Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday Superfoods

I have a cookbook in my cupboard entitled Cooking With 4 Ingredients that I haven’t used it for a while. A little suspicious of the idea that I could cook a tasty meal of only four ingredients while staying healthy, I pulled it out for a look.

There was no surprise at all when I turned page after page and found my suspicions were correct. Some recipes were pretty unhealthy. One recipe called for rice-a-roni, another called for a large amount of cream cheese and sour cream. When at last I found a meat recipe containing broccoli, it initially sounded promising—until I noticed that it also called for 2/3 cup of mayonnaise!

Not all the recipes in the cookbook are that bad, but I am suddenly curious to find recipes that are easy and nutritious. And, of course, delicious. Do they exist? Does eating nutritiously mean I have to spend hours in the kitchen each day?

I’d like to have my own compilation of recipes entitled Cooking Healthy and Easy, and I know just where to find them: You! If you have a healthy recipe you’d like to share, send them my way. Your recipe could be featured one Saturday, not to mention that it might end up on my kitchen table.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Does food make a person happy?

My mom recently told me about a speaker she watched who used to be a compulsive eater, and who now counsels people with their out-of-control eating addictions. He pulled a potato chip out from a bag and ate it, acknowledging that potato chips are delicious on many levels—their saltiness, their fatty flavor, and their crispiness. In the end, however, it’s just food. It’s a potato. He plunged a second chip into a glass of water. Within minutes, the chip was soggy and totally unappetizing.

That’s what I’m eating when I have a potato chip, and it’s probably what it looks like in my stomach! Yuck! So why do I eat potato chips? I actually don’t eat them very often, but I eat other things that are probably just as fatty and look just as unappealing once it’s traveled down my gullet.

The truth is, I eat sometimes because it makes me happy. Have you ever sat in front of a banana split and thought, “Life just doesn’t get better than this!” You might be thinking that for the first seven bites or so. What about after 30 bites? Are you feeling happy?

Chances are, happiness has flittered away and feelings of disgust, guilt, and disappointment are in its place. So when does that emotional shift happen? Wouldn’t it be great if we could find the magical place where food stops making us happy, and quit eating just before that point? I am determined to find it. There’s no reason why I can’t have a little food-induced happiness in life, and I don’t want over-eating to ruin it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Look for Others

I recently saw an interview with an Olympic champion who said that he appreciates his rivals, especially the unfriendly rivals, because they fire him up and make him perform better. I have often wondered how these athletes find the inward motivation to spend months and years getting fit and polished for a two-week competition. I suppose one of the motivating factors is the tough opposition.

Competition is motivating. I remember a few years ago joining a weightloss competition with a few friends. I was very motivated to say no to the temptations, especially when they were around! I trash-talked my way through the competition. The more I boasted that I was going to win, the more fueled I became to do just that. In the end, I didn’t win. In fact I came in 2nd place. But actually, I really did win because I lost 26 pounds in the process. I also had fun with an endeavor that is a lot of hard work.

When there is rivalry involved, I do get motivated. It helps to be surrounded by successful people because their competitive edge usually ignites my competitive edge. When I’m at the gym, if I am working out next to a physical powerhouse, I’m going to get a much better workout than if someone next to me is going at it half-heartedly and reading a book or something.

Social workouts, like aerobics classes, yoga, and jazzercise are great examples of invigorating workouts that feed energy from one person to another. The classes are also a load of fun. (As long as I don’t trip on my two feet, of course!) John Donne once said that no man is an island. I think that profound statement is certainly true for healthy people. We need one another!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Weather to Succeed

In a recent study, researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that women burn 10% less calories during winter than they do during summer months. The assumption, of course, is that women are more active during summer than during winter.

As I write this, it is rainy and wet outside. My daily walk certainly isn’t going to happen. What about the little calorie burners, like taking the compost out to the garden or taking out the garbage? Those things probably won’t happen when it’s pouring rain either.

I firmly believe that weather plays a huge role in how I feel and how successful I am at obtaining or maintaining an ideal weight. Weather affects mood and it affects opportunity to exercise.

