and I wanted to stuff my face. Ironically, I can’t remember what happened that day at work, but I can clearly remember how the rest of the night went. I heated up an individual serving of whatever meal I had cooked for supper that week and sat down to eat it in front of the news.

When I finished eating supper, I wasn’t even close to feeling satisfied. I had no idea what I wanted to eat, but I had an overwhelming urge to keep eating. I knew I was not physically hungry and that this was probably a desire for emotional eating. It got to the point that it was too strong to resist, and I ate a bunch more food.

Lying back on my couch staring at the TV after I stopped eating, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten any more food. I wasn’t hungry. Before I let myself get completely disgusted and mad with myself, I noticed this wonderful feeling. My stomach felt comfortably full, and I could feel this comforting warmth spread from my stomach to the rest of my body. It was very peaceful, soothing and relaxing. It seemed to melt away the stress from work.

I knew enough about eating problems and emotional eating to recognize that this feeling was not necessarily a good or healthy thing. I remembered reading a comment a celebrity with eating problems made in an interview about how she overate because it felt like she was hugging herself whenever she did so. I never understood what that meant until I noticed what I was physically feeling after that eating binge. That was the feeling the celebrity wanted when she overate. It made me understand more what I was trying to achieve whenever I overate.

I had known for years at this point that I probably had a problem with emotional eating. I’d been very overweight or obese for more than 10 years, and I had no underlying medical cause for it. There had to be some emotional causes. I could even recognize at times when I was eating for emotional needs and not for physical ones. I just had no idea how to “fix” this problem and stop my emotional eating, and nothing I tried seemed to work.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2009 when I decided to give my all to my latest attempt to lose weight in the upcoming year. I knew that I’d have to try to figure out how to combat emotional eating at some point over the next year if I wanted to succeed, but I also knew it would not be easy. I had no idea how to start. In some ways, that helped. I gave myself permission to start out concentrating on doing what I could do right away – join Weight Watchers, buy healthy food, fix healthy meals, start keeping a food diary – and just let the question of how I could stop my emotional eating rest at the back of my mind for the immediate future.

I did this for months. Once I started to feel a bit more comfortable with my daily efforts to lose weight and had a little success behind me, I started thinking about what to do with my emotional eating. I listened for any of the tips fellow Weight Watchers members had to share at meetings and made note of the ones I thought would work for me. I did some reading. I observed how I behaved and tried to note when I was eating for physical reasons and when I was eating for emotional ones.

I started to develop tactics for myself to employ to stop my emotional eating, and by the end of the year, I felt like I had a real handle on that problem. I’m not perfect, and I do still eat for emotional reasons occasionally, but not nearly as much as I did in the past. All ten of my healthy guidelines are tactics and strategies I’ve developed to combat my emotional eating, but I can break it down into short-term or immediate tactics and long-term strategies. For the next month or two, I'll write more about how I started to combat successfully my urge to succumb to my desire for emotional eating or eating for reasons that have nothing to do with physical hunger.

Do you have any tips for how to combat emotional eating?

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, May 16, 2010

Inspiration Sunday

'Albert Einstein, who discovered that a tiny amount of mass is equal to a huge amount of energy, which explains why, as Einstein himself so eloquently put it in a famous 1939 speech to the Physics Department at Princeton, "You have to exercise for a week to work off the thigh fat from a single Snickers."' ~Dave Barry
Continue Reading...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Green beans with garlic

Spring brings with it an explosion of flavor in fresh produce. Farmers’ markets stock a dizzying array in nearly every color in the rainbow. Suddenly, eating your vegetables doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. One of my favorite veggies is the lovely green bean, or if you’re a little bit Southern you know them as snap beans. Low in calories and packed with vitamins and nutrients, green beans add a satisfying crunch to your salad. But you can only eat so many raw green beans before you crave a bit more flavor.

In my kitchen that flavor comes from oil, and growing up in an Italian household means there’s only one kind of oil on my shelf: extra virgin olive oil. I used it to sauté garlic and onions before turning them into marinara sauce, with a dash of lemon zest to create shrimp scampi, and as a dip for fresh bread. Thankfully, extra virgin olive oil is one of the good guys in the world of fats. This flavorful way to increase your good cholesterol is available in most supermarkets. Because oil standards are not heavily regulated look for the words “extra virgin” or “first cold press” on the label, avoid the words “light” and “mild”.

There are lots of ways to enjoy the heart-healthy benefits of extra virgin olive oil and the vitamin powerhouse green beans. You can dunk the green beans raw in just a little oil. You can combine the oil with a few other staples as a dressing for a lightly steamed green bean salad. One of my favorite ways is the recipe below, which blends the extra virgin olive oil with garlic. While this recipe is for green beans, you can substitute chickpeas, broccoli, or your favorite Spring vegetable.

