I do love summer. It’s warm, people always seem friendly and there’s so much to do. With that said, summertime for me sunshinehas its difficulties as related to health, wellness, and my eating regimen. The warmer weather makes me want to go out and do more; however, that’s not necessarily a good thing. I like to sit on patios at various restaurants and watch the passersby. I like to head down the street to grab a bite of ice cream and sit in the park. Sure, I walk to all these events, which add to a healthier me, but eating, drinking and possibly staying out late, those aren’t helping my wellness cause. I try to do a mixture of things to balance my summer fun. 

I love salads. As a cold natured person, I don’t typically eat salads in the winter, as I need food that will warm me up. However, in the summer, I crave salads all the time. This is a good thing as I can have a light dinner salad with a glass of wine (or two), sitting on a patio. This keeps the calories low and helps me soak up some vitamin D through the sun. Since we frequent many establishments in our neighborhood that are in walking distance, I do burn off a few more calories in the summer than usual, so that’s a plus as well. If I walk to get a salad and a couple of glasses of wine, I’ve likely walked off at least one glass of wine. 

sushi rollI also love sushi. For some, sushi in the summer is not desirable as there is the risk that it’ll go bad quite quickly, but again, I’m cold natured so the best time for me to eat it is in the summer. Sushi, at least the sushi I eat, is extremely low in calorie and very good for me. I don’t get sushi with excessive ingredients or with crunchy, fried, or saucy accompaniments. I like most of my sushi au naturel, with wasabi of course. If I get it with rice, I try to get brown rice. I try to mix it up a bit with some nigiri (but typically don’t eat the rice) and a few bites of a sushi roll. Luckily, I finally have my husband into eating sushi so we can get a couple of different small rolls and some nigiri to get the most bang for our buck and save our waistlines. 

 As I stated, I do try to walk more during the summer. Many places that we frequent are within walking distance (less than 2 miles), so regardless of the weather, if I know I’m going to eat and drink, it’s time to walk. If I do eat any excess calories, it’s possible I’ll burn them off. For example, my birthday is next Sunday. On Saturday, we’re doing a 5k event and then hanging out with friends that afternoon, likely bar hopping. I figure the 5k gets us started off with a good calorie burn (this is after I already do my 2-hr normal workout for the day). From there, I’ll be sure to watch what I eat. We’re going to a Mexican place, so I’ll get a couple of tacos with everything on the side so I can control the sour cream and cheese, along with no chips and salsa. When we bar hop, I’ll sip slowly (thus shooting for no more than one beverage per establishment) and make sure I only eat if I’m hungry, and even then, it’ll be low in calorie. In addition, we’re making sure to walk everywhere. This will certainly keep my metabolism in overdrive, as I’ll wake up, workout, do the 5k, and never stop going, thus burning numerous calories.

picnic ants, noWhether or not this plan works next week, we’ll see but as I’ve always said, having a plan is at least a good start. Moreover, knowing my weaknesses and setting boundaries is quite helpful too. Luckily, I do like low-calorie foods such as salad and sushi and I live in a walking neighborhood that helps offset my need to be active when the sun comes. This summer, I hope to continue having plans and ideas to ward off the pounds like Raid against ants at a picnic; I’m going to squash all these summer temptations like a bug.

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Behavior

Behavior is not really a word I’ve paid much attention to until recently. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself continually pondering the question, “how do you change behavior?” Someone asked me this in reference to losing weight and honestly, I didn’t really have an answer. Oddly enough, I’ve changed many of my behaviors in life but I don’t know how I was able to do it. Maybe I was just motivated. Maybe I just had a great support team. Maybe I chanted a few good mantras along the way and decided to live by them. Maybe I just got lucky. I suppose any of these answers is true, depending on the behavior I was trying to change and that moment in my life. 

