Archive for the ‘strategies’ Category

Surviving the Holidays (for the most part, intact)

Every year I dread the holidays.

It’s not the busyness or the hassle of traveling. It’s not the weird family dynamics (I actually enjoy spending time with my family). It’s not the increasing credit card balance or the last minute wrapping. It’s not the panicked trips to the store searching frantically for tape or thyme (not to mention, t-i-m-e).

It’s really all about the food.

Christmas at my parents house is like a minefield. There is literally sugar in every room in the house (save the bathrooms).

Seriously, it’s everywhere. My father’s bark covered pretzels, Ritz crackers, saltines, and mixed nuts. Cookies and chocolate. And then once my relatives arrived, the pie parade: coconut cream (to die for), my Aunt Mary’s chocolate pie (should be illegal, especially since she uses corn starch in the filling for us gluten-free folk), my cousin Megan’s pumpkin pie, and my cousin Matthew’s pecan pie (which I am pretty sure is illegal in a few states). Then there’s the bourbon balls the neighbors brought….

Did I mention that we also had a 60th surprise birthday party on the 23rd? So that also meant we had an extra dark chocolate sheet cake floating around and a ton of Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato. Seriously, this stuff was insane and was worth the three hours of misery that followed (can any one say lactose intolerant?) A lesser ice cream wouldn’t have been, but this – most definitely.

Regardless, despite all of the potential minefields (including several bottles of wine and about three different batches of my sister’s world-famous margaritas), I actually made it through relatively unscathed – that one brutal stomach ache aside.

So, how did I do it?

1) I thanked the powers that be that I have a wicked gluten-intolerance, because that knocked out a whole lot of options. I remember Anthony Robbins saying something about, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” but I think a more personally motivating mantra is this: “Nothing – and I mean nothing – tastes as good as gluten-free feels.” (If only I could find something similar for sugar!)

2) I planned ahead. Knowing that we were going to be doing a party spread (in addition to the holidays), I ordered gluten-free options from what Jena la Flamme assures me is the best gluten-free bakery in the country (and I must say, I agree), where I ordered some awesome baguettes, some cupcakes, and a pumpkin bread (which, damn the bad luck, is still sitting uneaten in my mother’s fridge!)

3) I tried new things and substituted, substituted, substituted. My newest finds are Q Tonic Water (which I drank in place of wine and margaritas) and hemp tortilla chips, which have a lot more protein than corn chips and are, thus, more filling.

4) I pulled out my old favorites, meaning that I baked garnet yams, ate my normal sauteed kale, and even whipped up three – count them three – batches of my incredible guacamole (Notice the correspondence between the number of batches of guac and margaritas?)

5) I packed my yoga mat (and did yoga twice a day while I was there) and my hula hoop. Although my parents don’t have a great indoor space to hoop and their yard/driveway is slanted, I still got in a little hooping every day.

6) I set an intention going in – to wear the same skinny jeans going out that I wore going in (I should have specified comfort level, but there’s always next year).

7) I remembered that all things are transitory. I’ve realized that I have this belief that when I gain weight – in any amount – that it’s never going away. I tend to get really down on myself and start doing crazy restrictive things with my diet. This time I remembered that things change. My waist got bigger, that means that it can get smaller. It was only four days. (And sure enough, just after two days of being back at my home and doing my normal thing, my waist is looking a lot more familiar to me). What is that saying: change is the only constant? It’s a good thing to remember.

Now, that’s not to say that things went flawlessly or that things are completely back to where they were before I left for the holidays.

I’m just now beginning to pull myself out of the “sugar skid.”

Sugar is my crack; there’s no doubt about it.

Normally sugar doesn’t bother me, because I don’t eat it – like, ever. I don’t even eat fruit. Because as soon as I do, it’s like I’m an addict. In fact, I was speaking with a dear friend of mine who works with seriously addicted people and she asked me to describe – in great detail – what it feels like and what happens to me when I eat sugar. I was telling her and she was nodding.

Her response? “It seems like the sugar is triggering a dopamine response in you, much like drugs or alcohol do for many of my clients.”

Lovely.

I got home on Tuesday around 1:00 a.m., after having polished off the last of the Byerly’s dark chocolate salted sea caramels that my father had so lovingly packed in my bag.

Wednesday, I found the bark covered pecans in my suitcase, which my father had made specifically for me (since I can’t – thank goodness – eat his other creations). I ate them slowly and savored each one.

Thursday, I found the contents of my stocking that my mother had so carefully packed up for me and stowed away in the pocket of my backpack. I had one Ghiradelli Square – Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt (which was but a pale comparison of the aforementioned Byerly’s caramel, by the way). I also had an apple.

Today (Friday), who knows? I don’t feel totally out of control when I think about sugar – but part of that’s because we don’t have any in the house. Well, Michael J has some raw honey, but that’s even too sweet for me.

When my dad taught my sister and I to drive, he’d take us out to snow covered parking lots, tell us to go really fast and hit the brakes. Lesson: learn to turn into the skid and stay in control of the wheel.

In some ways, this holiday season brought back a lot of those memories.

Was I out of control around sugar?

Maybe.

But because I headed into it with foresight, planning, and flexibility I feel like it was/is going to be a quick recovery. And who knows, I may be better in the long run for the slippage. Because next time it happens, I’ll know even better what to do.

Happy Holidays!!!

Recreating the Closet

One of the most frustrating things about changing your body (either making it bigger or smaller or more toned or less toned) is the havoc that it can wreak on your wardrobe, especially once you’ve got a wardrobe of things that you really enjoy wearing. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse (or more demoralizing) that standing in front of your closet, reaching for your favorite pair of jeans, skirt, or even top and have it not fit.

Now I’ve been listening to a lot of coaches who tell you that you should only be buying beautiful things – quality pieces that will make you feel beautiful. Well, I’d love to be able to go buy everything I want (whenever I want, from where ever I want), but sometimes that’s just not practical. Sometimes, however, you can find everything you want, whenever you want, from the least likely of places.

Yesterday I was having a self-pampering day. I mean, it was really extravagant. I started off with acupuncture, a nice walk down the rail trail, followed by chiropractic, then personal coaching, then belly dancing, and a group coaching call! I actually did about 10 minutes of work, sandwiched between bouts of hooping!

