Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Really Hungry?

My daughter Eden has truly discovered the joys of candy. How did that happen? I wasn’t going to let her have candy until she was at least 14! Somehow it never works that way. There are those good-intentioned people around who love to offer candy to kids, and my daughter is not exempt! Furthermore, I want to be able to give her sweets now and then not only because she enjoys them, but a way of teaching moderation.

A little candy here and there has awoken Eden’s cravings, and hardly two hours go by when she doesn’t ask for something “special.” She has even gone so far as to say, “I need candy, Mommy!”

I can’t really be too hard on her because there are times when I think those same words. I need something. A pick-me-up. Maybe a little chocolate. In those mid-afternoon hours, I can feel shaky and sluggish. I’m hungry! Or am I just craving food?

Recently I read a health article that suggested a good to test to see if what we’re experiencing is a craving or actual hunger. It’s called the apple test. If you would say yes to an apple, the feelings are probably hunger. If you’d turn down the apple as unappealing and turn to salty or sugary foods, the feelings are probably cravings.

It is important to keep from getting too hungry, since food is what fuels our bodies. Still, there just might be many times when I’m reaching for the caramel instead of the apple. If I’m not sure if I’m really hungry or not, perhaps I’ll stick to apples just to play it safe.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Waiting

My husband and I recently celebrated our fourth anniversary. Many times I say “time flies”—and it truly does! But when it comes to our marriage, my husband and I like to laugh about the fact that in many ways if feels longer than four years. I already feel like I have spent my whole life with my husband and I almost can’t remember myself without him. Perhaps that’s because he truly is my second half and I have been married to him in spirit my whole life! Now there’s a romantic idea.

My husband is my biggest support and my best friend. I wasn’t married until I was close to 30, so I had plenty of time to see how life was as an adult on my own. I was successful, but not completely happy. If I were to define in a word how my life has changed in the past four years, I’d say that I am happy.

I know what it’s like to be alone, though, and so here are a few words for those people who have not found the person who they are waiting for in life. First, it’s worth the wait when you find the right person. Second, life changes suddenly, so don’t hibernate or you might miss the opportunity you’ve been waiting for! Third, even while being single, life is very meaningful. In fact, it’s rich. As a single person, I was able to experience a life that was carefree in many ways, spontaneous, and just plain fun. Now that I’m tied down with a family, I’m very glad I had that decade to enjoy my independence. Finally, if there is something that you can do to feel better about yourself and your circumstances, do it. For me, I got a couple of college degrees, lost weight, and traveled. Life looks pretty exciting when there are goals to be met ahead, and goals that have been accomplished behind.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Budget

They say that keeping a budget is what you should do to stay out of debt or to keep from stressing out about finances in general. I think the same could be true to keep from stressing out about weight and food.

Sometimes at the end of the month, I wonder—where did our money go? How did it slip through our fingers? We surely didn’t spend that much! But I really don’t think anyone robbed our bank account when we weren’t looking. If I were to tally the costs of the month, the trip to the grocery store here, the restaurant outing there, I would see that we really did spend that much.

Pretty much the same thing happens when I don’t budget what I eat. I get to the end of the month and wonder—why haven’t I lost any weight? I surely didn’t eat that many calories! What’s wrong with my body anyway? But if I were to tally up the calories, a couple of munchies here, and can of soda pop there, I would see that I really did consume more calories that I should.

Scheduling a weekly meal plan and logging daily calories are a sure way to know that I am where I should be in my eating. If I stab at a guess, I’m usually wrong. It seems simple, but simple things aren’t always fun. Some days, I just plain don’t feel like doing it. But I’m a smart woman, and as all smart people know, I can’t let temporary feelings keep me from trying every day, even though I don’t feel like it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Foods

Whole Grain Waffles

Ingredients
2 eggs, beaten
1¾ cups milk
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup flax seed meal
¼ cup wheat germ
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Beat in whole wheat pastry flour, flax seed meal, wheat germ, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt until batter is smooth.
2. Preheat a waffle iron, and coat with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron in batches, and cook until crisp and golden brown.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taking Care of My Body

I love to garden, but I have to admit that I’ve let the patch of land in front of my house go wild recently. It’s easy to care for the back yard because I am there more often and I can let my kids play while I work. The front is easy to forget about and neglect. And it’s what everyone else sees!

