Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

Having a compelling reason

In the last week, a couple of different women (both about half my age) have asked me about losing weight. In each conversation, I told them what I have done and immediately the questions started flying:

But don’t you eat sweets?

What about cookies?

Don’t you ever want to just eat junk food?

Milk? You don’t drink milk? What about yogurt?!

Followed quickly by the protestations:

I could never do that!

First of all, both of these women look great. So I had to ask: Why do you want to lose weight?

The first one mumbled something about her parents coming up for graduation.

The second said that she wanted to look better. When I pushed on her why she wanted to look better, she really struggled to find a compelling reason.

She then said that she had a lot of time in which to exercise, so she thought she should work out more. I told her that if having too much time on her hands was her only reason then maybe she should try reading Anna Karenina or taking up belly dancing.

If you don’t have a compelling reason to lose weight, you won’t. You’ve got to want something bad enough to give up the cookies, the chocolate croissants, the peanut butter, the wine with dinner, the chips straight out of the bag before bed…well, you get the picture.

And if you don’t have a compelling enough reason, maybe you’re fine as you are. Or maybe you will eventually find the reason — either in terms of a failed goal, a bad knee, a weight related health condition, having to buy two seats on an airline, not being able to wear your favorite suit, or any number of other situations. But it can’t be some half baked desire; those never work. And it certainly won’t work if the only reason that you’re doing it is because someone else thinks you should!

Don’t you ever just want a cookie? She asked disbelievingly, glancing over at a display case teeming with chocolate cakes, Napoleons, and cream stuffed horns (ironically we were having this conversation in a bakery). Yes, I do, I answered honestly, but not nearly as bad as I want to be thin.

And why do I want to be thin? Believe me, I have my reasons. And they are, if nothing else, compelling.


What’s for Lunch?

Today I started off with the standard spinach salad and two 2-inch diameter roasted beets!

My second course consisted of of a nice Garbanzo and Cabbage Soup and lightly toasted Joseph’s Multi-Grain Pita loaf.

Calories: 300.

Satiety: High.

Here’s the soup recipe, for those of you who have told me that you need some new lunch ideas!


Another Woman’s Journey

This is Cindy Sadler’s story. She’s an opera singer who has lost 130 pounds in the last 16 months and still has 30 more to go. She also has a blog, The Next Hundred Pounds, which you might want to check out! I loved her necklace — inscribed simply with the words: never more than today. In fact, I liked it so much, I am actually considering getting one made for myself! Congratulations, Cindy!

This clip does include opera — she is an opera singer, after all — so you might want to close your door if watching at work!

Recipe: Garbanzo and Cabbage Soup

Reproduced from The Peaceful Palate.

Super easy and very tasty! Serve with salad or nice chunk of multi-grain bread!

2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced (I tend to use between 4 and 6).
1 cup of chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned.
2 cups of chopped cabbage
1 potato, diced
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsely
4 cups of vegetable stock
1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt

Heat the Oil in a large pot and saute the onion until it’s soft, abut 3 minutes.

Add the garlic, chopped tomato, cabbage, potato, parsley, stock, garbanzo beans, paprika, and black pepper. Simmer until the potato and cabbage are tender, about 15 minutes.

Ladle approximately 3 cups of the soup into a blender. Blend until smooth, being sure to hold the lid on tightly and start on low speed. Return the blended soup to the pot and stir to mix, adding salt to taste.

Serves 6 (generously). Per serving: 141 calories, 4 grams protein, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 192 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol (2 Weight Watchers Points)

So far so good: Over-scheduled! Update

I got up this morning, late and feeling tired. Instead of sticking to yesterday’s plan, I immediately started working and then when I realized that I wouldn’t get in a full hour of exercise, I decided to skip the workout. I worked some more and then thought: What the heck are you doing?! You know you have a tough day ahead, get up and get to the gym. Less is better than nothing! I threw my exercise clothes on, packed a bag and was out the door in 15 minutes. I got to the gym at 7:15, got on the elliptical — my four favorite cardio machines were unavailable, which I also found irritating– at 7:20, plugged in 40 minutes.

