Monday, November 29

Three and a Half Weeks

Ho boy, Thanksgiving is over!  I had great intentions of posting regularly though the holiday, but Seattle was hit with a crazy snow storm (yes, it probably wasn’t even an inch of snow) and then vacation just sounded too good.  But here I am again, and not too worse for the wear.
Since this is actually my first holiday season since losing 95 pounds, it’s been a time of learning!  I haven’t quite known what to expect of both my decisions and reactions to food this season.  I started off Halloween with a plan, but I lost track of the plan quickly.  There were literally moments when I had food in my hand and didn’t know where it came from.  It’s not that the food leaped into my mouth of its own accord, but more that I would be chewing something delicious and realize “I never made the choice to eat that.”  It was like my brain was on auto pilot (with what I know of how brain chemistry and food works, I can understand how it happens).  I wasn’t making decisions—whether bad or good—to eat or not eat food.  I was just going on instinct.  And my instincts notoriously cannot be trusted.
So, what’s my strategy?  There are three and a half weeks until Christmas, and I’ll be in weight-lost mode during that time.  I’m several pounds over my ceiling weight—that number that is supposed to be my “stop in your tracks and do a U turn” weight.  I’m determined to at least get back into my normal weight range before Christmas, and I think that’s doable.  However, I’m going to need to come up with some solid strategies and plans for Christmas.  I’ll be traveling on top of all the holiday traditions.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll have tips and strategies on surviving the holidays (as well as hopefully a few guest bloggers).  In the meantime, any tips you want to share?  What’s worked for you?  What hasn’t worked?

Wednesday, November 17

The Distraction Box

So we’re back to discussing cravings!  I read the greatest idea this week—it’s called a Distraction Box:
Make yourself a "distraction box" in which you put lists of activities that are highly distracting to you (e.g., friends to call or e-mail, Web sites to visit, computer games you like to play, chores that need to be done) and objects you can use to distract yourself (a word puzzle book, a favorite DVD or CD -- if they're distracting enough -- a catalog, etc.) For women, an excellent addition to the box is a bottle of nail polish. By the time your nails dry, your craving will be gone (full article here, but the rest of it isn’t that good).
I loved this idea!  I’m totally making myself a box tonight, and I’m making a list of things I plan on putting inside (yes, this is what I’m doing at work):
·         One of those books on my shelf that I’m always meaning to start reading.
·         My notebook where I work on my writing.
·         My To Do List (a few chores as well as errands)
·         Card making supplies (I’m a crafty kind of gal and I love rubber stamping)
My list was good, but this is definitely a box that’s really only useful at home.  What about work?  That’s mostly where my cravings happen.  I can’t really have a box of distractions for work.  So I’m creating a Word doc  to keep on my computer at work:
·         List of my favorite and inspirational blogs (these are usually quick reads and very encouraging)
·         List of my favorite workout songs (when I listen to my work out music, I find all food cravings disappear to make room for my craving for a good work out)
·         The people at work and on my instant messenger that I like to talk with (conversation is always a distraction for me)
·         A Before photo of myself (I love fat pictures!  They’re so inspiring!)
What do you think?  What would you put in your box?  Any other good ideas for work?  That’s my hot zone, so I need distractions a plenty sometimes!

Monday, November 15

The necessities!

