Have a great day - eat something healthy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Liar, Liar - How I Lost 4 Pounds in 3 Weeks

I had five pounds that had to go. They were stuck to me for the last year and they were so damned stubborn that I began to wonder if they were a present for my 50th birthday -talk about the gift that keeps on giving! But ads and articles kept telling me my hormones were whacked and my metabolism was slowing - and I began to think that maybe I should just resign myself to the fact that I'd be carrying around a little more weight than I did when I was younger...

Screw that! No way was I going to accept all the B.S. about aging that I was being fed every day. I cleansed five or six times a year, I worked out like an Olympian, and was stronger and fitter than I was when I was 30. So why should I have to weigh more, especially if I was working harder, than I did 20 years ago? Sorry, I wasn't about to take this lying down.  

I turned to my eating habits for a solution. And for the first time I was completely honest about them. I'd been kidding myself for a long time, convinced that I had my calorie count under control. But the truth is I was lying to myself. As I used up my daily calorie allotment, I'd let things slide. I wouldn't count the 1/4 avocado I put on my tofu burger. Or the oil-based giardiniera sauce I put on just about everything I put in my mouth. I didn't count the oil I used for cooking. Nor did I count the Veganaise or Earth Balance vegan butter I ate almost daily. And when I ate cashews I never stopped at seven - the accepted serving size - my serving size was more like 20.

And I conveniently forgot that just because tofu is healthier than meat, or vegan butter is better for me than real butter doesn't mean they're lower in calories. Even the healthy stuff can be fattening. The foods I just listed add up to about 500 calories - 500 calories I didn't count each day! And if I continued to ignore them, eventually they'd demand my attention - by making my pants tighter. It takes about 3500 calories to put on a pound and at my rate I was set up to GAIN a pound each week!

Lying to myself hadn't done me a bit of good. I'd been working out - hard. I had the muscle tone to show for it but it was hiding behind that last five pounds of insulation that I hadn't been able to shed. All my hard work was hidden behind my lies.

So I promised myself that I'd be honest about what I put in my mouth. I devised an eating plan that balanced my daily intake of protein, fiber, fats, carbs and calories. And I created a spreadsheet with a list of the foods I'd eat for breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. Each day I'd check each food item off after I'd eaten it. I know it sounds a little - well, a lot - anal, but it's really been helping. After three weeks I've lost four pounds.

Now I can see where I am on my caloric timeline for the day and spread out the foods so they last throughout the day. And by referring to the list over the course of the day I can see that I'm not going to go hungry. And I'm not mindlessly (or sneakily) popping handfuls of cashews into my mouth or having an extra spoonful of brown rice as I clean up the kitchen. After I've eaten everything on my list I'm done. And I know my body has everything it needs.

Telling the truth about my eating habits wasn't easy, but once I did it, I was able to address - and solve - my problem. The truth is not an accusation - it's a statement of fact. And if you approach any problem from a factual basis you can be efficient and effective. You face the issue, come up with a solution, and then implement the action to reach that solution. I faced the fact that I was eating too many calories without accounting for them, I reassessed my caloric intake, and I began losing the weight I wanted to lose. How simple is that?!

It's never too late to learn a lesson. And I learned that the truth doesn't have to hurt - in fact, once you face it, it can be of invaluable help.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Facing the Inevitable - Holiday Overeating and What to Do About It

This week is the start of the holiday season; the time of year when temptation reaches critical mass and threatens even the most mindful of eaters. We're all bound to stray from our typical ways this time of year. The question is - how far?

Too often we give up on ourselves too quickly after we've given into temptation. You know the drill: You feel deliciously naughty when you eat your first piece of pumpkin pie. But then you have a second piece. And that one makes you feel downright guilty. So you start thinking about how to make up for it - an extra hour on the treadmill, starving yourself the next day - but that's almost too difficult, unrealistic or exhausing to consider. So you beat yourself up for having no will power. You call yourself a failure. And in the time it takes to down two pieces of pie you've gone from festive to forlorn, feeling defeated and derailed. Once you've gotten to that point, it's hard to get back on track. But if if you don't, you'll end up eating unhealthy food, gaining weight, and feeling like crap - physically and emotionally.    

Here's a thought:  Get real! Accept that temptation is going to happen and you're going to give in. But remember that one piece of pie doesn't need to set off an unstoppable downward spiral. Here's an article from RealAge.com has some great advice about what to do when you get off track. It's a reminder that even if we lose our way for a short while, we can always find our way back to center.

In the meantime, here are some useful tips to consider throughout the Thanksgiving weekend:

1.) Remember that this is NOT the Last Supper! It's not the last time you will ever see stuffing, pie, egg nog, or whatever your favorite holiday food is. There will be leftovers. There will be other parties. And there will be other holidays. Soon!

2.) If appetizers are served, stay close to the veggie tray. Fill up on carrots and celery (eating them plain is best, but if you like to dip, choose hummus instead of creamy dressings).

3.) Fill your dinner plate with veggies first. And I'm not talking about candied yams. Look for veggies that are closer to their original state and give yourself a hearty helping. That way you'll leave a smaller place on your plate for the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and other foods that are high in fat and calories and low in nutrients.

4.) Go easy on the booze - a good buzz leads to bad food choices.

5.) Drink lots of water. Squeeze in some lemon juice - it's refreshing and can help curb your appetite.

6.) Don't beat yourself up. If you overindulge one day, it's not the end of the world. Remember that every day is the chance for a fresh start. So if you eat too much today, dial it back the next day. It's as simple as that.     

