timefliesTime lately has been flying and I’ve been super-busy, though I know, that is no excuse. I’ve been slacking on my writing duties and even slacking on my weight-management a bit too. I had a birthday, we took a vacation, then my husband turned 40, which resulted in a party and vacation, and now, I’m ready to write and get my waistline back on track. I have put on a few pounds (13 to be exact), nothing anybody likely notices. My clothes still fit, they aren’t tight to the eye, but I know what the scale is supposed to say. I’d been neglecting my own rules as related to partying, anticipating extra food consumption and planning for my day or an event. It is amazing how quickly the body reacts to these thoughtless moments, as additional pounds come and just as easily, as I’d started implementing these in my rotation again, the pounds go. Below is a list of things that I became lax on but have reinstated: 

  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, do not just sit and drink. Stand, circulate around the room and talk to people. This burns more calories and the drink lasts longer, thus I consume fewer calories.
  • If I know about an event in which I’m going to allow myself to indulge, I need to do extra workouts a week before and possibly (depending on how much I indulged) a week after the event. For me this is typically adding a 30-minute bike ride and/or 2-mile walk to my day. Since normal workouts are in the morning, I do the extra workouts after work, which actually helps me wind down for the day.
  • Dance off extra calories when at a club or party with music, as this burns calories, keeps me from eating and is just fun!
  • Plan the day. Recently, I went to the state fair, planned what I was going to eat and actually ate less food. I did some extra workouts earlier that week to make sure I had the calories for my favorite foods. Once I got to the fair, I didn’t really want all that I’d planned. The result was a 1-pound loss for the week.
  • Even plan for snacks. I’ve gotten back in the bad habit of being at home and noshing. Now, I make sure to plan for any snacks, “extra curricula” food, or even a nightcap on those days I know I’ll have a lot of down time.
  • Write everything down. I started keeping a few things in my head and well, in my head or not, they did end up on the scale, as it is quite unforgetting. When I first started my journey, I put down 5-calorie gum and 2-calorie espresso beans. Then, I started thinking those were minimal calories so I didn’t need to do that. I started making allowances/excuses for 20-calorie items here open and paperr 30-calorie there. Over time, this really does add up. So now, back to, “if I eat it, I write it.” 

I’ve already started seeing the results of my restored roadmap for weight-loss and management. Soon, I will be back to my 172-175 pound self and this will be yet another closed chapter in this long and continued journey.

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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.

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.

You do not require oil. Much of this is a repost from a previous blog of mine that I felt compelled to discuss. I keep watching cooking programs, or even reading recipes that are supposed to be for healthier cooking and they add extra Pam, buttercalories and fat by way of vegetable oil. In my experience, with many of the things I cook that call for vegetable oil, the taste isn’t dissipated due to my use Pam, no-stick butter flavor or Mazola no-stick instead. I think it’s important to ask yourself the question below for healthier cooking and better eating.

“Why am I using the olive oil?” If your answer was “I am using cooking oil to keep food from sticking to the pan,” then use your favorite no-stick brand instead. I like the Mazola no-stick but there are many others on the market. Some even add additional flavor such as butter, basil, etc. without the calories of cooking oil. If you are cooking with a no-stick pan, you really don’t need the cooking oil. You paid top dollar for that no-stick pan so let it do the job it was intended. If you are cooking foods that will release grease, fat juices, or water (i.e., pork, ground meat, cabbage, apples, etc.), cook them on low heat until the natural no stick agent of the food is released and then follow the recipe as stated. There is really no need to add 120 calories or more to your meal to keep food from sticking. 

If your answer to that question was because the dish needs flavor, then maybe olive oil is needed; but then again, maybe not. Could flavor be obtained with spices such as basil, tarragon, oregano, thyme, etc.? Spices have minimal calories spicesand many enhance the flavors in the food making dishes taste better, while cooking oil sometimes drowns the natural flavor.

Spices not your thing? Maybe a squirt of lemon, a dab of hot sauce, a splash of fruit juice, or some balsamic vinegar (all less than 10 calories a tablespoon) will add mouth-watering flavor. Would just a basting of light butter provide just as much flavor? Light butter is 50 calories a tablespoon. If just basting some chicken or pork chops with butter, you are likely not to use the entire tablespoon but even if you do, it is more than half the calories of olive oil.

So you have read this and your thoughts are that no-stick spray, spices, acidic juices and butter will not get the flavors you want and you must use cooking oil. OK, use it. But do you need to use as much as the recipe calls for? If it calls for a tablespoon, can you use 2 teaspoons instead (there are 3 teaspoons in one tablespoon so by using only two teaspoons you are still cutting calories)? Maybe you only need 1 teaspoon. Maybe a mixture of your favorite spices with a reduction of olive oil would taste great, even better than the recipe. 

