Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cold, Tired and Sore

I'm cold, tired and sore, but having a great time. I skied for two days in frigid weather and snow, and then spent today snowshoeing. I think just about every muscle in my legs aches!

But, it's all good here in Sunapee, NH. The kids are enjoying themselves, and are out in the fresh air for a few hours a day. If we'd stayed home, they'd probably never venture outside.

It's good for me as well. I'm hopefully burning off some of my holiday weight gain through exercise, and, because my husband hasn't come up to NH yet, I've been focusing on eating light. I've had a salad for dinner every night this week in addition to salad and maybe some soup for lunch (you need that warmth when you've been out in the cold).

I'm also feeling so much better than I was last week. I was starting to feel lethargic, and now I'm re-energized.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Eat Organic, Lose Weight

Read about it here:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow

This is a pretty good article explaining why only losing 1-2 pounds a week is actually faster if you permanently want to lose weight then any starvation/fad diet:

Better to only lose 30 pounds in a year and keep it off then lose 30 pounds in 2 months and gain it all back plus some.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Post-Holiday Ski Trip-Working off the Holiday Pounds

The east coast got socked with snow yesterday. We had eight inches, but it snowed upwards of a foot of snow further south.

I'm not one of those snow adverse people. As long as I don't lose power, I love to get snowed in. It's great to have an excuse not go anywhere. Everything just kind of stops, and it gives me time to breathe, read and catch up on all those nasty little chores around the house I haven't been able to get to.

But I have to admit, I'm somewhat bummed that it snowed down here in Connecticut and they didn't even get an inch up in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Right after Christmas I'm leaving on my annual "the kids have a week off after Christmas and I don't know what the hell else to do with them, so we might as well go skiing" trip.

This trip is to be distinguished from my annual "the kids have a week off for President's week and I don't know what the hell to do with them so we might as well go skiing trip."

Since I'm leaving to ski in New Hampshire for a week right on December 27th, it would have been nice if they had gotten some snow. But c'est la vie.

Still, it should be a nice trip. I genuinely love to ski with my kids. And, its great for working off some of the caloric indulgences of the holiday season.

There is great site were you can estimate the number of calories you burn during any activity. Check it out here:

So, I thought I'd calculate how many calories I'll burn skiing. Now I usually down-hill ski a total of 4 hours, but the reality is between lift lines, waiting on the slope for the slow pokes, etc., running into the bathroom etc., I'll probably actually only ski 120 minutes out of the four hours.

Calories burned down hill skiing for 120 minutes is 1,029. I'll be down-hill skiing 4 days so that's 4,116 calories.

I'll also go cross-country skiing with the kids two days (your legs need the break from the down hill skiing). Again, between having to run in because the kids are tired, cold, need the bathroom, hungry, etc., I'll probably actually only ski for 120 minutes. Cross-country skiing for 120 minutes burns 1,341. Multiply that by 2 and you get 2,682 calories burned.

Potential calories I can burn on my post-Xmas Ski trip is 6,798. That can be almost 2 pounds of fat loss if I eat smart and stay away from the apre-ski hot chocolate and nachos.

Friday, December 18, 2009


The Burger King Triple Whopper Sandwich with cheese and Mayo packs a whopping 1,250 calories. I can only consume about 1,650 calories a day, so you add a side a fries to this, and I just packed on some additional fat.

And, that's not the only caloric disaster-burger. Yahoo health has a list of the six worst fast food burgers.

Regifting the Gift of Food

Food is high on the gift giving list, and also on the gift getting. Every year I get tins of cookies, boxes of chocolates, and baskets of fruit, cheese, bottles of barbecue sauce and other goodies.

In previous years, I used to either eat the food or had it rot in the house. Two years ago, I started re-gifting most of it.

Now, before you jump down my throat for engaging in tacky behavior, I should explain that don't re-gift to unsuspecting friends, co-workers or household help.

Instead, I re-gift to the local food pantry. Every year after Christmas I take a trip to the local food pantry and drop off any of the food gifts I received that are acceptable to donate. This usually means pantry stable items that are canned, in boxes or jarred.

I'm doing good, while doing myself good.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sorry for the Short Sporadic Posts

But it is the holidays, and like everyone else I'm running wild trying to get everything done that needs to get done. Christmas cards have been sent out, presents bought and wrapped, cookies and Stollen baked, the Christmas tree bought and decorated--you get the idea.

Plus, I've actually had quite a bit of work to do. You can tell the economy is coming back when freelancers like myself start getting busy.

The other thing keeping me busy is holiday season entertaining. Friends have invited me over, I've invited friends over, and I've gone to several holiday parties.

Getting together is part of the holiday festivities. The only issue is that when people get together, food is always involved, and alot of that food contains copious amounts of sugar and fat. There's always a fine line to walk between watching my weight and being the holiday Grinch.

As always, I try to stick to some simple rules this time of year. First, I enjoy myself within limits. It is the holidays, and eating is part of the fun. It's OK to indulge, although it's not OK to over-indulge. Second, I try to work in extra exercise whenever I can to offset the extra calories (made all the more difficult by overloaded holiday schedules).

In the end, I realize that trade-offs are necessary. The artisanal hand-made chocolates were worth indulging in, and I limited myself to just two. Yes, I'll have to spend some extra time on the treadmill for the indulgence, but they were worth it.

I can easily pass up store bought candy canes and mass manufactured candy, but the roast goose with orange Madeira sauce my friend served up at a holiday dinner party was not. Going extra light calorie wise for a day or two after the roast goose was not too taxing. Besides, I didn't want to insult my hostess by not eating the wonderful meal she prepared.

In the end, I'll probably put on a few pounds this month (I haven't dared step on the scale since Thanksgiving.) It's inevitable, like death and taxes.

The point is to put on as few pounds as possible. And, get right back on the diet band wagon as soon as I can. Perhaps even a post-New Year's cleanse.

I think I know what my New Years' resolution will be this year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Special Holiday Edition Work-Out

Splicing together your Christmas lights and Guitar Hero.

Setting up this deal has got to burn a few thousand calories!!!

And, it keeps you away from the holiday cookies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

For the Love of Cinnamon

I love cinnamon. Love it, love it, love it.
I sprinkle cinnamon over my coffee every morning, use it in my oatmeal, add it to baked goods even when the recipe doesn't call for it, and, if the recipe calls for cinnamon, I know I'm going to love it.

What's really great about using cinnamon is that it adds great flavor with almost no calories. One tablespoon of cinnamon has just 17 calories, so a sprinkling of cinnamon adds just a few calories to anything you're eating.

And, according to this article,, cinnamon has lots of health benefits to offset those calories.

Yummy, and good for me too.

Gotta love cinnamon!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Save the Planet, and Lose Some Weight

As all of you know, I'm a big advocate of reducing processed foods, meat and dairy from our diets to lose weight. Now it turns out it can help save the planet:

Its a UK report, but notes that eating less processed, meat and dairy products will help reduce greenhouse gases.

So, you'll be doing both yourself, and the planet good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If 1 is Good, 4 is Better

I found some interesting marketing research from the Wharton School. You can find it here:

Essentially, the researchers found that if you increase the number of healthier options for people, they're more likely to choose them over the less healthier options. Here's one of the experiments done:

In another study, a tray with fruit and baked goods was placed at two entrances of a building, with a sign reading: "Please help yourself to one item." At one entrance, the researchers placed a tray containing a small selection: two types of fruit and two types of cookies. They put a tray with a larger selection at the other entrance so that passers-by were presented with
six types of fruit (bananas, red and green apples, pears, tangerines and peaches) and six types of baked goods (assorted cookies as well as croissants and banana nut muffins). While 55% of the participants chose fruit over baked goods from the smaller assortment, 76% did so when choosing from the larger

I had blogged a while back that one shopping rule to follow is to have the majority of your food purchases be fruits and vegetables. You can find the blog here:

It only makes sense, if you surround yourself with a great selection of fruits and vegetables, you'll eat mostly fruits and vegetables. If your kitchen is laden with crap, you'll eat mostly crap.

The same thing goes with restaurants. If you go to a restaurant with only one salad on the menu (and its a salad in name only), you're not likely to order a salad. Go to one with a wide selection of salads, and chances are you'll order a salad.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Craving Substitutions

In my post about Trail Mixes, a commenter stated she was impressed that I analyzed that the"hit" I was looking for from cookies was the crunch and the sweetness.