In my quest to find delicious AND low-calorie foods, I’ve found a couple foods that I absolutely could not live without:
Sara Lee’s 45 Calories & Delightful White Bread – I’m telling you, they must make this stuff with fairy dust.  Each slice is literally half the calories of a normal slice of bread.  At 45 calories per slice, skip that high fiber bread (that’s normally three times the calories) and just eat some more broccoli.  My husband—pickier than the pickiest five-year-old—loves this stuff.  It tastes great toasted or cold.  Sara Lee even makes a Honey Wheat version.
Full Flavor Gluten Free Cheese Sauce – Don’t let the gluten free label fool you; this stuff is fantastic.  I’ve only been able to find it at Whole Foods so far.  The entire packet (about a cup of cheese sauce) is about 60 calories!  And it’s actual cheese—cheeses are the first ingredients listed.  My favorite is to make up some broccoli and whole wheat pasta, then smother it with this stuff.  (Just note: the packaging looks generic, I swear.  Like there’s no logo or anything.  Just look for green and white generic packaging.)
Progresso Light Chicken Noodle – Actually, any of the Progresso Light soups are impressively light on calories but not on flavor.  (Just note: “Light” is not the same thing as “Low Sodium!”)  The Chicken Noodle—my favorite—is only 140 calories for the entire can.  I throw some extra chicken in for additional protein, and I’m good to go for hours.  With as little calories as it is, I can even have some crackers with my soup!
Isernio’s Italian Chicken Sausages – Not only do these sausages taste great (by that I mean they do not taste like chicken sausages), but they’re only 100 calories and 3 grams of fat for a big fat ol’ sausage!  Most chicken sausages have the same amount of fat as beef sausages, so you usually lose the benefit of eating chicken.  I’ll throw these on a little slice of bread with some mustard or slice them up with some sautéed veggies, and I have an amazing lunch.
Any secret foods you’ve found?  Low cal or low fat, but still with great taste?

Friday, November 12

How to Pick a Good One!

A little while back, we talked about how most people don’t get near the servings of vegetables they need in a day.  And most people don’t eat veggies not because they don’t want to, but because they just don’t buy them often.  Many of us are intimidated by the produce section and unsure of how to select good vegetables.
I have some less common veggies below, and good descriptions on how to buy good ones:
Avacados – These big berries (yes, avocados are classified as berries!) were a challenge for me when I moved to the west coast.  You don’t want the rind to look bright green—that means it’s not ripe yet.  Pick an avocado that doesn’t look too dark, and lightly squeeze it.  If it dents just by you picking it up, it’s over ripe.  But if it dents slightly when you squeeze, it’s just perfect.
Asparagus – Most people just grab a bundle of asparagus without realizing fresh asparagus should have a couple very specific qualities.  Good asparagus will be bright green and firm.  If you bend the top, you should be afraid of breaking the stalk (it definitely should not bend without breaking).  Thicker asparagus is better for grilling, but look at the bottom of stalks: thick asparagus can often be purple (and tough).
Winter Squashes – This one is new for me; I’ve actually never cooked a butternut squash.  But I want to this year!  So I hear: the stem needs to be dry and corky.  Rough barnacles and even orange patches on green squashes are fine.  You want your squashes to be squashy, but not squishy—look for bruises or soft patches, and the skin should be firm.
Turnips – I haven’t had turnips since I was a kid, but I’ve decided I want to try cooking them on my own (they’re really good!).  Good turnips come with their leafy greens still attached.  The bulb on the bottom (reminiscent of an overgrown radish) should be white at the bottom and slightly purple on top.  The smaller they are, the sweeter they are.
Are there any veggies that took a while for you to figure out how to buy them well?  Any veggies you want to know about?

Wednesday, November 10

A Little Motivation

I got to speak with some lovely ladies last night (shout out to my 20/20 ladies!).  We had a great time talking about all the good, the bad, and the ugly about weight loss and weight maintenance.  We even discussed which plastic surgeons are the best to help with “the ugly!”
I was thrilled with the opportunity to share everything I’ve learned—and everything I am still learning!
One of the stories I shared seemed to hit home with many of us last night, and I wanted to share with Blog Land!  It was a moment that I found extremely motivating when I was coming toward the end of my weight loss.  It’s a great perspective on those moments when you make not-so-great decisions or those mornings you get up, step on the scale, and want to freak out over the number you see.
I was in my Body Attack class (hells yeah, Monday nights at the Redmond Gold’s!).  It was toward the end of class so I’m sweating my butt off, and I’m pushing myself hard.  Our normal instructor often challenges us to consider why we’re truly there: “Are you here to get healthy?  To get fit?  Do you just want a great butt?” she’ll yell to us when we must look like we need some motivation.  Of course my snarky brain was all, “I’m here to work off that cupcake I decided to eat at lunch today!”  But then my brain kept going, “I’m killing the calories that I decided to eat today…  And not calories that I ate over 10 years of unhealthy eating.
It was such a revolutionary thought to me!  I was working off the decisions I made that day.  My past decisions and their consequences were gone!  Every day was a choice: I could choose to do nothing about the decisions I make, or I could choose to drag my butt to Body Attack and pay up!  It was like a huge weight lifted from me (pun intended!); I felt like people who struggle with financial debt must feel when they’re in the black for the first time.
So when you’re beating yourself up for a slip up or for that extra couple pounds on the scale, remember that it’s not the end of your world.  This is not the biggest catastrophe that could happen to you!  Pick yourself up, pin point where you went wrong, and fix it.  It’s in your power to change your own life.

