Archive for the ‘calories’ Category

Data, not an indictment

So yesterday I decided that the game was up.

I was going to re-establish a relationship with my scale (a daily one that requires at least a single moment of one-on-one time) and with my handy dandy calorie counter (LoseIt).

Mainly, I decided to do this to establish a little accountability.

What I didn’t expect to find was compassion.

Calorie counting, day one: without changing a lot about the way I eat, I rang in at right about 1600 calores. The big difference though was that I actually did about 45 minutes of cardio for the first time in weeks (this put me at about 800 calories below my budget for losing a pound a week).

I got up this morning and stepped on the scale.

Up. And not a little up, but a lot up. Up 1.8 pounds to be exact.

Normally I would have been really upset; and ironically I wasn’t as upset as I was yesterday.

Instead, I was amused – if not a little resigned.

Obviously, I did nothing in a 24 hour period that should have caused that big of a weight gain (even if it is just water). So, that was obviously her – my body, doing her own thing.

I didn’t get mad; I didn’t burst into tears.

In fact, I smiled indulgently (if not a little maniacally).

There was something freeing about that unexplained and unexpected weight gain. I simply logged it, noticed the spike, and read the notification. “You gained 1.8 pounds. You’ll reach your goal of losing 28.2 lbs. on Dec 11, 2012.” Though December 11, 2012 may seem like a long time for someone who went from a size 4 to a size 10 in less than three months, what I really thought was: Promise?

I’m curious (if not a little apprehensive what tomorrow will bring) and this way, by facing it instead of merely crying about it and pretending it’s not happening, I’ll know. And I’ll have plenty of data for my endocrinologist for the next time he asks how everything is going.

So Ends the Experiment

For years I have been listening to people talk about intuitive eating and the dangers of calorie counting.

I’ve tried it before and I’ve just finished trying it, again. Both times were an abysmal failure.

I just had to step on a scale for the first time in a year (because of some not routine medical tests) and for the first time in nearly five [years] I am once again, overweight. I am now bigger than I was before all of this started. I am now bigger than the first time when I met my husband – the time that I told him that I was really going to transform my body before I hit 40.

I was 36. I am now 42.

The experiment failed.

I’m not saying that intuitive eating doesn’t work – but it doesn’t work for me.

Maybe it’s the stress. Maybe it’s the whacked out thyroid. Maybe it’s the overactive immune system. Maybe I was just fooling myself when I thought that I knew what my body wanted, when it was hungry, etc. Who knows?

Regardless, I do know one thing – I’m allowing it to affect every aspect of my life, from my work to my relationships. All of the cognitive therapy that I’ve been doing so that I can love my body from the inside out? Well, despite the immense talent of my coach, it folds in the face of the illuminated number on a silver scale. It folds in the face of the double digit clothing that I can barely fit into. It folds every time that someone touches any part of my body that roils underneath the slightest bit of pressure.

So, intuitive or not, it’s time for a little accountability.

If I can’t be truly in touch with my body then I at least need to know what’s going on so that I am not just sitting around weighting (every pun, intended. Do you believe that that was actually a Freudian slip? It was – really) to find the right combination of seaweed, protein, whole grains that just so happen to be gluten-free, etc., that is going to unlock all of the nutritional and weight loss secrets of the universe.

In other words, I am going to revert back to calories in/calories out.

Now, I can hear the groan from my friends – at least a thousand of whom are graduates from one of the best schools of integrative nutrition in the country. But I know that all calories are not equal, so you don’t have to worry that I think that a 800+ calorie bomb from McDonald’s will have the same nutritional value as 2 of my green smoothies (even without all of the cruciferous vegetables that contain goitrogens that suppress thyroid function). But at least this way I will know – that I’ll know that it’s not something that I’m just fooling myself about. I remember the autumn that I gained 10 pounds eating “healthy cookies….” Could it be?

Because if it really is me – then maybe I can learn to do something else. But if it isn’t me (and it really is her, my body who is suffering under the unmitigated stress of my life) then, maybe, I can learn to forgive myself and my body and allow myself to connect not only with her – but also emotionally, mentally, and physically with those other people in my life who really don’t seem to mind if I weigh 140 or 170 pounds.

Seriously, as I even write the number, tears come to my eyes and the thought, unbidden, how could this have happened to me? How did I let it happen?

Never be afraid to ask for what you need (or to put your money where your mouth is)

Yesterday, I woke up feeling refreshed; literally like it was a new day. And for the first time in a long time I felt optimistic about my weight loss efforts. I was looking forward to wearing my new clothes and feeling comfortable.

However, I know myself enough to know that wearing a pretty new dress wasn’t going to cut it, at least not on day one.