Keeping a positive mood is very important to succeed in healthy living. If I’m depressed or discouraged, there usually doesn’t seem like much purpose to my working to achieve something. When I let moods and circumstances get the best of me, I want to stop trying. It’s interesting that weather can have such a strong effect on a person. It’s one of the things I can’t control either.

In fact, there are many things in life I can’t control, and weather is just a drop in the bucket. I look at successful people and admire them for having done something to overcome their obstacles. Certainly I can do the same. I can find a way to succeed when I am down, or when I don’t find enough opportunities to take the steps I need. I might not be able to control the weather, but I can control my determination to focus on the brighter days ahead.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sunshine

I am blessed to live in a climate that is sunny most of the year. I know that I am blessed because I have lived in the rainy northwest for most of my life. Believe me, the dark dreary days get old! Here in Sacramento, winter lasts about 2 ½ months. We’re nearing the end right now, and I am ready for sun! Those few weeks of dreary days are just enough of winter for me.

Of course, there are also days during the heart of summer when I wish I could wake up to the sound of rain. Or sometimes I feel like it would be nice to have a dark, cloudy day where I can light candles and curl up with a book all day. Cloudy weather can be a good excuse to hibernate, which is sometimes exactly what I feel like doing!

But here in Sacramento I usually wake up to a cloudless day. And usually, I am glad the skies are blue and I love the surge of energy a sunny day brings. The sun gives you a swift kick and tells you to keep moving, even when you don’t feel like it. When I wake up to a sunny day, it’s almost hard not to stay active.

There are friends who are much like a motivating sunny day. They say just the right words of encouragement; they check up on me; they bump me out of a gloomy mood. Sometimes when I’m striving alone to accomplish a goal, it’s discouraging. Even overwhelming. A friend’s encouragement can make the difference between whether I have a renewed determination, or give up altogether. I am so glad for those people who bring sunshine to my life.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Planning Time

I have a friend who takes time management very seriously. She reads books about it, sets up calendars and organizers, and schedules every minute of her day it seems. She has a book entitled, Time Power. If I had a book like that, I think it would just sit on my shelf because I’d never find the time to read it!

Everybody has a certain degree of time management. Usually people find time to do the things that are important to them. For some people it might be finding the time to watch their favorite TV show, and they succeed!

Having small children around, I am not exactly free to pursue any goal I want whenever I want. Some days, it seems like I am stuck in an unproductive cycle of cleaning up after the kids and keeping them happy. Hours zoom past and nothing on my to-do list has been done. When someone says that planning will help, I almost laugh. Planning doesn’t always work because children don’t stick to schedules like adults do!

Going to Plan B, C, or even D has become a part of my daily living. I can roll with it. But I do see the merit in planning some things. Planning a meal and thinking ahead is important because if I don’t, it will be much too easy to grab a non-nutritious snack.

Sometimes I am not able to prepare a hearty nutritious meal and I need a good backup plan. I like to have a default nutritious restaurant in mind in these cases—usually Subway. When time doesn’t produce what I’ve hoped and I am not able to prepare the perfect nutritious meal, at least I am not in danger of running to McDonalds. Plan B can be just as nutritious as Plan A.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Superfoods

I haven’t always been a big salad eater. One of the reasons why I haven’t been crazy about chomping on a mouthful of lettuce is that my teeth are sensitive. Salad is not easy to chew.

I do enjoy eating at Fresh Choice, which is a salad buffet. I have to be careful, even in a healthy restaurant like that, by the way. The pasta, bleu cheese, and salad dressing can make the calories and fat really stack up.

Here is a recipe for a fantastic salad that I have compiled. It’s filling, lighter on the calories, and very tasty. It does take some chewing, but most people seem to differ from me and enjoy that aspect of salad.