Also a thing to keep in mind when eating out, order things without added oils or state you want the items dry. I’ve noticed that in restaurants the vegetables are sometimes too greasy because of how much oil was used in the vegetablespreparation. Many times they’ve already basted or seasoned the vegetables with a splash of oil before cooking or reheating for the order. Then they add more oil to whatever pan or heating element, and sometimes one more splash of oil at the end. I always ask for my roasted, grilled or sautéed vegetables to be cooked without additional oil. This gives me fewer calories, better tasting food as natural flavors and textures are maintained, and the vegetables aren’t shiny or sopping in grease.

The point here is to just play with different methods of cooking and flavors to see what works for each recipe. If you do not need the cooking oil, you save yourself the entire amount of calories. Maybe you only need a small amount, thus still reducing your calorie intake. Figure out what you need from what the recipe calls for to get flavor that you will enjoy, while saving yourself some calories and helping to lose or maintain that waistline.

basictraining

Recently I’ve found myself slipping back into some old habits and picked up a new bad habit. Luckily, I weigh myself daily and thus, the weight on the scale added was negligible and is now virtually gone, but it has caused me to keep a few key points in mind: 

1. If it goes in my mouth, it goes in the calorie count for the day. I used to be meticulous about this, including 5 paper and pencalorie Extra, sugar free, gum. At times I’ve been eating a couple of Pringles (really, just 2-4 but still 20-30 calories), a Mejool date (66 calories each), a few plantain chips (maybe 40-50 calories worth), etc. Even just one of these per day without writing it down can mean increased pounds in the weeks to come but if you do a couple per day, they add up quickly to disaster.

2. Be proactive rather than reactive. I used to do extra workouts in advance of those days I knew I would overeat due to some special event (i.e., New Year’s Eve). Doing so actually resulted in the scale going down temporarily and then balancing out just after the event. Additionally, when I ate, I would ask myself, “is this item worth that extra bike ride you did?” If not, I put it back. Lately, I’ve done those workouts after the event, which makes me feel worse because that higher number on the scale adds too much pressure to get that number back down and it’s also somewhat depressing at times too.

3. Eat because I want to and not because I can. Sometimes I’ll look at my calorie count for the day and say, “oh, I’ve got 200 calories left. Let’s see what I can eat.” This is the new bad habit. Truthfully, it was likely actions and mentality like this that got me where I used to be in the first place. Just because I have the calories, doesn’t make it right or mean full steam ahead. I should only eat it because I desire it. This will help keep me in check at other times. 

balanceI’ve always known I, as a person, am a work in progress and now, so is my weight management. I’m sure there will be some things I do perfect, quite consistently. I’m also sure I will continue to have learning experiences along the way, picking up bad habits and striving not to “backslide.” However, without a doubt in my head, I do know one thing… As long as I always go back to the basics of counting the calories of everything I eat, without going over my calorie count for the day and exercise daily, I’ll balance out just fine, as it is all about balance. For me, this is the best thing I’ve learned along the way and is a HUJ piece of knowledge in my weight maintenance journey.

My life has changed quite a bit in the last 6 months. As you know, I have a new job that keeps me quite busy. Assistant Director of Operations isn’t something I ever aspired to be and yet, here I am and I love it. I take more work home than I used to, which keeps me from writing my blog as much as I’d like. I think I’ve at least gotten enough of a handle on my job to start writing once a week, so that’s what I’m going to shoot for… Friday blogs. 

Other things have changed too, like working out in the morning. I never thought I’d get up every morning at 4am to early morningworkout and yet, I do. It actually is a great way to start my day. It also makes me feel calmer at work, as I’m not worried about my workload and trying to get home to workout. When I first took on this position, I would go through the day thinking I’d never get out of work on time, thus be late for my workout, or too tired to workout. Now, it doesn’t really matter much as my workout is complete and most days, I get out of here on time anyway. 

I have also had to ensure I have portable foods with me at all times. For example, my day yesterday included meetings from 10am through 3pm. I have many of these marathon meeting days. Luckily, some of those meetings are in my office, so I have just a few seconds to heat water for oatmeal or a can of soup, or even slice an apple or pear. I can also put something in the toaster like a Thomas’ bagel thin, a Vitatop, or some bread for peanut butter. A mix of those items along with my portal foods like Lance whole grain peanut butter crackers, or Kashi Go Lean or Honey Cheerios Bars, or Fiber One brownies come in quite handy. Add a banana, plum, apple, or other fruit and I’m set for a few hours. Also, for those times where a frig is available or I’m coming back to my office, cottage cheese, Babybel cheese, yogurt and milk for cereal are great fillers and a wonderful way to get some dairy for the day. I could go on and on about the existence of portable food, from crackers, fruit and nuts, to granola bars, plantain chips, and dry cereal. 