When trying to reach a goal, I always think its a good idea to really analyze why you are doing what you are doing.

I smoked for years. I started in High School when it was cool, and started my efforts to quit right after law school by which time smoking was decidedly uncool.

Now, I was never one of those people who was truly "addicted" to cigarettes. If the situation called for it I could go for hours without ever having a smoke, and didn't have to run out to the parking lot immediately afterwards to light up.

But, none-the-less, I found quitting difficult. When I analyzed why, I realized that it wasn't the nicotine in cigarettes I craved, but the actual act of smoking.

There where a number of situations where I would always automatically light up. For example, if I got on the phone to speak with someone I always had a cigarette in hand. I also always smoked when I was studying. Anytime I went to a bar or a party, I basically hung in the back with a cigarette (I'm not much of a drinker or a party animal).

I came to the realization, that I needed something different to do with my hands and my mouth when I was doing these activities. Kind of like Pavlov's dogs, when you rang the bell, my hands and mouth expected that cigarette.

My solution was to drink water. Holding a bottle of water gave my hands something to hold and my mouth something to do during those times when I normally smoked. Once I started doing this quitting smoking was a breeze, and I never looked back.

I think it's a lot like that with eating. If you're craving a certain food item intensely, it might not really be the food that you want. For example, if you always ate potato chips while watching a football game, it may not be so much the chips you're missing, but the activity of eating during the ball game.

Or, like me, if you crave cookies, it may be the sweetness and crunch you're looking for.

Once you analyze why you're craving, it becomes easier to find the healthier, low-cal substitute that will satisfy that craving.

So, don't try to just ignore your cravings. Really think hard about them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Trail Mixes

I love cookies. I absolutely adore really good store bought cookies, or home-made cookies from some old, secret family recipe. I can easily pass up cake, chocolate, ice cream, etc., but put a plate of fresh, home-made chocolate chip cookies in front of me, and I'm a goner.

So, now that I pretty much swear off cookies except for special occasions, I had to find a substitute for those times when I just really crave one.

The substitute I found is trail mix. It provides the "crunch" of a good cookie, and dried fruit provides the sweetness. If I'm tempting to hit the cookies, I just grab a handful of trail mix and I'm satisfied.

Now, most store bought trail mixes are loaded with all sorts of junk you don't need--such as salt and sugar. Plus, I like to keep my mixes "raw." So instead of store bought trail mix I just mix my own. It's easy. I just buy dried fruit, raw nuts and seeds, mix and viola--trail mix.

My favorite combination is raw pumpkin seeds, raw almonds, raisins and dried cranberries. I just mix it all in a resealable container (I don't use any measurements), and keep it in the pantry for those times I need something sweet and crunchy. I have to go easy, however, since nuts and dried fruits have a lot of calories.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our National Eating Disorder

Any of you who have been reading Losing Weight after 45 is a Bitch for a while knows that I'm a huge fan of Michael Pollan. One of my commentators directed me to this excellent 2004 article by Pollan:

I actually read this article when it was originally published in the New York Times but it was great to read it again.

No country obsesses over food the way we do here in the US. And, what has it gotten us? We are the fattest country on the planet.

That's because our obsessing leads us to crazy fad diets and eating synthetic over processed foods that promise to make us skinny, but only lead to making us fatter.

The message is clear, if you want to lose weight, eat sensibly. That means focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and leave the overly processed foods behind.

It's simple. There's no need to obsess over carbs or fat, just eat real food. As Pollan says, food your great-grandparents would have recognized.

Eating a bunch of grapes will do a whole lot more for your weight-loss/weight-maintenance efforts then a bag of low-fat, low-calorie, low carb cookies.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Now this Is Just Not Right

Last year my in-laws got my kids a Wii Fit Board to go with their Wii gaming console. I thought it was great because I'm all for anything that gets the kids moving.

Throughout the year my daughter sporadically has been doing yoga, running and other exercises on the Wii. The reason why she didn't use it more, I reasoned, was that the the work-out activities were really geared to adults.

Since Christmas and Hanukkah are around the corner, I thought it would be great to get her some new Wii work-out regimes geared to children. Specifically I wanted a kid's yoga routine.

So, off I went to the local GameStop in Westport this morning. Guess what? There is no Wii Kids Yoga program. In fact, there are no Wii Fit exercise routines specifically geared to children. There are games for kids for Wii Fit, but nothing emphasizing exercise and the importance of working out.

Now, that is just not right. My daughter will do the adult work-out routines from time to time, but you know she would exercise even more with the Wii if they actually produced yoga, running, etc. specifically geared to kids.

I did purchase her the new Wii Fit Plus disc, but its still geared to adults.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

To Jack Sh*t, Why I Bake

In my post Upping the Ante, my fellow blogger Jack Sh*t asked why I continue to bake for holiday gifts.

Well Jack, it's all about remembrance. Proust may have needed to take a bite out of that Madeline to send him on his journey of remembrance of things past, but for me its the actual baking that does it.

You see, my Grandmother was a holiday baker extraordinaire. Nana would bake at least a dozen different types of cookies every December. There were sugary cookies with an orange glaze she called "Aunt Louise's Cookies" after my Grandfather's aunt, rum balls, Jewel Cookies that were crusted in nuts with a dab of jam, these amazing almond meringue cookies that were covered in pinoli nuts, and so on.

Nana never used a written recipe. Although she only baked each cookie once a year, she kept every recipe in her head. Me, my mother and my sisters often baked alongside her, and had the foresight of actually writing most of the recipes down. We'd ask questions like "how much flour do you use?" and Nana would answer "about three handfuls." From there we had to concoct that "a handful" generally meant about 1/2 a cup.

Nana also made Fruitcakes which were actually baked as early as October and were an alcoholics delight. The process began by soaking dried fruit in rum for a week. After the fruitcakes were cooked, they were wrapped in cheesecloth and carefully tended to with generous douses of rum to preserve them every week for two months.

And she also made Stollen, which is a bit unusual because Stollen is actually a German Christmas bread. My Italian Grandmother usually never diverged from the Italian repertoire, but for some reason, which nobody understands why, she made Stollen at Christmas and not the more traditional Italian Panetone.

I often made the Stollen with her. We'd start the night before by making a starter of yeast, flour, eggs and butter. The next day we'd form the dough by adding more flour, then adding raisins and currents soaked in rum or brandy, dried fruits and nuts. Then we'd need the dough until it was soft and silky and left it to rise. It was then formed into loaves and allowed to rise again. Then we'd bake it, and when cooled dust the bread with powdered sugar.

None of us bakes the repertoire that my Grandmother did. My mother, me and my sisters all seem to have inherited a few of the recipes.

I bake two or three different cookies a year and have become the official Stollen baker (the Stollen is then passed out among family members). Whenever I do this baking, my Grandmother comes alive again. As I knead my dough, I can still hear her voice over me, guiding me, to make sure I get it right.

So now when I bake I bake with my children. It's through them that my Grandmother, and our traditions will survive.

I've often heard weight loss referred to as being a journey. But I think we need to remember that although moving forward is progress, we can't forget where we came from.

I doubt that for any of us Twinkies, Big Macs or crappy over processed foods really connect us to who we are, and our families.

But, if there is food that connects us to our past and our loved ones who have passed on, then we shouldn't give it up simply because we are trying to lose and maintain weight.

Eat less of it for sure, but if it's part of who we are, then we shouldn't just leave it behind.

Savoring the End of the Season

The local Farmers' Markets closed up shop two weeks ago, but my refrigerator is still filled with produce that I stocked up on. I've got butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks, cabbage and other veggies just waiting to be enjoyed over the next few weeks.

I'm also still getting fresh herbs from the garden--parsley, cilantro, sage and thyme.

Since I know that its only a matter of weeks until this end of the season produce is gone, I'm savoring it whenever I can.

It's also comforting to know that I can throw together a meal in less than an hour based on locally grown, organic produce.

Last night was one of those nights. My daughter had ballet from 5 to 6 which meant I had to begin preparing dinner prior to leaving (I'm not a big fan of eating past 7). In the afternoon I opened the refrigerator and realized that I had better use up a head of cauliflower I had bought at the last Farmers' Market.

I cut up the cauliflower into 1 inch florets and spread them on a large cookie sheet. I tossed in some coarsely chopped red onions and some organic grape tomatoes from the market. I drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the vegetables, sprinkled on a little salt and pepper and tossed the entire concoction with my hands. I then roasted the vegetables at 425 degrees for 35 minutes.

