Thursday, September 30, 2010

Free Foods

I am a huge fan of freebies.  I subscribe to a blog written by a local woman who posts great deals in the Sacramento area and online.  She often includes free stuff.  I just signed up to get Kashi cereal bars, wrinkle-fighting eye cream, and Glade air fresheners, all for free.  It has me going to check the mail a lot more often.

I have heard of some foods as being freebies.  Free foods are foods that have a high enough fiber count and low enough caloric and fat count to make it virtually insignificant calories.    

My sister Jillian is big on these foods.  Jillian has lost 153 pounds, and part of her recipe for success is to never run out of free foods.  She says she makes at least two grocery store runs a week for fresh vegetables.  They are always on hand at her house.  When she exhausts her calorie intake at the end of a day, she pulls out the free foods.  “I have a limited amount of calories for each meal.  At the end of a meal if everyone else is still eating, I can nibble on free foods,” she says.

These free foods include some of the following:

Low-calorie fruits: apples, blackberries, cucumbers, grapefruit, melon, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Low-starchy vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, squash, and watercress.

Packaged foods: fat-free salad dressing, fat-free vinaigrette, popcorn, rice cakes, sugar-free Jell-O.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Matter of Taste

Do you ever munch, and munch, and keep on munching when you are not even hungry? Many times we blame emotions or compulsive behavior on why we overeat. But there may be simple, logical reasons too. Sometimes it has little to do with emotion, and all to do with our physical reaction to food.

Our tastes buds are one of the biggest reasons we eat. Do you ever eat a salty, garlicky dinner, and spend the subsequent hour nibbling on more foods to get rid of that aftertaste? Sometimes a simple need to cleanse our palate gives us reason to overeat.

Then there’s the food-that’s-so-good-I-can’t-stop-eating-it. Lay's Sour Cream and Onion potato chips used to the have the slogan, “No one can eat just one”—and they were probably right. Foods that are temporarily addicting usually have salty and savory flavors. As soon as our taste buds get a sample, they crave more. A cleansing of the palate would be the solution here too.

See the two lists bellow. “Problem foods” are foods and flavors that may cause a person to overeat, based on after-taste or a temporary taste-bud craving. Note that not all these foods are bad foods—some of them are quite nutritious. “Solution foods” are foods and flavors that will help cleanse the palate, and to help stop the momentum of snacking.

Artificial sweeteners Apple
Cheerios Celery
Cheese Cucumber
Chili peppers Fruit sorbet
Chocolate Grapefruit
Curry Green pepper
Coffee Gum
Garlic Lemon
Milk Lime
MSG Lotus tea
Onions Mint
Potato chips Orange
Salad dressing Parsley
Salty foods Toothpaste
Soda pop Water
Spicy foods

Monday, September 27, 2010

Double the Workout

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went on a long bike ride along the American River Bike Trail. We strapped the two kids in the bike trailer, hoping they wouldn’t fight or get too bored. It’s not easy to find activities to push us physically when our kids are both toddlers, but this seemed to be working.

The trail was surprisingly beautiful. I didn’t expect much since it’s in the middle of the city, but the area is a nature reserve and with the trees it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We crossed under a freeway here and there, and watched a train go by—Eden loved it!—but it was mostly just us, nature, and a few cool bikers who zoomed past us in their skin-tight biker shorts.

We rode until we were satisfyingly tired and the kids were getting a little fussy. There was a picnic table off the road in the shade, and we pulled out our lunch. After eating and trying without success to catch the squirrel that came to visit, the kids piled back into the trailer and off we went.

It was then that I realized that we would have to bike the entire distance back to the car. It’s one thing to run on a circular track until you get tired; it’s another thing to get tired and realize you have to retrace your way back to the starting point. We were only half done! I felt every muscle in my legs and my rear end, believe me.

