Monday, August 31, 2009

Back on the Treadmill

Because my husband leaves for work at 7 am, unless I can find some other time in the day to do it, I pretty much have to start my one hour power walk by 5:45 am in the morning. All summer long I've been able to go outside in the morning and walk one of the three or four 3.5 mile loops I've worked out for myself.

But, I knew last Friday was the last day that I could do this until next May. It's just gotten too dark in the mornings again. So this morning I headed off to the guest bedroom and my treadmill and watched AMC's Mad Men and a little bit of Morning Joe as I clocked my 3.5 miles at a 5.5 to 6 incline.

Maybe once the kids are back in school I can find some time to walk outside mid-morning or early afternoon. But until then, it's just me and the treadmill.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What a Cold and a Rainy Day

Hurricane Dan is making its way up the East coast and we've been feeling the effects of it since last night. It's cold, wet and miserable outside.

Luckily, I don't have to be anywhere today, so I'm not going anywhere. Instead, I'm spending most of the day the Kitchen.

In between rainstorms this morning, I headed out into the garden and picked, and picked and picked. I came back in with mounds of bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and fresh herbs. I should also say that I had mounds of bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and fresh herbs from the garden in my refrigerator already.

So, I did what any other well-bred Italian girl would do, I cooked to preserve this bounty for future use. Now my grandparents used to can their excess produce, putting up jars of tomatoes, vinegar peppers, etc. I have to admit that I'm not that ambitious. Canning is a lot of work.

Instead, I rely on making things that will keep well in the refrigerator and freezer. A little extra work today, means that much less time in the kitchen over the next couple of months.

Have I mentioned that bell peppers have been the star of this year's garden? I bought a six pack of yellow bell peppers at the garden center, and the plants have been continuously laden with fruit since the middle of July. At some point I should make stuffed peppers for dinner, but that's another post.

This morning I picked two colanders full of yellow bell peppers, so my first kitchen task was to roast some of them. I lined a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and heated up the broiler. I place the peppers on the cookie sheet and put them under the broiler. I let the broiler char the peppers, turning them as they charred so that they were evenly blackened on all sides, then I put the blackened peppers in a paper bag, sealed it and let them steam in the bag for a couple of hours. Then I peeled and scraped off the blackened skins, cut out the seeds and rinsed under cold water. The next step was to dry the peppers on a paper towel and slice into thin strips.

At this point you have two options. You can make a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and minced garlic and pour it over the pepper. Let marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The peppers will keep this way in the refrigerator for up to a week. Bring to room temperature prior to serving and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil or parsley.

Alternatively, after you've dried the peppers and sliced into strips, layer the peppers in a shallow plastic container, seal and freeze. The peppers will keep in the freezer for two months. When you want to use them, thaw in the refrigerator than marinate in the dressing.

I serve these peppers as an appetizer as part of an antipasto platter. Alternatively, you can serve them on thin slices of Italian bread.

Now I should warn you that it takes quite a while to roast the peppers, so you might want to have another task to complete in the kitchen while you babysit the peppers under the broiler.

While my peppers were roasting I cut up vegetables to make caponata. One of these days I'll actually write up a recipe for this, but essentially, you go out into the garden and pick whatever eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers and hot peppers you have (although I cautiously add the hot peppers usually limiting it to one or two). You chop them all up into a large baking dish and add chopped red onion, minced garlic, salt, pepper, red wine or balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pitted olives and capers. You mix everything up and then bake at 325 degrees until everything is cooked down and all the liquid is evaporated. Let cool down to room temperature.

At this point the caponata will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. Alternatively, you can keep it in the freezer for up to one month. You can either sprinkle it with chopped fresh parsley or basil and serve it as an appetizer as part of an antipasto platter or on sliced bread. You can also toss it with pasta for a vegetarian dinner, again adding chopped fresh parsley or basil.

Being the busy bee that I am I also made banana muffins for my son who's allergic to both diary and wheat, and a bottle of lemon vinaigrette dressing (recipe here:

I also got a jump on dinner and made a tomato salad. When you make a tomato salad you want to use the freshest tomatoes from the garden and farmers market or else it's not worth the effort. Don't bother making it with supermarket tomatoes or tomatoes that have been in the refrigerator (it kills the taste). When you use really good tomatoes, no vinegar is needed, but if you make it and discover it is a bit bland tasting you can add a little vinegar to pick up the taste. Chopped fresh hot pepper gives the salad a little kick, but you can leave it out if its not to your taste.

Fresh Tomato Salad

4 medium sized tomatoes, cored
and chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 small red hot pepper, veined, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar

Mix the tomatoes, onion, garlic, hot pepper, and olive oil in a salad bowl and set aside at room temperature for at
least two hours. Prior to serving add basil, salt, pepper and vinegar (if needed).

Well that was it for the morning. I'm going to take a break from the kitchen and hit yoga mat for a short practice then the treadmill for a long walk.

But I'll be back in kitchen this afternoon. I think I'll make a batch of pesto (which freezes beautifully). It may seem like a lot of work today, but it means I have I have to spend that much less time in the kitchen later on.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Pistachio Principle" of Weight Loss

This article pretty much sums up what I always say--you won't permanently lose weight if you go on a diet were you feel deprived or hungry. To lose weight you have to learn to eat less and eat better:


James Painter, PhD, RD, has come up with a new, non-dieting approach to weight loss that he calls the "Pistachio Principle." He says his experiments have shown that people can consume fewer calories without consciously restricting themselves, and yet finish a meal feeling as satisfied and full as does the average American who consumes more calories.