When I got back from ballet, I cooked up some whole wheat pasta and tossed it with the roasted vegetables. I sprinkled on some fresh parsley and sage from the garden, and dinner was served.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Upping the Ante

Two weeks ago I added another mile to my outside walk. That gets me up to 4.5 miles and takes me about an hour and 20 minutes to complete. I can't do it every time I go out for a walk (we all have time constraints), but my work load has been light and I thought it would help with holiday season weight gain.

Despite my best efforts I always put on a few pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. I've already been cheating like mad. I limited myself to just one piece of pumpkin pie (and two chocolate covered pretzels) on Thanksgiving, but even that tends to be too much these days, particularly when you consider the heavy meal I ate before the pumpkin pie.

Christmas time has its own vices. Every year I make a gingerbread house with my kids over Thanksgiving weekend, and every year a few too many pieces of candy wind up in my mouth and not glued with icing on the house.

I also bake to give as gifts, etc, and you just have to taste what you bake to make sure that those cookies, Stollen, etc., are worthy of giving.

Then, there are the parties and the entertaining.

I try to balance off the extra eating with being really good on other days, but I always put on weight.

But then, I'm a post-menopausal woman who's giving birth to two children. If I even look at a piece of pumpkin pie, I'll put on weight.

So, when I can, I'm committing myself to doing more cardio this holiday season.

I'll probably still gain weight. I'm just hoping that the effort will allow me to gain less weight than usual. That way I'll have less to lose once January comes around.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I Really Hate Getting F@#%ing Old!!!

I'm frustrated with my yoga practice. A few weeks ago, I noticed a slight twinge in my left shoulder which eventually became an all out pain. I don't know what exactly happened, but I've had to back off the chatturangas in my practice or else I wind up really hurting by the end.

A chatturanga is essentially a reverse push up, and during the course of an entire Ashtanga practice you might do 50 or 60 of them. However, in the last couple of weeks I've had to cut them out, along with anything else that puts stress on my shoulder. It's really frustrating to know you can do a full back-bend, but can't because your shoulder will ache because of it.

It truly sucks getting old. I can't point to a single "ouch" moment where I actually hurt myself. Instead, this started as a little twinge, that turned to a minor ache, which then became a major ache. It's what I call a "wear and tear" injury. I'm getting old, so along with my aching knees, I now have an aching shoulder.

The good news is that it does seem to be getting better. Last week I started adding back in some of the postures I had stayed away from. I still can't do the majority of my chatturangas but at least I can do a few as well as bakasana and bhujapidasana.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Moveable Fast

I meant to comment on this NYTs op-ed yesterday, but just ran out of time. Check it out here:

Essentially, the piece discusses how the pilgrims fasted in addition to feasting. Specifically:

To the Pilgrims and Puritans, the community-wide fast, or “day of public humiliation and prayer,” and the thanksgiving feast, or day of “public thanksgiving and praise,” were equal halves of the same ritual. But the fast was not merely a justification for a community-wide gorging. Both customs were important components of a religious rite that served to pacify an angry God who was believed to punish entire communities for the sins of the few with starvation, “excessive rains from the bottles of heaven,” epidemics, crop infestations, the Indian wars and other hardships.

According to the 19th-century historian William DeLoss Love, the New England colonies celebrated as many as nine such “special public days” a year from 1620 to 1700. And as the
Puritans were masters of self-denial, days of abstention outnumbered thanksgivings two to one. Fasting, Cotton Mather wrote, “kept the wheel of prayer in continual motion.”

I thought this was interesting because it once again illustrates how food obsessed our culture has become. Now-a-days if you mention to someone you're going on a fast, they look at you askance and write you off as some kind of new-age, freak.

But, fasting is part of the natural cycle, and our bodies were actually designed to go through periods of fast. It's the whole reason why we store the fat to begin with. Don't forget that the pilgrims underwent a forced fast the Winter prior to the first Thanksgiving.

The whole reason for the feasting around harvest and Christmas time (a ritual which pre-dates Christianity by thousands of years), was that once Winter hit, food was scarce. You ate in abundance around harvest time and the Winter Solstice because that's when the food was available, then lived off the fat you put on then until Spring when food started to become abundant again.

So, it is OK to indulge a little around the holidays. Just remember that it's also OK to fast a little afterwards. You can skip a meal or two, or even a whole day's worth of meals, and it's completely, totally natural.

Monday, November 23, 2009

See the Movie, But Skip the Popcorn

Did you know that a medium-sized popcorn from the Regal Movie Theatre chain contains 1,200 calories, 60 grams of fat and 980 milligrams of sodium? And, that's before you add the butter topping. Check it out here:

When I go to the movies with my kids, I can't get the movie popcorn because even without the butter topping, there's usually milk ingredients in the popping solution. Since my son is allergic to milk, that means popcorn is a no go at the movies.

On the now rare occasions when I actually get to go to a movie with my husband, it's usually combined with going out to dinner, so I usually avoid the popcorn as well.

Good thing. Who would have thought that I could blow through the bulk of my daily caloric load on popcorn?

It just goes to show. Knowing what you're eating is key to weight loss and retention.

Wonder Woman

I'm looking over my schedule for the next few months, and I'm dumbfounded over just how busy I'll be.

Sticking to a weight-loss/weight-maintenance regime is hard enough as it is. Sticking to one during the holiday season, is doubly difficult, and sticking to one during an incredibly busy holiday season is quadruply difficult.

And, things don't get any less busy after January 1. I don't think I'm going to have a completely free weekend until March at this point. With skiing, Special Olympics and family obligations, I'm going to be driving from New Hampshire to New Jersey all Winter.

All I can do is plug on and remember my long term goals.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Feeling Good

One of reason why I love to cleanse is how good I feel during and afterwards. I was driving to the Farmers' market with my kids yesterday, and it suddenly hit me that I felt better than I had in several weeks.

This time of year, I normally get into this lethargic, its-getting-colder-and-darker-so-I-don't-want-to-get-out-of-bed, funk. I had been in that mood prior to starting the cleanse on Sunday. But, after just four days of just a "mini-cleanse" I now have more energy. Getting out of bed isn't a struggle, and I am more clear headed.

Now, if I could only muster up the ambition for a deeper cleanse right after the holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Few Thanksgiving "Facts"

Believe it or not, according to the American Council on Exercise, the typical Thanksgiving meal is approximately 3,000 calories. And, that's just one main course plate, any seconds, extra snacks, desserts, etc. add even more calories to your caloric "load." If you also eat big breakfast that morning, you can easily eat enough calories on that one day to gain at least a pound.

With that thought in mind, here are a few facts to keep in mind:

  • Turkey skin is the most caloric dense part of the turkey, has the most fat and the least protein. The skin contains 482 calories and 44 grams of fat. A whole turkey with the skin has 231% more fat, 59% more calories, and 23% more cholesterol than a turkey with no skin.
  • Breast meat without the skin is the healthiest part of the turkey. Breast meat without skin has only 161 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving.
  • Two tablespoons of cranberry sauce will give over 1/3 of the sugar you need for the day. And most processed (not homemade) cranberry sauces contain high fructose corn syrup.
  • Two tablespoons of processed gravy products give you over 1/3 of the sodium you need for the day, and some contain trans fats.

So, a good rule of thumb to stick by is to eat the turkey without the skin, and stick to home-made dishes made with fresh, unprocessed ingredients.

And, remember, there's always leftovers. You don't have to have the stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes all on one plate. Eat one, and save the others for left-over meals.

It's Been a Good Run, But the Husband is Back Today

Sorry I didn't blog yesterday, but the kids only had a half-day of school, and I had to go to a teacher's conference in the afternoon, then on to my son's piano lesson, etc.

Plus, I'm head coach for the local Special Olympics Alpine skiing team this year, and had to get reams of paperwork done last night. All I can say is that I just ran out of time yesterday.

I had a nice little mini-cleanse this week. Last night for dinner I made myself a simple dish with beans, brown rice and brussels sprouts with lemon and olive oil. That, along with lots of fruit, salad, and oatmeal, was pretty much along the lines of what I've been eating all week. I don't know if I lost any weight, but it definitely feels good on the digestive system to just keep away from meat, fish, dairy, wheat and alcohol for a few days.

But my husband is back today. He took the red eye from the West Coast and should be walking in the door any moment. He already called from Greenwich and asked if I could make him eggs for breakfast.