It actually wasn’t too bad though. I have now formed a new strategy: if you want to push yourself to go longer and harder in exercise, go on a trail instead of a track. It will force you to exercise longer. I would have stopped at the picnic table if this had been a track. Instead I got double the workout.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Keep Moving

My daughter Eden recently went to an amusement park called Fairytale Town. It was an enchanting place to explore, and she was fortunate enough to have her cousin Evan with her. Alone she would have wandered around in mild excitement at the attractions, like the moat-enclosed castle, the humongous shoe with a slide, live pigs, and pirate boat. But with Evan at her side, the two of them were literally screaming with anticipation for what was next. They ran up to each fascination, climbed, jumped, slid, and ran off to the next.

I was glad that the park had many attractions because it kept them enthralled for hours. Halfway through the adventure Eden abandoned her shoes. Apparently they were bothering her feet. It wasn’t until later at home that I saw the huge blisters on each foot. One was white and puffy, the other was raw and red.

As soon as Eden saw the sores she began to complain about the hurt. The complaining escalated until she was wailing on the couch and refusing to move. In her biggest whiny voice she proclaimed, “I can’t walk!” I refrained from rolling my eyes, having witnessed her run quite unaffectedly through the many attractions at the park.

I can’t be too hard on her because I have my moments when I nurse my wounds. It can be very easy to use this ache or that ailment to drop my active intentions. I lie on the couch sometimes, inwardly screaming, “I can’t walk!” I suppose I need a mom, rolling her eyes at my dramatics. Telling me that if I can manage to walk to the refrigerator, I can manage to walk a mile and back. Or perhaps I need an energetic cousin to inspire me to run with excitement for hours.

Eden eventually got off the couch, and within a minute or two she forgot about her owies. Even if I don’t have a coach cheering or jeering—or whatever I may need at the moment—I still can be my own coach. When I get up and start moving I usually forget the reasons I had to stay on the couch within a minute or two.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Break

I was care-free and independent last weekend. For the first time since my first child was born, I left my kids for more than a couple of hours. I flew 2000 miles away to St. Louis, Missouri, to visit with my parents and sisters.

I didn’t know what to expect when I left. My one-year-old Lance may be outgoing, but if someone other than mommy or daddy picks him up he cries his little heart out. My daughter is doing better with other adults, but she has been struggling with some other 3-year-old issues such as toilet training.

When this opportunity came to join my sisters in a trip without kids, I knew it was exactly what I wanted—even needed. Unfortunately, my husband discovered he was needed at work, and it didn’t look like it would work out. My reaction to the disappointment surprised even me: I felt crushed! Somehow I needed this trip even more than I had realized.

The answer came from Grandma, my husband’s mom. She generously rearranged her schedule to watch the kids so that I could go. (Hurray for Grandma!) All I had to do was have a good time, and not worry too much about the kids.

It was easy to relax and enjoy myself because every time I called them, the kids were happy and content. They were having such a good time, in fact, that I began to wonder if they missed me at all! But it really was a blessing, and I was able to get the much needed break.

I confess that I did not eat the best. But I am back home, back on track, and feeling oh-so-refreshed. My healthy goals are easier to shoot for than ever. Sometimes a time away is just what we need to continue the sometimes laborious path of being successful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Five

We just lay there a few moments, too weary and cold to move. Slowly I became aware of my surroundings, the scratchy rock beneath my back, the tuft of wild grass at my feet. We were perhaps three-fourths the way to the summit.

I looked down from where we had climbed and noticed how much closer everything looked than it actually was. The trees below us hardly seemed any great distance away, but we had just expended nearly all our strength to make it from there to here.

As we gazed around, unexpectedly we saw it. Running off the ledge was a rough path. I sat up. I was having a hard time thinking clearly, and suddenly I wasn’t sure what to do. Should we take it? Would it evaporate as our previous trails had done?

In our muddled state, we did the best thing we knew to do. We stood and prayed. I simply asked God, should we take this trail? I felt a warm presence at my back, gently nudging me forward, and I knew that God had answered my prayer. I told Laura, and she said she had gotten the same answer.

Within a quarter mile of walking we spotted a small stack of rocks, balanced one on top of another. A quarter of a mile farther we saw another such formation. These were markers from some other hikers. Someone had been here. It was a real trail.