First things first: I admit that I am a calorie counter. This was a problem, because I was counting the empty calories as I ate them. I’ll continue to count calories, but I will also be more diligent about the quality.

For example, the apple that I had yesterday afternoon was much more satisfying than 1 1/2 Reese’s pieces cups that I get for the same 95 calories!

Remember the candy bowl – you know, the infamous office candy bowl? Well, unfortunately we became reacquainted – after an almost two year hiatus somewhere along the second week of February? (Can anyone say Valentine’s Day?) What started off as one piece of substandard dark chocolate, quickly became became two, and then eventually shot up to 6 or 8 pieces a day. And, much to my chagrin, I was no longer limiting myself to dark. I’ll admit it, I hooked again – not on cheap chocolate, but on the sugar.

And for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, sugar, for some of us, is as addictive as crack.

So the very first thing I did yesterday morning was draft an email to my entire office:

Hello all!

I need your help as I have fallen afoul of the infamous bowl.

If you see me with a piece of chocolate in my hand, or even reaching for one, I will give you $20.00.

Thanks for your assistance in this small, but consequential matter.


Now I would have loved to have seen their faces, when they opened that message. Because, trust me, it didn’t take long for the responses to start pouring in. Here’s a sample:

This is a great decision. I should also become brave like you and participate in the pledge. But, for now, I look forward to making some money this year. I will be watching you very carefully. – M

As incoming chair, I wouldn’t mind if your first official act in office was to remove the bowl in the first place! But I’ll keep an eye on you anyway. Let me know when you want to have lunch. – J

To me it seems like you have infinite will-power, but I will be happy to help out (and take your money!). – D

I shall be vigilant and have started my vigilance by absconding ten minutes ago with one Hersey mini from the infamous bowl. – B

One thing that many of you may not know about me, because this is a blog about food and not money, is that I am about as cheap as anyone can possibly get. I also have enough pride to choke a horse and even though I am willing to bare my foibles here, I am not willing to do so in the office. And though I know that there are going to be times that I am alone in the office, I have enough personal honor to know that if I were to reach for a Hershey’s miniature (shudder) that I really would feel compelled to leave a $20 on the departmental administrator’s desk.

And, knowing her, and not to mention my luck, I can just about guarantee that she’d use it to – you guessed it – buy even more chocolate!

The funny thing is that now that I went public, I am no longer tempted. Nothing’s changed. The bowl still sits right outside my door. But the thought of laying down $20 for a single piece of candy (or $120 for 6) or people watching me do it….

No way.

I’m not quite willing to offer Michael $40 every time he catches me in the tahini jar, but it’s a close thing.

Back to Basics: Three Solid Squares or Five Small…Triangles???

One of the biggest contradictions in the health and fitness field is how much you should eat and when.

In my mother’s day, the conventional wisdom was that you should eat three square meals a day (whatever that means) and minimize snacking.

In recent years, however, the experts say that it’s better to eat five half meals a day (usually between 300 and 400 calories per meal).

The former is supposed to give your digestion system a break between meals.

The latter is supposed to keep your digestion system running – burning more calories. Also, eating every couple of hours is supposed to keep your blood sugar from crashing, which helps prevent fat storage. There are a lot of really healthy, skinny, and attractive people out there who swear by this method of eating and it makes a lot of intuitive sense to me.

However, in practice, it just didn’t work. That is, it didn’t work for me.

My problem? I’m not sure, but my best guess is portion control.

See, I like to feel full. I tend to eat fast and I have never gotten the hang of stopping when I’m 80% full. If I could remember to eat slowly, I would imagine a whole host of problems would resolve themselves. But no matter how hard I try, I’m usually 75% through my meal before I remember, “Oh yeah. You were going to slow down.”

I kid you not: I’m actually considering having the worlds “breathe” and “slow down” stenciled on the wall of my office.

Of course, not eating at my desk might also help, but I digress….

Regardless, eating five meals until you’re full really meant that I was eating way too much food.

I have tried to eat less. I have tried to slow down.

Unfortunately, however, “try” is outcome equivalent of “close.” And as “they” say, “close” only counts in horse shoes.

Thus, I have gone back to three solid squares a day and, so far, it’s working for me.

It’s working in the sense that I am less hungry and, contrary to popular belief, I am actually eating less food, calorie-wise.

At first it seemed scary to eat a meal with 500 calories in it, but I’m getting used to it. And as it turns out, the key to feeling full (and not crashing your blood sugar) is protein. Lots of protein.

For the last several days, it’s looked like this:

Breakfast Smoothie (384 calories; with 54 grams of protein).