Green beans tossed with extra virgin olive oil and garlic

2 cups fresh green beans
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves (1½ teaspoons) chopped garlic

Wash green beans and prepare for cooking by snapping off the ends. Steam lightly using a steamer or blanch briefly in boiling water. If blanching, use a pot of ice water to stop the cooking process so the green beans remain crisp.

Place the green beans into the bottom of a large serving bowl. Add the next two ingredients, tossing to coat. Serve promptly or encourage diners to re-toss as the garlic and oil will collect on the bottom of the bowl.

(I love the strong flavor of garlic so when there’s no company coming to dinner, I use two tablespoons of garlic. Feel free to adjust the amount based on your own personal tastes.)

What are you finding in your farmers’ market? Got any new twists on the old favorites? Or any new finds that we all have to check 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...

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Idiot Box

Earlier this week I sat at a wide boardroom table making small talk with a woman I didn’t know. She’s going to become a co-worker, and maybe a friend, but in those first getting-to-know-you minutes I didn’t have anything to say. She bravely took up the conversational mantel and asked if I watched Lost. No, I replied, I don’t watch much TV. Silence covered us for a few seconds, until someone else at the table volunteered that they watched Lost. As the conversation moved ahead without me, I stopped to think about my TV habits.

I don’t watch much TV. Really. I think. My husband lived without a television for four years. My own disdain for the idiot box surely keeps my tube time in check. I only watch my two hour long mysteries, a pair of half an hour comedies, my addictive hour of British Science Fiction, and that one reality show I just can’t shake. Oh, and there’s that new thing they labeled Gothic Horror I’ve been catching lately. That couldn’t be all that much…. Except that it adds up to six hours.

Imagine yourself in my place, in the conference room meeting someone new, strained smiles and self-conscious glances all around. When the stranger asks you say, “I work out for six hours a week.” Wow! You’re quite the gym rat. You must really care about your health! If you said, “I pray for six hours a week” shock would fill the room at your devotion to your faith. Volunteer six hours a week and you’ll be praised. Spend six hours a week studying something – a language, math, or science, and you must be smart. But watch six hours a week of television and all you have is six hours less in your week.

If someone offered you an extra six hours a week, in one hour increments what do you think you could accomplish? Would you fill those magical six hours with writing? Research? Exercise? Several well deserved naps? But what if it was more than that, what if someone offered to give you back 153 hours this month? That’s the average amount of time an American watches television at home in a month. Even if you watch half of that average you’ve spent the equivalent of 3 days solid in front of the TV. If you spent that same amount of time on your writing, polishing your manuscripts, contacting agents, writing and rewriting that dread synopsis, how much better off would your career be?

Personally, spending that much time in front of the tube frightens me. I don’t think television improves my writing or my health. I don’t think it adds enough joy to my life to justify the time I give it. Starting now I’ll be cutting my TV time down a lot. I suspect you’ll still be able to find me curled up on the couch watching a movie on Friday or Saturday night, but the mindless “if it’s Monday, it must be Castle” has to stop. (But not with Castle, I like him and he’s a writer.)

How much time have you spent watching TV in the last week? Did it make you happy? Happier than you could have been doing something else with that time? Anyone want to try a TV-free week with me?

Curious about my statistics? They come from the Nielsen foundation, that tracks TV watching and statics. Read the study.


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...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


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

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

Today I wanted to look at the first of those steps a little closer.

Visualizing – what is it? In its simplest form, it’s the ability to imagine. Hey, we’re writers, we imagine GREAT. So – how do we apply that to getting what we want?

By imagining a scene in which you are the heroine (or hero). In this scene, you have reached your writing goals, your weight goals, your health goals, etc...

Imagine it – It could be sliding into a pair of size 7 jeans, wearing a skimpy little black dress, running up the stairs without getting winded. It could be The Call, or a huge party to celebrate your first sale, or your first appearance on the best-seller list, or you up on stage accepting your RITA.

Like writing, how can you flesh this scene out? Can you add people? Familiar settings, sounds, scents. Can you close your eyes and imagine them? Picture it all– flesh the scene out and make it real.

If you can't close your eyes and see the images in your mind's eye, write them. Just like you're writing a scene in the first person, layer in all the details. Be sure to include how it feels to accomplish your goal!!

Spend at least 5 minutes a day with this scene. Re-read it, tweak it, visualize it.

The truth is, our sub-conscious minds can’t discern between what is real and what is imagined. Science has shown that if you create an image in your sub-conscious mind and you visualize it daily, it becomes real to your sub-conscious and will soon find your conscious self working harder to create that reality.

Have you ever used visualization as a tool for writing or for weight loss? How's that gone? And if not, what do you think about giving this a try?

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...

Final Four

The finish line for the latest season of The Biggest Loser is growing ever closer with last night's episode revealing the final four contestants. And all through the episode, there was a feeling of pressure, tenseness, nervousness and a bit more competitiveness. Koli, who was pretty laid back in the beginning, was even cocky. I'm all for believing in yourself, but I have to say I wasn't a fan of the cockiness. But again, editing has everything to do with perception in this show.