So, I only burned 375 calories instead of 550. It was better than nothing.

I took a quick shower, grabbed my computer, and headed to the dinner.

Immediately, I was tempted by the “Healthy Option: Light Multigrain Waffle filled with Oats and Walnuts, Served with Fresh Strawberries, Real Vermont Butter and Maple Syrup.” (I’d hate to see the Unhealthy Options — oh yeah, that would be the rest of the menu). My bad. I was particularly tempted when a waitress brought one to the woman sitting less than two feet to my right. It looked — and smelled — delicious!

With much gritting of the teeth, I decided, believe it or not, to stick with the plan. I ordered (and eventually enjoyed) my bowl of fresh fruit and pot of orange spice herbal tea, not to mention the conversation with the visiting scholar.

Now, you may be wondering if was “the plan” that kept me from ordering the “Healthy Option” as opposed to the pre-planned bowl of fruit. I’m not so sure to tell you the truth. But having thought about the challenges facing me before hand and actually writing it out was a powerful exercise. Though, it may have been the pseudo-calorie calculation I did, which put the waffle at 400 calories — that is, 400 without the butter, strawberries, or syrup — versus my 100 calorie fruit bowl, which I knew from experience was comprised mostly of melon!

On to the pub.

So a few hours later, I head over the pub with my students. From a health perspective, the menu was horrifying.

I ordered a spinach salad and added salmon. Hands down: the worst lunch/dinner salad I’ve ever had.

The spinach was wilted (and not in a warm spinach salad sort of way, but rather in a I’ve been sitting in a plastic bag for a week sort of way) and the salmon was so dry and salty that it stuck to my tongue.

Now, normally I try to avoid what nutrition coach Sonni Tallent refers to as “Ick” food (or food that you’ve had in the fridge a day — or three — too long, but you eat it anyway because it’s there), but in this case, I was hungry and my students had invited me. Besides, the conversation was awesome, and sometimes that’s all that really matters. I picked through the salad and left half of the salmon on the plate.

As soon as I left, I went back to the office and downed 16 ounces of Perfect Food (as a detoxing move) and 16 ounces of herbal tea. Note to self: drink way more water than normal before going to bed!

So, to my best guess, I have consumed 850 calories, which leaves me with 650 for the banquet later this evening. Hopefully I can keep it under 500, so I can go home and have the dessert of my choice. If not, I’ll either skip dessert or have it anyway!

So, what did I learn?

On challenging days, it’s good to try to think them through the day before and do your level best to stick to the plan to the best of your ability. And, if you’re anything like me (who tends to have an all or nothing attitude) it’s also a good idea to try to stick to them as long as you can — as who knows what might have happened had I derailed myself early by either failing to go to the gym or ordering the waffle (or both).

The really important thing to note, however, is that I wasn’t “perfect,” at any point at the day. I didn’t exercise the amount I wanted to. I really had to think long and hard about not getting the waffle. And I had something for lunch that had enough salt in it to preserve a horse.

But I was close at each stage of the game.

More importantly, I was closer than I would have been if I hadn’t thought it through and had a plan to which I felt at least marginally accountable.

The good news is that I’m sure that the certainty that I have gained in my ability to navigate obstacles and to make the healthiest choices I can will see me safely – and happily — through dinner, not to mention any of the other myriad of opportunities to overeat that I have facing me in the coming weeks!

Why a calorie isn’t just a calorie

Another great tip from my colleague! Thanks, Misagh!

Quote for the day

“Every problem has within it a gift. Look for and find the gift and your whole life will change. ” Tony Robbins

I’ll keep that in mind (see below)


I looked at my calendar; I have three food-centered appointments tomorrow.