Monday, November 8

Grocery Stores Getting Wise

One more NPR link for you today!  It’s a fascinating article on how grocery stores and markets are employing the same techniques they use to sell junk food to begin increasing sales of produce and health foods.
Grocery stores have been losing money for years on produce.  Produce has a very limited shelf life.  If you don’t buy produce in that time, it just gets thrown away and the grocery store simply loses the money.  But just moving produce to a better part of the store isn’t getting people to buy it.  When I walk through the door of my Safeway, there are bins of oranges and apples right in front of me as I step over the threshold.  But it’s usually not enough to make me stop and buy.
Markets are actually putting money into displays and lighting that not only position produce and health foods in a way that guarantees our attention, but they’re making these foods look better too.  They’re employing staff to cut and prepare produce and recipes (which gets tasty scents into the air), and creating signage to cue our brains into reaching for these foods (effective marketing).
Could you imagine walking through your produce section and have a similar experience to your walk through the bakery?  How fantastic would it be to hear a mother say, “I can’t take my kids into the produce isle or all I hear for the next hour is their begging for fruit!”  As nice as that world would be, it’s unlikely to happen (since all the junk food we eat triggers chemical processes in our brains that veggies and fruit can never trigger).  But a produce section with an experience is  a great start!
Have you noticed any changes in your grocery store?  If you haven’t, how do you help yourself work against all the marketing and position around junk food?  I have to breathe through my mouth when I walk through the bakery section, otherwise I’ll buy doughnuts—do you have any tricks of your own?

Talk about Timing!

Just a short post today before the normally scheduled program!  I was listening to NPR this morning when I heard an article entitled “Stepping up Exercise Could Help Beat the Cold Virus.”  Remember my post on the exact same topic?  Looks like my message is going national!  ;)  Take a moment to listen todayit's a good article.

Friday, November 5

Those Morning People…

I am not one of those people who exercise in the morning.  I know there are a lot of people out there who love getting up at a ridiculous hour of the morning and beginning their day with a good sweat.  Well, I was one of those people this morning.  Do.  Not.  Like.
I feel my first foray into morning workout land did not go well for one good reason.  My nutritionist once told me, “You don’t need to eat before a workout, but it’s up to you if you feel it helps or hinders your body when you do work out.”  I had always thought this was a broad, sweeping statement that applied to all situations.  Sometimes I eat before I workout; sometimes I don’t.
Apparently, this statement does not apply to 6am workouts.  When you haven’t eaten for over eight hours, you need to eat before a workout.  It was so weird literally not having the energy this morning to move!  I was on my normal machine, doing my normal routine.  But I could not force my legs to move!  My brain was all, “Let’s go!”  And my legs were all, “We’re trying!”
Then I got home and I felt all gross and ravenous.  It’s hours later and I still feel like I haven’t recovered.  Bleh.
Ok, kids.  What’s the moral of this story?  Morning workouts are very different from evening workouts.  Are you a morning person?  I’d love to know what your routine is—how you get the most out of it!  What do you eat?  What kind of workout do you do: cardio, strength?  How long do you work out?  This is new territory for me, but I think I need to keep at it.  There are some days when an evening workout just isn’t happening, and I hate skipping the gym altogether.

