Thursday, July 30, 2009

Small Steps

I was thinking about my previous post 90 Salads in 90 Days (

The woman who wrote that piece, hopefully, took a small step to long term weight loss and maintenance just by committing to eating a salad a day. The point is that she was willing to make a small, permanent, change to her overall dietary habits, as opposed to just following some fad diet for a few weeks and months.

It's small, permanent steps that will ultimately lead to real weight loss and maintenance of that weight loss. There's no going back to your old eating habits.

So, think of some small permanent step you can take, and then just do it.

No, You Can't lose 10 pounds in a Week

As I explained here:, losing more than 1 or 2 pounds a week of real fat (as opposed to water) is just impossible.

This article explains further:

Have a Little Fiber with that . . . .

Queen of My Domain has a great post on how adding fiber can help you lose weight. Check it out here:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

90 Salads in 90 Days

The writer challenged herself to eat 90 salads in 90 days. Before that she was a vegetable-phobe.

She didn't lose any weight but she went from a couch slug to: "Then, a second little miracle. In the first month -- actually, in the first couple weeks, I noticed a remarkable physiological change: my energy levels shot through the roof. No longer did I feel like Rip Van Winkle after every meal; food coma wasn't mandatory anymore. Weirdly, I also started to crave a lot more fruits and other types of veggies that weren't part of my crazy commitment, and wanted far less in the way of sugar and carbs. (Perhaps the diet guru did know what he was talking about.) "

So if she would just divert some of that new extra energy to exercise (and cut out more of the carbs, meat, etc) she may actually lose weight.

But it's a start, and that's what's important.

Determining Your Daily Calorie Needs

Determining how many calories your body needs a day to lose weight really has to be the first step in losing weight. Although you've often seen written that the "average" person needs 2,000-2,200 calories a day, those number are too high for many people. As I've previously written here:, because I'm 5 foot 2 inches and pretty small boned, I can only consume 1,700 calories a day.

So, if I was on that "average" diet of 2,000 calories a day, I'd be putting on a pound every fifteen days or so (an extra 3,500 calories equals one extra pound).

So forget the averages, and try to figure out approximately what YOUR daily caloric needs are, not some mythical person. I like the Revolution Health calculator, but this article also gives a good summary for figuring it out:

Once you know how much you need, you can then determine how many calories to cut/how much exercise to do to lose weight.

And, remember, the more weight you lose, the fewer calories you need to sustain that new weight. So the more you lose, the more you have to cut calories/exercise, to continue to lose weight.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Setting the Example

My son is leaving for sleep away camp in August, and my husband will also be away for part of that time on a business trip. With both of the "men" away, I thought it would be the perfect time for a Mother/Daughter "spa" get away.

So I'm taking my daughter August 10-12 to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY ( Omega is not really a "spa" in the classic sense. It's more of a destination get away for the health conscious. The meals are vegetarian, and there's plenty of swimming, canoeing, yoga classes, hiking etc.

Because we're going mid-week I signed up for a "rest and retreat" program for myself, and my daughter will is signed up for the children's program. We'll have plenty of time together, but I'll also get some time off to go for a hike, take a class or get a massage.

When we're together, I plan to take her canoeing, swimming or hiking. The point is to introduce her early to the idea that exercise is both important and fun.

My other motivation for going to Omega is to try to get her stubbornness to eat a bit better than she currently does. Like many eight year olds, she feels that ingesting fruits and vegetables in anything close to their natural form is gross.

She may only be eight now, but I know her teen years are a blink away. I'm hoping that some day, when her friends are struggling with their weight issues, that she'll thank me for promoting healthy eating and exercising. habits (at least I can dream that).

Want to avoid 17 Pounds of Weight Gain?

Just find some way to walk 30 minutes a day:

Monday, July 27, 2009


Yesterday, I took the kids for a hike. I had planned a nice four mile loop with a few breaks for rest in a nearby nature conservancy. I knew it would be stretching my eight year old daughter's limits, but I really wanted to set a good example that exercise could be fun.

We had to cut the hike short. We barely made it half-way through my intended route.

We've had an incredibly wet and cold Spring and summer here in Connecticut, and we're starting to see the effects. Despite liberal application of bug spray we were inundated with what must have been thousands of buggy attackers. Anything that could bite was on us.

My poor daughter didn't ask to end the hike early, but kept pleading "Mommy, can we not do this again after it rains." After hiking and slapping ourselves for about 2 miles, I decided we had enough, and took the kids back to the car.

Despite our failed attempt, I do try to take my children hiking at least once or twice a month. I also downhill ski, cross country ski, ice-skate, snowshoe, canoe, kayak, and roller blade with them. I think it's important that the whole family exercises together. It sets up a good example for them to see you active, and anything that gets me moving means I'm burning calories.

And, the kids generally love it (my daughter protests from time to time, but my son can't get enough).

Plus, there's nothing as wonderful, as spending hours hiking, skiing, etc., with my children. Away from the TV and video games, you can really connect with them, and they can't tell you they're bored because they're moving.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving in the Raw Direction

As I've written before, the biggest single factor I attribute my weight loss and maintenance to is switching to eating a mostly raw/vegan diet. I don't say eat only raw, vegan, but try to move in the direction so that, eventually, the majority of your diet is raw/vegan.