Breakfast with a visiting scholar at the local diner.

Lunch with two students at the local pub.

Dinner with my honors thesis student.

From a social perspective, it’s great. But from a diet perspective, I’d rather die.

Eating out (or worse, eating at a college sponsored event) is bad enough — when you’re trying to watch what you eat — when you have to it once, let alone three times in one day! And to make matters worse, I get up at 5:00 most mornings and, thus, have already eaten “first breakfast” by 5:30.

So, obviously I need a plan. What’s it going to be?

Although I am certainly not wedded to this, I think I will start with my normal breakfast and go to the gym, per usual. I’ll then meet the scholar at the diner, where I can order herbal tea and a bowl of fruit salad, which is not that dissimilar from my normal post-workout snack.

Lunch is a bit tougher, because I’ve never been to the restaurant and they don’t have a menu available on-line. What they do have, however, is a really bad reputation in terms of offering healthy choices. So far, I’ve done a little sleuthing by asking friends who do eat there if there’s anything even remotely healthy. I have heard rumors that they actually do have a spinach salad of sorts, but this has yet to be totally confirmed.

The banquet dinner — it’s usually sit down — so I have absolutely no control. It’s definitely fixed plate. There are no special requests; it’s worse than Easter with the in-laws. My original goal was to have a great food day (that is, a high in nutrition, low in calorie breakfast and lunch) so that I could not be worried about dinner. However, eating out at second breakfast and lunch seems to make that strategy a little harder.

Depending on what time I get out of spinning tonight, I may run by the pub and take a look at the menu. Because if there’s nothing there that I want, I’d be better off eating something that I want to eat before I do and only picking at what I get once I’m there.

Any suggestions? I’ll let you know how it goes.

What’s for lunch?

Today, I had my normal spinach salad, topped with two roasted red beets. I paired this with a toasted Lavash slathered in hummus. It was heavenly, filling, teeming with antioxidants, and under 300 calories! What’s not to like?

A note on goals

In a response to one of the comments on the last post, I wrote:

“I think goals change as we change and it’s more important to be flexible than militaristic. My goal was to lose the fat, which I did. This summer, I would like to tone up and get stronger again. Like you, it’s in my best interest to weigh less — not because I can run a marathon (or two), but because it’s easier on my injured knee. I have no idea where I’ll eventually settle –weight-wise or jean-size-wise. My goal is, essentially, boiled down to this — I wanted to create a body that would allow me to do whatever I wanted it to, without limits. I’m definitely closer than I was to that goal than I was two years ago.”

I thought it was worth sharing, even for those people who normally don’t read the comments!

Thanks, Patty, for your contribution and participation!

Raising your standards (or lowering your threshold)

One of the good things about taking a long time to meet you desired goal weight is that gradually your threshold of acceptability changes.

Back when I weighed 232 pounds, it was enough to be the smallest person in my family.

For the longest time, after Weight Watchers, it was enough to have lost 50 or 60 pounds. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, my threshold was 179. It was not acceptable to get above this number; to do so, in my mind, would have triggered failure. Whenever I thought that I was getting fat again, I thought of the 180 me, not the 232 pound me. The 232 pound me was so far outside of my threshold of acceptability (my new standard for myself) that I no longer even considered it a possibility.

Two and a half years ago, I was creeping back up to 179. I adopted an alkaline diet/lifestyle, did P90x with a friend, and dropped close to 30 pounds. Unfortunately, my standard didn’t change and in a moment — try six months!– of stress, I ended right back where I started: 179 pounds.

Essentially, my standard hadn’t changed. And, consciously or not, I knew that.

The following summer, I tried it again. That time, I started with Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, followed by P90x (twice). I got down to 141.8. But again, during the winter months, my resolve started to slip. But last March, when I crept past 150, I said: enough! My standard had changed. 150 — which used to be a goal — had become the standard — the threshold of what I was willing to accept for myself.