I just had a banana this morning, and will probably have a salad for lunch, so I'll keep the vegan streak running a bit longer. Dinner is up in the air for now. When the kids get home today I'm taking them to the last Farmer's Market of the season in Westport. Dinner will depend on whatever I find there.

I'm sure my husband has been on a meat-fest all week, so it's probably a good night for a nice vegetarian pasta dish. Maybe some sauteed kale with onions, olives over whole wheat linguine?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finding Friends and Inspiration in My Workouts

Today I did my absolute favorite work-out--a long hike with a good friend. My girlfriend Deby and I love to take long hikes in the Devils' Den Nature Preserve which is right around the corner from both of us. We hiked today for over 1 1/2 hours. It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, and the sun was shining through the bare branches of the trees.

It was so wonderful to be outdoors with a good friend. We could have easily gone an another hour if we both didn't have work and appointments.

I think its so important to have social workouts. Individual workouts are important as well because we all know just how hard it is to arrange schedules. But, when you're working out with a friend and having a great conversation, it just doesn't seem so much like a workout.

At the end of the hike, we took some time to practice Tai-chi. It was really a perfect day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

While the Husband's Away . . . .

My husband left on a business trip yesterday. I have four glorious days without him. I'm free!!!!!

Too bad I still have the kids.

Still, with the holidays coming up, I'm taking this little break from the ball and chain to do a little mini-cleanse and diet. With the holidays coming up, God knows I'll need it.

This morning for breakfast I squeezed myself a tall glass of fresh grapefruit juice (yummy), and ate grapes. Lunch was a raw, vegan salad and I'm going to saute up some kale with currents and olives for dinner. I'll eat completely vegan for the next few days (I actually started yesterday), and drink no alcohol.

I'm not going completely raw because I just find that I crave hot food too much in the Fall and Winter. I can easily go completely raw in the summer, but I just need the warmth in my belly when the thermometer drops.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Eating By the Numbers

There's an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times today which you can view here:
Apparently, buried in the health care bill working its way through congress is a provision requiring chain chain restaurants to post their calorie counts on their menus.
The authors of the op-ed take a rather dim view of this proposal (gee, I wonder who they actually work for? Could it be McDonalds?)
Here's their big argument. In NYC, where they already have to post calories, only 56% are aware that the calories are posted, and of those only 25% choose fewer calories because of it.
My counter-arguments. First, the longer the law is in existence, the more people will be aware of it. Second, even if only 25% use the information, that's 25% more that hopefully won't have weight problems (and I have problems with their data since they apparently only studied behaviors in McDonalds. Something tells me that if you're eating in McDonalds, you're unlikely to be concerned about calories to begin with).
Here's the deal. I want to easily figure out what's the best option for me, calorie-wise, when I go out to eat. Yes, I can look up the information on-line, but it would be so much easier and nicer to just have the damn data stamped on my menu. It would save me 15 minutes looking it up, and as any working Mom will attest, 15 minutes is a big deal in any day.
So, I would use the data, and even if only 25% of 56% now use the information, as time passes, and knowledge of the existence of the information exists, both the 56% number and the 25% number will both increase.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More Thoughts on Thanksgiving-Surviving the Holiday Without Gaining Five Pounds

As you can tell, Thanksgiving is on my mind. I love holidays. I love being with family and friends and celebrating. The problem is, of course, being a little too celebratory. One day can throw off weeks of weight watching if you're not careful. So, here are my own personal rules for the holiday:

1. Eat lightly the week before. I try to build up a "calorie reserve" by being really careful about what I eat for the entire week beforehand.

2. Get a good work-out in that morning. Usually I try to find the time to get in an extra long walk and a short yoga practice.

3. Eat extremely lightly for breakfast and lunch that day. After all, you're going to have a huge meal later on. Sometimes I'll just juice up some fresh grapefruit juice and have an apple for breakfast, and maybe munch on a few carrots around 12. The holiday starts around 2, so I know I'll be eating soon.

3. During the "appetizer phase" start with some water and stand away from the food. In our family, we put out platters of "appetizers" and mingle and socialize for a few hours before the meal. Wine, beer and liquor flow freely. I start with just a glass of water and initially just enjoy being there and talking with people (away from the food). I will nibble eventually, but I give myself a good 30 minutes or more before I do.

4. Go for whatever raw you can. Usually we do have a crudities platter, and maybe some fresh grapes. I'll start with those so that I'll eat less of the cheese puffs, etc.

5. Eat what you love, but don't eat everything. My family tends to go for the smorgasbord approach. Besides the turkey, there are usually a good 15 to 20 side dishes. I go for the food I really love (like mashed turnips, stuffed mushrooms and homemade pumpkin pie) and pass on the stuff I don't love (unless it's meets the "healthy" requirement below).

6. Avoid the processed crap and go healthy. If the dish mostly comes from a can, I skip it and go for the sides that are mostly fresh vegetables. I'm making a roasted vegetable dish and kale, so I'll be sure to eat those.

7. Remember there are always leftovers. If I really love a particular side (and it's reasonably healthy), I'll just take more of it home with me (along with leftover turkey etc.). Thanksgiving leftovers are just another reason to give thanks (one less meal to cook).

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

My Mom and my sister called me about Thanksgiving today. We alternate spending Thanksgiving between at my sister's house and my husband's sister's house (being that I married a Jewish guy, Thanksgiving is the only holiday were there's a conflict).

This year we're spending Thanksgiving with my family, which is always a good thing because the women in my family tend to be more conscious of health and calories then my husband's family.

But, every thing is not perfect. Being that we're Italian, my family has this insane notion that every big holiday meal has to start with pasta. My husband likes to call it the meal before the meal.
And, it's not just any ordinary pasta, but something like manicotti with homemade pasta shells. After my mother went through all the trouble of mixing the pasta dough, putting it through the hand cranked pasta machine, then mixing the ricotta filling herself, there's really no way to say "I pass," (oh, and did I mention the tomato sauce is also made from scratch?) The only thing I really can do is keep it down to one or two manicottis.

The other problem is that both of my sisters' partners are WASPS whose families believe that food isn't good unless it's drenched with fat and sugar and a can or two of something processed. We never saw sweet potatoes with marshmallows until the WASP contingent joined the family (and, unbelievably even the potatoes come out of a can. I didn't know that you could get sweet potatoes out of can until the year one of my sisters' new relatives brought them).

There's also this green bean casserole concoction they insist on bringing which is loaded with butter and has some canned crispy stuff in it.

Thank God that I pretty much found this stuff gross from the start. My first bite of sweet potatoes with marshmallows was also my last. It was so sickeningly sweet, it took a tremendous amount of self-control to swallow it and not just spit it out.

So we tend to effectively now have two Thanksgiving meals. One for the Italians (and my Jewish husband who doesn't like the WASP food either), and one for the WASPS. The only thing that binds us is the actual turkey (many of my sisters' partners' relatives won't touch the pasta either. There was a bit of an uproar one year when one mother-in-law asked if she could bring a jar of sauce for her family because they didn't like my mother's homemade, unsweetened sauce).

We have one of those families were everyone brings something (it's kind of like an entry ticket, if you don't bring at least two dishes, you're not given entry). The hostess is more of a coordinator who makes the main course. My sister is of course making the Turkey (something free-range and organic from a local farm in Jersey), so she and my mother were calling around today to arrange for the other sides, appetizers and desserts.

And, this is kind of a good thing, because I then get to bring a couple of dishes which I know are healthy. I found two recipes a few weeks ago in Food & Wine that I knew I wanted to make. One is for maple-ginger, roasted Autumn vegetables, the other is for sauteed kale with currents. The main fat in both is olive oil, and both are almost entirely vegetable based with nothing processed.

Paired with a little turkey and some of the "real" sweet potatoes (not canned and sans marshmallow) and mashed turnips, that will satisfy me more than adequately (particularly after the manicotti).

The only thing I then have to look out for is the apple pie and Bourbon pumpkin pie!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Understanding What You're Eating

There's a really good article on factory raised meat that's really worth a read. You can find it here:

Over the last few years, I've not only been trying to reduce my consumption of meat, but increase the quality of the meat I actually do eat. The reason is simple. Factory raised meat is so loaded with unnecessary hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, etc., that I'm really jeopardizing mine and my family's health by consuming it.

I'm not saying that I never buy meat in the supermarket, but that my first option is to try to find locally sourced meat, or, in a pinch, look for meat in the supermarket that is at least, organic, grass fed, free range, etc., (although as the article explains the claims of these labels is dubious).