The contestants got visits from two previous Biggest Loser winners -- Helen from season 7 and Erik from season 3. They gave them advice and listened to their concerns, and Erik talked about how easily one can slip back into old habits and see the wait come back as he did. His advice was to watch how you give yourself passes, things like "Oh, it's only a weight gain of 10 pounds. I'll get to the gym and knock that off in a week or two." That's dangerous thinking, and before you know it you've gained more weight than you realize.

Michael had a very emotional week, still struggling with the fact that he's about to go home still a big guy and still having to shop in big clothing stores. But when the contestants watched retrospective videos of their journeys on the ranch, his was especially moving -- and just what he needed to see to refocus him on what he's accomplished versus how long of a road he still has ahead of him.

The challenge this week involved racing over a series of sand hills carrying the weight they'd all lost during their time on the ranch. At the top of each hill, which represented a week on the ranch, they got to drop however much they lost that week. Ashley and Michael, especially, had a hard time even getting their weights up the hills, and this made them wonder how they ever carried that weight on their bodies. Daris, still upset with himself for dropping out of last week's challenge, was determined to win the challenge and did so. By doing so, he won $10,000, which he ended up trading for a 1-lb. advantage, which he didn't end up needing.

Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys went shopping for active wear and then hiking with the contestants, and Dr. Huizenga met with Michael to show him how much his life expectancy had improved because of the weight he's lost. The last time he saw this score, his body was that of a 54-year-old. When the score came down this time, he was down to 38, within sight of his actual age of 31. This score, more than anything else, helped him realize just how much he's accomplished.

This week, there was no yellow line at the weigh in, just a red line. This meant that whoever lost the lowest percentage of weight was automatically eliminated. Still, in week 17, there were some impressive numbers. Michael lost 12 pounds, Koli 13, Daris 10, and Ashley 7. Sunshine only lost 2, which put her below the red line. But she looks great and was one of the smallest people left on the ranch. Prior to the weigh in, I thought it might be Daris who would fall below, but Sunshine was a possibility too just because they're both so much closer to their goal weights than Michael and Ashley, who still have a way to go.

We've only got one more episode before the finale, and I have to say I'm rooting for Ashley and Michael. What about you all? Any favorites to win? What did you take away from this week's episode?
Continue Reading...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Don't Know Why

I've seriously been backsliding the past week, and I really can't pinpoint a reason why. I could blame hormones and cravings. I could point to having a lot on my to-do list. The fact that I'm two weeks away from my 40th birthday and not even halfway to my weight loss goal. Or maybe I'm just lazy when it comes right down to it. Maybe it's a little of all of those things that had me eating sweets, fast food, Cokes and all manner of things I shouldn't have been and not exercising nearly enough.

Whatever the reason, I have to get my act in gear. I firmly believe I can hit the halfway point to my goal by my birthday. That will be a good birthday present to myself, and it's one I'm going to start giving myself today. Sure, I've messed up a lot in the last week or two, but it's done. Those days can't be recovered or the mistakes undone. I can only start with today and go forward. Kicking myself repeatedly for unhealthy behavior will just make me feel bad about myself, which will make me want to drown my sorrows in cookies. Not a good plan. So I won't focus on what I didn't do before but rather what I will do today. I won't think about tomorrow, just today. I need to have that mindset each day. So, today...

I WILL exercise two hours.

I WILL keep my calories to 1,200 total for the day.

I WILL read at least one health/fitness-related article.

I WILL plan my Healthy Writer posts for the rest of the month.

I WILL do everything I can to have a positive attitude and outlook about my health/fitness journey and not focus on the failures.

I WILL watch The Biggest Loser and ride the inspirational high I get from watching that show to plan my "WILL" list for tomorrow.

How about you all? What WILL you do today to move yourself closer to your health/fitness goals?
Continue Reading...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Plan and Prepare for Success

When I resolved once again at the beginning of 2009 to try to lose weight, I spent a lot of time thinking about how my past attempts at weight loss had gone, what I had done well, where I had failed, and how I could plan my next attempt in a way that would succeed. It was such a helpful exercise that I try to ask myself these questions on a regular basis: What do I need to do to succeed in my weight loss efforts? What should I do for the short term and for the long term? What challenges can I anticipate? How can I approach these challenges so that they don’t sabotage my efforts? What kind of support systems and habits can I build into my life that will help me lose weight and ultimately maintain a healthy lifestyle?