Sensible Southwest Salad

1 cup butter lettuce
¼ cup black beans
¼ cup corn
¼ cup salsa
¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 T sliced olives
½ avocado, cut into 1 inch cubes

Dressing

¼ cup fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin

Arrange salad ingredients in a bowl, except for the avocado. Blend the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pour over salad. Top with avocado.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Maintaining

I am a person of habit. Every morning I eat a bowl of cold cereal and drink a cup of coffee and a full glass of water. I usually repeat what I eat for lunch every day too. Usually dinner is where I make variations, although I find myself making the same meals the next week, and the week after that.

There are benefits to eating the same foods all the time. It’s easier to log what I’ve eaten. It’s easier to stay on course, as I’m trying to eat within a certain number of calories per day. I usually exceed my calories when something out of the ordinary changes my eating, not when I’m in my regular routine.

Likewise, it’s easier to stick with exercising when I do the same exercise each time. I have my favorite walk or my favorite gym equipment. I don’t get sore the next day because my body is used to those exercises. It’s just somehow easier to repeat the workout I have grown accustomed to doing.

This all works well if I am cruising along on a healthy course, but what about those times in life when I’m on the wrong course physically? I certainly have experienced unhealthy ruts and it feels almost impossible to break out of them. Day after day has gone by without breaking an aerobic sweat perhaps. Each evening around 9 o’clock I would pull out the ice cream container maybe. Habits have a way of going on and on, especially if they’re unhealthy.

The hardest time to work at being healthy, I believe, is during the first month when all of the new habits are being formed. Right now I am in a healthy routine and it’s much easier to maintain my focus than it was to create it. I want to remember how difficult it was at the beginning, however, because I wouldn’t want to lose this rhythm and have to start forming the good habits all over again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trying the Impossible

I enjoy watching the Winter Olympics, but I must say that I was a little bit disappointed with the couples figure skaters this year. It seemed that there were no perfect performances. In fact, in most of the programs even my untrained eye could spot major mistakes. Two out of the three medal winners actually fell during their performances. And they were the best of the group.

I understand that the reason there are so many mistakes during these games is that every competitor is trying to outperform everyone else. They push themselves like never before, figuring that outdoing themselves is the only way to win. Besides, these performances are not meant to be crowd-pleasers—they’re meant to be judge-pleasers. Consequently, we get skaters who try to do the impossible and end up with exquisite moments mingled with lousy moments all in a single routine.

A few times in history the risk has paid off and a team has managed to magically exceed everyone’s expectations. I suppose it’s this possibility that keeps the competitors going for the risk against a more sensible routine. But I will have to admit that if there was a possibility that I might pull off something spectacular, and I am certainly one who enjoys a good challenge, I would go for it too. There will be plenty of opportunities for these talented performers to show-off to the world of non-skaters using less difficult moves, but in front of critical judging, they may as well try to achieve the impossible on that slim chance that they will succeed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sporting Chance

I am not a huge sports fan. My husband likes to record games and car races on the DVR each weekend, and I usually use his sports time as an opportunity to get a much-needed nap or curl up with a good book.

My favorite part of most spectator sports is not the game itself. I tune into the national anthem. That’s kind of interesting. Or during the Super Bowl I love to watch the commercials. But the game? Yawn!

It has been said that commercials are a good time for a little bit of exercise. I think I’d rather exercise during the actual game, but the idea is a good one. Some easy do-it-at-home exercises are jumping-jacks variations. Get a little two-year-old present and they will have a blast as well.

Part of the reason I want to live healthy is that I want my children to learn healthy living by my example. When Eden sees me jumping around the room, she gets very excited and starts to follow. On the other hand, when I’ve had those days where I just want to sit and do absolutely nothing, guess what I find Eden doing? Sitting and doing nothing.

Leading an active life is not always what I feel like doing. But if my children will learn at this crucial age how to stay physically healthy, it is worth doing. Perhaps I should hit the jumping-jacks the next time my husband turns on the Nascar race.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sowing

Spring begins early in California. While many people throughout the country were trudging through snow to hit the Presidents’ Day sales, I spent the day gathering supplies at a gardening center and starting my gardens.