Lunch (385-450 calories; with 21-24 grams of protein)

Snack (150 calories; 14 – 27 grams of protein)

Dinner (400 – 600; 30 grams of protein)

After dinner snack: herbal tea!

And, believe it or not, so far so good.

It’s working a lot better than the 5 meals, though I suppose that could have something to do with the fact that I have completely cut out sugar (averaging about 16 – 25 grams a day)….

I haven’t been back on the scale since this has all started, but I’ll be sure to let you know. I was thinking about “weighing in” on Friday…or not. Though I probably will, because, as I will discuss in another post, I’ve also come to appreciate having tighter feedback loops.

Oh, one last thing! Since I’ve gone back to larger three meals – instead of five smaller ones – I’ve had virtually no stress eating or any other compulsive food-related behavior. That in and of itself is worth the cost of an extra meal.

Back to Basics: A little is better than nothing

Last year I got into this rut: if I didn’t have an hour (or more) to exercise, then I just wouldn’t do it. In my mind I had created this belief that if I didn’t burn at least 500 calories per exercise session than it just wasn’t worth doing.

I realize that that’s crap (for a couple of reasons).

1) there are a lot of exercises that are great for you that don’t take an hour and have nothing to do with actual calories burned – such as High Intensity Interval Training exercises, which are currently all the rage but that I hate with a purple passion and therefore will not do so it doesn’t matter how effective they are) or even just Kettle Bell Swings (ala Tim Ferris, author of the Four Hour Body). Both of these forms of exercise – and I am sure there are others – elevate heart rate (that’s why they’re called High Intensity) and build muscle, which causes you to burn more calories all day long – even while you’re sleeping. Can’t beat that.

2) and even more simple than that, 30 minutes of exercise (even if it’s just 200 calories burned the old fashion way) is better than no minutes of exercise (and 0 calories burned). That’s just simple math. And it doesn’t take into consideration the psychological benefits of exercise – the increased mood (studies show that mood is elevated for up to 12 hours after exercise!), the sense of accomplishment that keeps many people, myself included, from eating unhealthily after exercising, and the joy that comes from living up to your self-promises. It also can provide an important degree of structure to one’s day – especially if it’s done at a regularly scheduled time. And it helps you sleep better, which also helps you to stop storing fat. Again, can’t beat that.

So, this year, I’ve ditched my self-defeating belief that I have to workout for a certain length of time or burn a certain number of categories. And I’m just moving my body. Six days a week – with one day off.

So far, this is the workout, but it’s subject to change:

M. W. F.:
30 minutes cardio (the old fashion Nordic Track ski machine is my current activity of choice)
30 Kettle Bell Swings (20lb bell)
20 Butt lifts
30 Kettle Bell Swings (20lb bell)
30 Pointers (or whatever it is that you call that yoga pose where you start on your hands and knees and extend opposite arms and legs).

T. Th. Sa.:
30 minutes cardio
60 air squats
60 wall pushups
60 chest pulls
front plank 2×30 sec
left side plant 2×30 sec
right side plank 2×30 sec

Day off or yoga

I’m not burning many calories, but I am seeing some definition in my stomach again.

And on the days that I over sleep, I’ll reduce the cardio, because – as noted – 10 minutes is better than no minutes.

I’ll Take Making Out for 100

And it’s skipping for the win – which makes my inner child very happy!

Forty-one easy ways to burn 100 calories without going to the gym!

Burn More Calories…As Inefficiently as Possible

I think I mentioned a few posts back that I was working with a weight loss/fitness coach by the name of Susan.

Well, the last time Susan and I talked she told me that one of the easiest ways to burn more calories without having to spend a lot of extra time at the gym was to become as inefficient as possible.

At first, I laughed, but then I stopped to think about it.

As a society, we are one of the most efficient on the planet. We are also the fattest.

Everything is optimized towards saving time. Unfortunately, this means that everything is also optimized to conserving energy – that is, calories.

For instance, I typically carry in five bags of groceries at once to save myself a couple of trips up and down the stairs. Why not make five trips?

I balance multiple dehydrator trays precariously as I head down into the basement. Why not make three trips?

I cut corners as I cross the green to get from one place to another on campus. Why not mark out a pathway based entirely on squares?

I drive five blocks to the Coop…or three to my belly dance class. Why not leave a little early and enjoy the walk?

I carry my grocery bags out to the car so that I don’t have to return the cart to the storefront. Why not use the cart and make three trips instead of one?

I tend to enter buildings though the closest door. Why not walk to the next closest (or even the furthest) door?

I tend to use the bathroom closest to my office. Why not use the one down the hall or even the one up the stairs?