The biggest behavior that I changed that is monumental to my health is that I stopped smoking. I had a 3-4 pack a week no smokinghabit. Why did I stop? Because I knew it was a bad habit and it really made no sense that I smoked. My parents didn’t smoke, I didn’t grow-up around smokers and quite frequently, I didn’t even do it in the house because I couldn’t stand the smell. As tobacco has been proven to be an addictive substance, and I smoked for about 12 years, I would have to say I was addicted but quitting didn’t seem too hard because I had a great support system. Everyone wanted me to stop anyway. None of my friends smoked and even my father-in-law, who’d smoked for years of his life, had quit. I suppose I started smoking in college to prove I was grown. In hindsight, that seems a bit silly and I’m sure that’s another thing that helped me quit. It took me a few times to stop before it really took, but once I went a year within a cigarette, I was done and that was over 10 years ago. 

Not eating out for every meal and going to fast food restaurants is another behavior I changed, as this was crucial to losing weight. I was able to alter this behavior because there are various great tasting foods out there that are low in calorie and good for me. Moreover, I do know how to cook. Bottom line, I like flavorful food regardless of whether it is healthy, good for me, or is food categorized as a heart attack waiting to happen, and it doesn’t matter from where the food comes. Once I figured out a schedule on when to prepare home meals and found terrific tasting recipes, cooking more of my meals at home and eating that wonderful food became the new behavior. If I drilldown and examine behavior and habit, maybe they haven’t changed that much. I still eat food that tastes great; I just get the food from a different source. Additionally, I know I’m still a few pounds overweight and could stand to eat less, so overeating is still a behavior I’ve yet to conquer. 

Adding exercise to my daily routine might be the one area in which I can say I’m lucky. I just happen to enjoy working sunriseout. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a morning person and so getting up in the morning is generally not a problem for me. I see exercise like work, so this is where having a couple of life mantras come in handy too. It doesn’t matter if I want to get up and do it or not. I have to get up, it has to be done and if I like my current lifestyle, I had better get to it. For me, there is no better motivator than the truth. 

My best answer to the question of how to change behavior is to keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed… As I said, it took me a few times to stop smoking but I kept trying and finally did. Staying motivated and being true to self are helpful. One of the things I do every morning is say to myself, “Today I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday.” In my head sometimes I think “be a better person every day, all day long.” I try to make sure my actions speak to being a better person. Sure, sometimes I fail but other times, I soar. The fact that I even try is what brings about my success and changes in my behavior.

With Memorial Day being the official kickoff to summer, I thought I’d repost this blog. It’s one of my favorites and is in my top 10 of blogs with the most views. Enjoy and have a great Memorial Day weekend all!!!

Summertime! The time of year many people eagerly wait for and loudly cheer for once it is here. Various people find they exercise more in the summer as the weather lends itself to walking and running. It is a great time of year to be out, active, and enjoy the surroundings. It is also that time of year for backyard BBQs, family reunions, and potlucks. Let’s face it, even the increase in exercise doesn’t equal the possible increase in food available in the summer. 

I already gave a few points on the BBQ in my Independence Day post, but here are a few more to help guide you: 

When attending a BBQ:

  • Ask the host for the menu prior to attending.
  • Plot a “food course” based on that menu.
  • Plan to eat and drink every hour or so while there. For example, let’s say you plan to be there for 4 hours and want to have 2 ribs, 2 chicken wings, some baked beans, a small salad, and a piece of dessert. Once you arrive, get a drink and mingle for about 45 minutes, then grab a salad. About an hour later, get another drink and have the 2 ribs and a spoonful of baked beans. An hour after that, have the wings and one more spoon of beans. About 30 minutes prior to leaving, have some dessert.
  • Use a dessert plate to keep portions in check, or even use a napkin or just a fork (unused fork of course) if appropriate. (Last BBQ I went to I already ate before arriving, but my sister-in-law makes the world’s best macaroni and cheese. I had to have a bite so I got a fork, dipped it in the mac and cheese, and had one heavenly bite. Had I gotten a plate, I’d have gone hog-wild. The one bite really was all I wanted and needed.)
  • Never take anything home. If you go over calories, at least it is limited to one day. Don’t even take veggies (unless raw) home with you as you never know how much olive oil, butter or other high calorie flavoring was used.