If you’re looking for a good workout, try working soil. It’s strenuous labor! I started by removing the excess leaves I had placed on the gardens over winter for weed control. Next, I worked the soil by digging in with a shovel and turning it over bit by bit. Mind you, along with this task I was trying to avoid plowing into my 2-year-old Eden as she dashed here and there.

Next I poured new compost on the soil. I was also constantly reminding Eden not to throw dirt or dump the new compost into the garden waste bin. Keeping an excited toddler under control is no easy endeavor in itself. I’m sure I must have burned a few extra calories in the process. After the compost came the reworking and more redistributing of the soil until at last I was ready for plants.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green beans, and herbs are just a few of the selections I chose for my garden this year. Strawberries plants have grown even larger from last year. It should be a wonderful crop!

There’s something satisfying and appealing about stepping outside for fresh fruits and vegetables during spring, summer and fall. I look at my newly planted and watered gardens and smile. It was a great workout, I feel healthy, and I’m anticipating the healthy days ahead when I reap what I sow.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Choices

I recently dined at the Cheesecake Factory for a family birthday celebration. Yes, I did have some cheesecake—who can resist? But let’s move back to earlier in the evening when I was choosing what to eat for my meal.

The two choices I had narrowed down to were shown like this on the menu:

BANG-BANG CHICKEN AND SHRIMP
A Spicy Thai Dish with the Flavors of Curry, Peanut, Chile and Coconut.
Sauteed with Vegetables and Served over Steamed White Rice

or

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT GRILLED CHICKEN™
Lightly Pounded Chicken Breast Charbroiled and Topped with a Tomato and Arugula Salad. Garnished with Steamed White Rice and Asparagus. Under 590 Calories

Which one would you choose? The bang-bang chicken and shrimp sounded tastier, but I wasn’t sure how high in calories or fat it was. In the end my decision was determined by thinking ahead—I new I wanted to have cheesecake. Therefore, I chose the meal that I new was healthy and sensible, the Weight Management Grilled Chicken. (The seriously need to rethink that name, by the way. It’s not exactly a pleasant order to make in front of a large group.)

Later I was curious about the calories information for all my choices. First I checked the cheesecake. Yikes! 912 calories! But it was delicious.

Next I checked the two meal choices side by side.

BANG-BANG CHICKEN AND SHRIMP calories 1383, fat 20 grams
WEIGHT MANAGEMENT GRILLED CHICKEN calories 583, fat 2 grams

There you have it. I made the right choice. What a gratifying feeling!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Superfoods

How about a good recipe for Valentine’s Day? With a few sensible alternatives, this dessert will add the some zing to sweet day.

Sweetheart Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup warm water

Directions
Lightly coat an 8 inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Heat the oven to 350┬║. Sift together first six ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Blend dry and wet ingredients. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake has risen and springs back when pressed. Serve the cake topped with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pushing Past Obstacles

The Olympics is an inspiring time. Recently I saw the Paralympic athlete Allison Jones interviewed. Talk about inspiring!

She was born with a deformed femur in her right leg and at nine months old, had her foot amputated. At the age of 5, her family moved to Colorado. She says her mom took her to the top of a hill with a ski for her foot and said, “Go for it!”

Allison has been going for it ever since. Besides skiing competitively, at age fifteen she started cycling so she’d have something to do during the summer months. She currently has four medals, including a gold, and is the only US Paralymic athlete to compete in both summer and winter games. This year, she hopes to win more medals.

One of the reasons I find her story so inspiring is the optimism of her mom. It must have taken great faith and determination to push through such an obstacle and see such hope for her daughter. Allison has not only overcome her big obstacle in life, she has far surpassed what most of us could do with all of our limbs fully intact.

I think I might remember this story the next time I let something stand between me and success. It’s very easy to nurse myself when I am sick or have a setback of some kind. I have even used the extra weight I gained in pregnancy as an excuse not to exercise because it’s too difficult to lug it around.

I’d rather have an attitude like Allison Jones. I want to see past the tough times and obstacles in my life and believe that I really could accomplish a great deal if I go for it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Habitual Reminder

There are things in life that I do without fail, perhaps because it’s habit, common sense, or a matter of survival. I’m thinking of things like eating, showering, or fastening my seatbelt. There are other things that I have to remind myself to do, like drink enough water, go grocery shopping, or make sure the car is stocked with diapers before I leave the house.