Between the first two “appointments” (which were about 4 blocks from each other) I had about an hour and a half on my hands. Instead of heading over the public library, which would have been another perfectly good option, I stopped in at the local community center, LISTEN. Now, I had just dropped off about three (or maybe even four) bags of perfectly decent clothes to the LISTEN center, and over the course of my time in the community, I have donated over ten or twelve times that amount, but I must admit that I have only on rare occasion gone inside to actually shop.

Wow! First of all, it was swarming with customers. And it was chock full of amazing buys. One of the nice things about living in a relatively affluent, communitarian-minded community is that people give lots of good stuff away. I found a Worthington skirt, a Woolrich shirt, a J. Jill sweater, a super nice pair of pants, and a fun summer top – all for under $3 a piece! Now some were originally $4.75, but it was actually 50% off! Seriously, I got a bag of killer clothes for less than $12.00!

Now, interestingly, these may not have been clothes that I would have bought if I had been in a normal department store – but I like them and they look great! Also, they were dirt cheap, which means that I can wear them once and if I do decide that they “don’t serve me” (whether they don’t after one wearing or they never did within the context of my life or larger wardrobe) who cares? It’s almost like renting movies, you know what I mean? It really doesn’t matter, because if I don’t like it, I can always take it back and I’ll have gotten one wearing for the cost of a cheap evening’s entertainment. It’s brilliant.

So, what does this mean in terms of recreating the closet and, indeed, recreating myself?

One, I won’t be afraid to experiment.

Two, I’ll be more likely to push my boundaries.

Three, I can upgrade or downgrade (depending on the look I’m going for).

Four, I can also start rebuilding a teaching wardrobe (or, let’s be honest) building one for very little money.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re between sizes, or if you’re bored with the contents of your closets, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, go find a community store (also known as thrift stores or, if you’re willing to spend a little more money, consignment stores). It is worth noting that I’ve been shopping in consignment stores for a while; however, I actually found better stuff in the community center (that is, the thrift store). Why? Well, I’m not totally sure, but one possibility is that the the women who are giving their clothes away – instead of waiting around for a 25% tithe – had more money to spend on clothes to begin with. Think about it.

Now if you live in a community or neighborhood that is not particularly affluent, then it might be worth finding a store in an area that is a little bit nicer than the one you live in. Just go check it out, and you may need to go more than once just to get the hang of it. And if you just have some weird thing about not buying used clothes ask yourself: where did that idea come from? After one wash, how is something that someone else has worn any different from something I’ve already worn? Isn’t it better to spend almost no money on something nice (but lightly used) than spending some money on something not nearly as nice but new? Isn’t it worth rethinking limiting ideologies that in the end might be bad not only for yourself, your wardrobe, your community, and at a more global level, the planet?

Give it a try and let me know what you come up with. You might be pleasantly surprised; I know I certainly was.

Nowadays it seems like my options are morning…or never

This whole summer it seems like exercise has been the bane of my existence.

I really never quite got there with any of my exercise programs – well, at least not until a couple of weeks ago, when I mashed together one of my favorites (high intensity cardio intervals on the nordic track) and HIIT (or high intensity interval training) on the ground.

That combination – while a total bitch – is killer.

And at the end of two rounds of HIIT, sandwiched between the cardio, I am almost always working out until failure. It’s great. And what’s even better is that I am seeing improvement! I can do more of each of the exercises than I could when I started and my form, for the most part, is improving by the day.

Just as I was hitting my groove on this new and improved exercise routine, however, my subconscious tossed up yet another block: If I don’t exercise in the morning, I don’t. And this from a woman who used to teach exercise classes at 5:15 – P.M.

What is going on?

Instead of beating myself up about it, as I am wont to do, I’ve decided to just accept it.

A.M. workouts it is. Now that school is starting again, it’s going to be a little tougher, but I am committing (hence putting it here, in writing).

The reason for the pubic declaration is thus:

Today, instead of working out immediately, I went straight to work and didn’t actually get around to exercising until 5:00. And trust me, by the time I got started, I had I spent more time – and almost as much energy – trying to convince myself to do it than I did on the exercise itself!

My body didn’t feel right.
I’m too full from lunch.
I have a headache.
I’m hungry.
I’m tired.
I feel sluggish.
I don’t want to.
It’s too late.
I didn’t get enough sleep last night.
I don’t have any umph….

You name it, I tried to sell myself on it.

Ironically when I finally got started it turned out to be one of my best workouts ever: 400 calories in just over 30 minutes – heart rate through the roof when it needed to be, coming right back down where I wanted it to be in the short (30 second) time allotted. When I was done, I was a stinky, soppy mess. And I felt great.

But was it worth the hassle of having to fight with myself every step of the way to go get my workout clothes, put them on, find the heart rate monitor, set the timer up, etc?

The jury’s still out.

So, tomorrow, morning it is. And the day after, same thing.

Ever since I was a kid, the Fall has brought with it new rhythms and routines that within just a few weeks became seamless and easy. Let’s hope that this autumn is no different. Until then, morning it is, as never really doesn’t seem like much of an option.

The importance of planning ahead

I am going to be traveling again and the first thing I thought: what am I going to eat?

Instead of stressing about it too much, I just asked for what I need. It worked pretty well last time, so I thought I might try it again.

First things first, I asked the very helpful person who has been coordinating my upcoming visit if she could take me a to a grocery store immediately upon landing. This is imperative, as I typically travel with a blender – a travel blender at that – and love making green smoothies in my hotel rooms. I find that if I start the day off normally – well, as normally as anyone who drinks spinach, broccoli, red pepper, carrots, cayenne pepper and pear for breakfast can – then the rest of the day will go that much smoother. Of course she said yes.

Second, even though I am the keynote speaker at a banquet (hence the invitation to travel), I asked that a special meal be prepared: a large plate of uncooked vegetables or a large salad. No problem, she assured me. Now, who knows what the quality of the veggies will be, but that’s why it’s important to make sure I have snacks and high quality produce in my room for after the event.

Third, there are people who want to take me out to dinner when I get there – presumably after the trip to the grocery store and before the main event (which is the next day). When asked if I had any preferences, I simply said that i was currently on a raw vegan diet and that anywhere where I could get a big salad and perhaps an avocado – or at least someplace that wouldn’t object if I brought my own – then I was golden.

This is what she sent back, saying that it wasn’t raw, but she was sure they would accommodate.

Looking at the menu – particularly the appetizers and the salads – I think I may be the one to accommodate.

Given that the definition of High Raw is 80% raw or more, I think I’ll be okay. Meanwhile, that Cauliflower Miso is calling my name….