One of the first steps I took and one that I have to redo regularly is figure out what I will eat in the next week. I like to cook, and I want to do this eating “real” food not frozen diet meals or much processed food. I need to go to the grocery store regularly to ensure that my kitchen is stocked with healthy and appealing foods. I also make sure that my kitchen is not stocked with unhealthy choices and junk food. I never go to the grocery store hungry and make a grocery list before I leave home. I often do a rough meal plan for the week. One of the most helpful tools I’ve developed is my ability to do a mammoth day of cooking every couple months or so and freeze individual meals for later. For more details, see:

If I know of any upcoming larger meals or social/work events with plenty of eating opportunities in the next seven days, I may address how I can balance that with other meals during the week. I may plan to make a vegetarian meal, such as Cuban black beans and rice, or another very low-fat dish for part of that week. I may consider increasing my workouts. If the meal is at a restaurant, I’ll often look at the menu in advance to figure out what I will eat, how many calories the meal will likely have, and how much I’ll have to work to balance it elsewhere. Sometimes, I can order something that will stay in my calorie or point count for the day. Other times, I’ll choose to splurge on a higher calorie meal and balance it in another way. There are lots of strategies you can use to survive eating out.

I know that a potentially challenging time for me can be when I’m coming home from work tired and a little stressed. I often won’t want to cook supper then. If I don’t have something already prepared at home or something I can whip up very easily (cereal, anyone? – or my healthier turkey burgers), I will be very tempted to stop at any of the many fast food and casual dining restaurants at the metro stops near where I work and live. I’ve taken the time to figure out all the lower-calorie yet still appealing options there and will try to turn to those when I must get take out. A real treat for me is two tacos at Baja Fresh. One helpful Web site for finding good restaurant options is:

Working out regularly is a big part of my efforts to become a healthy writer. A lot of thought has gone into how I can make this a habit and how I can work it into my schedule. I already walk a fair amount with my daily commute. I spent time thinking about what other kind of exercise I like enough to do regularly, and I’m a gym class – step aerobics, zumba (Latin dance aerobics), weight lifting, pilates, yoga – kind of person. I joined a gym chain that allows me to go to any of their locations in the D.C. area. There are three locations 5-15 minutes from where I live, and I have the class schedule for each. I have a fairly regular workout pattern now. Getting to the point where you just do it and ask yourself how you can fit it in as opposed to whether you should go is extremely helpful to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

I also use clothing as a tool to help me plan and prepare for success. As you start to lose enough weight that your clothes sizes change, I think it’s very important that you start to wear clothing that fits correctly. It makes you more aware of your body, and it’s a tangible way to show and measure how you are getting smaller. If the clothes are too loose, it gets too easy to cheat. A loose waist has a way to go before it gets tight. Also, looking at yourself in clothing that is too large may make you think you are still fatter than you really are and mess with your body image. I finally got new pajamas after my 30-pound loss because I found myself thinking I was still a whale whenever I saw myself in my old pajamas. I’ve also discovered that getting rid of the clothing that is now too large for me is a great incentive to keep me going with my efforts. If I went back to my old weight, I’d have to buy new clothes, and my frugal self hates that. See:

Wearing flattering clothes also makes you feel better about yourself. The reward of buying and wearing smaller sizes is a powerful motivator for me. I use outfits in a smaller size as a goal to work towards and as a way to measure my progress besides the scale. See:

As I’ve said before, I struggle with emotional eating. To help me plan and prepare for success, I think about what upcoming challenges may trigger negative thoughts and emotions that will weaken my ability to resist urges to eat too much. I brainstorm ways I can get through these challenges. I understand that managing my thoughts can help me manage my emotions. Changing my negative thoughts to more positive or optimistic ones can help prevent me from emotional eating or eating for reward. One of the ways I do this is to attend weekly WW meetings. To quote a guest blogger, it adjusts your fattitude. For another take on the value of these meetings, read the following two guest blog posts:


Weight Watchers does cost money. I like the program. I’ve found a meeting that I can work easily into my schedule, a leader whom I find inspiring, a group of regular attendees who motivate me and whom I can relate to, and a system that can work for me. It may not work for you or may be too expensive. Two other support groups you might want to consider are Overeaters Anonymous, which is free, or TOPS: Taking Off Pounds Sensibly, which has a nominal yearly fee. They tend to meet at churches and may be a great option for you.

This past summer, I was in the midst of a plateau and needed more motivation to keep trying. The main reason I started blogging at Healthy Writer was it would force me to think about and work out some of my negative thoughts and emotions. It also forces me to plan and prepare for success. I need to post weekly, and I often choose to write about whatever I’ve been struggling with the most lately or anticipate will be a challenge for me in the upcoming week. Furthermore, it extended my commitment to this journey to becoming a healthy writer. I'm amazed by what I've accomplished so far and look forward to seeing how far I can go. I'll continue to ask myself on a regular basis how I can plan and prepare for success.

How do you plan and prepare for success?