I generally aim for my diet to be 60-70% raw vegan. My basic mantra is "raw until dinner," although I do make exceptions. The point is that you need to be flexible, so that if you're invited to that afternoon barbecue, brunch, or lunch out with the girls, you can enjoy yourself, and not be a pain in the ass to your friends and relatives.

Here's the deal, I generally try to eat fruit for breakfast, and a salad consisting of only raw ingredients for lunch (although I also like raw veggies and dip for lunch as well). I try to exclude all meat, fish, eggs and dairy for my first two meals of the day. For dinner, I try to incorporate a raw element, such as a salad or making a pasta dish with a raw sauce, but I generally allow myself to enjoy cooked food, meat, fish, dairy and eggs.

If I go out to restaurants, I try to always start with a salad with a vinaigrette dressing, and stick to lighter fare such as fish, grilled meat or vegetarian dishes.

And, while I generally try to avoid processed sugars, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, I do actually love dessert from time to time (who doesn't). I just try to save it for those times when I know the dessert is really worth the calories or if I'm at some one's home and it would be rude to turn down their home-made confection (although I usually just ask for a small sliver.)

On those occasions when I "cheat" and have cooked food and/or meat, fish, dairy, or eggs, for breakfast or lunch or have dessert, I look for ways to go completely "raw" later in the week for dinner. Perhaps I'll make hot dogs for the family (which I don't eat) while I have a raw salad for dinner.

Besides weight loss, eating raw offers a lot of health benefits. If you want to read up on the benefits of going raw both "The Raw Food Detox Diet" by Natalia Rose, and "Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine," by Gabriel Cousens are good reading.

I'd probably never go to the raw food extremes that both those authors recommend (I don't see myself substituting raw zucchini for pasta anytime soon or making "cheese" from nuts), but you can achieve both the weight loss benefits and health benefits just by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

And, I also don't recommend going "cold turkey" and drastically changing your diet either. That's how you feel deprived.

Instead, move in the direction of going raw. Perhaps start out by singling out one or two days a week to eat fruit for breakfast or having a raw salad for lunch. If you're not eating any raw food meals right now, perhaps aim, initially for 20% of your weekly diet be raw/vegan. Over time, increase the number of times a week you do this. Substitute fresh fruit, dried fruits and nuts for processed snacks (only by careful with the dried fruit and nuts because they contain a lot of calories).

Over time, you'll find you will lose weight, and feel better too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Turn Off that Damn Air Conditioning

When we moved into our 1825 New England Farmhouse fifteen years ago, there was no central air conditioning. The window units we purchased, we soon discovered, didn't do much to cool down the place because the antiquated electrical system didn't give them enough juice to get the job done.

So, we adapted. We just got used to the heat. We got fans, got used to taking cool showers and, we spent a lot of time outdoors because it was cooler, particularly in the late afternoons and early evenings.

Outside, my son would play on the swing set, and run around in the yard (my daughter was not born yet). I'd putter around in the yard and garden. On particularly hot days, I'd take my son to the local swimming hole.

Then nine years ago we renovated and added on to the house, upgrading the electrical system and adding central air in the process.

A funny thing happened once we got the central air. We no longer went outside in the summer, we'd even declare it "to hot" to go swimming. The kids sat around the house playing video games and watching TV.

I also sat around the house. Instead of working off calories puttering around the yard, I sat on my ass watching TV (which subsequently got bigger).

Two years ago I said no more. I turned off the air conditioning on all put the hottest days (when the temperature approached 90 and above). Even then I keep the thermostat set at 85. The end result is that we all go outside again (not to mention the savings on our fuel bills).

My husband didn't like turning off the air conditioning, initially, but the soaring costs to run the system brought him quickly on board.

I bring this up today, because there's an article in the New York Times today on turning off air conditioning. You can find it here:

Besides the issues brought up in this article, I firmly believe that turning off air conditioning helps you to lose weight. First, it's the getting outside and moving issue. If you move, you burn more calories then you would sitting inside watching TV.

But, sweating also helps you to lose weight, and I mean actual weight not just water weight. Sweating helps you to detox, and when you detox, your body is more willing to shed fat. If you're one of those people who can never seem to lose weight, then I bet dollars to dimes you're someone who doesn't let them self sweat.

So, if you want to lose weight, turn off the air conditioning, get outside and move, and sweat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Food Pyramid is Making You Fat

Another example of the bad influence of the corporate food industry on our weight:

"For years, you and I have been led to believe that good health is attained by practicing the lifestyle advocated in the age old food pyramid. The food pyramid was and is considered the holy bible of nutritionists, dietitians and doctors.
The food pyramid was the foundation of health. But what if the very foundation of health itself was built on a false foundation? Obesity is a major epidemic in our times. People are becoming overweight to the point of obese. Is the food pyramid a contributor to this epidemic?
“The famous food pyramid is wrong and hurts both waistlines and health”, claims Dr. Walter Willett, in his new book Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating."

101 Simple Salads for the Season

Today, vegetarian until dinner, and New York Times Food Critic, Mark Bittman, gives recipes for 101 Salads for the season in his weekly column. Broken down into the categories of vegan, vegetarian, salads with seafood, salads with meat, salads with noodles and grain salads, there are plenty of ideas to up your raw percentage for both lunch and dinner. The recipes are here:

As you all know, I generally try to eat a raw, vegan diet until dinner. But even at dinner time I try to up my raw percentage (which I generally try to aim at 60-70% for the week) by either having a salad with dinner or making a salad the centerpiece for my dinner.