The moral of this story: I used to be really concerned about asking for what I need. I used to think that I was being bothersome or troublesome. What I’ve found as I have practiced this – and not been so apologetic about it – is that people are happy to help. But it helps if you’ve done your research. If you’re going to go visit someplace new, find out what the options are ahead of time. I lucked out, because my colleague happened to know about The Vegiterranean.

And for those of you who are traveling to a new place, without the benefit of helpful hosts, the internet is your friend. It’s amazing what you can find – and where you can find it – in just a few minutes on-line.

Setting Goals and Seeking Support

I’ve decided to go about setting goals in a different way from here on out.

In the past, I used to set goals, like “I’m going to lose ten pounds” or “I’m going to get into a smaller pair of jeans.”

In other words, I used to set outcome goals.

I also used to set goals that didn’t really change. In other words, I would set a goal and that was my goal. There was no reassessment. Once it was set, it was set. Like cement.

I would also set goals that only I knew about. And trust me, those are much easier to forget about than those that you’ve shared with others.

This month, I’m trying something different.

I set a couple of goals – that is, a couple of process oriented goals – and they are my goals for the month of February.

I also didn’t just tell myself what my goals are. I told someone else and asked him to check up on me. Instant accountability! How scary, uhm, I mean, how wonderful is that? 🙂

And, believe it or not, it really wasn’t that hard. And the good news is that since they’re my goals for the month (rather than for a lifetime) I can assess myself in terms of my progress. I can either renew the goal or (if it’s become a habit or if it no longer serves me) I can choose another.

The day before yesterday I called Michael J from work and said, “I’d like to talk to you about some fitness goals at dinner and I’d like you to help me succeed. Would that be okay?”

Of course he agreed. I mean, who wouldn’t? It wasn’t like I was asking him to join me or anything? Right?

Essentially, we set down and I said: these are my goals for this month and I would like you help me be accountable.

He – engineer and wonderful partner that he is – actually wrote them down on a note card, which he then stuck promptly beneath the salt cellar.

I thanked Michael J for being totally awesome and supportive and then – like the absent minded professor that I am – promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to last night at dinner: “Hey babe,” says Michael J, “how much water did you have today?”

What?! My knee jerk reaction: What’s it to you?!

Then I looked at the little card that he had in his hand with three enumerated points on it:

Drink at least 80 ounces of water a day.

Do yoga at least 3 times a week, even if it’s just 30 minutes.

Take vitamins every day.

Only slightly embarrassed, I did a quick calculation: “Seventy-five,” I replied gratefully, “and I imagine it’s probably going to take at least another five to take those vitamins that I forgot to take at breakfast!”

So, those are my three goals for the month of February: water, yoga, and vitamins.

I’m hoping that what “they” say is true and that it really does only take 30 days to make something a habit. Because, trust me, when I am doing these three things regularly without having to stop and think about them, there are plenty of more small, process-oriented goals ready to take their place…..

But until then, I have Michael J and his trusty note card.

By the way, if you’re reading: thanks, babe, you truly are the best.

Pulling out the “skinny” jeans

Like most women, I have several sizes in my closet.

Three years ago, those sizes ranged from 10 to 14.

Now they range from 2 to 6.

Granted, the 2s are totally aspirational. I bought them at a consignment store and I pull them out on occasion and try them on. They do fit (much like a sausage casing fits around 8 ounces of pork), but I would NEVER wear them out of the house. But still, there’s something thrilling – for me – to owning and fitting into a pair of size 2s.

Besides, recent research shows that women who aspire to wear 2s – even though they look like something a 12 year old girl would wear – are more likely to keep their weight off than women who have more reasonable goals! Go figure!

Last summer, I wore the one pair of 4s quite a bit, but then following my disastrous vacation to San Francisco and the reintroduction of red wine back into the diet on a regular basis (and by regular, I mean a few glasses a couple of times a week with dinner), I sort of put the 4s away and got comfortable in the 6s.

Well, last night I pulled out the trusty 4s and lo and behold, they didn’t look as good – or feel as good – as they used to. And they certainly didn’t look or feel as good as the 6s did. Sad.

But is it? Really?

On one hand, yes it is. Because I really got a kick out of wearing size 4s.

On the other hand, when I was in the 4s regularly, I was much more restrictive with myself.

I was also much more judgmental.

I was also more likely to beat myself up at the gym.

And I also more likely to be counting calories in a punitive way.

In the 6s, I am pretty much eating what I want (assuming, that is, that it’s wheat-, dairy-, and sugar-free!), I am much more balanced in my approach to exercise, and I am having the occasional glass (or two [or three]) of wine with dinner.

Not such a bad trade-off, now that I stop and really think about it.

But just to make sure that things don’t get out of hand – remember, I threw the scale away and I have no desire to repurchase my old clothes back! – I’m going to keep the 4s in rotation. As a reminder. As a motivator.

In fact, it might not be a bad idea to plan on wearing them to as many upcoming holiday functions as I can get by with…and when the dress code is a little nicer than jeans? Who knows? I may just stick the 2s in my purse so that I can carry them with me!

All joking aside, what are your best plans for surviving the holidays with your figure in tact?

P.S. The photo is of the jeans I own, but – unfortunately – that’s not me wearing them! At least not yet! 😉

One of those days (or maybe not)!

Ironically, I spent several hours last night making food for the week.

I made a nice quinoa salad with walnuts, sunflower seeds, goji berries, cherry tomatoes, and cilantro.

I made some hummus.

And I also made up a salad and a huge rice and bean based casserole.

This morning, I packed up some salad, some hummus, and some quinoa and got ready for work. I then proceeded to go down the stairs, without my lunch, get in the car, and drive to work.

I hate that!

Luckily all is not lost, because like the good gluten-free health conscious foodie that I am, I have food stashed everywhere.

Case in point: at work I had a container of unopened hummus, a cup of frozen tomato and white bean soup (which is currently thawing), a small bag of baby carrots, a carton of coconut milk yogurt, and – as if that wasn’t enough – a huge stash of Larabars and miscellaneous dried berries!

Moral of this story: I have way too much food floating around the office!

Oops, wrong!

Moral of the story (take II): if you keep non-perishable healthy snacks around you at all times, even the most potentially disastrous food days can be avoided!

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!

Tip for the day: Cinnamon

Add a little cinnamon to each meal!