Photo Caption: My Weight Watchers buddies and I at a "bon voyage" party Saturday night for a friend who is going to England for a five-month temporary assignment for her job

Top Row left to right: Cheryl, me Bottom Row left to right: Helena, Meghan, Ken

Cheryl just lost her first ten pounds. I've lost 33 pounds so far. Helena has lost more than 100 pounds. Meghan has lost nearly 40 pounds and is almost at her goal weight. Ken has lost 83 pounds and is approaching his goal weight as well. I can't overstate how much support and help and opportunities for more fun in my life I've gotten from joining Weight Watchers this past time.

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...

Inspiration Sunday

A diet is the penalty we pay for exceeding the feed limit. ~Author Unknown
Continue Reading...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fast Food

One of my biggest challenges is finding something good and healthy to eat that I can whip together in a short time. Also, as the weather gets warmer, even here on the east coast of Canada, I’m looking for something easy that doesn’t keep me in a hot kitchen.  I always tell myself I’m going to make that vegetarian lasagna or that homemade soup but more often then not the ingredients I’ve paid dearly for end up thrown out because I never find the time or energy to make it. This chicken salad takes less time than running out to pick up something at the nearest deli. You can lose the pepper flakes if you don’t like them and it’s still delicious.

Thai Chicken Salad

Serves 4
WW Points 5
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts (about 10 oz) cooked and shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, julienned
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and julienned
2 medium celery stalks, julienned
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1/4 cup minced red onion
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 ounce dry-roasted shelled peanuts, coarsely chopped

In large bowl, combine carrots, cucumbers, celery, bell pepper. In small jar with tight-fitting lid or small bowl, combine onion, pepper flakes, juice, vinegar and oil; cover and shake well or, with wire whisk, blend until combined. Pour onion mixture over vegetable mixture; toss to coat Shred cooled chicken. Line serving platter with vegetable mixture; top with chicken. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and peanuts.
Continue Reading...

Friday, May 7, 2010

It won’t kill you.

My father’s feet turned to clay when I was ten years old. Before then, he stood as a giant who protected me from everything. At 6’3” and 250 pounds, Dad held us up so we could reach the stars. But the year I turned ten Dad was diagnosed with diabetes. My invincible hero turned into a man with cautions attached to his life. The strongest caution accompanied food. I learned early in my Dad’s diagnosis that if he didn’t eat he would die. Being hungry would kill him. I internalized this message a bit too well, and never let myself go more than a few hours without food.

A funny thing happened when I was 29. I spent 24 hours without eating. It wasn’t by choice, there were other things on my mind at the time, not to mention doctors and nurses who ordered me to take only water. Not a single bite or drop of juice for 24 hours and somehow I survived. Since then I’ve disproven the lesson from my childhood over and over again. I’ve actually come to appreciate being a little hungry. It makes me savor my food, helps me look forward to it. Surprisingly, if I push away from the table still slightly hungry, I can go three or four hours before I need to eat again. I will admit to getting “hangry,” a word a friend made up meaning so hungry you’re angry at everyone, but I haven’t died yet.

Another unspoken family rule taught me that exercise wasn’t to be trusted. Exercise hurt. If you did too much, you would have a heart attack and die. If you escaped that fate you were sure to end up with injuries: torn ligaments, pulled muscles, and surely, broken bones. My Aunt who biked regularly had to have knee surgery. She became an example of why it was best to just avoid all of that danger.

I started running in my early twenties. I was (and am) super slow. In addition to surely dying, according to family and friends I risk a number of maladies every time I put on my sneakers: joint degeneration, back pain, knee problems, and (a personal favorite) any minute now my uterus is going to fall out. And yet, like being hungry, running hasn’t killed me. I’ve come to believe it won’t. I even own a t-shirt that says “Running won’t kill you. You’ll pass out first.”

Exercise makes me feel better. It clears up migraines before they really start. It soothes my moods and helps me form strong friendships with other runners. It teaches me that I can pick a goal and stick to it, no matter what. At the end of March Trish challenged us to set a goal and stick with it. I chose running every other day in preparation for a local 5K. In the month since then my grandmother died, I’ve dealt with job issues, and I had to revisit some old fears. Still I ran. Every other day, despite weather, exhaustion, and just plain lack of any desire to, I got out there. My 5K was the day after my grandmother’s burial. I ran. …and it didn’t kill me.

What lessons hold you back? If you took them out and looked at them, would they still be true? Are you willing to give up the security of those lessons to be healthy?


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, May 6, 2010

Seeing Is Believing

I'm currently re-reading Dr. Wayne Dyer's YOU'LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Dyers and have pretty much read all his works. Oftentimes, when I'm feeling frustrated and stuck, I stand in front of my bookcase (which bookcase depends on what area of life I'm feeling stuck and frustrated with *g*). I let my eyes cruise the titles, and grab the one that jumps out at me as having whatever info I need to get unstuck.

My current source of frustration is with my weight journey and KNOWING that there is something beyond the simple science (calories in / calories out) that I had to overcome before I'd see the progress I wanted. So the bookcase I stood in front of was my non-fiction collection. And YOU'LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT was the book I grabbed.