The bottom line is to know your food. As the article says, you can pay your grocer now, or your doctor later. What you eat translates directly into how healthy you will be. Factory raised meat may be cheaper, but only in the short term. You'll pay more for it later on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Motivation to Stick with the Program

Losing weight is a bitch. Keeping it off is even a bigger bitch. I'm the first to admit that dragging my tired ass out of bed at 5:15 to get my one hour of cardio in most morning is not fun, and that I long for things like a tuna melt for lunch instead of salad.

But, I know that if I didn't drag myself out of bed and I did eat that tuna melt I'd pack back on all the pounds I lost faster than I took them off.

So, I look for motivations to keep me on track.

This blog is just one motivation. Writing about losing weight and keeping it off everyday inspires me to stay the course (as well as reading about the weight loss journeys of my fellow bloggers).

I also always look for special "events," a big night out, a wedding, Bat Mitzvah or some other gathering where I want to look svelte and sexy. I think to myself "Amy's wedding is in May, I have to look fabulous in my black, sleeveless sheath."

Today I think I may have found the ultimate weight loss motivation--my 30th high school reunion. The class of 1980 of Wayne Valley High School is having their 30th union on July 24, 2010.

I have to look good particularly for that one, since I have never attended a high school reunion. I've gone to a number of reunions for my law school but never one to my high school. So this will be the first time my former classmates have seen me in 30 years.

A few months ago I signed up for a Facebook account and started getting "friended" by a number of former high school classmates. To be perfectly honest, I had no recollection of most of these high school "friends" but it was nice to touch base again with the one's I did remember.

It was through Facebook that I learned of the reunion, so now I'm pretty determined to go. If I go, of course, I have to look drop dead gorgeous and sexy so what better motivation to keep the weight off I lost and hopefully lose a bit more?

Gee, I guess I also now need to save up for a new dress, shoes and bag. It's a summer affair so I can probably get away with something slinky that shows a bit of skin.

After all, I'll probably run into quite a few of the guys I had crushes on way back then who are now balding and overweight. I have to look real good for them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

You Have to Reduce Calories Plus Exercise to Lose Weight

A really good article in the New York Times explaining why exercise alone will not help you lose weight:

I, however, believe that not only can you not lose weight by just exercising, but that you can not lose weight by just dieting only as well. You need to do both.

Another interesting factoid. According to the article exercise alone won't help you lose weight, but it will help you maintain weight once you've lost it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Losing Weight is All Just a State of Mind

Lately I haven't been as good as I should be. I've found myself sneaking some of the kids Halloween candy this year. Something I hadn't done for the past two years.

I couldn't understand my behavior. I know that not only is the candy full of calories, sugar and processed chemicals that I shouldn't be eating (nor should my children but you can't deny them everything). Still something changed.

Then it occurred to me, that losing weight is really all just a state of mind. I didn't start losing weight until I became absolutely resolved to do so. I was so focused and so determined to get back into a dress size that I could be happy with, that food like Halloween candy just held out no temptation for me.

Now I've been a size 4 for two years and I guess some of that resolve is evaporating. Yes, I'd still like to lose some more weight, and see my post-kids and menopausal "muffin top" dissipate, but basically, I'm happy with myself.

But I have to remember that I won't stay a size 4 if I fall back into old eating habits and exercise patterns.

If I start eating again like I did when I was a size 10, then I'll eventually be a size 10 again.

So, I have to fix in my mind that Halloween candy is still off limits. Not just for my weight, but for my health.

It Ain't Summertime, and the Dieting Ain't Easy

What is it about when the weather turns that I just want to eat, and eat and eat?? Is there some kind of biological clock at work here that programs us to want to eat more than usual in preparation of Winter?

It's also so much harder to stay on the raw food routine during the day. I just crave warm food (which I try to offset by drinking lots of herbal teas).

My other issue is sleep. I swear that I just want to go into hibernation and stay in bed all day. In the Spring and Summer I can just pop out of bed to go for my morning walk. This time of year, I literally have to drag myself out of bed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Off the Dairy

Yesterday, I posted a story about food allergies and how they may impact weight loss.

I found the article intriguing because of my own personal experience. A few years ago, I was a mess. I had put on quite a bit of weight. I had never had a weight problem before because I was always fairly active. I have exercised in one form or another every day for my entire life.

I was also very ill. I had bronchial problems and allergies for a number of years, and had a persistent post nasal drip and sinus congestion. Air born allergies to pollen, mold, animal fur, etc. also plagued me, and I was constantly taking anti-histamines and other products to deal with the allergies.

Worse, three years ago, within the period of six months I had pneumonia twice (I had also had pneumonia twice before). The steroids they put me on to treat the pneumonia caused me gain even more weight (I put on 25 pounds in six months), and the heavy duty anti-biotics caused me to have a systemic yeast infection.

Worse, even after the second bout and cure for the pneumonia, my lungs just never seemed to recover. A friend of mine recommended a naturalpathic physician, and since I was desperate to finally get better, I went.

The first thing the physician zeroed in on was my eating habits. I, at the time, consumed large quantities of dairy products. My standard breakfast was yogurt with fresh fruit in the morning, and I usually ate cheese at some point in the day.

The naturalpathic physician suggested that my nasal, lung and weight problems were all due to a dairy allergy, and suggested that I eliminate all dairy from my diet for a few weeks.

I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. Well, within a week my nasal congestion and post nasal drip began to clear up, and were completely gone within three weeks. My bronchial issues also began to finally go away. Furthermore, I had begun to eliminate the dairy in May, a month in which I was usually miserable due to tree pollen, and that was the first May I didn't have to live on anti-histamines to get me through the month.

Best of all, the weight that I had been struggling to lose, finally began to show some inclination that it was willing to come off, and as the months went by with me not eating dairy, I finally shed pounds as opposed to just packing them on.

I still try to minimize my consumption of dairy products. I will have some cheese now and again, mostly because I just love it, but when I do I feel the effects. My sinuses become clogged for several days and I even now get head-aches from it.

So, in my experience, I found that there is some truth to the notion that some of our chronic conditions and weight gain may be from what are otherwise healthy foods. By eliminating dairy from my diet I cleared up a persistent problem that had plagued me for years. I spent God knows how much money on drugs to treat the symptoms of nasal congestion and allergies, when all I really needed to do was eliminate the cause of the symptoms--dairy products.

And, eliminating dairy also finally got me on the track to losing weight as opposed to just gaining it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Portion Control

I generally like to eat fresh fruit for breakfast. Bananas, apples, grapes, grapefruit and fresh berries are all regulars on my breakfast menu. Fruit is filling, has lots of fiber, and is just a great way to start the day.

In the late Spring, Summer and early Fall I can eat just fruit for breakfast. But it's getting cold again, and I just need something warm in my belly first thing in the morning to start the day.

Having a little oatmeal in the morning is the perfect solution. According to the directions for the organic oatmeal I use, I need to combine 1/2 cup of oats with 1 cup of water to produce a portion.

Now, if I made the full portion size as directed it would contain 190 plus calories, and is just too much food for me, particularly since I still like to pair the oatmeal with a piece of fruit.

So, looking at the directions given, I see that the proportion of oats to liquid is 1 to 2. I just reduce my portion of oatmeal to 1/4 cup and add 1/2 cup liquid.

So when I make my oatmeal I use 1/4 cup oats plus 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup almond milk (to give it some creaminess and extra flavor). I also add a sprinkling of cinnamon and either raisins, chopped apple or fresh berries (blueberries are my favorite). I then nuke it in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes to get a hot, steamy bowl of delicious oatmeal.

I reduced the portion size appropriately, and reduced overall calories as well. I find that my bowl of oatmeal plus either a banana or apple is enough breakfast to take me through the entire morning (which usually includes hiking, walking or yoga) until I'm ready for lunch.

Got that Sinking Feeling???

It could be the foods you're eating:

A new study suggests that people who eat lots of processed foods have a higher risk of depression. Conversely, those who ate a diet high in fruits, vegetables and fish had a lower risk of depression.

So, in addition to making you thinner, eating less processed junk foods will make you happier.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Key to Keeping Weight off Once You Lost it


"After a year long study by exercise physiologists it was found that only those who continued exercising kept visceral fat from returning.
These results were tracked after participants went on a strict diet and lost an average of 24 pounds. They split the study participants into 3 groups of aerobic exercisers, resistance exercisers, and non-exercisers. After seeing great results in weight loss maintenance from the exercising group, the achievements of the non-exercisers were discouraging.
The group that did not exercise after losing the initial 24 pounds averaged a 33% increase in visceral fat within the next year. The point of the story is that exercise + diet is the key to long term success – not dieting alone."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

So, am I "Indoctrinating" My Children????