Apparently, as little as a 1/4 of a teaspoon of cinnamon added to a meal helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking, thus prohibiting the the release of insulin. Insulin, without getting too technical, is a hormone in the body that is released when your body has too much sugar in the blood and then pulls out the sugar and stores it in the fat cells. In other words, it causes the body to store fat!

Sometimes I don’t have cinnamon at every meal, but it’s very easy to toss a little into a smoothie, cereal, yogurt, coffee, tea, etc.cinnamon

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.

Scale-less dieting

I realized the other day that I haven’t been on a scale in two months. Actually, the last time was June 17, so technically it’s been a little over two months. That’s the longest time I’ve been off a scale in years! Does that mean I’m not dieting or watching my weight or maintaining (or whatever you want to call it)? No; it means I am dieting/maintaining/releasing without being tied to a meaningless number!

Given that most people who are actively involved in monitoring their own or others’ weight either propose weighing once a day or once a week, why would I choose to do it without a scale? More importantly, why would I suggest that you try it as well?

Practical whys first:

  • I don’t have a scale. I always used one at the gym. When I started working out at home this summer, I decided that it just seemed silly to waste the gas and the time to go to the gym just to weigh myself.
  • I also didn’t want to buy a scale, because I know that the one at the gym – which I have used diligently for the last five years – is at least consistent! I also have to wonder how many scales find themselves either being used as a doorstop or at the bottom of a landfill!

Once I got past the weirdness of not weighing myself, I found myself looking for other markers of success. Did my gut look bigger in the mirror? What are my measurement? How are my clothes fitting? Was the yoga easier or harder today? Was my heart rate up or down since the last time I did this workout DVD? How many days out of the last 7, 14, 21, 28 or even 100 did I have a calorie deficit (I may have stopped weighing, but I love counting calories; I am a total calorie geek)! When was the last time I had a high fat, high sugar dessert? How many weeks in the last 3 months have I had wine two nights in a row? How many times last month (I am also a big proponent of keeping track of exercise) did I do weight training in addition to cardio? Once I stopped focusing on the one number – which fluctuates like a demon depending on what I eat and the time of day, not to mention the time of the month! – it opened up space for me to also realize what really matters.

So, onto the quasi-theoretical whys:

  • Once I gave up the scale, I was able to get real on what mattered and why. Does it really matter if I weigh 145 pounds instead of 140 or 135? Not really. What really matters is whether my clothes fit and the degree and frequency I am putting junk into my body. What also really matters is that I continue working on being as fit and flexible as I can possibly be.
  • Giving up the scale makes it easier to forgive yourself when you make choices that don’t necessarily support your goals. That doesn’t mean that giving up on the scale automatically signs you up for a crash course in self-acceptance (as my post earlier this week revealed), but it does force you to seek out signs of progress, rather than setting your sights on a single number, which may or may not be attainable in a week or even ten days!

So, how do you diet without a scale? Easy. If you have a scale, toss it. If you don’t have a scale, don’t get one.

Now, I realize that if you’re going to Weight Watchers or some other organization that requires weekly weigh-ins, you have to weigh. But have you thought about asking your leader to write it down without telling you and leaving your card at the meeting place? Or could you trust yourself not to look and to put the booklet into it’s plastic sleeve (do they still even have those) and chuck it into your glove compartment?

I remember doing this when I was at Weight Watchers as a teen – mainly because I couldn’t stand it if I gained weight. I hated it and I hated myself (more on the dangers of self-loathing later). And, not surprisingly, when I was in that emotional space it was easier to want to give up.  It was also easier to self-sabotage, because even though it was me I was talking about, why would I want someone I hated to actually succeed?  Further, during the weeks that the weight was climbing no matter how rigorously I stuck to the plan (and there were many of those during my 90 pound weight loss if for no other reason than the body is very smart and extremely efficient at adapting to dietary changes and – you guessed it – storing fat!) there was something powerful (and not in a good way) about seeing the numbers – usually written in indelible ink – steadily rising. There was something about actually seeing the numbers get bigger that led me to believe that that’s just the way that it was.  The plateaus seemed more real somehow. More insurmountable.  But I digress.

So, once you’ve figured out how to be scaleless (if not in reality, than in consequence) pick the outcomes you really want to achieve. Do you want to consistently use more calories than you consume? Do you want to improve the quality of your skin? Do you want to add muscle mass and get stronger?  Do you want to look good in your clothes or wear a different size? Do you want to be healthier or have more flexibility? Do you want to be able to walk up the stairs without being winded or to turn heads when you walk in the door? Do you want to get off of your high blood pressure medication or lower your risk of type II diabetes?  Do you want to have a better hip to waist ratio?  Do you want to run a half maraton – or a marathon – before your 40th birthday?  Or do a triathlon before you turn 50?

These are the things that are important.  These are the things that matter and therefore the things that will keep you on track!  The number on the scale?  That’s just cultural conditioning.

What’s really more motivating, weighing 135 or having the energy to chase your grand kids (assuming you have grand kids) around the park?

Then do what you need to do in order to meet the goals that matter to you.  It may be counting calories, it may be consistently exercising.  If you’re already dieting, just try taking a break from the scale.  Don’t take a break from the diet, just ditch the scale for a while.  And pick things that matter as your new source of accountability and motivation!

So, last Sunday, I told you that I’d tell you how bad it was  – that is, my own diet detour into Mendocino County.  You might be thinking, how the heck are you going to do that if 1) you haven’t been on a scale in two months and 2) don’t have access to one?

Easy.  My gut looks smaller than it did on Sunday.  My KJ Jr.  size 16 girls Lands End pants are tighter than they were when I left.  My sixes still fit so it can’t be that bad; however, to be honest, I haven’t bothered with the fours.

My American Eagle short shorts with a 2 (maybe 3) inch inseam still look like crap (so nothing new there).

I just bought a super cute form fitting Ann Taylor dress at a consignment store to wear to my cousin’s wedding.

My yoga routine was pretty darn good this morning and my heart rate seemed to be a little bit lower today during my cardio workout than it was on Monday.

And, yes, I told you I am a calorie junkie, a quick glance at my food diary tells me that out of the last 21 days, 17 had calorie deficits that ranged anywhere from -13 to -1016!  Not too shabby!

I had been thinking about this post for a while but I held off from writing it because I thought, no one is going to throw their scales away!  But then I bought this amazing book (title withheld until I have finished it) where the woman starts off with a pretty simple message: Get rid of the scale!  I thought, awesome, I like her already!  Her thing is that it’s not about losing weight fast, it’s about keeping it off for a life-time.  As it turns out, this book seems to be full of little gems, many of which resonate with my approach, but many of which seem to supply the missing pieces that I’ve been looking for.