The raw asparagus salad (recipe number 4) definitely seems worth a try as does the radish/jicama salad with mango (recipe number 5).

Tonight I'm making a version of Bittman's more vegetable, less egg frittata which I wrote about here:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Losing Weight Isn't Just about Looking Good

I was reading this piece in the Washington Post, when I was reminded that losing excess fat is about more than just looking good (although it can be a primary motivator).

When I set out to lose weight, I was unhappy with how I looked. But I was probably even more unhappy with my health and my lack of energy. It seemed to be a self-perpetuating cycle. I was too tired to do anything, and because I moved less, I gained weight. And, I was constantly sick, everything from minor colds and head-aches to pneumonia.

But, as Ezra Klein points out, counting calories is a public health issue. He seems ambivalent to the idea of posting calorie counts at restaurants, but I really think they should be blatantly posted. Not only would it encourage all of us to consume fewer calories, but it may even induce restaurants to reduce portion sizes, fat, sugar, etc. to reduce calorie counts.

We wouldn't just be thinner, we'd all be healthier.

The Days of Eating a Bag of Cookies and Still Fitting into My Jeans are Over

And, forget about eating that pint of Ben & Jerry's. Now that I'm almost 50 it's truly amazing how fast I can put on weight and how slowly it comes off.

I slacked off my exercise routine just a tiny bit because, you know, I had surgery on Friday. I still watched my diet, and probably the only indulgence I've had since the surgery was sneaking a few pieces of black liquorice in the candy/ice cream store we stopped by on Saturday to get the kids a treat.

Pre-op I was 125.2 pounds. Today I'm 127.4. Hopefully it's just water gain, but its still disconcerting.

Cooking from the Garden and Farmer's Market

Thus far, I've gotten only two cherry tomatoes off the vines in my garden. But, I've been buying big, beautiful, luscious tomatoes at the farmers' markets for a few weeks now (mostly generic early beefsteak types).

Last Thursday at the Farmers' Market in Westport, however, I bought my first heirloom tomatoes of the season--a few nice Brandywines. I knew I couldn't use them for a few days, so I bought them under ripe, and let them ripen up on my kitchen counter (you should never, ever refrigerate tomatoes). Yesterday, they were perfect and ready to go.

In the summer, I make a raw tomato sauce with pasta at least once a week. It's a perfect way to take advantage of all the flavorful, fresh tomatoes and to up my raw percentage for the week.

I must have at least a dozen different raw tomato sauce recipes, but last week in Westport, I also bought some fresh chevre from a vendor who makes his own goats milk cheeses from his own herd of goats. A walk out to the garden produced a colander full of fresh parsley and basil, and fresh garlic and extra virgin olive oil are constant staples in my pantry (being that I'm a nice Italian girl). So last night I whipped up a dinner of pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce with fresh Herbs and Chevre.

What made this dish even more perfect is that my son had a 4 O'clock piano lesson, so I didn't get home until after 5. But I prepared everything in advance, and when I walked in the door, all I had to do was boil the water, cook the pasta and toss. Easy peasy.

Raw Tomato Sauce with Fresh Herbs and Chevre

3 large tomatoes (preferably an heirloom variety like Brandywine), cored and chopped
1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 ounces fresh Chevre
2 cups chopped fresh Parsley and Basil
1 pound whole wheat Angel Hair pasta

In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside, at room temperature, for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, break up the chevre and add to the tomato mixture and mix in the parsley and basil.

Drain the pasta and add to the tomato/chevre mixture and serve.

It's all In how you see it

Another fantastic inspirational post:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shopping the Perimeter

Good post from fellow weight loss blogger, Queen of my Domain:

America is Getting Fatter

There's a great piece in the New Yorker this week (I especially love the cover art):

This part is particularly interesting:

"Men are now on average seventeen pounds heavier than they were in the late seventies, and for women that figure is even higher: nineteen pounds. The proportion of overweight children, age six to eleven, has more than doubled, while the proportion of overweight adolescents, age twelve to nineteen, has more than tripled. (According to the standards of the United States military, forty per cent of young women and twenty-five per cent of young men weigh too much to enlist.) As the average person became heavier, the very heavy became heavier still; more than twelve million Americans now have a body-mass index greater than forty, which, for someone who is five feet nine, entails weighing more than two hundred and seventy pounds. Hospitals have had to buy special wheelchairs and operating tables to accommodate the obese, and revolving doors have had to be widened—the typical door went from about ten feet to about twelve feet across. An Indiana company called Goliath Casket has begun offering triple-wide coffins with reinforced hinges that can hold up to eleven hundred pounds. It has been estimated that Americans’ extra bulk costs the airlines a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of jet fuel annually."

What's been going on since the 1970's that could have lead to Americans gaining so much extra weight? The article discusses "upsizing" or portions, but my guess is that instead of focusing on just eating less and exercising more, we've become obsessed in chasing the latest miracle fat loss diet. The end result is that we've gained weight overall instead of losing it.

This part is also interesting:

"Although no one really knows what life was like in the Pleistocene, it seems reasonable to assume that early humans lived, as it were, hand to mouth. In good times, they needed to stockpile food for use in hard times, but the only place they had to store it was on themselves. Body fat is energy-rich and at the same time lightweight: when the water is taken out, a gram of fat contains 9.4 kilocalories, compared with 4.3 kilocalories for a gram of protein, and when the water is left in, as it is on the human belly, a gram of fat still contains 9.1 kilocalories, while a gram of protein has just 1.2. As a consequence, a person with a genetic knack for storing fat would have had a competitive advantage. Power and Schulkin are both researchers at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and they argue that this advantage would have been especially strong for women. Human infants are unusually portly; among mammals, only hooded seals have a higher percentage of body fat at birth. (Presumably, babies need the extra reserves to fuel their oversized brains.) Tellingly, humans, unlike most other animals, have no set season of fertility. Instead, ovulation is tied to a woman’s fat stores: those who are very thin simply fail to menstruate.
Of course, for early humans putting on too many pounds would have been a significant disadvantage; it’s hard to chase down a mastodon or track through a forest if you’re tubby. Thus, there would appear to be a Darwinian argument against obesity as well. Power and Schulkin get around this problem by noting that, as a practical matter, opportunities for eating too much were limited. Austerity was the rule for hunter-gatherer societies, and that didn’t change when people started to form farming communities, some ten thousand years ago. In fact, human remains from many parts of the world show that early agriculturalists were less well fed than their Paleolithic forebears; their skeletons are several inches shorter and often show signs of nutrition-related diseases, like anemia. Genes that controlled weight gain wouldn’t have been selected for because they simply weren’t needed.
In America today, by contrast, obtaining calories is very nearly effortless; as Power and Schulkin observe, with a few dollars it’s possible to go to the grocery store and purchase enough sugar or vegetable oil to fulfill the average person’s energy requirements for a week. The result is what’s known as the “mismatch paradigm.” The human body is “mismatched” to the human situation. “We evolved on the savannahs of Africa,” Power and Schulkin write. “We now live in Candyland.” "

See, as I been writing, NOT EATING for a period of time is actually quite natural-- contrary to what food companies want you to believe. Our bodies evolved to go through famine periods by using up the fat stores in our bodies. What is actually NOT NATURAL is eating three caloric dense meals a day, 365 days a year.

Post-Op--Getting Back into the Exercise Routine

I'm still not 100% up to speed following my surgery on Friday. I took a couple of short, easy walks this weekend on the treadmill, but otherwise I basically slept through most of the weekend.

Today was the day the doctors said I could drive and return to my "normal routine." I've always found, however, that "normal routine," essentially means sitting at a desk and emptying a dishwasher, not training for a marathon (if that's part of your "normal routine"), and certainly not doing a full Ashtanga primary series practice.

Still, I wanted to start to get back to my normal exercise routine. I didn't, however, want to risk overdoing it and injuring myself. So, this morning walked my normal 3.5 mile outside route, sans the 2 pound weights I normally carry. I also went at a slower pace and gave myself more time to complete the walk.

I also did my normal Monday morning yoga practice. I only did, however, about half of what I normally do. Over the week, I'll gradually work myself back up to my normal work-outs.

I think it's better to do something, exercise-wise, than nothing. I may have only did a fraction of my normal yoga practice, but by going back and even doing that little bit, I set the wheels in motion to getting back to my normal routine faster.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is the Cheesecake Factory Gross?

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post has an interesting column in an ongoing series of columns related to calorie labeling here:

I found this bit particularly interesting:

"If I had gone to the Cheesecake Factory with the intention of ordering relatively healthfully, it's pretty likely that the miso salmon would have ended up on my plate. A heart-healthy fish with a soy-based glaze? What could be better?
A lot, as it turns out. On first glance, I would have figure the salmon for the lightest entree, followed by the chicken piccata, the carbonara, and the crispy beef. Not so. The salmon weighs in at 1,673 calories -- which is to say, a bit more than 75 percent of the food an adult male should eat in a day. The piccata is a comparably slim 1,385 calories. The crispy beef is 1,528 calories. And the carbonara? 2,191. The answer might be that someone looking for a healthful meal shouldn't go to the Cheesecake Factory. But insofar as you're already there, or your family wants to go there, making a good decision isn't a particularly straightforward proposition.
This is why the obesity crisis is such a tough issue: Calories are delicious. The Cheesecake Factory isn't doing anything wrong, either ethically or culinarily. Human beings are wired to prefer abundance, salt, fat, sugar, and value. The Cheesecake Factory is giving people the whole package. Changing people's eating habits so that type two diabetes don't become the new chubby would be easy if the food was actually repulsive or the value was bad or it was all, in some other way, a trick. But it's not. The food is enjoyable. The value is incredible. The cost is long-term, and remembering that we might get diabetes down the road is pretty hard when eons of evolutionary wiring are telling us to eat this stuff now now now now it's right here now now!"

Who would have thunk that if I ordered salmon I'd blow my entire Caloric "wad" for the day?

Another columnist, James Joyner further discusses the Klein piece here:

Both articles are thought proving and worth a read.

I for one would love to know the calories I'm consuming when I go to restaurants, even if it was a "range" if the exact count couldn't be specifically nailed down. With the obesity epidemic what it is in the country, not to mention those of us just trying to keep our weight down, knowing the caloric content of the foods we eat would be invaluable information.

Groggy, but otherwise OK

Post-op and home. I'm somewhat groggy from the general anesthesia and Percoset, but otherwise OK.

I also haven't eaten much because I'm a bit nauseated from the drugs (which is probably good because I haven't really moved at all today as well.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So Far, So Good, This Week

I continue to be "good" this week, following my weekend spa visit. I'd say my raw/vegan quota is somewhere up around 90% for the week thus far.

Yesterday, I juiced fruit for breakfast, then had a raw/vegan salad for lunch. For dinner, however, I did make a pasta dish. The good news is that I made pesto (a raw sauce) with basil from the garden and added fresh sliced cherry tomatoes, and used whole wheat angel hair pasta. I did add a little Parmesan cheese, but you do have to live and enjoy your food.

This morning I had juice for breakfast again, and snacked on some fruit. I'm going out to lunch with my mother, however, so while I'll probably stick with salad I can't guarantee it will be raw/vegan.

Mom's up here because I'm having a minor surgical procedure in the morning. She'll take care of the kids, while my husband drives me to and from the hospital.

I'll be under general anesthesia, so I have no idea if I'll be up to blogging. I'll try to stick to raw/vegan, but it'll be hard. One thing for sure is I won't really be able to exercise intensely for the next few days.

Yoga Triumph

This morning in yoga practice I was able to do Tiryang Mukha Pada Paschima Tana (try saying that three times fast) for the first time without props. This asana was always particularly difficult for me because of my tight hamstrings and quads.

Six years ago when I started practicing Ashtanga I needed to use two blocks under the straight leg hip lifting me up about 10 inches to get into the posture. And forget about reaching my feet. I barely was able to lean forward and support myself with my hands by my knees.

Slowly, over the years, inch by inch I was able to lower myself down, until, this morning, my teacher said I could come directly into the posture with no props. I can reach my feet, so now all I need to work on is getting my "third eye" (aka forehead) to my knee.

I started practicing yoga six years ago because I was having severe back pain. The yoga really helped to alleviate that pain permanently. When I began, I would look at the other students twisting themselves into particularly difficult asanas. I thought I would never be able to get into many of the postures.

But six years later, lo and behold, I am getting into those postures. I can twist, bind, stand on my head and support my legs off the floor on my elbows.

The truth of the matter is that we often sell ourselves short when we look at exercise. We think we can "never" do something. But in actuality, we can. It may take time, it may take patience, but eventually you can do it.

Over the years, I've been frustrated when I see other students come in and get into postures in a matter of weeks, when it took me years to do them. But, that's just my body, I'm naturally pretty stiff. But I stuck with it, and although it took me four years to do it, I can now sit in lotus.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit: Lion-Hearted

A fellow weight loss blogger has a great inspirational post today. Read it here: Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit: Lion-Hearted

More-Vegetable-Less-Egg Frittata

I continue to be inspired by Mark Bittman, a food critic for the New York Times. If you don't know Mr. Bittman's story, a few years ago he was having health problems due to excessive weight (he is, after all, a food critic).

Bittman resolved to change his lifestyle and lost quite a bit of weight. What did he do? For one thing, he moved to a less-animal centric diet. I've heard him quoted as saying he's a "vegetarian until dinner," i.e., he eats mainly fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch.

Now if a NYTs Food Critic could lose 40 pounds just by switching from animal products to plant based foods, then I sure as hell can!!

Being a food critic, Bittman has played with recipes to help him achieve his weight loss goal and maintain his weight.

In today's NYT's Dining section he has a recipe for what he calls his "More-Vegetable-Less Egg" Frittata. You can find the article here:

For those of you who are not NYTs subscribers, here's the recipe:

More-Vegetable-Than-Egg Frittata


2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1/2 onion, sliced (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper
4 to 6 cups of any chopped or sliced raw or barely cooked vegetables
1/4 cup fresh basil or parsley leaves, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or mint leaves, or any other herb
2 or 3 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional).

1. Put olive oil or butter in a skillet (preferably nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron) and turn heat to medium. When fat is hot, add onion, if using, and cook, sprinkling with salt and pepper, until it is soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add vegetables, raise heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, from a couple of minutes for greens to 15 minutes for sliced potatoes. Adjust heat so vegetables brown a little without scorching. (With precooked vegetables, just add them to onions and stir before proceeding.)

2. When vegetables are nearly done, turn heat to low and add herb. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

3. Meanwhile, beat eggs with some salt and pepper, along with cheese if you are using it. Pour over vegetables, distributing them evenly. Cook, undisturbed, until eggs are barely set, 10 minutes or so; run pan under broiler for a minute or 2 if top does not set. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 2 or 4 servings.

What Ever Happened to My Boobs???

I've already lamented my waist-line ( so now I'm going to bitch about my boobs.

It's summer, so the college girls, home for the summer, have invaded the yoga studio. This morning a particularly well endowed young woman was practicing next to me in the flimsiest, barely supportive, yoga top. Yet, her boobs were sitting high and barely moved.

There used to be a time when I took my bra off and my boobs pretty much remained in place. Now, there's a noticeable drop when the bra comes off. And, I have to actually lift the "girls" into my brassiere in the morning.

It's not fair. I never went bra-less (being that I'm a 32D it would've looked far too slutty), and thus never got to wear all the cute little tank tops and other items of clothing that required no bra that my less endowed sisters did.

Yet, here I am, close to fifty, with boobs that fail the "pencil test." Yes, if I lift my breasts and place a pencil underneath, the pencil gets held up.

It's all a part of aging, I guess, along with a slowing down of metabolism and weight gain. At least I can do something about the weight gain. Gravity, however, appears to be relentless.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Completely Raw/Vegan Day

As I wrote previously, I'm still ripped from my spa visit and in a completely healthy mode. Today it looks like I will be eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables. I used my juicer to make myself a fabulous breakfast, had a raw salad for lunch, and I just made myself Tabbouleh for dinner (the hubby and kids are getting hot dogs to go with the Tabbouleh). My recipe for Tabbouleh is here:

I also ate some grapes for a snack. I don't feel deprived, or like I'm missing out on anything at all. Even with the chill up here in Connecticut, I'm not craving any kind of cooked food. In fact, I know if I can keep the raw thing going for a few days, I'll drop some weight and feel better than ever.

Which is good, because I'm having a minor surgical procedure on Friday that will knock me off my feet for a few days (the joys of female gynaecological problems once you hit that certain age!).

You're Not Dieting, You're changing your Lifestyle

Blah, blah, blah, I know you guys are getting sick about hearing about the spa, but a retreat like that, totally centered on health and diet (with a little pampering thrown in) just puts you in a contemplative move.

Prior to my last weight loss journey, I had tried countless times to take off all the weight that just piled on after I hit forty. Every crazy diet I tried either didn't work at all, or only took off some of the weight which piled right back on again once I got off the diet.

The reason I was able to take off so much weight this last time (and keep it off) was that I didn't so much go on a diet, but changed my lifestyle (and the lifestyle of my family as well).

Last weekend during one of the morning aerobic walks, I had a long discussion with a woman who booked herself into the New Age Spa for two weeks. She had also put on a great deal of weight in her forties, and was having health problems. She knew she had to change her life.

She was a single mother and her daughter was at sleep away camp, so she took the opportunity to get away herself. After spending some time at New Age she told me that she now realized that she needed to make changes to her life. She needed to schedule her exercise sessions just like any other appointment, and make it a priority. She needed to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and cut down on grabbing a bagel or muffin at some fast food place on the way to work and eating lunch out.

"How hard could it be to stop at a store instead and just buy some fresh fruit for breakfast?" she said.

I cheered on this woman, and related my own weight loss journey. Two years ago, I too, realized, that I needed to permanently change my eating habits and make exercise a priority in my life if I ever wanted to be healthy again (I was having health issues as well which disappeared with the excess weight).

We also discussed time management. Like her, I work and take care of a family, so finding time is difficult. You have to sometimes look at your life as a whole and determine where you can save time. Two things I did was stop shopping so much (I really didn't need all the stuff I was buying on any account), and cutting back on the amount of housework I did (the house really doesn't need to be spotlessly clean completely picked up every single day of the week).

I also looked for any time efficiencies I could find, and looked to cut my overall driving time by combining chores when I was out (saving gas as well).

As for gifts, I've learned have gift cards to various stores on hand in various denominations. Instead of running to the store every time one of my kids gets invited to a party, I just give a gift card. And, adults really prefer getting a gift card to a store they like then something you think they'll like. And, the hour or so I save by not running back and forth to a store, is an hour I get to exercise.

Think about your own life and how you can make changes to eat better and exercise more. Implement those changes and you'll be happy with the results.

Still on My Spa High

Going to the spa really reinvigorated me and got me back in a "healthy" mode. I like to think about being "healthy" as opposed to "going on a diet."

This morning I got up and took my walk, then juice up watermelon and fresh berries for breakfast. I just had a light salad with lettuce, red onion, almonds and mango with a lemon vinaigrette for lunch. For dinner tonight, I'll whip up some vegetarian dish, probably with brown rice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Weekend at the Spa

I'm ba-a-a-ck!!! What can I say??? It was wonderful. I had the absolute best time over the weekend at the New Age Health Spa in Neversink, NY.

I love my family, but getting away for an entire weekend to pamper myself, exercise and juice fast is just heaven.

I got to the spa around 2 pm on Friday, unpacked and relaxed for a bit. At 3 there was open time for individual yoga practice in the yoga space (a beautiful natural wood paneled open room called Cayuga), so I did a modified Ashtanga primary series practice for about 45 minutes. Then at 4 I stayed for the led Freeing Restorative yoga class.

If you've never taken a restorative yoga class, then you have definitely missed out. In a restorative yoga class, you use bolsters, blankets and other props to support yourself in stretches, then you hang out in these stretches for five minutes or so. By the end of the class you feel both flexible and totally relaxed.

After I sat in a chair outside and read, prior to going to "dinner" at 6. My "dinner" was a delicious blend of carrot, fennel, spinach and apple juices topped with a beautiful yellow tropical flower. I added some fresh ginger juice to my "cocktail" and sipped away.

Then I headed off to the services department for a colonic, which I followed up with fifteen minutes in the sauna and a shower. Back in my room I read peacefully until I fell asleep.

Saturday morning I was up at 6:30 for the 7 am Aerobic walk followed by the Mixed Level Hatha Yoga class at 8. Breakfast was a blend of pineapple and watermelon juices which was scrumptious.

After breakfast I headed over to the inside whirlpool and hung out there for a while, then I headed back to the sauna for another 15 minute session. I showered and then headed off to lunch.

Lunch was another delicious juice mixture, and I still wasn't feeling the slightest bit hungry. After lunch, I headed vegged for a bit, before heading off for a spa pedicure at 3.

The pedicure was delightful. In addition to the normal pedicure routine, the manicurist gave my feet and lower legs a salt scrub and then applied a peppermint mask (which tingled.) My feet and legs are now as soft as a baby's bottom.

After the pedicure I took a Chinese Healing Exercise class at 4, then headed back to my room to grab my needlepoint. I settled myself into a comfortable lounge chair and worked on my needlepoint until it was time for dinner.

Without still having felt a hunger pang, I had another delicious juice for dinner, then headed back to the spa for an aromatherapy message. I choice the "relaxation" mixtures of oils which included lavender and Eucalyptus. I followed up the message with another stint in the sauna, I headed back to the room where I read for a while then slept like a baby.

I broke my fast first thing in the morning by having a banana, although I really could have kept going. I took the aerobic walk and yoga class again, and then had oatmeal with raisins, Cinnamon, maple syrup and blueberries for breakfast.

After breakfast I took a Zumba Dance class, which fuses Latin rhythms and dance moves, and a Roll & Stretch class. I then packed up and checked out, and had a lunch of salad and pasta primavera.

Following lunch, I headed home. I juiced for a day and a half, and felt absolutely wonderful.

The staff of the New Age Health Spa was attentive and courteous. In particular, Randi, who was guiding the juice fasters was very informative and helpful. The spa grounds are beautiful, with pocket gardens spread throughout the property, and lounge chairs and hammocks are strewn everywhere so you can easily find a place to enjoy the views.

Now if there was only some way I could actually do this for an entire week!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

One Final Note before I Leave for the Spa

Before I leave, I happen to be reviewing some of the comments left on the HuffingtonPost on a posting regarding Gwyneth Paltrow's cleanse (which you can read here: I was shocked at how negatively Paltrow's attempt to do something healthy garnered so many negative comments.

Now, I'm not really a fan of Paltrow's acting, and if you ask me if you dyed her hair brown no one would ever look at her. Still, it's so sad how the corporate food industry has convinced you that scaling back your eating is somehow unhealthy, while it is actually how our bodies where evolved to deal with the natural cycles of food availability.

If you view historic records, the year was flooded with so called binge/purges. Mardi Gras prior to Lenten fasting is just one example.
It has only been in the last few decades that the easy, cheap, availability of food 24/7, 360 days a year has become the norm.

Now, even through the typical adult can should consume, on average 2,000 calories a day, the corporate food industry manufactures 3,900 calories of day for every person here in the states. You don't think they have a profit motive in you consuming those extra calories by convincing you that reducing your food intake is unhealthy?

If you don't, well there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

Gwyneth's Cleanse

This week in her weekly newsletter, Gwyneth Paltrow writes about a three week cleanse she just completed, and then has an interview with the doctor who designed her cleanse, Dr. Alejandro Junger. The newsletter is here:

As regular readers probably already know, I'm a big fan of cleansing and credit most of my weight loss to regular cleansing. But beyond weight loss, I always feel light and so damn good after I compete one (although I'll admit that sometimes its a struggle getting through three days of a liquid diet).

This latest detox that Gwyneth did, however, was designed so that she could still keep up her busy lifestyle. Apparently she's in the middle of filming a movie, and she was able to stick to her cleansing regime for three weeks. I have to admit that I'm definitely intrigued and plan to purchase Dr. Alejandro Junger's book.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Spaing I will Go

Yippee!!!! Tomorrow I leave for my long weekend at the spa. As I wrote about here:, my Mother's Day gift from my husband was a weekend away, alone, at a spa.

I'm going to the New Age Health Spa in Neversink, NY ( and I'll participate in a short (2 day)juice fast while I'm there. I've been preparing for the fast all week--no caffeine no meat, fish or dairy--so that I can launch right into it once I get there.

Juice fasting is a great way to cleanse and detox, and I always feel fantastic afterwards. My only regret is that I can't get away longer than a weekend to juice fast. I'd really love to try a full week one of these days.

It's best to do juice fast in warmer weather (although it's supposed to be unseasonable chilly and wet this weekend). You can do it any time of year, but the body doesn't seem to crave hot food as much when its warm.

And I love the supportive atmosphere going to a spa to juice fast because your part of a group. There's a special area in the dining room for the juice fasters, and it breeds a sort of camaraderie. We cheer each other on, and pass along experiences of previous fasts.

Not to mention, that it's a hell of a lot easier to fast if you're not preparing food for hubby and kids, and can generally relax the entire time. I'll take some hikes, practice yoga, use the sauna and whirlpool. And (weather permitting) there's a hammock I'm awfully fond of just napping in.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Best Things in Life are Free

And the best way to diet is not to spend any money on pills, patches, supplements, etc. that promise to help you lose weight. I'm constantly amazed at all the ads for weight loss gimmicks--and that's all they are, you won't lose any weight taking any of them.

Do you really want to lose weight? If so, here's what you do.

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. To the extent you can eat them raw as opposed to cooked, so much the better. Over time, aim to get your intake of raw fruits and vegetables up to 60-70% of your weekly intake of food.