Wednesday, November 3

Arming Yourself against Temptation

If I’m going to make it the next 3 weeks, I’m going to need a serious arsenal to deal with temptation.  I’ll tell you, I grab a coffee most mornings at the café in my building at work, and they serve the most delightful Chocolate Chip Espresso Coffee Cake.  Yeah.  I’ve got temptation staring me in the face.
So how do you deal with cravings and temptations when they’re knocking down your door?  In a previous post, I listed out a few fantastic strategies for dealing with cravings.  But honestly, you can never have too many tools in your toolbox for denying temptation.
Drink lots of water.  When I know I need to walk past the office candy bowl, I’ll drink an entire glass of water before I do.  By the time I get over there, my brain is like, “Please, don’t eat anything!  I’m going to explode!”  Granted, it’s only a short-term fix, but it guarantees you get your eight glasses each day.
Recall your last meal.  There was a British study done where women were asked to write a detailed description of what they ate for lunch several hours into the afternoon.  These ladies consumed one third fewer calories later in the day.  You might be like me and already recording most everything you eat.  But are you really thinking about it?  When you’re really evaluating what you’ve eaten, apparently it makes us more aware of our choices.
Meditation.  We’ve already talked numerous times about how most cravings are simply your brain releasing chemicals the affect the food you seek.  When that process is engaged, the most effective way to interrupt it is to get your brain working on another task.  If you remove yourself from your environment for a moment and put all your mental energy into one train of thought, often the craving will disappear.  “But I can’t just get away from work to meditate,” you say!  I’ve done meditation in the bathroom for a few minutes before, and it works wonders!
Give in.  I can hear your collective gasps!  There are a few times—not many for me, but more for some people—when you can exercise moderation and satisfy a craving with a very small portion.  When the Halloween candy started appearing in my office, I was able to let myself have one bite sized Snickers and not feel deprived.  My downfall occurred when later on I didn’t stop at one.  Some people can handle this strategy—and you know if you’re “some people” or not.
How do you handle your cravings?  Any good strategies?  How do you face temptation down and win?

Monday, November 1

I Seem to Have Lost the Band Wagon

The past week—alright, fine—the past couple of weeks have been my first significant weight gain since losing close to 100 pounds.  I’d like to blame the holiday specifically engineered to make us eat.  Oh wait, that could describe all American holidays.  You know, the holiday that’s all about eating candy.  Oh wait, that really only narrows the field by like one or two holidays.  Ok, I’d like to blame Halloween, but I can really only blame myself (ok, and maybe dopamine and opioids, but that really was an entirely different post).
This weekend, I was feeling so far away from the band wagon that no one on the band wagon would really be able to see what I was eating—so I ate a little of everything.  Let me tell you: everything was stinkin’ delicious.  I also now feel like a five-year-old who was allowed to eat whatever they wanted and now I feel completely ill.  I wish I could bottle this feeling and whip it out every time I’m about to over indulge.
Ok.  So here we are.  Post Halloween and counting down three and a half weeks until Thanksgiving.  My husband and I are taking an amazing vacation during Thanksgiving and I really don’t want to have to count calories.  So I need to track down the band wagon asap and get my butt back on it.
“What’s the game plan?” you ask.  The game plan is to make a game plan!  I’m planning out my meals again.  I also think I’ll be giving myself a few limits like: no eating any food at work or on the weekend that I don’t plan for.  I find this helps keep me in context when there’s temptation sitting around.  The next part of the plan is to make sure there’s no temptation sitting around.  I’m normally pretty irritated at other people’s insensitivity to temptation (like when a coworker throws a bowl of candy on your desk).  But I came into work today and threw my bowl of candy on another coworker's desk (gees, she’s so insensitive!).
I’ll also be making sure I don’t de-prioritize the gym—gym time has been getting the boot lately for other important tasks, like catching up on America’s Next Top Model.  I considered wearing my pedometer regularly again, but then I remembered I washed it (as in, left it in my jean’s pocket and did some laundry).  I’ll be stopping by Target on my way home from work today.
So how about you?  How do you get yourself back on the band wagon?  Tips and tricks?  And I’d love to know what kind of game plan you create for yourself for the holidays!  If you’re interested in guest blogging on how you survive the holidays, email me at liveitouteveryday [at] comcast.net.

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