Once I finish it, I’ll review it and probably end up recommending it!  It’s fun, it’s easy to read, and it’s only $27.00!  And in terms of the quality of information?  I got my money’s worth in the first three pages alone!  When was the last time you could say that about a book?

So, off to read and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Traveling Tip: Fresh Veggies in a Bag!

Before MJ and I left for our trip, I decided to clean out the refrigerator! As it turned out, we had a lot of fresh veggies: zucchini, carrots, broccoli, some spinach, red peppers, etc.

Instead of just binning all of it, I cut it up and threw it in a ziplock bag (no dressing). Instant snack mix! It was great. I also fixed up some healthy pita breads with a teaspoon or so of hummus (three loaves cut into six halves).

It was wonderful, as well as wonderfully economical, to have a huge bag of fresh veggies to snack on all day and to make sandwiches with using high quality ingredients.

I commonly pack fruit when I travel, but from now on, it’s me and a gallon ziplock bag of veggies. Personally, I would recommend sticking to less “wet veggies” and avoid things that are likely to squish or make things too wet. For instance, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers (given their super high water content) would be more likely to get messy and to also make your other veggies to go bad more quickly. As it was, my less wet veggies made the trip no problem. Cauliflower would also be a natural win in this regard!

If you’re going to take tomatoes or fruits such as grapes or cherries, just fill up an old quart yogurt container. They’re nice enough that they will product your precious cargo, but not so nice that you’d feel bad about ditching them as the trip progresses.

The hidden plus in all this is that by the end of your trip you’ll have more room in your luggage (as you’ve eaten your way through your “stuff” ) and you’ll have saved lots of money.

More space and more money doesn’t have to mean more space and resources for guilt-free shopping, but it certainly could do! I am writing this from the Apple Store by the way (and trust me, I’m not talking produce)!

Stay tuned for more travel trips!

I’m leaving on a jet plane….

Sorry about the lag between posts; it’s been crazy albeit with a minimal amount of nervous eating! That’s something to celebrate.

MJ and I are heading off for twelve days! Part of that is business, while the other part is pleasure.

In terms of maintaining my regular eating habits: impossible.

In order to not completely get off track, I am not only packing clothes (including fast drying exercise clothes and good sturdy cross trainers; it’s very hilly where we’re going!), but also food.

‘You’re going on vacation!’ you might be thinking. ‘Why the heck are you packing food?’

I am packing food precisely because I am going on vacation!

One reason is that I am cheap; there is nothing worse than spending $15.00 a day on a hotel breakfast when all I’m likely to eat is a bowl of oatmeal, some fruit, and maybe some tea.

A second reason is that I like what I like for breakfast: protein shakes made with bananas and soy milk. When I have this breakfast, I can predict (at least in terms of food) what my morning is going to be like. Don’t you hate it when you eat about 500 calories worth of pancakes only to be hungry 30 minutes later? I know I do! So, by packing a blender and all my stuff (purchasing the bananas and soy milk when I arrive) I’m in better control of my day. I also save a lot of money.

A third reason is that I like to snack during the day, whether I am at home or out and about. By taking my favorite snacks with me (that is, apples, green stuff, baby carrots, pita and hummus), especially on flying days, I can assure that I have healthy options readily available. This doesn’t mean that I won’t stop at Cinnabon and scarf down close to 750 calories in four bites, but it does mean that I won’t be able to use the excuse that there was nothing else to eat!

So, with all of the issues with flying and carry-ons, how do you go about packing your own in an economical and healthy way?

If at all possible, fly Southwest! They let you take on two bags for free, whereas most of the other airlines charge you for one! I have one bag that is dedicated solely to food – natural peanut butter, Ezekial bread, Chai Latte Spirutein, cashews, Lara Bars (my favorite is pistachio, but MJ likes Apple Pie, Cinnamon Roll, and Ginger Snap!), Emerald Balance travel packets, vitamins, etc.

If you are planning on mixing anything in water – like the Emerald Green stuff – then pack an empty bottle and fill it up between flights at the water fountain. I use a Sigg bottle and it’s wonderful.

Also, if you like tea, most Starbucks will give you a venti cup of hot water for free! Carrying your own tea if a great way to save $4.00 between flights! Or every morning if you find yourself near a Starbucks!

Depending on the hotel where you’re staying, request a refrigerator in your room. It may cost you $50 for the stay, but it will save you money in the long run (especially if there’s two of you), not to mention calories.

When I am traveling, either for business or pleasure, I usually say okay to one “serious” meal a day. I try to keep it as close to normal as I can at breakfast and snack times, have a light lunch (usually a salad or something that is vegetable based) and then go out to dinner, where I usually start with a salad, go for the lightest entree I can (all sauces, etc. on the side) and skip or share a dessert.

I also try to exercise every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Luckily, during the business portion of the trip, there is a gym and I am committed (and committing, here, in writing) to go every day. The other days, I will do yoga or go for a walk. I also bought Jillian Michael’s Hot Bod in a Box, which I’m sure if I actually did would kick my butt! I’ll let you know!

What’s your best tip for staying healthy while traveling?

Finding the “Why”

The other day someone asked me why I was so motivated to maintain my weight release (or, using more conventional terms, weight loss).  Now they didn’t come out and just say, “Why do you want to not regain your thirty pounds?”  It was more along the lines of, “Why are you so committed to exercising, when you’ve already reached your goal weight?”

I sat there for a moment stumped, because I really hadn’t thought about it in a while or, to be honest, ever! I used to have a really good list of reasons why when I first started changing my body three years ago, but I hadn’t really given it much attention – if any – since I had achieved my goal.

Before I tell you what you what my “whys” are regarding my body, let’s spend a couple of minutes on why the “whys” – no matter who you are or what you’re doing – are critical.

When you have a clear reason why you’re doing something the following are true:

  • You’re more likely to accomplish it.
  • You’re better able to garner support from those around you.
  • You feel better about sticking to your goals, which, subsequently, boosts not only your self-confidence, but also your self-esteem!

When you don’t have a clear reason why you’re doing something, the converse it true:

  • You’re less likely to accomplish your goals
  • You encounter more resistance from those around you who don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • You become resentful about the ongoing discipline being successful requires, which undermines not only your progress, but also your self-discipline, your self-esteem, and your day-to-day mood!