Then we saw the thing that will always make me marvel. It was a three-foot wooden post that was the only official marker on the main trail. The small trail we had found had brought us to that very spot. We had found the main trail at last!

The descent is a blur in my mind. I remember we veered off the trail a couple of times, but found our way back. After we were below the timberline we entered a mist of clouds, but the temperature was warmer. When we heard the river for the first time, I made a joke about it just being the wind in the trees. We finally saw the bridge, and then Laura’s car. We were safe.

Before leaving we took time to write in the hikers’ log the time that we returned, and added, “Trail hard to find on the way down” next to it. In the car was a delicious gallon of water and energy bars. We blasted the heater the entire 45 minutes to my house, arriving at 6:00 am.

That experience changed my life in many ways. Soon after that I moved to Portland and went back to school to get my master’s degree. I became much more active physically. My faith in God grew stronger. I pushed myself to try harder at everything.

I feel that my mountain experience taught me how to live deeper and fuller. Through it I had been forced to exceed my expectations, and my eyes were opened to vast more possibilities. I would never want to go through that night again, but I will forever say that my experience on the mountain blessed my life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Four

I was so cold I could hardly move. I was inching my way up a steep wall of sandy rock. Somewhere up there above our heads was the trail that would lead us down the mountain to safety, but I was no longer sure I had it in me to make it that far.

We no longer tried to stay together. We did what we could do, at the pace we could. Every breath was a prayer, and every step was of hope that we would soon find the trail. But doubt was creeping in. I couldn’t think straight. I was just too cold.

Unconsciously I made small goals for myself. If I could just get to the next rock or the next ledge, I could rest for a moment. Numbly I repeated this over and over, and slowly I rose higher. I had lost all sense of time. It must be one or two in the morning.

Finally I really thought I could not go any further. I clung vertically to the mountain, wishing I could lie down. My limbs were moving so slow that I almost wasn’t moving at all anymore. Up about fifty feet there was a rocky ledge. If I could just make it there, maybe I would let myself give up. This could be my last goal. I was just too cold and too tired. I would lie down and stop.

The promise of letting myself give up was enough of an incentive to make me move slowly up to that ledge. With the anticipation of being able to finally have a spot to lie down, I climbed hand and foot over hand and foot. I was vaguely aware of Laura about twenty feet below me, slowly moving as I was.

Then I reached the ledge. I grasped it and pulled myself up. I lay down on my back, heart pounding. A few minutes later Laura collapsed next to me. We had done all we could. Now it was up to God to answer our cries for help.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Three

After resting an hour or two under our blanket of evergreen branches, I woke to feel my skin crawling and my limbs shaking from the cold. It was the middle of the night and we were lost on a mountain. Ants were climbing all over my back and down my legs, but I was too tired and cold to care. It was time to get moving again. We had to find the trail.

We did not talk as we climbed again. We prayed, we concentrated on moving, and we tried to ignore our shaking limbs. Soon we were out of the protection of the trees, and the cold wind slapped us with full force.

I was getting clumsy with my movements and stumbled several times. I tried to move my arms and legs faster, trying to warm up, trying to get there faster. After a while of that I would have to stop on all fours, heaving. We needed to rest again, but there was no where to stop. We tried hiding from the wind underneath a large boulder, but there was no protection there. I was cold enough to be on the brink of hypothermia. Would I die in the cold out here? I had to keep moving. There didn’t seem to be a choice.

I don’t think I have ever been faced with such a terrifying experience. If the circumstances would have been any less critical, I would have said it was impossible for me to climb any further. It is amazing how much further we can go than we think is possible. It was one of the many lessons I learned that day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lost on the Mountain, Part Two

Part Two

Every once in a while a person wants something so desperately that she convinces herself that she has it. I knew that if we found the river, we could follow it to our car. I stood staring at the large evergreen limbs beating back and forth and the darkening sky, and then I heard it. Rushing water. The river was somewhere near us!