And on my first night of reading, I ran across this - yes, the exact answer to my frustrations...

Dr. Dyer outlines 4 simple steps for achieving a goal.
  1. Visualize
  2. Tell yourself whatever you visualize is already here
  3. Be willing to do whatever it takes
  4. and Realize there is no such thing as failure.

I love these simple, yet complexly intense, steps. I thought they'd be great focuses for the next few week's blogs, both expanding on each step and on how it applies to my weight loss journey. So next week, I'll blog about visualization, etc...

In the meantime - tell me, have you read Dr. Dyer's work, or this book in particular? Is there a self-help guru you turn to on a regular basis for reading comfort?
Continue Reading...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't underestimate the pink ninja

It was makeover week on The Biggest Loser last night. Woot! I love makeover week, when the contestants get fab makeovers and we get to see them wearing something besides their Biggest Loser T-shirts and copious amounts of sweat. The six remaining contestants had lost an amazing total of 805 pounds. That's four whole grown men!

I got tickled by Sam's reaction, saying he loved clothes and fashion. But Daris' story of buying his pants at the farm and ranch store, right next to the tarps, made me want to cry. And you could feel the hurt Michael felt at having to still shop alone at the big and tall store. It was such a change in attitude from where he's been at the past few weeks, on that high of having lost so much. I hope he's able to rebound next week and refocus on what he's accomplished so far.

As for the makeovers, I thought Sunshine looked absolutely beautiful, living up to her name. Sam is one heck of a hottie now. Daris looks totally different with his curls cropped back. Even the haircut made him look smaller. Michael also looks totally different. I kept thinking that Diane might be watching at home and fanning herself. :) It was so touching and heartbreaking when his sister, who is also overweight, started crying and asked him to help her.

After getting a private concert with Ashanti, the contestants were off to a challenge in which they had to climb that awful Jacob's Ladder suspended 10 feet above a pool. The first one to fall off got a 1-pound disadvantage at the weigh in. The winner got a 1-pound advantage. Ashley fell off 3 minutes in and got the disadvantage. Michael fell off a couple of minutes later. This made sense since they're the two biggest people left on the ranch. The rest of the contestants went for considerably more time. Koli and Daris were the last up there when Daris finally just gave up and jumped in the pool after 2 1/2 hours had elapsed. Later, he was mad at himself for quitting because he felt he could have physically kept going, and Bob put him through a grueling last-chance workout to get him back in the right frame of mind. Bob pointed out his quote on the gym wall: "Stand up and finish what you started."

Good advice for all of us, my backsliding self included.

The popular number at this week's weigh in proved to be 9, with Michael, Daris and Sunshine all losing this amount. Ashley kept herself in the game with 10, and became the record holder for most weight lost by any female contestant in Biggest Loser history with 136 pounds lost. Her accomplishment prompted my favorite quote of the night when she said, "Don't underestimate the pink ninja." Love it!

Koli lost an amazing 15 pounds even though he had the advantage this week. Sam, who was already at his goal weight (the only Biggest Loser contestant ever to reach his goal weight while on the ranch), lost only 2 pounds, putting him and Michael in the bottom two. Even though Michael is clearly the one who needed to stay on the ranch, the vote ended in a tie. Because of the tie, the person with the lowest percentage of weight loss this week went home -- and that was Sam. But don't feel sorry for him. He is one happy dude now, living at his goal weight and enjoying his new life in L.A. with his girlfriend, Stephanie from this season. He's now helping her reach her goal weight. I love these Biggest Loser love connections. :)

Whose makeover impressed you most? Now that we're down to the final five, any guesses on who is going to win?
Continue Reading...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dealing with the Unexpected

We've talked here many times about how much easier it is to stick with our fitness and dietary plans when we're living our normal routine and how hard it is when those routines are interrupted. I want to find ways to learn to be focused and extra dedicated when those routines go out the window. I'll admit that over the past three days, I've not exercised or watched what I've eaten. I could use the excuse that these are extraordinary times as we deal with massive flooding here in Nashville. But there's really no reason why I haven't exercised or eaten what I should other than I just didn't. After all, luckily my home is not one of the hundreds that have been inundated with water. Instead, I've been sitting in front of the TV news coverage of water rescues and the flooding of major Nashville sites such as the Grand Ole Opry House and the Titans football stadium.

On Saturday, while I was stuck along with several other people at a bookstore as it monsooned outside and one tornado warning after another had our eyes glued to the radar, I allowed myself to be tempted by a slice of cheesecake. At the time, a friend and I joked about it. She has lost a tremendous amount of weight on Weight Watchers and looks great, but she said if she was going to be taken out by a tornado, she wanted to be eating pound cake when it happened. Yes, we were probably fighting a bit of nerves by reaching for comfort foods, but I should have drawn the line at Saturday. Instead, I've let it creep into two more days, and the scales is showing the results of that.