As justification for the new direction he is taking, he cites the fact that all forms of dieting, including the Pritikin Principle®, the Atkins Diet®, and Weight Watchers®, have yielded poor long-term weight-loss results, and he points to rebound eating in response to feelings of deprivation as one probable reason
for their failure.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Diet" Is a Four Letter Word

One of the things I struggle with is the word "diet." My problem with the word "diet" is that if one "goes on a diet" it connotes nothing more than a short-term, temporary change in one's eating habits.

No short-term, temporary change is going to take the weight off and keep it off.

As I wrote here:, if you managed to put on an extra 20 or 30 pounds eating a particular way then guess what? The minute you abandon your "diet" and go back to your old eating habits, you'll put those extra 20 or 30 pounds right back on.

There is no going back.

So going on Atkins, South Beach or whatever diet du jour habits to be faddish right now is going to do nothing for you in the long run.

Everyone I know who went on Atkins made tremendous pains-in-the-asses out of themselves a few years ago because you had to prepare special food for them. All of them lost some weight, but then put each and every single pound back on. My former Nanny lost 60 pounds on Atkins but then put on over 80 pounds when she went off of it.

That's because the Atkins diet is simply not sustainable. There's no way you can avoid eating rice, pasta and bread for the rest of your life (and who would want to?). The same is true for any diet that promises miracle weight loss if you follow some ridiculous eating regime.

If all my friends (and my former Nanny) just committed to permanently eating better, healthier, non-processed foods and exercising a little more, I'm positive they all would have had more successful weight loss results.

Real weight loss means making life-time commitments. Switching out processed junk foods for healthier alternatives is doable and even better for your health. Committing to not eating carbohydrates for the rest of your life isn't. While reducing the amount of highly refined, processed carbohydrates is probably a good idea, what you want to do is nix Wonder Bread for bread made with whole grains and eat less of it, not avoid it altogether.

So, if you want to lose weight, don't go on a "diet." Instead, take a hard look at what you are now eating, and set goals for yourself to make positive changes to your eating habits that you can sustain for life. You don't have to make all the changes at once (that may leave you feeling deprived).

Taking baby steps that you'll stick with is much better than taking giant steps that you won't. The goal is to lose weight permanently, not quickly.

So be patient, and switch out those chips you normally have for a mid-day snacks for grapes.

It's Not Just About Being Thin

A new study shows that a healthy diet and exercise lowers the risk of getting Alzheimer's by a whopping 59%:

Columbia University studied 1,800 people in their 70's, none of who had Alzheimer's when the study began. By the end of the study, those who followed a "Mediterranean diet" and exercised regularly were the least likely to develop the disease.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

It's Not Just About Being Thin

Too often, in my opinion, the focus of losing weight is to look good, but as this article shows, there is so much more at stake:

On top of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, it now turns out that being overweight can lead to brain degeneration.

That why I think it's so important to change not just your own eating habits, but the habits of your entire family. Of course one reason is to make it easier for you to stay the course, but beyond that, I don't want my anyone in my family to suffer the health consequences that being overweight brings on.

Adapting Family Favorites to Weight Control Reality

T-Rez over at Queen of My Domain has a familiar lament regarding her ethnic heritage:

She wants her Boudin Sausage, but is trying to lose weight.

Well, I say you can have your sausage and lose weight too! The trick is to just eat less of it. Instead of filling up on Boudin, make a big healthy raw salad and serve a vegetable side dish. So, if you normally eat one link of Boudin, cut it down to half, and fill up the plate with salad and veggies.

I did that with one of my summer family standards--Sausage and peppers. Two years when I made sausage and peppers for my family, I would use two pounds of sweet Italian fennel sausage and pile them on Italian Hogey rolls. Now I only use one pound of sausage and serve it over brown rice. I use more peppers, tomatoes and onions in the dish and usually serve a tomato salad on the side.

No one leaves the table hungry, but we leave the table having eaten less of the fattening meat.

Because you can't lose weight and keep it off by just going on a temporary diet. You have to make permanent changes to your eating habits.

And you won't make those permanent changes if you can't eat the foods you grew up with and truly love.

Junk food like Twinkies you should permanently jettison, but family foods that are part of your ethnic heritage you should adapt to your new weight management lifestyle.

The funny thing is, the way I cook now is probably closer to how my grandparents ate. They actually ate very little meat, and when they made it, it was pretty much secondary to the vegetables and pasta.

So I guess, in reality, I'm just returning to my ethnic roots, not abandoning them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Yoga Can Help with Weight Control

You'll make better food choices:

People who practice yoga regularly become mindful with their choices of food and what they eat, and because of this are far less likely to become obese.

These are the findings of a study, put together at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer research Centre, in the United States .

The reason the study came about was findings that became known almost four years ago. The initial findings
were for people whom were overweight; they were far more likely to lose weight. If doing yoga, this would prevent the normal middle age spread that people tend to get as they get older.

Off on a Hike

The kids are home this week (and most of next), so today I'm taking them for a hike. It will get them out of the house and away from videos, and a little extra exercise.

The Truth about Abs

I love this guy for telling the truth. Among other things, if you want great abs you have to eat less and do more cardio.

Cooking from the Garden and Farmer's Market

When we came back from the Beach, we found the garden overflowing with tomatoes, peppers and herbs, so I've been preparing meals to use up the bounty.

Being I credit consuming primarily raw vegan food for my weight loss and maintenance, the just picked tomatoes and peppers have found themselves in plenty of salads.

But, I've been cooking with them as well. On Sunday I braised sea scallops in a broth I made with leeks, tomatoes and white wine. After it was done cooking I added chopped fresh parsley and served it with a whole grain bread I got at the farmers' market.