What makes a habit easy is the routine. I do certain things the same time and same place every day. One of the reasons I might forget to get to mow the lawn, for instance, is that I don’t mow every day. It will be easier to remember during the spring when I’ll need to mow every Saturday.

Fortunately, the chores that I might be prone to forget have ways of reminding me themselves. The lawn gets long and shaggy—reminder to mow! I can’t find anything to fix for dinner—reminder to go shopping!

The hardest habits to form and to keep are the ones that are sporadic and the reminders are few or vague. Perhaps I have a headache, I’m having strange food cravings, and I feel tired—reminder to…eat? Take a nap? There is a mental list I go through when I’m not feeling the greatest. One of the first on that list is regarding water consumption. Have I had enough today?

Drinking an adequate amount of water seems to be one of my most difficult routines to keep. I can devise ways to remember, like tracking on paper or filling an established pitcher at the start of each day. It’s important for staying healthy. I certainly notice a difference when I let that habit slip.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sacrifice

One week from today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent. I’m not a Catholic and I don’t follow their rituals, but I’ve always liked the idea of giving something up for a short period of time in order to concentrate on something else—in this case, spiritual things.

Temporarily giving something up adds intensity to a particular devotion. For instance, when I sing for an important occasion, I usually don’t eat certain things that might hinder the singing, even things I love. Not only am I more physically prepared, it also prepares me mentally for the task. An athlete will give things up for the Olympics coming up, again for physical reasons as well as mental focus. I heard once that former president George W. Bush gave up sugar during the Iraqi War in order to remind himself of the sacrifice others were making by fighting.

Giving something up needs to be a sacrifice. I wouldn’t give up something like Oreo cookies because I happen to seriously dislike Oreos. If I give something up, it would be something that I really like that will take a little bit of effort. On the other hand, I would never give up water or something that I need to survive.

If I am having a difficulty in my life breaking through to something—such as control of my eating or exercise, spiritual discouragement, or depression—perhaps giving up something for this period of time from Ash Wednesday to Easter will help to keep focused on facing the issue and breaking through to victory. It’s something to consider.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow

Today Eden experienced snow for the first time. My husband was able to have the day off from work and we traveled into the mountains, about an hour away from where we live.

Getting out of the house was a bit of a difficulty. It is amazing how it can take hours to accomplish what I used to accomplish in twenty minutes when I was single. But we have never gone to the snow before with our kids, so perhaps it’s a little understandable why we didn’t leave the house before noon.

We never did find Eden’s missing glove, but we grabbed her little gardening gloves and finally managed to leave the house. After stopping to get gas for the car and stopping again for a recreational parking permit, we arrived at the snow park at precisely Eden’s nap time.

Eden loved the snow. She was fascinated by the mounds of cold white snow, and immediately began begging to slide down it. We found an area that was just right for her. Some previous visitor had dug a little cave into the snow. Leading down into the cave was a small slope. She sat on her little board and before I knew it, she had whipped around the slope and disappeared into the cave, her ecstatic giggles trailing behind her.

This went on for about a half an hour, until the excitement and lack of sleep caught up with her. About the time she was laughter was mixed with crying, we decided to head home.

It seems like a lot of work to have fun, to try new things, and to have an active lifestyle. We spent a majority of the day getting ready and driving, for less than an hour of entertainment. Still, I look back on today and think it was absolutely worth it. Never mind the load of effort. Eden is learning that being active means having fun, and she will be talking about this day for months to come.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stress

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel stressed? I guess that’s almost a rhetorical question since I already know the answer—everybody gets stressed, even the ones who don’t show it.

I heard recently that one of the ways human beings react to stress is by taking irregular, shallow breaths. Perhaps that’s why I do a lot of sighing when I’m frustrated! I’m trying to boost my dilapidated oxygen levels.