My homework this week was not to make any of these changes, but just to find the places where I could be less efficient – because when it comes to all of these so-called strategies to save time, you are also, unfortunately, saving energy – which again, equals calories.

And even if it may take you a couple of minutes more…it’s really not that much time in the grand scheme of things.

So think about all of the places where you could be a little less efficient and, even if you don’t think you have the time, take it. Just try it. I’m sure that if you really put your mind to it, you could think of some other way to shave 15 minutes off your day.

And if you do find places where you can be less efficient I’d love to hear them, because I bet my list – as long as it is – is probably not going to be long enough.

Keep me posted. I’d love to hear from you!

(And, if you’d like to see my full list, let me know; because, as I am sure you’ve guessed, I’m happy to share.)

The Missing Link: Introducing the CalTrac

I must admit, I have been completely flummoxed over my recent (over the last 3 months) 16 pound weight gain. I’m not obsessing over it (no, really!) but I was curious.

I was still exercising and I do think some of it’s muscle (as I’m still in my 4s – for the most part and my 6s, comfortably), but it’s clear that the belly (aka Bella) has taken on a life of her own.

Granted, I’ve been really sad over the last three weeks or so. Not miserable, but definitely feeling a loss.

I also have had less control over my eating – more peanut butter, more binges, but – in all fairness – my binge eating is pretty tame by most people’s standards. And even though I haven’t been counting calories, even on the days that I was over eating, I wasn’t over eating that much. I certainly wasn’t eating even lose to 2,000 a day, so things just really didn’t seem to add up.

Yesterday, however, it all slid into place.

It wasn’t that I ate all that much more this summer.

It wasn’t that I stopped exercising.

It’s that I stopped moving this summer, aside from exercise.

In the interest of saving time and gasoline (and spending more time with Cat) I worked at home this summer. And I worked a lot. Meaning that on most days, as soon as I finished working out, I took a shower and walked 15 steps to the dining room table (or 8 steps into the living room) and worked – i.e., sat on my ass, which got progressively bigger as the weeks passed.

It didn’t occur to me that this was a problem, because I had stayed tuned into food and exercise – that is, formal exercise – like High Intensity Interval Training, Nordic Track, K-Bells, Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, etc. You know, the kind of stuff that you actually get dressed for and makes you sweat.

Well, because I am determined to get rid of my extra padding that I put on this summer, I started working with a fitness coach.

This woman, whose name is Susan, has given me a device known as a CalTrac. A CalTrac is beeper-like object that you wear on your waist band and it calculates the amount of calories you burn through movement, separate from the calories that you burn just by being alive.

The first couple of days that I had it, I was actually at a conference, which pretty much mimicked what I had been doing at home all summer.

Guess how many calories you burn through movement when you sit on your butt all day?

Less than 200.

Way less.

Yesterday, I headed back to the office.

Instead of shuffling from the bathroom to the kitchen – like I’d done everyday for the last three months – I parked my car at the gym and walked to my office. I walked back across campus to go to convocation (which, ironically, was pretty darned close to where I’d parked my car). Then I walked back to my office. Then, later in the afternoon, I took a turn around the pond, because I realize that the leaves are turning and I won’t have too many more gorgeous days left. At the end of the day I walked back to my car and then to my belly dancing class, because I figured that it would be hard to find parking (which, as it turns out, would have been had I drove).

At the end of the day, I had burned 809 calories through movement – and that’s not counting the 440 calories that I had burned that morning on the stair mill!



That’s a 600 calorie difference just by moving (or not moving) without any consideration of exercise whatsoever.

That’s 3,000 calories a week, assuming a 5 day work week.

That’s practically a pound a week.

No wonder I gained weight!

And no wonder I just didn’t get it.

Because I hadn’t changed what I ate – not that much anyway.

And I hadn’t changed the number of calories that I burned through formal/scheduled exercise.

But I had changed the informal/unscheduled calories that you burn just by walking, just by moving.

It’s a little annoying to wear a little blue device on your belt, but it sure is motivating.

In fact, instead of checking my email when I’m done here, chances are I’m going to take a turn around the pond. It is another gorgeous day after all. But, perhaps even more importantly, it’s another 200+/- calories!

It really never occurred to me that the non-sweat inducing activity of walking (back and forth from cars, between buildings, etc.) could make the difference of a pound a week!

Who knows? I may start parking even further away than I do now (not to mention using the women’s bathroom on the fifth floor instead of the one outside of my office)!

If you’ve changed your routine and you’ve noticed that you’re feeling a little thicker around the middle, perhaps you should get up and move a little bit more than you do – and maybe even a little more than that tomorrow.

I know that’s my plan!

And the experiment continues (no more calorie counting)

It seems like everyday I am trying something new with my diet.