I hope these tips help keep you sane and sated; I hope this Thanksgiving fills you with hope, joy and gratitude; and I hope this season finds surrounded by people you love!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Skinny on the Skinny -

The other day I was listening to a health show on the radio and heard some very reasonable information. See if this resonates with you...

When you eat sugar it spikes your blood sugar level. And the exact same thing happens when you eat starches because they turn into sugar in your system. When you spike your blood sugar level, your body has to work to bring it back to normal. And if there's more sugar in your bloodstream than you can use at that time, it gets stored in your cells... as fat.

That's my rudimentary interpretation of a very complex process, but I got it from Dr. Rob Thompson, a cardiologist and author of "The Low Starch Diabetes Solution," "The Glycemic Load Diet" and "The Glycemic Load Cookbook."  In those books, Thomspon suggests eliminating starches to lose weight, lower blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol.

"White bread, brown bread, white rice, brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, corn, pasta, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, pancakes, English muffins, potato chips and corn bread," Thomspon says. "As soon as they reach your digestive tract they turn to sugar and will raise your blood sugar."

I know this is a list of some of our favorite comfort foods, but consider this little gem from Thompson, "On their own they don't have much taste - it's what you put on them that brings the taste." Think about it - who eats dry toast (except people with the flu) or naked pasta (two-year-olds)? Every food on that list needs something to turn it into the tempting diet busters we crave. "Stay away from starches and you will see some changes," Thompson says. "Eat what you want, but eliminate three products - flour products, potato products, and rice."

For those of you who have cleansed with us, by virtue of eliminating gluten we've stopped eating a number of foods on the list. But we still eat steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa and gluten-free pasta. And even though they don't contain gluten they still have the same effect as the other starches. So if you want to shed some pounds during a cleanse, consider dropping your intake of gluten-free starches and upping your intake of tofu, leafy greens and veggies.

For most of us, it's unrealistic to eliminate all starches completely, but we can certainly give more thought to how much starch  we're consuming. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Putting the Skinny in SkinnyPlus

For those of us who want to experience the "skinny" in SkinnyPlus, here's the new bible!
I couldn't resist the cover of this book - just look at her! And once I started reading Jackie Warner's latest effort, I couldn't put it down.

This is a common sense, no BS approach to stripping away fat, eating sensibly, and working out effectively. And it has step-by-step instructions on what to eat and how to work out.

For the first two weeks of this program, you don't remove foods from your diet - you add them. Fruits and veggies, oatmeal, and protein powder (Jackie strongly recommends whey protein but I don't use it because it contains dairy). She also recommends adding two eggs a day (I haven't done that because I like to avoid animal products as much as possible). 

After the first two weeks, the plan encompasses healthy eating for five days in a row and allows for two "treat meals" on weekends in which almost anything goes. This is an eating plan that's satisfying, realistic and, if or when necessary, cleanse-friendly.

So far it's the exercise program that's really flooring me. I've been doing P90X for the last year and have loved the results. But I was ready to shake up my workout routine. And this is doing it! For the first two weeks all you do is 20 minutes of interval training on your choice of cardio equipment (treadmill, elliptical, stair climber or bike), or swimming or outdoor walking. I'm doing the treadmill and it's kicking my ass! And I'm in good shape so it was surprising and humbling to be knocked out by a mere 20 minutes. But thanks to the intensity of interval training, I'm working up a sweat and really working my heart and lungs in this quickie workout!  

After the first two weeks, the program adds weight training three days a week and continues with cardio five days a week. The book provides photographs to demonstrate each exercise and lays out the weight training routines, one move after another. And it contains a variety of sample menus to illustrate a typical day of eating. This is a book that completely sets you up for success by laying everything out; all you have to do is follow the plan.  

Our cleanse buddy and my neighbor Kathleen is doing this program with me and she gives it a thumbs-up as well. It's fun doing this together - we stay in touch and share our experiences and discoveries each day. And I'm hoping that when it's time to weave in the weightlifting, we can do that together. Kathleen and I did our first cleanse together (I honestly can say that I wouldn't have done it without her), and when she was toning up for her wedding last year we were workout buddies, keeping each other on the straight and narrow. Doing any kind of health program is so much more fun and gratifying with a friend (that's why SkinnyPlus exists!). If you're interested in Jackie's program, I recommend enlisting a buddy. And if you can't find anyone, check in right here! I'll be your long-distance buddy!

So there you have it - a sure-fire way to slim down, tone up, and eat healthy without going to extremes. If you decide to jump on board, keep us posted here! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

Here's something to think about... Where do the products you buy come from? What are the stories behind the corporations that make them? How would you feel about supporting a company that dumps some kind of toxic sludge into rivers? Or is involved in child labor practices? What about a company that supports a political candidate whose political agenda is in opposition to your own?

It's hard work being a conscientious consumer - you've got to research products, the companies that process or manufacture them, and the retailers who sell them. For most of us, that's too much to think about; and too much to do.  

But The Better World Shopping Guide makes it easy. It's a website that rates products and the corporations that make or distribute them according to their practices in human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice. You can look up all sorts of products like foods, beauty and body supplies, appliances, cars, insurance and airlines and learn whether or not you're supporting a corporate hero or villain.

Along with the website there's a pocket-sized guide book, which is available for about $10.00 at BetterWorldShopper.org. I carry the book in my purse so I'm armed and informed whenever I want to make a purchase.

I've been pleased to see that many of the products on my shopping list are on the plus side of the spectrum, but there are a few that aren't as upright as I'd like them to be. And that means they have to go bye-bye. But I feel much better knowing I'm supporting companies that conduct themselves in an ethical manner.

The next time you go to make a purchase, please take a look at the website and learn the truth about the product (and company) you're considering - then decide if it's worth the price.

Happy Election Day!