Now, you might be thinking that this is just yo-yo dieting, but if you look at the trend line, it’s been moving steadily down. Moreover, I really believe (in retrospect) that all of those starts and stops — not to mention the dreaded plateaus — were actually necessary in order for my standard to change.

When I think of myself as being heavy, I never think of the 232 pound me; I rarely think of the 179 pound me, because I can’t even imagine going back there! And if you can’t imagine it, it won’t happen. Think about it.

And whenever possible, in whatever domain of your life, raise your standards and, in the case of weight loss, lower your threshold!

Jillian Michael’s Time Interview

Some interesting tips in here! Enjoy!

Sugar Stacks — a visualization of the amount of sugar in a variety of foods

This jewel came from Meg! Thanks!

I wonder if there is a sister site for what the 40 grams of fat in your typical Whopper really looks like? If not, there should be!

Do NOT underestimate the power of a 4lb kbell

My inner thighs are killing me! You know, that part of the body that never gets worked out? Well, they must have yesterday! Wow!

K-Bell Review — Finally!

I got up this morning, determined to do my k-bell routine.

I bought the basic introductory package and then also bought the up sell.

The original deal comes with 6 DVDs, varying in length: kb elements, flowMotion Basics (both of which are mainly instructional), cardio balance, kb target toning, stretch and strength, and cardio fit ballet. It also comes with two wristbands, which I did not wear, but probably will in the summer, and a 4 lb k-bell.

Cat and I watched kb elements and then Cat watched while I did flowMotion basics (burned 64 calories). I am not the most flow-oriented person on the planet, so I actually found this to be little problematic. However, part of the reason that I was drawn to this program is that I wanted to work on accessing my “feminine energy,” so part of my lack of flow is mental, as opposed to physical. Despite my personal limitations, both of these introductions are very good and I found the founder, Michelle Khai, to be a very good instructor. Not to mention a great model, as she has an amazing body that is not only fit and lean, but also strong and sexy. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I thought people could actually look that like!

I then moved onto cardio balanced. This is a good workout. There were some moves that required traveling, which I couldn’t quite figure out while I was still trying to master the kbell, so I simply stayed put. Again, despite my modification, I still felt like I was getting a good workout. Although I didn’t burn that many calories (a little over 200), I definitely felt my muscles working in new ways. Again, one of the selling points of this program over other programs that I have done is the emphasis on slimming and toning over bulking up or fat burning.

I didn’t do kb target and toning, but I might tomorrow.

Overall, I think — as with anything — that I will get more out of the program as I get better doing it. It’s challenging, but not so much so that it’s frustrating. And because you start with the 4lb bell, there’s less likelihood of injury while you’re still learning the movements. Once I feel comfortable here — more from a movement perspective than a strength perspective — I’ll move up to the up sell, which included an 8lb kbell and two additional DVDs, kb total body blast and kb flowMotion dance. Talk about girly!

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as I move through the program! And as soon as I look like Michelle Khai, I may even post pictures!

Another List of “Superfoods” That Help You Lose Weight!

Luckily there is quite a bit of overlap with the previous list I posted!

I try to avoid — or at least to seriously reduce– dairy, for reasons I will explain later; however, this list is a little more inclusive for those people who just can’t seem to (or want to) kick the milk habit.

I was actually glad to see item number one, as it just so happens to be on the menu for Sunday night!

This tip, by the way, came via my sister! Thanks!

New research on eating, exercise, and obesity

For those of you who don’t like food as much as you dislike exercise: rejoice!

Another great tip from my colleague!

Check this out! My colleague — one of the ones with whom I routinely talk food — sent this to me after I sat through the faculty luncheon scarfing down beets! It’s amazing; I used to hate beets when I was a kid, but they are currently one of my favorite foods. I think the sugar in them helps stave off my cravings for less healthy sweets!