2. Decrease your intake of meat, fish, dairy and eggs. You don't have to go entirely vegan, but, gradually and over time, reduce them so that they are a minimal part of your weekly diet.

3. Avoid processed and junk foods at all costs. If it comes out of a box, bag or the freezer and you can't pronounce any of the ingredients, just don't eat it.

4. Avoid hard alcohol. An occasional cocktail now and then is OK, but generally avoid drinks with vodka, gin or other hard spirits. While it's better to avoid alcohol altogether, stick with wine if you're someone who really enjoys a drink more than occasionally.

5. Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners. They're just empty calories that will leave you craving for more.

6. Exercise every day. You won't lose weight and keep it off without exercising.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Know thy Calorie Intake

Perhaps the biggest complaint I hear from people trying to lose weight is that they are not losing weight. If you're not losing weight, the main culprit is, of course, that you are probably taking in too many calories and not exercising enough.

You need to be constantly aware of two things. First, how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight. That depends on your height, weight and age. You can determine it here:

As I wrote here,, you probably can consume far fewer calories then you think, and, as you lose weight and age you can consume even fewer calories just to maintain your weight.

Second, you really need to get a handle on just how many calories a day you are really consuming. You need to understand that every bite and sip and everything you sip and drink is caloric intake. There are a number of websites that allow you to calculate calories such as this one:, or this one,

You can even Google "how many calories in [insert food item] and find the answers.

And, you need to get real about portion sizes. The portion sizes of items like steak, meat and fish, are far larger than the sample sizes on most calorie counters. If the calorie counter tells you that a 3 oz portion of steak has approximately 400 calories and you're eating a 9 oz portion, well you're not doing yourself any favors by deluding yourself into believing you're only consuming 400 calories.

So here's the rub. If you want to lose 2 pounds a week then through some combination of calorie reduction and exercise, you have to cut 7,000 calories a week.

For example, suppose, based on your height, weight and age, that you can only consume approximately 1,800 calories a day (note that's less then the 2000-2200 calories that most nutritional labels are based on). So to lose two pounds in a week you'd have to find a way to either cut calories or exercise to burn an additional 1,000 calories daily.

You can accomplish this by limiting my caloric intake to 1,300 calories a day and burning an additional 500 calories through exercise.

But, one Starbucks grande white chocolate mocha with 2% milk is 450 calories. A Starbucks Bagel with nothing on it is 320 calories. If you have that for breakfast you've already burned through more than half of your daily caloric allowance. Go to Burger King for lunch and get a Whopper with 670 calories, and you've blown your diet for the day. And, I'll guarantee that you'll still be hungry.

If, instead of going to Starbucks, you started your day by having two bananas instead of the bagel, you'd only consume approximately 155 calories. Have some an 8 oz cup of coffee with 1 oz of skim milk and you've only added 15 calories to your breakfast.

At lunch if you can make yourself of large, filling salad of completely raw ingredients such as lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onion and maybe some raw almonds (no more than 1/4 of a cup) and lightly toss it with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar and still be under 400 calories.

So you total caloric intake for the day up to this point would be under 570 calories leaving you with approximately 730 calories for dinner. A 4 oz piece of grilled salmon is 168 calories, so you can combine that with a large salad and grilled veggies and still have enough calories left over snacks between meals of carrots, grapes or other raw fruits and veggies.

Cooking from the garden

The garden is really rocking along these days, although it's been rather a slow start because of the rainy, cold weather. Still, I'm incorporating something from the garden in just about every meal.

I might chop and sprinkle some fresh cilantro over a couple of soft boiled eggs for breakfast. Vegetarian pasta dishes pulled together from whatever is ready to pick in the garden are becoming a weekly staple, and most of my daily salads have at least one element from the garden--whether its lettuce, cucumbers, scallions or just a sprinkling of herbs. I also keep a bunch of mint in my kitchen in a glass so that I can add a little mint every time I make tea.

The herbs in particular are really taking off. I just bought some pignoli nuts so that I can make a big batch of pesto with all the abundant basil. I'll make enough for dinner one night and then freeze enough for two to three more meals.

I'm also making tabbouleh at least once a week because it uses up the parsley and mint. Tabbouleh is a great on its own or as a side dish to grilled fish or meat, and, it ups my "raw" ante for the week.

Here's my recipe for tabbouleh, but feel free to improvise:


1/4 cup bulgur wheat
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (not the curly stuff)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 to 4 lemons to taste
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover it by 1/2 inch or so. Soak for at least 20 minutes, then drain through a sieve, pressing down to remove the excess water.

Transfer to a large bowl, then add the remaining ingredients, then let set for at least 2 to 3 hours, then serve.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

13 Big Fat Dieting Myths

And, every one of them, as far as my experience goes is true. Check it out here:

Of course, the number one myth is that you can lose weight without exercising. Absolutely, positively NOT. If you want to lose any weight, then, sorry, you have to move your ass. I don't care how much you hate to exercise, hate to sweat etc. Unless you want to stuck at your current weight (or even gain more), then you better get used to exercising every day, and sweating buckets.

The idea that some ultra processed food will help you lose weight because its "low fat" is also a big fat lie. You're better off eating an entire raw avocado then a 100 calorie low fat snack pack. The avocado may have more fat and calories, but in the end it will fill you and satisfy your nutritional needs, whereas the 100 calorie pack just dumps refined sugar and calories into your system.