 When hosting a BBQ:          

  • Cook some good for you, healthier food (i.e., grilled fish and chicken with no sauce, green beans, etc.), along with food your guests will expect. This gives you something flavorful and lower calorie to eat and food to store for later.
  • If you have food left that you don’t usually keep in your house, give it to your guests. Only leave food in your house that you’d normally eat. However, if you’re guests have read my blog, they will not take the food with them, in which case donating the food to a church or shelter is recommended.
  • Keep in mind that you’re at home. If you want to snack or nibble, choose your usual snacks and not the chips, dips, or desserts you set out to make your guests happy.
  • Be sure to use the timing pattern and small plates as mentioned when attending a BBQ.

 If attending a potluck: 

      • Don’t go hungry. Be sure to eat just prior to the event so you’re not tempted to scarf down everything.
      • Wait at least an hour prior to eating, as to wait for the arrival of all the food. No sense in figuring out what you want to eat, eat it, and something new arrives. Wait so you can “size up” the entire smorgasbord.
      • Determine the “must-have” dishes. This should only be a few foods. Those items you have a taste for or may never get a chance to sample again. Be honest about what you truly crave and “can’t live without.” Once you know what you want, plan your attack just as you would a BBQ. Save a bit of room/calories for a “must-have” late arrival.
      • Again, don’t take anything home, including the dish you arrived with, and use small plates. 

 (Note: never host a potluck as you want to be able to control the type of food at your gathering and you don’t want to be left with the remaining items people don’t eat or take with them)

I hope this helps in maneuvering through what can be a challenging season and allow you to enjoy the long-awaited summer.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, as I had a couple of topics running around in my head. Therefore, I figured a short synopsis or a few quick tips might be useful to pass along. 

huge waistMore waste might equal less waist – I really don’t want to waste food or advocate it, but when served too much food, that’s what I have to do instead of eat it. If I eat it and know I’m no longer hunger or don’t have the calories for it, my waistline will not be happy. I’d rather waste the food than see the food on my waist. 

Volume speaks volumes on the scale – When I’m at happy hour, my preferred drink more often is wine. A glass of red wine has 125 calories for a 5-ounce pour. Sipping that glass throughout the evening goes a long way. I do love bourbon but with at least 140 calories per 2-ounce pour, if I’m going to be out for a long time and drinking, wine will keep the calories (and morning weigh in) down. I still drink my bourbon but usually more when I’d like a nightcap, am only going to have one drink, say for an hour-outing, or when I want that calming/soothing one-glass sip. I drink my slightly dirty martinis on rare occasions as they have way too many calories. Luckily, I don’t like beer and thus can avoid a beer gut.

Ask, and you shall receive – I customize my restaurant orders all the time and restaurants have no problem providing what I have asked. I can pick apart a menu like nobody’s business and look for ingredients that I might like. Then, I figure out how those ingredients can make a composed lower calorie, great tasting dish. With so many people having food allergies, chefs do not seem mind preparing food requested in the manner preferred. It’s almost as if the Burger King Slogan fits anywhere – Have it your way. 

Little changes can make a big difference – I used to drink a large white chocolate and caramel latte with skim milk every morning, for a whopping 530 calories. This is how my day started every weekday. Now, I drink a medium half-and-half shot of sugar-free white chocolate and sugar-free caramel latte with skim milk for only 130 calories. Honestly, the first couple of days it took getting used to but now, I love it. A new person made my coffee once (forgetting the sugar-free) and it was horrible… way too sweet. One sip and I knew it was wrong. My taste buds adjusted and that one change dropped 400 calories from my daily diet. I used to drink that coffee with a 400-calorie muffin and now I have a Vitatop, a Weight Watcher Muffin, a Granola Bar, etc. or something similar for less than 200 gbtasterscalories. Just a tweak here and there, still eating good food but saving myself tons of calories. The same is true about those shooter desserts in restaurants compared to their full-size counterparts. I still get the sweet flavor and indulgence without a bunch of regretful pounds.