I see a parallel to other parts of my life. I might work very hard at my job and be very successful—and let my body go ignored. It’s not convenient or always possible to do the maintenance I need to do with that part of my life. It’s easy to forget about it, to neglect it. But my body is what everyone else sees. Furthermore, it’s the house that my soul will live in until I die. I have every reason in the world to take care of it, even if I forget that sometimes. It’s precious.

I’m reminded of something I’ve told my voice students from time to time. It’s easy to abuse your voice, especially if you’re at a lot of sports games, taking long road trips, or trying to sing like Aretha Franklin. If you blast your voice louder than it should be blasted, over time it will do some damage. Can you imagine a talented violinist setting the most valuable violin in the world on the floor, and stomping it to pieces? The thought makes me cringe. And yet, there are times people do similar hurt to their voice. Even an extremely valuable violin can be replaced. Never a voice.

Neither can a body be replaced. Sure there are times when we eat too much or don’t exercise enough. But eventually we have to get to work, weed out the garden so to speak, and take care of our bodies. Then maintain those weeds and keep them away! We cannot be replaced.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Think Small

contributed by Rosemary Worthington

Our family tends to do things in a big way! Early on, when I would hike, I would be the first one up the mountain. My husband and I would go out in the ocean and find the biggest waves to jump. Most of our children inherited this tendency. When they sang, it would be with all their hearts. My son would play basketball with a vengeance. Just the other day a younger guy on the court called him a “beast” at the game. My daughters have had adventures because of their zeal for an exciting life.

Unfortunately, we also used to eat in a big way. I would cook a huge pan of food to feed my large family. Giving generous helpings to my children comforted me because I knew they were getting all those vitamins and minerals that were so healthy for them. Sure there would be leftovers with all that I made, so why not have seconds? After all it was healthy food!

Now I realize that sometimes less really is more. A moderate helping can still provide all the essential nutrients just as well as a heaping plate. Now I know it is okay if we don’t “clean our plates” at every meal. I now realize if I cook less, it is much easier to eat less. And when we eat less, we are less hungry at the next meal.

Working at or worrying about weight has been a big part of my life. After many years of diets or feeling resigned that maybe it is just too hard for me to lose, I have had an “epiphany”! I believe it will work for the rest of my life if I continue to follow it. The “secret”? Eat small meals! Sure, I may get hungry again in a couple of hours. Then I will have a calorie controlled snack. By keeping track of my calories and eating small meals and snacks often throughout the day, I find I am happy and eat when I am hungry. And I am losing weight! Best of all, I feel I could continue this way for the rest of my life and be happy!

I read once that a woman who was trying to lose weight had a sign on her computer that read, “Think small.” When her boss found it, he replaced it with another sign , “Not in this company!” But, she was right! It is okay in life, for some things, to “think small”!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Snooze on an Empty Stomach

Some of the best eating advice I have received was a warning not to eat within 2 or 3 hours of going to bed. I’ve thought about it and tested it, and found it to be sound advice.

Several things can happen when eating too late at night. First, the body has negative reactions to the food. Digestion issues and heartburn are examples. The body isn’t able to sleep as deeply on a full stomach, thus making for less energy the following day. The metabolism slows in the evening, making the food that enters the body much more likely to turn to fat. The morning after late-night eating leaves the body sluggish and with a low-appetite, resulting in a higher likelihood to skip breakfast and delve into unhealthy snacks later on.

When you think about it, our bodies don’t need energy late at night. There is really no necessity in fueling ourselves for bed. If there ever is a time to feel tired and sluggish, bedtime is it! When I wake in the morning and feel that wonderful healthy appetite for something nutritious to fill my stomach, knowing that I ate right the night before, it’s simply a wonderful feeling.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Power of Saying No

I can say no to tortilla chips. Most of the time. The exception is one particular brand my husband buys sometimes. I might be a little bit hungry, craving a little salt and crunch. I open the pantry door and there they are. It is possible they can talk? Because I’m hearing that I should open that bag and start eating!

From somewhere very far away something nags at my consciousness that I could and should say one of the most powerful words in my vocabulary: no. No may be the sensible thing to say to unhealthy foods—but it’s not always easy.