The reduced amount of oxygen when we’re stressed is one of the reasons that exercise works as a tonic to stress. Aerobic exercise regulates our breathing. The deep breathing helps the lungs and the gives our entire body a boost of wellness.

In the 1990s, oxygen bars became a new phenomenon. Proponents claim that inhaling increased oxygen will strengthen the immune system and lessen headaches and sinus problems; reduce stress and relax the body; and boost concentration by increasing energy and alertness.

I’ve never had the opportunity to try the experience myself. Oh wait—perhaps I have through a natural process called exercise. I don’t want to be overly simplistic, but sometimes the solution to problems doesn’t get better with new ideas. For me, the simple yet effective remedy to stress is prayer and exercise.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Saturday Superfoods

If you’re anything like me, cooking dinner in the slow-cooker is actually a fast way to get dinner ready. In fact it hardly takes any time at all to prepare! It never seems to fail in quality either. Even a cheaper cut of meat will be tender when cook over time.

One of the drawbacks of slow-cooked meals is that cooking over time will drain out the nutrients, which is why it’s best to use the drippings as part of the meal. The drippings have a lot of flavor too. I like to make soups, stews and sauces in the slow-cooker for tasty and nutritious meals perfect for any winter day. Here is a recipe to try.

Low- fat Slow-cooked Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients

o 1 lb lean beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
o Cooking spray
o 1 white onion, chopped
o 1 clove garlic, minced
o 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
o 1 lb sliced mushrooms
o 1 cup fat-free sour cream
o 1 can Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup
o 1/2 cup water

Directions

Lightly spray frying pan with cooking spray, then cook meat chunks on high heat until all sides are brown. Combine all ingredients except sour cream and place in 4-5 quart slow-cooker. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.

Stir in sour cream. Cover and cook on high a few more minutes until heated through. Serve over wide whole wheat noodles.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Something Sweet

A few years ago I was watching Wheel of Fortune and attempting to solve the puzzles before the contestants did. One phrase I was able to solve readily, but the poor contestant didn’t do so well. The poor man guessed “mustard-filled chocolate eclairs.” Can you guess what it should have been?

Perhaps I would have no problems turning down dessert if it were chocolate filled with mustard. After all, mustard has been said to have “negative” calories. Wouldn’t that make it a prize winner for dieters across America?

Sometimes when I’m trying to lose weight I only eat “diet” or “lite” foods. Instead of a piece of chocolate cake, for instance, I might try to quench a chocolate craving with a slim fudge pop from the freezer. And sometimes it ends up tasting a bit like a mustard-filled chocolate ├ęclair might taste—pretty awful!

Perhaps it’s better to have the “real deal” than try to pretend that I’ll satisfy myself with substitute foods. I usually end up just eating more anyway. So how often should I eat dessert? I am pretty strict with myself right now since I am trying to lose weight. What about for the rest of my life? Do I have to rule out sweets altogether?

It seems every dietitian has a different answer for how much table sugar we should consume. For example, the American Heart Association says women should have no more than 100 calories of added sugar a day, while the Institute of Medicine sets the daily threshold at around 500 calories. That’s a huge difference!

Perhaps a better plan would be to limit excess sugar entirely except for one dessert a week. That way I could get what I want in terms of quality without jeopardizing my health. But I have to stay realistic and recognize how hard it is to truly cut out processed sugar from my diet when it’s in so many foods on the market.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Juice Healthy?

I recently read an article that suggested that people should drink 100% fruit juice as an alternative to soda pop. I have also read articles that have said that juice isn’t all that good for you. Who should I believe?

I start my research on the matter by looking up the nutrition information for one of my favorite “healthy” restaurants to visit—Jamba Juice. Turns out the Razzmatazz, my personal favorite, has lots of healthy fruit. It also contains 480 calories! That’s a huge chunk of my daily calories. Yet, after I drink it, I usually don’t feel like I’ve had a full meal.

In addition to the calories, the Razzmatazz contains 112 grams of carbohydrates. That is about one half of my recommended daily allowance, somewhat squandered in liquid form.