A little ways into this almost incoherent rant about climate change, Fox News' Chief Clown in Residence claims that the Baltimore school district is "indoctrinating" children by not serving meat on Mondays. You can watch the farce here:

Huh?? Making kids eat a vegetarian meal ONCE a week is somehow "indoctrinating" them? Indoctrinating them into what?? I make my kids go meatless a couple of days a week (in an effort to teach them better eating habits), so am I some kind of a Nazi-Mamma or something?

Did you notice the grill with ribs and hot dogs in the back-ground while he's ranting about the school district's mission to try to teach children healthy eating habits???? What in God's name is that supposed to represent? Everything that's good and pure in the American diet?

A couple other questions/points. Beck seems to be arguing that if you are a climate change activist, then you're a hypocrite if you eat meat (at least that's the argument I'm assuming he's making).

Now if the argument is if you are a global warming activist, then you shouldn't be eating meat, then why should Al Gore have to give up chocolate chip cookies? I understand the argument that he should give up cheeseburgers (and if you saw how tubby Gore is lately, if he is still eating cheeseburgers, who should be giving them up in any event).

However, I don't ever recall adding meat to the batter when making chocolate chip cookies. I agree that Gore should be giving up the cookies, for his health, but what does that have to do with the global warming activists who eat meat are hypocrites argument?

Also, I'm not a big fan of PETA, but how can it be "consistent" on climate change when it's an animal rights organization?????

I don't know what I'm more embarrassed by. The fact that Glenn Beck is an American, or that there are Americans who watch this Bozo and agree with him. There's probably some dufus out there now arguing that Al Gore is a hypocrite because he eats chocolate chip cookies.

Your Right to Know Who's Shoveling the Sh!t

You know all those ads you see on TV telling you that you don't have to worry about mercury in fish, that there's no difference between high-fructose corn syrup and honey, and that you really don't want a tax on soda so that you can get cheaper health insurance?

Well, most of those ads are from an outfit called the Center for Consumer Freedom, or some outfit affiliated with CCF. And, just who or what is CCF? A marketing/PR arm of big agribusiness. Check it out here:

In a nutshell:

"The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) (formerly called the "Guest Choice Network") is a front group for the restaurant, alcohol and tobacco industries. It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them "the Nanny Culture -- the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who 'know what's best for you.' "

So, the next time you see some ad telling you that something that's bad for you really isn't bad for you, just remember where it's coming from--people who want you to spend your money on their products, even though those products will make you sick and fat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To Scale or Not to Scale, That is the Question

T-Rez over at Queen of My Domain has ditched her scale (

I usually agree with what T-Rez writes, but this time I have to disagree. I'm a big believer in keeping track of one's weight when trying to both lose it and maintain it afterwards. I weigh myself several times a week religiously, and note any trends.

Note, that I say "trends." I don't obsess every time it shows a pound or two gained. Weight fluctuates a lot of a number of reasons, including water retention, so if I see I'm up a couple of pounds, I usually give it a day or two to see if it's an anomaly, or sign of a permanent weight gain.

And, tight fitting jeans aside, watching the scale tells you a whole lot faster if you've been gaining weight and need to make exercise and dieting changes than not weighing yourself regularity.

That said, I also back up my scale watching with measurement. I take my measurements regularly, and actually have records going back over ten years. It's easy, just keep a note-book with a measuring tape someone in your bedroom (or where you get dressed) and note down your measurements every couple of weeks or so. I record the following:

Under Bust:
Right Thigh:
Left Thigh

Just to give you an idea the last time I took my measurements, my stats were as follows:

Weight: 126.6 pounds
Bust: 38 inches
Under Bust 29 inches
Waist: 27 1/2 inches
Hips 35 3/4 inches
Right Thigh: 20 inches
Left Thigh: 20 inches

Back in May 2007 when I finally got serious about losing weight and toning up my stats were as follows:

Weight: 156 pounds
Bust: 39 1/2 inches
Under Bust: 31 inches
Waist: 32 Inches
Hips: 40 inches
Right Thigh: 23 1/2 inches
Left Thigh: 23 inches

Just to go back further in March of 1999 (which as before I had my second child), my stats were

Weight: 120 pounds
Bust: 36
Under Bust 29 1/2
Waist 28
Hips 37 1/2
Right Thigh: 21 1/2
Left Thigh: 21

Notice that although I weighed less, I actually had bigger measurements in the waist, hips and thighs then I do now. That's because muscle weighs more than fat, and I'm certainly more muscular than I was then (I'm also packing a couple of fibroids which I'm sure ups the weight as well).

So, it's not that I think the scale should be the end all and be all of measuring your weight loss success. It's just that I believe that using the scale, in conjunction with other guideposts (which can be a set of jeans), is still a good idea.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Praise for the Lowly Almond

There's a really good article on the weight-loss benefits of eating almonds here:
Raw, organic almonds are a regular part of my diet. I use them on salads, in place of croutons, to add both protein and crunch. When I'm feeling a bit peckish between meals, almonds make a great snack.
Almonds can be an important source of both protein and calcium--something all of us older gals need. They also pack in fiber and Vitamin E.
Most importantly, almonds fill you up and leave you satisfied. I find that eating a small handful of almonds when I'm feeling hunger pangs is all I need to keep me going for another couple of hours until meal-time.

What to Make For Dinner--Dijon-Crusted Fish with Roasted Asparagus

Last week the topic of making dinner for the family came up when you're trying to watch your own weight. I'm always trying to create new recipes that are healthy, low calorie, easy, quick, use no process foods, and, most importantly, are a breeze to clean up after.

I like to serve fish at least once a week because it's a great, lean, protein source and the Omega 3 in fish has many health benefits.

I usually have no idea what fish I'm going to serve when I go into the store. Rather than go in with some pre-conceived idea of what fish I'll buy, I like to see what looks good, and, most importantly, what's on sale. Why serve halibut if it's $20 a pound and looks like it's been sitting in the case for several days???

So, I developed a few recipes that can be used with a wide variety of fish. Dijon-Crusted Fish with Roasted Asparagus is what I made for dinner last night. It's a great recipe that can be made with a wide variety of fish (last night it was cod), utilizes any left-over bread I have in the house, and it's all baked on one big cookie sheet which I line with aluminum foil, so clean-up is a breeze.

Best of all, I can make the whole dish, from start to finish, including a big salad to serve on the side, in less than 40 minutes.

Dijon-Crusted Fish with Roasted Asparagus

1 1/2 pounds firm fleshed, boneless, skinless fish fillets such as salmon, halibut or cod
salt and pepper
Dijon Mustard
Bread Crumb topping (see recipe below)
2 pounds asparagus spears, trimmed
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees and line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange fish on one half of the cookie sheet. Salt and pepper the fish and spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on each fillet. Spread the Bread Crumb topping over the fish and press into the Dijon mustard.

2. Arrange the asparagus spears on the other half of the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss with your hands to evenly coat each spear.

3. Cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) until the fish is cooked.

Bread Crumb Topping

1 six-inch piece of whole wheat, whole grain or multi-grain baguette, sliced in half lengthwise and toasted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Break the bread up into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then add remaining ingredients. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Family for the Weekend

My family lives 1 hour and fifteen minutes away from me in NJ. Now, if I lived an hour and fifteen minutes away in NJ, this would be no big deal, and Mom, Dad and my sisters would be popping in and out of my house all the time.

But, because I live in another state, where they have to go through another state (NY) and over a big bridge (the Tappen Zee) to get here, my whole family just freaks out about visiting me. It's like I live in some different and exotic country (which is partially true).
So, when family visits, they often stay overnight (hence, the reason for the guest room and extra beds in the kids' rooms). This weekend, Mom and my one sister came Saturday and stayed overnight until Sunday. So I had overnight guests.

Saturday was predicted to be a wet, cold, miserable night, which proved accurate. Being the good daughter/sister, I planned a meal that was hearty, healthy and filling. I made Coq au Vin which is essentially braised chicken cooked in red wine and cognac.