Part of the problem is that it’s hard to see the benefit of saying no immediately. Sure, in a few days the scale might show it a little. In a few months it will make a difference. But what I need is immediate gratification that I just said no. Something that can trump the food itself.

I have a great idea I’d like to try that will give an immediate reward, a long term reward, and a healthy reward. I plan to get a small pickle jar to keep in the pantry. Every time I say no to something I shouldn’t eat, or successfully stop after I’ve had enough though I may want more, I will get to place a penny into the jar. When the jar is full, I can reward myself with a shopping spree for a new outfit. It may be a bit contrived, I admit, but sometimes it takes some creativity to keep life fun and successful.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Who I Am

Hobbies can make a person. For instance, I love to sing. Because of that, people might call me a musician, even if my profession is something else. Think of a few of your acquaintances and describe them. Chances are their line of work won’t come into your assessment. It’s what people are passionate about that defines them.

Using this method of defining a person, who are you? I would define myself as a mom, wife, Christian, musician, writer, reader, artist, gardener, teacher, and cook.

Sometimes I want to be someone that I’m not to some extent. I used to be a hiker, but since I don’t spend much time doing that lately, I really wouldn’t define myself as such. Yet, I wish I could. I have always wished I could speak a foreign language, but since I am not taking steps to become bilingual, I can’t define myself in that way either. I wish I was a guitar player, a writer of fiction, a horsewoman, and a world traveler. But I don’t wish I were those things so badly that I am doing anything about it!

I am satisfied with my list that defines me, although I may wish there were a few things added to it. I wish I had a fit body, without excess pounds. The good thing is that I’m doing something about that. I might not be able to add that to my list quite yet, but as I keep working at it, someday soon I will.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just In Time

Sometimes timing is everything. Here is a list that shows that when you do something can be as significant as what you do.

1. Study and do the bills from 10-11 AM or 8-9 PM. Studies show our maximum alertness and ability to focus is during those times.

2. Take a short nap sometime from 1-3 PM. The body naturally has an energy slump during this time, but with a 10 minute nap, we can be recharged.

3. Vacation in February, when winter blues and cloudy days might start to get us down.

4. Exercise early in the day. A morning workout will increase the chances of it being done that day, boosts energy for the rest of the day, and we have more energy for a better workout during that time.

5. Learn and practice a skill such as tennis, gymnastics, and piano between 4-6 PM. Studies show that we learn skills better during that time of day.

6. Schedule surgery (if possible) for winter or spring, when med students have had a few months to learn the ropes. Studies have shown that the mortality rate increases by 4% during July, August, and September, when med students start their training.

7. Get the flu shot between October and November to be immune before the flu season gets underway.

8. Sleep the same schedule each night, at least for 7 hours. Research has shown that people who sleep at least that amount are less likely to be obese.

9. Go to bed no sooner than 3 hours after dinner. Eating too close to sleeping can produce heartburn and hinder the body from a deeper sleep.

10. Take multivitamins with a meal. The body absorbs the vitamins better with food.


Stats taken from the following article
http://www.prevention.com/healthiesttime/index.html

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Path of Least Resistance

Ants are probably some of the most annoying creatures I have encountered. Before we started getting pest control service in our household, we simply could not get rid of the ant problem. They were in the kitchen, the bathrooms, the garden—everywhere!

Regardless of their annoyance, however, ants are admirable creatures. They are some of the busiest creatures on the planet, collecting food, storing for winter, and exploring for more food. Ants can carry 50 times their weight in food back to the colony. (I complain when I have to lift my 2-year-old daughter.)

Even an ant, as good of a worker as it is, tries to reduce the amount of work it takes to do something. When an ant finds a source of food, it returns to its colony and leaves a scented trail to alert other ants of the find. Over time, ants find the shortest path to the food, even if longer trails once existed.

I certainly can relate with that. It’s perfectly understandable to want to find the path of least resistance in life. It’s part of being resourceful and efficient. Still, sometimes it’s easy to take that philosophy to the extreme. It might be easier to drive than to walk somewhere, for instance, so I am much less active than I could be. It’s easier to go out to eat than to cook, so I may end up consuming less-than-healthy food. It’s easier to eat mindlessly than to count calories, so I might slack off on that task. If I’m not careful, the path of least resistance could turn into to plain old laziness.

The wise King Solomon gave the following advice: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”

Ants have found that perfect balance between being resourceful with their energy, while still working hard. If I pattern my life after the ant, I just might find myself a very successful person! I do hope, however, that I can avoid being an annoying pest to others.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

10 Strategies that Work

Living healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. Making sensible choices can be as easy as making a list. Here is a list of simple changes that will make a huge difference in a person’s life. After reading the list, can you add anything to it?

1. Chew gum when the desire for snacking arises
2. Opt for a protein-rich snack instead of foods with sugar or simple carbs
3. Don’t drink the calories
4. Drink lots of water
5. Bring a lunch to work
6. Daily track your calorie intake
7. Sleep enough
8. Eat slowly
9. Don’t watch TV while eating
10. Break a sweat every day

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pain, No Gain

When I was young I thought the only way to lose weight was to go hungry. No pain, no gain. I’d start a new diet every couple of months, and endure the torture of a gnawing stomach before lunch, a gnawing stomach mid-afternoon, and a desperation to eat about an hour before dinner. By 8 o’clock in the evening, I wasn’t just physically worn out, I was disheartened and frustrated. All I could think about was eating.

The starving-yourself kind of dieting reminds me of the fad diets many celebrities go on. What the pop culture thinks is a good image usually isn’t healthy. Furthermore, starving the body is counter-productive. For starters, it usually doesn’t help a person lose weight and keep it off because it’s too extreme to live by. If starving does make a person lose weight for long-term, that person usually has greater physical problems than she ever had when she was overweight. In fact, she could end up with a terminal condition.

Starving the body is a negative approach. When I would starve myself, I often felt depressed. I almost never felt like exercising. My diets were always short-lived.

Fueling my body with of good amount of nutrients and calories is a positive approach. I do feel like exercising! I feel rejuvenated. I sleep well at night. I stick to the eating plan, since I feel so good.

It may take a little longer to lose the weight I’m trying to lose, but that’s okay. I’ve learned that the positive approach is really the only way I’m going to be successful at losing and keeping the weight off, so it’ll be worth it in the end.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Superfoods

Very Veggie Skillet Casserole

Ingredients

• 3/4 pound lean ground turkey breast
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow summer squash
• 1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
• 1/2 cup sliced celery
• 1/2 cup sliced carrot
• salt
• ground black pepper
• 1 cup instant brown rice
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium chicken bouillon granules
• 4 cups baby spinach

Directions

1. In a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground turkey, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. With a slotted spoon, transfer the turkey to a medium bowl.
2. In the same skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Add the squash, tomato, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
3. Return the turkey and any juices to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the rice, water, and bouillon granules. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook about 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Stir in the spinach, cover, and cook about 1 minute longer, or until the spinach is wilted.

Nutritional Facts per serving

CALORIES 245.3 CAL
FAT 9.1 G
SATURATED FAT 1.1 G
CHOLESTEROL 33.8 MG
SODIUM 159.1 MG
CARBOHYDRATES 19.6 G
TOTAL SUGARS 3 G
DIETARY FIBER 2.9 G
PROTEIN 23.8 G

Recipe from Prevention.com

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stick With It

I was a middle school teacher for a few years, and I remember my first year of teaching was very overwhelming. No matter how much talent, enthusiasm or academic knowledge I had, I would never have been fully prepared to teach 30 squirrelly 6th graders all day! By the time summer finally arrived that year, I wanted to go home and never come back. I still felt that way in September.

By some miracle, however, my second year teaching was nothing like the first. Thereafter, teaching just got easier and easier. It’s amazing how easy something can become after doing it a few times.

Starting an exercise program might be similar to my first year teaching. It might seem so hard! So huge and impossible! But it can get easier until it’s a routine part of life.

In teaching, I started my first year with optimism and energy, enough to push me through the first few months. My great accomplishment was getting through the middle of the school year, when my energy was almost gone.

It’s easy to get inspired to start a diet or an exercise program. But what really proves the strength of my commitment is what I do in the weeks that follow, when I least feel like doing anything. If I really want something, little will keep me from it.

Quitting my job wasn’t an option that first year of teaching. Perhaps that’s why I stuck to it. If I could stick to my exercise goals with the same urgency, I will undoubtedly be able to do amazing things.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

First Things First

I had a chance to get a bunch of housework done today because my daughter spent the day with a friend. One of the first things I did was sit down to make a list of what needed to be done. I searched online for a good list template, but all the lists I found needed a different computer program than I had. I thought perhaps I could make my own list template. I could color-code the different tasks, and make little columns for checking off when I completed the task. Funny, I couldn’t find a little check-mark graphic. I searched around a while until finally I found it. This was going to be the best list ever. Now, what should I put my list?

You’re probably realizing a lot sooner than I did that I spent a very unproductive hour! Making a to-do list can be a huge time waster. I just need to dive in and get to work. That being said, there are a few top items that should always get done before anything else. I may need to make a list for those things if it means keeping them top priority.

We all have those most-important things that if we don’t do first, the opportunity will slip away leaving us missing our goals. For instance, if I don’t put exercise first, it probably just won’t happen.

I like to think of the sand and rock example. It goes like this. There is a glass vase that symbolizes your day. At the beginning of each day you have rocks of all sizes, from fist-sized boulders to tiny grains of sand. The biggest rocks symbolize your toughest goals, like exercising. The pebbles represent your everyday chores. The tiny grains of sand symbolize leisure activities, like watching TV or getting online. If you place the large rocks in the vase first, then the smaller pebbles will fit in around the big rocks, and finally you’ll have room for the sand. But if you fill up your daily vase with sand first, there will never be room for bigger rocks. Incidentally, you can fit a lot of sand into a rock and pebbled-filled vase.

Keeping important things first is the best way to make sure they will be accomplished. Then when it’s time to play, well, it’s way more fun!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Have you heard the World’s Funniest Joke, according to Wikipedia? Here it is.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip, and after finishing their dinner they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

"I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes," exclaims Watson.

"And what do you deduce from that?"

Watson ponders for a minute. "Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?"

"Watson, you idiot!" He exclaims, "Somebody's stolen our tent!"


When was the last time you had a good, long laugh? After it was over, you probably said something like, “Boy, I needed that!” Laughter is one of the most enjoyable ways to feel healthy—it really does make a person feel better!

I’ve actually read that there are physical reasons that laughter is healthy for us. Laughter relaxes the body, relieving tension and stress. It boosts the immune system. Laughter triggers the release of feel-good endorphins. It boosts oxygen levels. It relieves pain! Laughter protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow.

While I’m sure the physical rewards have merit, who thinks about that stuff? We all know from first hand experience that laughter makes us feel good on an emotional level. It’s infectious. It has a way of binding people together and increasing intimacy. Sharing a good laugh is one of the best ways to lighten a bad situation and move past our hurts. It creates golden memories. It gives a spark of hope.

Sometimes I need to tell myself to lighten up. Life can get very serious if I let it. There’s certainly no better way to lighten up my outlook than to laugh. Heard a good joke anyone?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Salads May Be Unhealthy

Picture this. You go out to a restaurant with some friends. Instead of ordering the fried onion rings or juicy burger, you sacrifice for the sake of being healthy by ordering a salad. You look with a bit of envy at your friends’ plates when the meal is delivered. The sizzling fajitas smell so good. The stringy chili fries looks so nummy. You bite into your cold, prudent salad and feel a little bit mollified, thinking that at least you’re the most sensible one at the table. Right?

Well, perhaps not. Unfortunately, restaurant salads can be very deceiving. Take Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad with Oriental vinaigrette dressing. It contains 1,430 calories. Yikes! That is a mountain of calories. Quizno’s Honey Mustard Chicken Regular Chopped Salad has 920 calories and a whopping 65 grams of fat. Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad has 1400 calories and 88 grams of fat. I’ll just say it—that’s outrageous.

I read an article by a health expert who said that at Mexican restaurants, salads are the least healthy items on the menu. That may be opinion in part, but there is a warning that comes through—don’t over-trust a salad.

What might make the calories and fat tip on the heavy side are the dressing, breaded and fried meat, fried shells, croutons, cheese, and oversized portions. If in doubt on how to order, order salads that have the calorie and fat content listed in the menu, or research the information before going to the restaurant. If I’m going to make sacrifices when I eat out, I want them to count.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sick Days

No one enjoys being sick. While I believe eating healthy will improve how I feel and lower the chances that I will get diseases, unfortunately it doesn’t mean that I’ll never get sick! Sometimes we just have to take a few days to rest and endure it.

I found the recipe below and it sounds about perfect for those sick days. Now if only we can get someone to make it for us!

Get Well Soup
1 Tsp Butter
1 Tsp Olive Oil
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced with a pinch of Sea Salt
1 Large Onion, Chopped
6 Celery Stalks, Chopped
8 Medium Carrots, Chopped
8 Cups of Chicken Broth
1/2 Tsp Thyme
1 Tsp Parsley
1/4 Tsp Sage
1/4 Tsp Basil
1/4 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Whole Chicken Breasts, Bone in with Skin (Preferably Organic)
2 Cups of Cooked Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Pasta, or Noodles

Melt Butter and Olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute the garlic until fragrant. Immediately add onions, combine well and caramelize. Add celery and carrots. Toss well. Deglaze the stockpot with the chicken stock. Add the dried herbs. (If using fresh herbs, double the amount.)

Add the chicken breasts, place lid on the stock pot and bring soup to a rolling boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken breasts are done. Remove chicken breasts from pot and place on a large cutting board to cool slightly. Add rice, pasta, or noodles to the pot and bring soup back to a rolling boil.

Meanwhile, remove skin from chicken and discard. Remove chicken from bone and discard all bones. Chop or shred chicken, return to stock pot, and return to a rolling boil. Boil soup for 3 minutes and turn heat down to low. Skim pools of fat from the top. It is not difficult to remove all of the fat, but I prefer to leave some behind as it adds quite a bit of flavor to the soup. Ladle into bowls and serve steaming hot.
www.ceressecrets.com/2007/05/25/get-well-soup/

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Crockpot Chicken, Beans, and Rice Stew

Ingredients
1 cup white beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
1 lb chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup chunky salsa (or pico de gallo)
1 cup rice
¼ tsp cumin
1 ½ Tbsp peanut butter
½ cup boiling water
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts
1 Tbsp lime juice
Cilantro

Directions
Soak beans overnight in a pot of water. Drain and rinse.

Sauté garlic and ginger for 30 second in olive oil, then add chicken until all sides are browned. Place chicken in Crockpot.

Using the same pan, sauté onion and celery for 4-5 minutes. Mix in chicken broth to the pan, then pour the mixture into the Crockpot.

Add all remaining ingredients except peanut butter, peanuts, and lime juice. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours.

Mix boiling water with peanut butter until well blended. Add peanut butter mixture into stew. Add peanuts and lime juice. Garnish with cilantro. Serve.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Put Myself First?

Recently Eden was invited to participate in a sticker exchange that my husband jokingly called a pyramid scheme. The gist of the exchange is that you send 6 copies of the letter to your friends, and one packet of stickers to the person written on your invitation, and within a couple of weeks, Eden should get 36 packets of stickers for the price of sending one.

Giving often works that way. When we give to people and for people, we are rewarded many times over. We probably don’t receive money or stickers—the reward is often internal and longer lasting than that. Giving has a way of reaping benefits and building connections with other people. You have probably heard the term “paying it forward,” referring to the idea that if you give to others, then when you need something in the future, someone will give to you.

There is a popular TV reality show called The Biggest Loser that I often watch. Although there are many things I enjoy about the show, I don’t always agree with the trainers. One of the philosophies that they promote is that people need to “put yourself first.” In this week’s episode, one of the contestants, Michael, was given the power to choose teams for the players. He made his decision based on what would help him stay on the show the longest—basically stacking up his team with the strongest players so that they wouldn’t have to go to the elimination room. He wasn’t very popular for his decision, with the trainers or the other players. His response when one of the trainers called him out on his selfish decision? “I finally put myself first, just like you’ve been telling me to do.”

I’m not convinced that “putting myself first” is the secret to losing weight or getting healthy. Usually that kind of mentality just helps me succeed in losing friends and hurting the people I love. I’d much rather give of myself, without expecting much in return, and be surprisingly rewarded by the love and support I get many times over in return.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sleep

The other morning I was in bed sleeping, exhausted after a rough night with my son Lance. Suddenly, I had the wind knocked out of me as cold water gushed down my back. I was up in a flash only to find my 2-year-old Eden standing by the bed, holding up an empty glass.

“Here go, Mommy!” she exclaimed brightly. I lifted the soaking blankets off of me and got up. My chance at sleep was clearly over.

I have heard of people who are able to charge ahead with thrusters on full, day after day, with only four to six hours of sleep a night. I am not one of those people. In fact, I’d like to know how they do it! I seem to require a lot of sleep. If I slept as long as I wanted each night, it would probably be somewhere around nine to ten hours a night.

My need for sleep usually lessens during summer, especially when the days are extremely short. I suppose that the sun and light give me more energy. Likewise, during winter is when I need the most sleep. I could sleep ten hours and still nap during the afternoon if I had the opportunity!

Some people might say that sleeping is a way to waste your life. I suppose that is true to an extent. I wouldn’t want to sleep and miss something important. But I also wonder if sleeping means I’ll have a longer life. Perhaps I’m adding years to my life by staying rested when I can. Certainly getting enough sleep will keep me healthy. If it means I feel better, think better, and achieve better things during my days, I don’t think a little more sleep is a waste of time at all. Now, if only my kids would agree!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stress and Fatty Foods

I recently received an email from a friend who mentioned that levels of high stress have been found to create a craving for fatty foods. I certainly have experienced that myself.

After a little research, I found that in a study by UCSF, 600 women were surveyed regarding their stress levels and diet. They were questioned about various stress factors, from work problems to financial problems to family concerns. There was a remarkable correlation between the levels—as the stress went up, so did the fatty food intake.

So why do we crave these foods? Think of our bodies as going into “survival” mode when we’re stressed. The natural reaction is that our bodies want to cling to fat, since fat is what fuels the body. Therefore when we’re stressed, our appetites tend toward fatty foods.

Another reason for craving fatty foods might be based on emotional needs. We often desire to feel full and satisfied physically, especially if we don’t feel satisfied emotionally. Nothing satisfies the body better than fats. When we’re stressed, we usually we feel like we deserve an extra indulgence too!

Being aware of our predictable cravings is an important step in being able to handle them. We might not be able to do much about our circumstances in life, but knowing how our bodies react can help us use our heads when the physical and emotional “needs” take over.

Thanks to Becky for a great topic!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Scale

The scale is powerful. It has an amazing ability to bring great joy or great disappointment to a person. It’s interesting how much importance I can put on a few numbers. It’s as if the scale itself judges on whether or not I have been successful. The scale becomes my affirmation. It tells me that I’m being healthy or not, right?

I spoke with someone recently who has been trying to lose excess weight and has come up against a common problem. She was doing everything right—counting calories, balancing foods groups, and drinking water—but for some mysterious reason, she hadn’t lost any weight.

It can be discouraging! When you work at it for weeks, only to have your one source of affirmation tell you that you’ve failed. I’ve seen people give up based on what the scale tells them.

I don’t understand why the numbers on the scale don’t move as fast for certain people, or why there are times when the numbers go down rapidly or slowly. I don’t believe that the scale is the only measure of success when it comes to being healthy and even getting fit. There are other ways to measure success.

Measuring inches, for example, will show the loss of fat from the body. Sometimes our bodies are gaining muscle through our exercise, which will appear on the scale as no weightloss. We very well might be losing excess fat and inches, however.

Scales are important to a degree because they can help give us an idea if we are doing something right or wrong over a long period of time, but it’s not the only measure of success. Sometimes the best measure of success is whether or not we have met the personal goal we set, regardless of the short term results.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Again and Again

My son Lance is almost 7 months and beginning to move around the house. My husband thinks he looks like a komodo dragon when he crawls. It’s very charming to watch him explore.

Recently he has begun to pull himself up to a standing position when he is near the couch or a chair. Unfortunately, he has also tried pulling himself up using moveable objects, like his activity chair with wheels or the open pantry door. He is amazingly hearty, the way he endures the crashes he has during these endeavors, not to mention the crashes he endures at the hand of his 2-year-old sister.

I have discovered something about Lance that I have found rather inspiring. When he has his falls, he immediately gets back up and tries the task again. Even times when he really gets slammed and cries so that I feel like my heart will break when I hear it, within minutes, he’s back to his exploring without holding back.

What an inspiration a baby can be! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could have that kind of resilience emotionally and physically? Perhaps I’ll start trying to be like Lance the next time I fail, and fail again, and fail again. He would get up and try again.