This weekend (and in the coming week), I have made a deal with myself to try the previously unthinkable.

I am not counting calories.

I have put away the LoseIt and I am going on trust. In other words, I am going to trust my body to tell me what she wants to eat and in what quantities.

For those of you who don’t know me, this is as scary as hell.

I’ve been counting calories (and keeping a food diary) for three years now – religiously.

But I decided that it’s time to cut myself some slack and to try trusting myself around food for a change.

And this doesn’t mean that I am doing the mental calorie calculations in my head and just not writing them down, which is what I sort of what I thought would happen. I literally haven’t even thought about the calories. To tell you the truth, it’s more liberating than I thought it would be (and it sort of belies all of those times that I told myself [and Michael J] that I really loved counting calories)! Because, to be honest, meal time – and life in general – is so much more pleasant and relaxed without it.

The interesting thing is that it seems like I am actually eating less than I was when I was counting calories! I think part of this is because since I am trying to feel that satiation point (instead of eating a certain number of calories) I have really slowed down my eating. It’s amazing how much less you eat when you slow down enough to savor each bite.

The hardest part of this whole thing I am realizing is not the trusting, but the slowing down. Sometimes (most times) I am three or four bites into it before I realize that I am eating way too fast. When that happens, which it does at least twice a day, I have to literally put down the fork (or the spoon or the piece of flax bread) and remind myself to breathe.

I’ve been trying to remember to take three deep breaths before I put anything in my mouth and to continue to take deep breaths through my nose while I eat, but it hasn’t been perfect. Slowing down and breathing while you eat makes a huge difference. I enjoy my food more. I eat less. And I feel much more satiated.

I would like to say that I discovered these strategies on my own, but alas that would not be the case!

To give credit where credit’s due, I am currently reading The Slow Down Diet: Eating For Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss, by Marc David. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t have any weight to lose. It seems so intuitive, yet potentially life changing.

In fact, it may be that this relatively short, easy to read book may hold the last of the answers I’ve been searching for.

As the title suggests, the key is really about slowing down enough to trust yourself – neither of which I have been able to master in my previous relationship with food. This program seeks to remedy that by encouraging you to get in touch with your “inner nutritionist” and to really be present, pay attention, and get in alignment with your needs and desires.

And although the focus is on food, if you squint a little, you can see quite easily how the principles therein could also apply to pretty much every aspect of your life.

Essentially, The Slow Down Diet is designed to be implemented over an eight week period. Each week focuses on one of the “eight universal metabolizers,” which David identifies as Relaxation, Quality, Awareness, Rhythm, Pleasure, Thought, Story, and the Sacred.

At some point, he states that our approach to food (or eating) mirrors our approach to life. In other words, the way we do food is the way we do life. Reading this book, especially the chapter on awareness, has made me see that not only do I not eat with awareness, I also don’t live my life with awareness to the degree that I would like. That is, I don’t bring my full concentration to bear on many things – not just the food that I used to shovel down unthinkingly, but also my relationships, my work, or my home.

As I work on implementing the principles of this diet in my relationship with food, I also hope to deploy them in other areas of my life. Wouldn’t it be nice to be more relaxed, to have more quality, to be more aware, and to experience more rhythm, pleasure, and thoughtfulness? Wouldn’t it be absolutely joyous to rely (or access) better stories and to be more profoundly in tune with the sacred?

Potential for weight loss aside, doesn’t it just seem like a better way to live?

I know that when something sounds too good to be true, it often is. But there is something so intuitive about this book; it makes so much sense to me at such a deep level that I could not not try it.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted as the experiment continues. I do, however, think it’s worth noting that I do trust myself enough to at least try it, which, for those of you who know my history, is truly saying something and really speaks to the identity-level changes that have occurred over the last three years.

If you’re someone who bolts your food down without tasting it, who eats in the car, or who lives off fast food only to find yourself back in front of the fridge (or back in the drive-thru) an hour later, then I recommend you read this book. Who knows, it might change your relationship with food.

And, if you let it, it might also change your relationship with yourself, if not your entire orientation towards life.

Learning to Listen

Over the last few weeks I have been doing my best to learn to listen to and, subsequently, trust my body.

I’m doing this, in part, because I am beginning to appreciate that my longest term, most committed relationship to date is not the one I share with my 19 year old long haired white tortoise shell cat, but the one that I share with my body.

And unlike all of the men in my life, the relationship that I have with my physical self is literally, “Til death do us part.”

With a little help from some very talented weight loss coaches, I’ve come to understand that I need to love my body, because when I start loving her (notice I did not say it), she will start loving me back.

When I start trusting her, she will start trusting me.