Another thing I’ve realized is it does not bother me to eat in front of people. I don’t care if I’m the only person eating at the meeting. I have to do what is right for my health goals and me. Plus, I think what would truly embarrass me would be if my stomach growled profusely during a meeting. The funny thing is that sometimes, the person I’m meeting with or someone next to me at a group meeting will say to me, “I wish I’d thought to bring something to eat.” 

Holiday happy hour, larger, 12.2012With all these changes, the one thing that hasn’t changed about me is my commitment to remaining a healthier me. I still exercise one hour a day, two hours on the weekends. I still count my calories and stay within my daily limits. I still prepare most of my dinners and do meal planning. And on the 4 year anniversary (December 12) of beginning my weight loss campaign and journey to a healthier me, I’m still half the me in pounds I used to be. It took me two years to lose it and now, it’s been 2 years that I’ve maintained it. The more things change, gladly, the more other things have stayed the same; including the fact that I write a (weekly) blog.

As we’ve entered football season, one of my favorite times of the year, it seems fitting I repost a previous blog. It’s still quite relevant, and I referred to it myself prior to attending my first tailgate of the season. After reading this, I settled on a gyro during tailgating (along with my alcohol) and a Honey Nut Cheerios bar during the game. After the game, I had a Lean Gourmet, Michelina Salisbury Steak for dinner and a Fiber One brownie with cottage cheese as a snack. Pretty good for my first game of the season.

A friend of mine asked me about eating at sporting events. She wanted to know what I eat when I support our local football team at home games, as the “Concession stand food is so tempting.” I was of no help for her. The last game I went to I had a hot Italian sausage with a couple of Jack Daniels and some cookies. The game before that I had pizza, some Jack, and some M&Ms. As you know, I do not believe in food restrictions or limiting the types of food I eat. I might not eat as much as I used to or eat it as often, but I still eat the foods I love. For the sporting events, the key for me is to build those foods and meals into my daily calorie intake. I told her I’d write a blog about trying to eat healthy at these events, or at least how not to “break the calorie bank.” 

The easiest way to eat at these events is to go with a plan. Decide what you want to eat, make sure it fits within your calories for the day and eat only that. For example, our sporting events and corresponding tailgates last almost all day. I eat about 300 calories of a filling breakfast (oatmeal, banana, whole-wheat English muffin), and plan for a 200-300 calorie dinner, like sushi, soup with a Vitatop, or a Lean Cuisine meal. This leaves me about 2000 calories for tailgating and the game. I eat a couple hundred more calories on these days due to the miles of walking, dancing and stair climbing involved. Even with the Jack Daniels beverages, which I drink straight (don’t need soda factoring into my calories), there is plenty of room for food calories. I decide what I want to eat prior to going and stick to it. 

For those of you trying to eat healthier than my game-day meals, I say look for wraps, salads, or grilled chicken as a starting point. Maybe it’s not called a wrap but comes disguised as a Gyro. You’re looking for lettuce, tomatoes, and other fresh vegetables that are portable. Maybe even a taco stand. This might be something you have to put together. If a grill station has grilled chicken sandwiches and the Gyro or fresh market salad person has salad ingredients, purchase them both, get a plate and have a grilled chicken salad with a splash of mustard dressing. Many places now do offer things like fruit salad, vegetable salads and other vegetarian/healthy foods. You might have to look hard for them but they are usually there. Also, pizza (regular pizza, not double cheese, thick crust) is good for you. Get a veggie piece of pizza or just plain cheese. Other options that have healthy attributes are nachos (without the cheese and toppings, just a bit of lettuce, tomato and salsa), popcorn without butter, and a handful of peanuts (and I don’t mean M&Ms with peanuts). 

The final option is to eat before you go, but who wants to do that? You can however eat low-calorie filling food prior to leaving and only save dessert for the game. If it’s hotdogs you want, save room for one of those. Hotdogs are generally a safer food to eat because they are not usually as calorie laden as other foods (unless you get a ½-pound Coney-dog with cheese and all the fixins). Don’t go on dime-a-dog or buck-a-bone night and eat 10 hotdogs or the equivalence of an entire chicken. Figure out what one food item you must have and construct your calories around that food. You don’t have to have an appetizer, greasy entrée, fried side item, dessert and salty snack just because they are there. Sporting events do not mean eat as if filling your stomach is the sport. Remember, you eat normal and control your calories at other meals, so this is not an exception. 

Think of the sporting event (or other type of similar entertainment) as just that, an event. The main event is not the food, the smells, or the people; it is the sport, show or concert you are there to watch or hear. Just like any meal you eat every day, you can eat at these events but plan and count accordingly. There might be a concession item that you must-have, so eat it as intended. Savor that one food and don’t wreck your “diet” because other food is there. Food will always be there. Be sure to take gum with you to chew when the cravings kick it or the intensity of the game makes you want to eat. If you absolutely must and want to eat healthy, either eat before you arrive (find a Panera) or go in search of better options with your thinking cap on. No one usually serves a burger without lettuce and tomato, so there’s a start.