The point of this being, it’s just as important to know why you’re doing something as it is to know what you want to accomplish, because the why is the motivation, the fuel, the justification, the reason you’re doing what you’re doing.  Knowing the why and being able to articulate it to others, as well as to yourself, is crucial because recent scholarship in teaching and learning suggests that 30% of the population are why learners.  This means that 30% of your potential sources of social support tune you out if you start with the what.  So, if you say, “It’s really important to me to drop this weight,” and someone says, “Why?”, you need to be able to tell them.  Because if you can’t, they won’t hear anything else you have to say about you and your weight and fitness goals.  And just imagine what might happen if you yourself is part of that 30% that needs a compelling motivation before they can learn (or act)!  Trust me, find your why and learn to articulate to yourself, as well as to others!

So just to give you an idea of how to get serious about finding the why, let me tell you how I rediscovered mine.

Basically, I waited until I had a chunk of time with no distractions.   I got a blank piece of paper and a pen (I chose this method as I tend to self-censure if I’m typing in a way that I don’t when I’m writing by hand!) and wrote at the top: Reasons Why I Want to Maintain My Current Weight and put the date on it.  I sat there for a moment, looking at the blank sheet of paper – and actually drawing a blank – until I came up with a reason.  And let me just say, as soon as the ink hit the paper, it was like a dam had broken.  In less than 10 minutes, I had come up with over thirty reasons – some of them better than others in the cosmic sense – of why I was truly and unequivocally committed to maintenance.  (Interestingly, I also gleaned some insight into why I don’t like the term “maintenance’, but that’s another post!)  And, just in case you’re wondering, since I’ve done this, my commitment to maintain has gotten stronger and I’ve been able to marshal more support from my already super supportive partner, MJ.

I’m not going to write out all thirty, but I’ll give you a few examples just to give you an idea.

Reasons Why I Want to Maintain My Weight (July 21, 2009)

  • To avoid re-injuring my knee
  • To have more energy
  • To be healthy
  • To get  compliments (sad, I know)
  • To be a better role model for my Little Sister
  • To feel good about myself
  • To succeed
  • To wear fun clothes
  • To be able to wear whatever I want
  • To not have to re-buy all of the clothes I’ve gotten rid of

You get the general idea.  As I said, some reasons are better than others, but I put them all down.  Notably, and somewhat ironically, this list isn’t that much different than the one I had made three years ago entitled “Why I Want to Lose Weight.”  What does that tell you?

If you’re trying to accomplish something – anything! – and you haven’t gotten real on your whys, I highly recommend that you sit down with a sheet of paper (or at the keyboard) and do this simple exercise.  It’s easy.  It’s quick.  And it is guaranteed to get you where you want to be.  Or, if you’re in my position, it’s guaranteed to keep you there!

Let me know how it goes!

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!

Overcoming Procrastination: avoiding the “paralysis of analysis”

Procrastination is not only a formidable enemy to reaching one’s goals, but also to one’s self confidence. Learning to recognize the various forms that procrastination can take and develop winning strategies will help you not only achieve your goals, but to also feel better about yourself while you do it.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a course on information marketing, and the instructor, Eben Pagen, who went from a $0 business to a $20 million business in less than five years, made a reference to something called the “paralysis of analysis.”

I laughed, thinking it was a great term, but I didn’t really think too much about it. I most certainly didn’t think about how it might apply to me!

Now, the reason why Mr. Pagen advised avoiding the “paralysis of analysis”, is that getting stuck there prevents you from achieving your goals! It also undermines your self-confidence and forward trajectory. And when you undermine your self-confidence and forward trajectory, you no longer attract other self-confident and forward moving people into you life.

Obviously, when you avoid the “paralysis of analysis”, you achieve your goals (partly because you’re learning from your mistakes), you increase your self-confidence, you gain forward momentum, and you attract like-minded people into your sphere of influence. Sounds familiar?

You may be wondering why I’m giving you a little mini-marketing recap in a blog about losing the last ten pounds and keeping them off forever. Am I right?

Well, the other day, I realized that I, too, had fallen into the trap of “the paralysis of analysis.” Essentially, I realized that I was spending more time arguing with myself about whether I should exercise than I actually did exercising! It was particularly ironic, when it would take me 20 minutes to convince myself that it was worth exercising when I only had 30 minutes to begin with!

When all was said and done, of course, if I’d just gotten up and done it, I could have had a full 50 minute session (with a 400+ calorie burn to brun)!

There are plenty of other examples, but I’m sure you get the general idea.

Now that I have recognized the “paralysis for analysis” for what it is – a highly sophisticated, yet undermining – means of procrastination, I have developed a better system for for getting around it.

How I get around “the paralysis of analysis” is that I exercise immediately upon getting out of bed; else, I schedule it in the day, as I would any other appointment. And this applies not only to exercise, but to work, writing, calling friends and family, etc. So, now that I recognize this for what it is, whenever I catch myself arguing with myself about if I should do something – especially if one of the key the arguments against doing it is not having enough time – I just do it.

If you are a procrastinator or someone who just likes to analyze (or, one could say, over-analyze), I challenge you to simply do the things that you’re trying to talk yourself out of actually doing. You’ll feel better and I guarantee, you’ll get a heck of a lot more accomplished!

Let me know how it goes!

Moving Toward v. Moving Away

I’ve been doing some learning about the way people make transformations or change in their lives. Typically people are motivated by their hopes and aspirations (that is, what they want to happen or that which they are moving toward) or their fears and frustrations (that is, what they don’t want to happen or continue happening, or that from which they are moving away).

As a general rule, people are much more likely to be motivated by their fears than by their aspirations. Part of that may be that they are unable to fully realize or envision their aspirations, whereas it’s much easier to imagine their greatest fears (especially if they are already living them).

When I started my weight release journey three years ago, I had a really hard time envisioning what I wanted to accomplish. Then, one day, I was over at a friend’s house and I was looking at a selection of framed photos of her around her living room.

“See, I was thin once,” she said matter of fact-ly. “When X is over, I will be again.”

I was floored. And jealous. And, in that moment, it hit me why it’d been so hard to visualize what I wanted. I had no pictures of myself as I wanted to be!

Now, when I was in Weight Watchers, my leader used to talk about visualization and about how you should find the body of your dreams from a magazine and then put your face on it. I also remember thinking: Give me a break!