Of course, I didn't want to make Coq au Vin without trying to "health it up" a bit. So I took the recipe, reduced the meat, and doubled some of the vegetables. I served it over brown basmati rice, and made a roasted beet and arugula salad on the side.

The meal was an outstanding success, and it made enough so that my husband and I had enough for leftovers on Sunday. The kids had basic baked chicken.

Here's the recipe:

Coq Au Vin

Olive oil
6 ounces good bacon
1 4 pound chicken cut up into 8 pieces, plus 2 split chicken breast cut into 8 pieces
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac
1 bottle dry red wine
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 bunch thyme leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons flour
1 pound frozen small white onions
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Heat approximately 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy and lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon. Scoop out some of the bacon grease and leave approximately 3 tablespoons.

2. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and salt and pepper. Brown in a single layer in the Dutch oven (you'll have to do batches), turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to a plate as its browned.

3. Add the carrots, diced yellow onions, celery and cook for 10-12 minutes. Add salt and pepper, add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the Cognac and let cook until the alcohol burns off. Put the bacon, chicken and any collected juices back into the Dutch Oven. Add the wine, chicken stock, thyme and bring to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the over for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven back to the stove (note you can get to this stage and stop several hours ahead. Just bring to a simmer and reheat on top of the stove prior to beginning the next step).

4. Cook over medium-low heat. Mash 2 tablespoons of the butter and flour together and stir into the Dutch oven. Add the frozen onions and mushrooms and simmer over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are cooked and onions are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown basmati rice and sprinkled with fresh parsley.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lunch with the Girls

A very, very good friend who had breast cancer 20 years ago, was just diagnosed with Thyroid cancer last week (I'll call her M). Next Thursday she is having surgery to have her thyroid removed.

Now this friend is part of a "group." Fourteen years ago six of us started a playgroup for our then 3-5 month olds. The playgroup lasted until the kids were 4, the friendships are on-going. We still get together for birthdays, holidays special occasions, and just because we feel like.

So needless to say, one of us going into surgery is cause for support lunch. I had gone for an excellent hike this morning with another girlfriend (not part of the group), and had actually discussed M's diagnosis with her. I commented that the "group" was trying to get together prior to M's surgery to show support.

I guess what they say about Karma is true. Just as I walked into the house another member of the group (I'll call her M2), telephoned and asked if I could do lunch at noon. I have Tai Chi at 1 pm on Fridays, so I didn't think I could do it, then M2 mentioned that lunch was at a local pub right next to my Tai Chi studio.

Destiny was obviously at play here. How else could six, busy Moms all be able to make lunch on a moment's notice?

At the Pub I didn't have a lot of time, but ordered the "Pub Salad," (lettuce, cranberries, apples, walnuts, croutons and warm goat cheese with Raspberry Vinaigrette). I remembered to tell the waitress to hold the croutons, but forgot to ask for the dressing on the side (at least it was a vinaigrette). I also managed to leave most of the cheese and nuts on the plate before I had to leave.

M really appreciated us making the effort to see her, and all the offers to make dinner for her, her boyfriend and her boys. I unfortunately had to leave to get to my class, but feel blessed that I could spend that time with M (who's very into local politics and is still busy working prior to the election on November 3).

I just now have to get cooking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Go Jack Go!

Jack LaLanne turns 95, looks great, is in perfect health and mentally alert. I loved the "fruit cake." I'd like to get one of those on my next birthday.

I remember my mother exercising to Jack LaLanne back in the 1960's, and even joining in with her for some of the exercises.

But Jack and Elaine LaLanne are prime examples of how good your life can be if you eat right and exercise.

My favorite line "You're fat because your father taught you to eat junk food."

I Didn't Know That!

I was reading this excellent opinion piece in USA Today arguing for a calorie added tax when I read this line:

"Add to these facts a recent study in the journal Environmental Health that found samples of the corn syrup also contained mercury — a metal that can cause neurological damage, especially in kids. A subsequent and more recent
industy-sponsored study at Duke University found no such contamination."

Because the Duke study followed the one that found the mercury in corn syrup, I'd like to find out who funded it. Chances are it's probably some outfit with financial interests tied to corn syrup.

I'm all for eliminated corn syrup from my family's diet, but if there's even the slighted chance that corn syrup can contain mercury, then I'm really going to step up efforts to do so.

BTW, you can read the rest of the opinion piece here:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Secret to a Good Night's Sleep

Earplugs. That's the secret.
I'm a big believer in getting enough sleep. I always try to get eight hours a night, and, if I've missed out on some sleep during the week, I try to make it up over the weekend.
There have been studies showing that people who don't get enough sleep, wind up craving more food during the day. I know that if I don't sleep well the night before, I want to go on a carb-feeding frenzy.
But I've been having problems for the last few years, getting quality sleep, because my husband started snoring. There are nights when I get nine or ten hours of bed time, and I still wake up exhausted because he's woken me up four or five times with his snoring. And then there are the nights with the steady snoring which send me into the guest room.
Last week my husband was on a business trip and I got to enjoy several blissful nights of totally uninterrupted sleep. I couldn't believe the increased energy, stamina and mental clarity I experienced.
Now I love my husband, but I was really considering decamping to the guest room permanently just to escape the night-time noise.
Then I had a revelation at the pharmacy. As I was paying for a prescription the other day I spotted a display of Mack's Pillow Soft Earplugs.
"Aha," I said, and took them off the rack to inspect. Just then another woman came up behind me and said, "I'd never sleep if it wasn't for earplugs. My husband snores like a bear."
Well I took them home and tried them that night, and the night after that, and the night after that.
What a difference!!! I slept soundly every night and was completely oblivious to my husband's night time rumblings.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What to Make for Dinner

T-Rez over at Queen of My Domain posits a question that all of us trying to watch or weight who have kids and husbands ask "What do I make for dinner?"
My general rule of thumb is to eat raw vegan for breakfast, lunch and snacks, but eat anything I want for dinner. That means that I'll generally eat fruit for breakfast, a salad or raw veggies and dip for lunch and fruit, veggies, raw nuts or dried fruits for snacks.

Now, I don't go hog wild and pile on the calories, fat, etc. for dinner. I try to make a sensible dinner for me and the family.

But, as T-Rez laments, when you have to please a family, you have to make compromises to your weight-watching regime.

Here's a few of the tricks I've picked up over the last two years to make sure that I eat sensibly at dinner while keeping the troops happy.

1. Start with salad. With bagged, pre-washed greens making a salad is easy as pie. I usually cut up red onions, cucumbers, peppers etc. in bulk once or twice a week and sprinkle them on my salads over the course of the week. I also avoid bottled dressings (two many chemicals, sugar etc) and make a big bottle of homemade dressing once a week. Here's the recipe for one of my favorites: I also like to thin out hummus with a water and fresh lemon juice for a creamy dressing. The kids may not eat the salad, but when I do, I eat less of the stuff that isn't so great for me.

2. Add veggies. If a recipe doesn't include any vegetables then just add them. I don't cook Mac & Cheese but you can easily steam and add fresh broccoli or add thawed frozen peas. Sliced cherry tomatoes are fantastic to add to a lot of pasta dishes as is baby spinach or arugula.

3. Increase the veggies, reduce the meat. I often make family favorites but with less meat and more veggies. For example, tonight's dinner is sausage and peppers. I used to use over two pounds of sausage when I made sausage and peppers. Tonight I'm using just a pound. I more than doubled the amount of peppers, tomatoes and onions I used to fill the family up, and serve it all over brown rice. I'll also generously sprinkle fresh parsley over the finished dish. If making chili, use less beef (and maybe switch to turkey or chicken) and more beans and tomatoes.

3. Cut calories where you can. My family loves breaded, fried foods, like chicken cutlets, fish, etc. When I make cutlets, e.g., I dip floured chicken in egg then the bread crumbs. Instead of just whole eggs, I now use just one whole egg and two egg whites. I also "dip lightly" and apply less breading than before. I also follow the "eat salad first" rule when breaded, fried foods are on the menu. Baking foods that are normally fried also works well in cutting calories.

4. Add a little raw to every meal. Whenever I can I try to add raw fruits and veggies to what I'm making. Meals like grilled tuna, pork or chicken with Mango salsa (see or Crispy Skin Salmon (see work well.

5. Make Dinner a salad. There are many salads that work for dinner. Things like Chef's Salad (see or Tuna or salmon Nicoise salad. The Barefoot Contessa also has a great recipe for a Warm Duck Salad I like. You can find it here:

A Morning Yoga Hike

This morning I went on a Yoga Hike led by two local gals. We started with 15 minutes of standing yoga postures, followed by a vigorous 1 1/2 mile hike (mostly uphill), and then finished with another 15 minutes of standing yoga postures.