And when that happens, we will begin to do what we want.

And what we want, ostensibly, is to feel great, have tons of energy, and live comfortably in our skin.

My journey towards self acceptance started about two years ago when I realized that there was some part of me that still linked weight loss to death. I named that part of me Kathy Jo and have since teamed up with her so that we can, in fact, reach our shared health goals.

Today, my body was hungry. Very hungry.

In fact, by 10:30 a.m., not only had I eaten breakfast, I had also had a couple of snacks and started lunch.

Was this a binge? No, not really. And I say that not because I didn’t eat 750 calories in the space of a few hours (which I did), but because I took several deep breaths between bites, drank quite a bit of water, and really thought about the question: Are you really hungry?

As it turned out, the answer was yes.

So, I ate: an Organic Raw bar, a handful of raw almonds, a serving of tomato and basil soup (also raw), and a zucchini sliced up like Ruffles Potato Chips.

Then, not surprisingly since I had just consumed all that energy, my body wanted to move.

Was this the mind, feeling guilty about all that food? Maybe. I hope not.

So my body and I packed up our work and went to the gym.

And instead of punching in a pre-selected workout, I did whatever my body felt like doing – at whatever length and at whatever level of intensity.

And the minute that she was done – the minute that it even whiffed of punishment – I stopped.

I didn’t push.

I wasn’t disappointed.

In fact, as it turned out, I actually had a better workout (body-wise, heart-rate-wise, and even calorie-wise) when I let her do it.

My weight loss coaches tell me that the body doesn’t like to be defined by a number on the scale and the body certainly doesn’t like counting calories.

While I have let her have her way on the former, I still cling stubbornly to the latter. I’d like to think that I am merely recording what I eat, without actually restricting what I eat, but – in practice – I know that’s not entirely true.

Sometimes I wonder what (and how much) I would eat if I stopped counting calories. Other times I wonder if it would be possible for me to sit down to a meal and not automatically know how many calories were adorning the plate.

My biggest fear is that I would overeat (whatever that means) and that I would do it often.

My coaches, however, would say that if I were truly listening, I would only do it once, because the body doesn’t like to be numbed out, overfull, or stuffed. That if I truly listened, I’d reach for the salad naturally instead of the tahini or the cacao or, better yet, the full-fat, full-sugar ice cream that I haven’t had in months, if not years.

Needless to say, I’m not entirely there yet.

But I am listening – or at least I am trying.

And, perhaps even more importantly, I forgive myself for my inability to trust.

I also keep reminding myself (particularly every time I fire up LoseIt) that the more I listen, the more likely it is that I will eventually hear.

A Simple Step

Or, rather, several.

Over the last month or so I started walking more.

I think it’s because the weather has been unseasonably nice where I live and it’s just nice to be outside when the sun is shining and it’s reasonably warm – especially in November.

I used to discount walking. It’s not hard enough. It’s not strenuous enough. It’s boring…. You name it, I had used it as an excuse not to do it. It wasn’t like I was one of those people who drive around 30 minutes in the gym parking lot to get a park near the door and then go sweat it out for an hour (or two) on a spinning bike, but it was close.

But walking, like any other exercise, burns calories. And, not like a lot of other exercises, it’s incredibly easy on your body!

I remember someone telling me once that joggers are simply walkers who don’t have a lot of time!

I’m beginning to see that.

I live on a dirt road with some steep and some rolling hills, interspersed with some rather scenic flats. In addition to just getting out in nature, on an hour and 15 minute walk, I can burn almost 500 calories. And sometimes my heart rate gets up as high as 147 beats per minute! Granted it doesn’t stay there, but it doesn’t really need to.

Heck, just walking over to the gym from my office (and back) I burned 120 calories! (Again, thank goodness for hills!) I was shocked – not to mention pleasantly surprised!

In fact, I was so pleased, that I’m going to start wearing my heart rate monitor when I park so that I will actually be motivated to park further away from my office. (Yes, I am a geek – it’s sad but true!)

And instead of complaining about “having to park in the North 40” I may purposefully park in the last spot on the very last row at the bottom of the hill!

Seriously, walking adds up and it’s easy on the body. I dropped my car off at the shop this morning and walked to work – 139 calories. I have to walk back – probably closer to 100 (given the direction of the hills). But still, in addition to the gym workout, I will have burned an extra 350 calories shuttling myself to and fro!

Think about it.

And stop looking for the closest parking spot – even if you are looking in the gym parking lot!

Interesting take on fridge utilization

Ever notice that most people store fresh fruit and vegetables in a drawer at their feet, while they store ice cream is usually at eye level? Click here for Ezra Klein’s thoughtful take on food storage and making some calories harder to get than others!