I hope these few tips are helpful, as they sure have helped me continue to enjoy life while I eat wonderful tasting food, socialize with friends and maintain a healither weight.

INDDLast week I was surprised to find out there is a day dedicated to no dieting. This annual celebration, INDD, occurs every May 6. The day is not about eating whatever you want, as I initially thought when I saw no diet but it is about body acceptance, promoting a healthy lifestyle and raising the awareness of the dangers of dieting. I think these are important concepts to keep in mind, so I’m going to celebrate this day. 

I started my weight loss journey concerned about the number on the scale. I wanted to lose weight and see that number go down. As the pounds dropped, I then wanted to look good. I wasn’t not even sure what that meant but I knew it at least meant I needed to lose more weight, decrease the inches and get more body definition. Sure, we all want to look good but having 6-pack abs, 2-3% body fat and a bikini perfect body isn’t going to happen for most of us. I realized that inches, pounds, flab/fat, didn’t so much matter. What matters is that I am getting daily exercise, I eat more fruits and vegetables, my blood work always shows great results and overall, I am healthier; possibly the healthiest I’ve ever been. All of these things are what International No Diet Day are about as fat phobias, biases and body obsessions need to be shed more than the pounds. 

I still look in the mirror and wonder, if I’d not gained so much weight would I have this residual flab; however, I’m beginning to realize it makes no sense for me to ponder such things. I have to focus on the important aspect of my life now, which is that I am healthier and yeah, I might not be a perfect 10 but I do look pretty good. I achieved all of this with hard work and determination in changing my lifestyle, not dieting. 

Diets can be dangerous, unsuccessful and defeating. Not eating the right food groups or getting enough vitamins and minerals, working out too much, taking diet pills that increase heart rate, metabolism, fat burn, etc. and missing meals can wreak havoc on the body. Some diet methods can cause aggressive/mood altering behaviors, internal organ no dietdamage or failure, and respiratory problems. Some can even kill. Stepping on the scale to get a pleasing number and looking good aren’t worth the risk of any diet. Sometimes diets don’t work, sometimes the weight is gained back (10-fold even) and other times, an unrealistic expectation can bring about a defeated mentality, causing more damage to self-image than the initial need or want to lose weight. 

Today is about recognizing we are all different shapes and sizes and that is a good thing. Let’s applaud who we are, what we look like and strive to be better through healthy, realistic, lifestyle changes. Let’s not obsess over pounds, body shape or inches. Happy International No Diet Day and maybe the beginning of a new/better way to think and feel about beauty, self-image and size.

ninja

Last Friday I surprised myself. I woke up per usual to do my 2-hour workout, which included 30 minutes on my exercise bike, 1 hour of Kenpo X (P90X’s version of kickboxing) and another 30 minutes on my exercise bike. Everything was going just fine until about 4:20, when I’m about 10-15 minutes into Kenpo X, the electricity shuts off. I looked outside and it was pitch black. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this was in the morning. All the lights were out in the neighborhood. At first, I was a bit frustrated, as I love my kick boxing workouts. Then I came to a realization – I had this video memorized. I know exactly what all the kick and punch sequences are and the count of most of them. I know Tony has us do 25 for some and 30 for others, so if I just do 30 for everything, I’d get it right. If I decided to do this from memory, the only missing element from the video would be the count for the cool-down sequence. He does running in place for about 30 seconds, jump rope for 30 seconds, jumping jacks for 30 seconds and then finishes with X-jumps (yes, this really is the recovery section of the workout). How was I going to know when to change-up every 30 seconds? It dawned on me that I could get the flashlight, shine it on the kitchen timer and use that as my clock. 