When I realized that part of my inability to visualize had something to do with never having seen it (what can I say, I’m not a visual person), I decided that I was going to take Judi’s advice, albeit some twenty years after I first heard it. But I didn’t do it using magazines and scissors, I did it via modern technology. Five cheers for photo manips!

The first thing I did was find the photo. I ended selecting a stock photo of Jillian Michaels. I then had Michael take a picture of me standing in the same position, with my head tilted just so. He then used Photoshop (or some other similar software) to create a photo that we joking call KJillian!

The first time I looked at the photo, I had to look away. I thought, ‘How embarrassing.’ In fact, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that it literally hurt to look at it. Seriously, the dissonance was staggering. I literally had to keep it in a manila folder on my kitchen counter. However, over the course of a week, I got used to seeing myself like that. And as the image became more familiar to me, it also became more believable! Eventually, I put it up on the refrigerator.

Just as an aside, my little sister came over, looked at it and then looked at me and said, without batting an eyelash, “How did your head get on Jillian Michael’s body?” I told her. “Cool,” she said. Apparently not so embarrassing after all.

If you don’t have a picture about what you want to achieve (either in reality or in your mind’s eye), create one. Seriously. I’ll admit: thought it was the cheesiest thing in the world when it was first suggested to me, but it was incredibly powerful. In fact, it got to the point that when I would take pictures of myself (in similar clothes and in a similar position), I thought that they looked odd, which motivated me to move my reality towards the image in my head.

The same thing is true, by the way, if you have an image in your head of what you don’t want to be; you will become that. Remember, the one of the strongest human drives is self-consistency! My problem was, previously, that I saw myself as heavy or as someone who was 30 pounds overweight, so that’s what I created (over and over again). Bottom line: get rid of the bad images and bring on the good – even if you have to stoop to using Photoshop to do it!

Now that I have a solid image in my mind of what I want to move towards (that is, my head on Jillian Michael’s body or something similar), I sometimes also use moving away from – especially when I need a good kick in the pants, like a I did the day before yesterday, when I just could not get myself moving.

First, just writing that blog post helped, because I hate to admit that I can’t do something.

Second, I have a pair of pants that I bought at a consignment store. Technically they fit; however, I would never go out in public with them fitting the way they fit at the moment. Ironically, they are the smallest pair of pants that I own, but they make me look huge because they’re so tight.

Essentially, these are the “get leverage on yourself” or the “moving away from” pants. I put those on (to say that I just slipped into them would be a bald faced lie!) and all it took was five minutes standing in front of the mirror to get me down on the NordicTrack, followed up by my moving towards: Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.

Are you a moving towards person or a moving away person? If you are primarily one, I strongly suggest mixing it up when you need a little extra motivation!

And if you don’t have a picture of what you want to achieve, get one – even if, especially if, you have to make it yourself!

Eating out

No matter where I go out for a “nice” dinner, I tend to end up eating about a 1,000 calories. You’re probably thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of calories.’ But you’d be surprised.

When eating out, the question is never, are you really going to sit down and eat 1,000 calories at one setting, because — again — if you’re going out for a nice meal, the answer is always yes.

So a better question to ask yourself is, how are you going to spend those 1,000 calories?

Your three potential culprits can be broken down into three groups: food (real food, that is, such as appetizers and entrees), dessert (which one could not so wrongly class as poison) or alcohol (which, no doubt about it, is poison, at least as far as weight release is concerned).

Ironically, I’ll almost always go for the poison — either in terms of alcohol or dessert. Probably because I tend not to have these things at home.

Some people will go for the meal itself and leave off the alcohol or dessert. I wish I was more like them, but I obviously don’t wish it enough to change my behavior!

The key is figuring out which part of the meal is least important to you (or is least congruent with the occasion, place or the people) and let it go. In other words, splurge on the parts of the meal that matter to you most and cut back in the places where it doesn’t.

“But what if it’s all important?” you ask.

Then prioritize, but try to keep it within 1,000 calories.

Yesterday, for example, I went out for a long leisurely lunch with friends. I hadn’t seen them for a while. In fact, the woman was someone with whom I’ve been friends for 9 years, who recently got married. However, because we live in different states and I was unable to attend her wedding, this was the first time that I’d met her husband. In other words, it was a fairly big deal.

MJ and I were hosting, so we took them to a fabulous French Country Restaurant about an hour south of our house. They like wine, so I knew that there would be alcohol involved, probably more rather than less. And the restaurant itself is known for it’s chocolate, so I knew that dessert was all but inevitable.

We started with a bottle of Jelu Malbec, an Argentinan red, and french bread. Delicious. (280 calories, more or less)

Appetizer: Beet Salad with Chevre (150 calories, more or less)

So far so good — as I’d had a light breakfast and burned 475 calories on the NordicTrac, while my friend and her husband had gone for a run.

Just to be clear, everything on the menu looked/sounded amazing — you know you’re in trouble when they’ve managed to even make the calf liver sound good! Sidestepping the scallops, the roasted chicken, the skirt steak, the Irish stew, the homemade pork/veal sausage, the trout, and the salmon, I ordered the Chef’s Selection of Local Vegetables. I even lied when the waitress asked if I liked risotto and just told her to hit me with some extra veggies!

The plate, when it arrived, was gorgeous. In fact, in some ways, it was the most aesthetically beautiful plate on the table. Fresh peas, broccoli rabe, fingerling potatoes, lightly steamed bok choy, asparagus, and a wedge of deep fried tofu topped with a light citrus/ginger/honey sauce. Yum! (200 calories; again, I’m guessing, but it all tasted very clean and the tofu was quite small).

Dessert: A single chocolate madeline (70 calories), another glass of wine (120) and bites others’ desserts: 100 (for a total of 290 calories)

Then there were the chocolate samples in the shop next door: 100 calories, easy.

Grand total: 1020. And that’s with the vegetable plate, the salad appetizer, and the smallest, least fattening dessert available.

Granted, I could have skipped the second glass of wine and the chocolate samples, but it wouldn’t have fit the mood — of the occasion, of the day, of the place, nor certainly of the people. It was a great meal. It was a great day.

I’m not saying that you should never eat out. But I am saying that you shouldn’t feel compelled to go all out on every part of the meal just because it’s there. Make choices. And if you really want the quarter chicken, roasted and two cups of mashed potatoes — and you’re not running a half marathon the next day, as I wasn’t but my friend was — then maybe you should reconsider the wine.

Mixing it up and toning it (down)

Like most people, I am a creature of habit.