Not low calorie, but guaranteed to stop your wheat cravings in their tracks!

Pamela’s Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

This is the only one we tried, but it was so good that I don’t have an compunction recommending the others as well!

Although the texture was a little dry, the chocolate was amazing!

There are 4.5 servings per box and I ended up with a serving and a half!* MJ, the aspiring-gluten-free cookie monster, decided they were just as tasty as the “real” thing. In fact, his exact words when I asked if I could have one of the cookies on his saucer were: “No. The consequences would be too dire.” He says that he meant that they would be too dire for him (and that really wasn’t a poorly veiled threat), but I’m not so sure 😉

If you’re gluten-free (or trying to get there) but you can’t imagine giving up cookies, etc., these could get you at least halfway there. But beware, at 170 calories and 9 grams of fat per serving, proceed with caution. But to tell you the truth, they’re so rich that one cookie (or half a serving) will just about about it!

Let me know what you think.

* One serving = 2 cookies

Ugh! It’s Time To Go Back to Bed and Start Over! (And it’s not even 3 p.m.)

I’m having one of those days.

Low grade binge since about 9:00 a.m. Luckily everything I have access to is healthy: rice cakes, homemade hummus, salad, and almonds. Unfortunately there’s just been way too much of it!

There’s a woman whose weight-loss program I’ve been following whose thing is, “Count Chemicals, Not Calories!” So far I haven’t been able to get with the not counting calories part, but today I’m at least hoping she’s right! I’ve had over 1,600 of the little bastards so far today and, as per the tag line, it’s not yet 3:00!

To tell you the truth, I’m just bored. I’m going to go exercise, try to reset my mood, and see if I can break even for the day. I figure an hour of cardio and some resistance training (coupled with a reasonable dinner) should just about get me there. But even if it doesn’t tomorrow is always another day!

I knew I was going to wish that I had started off the day with yoga! Lesson learned 😉

Learning to listen (and to trust)

Some days I can live quite easily by the six small meals a day rule – you know the one, eat every two or three hours, something small, between 200-300 calories. In fact, that’s usually my preferred manner of eating.

But other days, it just doesn’t work for me.

Yesterday, in case you’re wondering, was one of the days that it just didn’t work out.

Let’s start at the beginning; why should we learn to listen to our bodies when it comes to food?

To put it simply, the body knows what it wants when it wants it. If you listen to your body (and not your emotions, the clock, your social calendar, or your friends) very rarely will you be led astray in terms of food. The trick is, distinguishing what your body wants from what your mind, your emotions, and the culture say you want.

When your body sends you a clear message – even if it doesn’t jive with the “expert” advice – listen to it. If not, you’ll be more likely to feel deprived, throw in the towel, and decide that the so-called experts don’t know much of anything. In fact, some of the experts know quite a bit, but they don’t necessarily know you. Not like you do. So if your body is telling you that it wants a certain amount of something or a particular something and you’ve done everything else right – drank some water, took a fifteen minute walk, took three deep breaths, ate some carrots or some other super low calorie food – then you should go ahead and have it. Because once it becomes a must in your mind, it’s too late. Have it, get it out of your system, let it go, and then move on.

As I said above: yesterday was one of those days.

Looking at my food diary for the last two (almost three years) it’s clear to see that my preferred intake of calories is between 1,500 and 1,800. When I’m trying to release weight – or if I’m just calibrating before or after a big dinner or a week with my parents – I tend to purposefully drop my calorie intake down to around 1,200. Some days it’s lower than that (closer to a 1,000) though sometimes it’s higher (closer to 1,400).

It’s rare that I have a day over 2,200; but it’s happened.

Yesterday I was starving. I’m not sure why. My calories the day before had been low, but not that low. Maybe it was the fact that I have moved back to my school schedule and have been getting up at 5:00 instead of 6:30 or 7:00. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time out in the world lately, whereas I have spent most of the summer at home.

Regardless, I was ravenous. And even trying to do everything “right,” I still had polished off 1,100 calories before noon! (For those of you who aren’t good at math, let me help: that’s 73% of my preferred daily calorie intake – all before lunch.)

As it turned out, I actually had a pretty good food day despite the rough start. And when I went to bed at 10:30, I had actually only consumed 1.442 calories. You might be thinking, 342 calories isn’t all that much for twelve hours! And you might also be thinking about how the body goes into starvation mode when it hasn’t had anything to eat in over three or four hours. And you’d be right.

But in the spirit of listening to my body, I wasn’t hungry again until 4:30, when I had a medium braeburn apple and some carrots. Then, a few hours later, I had a bowl of lentil soup (massive protein and fiber hit) and a glass of petite syrah.