At 4:27am, with nothing but the moon lighting my living room, there I was kicking, punching, sweating and panting , dark nightlike a ninja in the darkness, doing my workout. I’m not sure if it was my stubbornness, my competitive nature or just plain will that made me go up against Mother Nature but it’s a fight I won. I didn’t need lights, the television, or Tony Horton’s voice to do my exercise. When I got to what would be the last segment of the routine, the electricity came back on and I couldn’t help but laugh. I went through the video to make sure I’d done everything, and I had. I’d even done more because many of the things I did 30 reps to should only have been 25. Oh well, more cardio for me. I finished up with the video and a huge smile on my face. Then I went upstairs, completed my 30 minutes on the exercise bike and felt quite accomplished with the day’s workout. 

If you’d have ever told me I’d be so defiant one day and so committed to my health efforts that I would complete my daily workout in utter darkness, I think I would have laughed. However, in the end, I ended up laughing, as my rebellion seemed to take me to a higher level of fitness and well-being. I realize that I never have an excuse. I can always exercise kickboxingand choose to be this better version of myself. While it was a bit scary, there in the dark, by myself, kicking and punching the air, it was also liberating. I felt alive and renewed in my conviction to health and wellness. Now, each morning, I dare the electricity to shut off; I already have a plan of action in my head if it’s a cardio day or weight-lifting day, I know how to proceed. Surprisingly, or happily, my journey moves forward, as I yet again learn something new about myself as I continue striving to be a healthier me.

hold hostageMy husband came up with the idea for this blog and the title because of a salad I ordered last Saturday. We went to Gordon Biersch, who has many salads on their menu. I love salad; I’m just too lazy to cut, clean, and put them together the way I want. When I go to restaurants that have a smorgasbord of salad toppings, I frequently order a salad for my meal. The problem for me is that they usually don’t have a composed salad just the way I want. Therefore, I have to “make” a customized salad, or as my husband put it, give my list of demands. This particular trip I ordered a well-chopped salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, pears, craisins, artichoke hearts, gorgonzola cheese, spiced pecans, and light balsamic Italian dressing on the side. 

I’ll admit, I do this quite a lot when I go out to eat as I figure it’s my waistline and my money so I should have it my way. Restaurant establishments can turn me down or not give in to my hostage demands, but they’ll also not get my money as I can go elsewhere. I’ve been ordering tailored food for years now and have not come across any problems (knock on wood). There are times when I order vegetables with no oil and the waitperson comes back to tell me their vegetables are pre-seasoned and oiled when they arrive to the location. It is not that they do not want to compile with my wishes, they just can’t. In this case, the staff might recommend I get the vegetables but they can request no additional oil be used (sad but true; many restaurants have oil already on the vegetables, then put more oil on to reheat, roast or whatever for preparation). Sometimes I’ll move forward as suggested, other times I’ll opt for a salad or something without oil. 

I don’t just do this with salads or vegetables. I’ve become very good at picking a menu apart. Many ingredients are served with one dish but I want them with another. For example, if salsa is served with the nachos, I know they have salsa. I might want my fish prepared without the buttery sauce described on the menu, so I’ll ask for grilled fish with little to no oil and salsa on the side. Or, if they use apple slices for a drink on the bar menu and I want lightly grilled apple slices with my pork chop instead of the gravy it comes with, I’ll ask for it. Most things can be done and modified, they just might cost a bit more or take more time to cook but it can be done. 

Another thing I pay careful attention to is the kids menu. There are usually smaller portions and simpler offerings for these little tikes. Sometimes the waitperson will alert me that they have to charge me a higher amount than what is listed on the child’s menu, to which I respond, “that’s fine, I just want to get the kid size meal and not waste or be tempted bythink outside the box the food.” I’m always courteous and open to suggestions so the servers are genuinely helpful and typically want to accommodate my requests. 

While you might not be dining at Burger King, keep in mind you can still have it your way. Take charge of the menu and caloric intake. Be polite in the request and be ready to offer solutions for any problems that arise. You might want grilled fish but they only have utensils to bake their fish or so they tell you. If they have a grill and some foil or even a heavy pan/skillet, it can be done; just some out-of-the-box thinking needed. Before exchanging your calories and money be sure you’re getting what you want and need for continued success in your weight-loss or maintenance journey.