Over the last 30+ weeks, I realize that I have moved through 3 different phases of working out. In other words, whereas most people cross train I tend to do things in 10 week chunks.

Last summer, I was heavily ensconced in P90X. For those of you who haven’t seen the infomercials, it’s a total body program with a focus on upper body strength. I definitely lost inches, but not a lot of weight. In fact, I gained some, which was undoubtedly muscle.

In the fall, I continued on with parts of P90X (especially Yoga X) and added in really high intensity cardio — typically an hour on the tread climber or spinning, holding nothing back. I still didn’t lose weight — well, not much — but I kept the form.

In the winter, I dropped the weights and just went for the serious cardio — again, the tread climber and a spinning bike were my tools of choice. I was definitely in the more calories burned the better mindset. It was nothing for me to go work out an hour before teaching a spinning class! And more often than not, I kept my heart rate at the top of my aerobic zone or above. Indeed, around 3 days a week — at least — I was burning over a 1,000 a day in exercise. Eventually, however, I was also eating close to 2,000 calories a day in order to fuel my exercise habit. It was also easier to fool myself into believing that it was okay if I ate the chocolate croissant, because I had “worked it off”! In fact, what I was doing was starving my body of oxygen at the very times that it needed it the most!

Notably, I actually liked the hard exercise. I liked spending that much time in the gym. I liked the sweat and the stench of hard work. It made me feel like I’d actually accomplished something. What I didn’t like about it was that even with all that work, even with the consistent and often times steep calorie deficits, I still wasn’t losing weight. In fact, if felt like every time I had a glass of wine or anything at all, I’d glob on three pounds before it even got past my taste buds!

During the spring (since mid March), I switched modes. I stopped working out at a break neck speed. I started spending the bulk of my time at the low end of my aerobic training zone and I started implementing real warm ups and cool downs. Essentially, I started doing what people had been telling me for years. 10 minute warm up, 40 minutes in your training zone, and 10 minute cool down. Guess what? I started releasing weight. Not only did I start releasing weight, I did it in about half the time and with less wear and tear on the joints.

At first, when I started working out at 130-150 beats per minute (my real target zone) I thought: What a waste of time. This isn’t doing anything! But I was wrong. It did do something. I released the weight and it’s been easy to keep it from coming back. Granted, there have been minor bumps in the trend line, but nothing major. If you look at the trend line, it’s been slow and steady. In fact, I’m still releasing weight — though not nearly to the degree that I was in March and April. And that’s fine, because I don’t need to release it that fast. Indeed, I am actually at the point where I’m not sure if I need to release any more at all. Never thought I’d be in the position to say that before! (Which is probably why it never happened!)

Which brings me to my next 10 week cycle.

Despite my deep passion for cardio, my plan is to minimize its role in the next phase of my exercise career. I hope that by writing it down, I will commit to an even lower keeled routine for a while. One that includes some cardio (maybe every other day instead of five to six days a week and for maybe 30 minutes instead of an hour) and centers, instead, on a maintenance-oriented routine that includes toning, k-bells, and yoga. I’m thinking that yoga (60 to 90 minutes) and toning every other day would be a good thing.

My inner cardio-queen cries out in agony: Don’t do it!

The shift from weight loss to maintenance and overall fitness is challenging. Psychologically, it just feels wrong to exercise for an hour and a half to only burn 220 calories — my typical results after 90 minutes of flow yoga poses and balance postures. But I’m going to do it. As soon as spinning ends (June 11), it’s me, Michelle, Tony, and Jillian. Talk about changing your peer group!

Consider this my public declaration of commitment.

Men’s Health

Every year, MJ comes home with a “popular magazine” as his way of tuning into what’s going on in the world. Last year it was Cosmo (which we read together on the couch and laughed so hard we couldn’t take it anymore)! Thank God mother never let us have that in the house. Harlequin Romances, yes. Cosmo, no.

This year, it was Men’s Health, which, as it turns out, is the male version of Cosmo. Seriously, it was all about sex, nutrition, and exercise. And, more to the point, the headlines were almost identical: 125 Best Foods for Men, No-Diet Weight Loss Plan, 30 Red-Hot Sex Secrets, Strip Away Stress, 7 New Rules of Money & Women, Great Abs Made Easy, Melt Away Pounds! 15-Minute Fat Burners, Look Your Best Now! Interestingly, they also have a number of “Short Order Cook Recipes.” They’re obviously designed to impress a date, but they look pretty good. There are also a couple of other random tips in there that I may pass on later.

But the most interesting thing in there by far was an article — that looks like it be part of a series — called, It Works for Me: Master Your Domain.

This segment, or this month’s feature, was on actor Tyrese Gibson.

“Tyrese Gibson, star of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, gained weight and lost motivation. To right himself, he first had to change everything around him.”

On Maintenance:

“He lost his sense of consequence, he says. It’s easy to do: Accomplish something and your attitude can go from I’m working hard for this to This is mine. Do that and you’ve already failed. A boss doesn’t promote you because you did work hard. A woman doesn’t love you because you were devoted to her. They want you in the present and future tense. They expect you from here on in to work hard, to be devoted. Start coasting and you roll backward.”

On Modeling:

“We men have to put our pride and egos and just say, ‘You know what? I need help,'” Gibson says. “Bring something to the table. To somebody who has the keys to whatever door you’re trying to go through, say, ‘Look, man, I have five keys of my own, but I’m trying to figure out how to get these other keys.’

Think of of it this way: Every man is surrounded by better men. A man who’s more financially secure than you are can teach you something, and chances are he can learn something from you. So approach him. Collaborate. Successful men aren’t symbols of your inferiority; they’re examples worth engaging.”

On Upgrading Your Peer Group:

“The five people you spend most of your time with will dictate how far your life and career will go. Slobs will make you a slob. Gibson loved fried calamari, and he had friends who bought it for him all the time. But if you’re friends work hard and eat right, you’ll be embarrassed to eat fried anything around them.

It isn’t easy to switch friends. Gibson knows that. It took him months: less time with this person, more time with that one. Scoops of fried calamari gave way to scoops of tuna on lettuce, now his regular lunch. Guys at the gym taught him new exercises. He runs five miles a day on a treadmill. He lifts regularly.”

I liked this for a number of reasons. One, it reinforces things I already know, which is always good. But, two, this series also gives us a chance to model someone who has been there. As embarrassing at it may sound, something tells me that I may have to start spending more time at Borders lurking in the magazine section!