So today, I need to go for a walk. I need to put on some up-tempo music and do some dance aerobics. It'll have the added benefit of keeping me away from constantly watching the latest reports of devastation from across the city I call home. Maybe I'll see if I can go volunteer with some of the relief efforts. I saw some people with Hands On Nashville sandbagging to protect a part of town today, and I had the thought, "Hey, that looks like good exercise as well as a good cause."
Continue Reading...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Still Struggle at Times...And That's OK

About a year ago, I noticed how one particular woman only came to the Tuesday night Weight Watchers meetings when she was really struggling. I think she attended another meeting, perhaps at work, regularly, but she found it helpful to attend an additional one on her tough weeks.

She always sat alone in the back row, held herself very stiffly, and generally exuded a sense of despair or even self-hatred. Our group leader would make her talk. What came out was an almost inarticulate stream of how hard it was. Why was food such an issue for her? Why couldn't she just eat whatever she wanted and stay a healthy weight like everyone else could? Why was this still such a struggle? The group leader would ask more questions, and she'd share the stupid food and exercise decisions she was making lately. He'd also ask her to share how much she had lost. She was more than 30 pounds down.

One time, she tried to cut herself off as she didn't think this was helpful to others. The group leader stopped her, said it was very helpful and asked everyone to agree with him. Now, I didn't find it particularly helpful, but I wasn't so self-absorbed that I would say that. I was struggling to begin my weight loss journey. I did not find it comforting to know that a woman could lose 30 pounds and still struggle so much. I also thought she looked fine. What was she so upset about? Perhaps she was a size 12 or 10, but she should just love the way she looked. I considered myself a big girl, and she was not. What did she know about struggle?

Since then, this woman has appeared periodically and done the same thing. About one year after I initially wished she would stop complaining as it wasn't helping my motivation to keep on keeping on, she was more than 50 pounds down and I was more than 30 pounds down. We both looked like different women, but we still could find ourselves struggling on this journey.

You may have noticed that I'm about now where she was a year ago. Since February 23 of this year, I have bounced between 31 and 33 pounds down. This is not a bad place to be, but I have found myself struggling more and more with what I see as a lack of progress. This struggle has included moments of despair that may have bordered on self-hatred and some stupid decisions about food and exercise. At my last meeting, I realized I was becoming like that woman who I thought was a whining drama queen the previous year. Once I got over the shock, I realized how smart the group leader had been to make her talk. I tried to analyze what she had said a year before and what I could learn from it.

I think the biggest lesson I got from thinking about her was that she got through it. She continued working at her journey and managed to pass the fifty pounds down mark. Based on how she acted in the meetings she attended on Tuesday night, it was not always easy. It could be a huge struggle, but it was one she worked through and continued her forward progress to her goal weight.

I've known for a long time that there is not an end to this journey. I also knew that I can't return to my previous eating habits, but I'm not sure I realized how much of a struggle at times this journey would still be emotionally and mentally. I started this year with a goal to be more optimistic about this and was successful at that for awhile. I guess I thought that meant I would struggle less with my thoughts and feelings. It's become very apparent in the last month or so that this is not the case. Yes, the issues may be different, but the struggle is not.

So, one of the lessons I need to accept is that I will continue to struggle at times, and that's ok. What saved me the previous times I really struggled in the past 16 months of this journey was that I promised myself I'd give it my all for a year no matter what. This promise was made in January 2009 and renewed in January 2010, and it's still the best thing I've ever done to help me be successful at this journey.

Now, I still need additional help on some days. I've made some really stupid decisions concerning food and exercise this past week and have been searching for signs that would help me boost my motivation to do what I know I need to do. Forcing myself to think about how much I could learn from the drama queen's struggles and triumphs helped. Friday morning, Sally posted in a comment the suggestion to look at Romans 7:15. I did, and it was such a powerful reminder that this struggle to do the good things I say I want to do is practically a part of the human condition. It was getting easier to think these struggles are ok.

Friday night, I watched Bill Moyers' last episode of his show on PBS as he really is retiring this time. His last guest was some storyteller named Barry Lopez. Bill and Barry had quite the philosophical conversation about the meaning of life. Barry shared a story of how a dying woman gave her daughter a copy of Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning as the mother thought her daughter was finally old enough to know that the best reaction to tragedy is not self-destruction. This took my breath away.

I have reached the point that I look at my past obesity and struggles with food as a kind of self-destruction, and it's one I very much want to stop. I want to be as kind, caring and compassionate towards myself as I can be to others. This reminder was the final piece of motivation I needed to kick myself in the butt, stop making stupid food and exercise decisions and keep on keeping on.

I don't expect my Tuesday night weigh in to go very well, but my emotional and mental journey is ultimately more important than my physical one. I'm back in a good place no matter what the scale says Tuesday night. Yes, I will struggle at various points for the rest of my life, but that is ok. I know I can keep on keeping on. Furthermore, I know how to make sure I incorporate stuff into my life that helps me keep on keeping on. My journey continues, and overall, it'll be triumphant.