Last night for dinner I made Brushetta. I made a tomato topping by mixing chopped tomatoes, garlic and red onion in a bowl and adding salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I let the topping sit for a few hours, then added freshly chopped basil and balsamic vinegar. Then I toasted up the left over whole grain bread from the farmers' market under the broiler in the oven. I melted a bit of mozzarella cheese on the bread under the broiler then topped with the tomato mixture. It was heavenly (and because it had a raw component helped my diet).

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Anti-Diet Book

While away, I read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. It's the true story of how a young, actress-wanna-be cooked and blogged her way through the 524 recipes in Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking (scoring both a book and movie deal).

One of the side effects of cooking and eating meals such as Veau Prince Orloff (Veal gratineed with Onions and Mushrooms) nightly for an entire year was that Powell gained an additional 20 to 30 pounds. Three years after she completed her "project" Powell wrote that she still hadn't taken off the weight she put on during her "Julie/Julia" project.

I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I too cooked my way through Julia Childs' tome to alleviate the boredom I experienced as a young, lawyer in a big NY city firm. Still, I did not cook my way through every recipe, and pretty much stuck to ones that were less likely to give me a heart attack prior to reaching 40, and didn't take three days to assemble.

I remember making Homard a la Americain (Lobster simmered with Wine, Tomatoes, Garlic, and herbs) to impress this new guy I was dating who later became my husband.

My love affair with MtAoFC continues. I still will, on occasion make Souffle au fromage (cheese souffle) for dinner with a salad. And, Bouillabaise followed by La Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin (upside down apple tart), is one of my "go to" entertaining meals when we have company.

The point is, of course, moderation. There's a reason why MtAoFC is a classic cookbook. But you shouldn't eat butter drenched vegetables as side dishes to Filet de Boeuf Braise Prince Albert (Braised filet of Beef Stuffed with Foie Gras and Truffles) every night of the week, or even weekly (or you'll gain 20 plus pounds the way Powell did).

But you can enjoy fine food in moderation. Just make up for it with extra exercise and less eating other days.

Does it Cost too Much to be Thin?

A provacative article in Time Magazine:,8599,1917458,00.html

Horror stories about the food industry have long been with us — ever since 1906, when Upton Sinclair's landmark novel The Jungle told some ugly truths about how America produces its meat. In the century that followed, things got much better, and in some ways much worse. The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden
prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can't even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19%
of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy.
And perhaps worst of all, our food is increasingly bad for us, even dangerous. A series of recalls involving contaminated foods this year — including an outbreak of salmonella from tainted peanuts that killed at least eight people and sickened
600 — has consumers rightly worried about the safety of their meals. A food system — from seed to 7‑Eleven — that generates cheap, filling food at the literal expense of healthier produce is also a principal cause of America's obesity epidemic. At a time when the nation is close to a civil war over health-care reform, obesity adds $147 billion a year to our doctor bills. "The
way we farm now is destructive of the soil, the environment and us," says Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

So what's wrong with cheap food and cheap meat — especially in a world in which more than 1 billion people go hungry? A lot. For one thing, not all food is equally inexpensive; fruits and vegetables don't receive the same price supports as grains. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it's no surprise we're so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.

Facing the Music

Yesterday I got back on the scale for the first time since returning from vacation. After essentially two weeks of being on vacation I was dreading the moment, but was pleasantly surprised when it read 126 pounds. I had flirted with 124 pounds a few weeks ago, but my weight hot shot back up to 126 prior to going on vacation.

So, despite my vacation "indulgences" I did manage to control my weight, primarily by incorporating a bit more "exercise" into my routine. I say "exercise" but what I really mean is that I just "moved" more. At Omega, because the campus as so spread out, I did a lot more walking, and spent time just wandering the campus with my daughter for fun. At the beach, I just walked on the beach which I love to do anyway.

More good news, I also took my measurements yesterday which I haven't done since June. I lost 1/2 inch off my left thigh and another 1/4 inch off my hips. Everything else pretty much remained the same.

I've done pretty well measurement wise since I started trying to control my weight two years ago. In May 2007 my left thigh was 23 inches, now it's 20 inches. My hips were 40 inches now they are 35 3/4 inches. And, I've gone from having a 32 inch waist to a 27 1/2 inch waist.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Annual Piece of Cake

I've been trying to be really good this week, but the food situation here is a bit out of my control. When my mother pulls out an entire pan of freshly made eggplant Parmesan for lunch, how can I say no? If any of you have an Italian mother, I'm sure you know what I mean.

My other big failing this week was I had an entire piece of cake from the Holiday Snack Bar. But, then, I don't really look at that as a failing. We all have to indulge in something we really love to eat every now and again, and I view Holiday cakes as one of those items worth falling off the diet wagon for (and I always remember to get right back on it).

The Holiday Snack Bar is just this hole in the wall hamburger bar on Long Beach Island. It's a single counter of varnished plywood and flies are everywhere because all the windows are left open to counter the lack of air conditioning.

The Holiday was originally opened by two married school teachers who every summer came to the island to serve up hamburgers, and her large collection of family recipe desserts. Several years ago, the original owners sold the place for some large sum, the primary asset of the business being those recipes.

Holiday cake is a simple yet sublime confection. The chocolate cake is perfectly moist with just the right balance of chocolate to sugar. The yellow cake melts on your tongue with a silky smoothness leaving a heavenly after-taste if butter and vanilla.

And the frosting!! I'm not talking about that usual heavy butter-cream frosting. The frosting on the Holiday cakes is light and frothy with the slightest hint of marshmallow. It's some type of whipped egg-white based frosting that I've spent years trolling through old cookbooks trying to find a recipe that will replicate it (the Holiday won't give out its recipes).

Holiday cake is my all time, hands down, favorite cake in the whole world. So even though I've committed to cutting sugar out of my diet for the most part, once a year I allow myself the indulgence of one piece of cake.