Let's just say I'm wiped. I've hiked for 1 1/2 hours before, but not at the pace these gals took us through. I had to run at times to keep up.

I loved it. They're suggesting a 2 hour hike next week. I already told them to sign me up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Year's Resolutions, and How to Keep Them

This year I made the resolution to practice yoga every day. A full Ashtanga primary series practice, however, can take 1 1/2 hours to complete and, because my yoga studio is 15 minutes away, doing a full practice would mean two hours a day.
Doing that 7 days a week was obviously an impossibility. I'm lucky if I can fit in a full primary series at the studio once a week. The reality is that often all I can fit in is a 45 to 60 minute practice at the studio, and I was doing that at least 3 or 4 times a week. I knew that the only way I would be able to practice every day would be to practice at home on the days I couldn't get to the studio, and do whatever I could do, even if it was only 15 minutes of yoga.
But even that wasn't happening for most of the year. I usually keep my yoga mat in my car, which when it's not parked by the Arbor to my yard, is parked in the red and green barn beyond that. Yes, antique homes can be charming but they usually don't have attached garages, so I used to have walk a couple of hundred yards to get my mat out of the car to practice.
That didn't happen too often. Particularly on cold, wet days, I preferred to stay snug in the house then run out to the car to get my mat. And, trying to bring the mat into the house every time didn't work because there were always other things I needed to bring into the house, or out to the car.
Needless to say, I was doing a really poor job at keeping my resolution.
Finally, a couple of months ago I broke down and bought a second yoga mat. It pretty much made all the difference in the world.
I'm still not practicing every day, but I am practicing at least 5 times a week, and at least once a month actually do practice all seven days.
I've actually become really fond of my home practice. I still get to the studio 3 or 4 days a week for a half or 3/4 primary series practice, but at home I mix it up a bit. Sometimes I'll do an Ashtanga practice, and at others I'll do something completely different.
We have an on-demand service from our cable company, and one of the "free" options is "Mag Rack" which has, among other things, yoga and fitness shows. The line-up constantly changes and, depending on the week, there are 15,20, 30 or 40 minute options. Saturday, I did a 20 minute Radiant Heart yoga practice with Shiva Rea.
Other days I'll just do part of the Ashtanga series at home. Yesterday, I practiced three-quarters of the Ashtanga primary series.
Often, all I can squeeze in is a few sun salutations and hip openings.
I roll out my mat in my bedroom to practice, and, to further set the mood, light candles that I've arranged in my fireplace (it does work, but I've only actually burned logs in this fireplace twice in the time I've lived here).
So, while the goal of 7 days a week every week hasn't been met (yet), I am on the path in the right direction. And, if I can only spend 15 minutes in my bedroom alone, in front of a hearth glowing with candles, it's still better than nothing at all.

BitchCakes Does it again

BitchCakes has a truly inspirational post over at her blog. In it she talks about how exercise has become so important to her after years of being sedentary.

Check it out here:

You go girl!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thwarted, but Redeemed

Most weekday mornings I'm up at 5:15 to get my hour of cardio on the treadmill. There are those days, however, when I like to break up the routine (and get some extra sleep). This was one of those days.

In the summer I power walk outside first thing in the mornings. But once school starts and I have to get up at 5:15 it's just too dark. On the mornings when I sleep in, however, I still like to walk outside.

Unfortunately, I live in New England, and the weather does not always co-operate. We had a Nor'easter blow through here last night into this morning which brought cold rain and sleet. It looked like a walk outside was not in the cards (unless I wanted to get extremely cold and wet).

Wanting an alternative to the treadmill on bad weather days, a bought a dance cardio workout video several months ago. My girlfriend Maria, had been raving about The Tracy Anderson Method Dance Cardio Workout, so on her recommendation, I bought the DVD.

The first time I tried to use Ms. Anderson's workout, the DVD player in my bedroom didn't work. This week I finally got a new DVD player, and spent 45 minutes setting it up in my bedroom this morning.

But, it turns out the Tracy Anderson Method DVD didn't work. It's defective, and I probably can't take it back now since I've had it over three months.

The good news is that after I spent the 45 minutes setting up the DVD player, I looked outside and saw that the weather cleared up. So, I took my power walk outside.

I guess that all's well that ends well.

Now, I just have to buy a work-out DVD that actually works.

Exercise to live longer

I happen to like to exercise and be active. It's just my personality, I'm not all that sedentary by nature. But, in addition to weight loss, there are many, many health benefits to regular exercise.

And, according to new research it can extend your life. Check it out here:

CHICAGO – Even in the "oldest old," a little physical activity goes a long way, extending life by at least a few years for people in their mid- to late 80s, Israeli researchers found.

The three-year survival rate was about three times
higher for active 85-year-olds compared with those who were inactive. Getting less than four hours of exercise weekly was considered inactive; more than that was active.

The results "clearly support the continued encouragement of
physical activity, even among the oldest old. Indeed, it seems that it is never too late to start," the researchers wrote in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, which published the study.

They noted that exercise reaped benefits even for previously sedentary 85-year-olds; their three-year survival rate was
double that of inactive 85-year-olds.

Oldsters didn't have to be super-athletes to live longer; walking at least four hours weekly counted, even if it was just in 15-minute strolls a few times daily.

So, get up off your butt and move a little.

My Body, Myself

I've been somewhat loathe to post pictures of myself here for several reasons. For professional reasons, I prefer to retain my anonymity. Additionally, as you have all probably gathered, I'm not all that tech savvy, and taking and uploading photos to a blog is really not my forte.

But I was inspired by my fellow blogger Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit's big reveal this week (looking good Jack!), and thought I'd at least try to show part of myself. You can check Jack out here:

So I pulled out the digital camera, donned my Lucky jeans and a form fitting top and stood in front of several mirrors in the house taking pictures.

I learned a few things. First, if you leave the flash on when taking a picture of yourself in a mirror, the flash reflects in the mirror rendering the image unusable. Second, if you turn the flash off when taking a picture of yourself in a mirror and there's not enough light in the room, the image comes out blurry, rendering it unusable. Third, if you turn the camera sideways to get a full length shot, I have no idea how to rotate the photo so that it displays correctly here on blogger.

So, out of the 20 or so photos I snapped, only one was usable here. Next time, I'll try for a full length shot so you can get a better idea of my results. I'll also try to find a "before" snap one of these days, and if I can figure out how to blur my face or cut off my head, I'll post that too.

As to the photo above, as you can see, I'm not half bad looking for a 48 year old. My biggest disappointment in my weight loss/fitness/health journey is the stubborn refusal of my post-menopausal, post-pregnancy "muffin top" to dissipate no matter how much cardio and mid-section toning I do. While I won't stop trying to lose that mid-section roll, I guess it may be a permanent feature, and I'll have to live with it.

Yep, losing weight after 45 is the biggest bitch of all, but if I'm healthy, fit, have a good BMI, and feel good about myself, that's all that matters.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is Why I don't Watch Paula Deen

I am a cooking show addict. When I switch on the TV looking for something to watch, the Food Network is one of the first channels I check. I'm always looking for new recipes and new things to cook (I love cooking), as well as just learning more about how to prepare really good food.

But, I have to admit there are a number of shows that I don't bother to watch. Sandra Lee bases her whole show on using processed foods, so I don't bother with her. Everyone else may think Rachel Ray is adorable, but she annoys the hell out of me.

And, the few times I've bothered to watch Paula Deen, I was just appalled at what she was making.

Well folks, the above creation of Paula Deen is exactly the reason why I just continue flipping through the channels when her show is on. It's a bacon cheese-burger on a buttered crispy Kreme donut. If you really want to pack on the pounds and increase your risk of a heart attack, you can add a fried egg.

I kid you not. Paula has made this caloric disaster on her show and serves it in her restaurants.

The health statistics of this cardiac arresting abomination are just outstanding. The donut bacon cheeseburger packs in a whopping 1,500 calories and 45-70 grams of fat (depending on whether or not you add a fried egg).

To burn off 1,500 calories, I'd have to walk on my treadmill at a 3.2 miles an hour at a 7% incline for 3 1/2 hours. I don't think it's worth it. Do you?

In case you think I'm besmirching Ms. Deen's name, here she is making it: