Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sugar is the Devil

Read this to find out why you should be working to diligently eliminate refined sugar and artificial sweeteners from your diet:

As detailed by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin in their book Skinny Bitch, sugar adds no nutritional value to your diet--it's just empty calories--and it's addictive. The more you eat, the more you'll crave. If you want to eat less and reduce caloric intake, you have to reduce to a minimum the amount of sugar you ingest.

And, it's not just refined sugar, corn syrup should be avoided at all costs, and don't think you're doing yourself any favors by switching to some chemical laden artificial sweetener.

Work to banish sugar, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners from your everyday diet. It's OK every now and again to enjoy a fresh homemade cookie, ice cream, a really fabulous dessert at a top notch restaurant, or a piece of cake at a party.

But your goal should be to gradually eliminate all three from your everyday diet. I say gradually, because as I noted above, sugar is addictive. If you try to eliminate it too quickly your cravings for the sweet stuff may sabotage your plans.

If you have a sweet tooth (and who doesn't) stock your house with maple syrup, stevia, honey and molasses. And, by maple syrup, I mean the real stuff they gather from trees. The artificial syrup is nothing more than boiled down refined sugar with maple flavoring tossed in.

Fruit For Breakfast

This morning I had bananas and grapes for breakfast. That's a typical breakfast for me. I generally aim to have fruit for breakfast 5 to 6 days a week. In the Spring, Summer and Fall this is an incredibly easy routine to stick to. In the Winter, however, I just seem to crave something warm in the morning, like oatmeal, but still manage to get my raw fruit in by sprinkling fresh blueberries, raspberries or strawberries in.

Switching to fruit in the morning is another way to up the percentage of raw you eat and decrease your total overall caloric intake.

You don't have to start eating fruit for breakfast as frequently as I do. Aim to have fruit for breakfast maybe 2 mornings a week. Or gradually decrease the portion of processed cereal you eat and add fresh fruit (like topping your cornflakes with fresh banana.) As you get used to the new routine maybe increase your goal to fruit for breakfast 3 to 4 days a week or replacing one morning's bowl cereal entirely with fruit.

The overall aim is to decrease your caloric intake in a way that you won't feel deprived or hungry, and switching or adding fruit to your morning routine is a fantastic way of doing so.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Have a Little Raw with Every Meal

As I've written before, increasing the amounts of raw vegan food you eat is one way to reduce your caloric intake, while ensuring your nutritional needs are met.

One really useful piece of advice Natalia Rose gives in her book The Raw Food Detox Diet is to try to work raw into every meal. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to have a salad with every meal. And, by salad, I mean a vegan salad--no croutons, dairy or meat.

But, salads can get a little tedious after a while so it's nice to work raw ingredients into the main course. Today mango's were on sale at my local market, so tonight for dinner I'm making grilled tuna with Mango salsa. I just salt and pepper 4 tuna steaks on both sides and grill on the outdoor grill or indoors on my grill pan. Top with Mango Salsa and serve (or let sit and serve at room temperature.

The mango salsa is also tasty on other grilled fish, such as swordfish, and works with grilled chicken or pork as well. It's also a convenient meal for guests because its delicious at room temperature, so you can make it ahead. That way you can sit and relax with your friends knowing that dinner is already done.

Mango Salsa

3 or 4 mangoes, peeled, pit removed and cut into one inch or smaller cubes.
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 half of a red onion chopped
1/2 of a medium-sized cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
Juice of three limes

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and let sit for 30 minutes or more.

Every Little Bit of Exercise Helps

Too many times I've heard exercise and diet gurus insist that we have to work out at such and such a speed, get one's target heart rate to X or work out to the extent we can't carry on a conversation.

And, you wonder why America is getting fat??? I think these "experts" have instilled in us a sense that it's all or nothing. You either work out to the extent that you're drenched in sweat and have to take a shower and change clothes or it's not worth it.

But it is worth it. Now you may not lose 30 pounds taking a light 30 minute walk a day, but if you burn 100 calories on that walk, that's 3,500 calories burned over 35 days. That's one pound lost or one pound not gained. If you have been gaining 6 pounds a year, by just taking a 30 minute stroll daily, you could lose approximately 3 pounds in a year instead of gaining six. Now, 3 pounds lost in a year may not be much, but it is sure as hell better than gaining 6.

Not everyone can do an intense work out for an hour a day that requires showering and changing. But many can find the time to, for example, take a 30 minute walk on their lunch hour.

Yes, try to get those intense work out in when you can (and the more frequently you do the more weight you'll lose), but strive to find time to exercise everyday.

That was one reason why I got a treadmill and parked it in front of a TV. I have no excuse not to exercise no matter what the weather or schedule. No matter how tired I am, if I have the time to watch TV, I have the time to exercise. If I'm completely exhausted it may not be the intense 3.2 miles an hour at a 7 incline I generally do, but at a 2 incline at 2.5 miles an hour I can still burn 200 or so calories in just under an hour (that's an episode of Gossip Girl).

Start Your Day with a Little Lemon Tea

I used to be one of those people who couldn't make a move in the morning prior to having her first cup of coffee. But then I learned that drinking coffee can actually inhibit weight loss efforts (I'll go into that in-depth at some later time).

Now I'm not one to totally give up on coffee. I absolutely love the stuff. But I did make changes, including cutting way back on my overall caffeine consumption.

The best switch I made was to a cup of lemon tea first thing in the morning. Drinking lemon tea first thing helps "to get things moving" (if you know what I mean), and detox the body.

It's so simple to make. All you need is fresh lemons. Simply squeeze a large wedge of lemon into a coffee mug and put the squeezed wedge into the cup. Pour boiling water to the brim of the cup, then sit back and enjoy.

If you want to enhance the elimination effects of the lemon tea (always a wonderful thing first thing in the morning), add a tablespoon of organic extra virgin olive oil.

And, this time of year I make my first morning tea lemon mint (since the mint is already so abundant in the garden). I crush a few mint leaves into a tea infuser and let steep with the lemon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Small Steps--Raw Veggie Lunchs

One of the absolute best things you can do to get yourself on the path to losing weight is to eat raw vegetables for lunch once or twice a week (the more the better).

And, it's easy to do so. My local grocery store sells organic peeled, baby carrots, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes and cauliflower. I simply buy a couple of bags of raw, fully prepared veggies every week and stick them in my refridgerator for a quick lunch.

But eating raw vegetables alone is rather dull. I like to make dips to accompany my raw veggies. Here are two dips you can make in under five minutes, and both make more than one serving. Simply store the leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

Miso Veggie Dip

2 tablespoons miso paste
1/4 cup water
Juice of half a lemon
Chopped chives (optional)

Put the miso, water and lemon in a blender and blend. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

Tomato Tahini Dip

1/2 pint organic grape tomatoes (approximately 1 cup)
1/3 cup tahini
Juice of 2 limes
pinch of pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Detox and Weight Loss

Shortly after I began to try to lose weight, I was introduced to the concept of "detoxing." The theory is that your body holds onto fat as a way to deal with all the toxins that it absorbs from chemicals in foods, the environment etc.

I have to admit I was pretty skeptical, but the reality was that my weight loss efforts were not achieving the results I wanted, and were downright dismal. While some detox regimes are pretty radical (like only drinking lemon juice and water for ten days), others are quite sensible.

To me, the idea of detoxing by only eating raw organic fruits and vegetables for a few weeks and doing a short juice fast seemed healthy, and made sense. Of course I'd lose weight only eating raw fruits and veggies. How couldn't I?

However, as detailed in Natalia Rose's book The Raw Food Detox Diet, rushing headlong into an advanced detox would be less than a pleasant experience. Instead, I gradually changed my diet and moved away from coffee, alcohol and other toxins.

Then I got serious, I embarked on a three week detox plan that involved only eating raw, organic fruits and vegetables and juice fasting.

The results were impressive. I lost 10 pounds in the three weeks. I did the detox in early August, and when I went to a Mom's first day of school party everyone marveled at the weight I had lost.

Even more impressive, even after I finished the detox I continued to lose weight at a much faster clip than I had prior to the detox for months afterwards.

A lot of main stream medical doctors and sources will tell you that detoxing is a sham. But all I know is that it worked for me. I continue to do short term detoxes from time to time, and have followed a number of different methodologies for doing so.

Here's a good one for those who want a little meat and fish in their detox:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Everything in Moderation

Two of the most inspirational books I read in my own personal weight loss journey were Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman dn Kim Barnouin ( and The Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose (

I say "inspirational" because I am not, and will never be, a raw food vegan. However, both books did inspire me to make long term changes to my diet, decreasing the amounts of dairy and meat I consume, and increasing the levels of raw vegetables and fruits.

Skinny Bitch is pretty much a vegan polemic in the guise of a weight loss book. It is, however, pretty well researched, and the information conveyed on how eating meat, fish and dairy can impede weight loss efforts is indeed eye opening.

But I am not about to forgo eating meat, fish and dairy. For one thing, I enjoy eating all three. For another, I really have no empathy for animals (sorry vegetarians and vegans out there). What's more, my husband would probably leave me if I starting cooking and serving vegan meals, and the kids would elect to leave with him.

What I've done instead is, over time, slowly decrease the amounts of meat, fish and dairy I eat and serve the family. As I'll explain in a later post, it's always better to gradually make changes than to make drastic ones. When you're trying to change not only your own eating habits, but those of your family's it's even more desirable to do so.

For example, two years ago I routinely made family meals with 1 pound of Italian pork sausage--such as pasta with red sausage sauce. When I decided to begin decreasing the amount of meat I served, I initially decreased the amount of sausage I bought to 3/4 pound. After a year, I decreased it to 1/2 a pound.

I did the same with fish. I started out making 2 pounds of fish for family meals, then decreased it to 1 3/4 pounds, and am now at 1 1/2 pounds.

In place of the meat or fish, I added vegetables or whole grains to the menu. For example, while I might have formerly served a side dish of 1 pound of asparagus on the side, I now serve 2 pounds. With the fish I now serve brown rice or cooked barley as a side.

I'm not saying this is easy. My husband believes that every meal should have meat in it (and fish doesn't count). But I've been able to persuade him to accept the changes for health reasons. He's not completely happy, but now accepts having fish once a week and a completely vegetarian meal weekly as well.

The Raw Food Detox Diet is less polemic and more subtle in its encouragement for you to move to a mostly raw food, vegan diet. Natalia Rose, is also brilliant in explaining why you change your diet gradually over time rather than make sudden drastic changes. The bottom line is if you try to suddenly make drastic changes in your diet, your body will just not accept it which will lead to you failing. But, by gradually changing your diet, you'll be more apt to make permanent changes.

Rose is also more accepting than the Skinny Bitch writers in understanding that going completely raw may not be for everyone. She encourages her readers to go as raw as possible--for example aiming to have 50-60% of your diet be raw and vegan over the course of the week.

I generally aim to have 60-70% of my diet be raw and vegan over the course of the week. This leaves plenty of room to enjoy meals out, meals with the family, and to go to other people's homes without being a complete pain in the ass (could you imagine showing up at someone's house and telling them you only eat raw, vegan food? It would be the last time you'd be invited there). In the summer, when there's plenty of wonderful fresh fruits and veggies around, I'll aim for 80-85% of my diet to be raw and vegan.

The importance of moving to a mostly raw and vegan diet is that it allows you to drastically cut down on the calories you consume, while still getting all the nutrition you need and not feeling hungry. It's also better for your health overall. But as I explain above, and will go into more detail some later time, you need to move in this dietary direction gradually. You want to change your habits for a lifetime, not for a month.

To that end, if you love potato chips and eat them daily, deterimine how much of them you eat every day. The first step may be to take the amount your eating and cut it down by 1/4. After a while, cut it back again. Maybe after a while you can alternate the days you're eating potato chips, then reduce it to once or twice a week. After a year, maybe you can then resolve to eat potato chips now and then as a special treat.

If you gradually decrease a food you love (but one which is ultimately unhealthy and bound to put the pounds on), you'll be more apt to stick with the changes.

Again, you won't lose 20 pounds in a month, but by just initially cutting out 1/4 of the potato chips you typically eat, you'll be cutting calories, which can lead to eventual weight loss.

You have to eat Less and Exercise More

The one and only way to actually lose real weight and keep it off is to eat less and exercise more. No natural supplement, or miracle exercise gizmo will let you magically shed pounds.

And, you have to do BOTH!!!! You cannot diet yourself down to your ideal weight. A crash diet is just that--you'll crash and rebound by not only putting back on the weight you lost, but additional weight as well.

You have to combine diet and exercise to lose weight in a controlled manner.

And, by eating less, I do not mean actually eating less food. I mean reducing caloric intake. You do not want to reduce your food intake to the point that you're hungry--that will lead to rebound eating.

What you have to do is replace nutrient deficient/calorie dense foods with nutrient rich/low calorie foods. And, the absolutely best way to do this is to gradually reduce your consumption of processed foods, meat and dairy, and replace them with whole grains as well as raw fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, you have to increase your overall levels of physical activities. This means adding regular exercise sessions to your routine, and finding opportunities to burn extra calories where ever you can.

And, rather than diving headlong into some crazy diet plan with an incredibly restrictive food intake and obscenely difficult exercise regime that you'll never stick with past a month, gradually make changes to your diet and exercise goals that you'll stick with for the rest of your life.

No, you won't lose 20 pounds in a month--but you may just lose 20 pounds in a year and keep it off. There are no fast, easy ways to lose weight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Probably can consume far Fewer Calories than You Think

Here's a handy little tool that will tell you how many calories you can consume daily without gaining weight.

After plugging in the information, I found out that this 48 year old female can only consume a total of 1,787 calories a day just to maintain my weight at 130 pounds. If I get down to my goal of 120 pounds, then I only get to ingest 1692 calories to maintain that weight.

Now, 1,787 calories is not a lot to work with. Right now I burn approximately 425 calories every morning walking. That gives bumps me up to 2,212 calories I can consume daily without gaining weight. If I want to lose a pound in a week, I can only consume 1,712 calories a day (including calories burned from walking) which is not a lot when you look at the number of calories in most snacks or restaurant portions.

On a side note, using the link above, I found out 130 pound 25 year old female gets to consume 1895 calories daily to maintain her weight at 130 pounds--108 calories more. That could be a couple of cookies a day. So the lesson here is that as you age you have to constantly cut back on calories just to maintain weight.

Never Mind Losing Weight, Just not Gaining it is a Bitch

Two years ago, I resolved that I was going to lose 35 pounds. I determined to increase my exercise regime and eat less, and stick with it no matter how long it took.

To that end, I cut back on the calories, and spent a great deal of money on a treadmill along with a new TV to put in front of the treadmill. I had been power walking when the weather was nice and time allowed, but I resolved to walk every day no matter what the weather. The treadmill also opened up opportunities to walk since I could do it early in the morning before sunrise, and after school when the kids were home.

The treadmill was delivered and I dutifully walked every day for 45 minutes at a 2 incline at 2.5 miles an hour. I also cut back entirely on processed snacks (only fruit and veggie snacks) and cut back on my portion sizes at all meals.

And, for all that effort, after two months I lost a grand total of one pound.

That sounds awfully discouraging, but the good news is that I lost weight and didn't gain any additional weight. I had been steadily gaining weight for three years, so losing one pound after two months, as opposed to gaining a pound, was a major triumph.

Let me explain. If you want to lose one pound you have to burn an excess of 3,500 calories. Conversely, to gain a pound you have to ingest an extra 3,500 calories over the calories your body otherwise burns. So if over the last two years you gained 12 pounds (half a pound a month), it means you have to either cut 1,750 calories from your diet a month, or add activities which burn 1,750 a month (or a combination of the two) just to maintain your current weight.

So, in other words, my initial reduction in calories and increase in physical activity merely stopped the weight increase (with a small overall decrease in weight). To really lose weight I had to cut far more calories from my diet and really increase my physical activity.

And that's the same for everyone. Too many people get discouraged because their initial efforts result in little or no weight loss. But the reality is, that too many people already have excess calorie intake and not enough exercise, so it's a triumph that they haven't actually gained any more.

It's discouraging, but its a start, and despite what the diet gurus tell you, to really lose weight and to keep it off, you have to start slowly and steadily decrease your caloric intake and increase your exercise.

More to come.

Keeping Weight Off Is a Bitch

This morning, my scale said I weighed 129.2 pounds--that's down from 133 pounds a week and a half ago.

However, while it sounds like I'm losing weight, I was 128.8 pounds three weeks ago, which was then down from 135 pounds. It had taken me more than two months to lose 6.2 pounds, and then in less then two weeks I managed to put back on 3.2 pounds.

What happened? The Spring holidays. I had Passover and Easter within one week of each other, and then my husband and I had a little holiday.
I still watched what I ate, but by just indulging myself a little, and going off of the mostly vegan regime I've been on for the last two years (more about that to follow), I managed to put weight back on.

Granted, some of the excess weight was attributable to water gain and other factors which came off quickly once I resumed my regular regime. But there was real actual weight gain that went on very quickly.

It's part of growing older, and seeing one's metalbolism slow down. It's just something I have to live with and take into account if I want to continue to lose weight and keep it off.

There are no easy fixes, no simple pills to pop. Losing weight and keeping it off is hard damn work.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just Another Mom over 45 Trying lose and not Gain Weight

What woman in America is not trying to lose weight? I mean, I've been trying to do it since I was 15.

I really don't know why I even cared until I was in my 30's. I weighed all of 110 pounds for years until I got pregnant with my first child. After that, the weight really piled on. I never got back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, and then over the course of fifteen years, managed to balloon up to 155 pounds.

Now 155 pounds may not sound like alot, but I'm only 5 foot 2, and I was really unhappy.

Then, two years ago, I promised myself I'd get back down to 120 pounds. I managed to lose over 30 pounds in the course of a year-back down to 125 pounds. After that, the weight just refused to come off.

What's more, 125 didn't "stick" as well. Within a month of reaching 125 pounds, I was back up to 129, were my weight stayed for over a year. Then, this year, I managed to go back up to 135 pounds.

I'm back on the diet again, and thought I'd detail my experiences here for all to read.

I'll let you in on how I lost the weight, how I try to keep it off, and what a bitch it is to lose weight now that I'm 48.

There's more to come, so stay tuned.