After all, I'm only at the Jersey shore for, at most, one week a year. I'm on vacation, and if its something you really and truly love (as opposed to just mindlessly eating sugar based snacks), you have to go for it.

Life is, after all, for living. Despite my lapses this week (for the sake of family harmony, etc.) I've overall been very good.

Next week I'll be back to the usual regime. This week I'm on vacation (and I took an extra long walk on the beach today to make up for that cake).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Great Calorie Burning Chart

I found this really excellent calorie calculator that tells you how many calories you burn for your weight and time you do it. Check it out here:

I'm going to print off this chart for my results and keep it handy.

Life's a Beach

I'm not much of a beach person. In fact, one of the things I hate most is sitting on hot sand, so I never actually do that, and don't even think of asking me to actually go in the ocean.

But, I do spend a lot of time on the beach walking. I may hate sitting in the sand, but I love walking on it with the waves lapping up by my feet. I've been lucky that I've been able to take at least one long walk on the beach every day since I've been down here.

I would imagine that walking on the beach would burn more calories than walking on pavement. It definitely takes more energy to walk 60 minutes on sand than it does on the road.

However, when I did a quick Google search to find out how sand walking compares to pavement walking, calorie wise, I couldn't find anything definitive.

If anyone out there can find anything, let me know.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blogging from the Beach

It turns out that there's a really weak wireless connection here at the Beach house my Mom is renting. I must be poaching off of someone's WiFi connection.

In any event, we left yesterday afternoon to drive from Connecticut to the Jersey shore. After we got here, we dined old-style Italian on my Mom's rigatoni with meat sauce (red sauce with home-made meat balls and sausage.) It's a meal I grew up on (every Sunday and at least once during the week), but these days is reserved as an occasional treat. Being that we're Italian, there was no dessert, per se, other than fruit (always a good thing when you're watching your weight).

After dinner, since we had built in babysitters, my husband and I took a long romantic walk on the beach (lots of kissing!!). It was a "date" and exercise at the same time.

This morning I was able to return to my normal eating patterns. My parents have a ton of fruit in the house, so I had fresh cantaloupe and a banana for breakfast. I then took off with my sister to a vigorous vinyasa flow yoga class. After I came back, I took my son for a long walk on the beach (it's so nice having him back from camp!). I then made myself a big salad for lunch.

Everyone is at the beach now, but I'm hanging back at the house working, reading and I even took a nap.

I think lobster is on the menu for tonight. As long as I keep away from the melted butter, I should be OK. If not, maybe my husband could be persuaded to take another walk!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beach Blanket Blogging

I'm leaving for a week-long vacation at the beach with my family and it turns out there's no Internet connection in the house my mother rented. I'm going to bring my computer, but whether or not I'll be able to blog next week is iffy.

So, if you don't hear from me in a week, don't fret. I shall return.

Hiking versus Walking

I love to both hike and walk. As I've frequently written, I love to take my children hiking to inspire them that exercise is fun and should be a part of their lives.

I also often take quick 45 to 60 minute hikes with a girlfriend of mine. The good news is that even these short hikes can burn a lot of calories, as you can read here:

"Typically, walking at a 20-minute mile pace will burn about 262 calories in an hour, but the good news is that hiking in just that same amount of time almost doubles your caloric expenditure at 477 calories (based on a 175 pound person)."

I weigh a lot less than 175 pounds, but I'm guessing my caloric burn during hiking is still twice as much as just plain walking. Plus, I get to enjoy the fresh air and nature.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What I like to Watch When I'm On the Treadmill

As I previously wrote, one of the best investments I made for weight loss was my treadmill and a TV to park in front of it. My reasoning was that if I had time to watch TV, then I had time to exercise.

Often, even if I've already taken my power walk in the morning, I'll jump back on the treadmill in the evening for a walk while I watch TV. It's not a full scale work-out, I usually just have the treadmill at a slight incline and a low speed. It's like taking a light walk, and I can easily burn off a couple of hundred extra calories this way.

Here are just a few of the shows I've been watching lately while taking a walk:

True Blood: Sex and Vampires and Vampires and Sex. It's pure popcorn television with lots of cliff-hangers and the eye candy is amazing. Just about every guy on this show has an amazing body, and, because its on HBO, you usually get to see at least one naked or partly naked every week.

Hung: A gorgeous, sexy, well endowed basketball coach runs into financial trouble so he leverages the only "asset" he's got and becomes a male prostitute. Along the way he evolves from being an insensitive jock to a sensitive, caring guy.

Entourage: A bunch of 20-something guys hit it big in Hollywood when one of them becomes a movie star, and they spend wads of money on cars, houses, entertainment and women. The movie star's agent is an obnoxiously funny con man who always gets the job done.

Cooking Shows: Just about any show that has a person standing in a kitchen making food, from Julia Child to Elie Krieger, the Barefoot Contessa to the Naked Chef. I check out both the Food Network and all my local PBS stations to see if any cooking shows are on just about every time I hop on the treadmill.

30 Rock. Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and a cast of crazies mock corporate television.

Gossip Girl. A bunch of slutty, well-off, spoiled rich kids make mayhem in Manhattan.

It's all Relative

When people read that I'm at 125 pounds and want to get back down to 12o pounds, they must think I'm crazy or anorexic. But, as I've mentioned before, I'm a somewhat tiny, petite woman. At my heaviest I was a size 10, and the word "chubby," was an apt adjective for me at that time.

Yesterday I was speaking with a girlfriend of mine who has also been dieting. She was a size 14 and is now a size 10. However, although I looked "chubby" at size 10, my friend looks fabulous. That's because she's a bit taller than me and a much more full bodied woman with all sorts of great curves. Her goal is to get down to a size 8 for her wedding in May, and I'm positive she'll look stunning.