I tried to convince Laura that I heard water for a good five minutes, but she didn’t buy it. She said it was the wind in the trees. I didn’t want to believe her, but slowly reason returned and I knew she was right. We were way too high to be near that river. I needed to calm my over-active imagination and think. What should we do?

I turned and looked at the peak of the mountain that loomed up larger than ever before us. Really, we couldn’t climb it again! We were way too tired. We were out of water and food. It was too cold. It was getting dark. Yet in spite of the millions of reason we had not to climb up again, it seemed to be our only solution. We had to find the trail or we would be stuck here all night.

Before taking a single step we clasped hands and prayed. Our spirits buoyed, we lunged forward to tackle the mountain for the second time that day. Up the sandy ravines, scaling the rock formations, grasping for crevices. We thought of plenty of jokes and songs to sing that seemed to fit our precarious circumstances.

The burst of renewed energy lasted about two hours. The sky was black now and we were cold. Across the horizon a perfectly round white moon torched the sky and illuminated the hills. A blanket of fluffy clouds curled around valley floor. It was beautiful.

We were too tired to keep moving. There soon would be no more trees, only the sheer mountain against the angry elements. If we were going to rest, the time was now. We made a bed out of evergreen branches and huddled together to keep warm. Looking in our pack we found that we had a small packet of Starbursts, which we shared. Then we rested.

Continued tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lost on the Mountain

This week I will tell a story of an experience I had while hiking several years ago. Each day will be another part of the story, concluding on Friday. Enjoy!

Part One

It was a beautiful September day nine years ago when my cousin Laura and I decided to hike to the top of Mt. McLoughlin in Southern Oregon. Neither of us had tried it, but we had heard good things about the 5.5 mile climb.

Being the end of summer, there was no snow but the air was much cooler as we climbed. We did not mind, since the sun and exercise made us quite warm. This particular trail was not formally maintained, but enough hikers had gone on before us that we knew when to switch back and forth. Most places on the trail gave a clear view of the summit.

After gulping down tons of fresh air and entertaining each other with some amusing conversation, Laura and I propelled ourselves up the last few steps, having gained 4000 feet in elevation. We were now at 9500 feet. We stood there on top of the world, looking out across the rolling hills. Off in the distance you could see Mt. Shasta, and in the opposite direction were the Cascades and Mt. Hood. What a glorious feeling! Truly there is nothing so beautiful than to see the vast earth at such heights.

It was nearly dinnertime and the sun was getting lower in the sky. As much as we would have liked to drink in more of this beauty, we needed to head down. Our light lunch was long gone, along with our water. Suddenly a warm bath sounded very inviting.

It was a bit more difficult to find the trail on the way down. It almost looked like a maze in places, with many trails heading off into various directions. We decided that many of the pseudo-trails were likely paths created by the snow when it had melted last spring. These run-offs made it very difficult to find our route, but we headed down in the general direction we knew would be right, figuring we would encounter the trail eventually.

The going was not easy without a trail. We had to climb over large boulders and scoot down a couple of steep sandy ravines. Each new obstacle seemed to present a promise of the trail being just at the bottom, just out of sight. But each time we were disappointed to find the trail was not there at all. Finally we stopped moving downward and began traveling horizontally around the mountain.

By this time we had passed below the timberline, and the ground was thick with fallen twigs and roots. At last, looking up at the pale pink sky, I came to a weary standstill. With the cold wind whipping around us, we finally admitted what we had been denying up to this point. We were lost.

To be continued tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Foods

Easy Thai Curry with Chicken

1 Rotisserie chicken
1 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp curry paste (Thai Kitchen)
1 Tbsp sugar (opt)
1 cup fresh basil
Lime (opt)
Jasmine rice

Pull meat from a rotisserie chicken in medium-sized pieces. Spoon a few tablespoons of coconut milk into a skillet over medium heat. Stir in curry paste. Add sugar, remaining coconut milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, add chicken, and warm through. Stir in a cup of fresh basil leaves. Serve with rice and lime wedges.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Season for Change

It feels so much like autumn today. Don’t you love the word autumn? It is so much better than the word fall. Since I live in sunny California, I enjoy the anticipation of the cooler weather much more than when I lived in the Northwest. Living there, I was sad to see summer go, always thinking it was just too short! Now that I live in a climate that has well over six months of warm weather, I’m excited to see change.

The air is crisp and clean. I have opened most of the windows in the house, letting the curtains billow as the breeze sweeps in. Most of the sky has thick clouds, suggesting there could be rain, although I think that probably won’t happen.

I have decorated my house in blues and browns, perfect for autumn. Maybe I’ll find some colorful leaves to display. They will have to be fake leaves of course, since the trees around here are still bright green.

During autumn I can make butternut squash soup, pull out the long-sleeved sweaters, and sip an eggnog latte. It is not uncommon to see orange lights springing up all over the place. My kids sleep longer because of the darker hours. It is a wonderful time!

Let’s celebrate the change of season! As the days get darker, our hope can feel brighter because we are on the cusp of a wonderful season. I know that it is still technically summer, but I’ll say it anyway. Happy Autumn, everyone!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Better than a BandAid

This morning as my two kids were taking baths in the kitchen sink, I suddenly heard a scream, followed by another scream and another. Then both kids were crying their little hearts out. I was standing about two feet away and rushed to them as quickly as I could. I immediately discovered the trouble. Lance, my one-year-old, had grabbed the faucet lever and turned it to hot. The poor kids were under a stream of scalding water!

After a big fluffy towel, lots of hugs, and cups of milk, both kids quieted down. They were fine, just a little stunned. So was I. Two feet away is two feet too far, I guess!

From the time we are kids, we are treated for scrapes and owies much like I treated my kids. When we’re hurt, we want attention, comfort, and food! Unfortunately, we do not always have access to a hug, and eating can pile on more hurts if it gets out of hand. So what can we do to comfort ourselves when we are in pain?

Here are a few ideas that might help if and when we get an injury and need some comfort:

Look through a photo album of good memories and people you love. This takes the mind off the pain, and may release chemicals that reduce the pain-processing areas of the brain.

Inhale green apple scent. I have read about studies that have linked a sniff of green apple to reducing pain of a migraine headache. Who knows if it works, but it’s worth a try.

Assume the best. Studies have shown that people who were told to expect pain to be mild-moderate reported less pain than people who were told to expect moderate-severe, even when the procedure was the same for both groups. (I certainly wouldn’t sign up to be a guinea pig in that study.)

Spend time with your BFF. This could be the most affective way to help with any pain, be it physical or emotional. An extra hug can change the horrible to manageable.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Refuse to Lose

Last June at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, American John Isner rivaled the French qualifier Nicolas Mahut in what was to be the longest match in tennis history. After four sets on Tuesday evening, play was suspended due to darkness. The match was tied at two sets a piece.

The final set resumed the following afternoon. During the course of the afternoon, the record for the longest match was broken. The score board became stuck on 47-47 games and later went dark because it wasn’t programmed for higher numbers. As the evening light faded, the match was again suspended with a tied score.

Play resumed again on Thursday, when at last Isner defeated his opponent. They had played 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days with a total of 183 games.

There had to be a loser, but neither man wanted to be the one who lost. These are two men who live life to win. Neither would accept losing, even after hours upon hours of a deadlock.

Tennis may not allow two winners, but both players are winners in my book. How much determination it must have taken to keep pushing, and to refuse to lose. What an inspiration. I might not have the skill to play like Isner or Mahut, but I can have the heart to try as hard as they do.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It Could Always Be Worse

There is a Yiddish folktale about a poor man who is feeling overwhelmed living in a small hut with his wife, mother, and six children. He thinks life just can’t get any worse so he goes to his Rabbi for advice. The Rabbi instructs the man to bring one of his goats inside the house for a week. A week later the man returns with even worse complaints. So the Rabbi instructs him to add a chicken. Again the man returns distraught, and the Rabbi instructs him to add the family cow into the house. The man returns completely agitated. Then the Rabbi instructs him to release all the animals. A week later the same man returns, joyful and content to be living in such a state of peacefulness.

Life is sometimes stressful and hectic, and we have every reason to feel agitated from time to time. Still, it never hurts to keep a healthy perspective of “It could always be worse” in the back of our thoughts. Sometimes I play a cheering-up game that goes like this: (Fill in the blank.) At least I don’t have to deal with _____________ or _____________.

The other day I was riding in the car with two grumpy kids, and was feeling rather blue myself. I looked out the window and saw a young man riding along the sidewalk in an electric wheelchair. He had no movement below his neck. And I suddenly felt that my troubles were very minor.

There are times when life piles up and feels overwhelming, even when we have loads of blessings. There are times when we feel down and discouraged. But it’s really not that bad, is it? After all, it could always be worse.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Dear Readers,

As of Monday, September 6, all Facebook blog posts will be dispatched through the My Daily Avocado Facebook page. If you want to keep reading the daily posts, there are a few different ways to do it.

First, you can go to and click on the word “Like.” You will become a fan and receive all blogs and posts from My Daily Avocado.

Second, you can go to and enter your email address to be sent the blog each morning.

Third, you can follow the blog on

Have a wonderful and healthy Labor Day Weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Counting Calories, Day 4: Why keeping score works

Call me competitive, but I always like keeping score in a game. There is something powerful about seeing the numbers in writing, especially when you win. And if you lose, you can show your opponent how close of a match it was, or that you would have won if the game had ended five minutes sooner. It is all there in writing after all.

I loved being a student because I’d get that wonderful thing called a report card. I was always excited to get an essay back from a teacher because if you turned to the last page you would see that little letter with a circle around it indicating your grade. Some teachers used a fat red pen, like they were shouting at you on paper. But my favorite teacher always wrote our grade in pencil. It showed he trusted us. Those small penciled letters were the highlight of my week.

Knowing that someone is keeping score or writing down a grade makes me try hard. I love to see those winning numbers, bold or quiet. Perhaps this is why writing down my calories is so effective for me. I see the marks; I am pleased with myself. I hardly ever have the heart to splurge into an eating frenzy when I know I will write down what I eat. In fact, recording the numbers provokes me to make the right choice consistently.

So why don’t I write down the numbers every day for every food I eat? It sounds like the ticket to success. I smile when I ponder that question because I really do know the answer. When I want to succeed, I write down the numbers. When I feel like throwing caution to the wind and giving up for the day, I don’t write the numbers down. So the real question is, do I want to succeed?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Counting Calories, Day 3

My husband had the day off so we decided to go to Ikea. I was looking forward to finding some house decorating items and I was surprised that Jay was so willing to go. After we arrived at the store I realized why he was so willing to traipse along. I found him in the remodeling area working on work stuff—on his day off. After he had his fun working, it took us quite a long time to make it through the maze of a store. By this time both kids and parents were tired and hungry.

We decided to make use of the in-store food court. I chose what I thought to be the most sensible item on the menu—a buffalo chicken wrap. It consisted of white chicken breast meat, wrapped in a tortilla with lettuce and shredded cheese. Try as I did later, I could not find nutritional information to tell me how many calories I ate. So I tried piecing it together.

As far as I could tell the wrap had no sauces or mayonnaise in it. It was also a bit dry. I ended up dipping it in barbeque sauce.

Chicken breast meat: 129 calories
Flour tortilla 10 inches long: 234 calories
Cheese: 90 calories
BBQ sauce: 30 calories
Green lettuce: 5 calories
Total: 488 calories

It was a bit more difficult calculating the one meatball and three fries I ate, or the four licks of ice cream I had because my daughter was letting it melt too fast. Even the calculations I did make were guesses to a certain extent.

Later on my husband, ever the internet research guru, found the calories listed for the buffalo chicken wrap off of a website from someone who claims to know. 275 calories. I guess I overestimated by a long shot. Maybe I’ll go have another one.