I open my refrigerator and find a container of apple juice. One cup contains 120 calories and 28 grams of carbs. Biting into an apple, on the other hand, will cost me 60 calories and 17 grams of carbs. Add to that the fact that an apple actually contains more nutrients and fiber than the juice, and when I’m done with the apple, I have the satisfaction of having eaten something.

I think I can figure out for myself whether juice is good for me or not. If it adds more calories and carbs than I should have, then it will sabotage my health. And if I want to run down to Jamba Juice, it will be a treat that I will enjoy. Hey, it’s better than chocolate mousse cake! But you can be sure that it’s not on my daily list of healthy foods. I don’t need an expert nutrition doctor to tell me that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Eating Out

Since I moved to California a couple of years ago I have missed my favorite restaurant. Living in Portland, Oregon, I may have been subjected to cloudy skies ten and a half months out of the year, but at least the city has some good restaurants. Where I live now seems to only have mass-produced chains.

There is some benefit to being surrounded by mediocre restaurants—it means I don’t go out very often! I’d much rather attempt to make my favorite Thai dish at home than eat deep-fried cholesterol soaked in msg.

Eating out has huge pitfalls. I don’t usually know what I’m eating exactly, how much fat it contains, or what chemicals have been added. Even when they give me the nutrition information, multiple studies have shown that the numbers are not accurate most of the time.

Who wants to go to a restaurant for chewy chicken breast anyway? If I’m out, chances are I’m going to choose the fattening stuff—and make that a side of fries please.

Some cheaper restaurants encourage more sales by giving lots more food for a fraction more of the price. It might be tempting to buy the bigger portion just because it’s such a good deal. Even the regular portions in most restaurants are too big. Yet, it’s hard to stop when I should.

When my husband and I were first married, we usually ordered one meal and split it when we ate at restaurants. Yes, even those meals when someone else was footing the bill. Unless we can get back to being that disciplined, I don’t think I should even step inside a restaurant more than once every couple of months.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February Goal

I recently received an email from a friend who said that she tries to keep moving throughout the day, even during nonphysical activities. She dances while she cleans, squats while she brushes her teeth, and even walks on all fours around her house. What an enterprising idea!

My goal for February is to move more. We still have plenty of cold, wet days ahead, so it may take some initiative and innovation to find ways to exercise. I have many friends who have found great ways to burn the calories during winter by joining a gym, jazzercising, turning on the wii fit, skiing, and even running outside in the cold.

I think a reasonable goal for starting is to exercise at least three days a week for at least 20 minutes. Finding time is probably as difficult as finding the energy, but with a little bit of push from our old buddy Determination, I think we might get the job done.

I like to start an exercise regimen with a routine that I most enjoy. For me, it’s spending time on the elliptical trainer with headphones in my ears. With a little help from my husband who watches the kids, I’m looking forward to hurdling past this exercise challenge. It can only get easier, right?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Progress

I have great news. During the month of January I successfully ate a healthy, balanced diet and lost nearly one fifth of the weight I’d like to lose. It was easier than I thought it would be, once I put my mind to it.

Every now and then it’s important to look back on the progress made and celebrate! I like to keep a running graph of my daily calorie intake—that part shows my effort. I also like to keep a graph of the pounds my body has lost—that part shows my reward.

Another way to gauge progress is to look in the closet. I like to keep a few “goal” clothes on hand to inspire me to fit into them someday. In my case, my pre-pregnancy clothes are patiently waiting in the back of my closet. They will feel brand new when I can wear them again!

Sometimes having these “goal” clothes can be a tad frustrating. I want to feel pretty now, even though I have a little extra cushioning. For that reason, I like to get nice clothes that fit me now. I also like to hang onto some of the clothes I wore before starting this weightloss journey. Getting rid of all those clothes is tempting, but I want to look back and see how far I’ve come, not just look forward to how far I have to go.

So I keep my big clothes that remind me of my progress, my little clothes that remind me of my goal, and my in-between clothes that fit me now. And I try to keep my husband happy with his quarter of the closet.