I'm a size 4 right now, and everyone says I look great. If my friend were to get down to a size 4, however, she would probably look horrible and anorexic.

It's all relative. Me at 140 pounds looks heavy, but another woman at 140 pounds could be at her optimum weight. So instead of focusing on what other people weigh or what size they fit into, its better to focus more on what your optimum weight and size should be.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Off to the Beach

On Sunday my whole family heads to the Jersey Shore for a week. Beach Haven Terrance on Long Beach Island to be more specific. My Mom rented a house big enough for the entire extended family, my family, my sister's family and my other sister and her boyfriend, so it's going to be a week-long family reunion.

I'm planning on taking long walks on the beach every morning, and am bringing along my Teva sandals so that I don't get sidetracked by shells, etc., cutting into my feet. I know from previous visits that there's a great yoga studio on the island with challenging Vinyasa classes--not my normal Ashtanga routine, but it's good to mix it up. I'll try to head over there at least two or three times. Maybe we'll rent bikes and bike around the Island as well, and I definitely want to take the kids on some long beach walks as well.

Since we'll be hanging at the house most of the time for meals, I'm hoping to stick as close as possible to my raw vegan until dinner routine. I also know that we'll be eating lots of shellfish and lobster which isn't too bad as long as I avoid the drawn butter (ditto for the corn on the cob).

We're Italian, so I'm sure pasta will be served at least a couple of times, and the good news there is that its likely to little or no meat.

So, all and all it should be a good week, diet and exercise wise.

Definitions: What is Processed Food?

I've written frequently that if you want to lose weight you have to say sayonara to processed foods, even so called "healthy" or "natural" processed foods.

But, I realized I've never really given a definition for "processed foods." Well, Emily Davidson over at Healthy Eating, Naturally does a bang up job of defining what processed foods are and why you should avoid them:

"Processed food is food that has been heavily manufactured in order to be shelf-stable. Processed food rarely resembles anything from nature. Processed food fills the inner aisles of the grocery store; things like cereal, crackers, breads, bottled beverages, granola bars, and other snack foods. There is no
question that these foods are not part of a healthy diet. When a food undergoes so much manufacturing, it becomes nutritionally devoid. An enormous amount of
preservatives and other artificial ingredients are added to these foods to keep them “fresh.” In addition, a great deal of sugar and salt is often added to make these “foods” taste better. The healthiest foods are the ones closest to their
natural state. Our bodies are not designed to consume these man-made concoctions that America has come to accept as food. When we eat shrink-wrapped, boxed, bagged creations, we will not reach optimal health and weight. Calories are
irrelevant here; the food you eat is a lot more complex than calories. [For more on this, read my post, Confessions of an Ex-Calorie Counter.]"

Weight Fluctuations

After the jubilation of being under 125 pounds last week (124.6 pounds), this morning the scale read 126. I was off my usual vegan until dinner routine while I was away this week which may be one reason for the spike, but I'm not really all that concerned at this point.

Weight does fluctuate a bit for reasons having to nothing to do with actual weight gain. I could be retaining a bit more water, or have more "waste" in my colon (I haven't been as regular for the last few days).

I tend to be more concerned with the general direction the scale is heading in over time than day to day numbers. If I weight myself every day, it's not unusual if I'm up or down a couple of pounds over the course of a week.

I do note, however, if a general reading between 125-127 pounds, starts to move upwards to 128-130 pounds.

Reaching a milestone, like being under 125 pounds, is also noted.

Still, I've always noticed that hitting new low points on the scale tend to be hard to maintain. It's almost as if I have to work hard to maintain that weight for a while so that my body "sets" to it.

Being that I was away with my daughter, I maybe did "enjoy" myself a bit too much.

And, now next week I head to the beach with my whole family for a week-long vacation.

Yep, losing weight after 45 is a bitch. A real bitch.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back to Reality Again

I'm back home from the Omega Institute and still on my retreat "high." My one-on-one yoga session yesterday was marvelous. The instructor actually knew Ashtanga yoga, and was an Anusara practitioner as well. We went pose by pose through my Ashtanga practice and worked to correct any imbalances in my postures that could lead to future injuries.

Best of all, the instructor was an extremely cute Latino. Hey, I'm a happily married woman but we all like to just look every know and again.

After I picked up my daughter and went to lunch, we took one last walk down to the lake and swung in the hammock for a while talking. My daughter told me how much she loved taking this trip with me and asked to go back again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday Morning At Omega

I'm sitting on the deck of Omega's cafe overlooking a garden blooming with black-eyed susans, hostas and magenta phlox as I write this. I'm sitting next to a large planter of bright yellow nasturtiums, and there's another nearby planter that contains a large, spiky purple flower that I think is some sort of flowering sage.

This morning, following Breakfast, I took my daughter on a hike through the woods surrounding Omega on a trail called "the path." I actually hiked a longer version of this hike yesterday, and decided I wanted to share the experience with my daughter this morning. She, however, was in a miserable mood so it wasn't the wonderful mother/daughter experience I was hoping for.

Let's just say that I couldn't wait this morning for the children's program to open up so that I could drop her off. Still, all and all, we've have a great time together. Last night, after dinner, we took a long walk around the campus, climbing steep steps up to "the Sanctuary" and eventually found ourselves down by the lake swinging in a hammock together talking. Altoghter we probably walked 2 1/2 miles.

Talking about walking, I've been doing a lot of it here. The Omega campus is pretty spread out and no cars are allowed. So, I'm getting a lot of additional exercise just going from my room to the dining hall, etc. But it's wonderful. The campus is beautiful, with gardens and sculptures at every turn, so you don't even fully realize the exercise you're getting.

The food is great too. I haven't been sticking to my normal raw vegan until dinner routine, but the food is organic vegetarian, so although I'm eating more cooked foods than usual, there's still no flesh. This morning I had steel cut oatmeal with raisins, pecans, and honey with fresh fruit on the side. Yesterday for lunch I ate a big salad with some kind of cooked tofu, vegetable dish. Last night's dinner was an eggplant curry which was so good, I just had to have seconds (and I would have gone for thirds if I wasn't already so full from the big salad I ate first).

We're leaving today after lunch, and my husband won't be back for until late Friday, so I'll make up for my cooked meal "transgressions" by going completely raw for a few days.

I have a one-on-one yoga session this morning, then I have to pack because we're leaving this afternoon. I wish we could have stayed longer, and I think it has been good for my daughter. Despite the trauma of two nights ago, we done quite a bit of walking. And, I've expanded her dietary routine somewhat. For example, last night because she wouldn't eat any of the food, and none of her usual fall back options were available, so I persuaded her to try brown rice with a little butter mixed in, something she always refused to eat at home. She loved it, and has now asked for me to make it for her at home.

Score one more point for healthy eating. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's not much, but you have to take whatever you can when you're talking about an eight year old and food.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trauma At the Mother/Daughter Retreat

I'm in a state of bliss right now because I just came from a Thai Massage. More about the massage in a bit, but let's just say that I needed it.

My eight-year old daughter and I got to Omega late afternoon yesterday. We had a great time walking around and exploring the campus, going to dinner, taking a canoe ride on the lake, and we wound up the evening at the cafe where I got her a chocolate ice cream cone.

We went to the room and fell fast asleep after a busy day. At 1:30 in the morning, however, my daughter woke up screaming that her ear hurt. I have to say that she never mentioned once during the day that she felt any pain in her ear or that she wasn't feeling well.

I tried to calm her, hoping against all hope, that the pain would improve and she would fall back asleep until morning, when I could hopefully find a nearby doctor. Forty-five minutes later, I realized the attempt was futile. I got both of us dressed, and walked through pitch black darkness to the guest services center where I pushed the emergency button. A voice came across the box asking what the problem was and I reported I had a sick child.

Ten minutes later a young man, clearly roused from his sleep, came to guest services and took us into First Aid. After giving my daughter some Tylenol he informed me that my only option for my screaming child was to take her to the emergency room in the near-by hospital.

So off I went into the night of Dutchess County, driving back roads with deer jumping in front of the car, stopping for a possum refused to budge from the middle of the road, and encountering a family of coons crossing the road.

We finally got to the hospital where the diagnosis was as I expected, an ear infection. At this point, thank the lord, my daughter had stopped screaming because the Tylenol kicked in. The intern took pity on me, and even though the hospital was not supposed to dispense drugs, gave me enough medication so that I didn't have to run to the all-night pharmacy in a town even further away from Omega (and requiring even more back road driving at 3 in the morning.)

I had planned on taking the 7 am Tai Chi class this morning. Needless to say, I never made it. We did wake up around 8 and had breakfast and then I checked my daughter into the child's program. I then went for a long hike myself, and followed that with a lecture on flower essences, then picked my daughter up for lunch.

After the trauma of last night, I thought I deserved a good treat. So, I booked myself a Thai Massage, which was heavenly. I never had one before, but it combines traditional deep tissue massage techniques and stretching.

I got to the massage room, and the first thing I noticed was that there was no massage table. Instead, a futon and pillows law on the floor. I laid down on the futon and the masseuse used her whole body to give me a deep massage--literally kneeling and standing on top of me at various points.

More interesting was the stretching expect of the massage. Instead of the normal active stretching I'm used to in yoga, however, I was told to remain passive. The masseuse pulled me and used the weight of her own body to increase my flexibility.

In the end, it was wonderful. The lingering stress of last night melted away.

The amazing thing is that my daughter almost never gets sick. It figures that when she does finally become ill, it's in the middle of the night, in the sticks, and in an area I'm completely unfamiliar with.

I'm off to a yoga class then dinner with my daughter.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Off On My Mother/Daughter Retreat

I'm heading off to Omega in Rhinebeck, NY with my daughter for two days of vegetarian eating, yoga, hiking, boating, and just general mother/daughter bonding.

I'm bringing my computer. I don't know if I'll get Internet access, but if I do, I'll be sure to let you all know how it's going.

Did You Know????

That you can burn up to an extra 350 calories a day just by engaging in simple movements such as stretching your legs, taking the stairs or standing while you're talking on the phone????

So tap your toes at your desk. Park on the far end of the parking lot. Deliver that message in person instead of sending an e-mail, and stand instead of sit when you're having a conversation with someone.

New Milestone Reached!!!!

This morning I got on the scale and I was under 125 pounds for the first time since before I got pregnant for my son 15 years ago!!!!!!

Hip, Hip Hooray!!!! It's taken me more than two years to get to this point, but I'm still elated.

It wasn't easy, and it's been a lot of work to get to this milestone, and for a while there I never thought I was going to get below 128 pounds. Yet, I did it.

I'm sorry if I sound as if I'm gloating, but after being stuck at 128 for months, I then got stuck on 125.

I'm still aiming for that ultimate goal weight of 120 pounds. I have to say, each and every additional pound coming off at this point is a struggle, but perseverance does seem to pay.

In the next few days I should take my measurements to see where those are at.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

7 Basic Steps to Take to Put you on the Road to Weight Loss

1. Exercise Every Day. Just do it. Schedule it in, and have a fall back exercise plan. It doesn't matter if you can't do a full out, sweat inducing mega work-out. Take a brisk 30 minute walk at lunch. Instead of taking the car walk to do an errand. You still want to make time for those full out work-outs, but what is more critical is that you find some way to exercise each and every day, some how, some way.