Then, after a couple of more hours during which I consumed a couple of cups of herbal tea, I went to bed and started over today.

Today, I have been back to what the experts recommend. It’s almost 4:00 and I’ve had four small meals.

I had my normal breakfast (255 calories), one of my normal snacks (240 calories), an apple (80 calories), one of my typical lunches (280 calories). And, notably, these have been spaced out every couple of hours or so.

The moral of this story: if you have a “bad” day, go ahead and have it. It’s just a day. Trust your body to know what it wants when it wants it. But also trust yourself to know that tomorrow is a new day and you – more than anyone else – know what you need to do get back on track.

Self’s 2009 Healthy Food Awards

Check out the winners here!

Also, check out Self’s list of 30 snacks under 200 calories!

Can you tell I have snacks on the brain?

Finally, a Real Age tip I can get behind!

For all of those people who have laughed at my monster salads and shakes!

New Fast Food Bombs to Avoid ala The Hungry Girl!

I swear, I don’t know why there aren’t laws preventing this kind of stuff!

Never eat standing up!

Remember that old wives’ tale, “It doesn’t count if you’re standing up”? Or was it just wishful thinking?

Regardless, according to Judith S. Beck, author of The Beck Diet: How to Think Like a Thin Person,” you should never put anything in your mouth while you’re standing up and that includes while you’re walking.

Why does it matter if I eat standing up versus sitting down?

Because people tend to eat more and more quickly when they’re standing or walking than they do when they’re sitting.

Although this seems like a fairly simple rule, you may be surprised how effective it can be.

For instance, abiding my this single rule practically eliminates the bad habit of tasting – otherwise known as snacking – while you cook!

It also has the potential to eliminate or at least drastically reduce the terrible habit that a lot of women (especially wives and mothers) have picked up of cleaning not only their own plates, but the plates of everyone else in the family as they clear the table after a meal!

Additionally, people who don’t abide by this rule are less likely to count (or even notice) the calories they eat standing up, at least not to the degree they are likely to do when they take the time to prepare a meal or snack and sit down to eat it! Dr. Beck also suggests, by the way, that you limit your eating to the dining room, which means eliminating eating at your desk, in front of the television, etc!

Never eating while standing up also cuts down on a lot of impulse snacking, including the elimination of store samples that on any Friday night in a reputable grocery store can add up to well over 500 calories before you even realize it between the goodies offered at the bakery, the deli, the produce isle, and the prepared foods section. And let’s not even get into how quickly the calories can rack when you stop for the four to six samples of beer and or wine!

Never eating while standing up also has the potential to cut out trips to the office candy jar! Because if you’re like me, if the candy doesn’t go immediately into my mouth, I can usually talk myself out of it before I get to my desk. Same thing with all of the office “goodies” that all of the would-be pastry chefs in my office bring in on most days that end in “Y”! However, if I do actually wait to eat something until I get to my desk, chances are that I’ve made a conscious decision to eat it and, thus, will record it in my food diary!

If you really want to cut down on all of the standing up calories that you consume without usually even realizing it, just stop and sit down. If you’re cooking, ladle whatever it is to a small measuring cup and go sit for a moment. Chances are the smaller amount will cool faster and you’ll get a better idea of what it really tastes like. And if you use a measuring spoon or cup to taste, you’ll be able to keep track of the calories! Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to think they don’t, the calories we eat standing up really matter! A calorie is a calorie, no matter what you’re position you’re in when you consume it!

Tip for the day: If you’re ravenous after a workout, don’t just grab a handful of grapes or chips straight out of the bag. Instead, take a deep breath, decide what you want, take a moment to count (or measure) whatever it is out, put in in or on a small serving dish, and sit down. Just by taking that extra thirty seconds you’ll increase your awareness of 1) what it is that you actually want (instead of just stuffing something in your face), 2) the calories you’re consuming and 3) the taste of whatever it is that you were hungry for to begin with.

If you really want to develop this habit quickly, set up a “tip” jar in your kitchen and/or office. Every time you find yourself (or, if you have a good support system, whenever someone else finds you) eating on your feet, throw a dollar in there. Eventually, usually about the time that you’ve developed the habit, you’ll have enough saved to take yourself (and probably someone else) to a nice sit-down dinner!

How shameful

I used to work in a Baskin Robbins!

Thanks to my sister who just forward me a list of the Unhealthiest Drinks in America (2009)!

I am pleased to say that I have never had any of these and, now, thanks to this, I never will.

I’m not sure why there isn’t a tax on stuff like this. We tax everything else that is “bad” for us! Oh yeah, because we actually subsidize the crap that goes into it. My bad.