I’m actually doing pretty good according to this particular list of healthy food. I routinely eat beets, I love cinnamon, and I drink goji and pomegranate juice every morning. I also use blueberries frequently in smoothies, I often put turmeric in when I cook Indian food at home, and make a mean vegetarian white bean and cabbage soup!

How did you do?

Finding Balance Between Friends and Food

In one of my classes, I spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about the emotional significance of food and how people tend to organize their social relations around food. You’d think that if I am teaching this stuff, that I’d know a way around it. But, alas, I do not.

The night I skipped my friend’s 60th birthday party at a local pub/restaurant in favor of going home and grabbing a salad, I realized that I have yet to find balance between friends and food. When I am not as serious about how I am fueling my body, it’s easy — I tend to spend more time eating with friends. Incidentally, however, those are the periods where I am also most likely to backslide on my goals. And, just so you know that I’m not the only one, research shows that people routinely eat a lot more calories –up to six times as many! — when they’re eating out and/or when eating with groups!

When I hunker down and get serious about diet, I tend to withdraw socially, as I have yet to find that balance between food and friends. One, I don’t often feel comfortable being grilled about my food choices — which consist, shockingly enough — of mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, legumes, and soy-based products. Two, I don’t feel comfortable by the way that friends all too often defend their choices to me, as if I am sitting there silently acting as judge and jury — which I am not. I don’t want to be judged for what I eat, so I am certainly not going to do it to anyone else! And, three, typically I meet friends and restaurants or at their homes, where I have less control of the ingredients used, amounts served, etc. And, again, a look at any restaurant menu that also provides nutritional information will tell you just how full of pitfalls eating out can be! Even something as seemingly innocuous as a weight management salad! Just as an aside, does this mean you can’t order one if you don’t need to manage your weight? What if you just happen to like salad? And, FYI, if you’re trying to limit your calories to 1200 (or even 1500) a day, seeing that the only thing on the menu that even resembles a real meal is “below 590 calories” is not reassuring!

Anyway, so what are my options — other than staying home? I suppose I could just go and not eat, but it feels strange sitting there drinking water while others are drinking margaritas and having dinner. To me, that seems even worse than not going. Do you go, touch base with everyone at the table, and then make excuses for why you’re not staying? Or do you just do your homework ahead of time (assuming that the nutritional information is available), pick the lesser of all evils, and live with the consequences?

And, for obvious reasons, having dinner at friends’ houses — where they are providing you a real offering — provides even more socio-emotional challenges, but more on that later!

This is something that I still struggle with — usually opting for food over friends. But this is not a sustainable answer to the problem. It’s certainly not a sustainable approach to friendship given the cultural weight we put on (no pun intended) “breaking bread.”

Anyway, I’d love to hear how other people handle it! How do you do it?

Listening to my body

I am in one of those phases in life where I am not getting enough sleep and am under the gun in almost every way imaginable. In the past, my gut instinct has been to plow ahead; to keep working, to keep even stricter count over my calories (that is, until I broke down and had a chocolate croissant or a glass of wine), and to keep exercising.

Heck, I even wanted to exercise tonight; see my previous post!

But this morning, I went in and worked a 12 hour day (without working out, first), which meant skipping my Wednesday morning weigh-in ritual that occurs after exercise.

Still feeling tired — the expression rode hard and put up wet came to mind when I looked in the mirror after my second (extra) class today! — I came home, worked some more, upped my calories (not by much), and decided to forgo exercise and go to bed. Rest, in this case, seems way more important than burning that extra 500 calories.

Am I kicking myself for being a slacker? Not at all. Am I beating myself up? Well yes — but only because I didn’t hit the sack at least an hour earlier! Hidden tip: during times of stress, if you honestly need the calories, eat them, but keep it healthy. And if you need the sleep, take it. Dieting (or maintenance, depending where you are), like life, is a journey, not a destination. And as I always tell my sister, the longer it takes to get there, the smoother your skin will be when you finally arrive!

Sweet dreams!