2. Cut Out Processed Foods. Work to get out as much processed foods from your diet as you can, particularly if they're processed to the point of being completely devoid of any kind of nutritional value.

3. Make the Bulk of your Diet consist of Raw Fruits and Vegetables. Over time, aim so that the majority of what you eat over the course of a week are raw fruits and vegetables. Have fruit for breakfast, a salad consisting of only raw ingredients for lunch, and try to have a raw salad every night for dinner. For snacks, stick to raw fruits and vegetables, like grapes, cherries, or carrot sticks.

4. Cut out Sugars. In particular, banish high fructose corn syrup and all artificial sweeteners. If the box says that an ingredient is high fructose corn syrup or an artificial sweetener, then just walk away. Reduce your intake of processed sugars, although an occasional dessert or cookie is OK (as long as the sweetness doesn't come from high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners). If you must have sweet, then try dried fruits such as apricots (but be careful because they contain a lot of calories), or replace white sugar with more natural sugars such as honey, real maple syrup or stevia.

5. Learn to Prepare your Own Food. Learn your way around your own kitchen. Reduce or diminish take out food and food ordered in. If you go to a restaurant, particularly a chain restaurant, educate yourself on the calorie contact and ingredients in menu items. You have more control over your diet if you prepare your own food (and you burn more calories preparing it). Seek out healthy, low calorie, easy to prepare recipes and make them.

6. Cut out White Grains. Substitute brown rice for white rice, whole grain breads and pastas for those made with refined flour.

7. Don't Go Hungry. Eat enough to keep yourself from starving. Just make sure that what you are eating isn't processed or contains sugars or processed grains. If you get hungry, you're more likely to fall off the wagon. Learn to carry fruit, carrot sticks, a big of raw nuts and dried fruits, etc. with you so that if you do become hungry out, you won't be tempted by the petite vanilla scones at Starbucks.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Great Dinner Party Recipes.

I'm always on the lookout for recipes that I can make if I'm entertaining that will allow me to impress my guests, but stick to my diet.

I was watching Elie Krieger on the FoodNetwork this morning, and she had absolutely fabulous recipes for an easy, elegant dinner party meal that's perfect for the summer. Simply serve Snow Pea, Scallion and Radish salad ( along side Miso Glazed Cod ( with a little brown rice.

For dessert, serve Watermelon, Lime and Mint Granita (

I'd probably start with some crudities.

So, it is possible to entertain, and stick to a diet, and you'll guests should still leave happy.

I can't wait to make this. Now, who can I invite over?????

Girls' week

Well, my husband left on a business trip this morning and won't be back until Friday. With my son away at sleep away camp, it's just me and my eight year old daughter.

I took her for a hike this morning, and later I'm taking her for for a pedicure (it's never to soon!).

Tomorrow will just be a lazy day at home. But Monday we leave for Omega in Rhinebeck, NY (, for three days of hiking, canoeing, swimming, yoga and vegetarian eating (as I said, it's never too soon).

Friday, August 7, 2009

You Shouldn't Go it Alone

I've more than once stressed what I believe is the importance of not dieting alone. More specifically, changing your eating and exercising routines alone. It would be extremely difficult to make real, permanent changes to your own diet and exercise routines if the rest of your family is still eating tons of processed crap and refuses to walk anywhere or climb stairs.

To that end I found this piece on the Huffington Post interesting:

Childhood obesity is a national epidemic and a national disgrace in this country. It's time to take charge of our children's diets and get them off the couch and exercising.

And, it just may help your own weight loss in the long run as well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Being Selfish is Sometimes a Good Thing

Fellow weight loss blogger Jack Sh*t Gettin' Fit has a pretty inspirational post on why being selfish in your weight loss journey can be selfless. Read here at:

Food Experiment

Last night, I tried a little food experiment on my family. Usually whenever I make a pasta dish, I make a full pound of pasta, and then mix in whatever veggies, sauce, cheese etc.

Well, I bought a 10 ounce box of whole wheat bow tie pasta at the grocery store last week. That's a full six ounces less of starch.

Every summer I make a pasta sauce that my family always calls "caponata." I wish I could give you a recipe, but it's one of those things were there is no actual recipe. Essentially, you go out into the garden and pick whatever zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers you have. You then go into the house and chop up all those vegetables and throw them into a large baking dish with chopped onions and garlic. You then add a bit of olive oil, wine or balsamic vinegar, olives, capers, salt and pepper. Mix and bake for a couple of hours until the whole mass is cooked down and not watery. At this point you can toss the caponata with pasta (although if you chop everything fine enough you can also serve it as an appetizer on bread), and toss in some fresh, chopped parsley or basil (or both). The caponata also keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it for a month or so.

Well last night I made twice as much of the caponata as I usually do and tossed it with the 10 ounces of pasta. No one noticed that there was six ounces less pasta and twice as much veggies.

Less starch/more veggies. Now that has got to be a good thing.

An Interview with Dr. Kessler

T-Rez over at Queen of My Domain has a great interview with Dr. Kessler, the author of The End of Overeating. You can check it out here:

I actually just started reading Kessler's book and it's excellent. I haven't commented on it yet here but will.

Out of the Kitchen Onto the Couch

I finally got around to reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine last night (what can I say? I'm a busy lady). I held onto it specifically because one of my favorite food trends writers, Micheal Pollan, had an excellent piece on how American cooking has become a spectator sport. We love to watch shows of people cooking but don't actually like to do it ourselves.

You can read Pollan's article here:

Since I've been I'm my dieting journey, I've become a huge proponent of making my own food. A "fast food" breakfast for me these days is grabbing a banana on the way out the door. You have much more control of the calories you consume when you prepare (not necessarily cook) your own food. And, you also save a hell of a lot more money.