What helps you when you are struggling? What can you do to make sure your own journey is triumphant?

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, May 1, 2010

Ode to Breakfast

I've learned so much about myself since I started this journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer 17 months ago. One of these lessons was how important a healthy, filling breakfast was to my weight loss attempts.

I have kept most of my trackers or food diaries since the beginning of January 2009. Whenever I've hit a rough patch where I'm struggling a lot to lose weight, I will look at them to see what has worked in the past. Every so often, I'll have a breakfast sandwich with bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel as a treat.

I looked at the days when I did this expecting them to be one of my highest point days, but I often ate less than my daily point/calorie allotment. This really surprised me, and I thought about why that was. While a breakfast sandwich, especially when it's on a bagel, is higher in calories or points than my typical breakfasts, it is very satisfying and filling. When I have this for breakfast, I may only have a late, light lunch.

This discovery made me look at how what I had for breakfast affected my eating the rest of the day and my weight loss for that week. It turns out that my total point or calorie count on days when I have a substantive breakfast tend to be lower than when I have a light breakfast of a piece of fruit or a Fiber One or other breakfast bar I eat on the run. Since I realized this, I have noticed that on the days when I have a small breakfast, it feels like I never catch up with satisfying my hunger. It chases me most of the day. I will often eat lunch earlier and eat more that day to try to reach a feeling of satiation.

If I have a good breakfast, I start off the day feeling satiated and don't have to struggle with hunger or overeating as much. I also tend to lose more weight on the weeks that I have a filling breakfast every morning.

For me, a filling breakfast usually has some protein, a complex carbohydrate and is a good nutrient mix. It can be as simple as whole-wheat toast and peanut butter (about 4 points). It most often is high-fiber cereal or oatmeal with fruit, nuts, skim milk and a little brown sugar and cinnamon with the oatmeal and can range between 6 - 8 points. While I find eggs very filling, unfortunately, they can disagree with my system. This increases if I have more than one or at the most two in any given week, so I have to really limit how many eggs I eat.

I do know that many people's weight loss strategy rests on a very low point or calorie breakfast, and some people even find they do better that way. It's not the case for me. I do recommend experimenting to see what works best for you.

One of my favorite breakfasts is oatmeal. I've been told that I have a unique way of making it, so I'm going to share what I do.

Michelle's Oatmeal

1/2 cup of Old-Fashioned Oats (the bigger kind - never the quick or instant kind)
1 cup skim milk
Chopped fruit (banana, berries, apple, nectarines, whatever is in season)
Optional dried fruit (raisins or craisins - I need to be real careful with this because it can really increase the calories)
1 to 2 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts or almonds (luckily, these are my favorite and are the healthiest nut choice - esp. walnuts)
Brown Sugar or Honey (little bit - but it's worth it - it's just not nearly as satisfying without it.)
Cinnamon if I use an apple - sometimes other "sweet" spices such as nutmeg, all-spice, etc.

Dump oatmeal in a microwavable bowl. Top with fruit (I really vary it and can use just one fruit or up to 4), brown sugar, optional spice and chopped nuts. I mix it and then pour in a cup of skim milk. I cook it in the microwave on half power for 6 minutes. It's very important that you use half power. It will boil over if you use full power and become uneatable (and I've been cheap enough to try to eat the resulting mess.)

I've been told that my use of skim milk instead of water (I really make it a priority to get enough calcium a day - preferably through nonfat dairy products) and cooking my fruit with the oatmeal make my version different from the way most others cook it. I love it this way and suggest you try it.

Another favorite breakfast of mine is baked oatmeal, something I first discovered as a recipe on Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Web site. If I have cold cereal instead of oatmeal, I will sometimes combine three of them (such as cheerios, all-bran and shredded wheat based on Bob Greene's, Oprah's trainer, recommendation on a Web site) for variety or experiment with a new-to-me cereal.

I've also experimented with healthier pancakes. One Weight Watchers recipe (from the 1990s Simple Goodness magazine-style cookbook) for pancakes I really like is for a version that I can make ahead and pop in the toaster in the morning to heat it up to eat. Obviously, microwaving them can work as well, but the toaster method is fewer steps, and I like the crispy edge it gives them.

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes

1 1/4 cups low-fat or fat-free buttermilk
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I bet you could use some whole-wheat or buckwheat flour)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
(Note: I often add blueberries or chopped bananas to the batter.)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in oil and egg. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add oat mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until well blended. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Yield: 8 pancakes (serving size - 2 pancakes) 6 points per serving.

Are you a breakfast fan? Do you feel like it makes a difference to your day and to your chances of weight loss if you have a good, filling breakfast? Do you have any breakfast suggestions for me?

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

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