To that end, I think of Pollan's piece substantiates my claim that if you want to control your weight, you have to take control of your food preparation:

"To play at farming or foraging for food strikes us as harmless enough, perhaps because the delegating of those activities to other people in real life is something most of us are generally O.K. with. But to relegate the activity of cooking to a form of play, something that happens just on weekends or mostly on
television, seems much more consequential. The fact is that not cooking may well be deleterious to our health, and there is reason to believe that the outsourcing of food preparation to corporations and 16-year-olds has already taken a toll on our physical and psychological well-being.

Consider some recent research on the links between cooking and dietary health. A 2003 study by a group of Harvard economists led by David Cutler found that the rise of food preparation outside the home could explain most of the increase in obesity in America. Mass production has driven down the cost of many foods, not only in terms of price but also in the amount of time required to obtain them. The French fry did not become the most popular “vegetable” in America until industry
relieved us of the considerable effort needed to prepare French fries ourselves. Similarly, the mass production of cream-filled cakes, fried chicken wings and taquitos, exotically flavored chips or cheesy puffs of refined flour, has transformed all these hard-to-make-at-home foods into the sort of everyday fare you can pick up at the gas station on a whim and for less than a dollar. The fact that we no longer have to plan or even wait to enjoy these items, as we would if we were making them ourselves, makes us that much more likely to indulge impulsively.

Cutler and his colleagues demonstrate that as the “time
cost” of food preparation has fallen, calorie consumption has gone up, particularly consumption of the sort of snack and convenience foods that are typically cooked outside the home. They found that when we don’t have to cook meals, we eat more of them: as the amount of time Americans spend cooking has
dropped by about half, the number of meals Americans eat in a day has climbed; since 1977, we’ve added approximately half a meal to our daily intake.

Cutler and his colleagues also surveyed cooking patterns across several cultures and found that obesity rates are inversely correlated with the amount of time spent on food preparation. The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity. In fact, the amount of time
spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female participation in the labor force or income. Other research supports the idea that cooking is a better predictor of a healthful diet than social class: a 1992 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that poor women who routinely cooked were more likely to eat a more healthful diet than well-to-do women who did not."

Avoiding processed and fast foods means preparing your own foods. The funny thing is, I really don't find that it takes me all that much longer to prepare my food. In fact, it takes less time for me to boil some water for tea and cut up fruit in the morning then it does for me to drive to and wait in line at some place for breakfast. Making a salad is easy because I pre-prepare my salad ingredients in bulk e.g., I chop up enough red onion and make enough salad dressing for a week.

As for dinner, I always cooked dinner (it's that Italian thing), so it was just a matter of switching to more healthful fare.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Think Twice About that Frappuchino or Venti

It could eat up more than half of your daily calories:

"The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found that most iced coffees contain at least 200 calories - with several over 400 calories.
The worst? A venti (large) Dark Berry Mocha Frappuchino from Starbucks: 561 calories.
If you're a woman on a calorie-controlled diet, that could be almost half your daily allowance in just one drink."

Dining at Someone's House

Last night my husband and I were invited to dine at the home of one of his colleagues. I had never met the people before, so I had no idea what their eating habits are. For all I knew I could get served fried chicken with mashed potatoes loaded with butter, and some gooey, chocolate dessert with caramel sauce.

Worse, we weren't asked to be there until 7 pm, meaning that the earliest I'd probably see dinner was 8. Since I'm normally ravenous by 6, I knew that if I didn't take steps, I'd gorge myself on whatever fattening appetizers laid out.

So, I resorted to my tried and true strategy for controlling my eating (and calories consumed) when invited to dine in someones house. I ate a salad before leaving. It was a simple salad with just lettuce, cucumbers, red onion, and tomatoes with a lemon vinaigrette but it did the trick in taking the edge off my hunger.

As it was, I think I lucked out dinner-wise. Our hostess served hummus with pita bread for an appetizer. Hummus, is a great raw dip, but it does have a lot of calories. Also not good, the pita bread was not whole grain.

Still, hummus is a lot better than some of the nutritionally devoid, deep fried appetizers I've been served in the past. In any event, I just picked a little to be polite because I had already eaten my salad. Had I not eaten the salad, I'm sure I would have devoured a few hundred calories worth of hummus and pita bread.

Dinner was grilled salmon, grilled zucchini and corn on the cob, so I really lucked out there.

Dessert was coconut gelato, which was easy for me to resist. I took a couple of obliging spoonfuls so as to not hurt my hostess's feelings, then pushed the dish away.

Probably the only point at which my resistance failed was when the dish of chocolate covered almonds hit the table. Have I ever mentioned that I love both chocolate and nuts and that when you put the two together you get a confection that I just can't walk away from?

Well, I knew I was in trouble after indulging in my first piece of the candy, when I realized not only were they chocolate covered nuts, but they were really, really, good, gourmet chocolate covered nuts. When it became very apparent that I could easily eat the entire bowl of candy, I popped out of my seat and started helping the hostess clean up.

Scraping dishes and loading them into the dishwasher took my mind off those damn nuts until it was time to leave. Then I couldn't help but grab a couple of more on my way out the door.

I promised to reciprocate the hospitality, and will have this couple over to dinner some time soon.

I just hope they don't bring those damn nuts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not All Calories Are Created Equal

Wow, this is one of the most truly fascinating articles I've read in a long time:

The central thesis is that different foods use more or less calories during digestion, so that you need to consider not just the actual caloric content of the food, but the energy it will take your body to digest it.

"Nutritionists are well aware that our bodies don't incinerate food, they digest it. And digestion - from chewing food to moving it through the gut and chemically breaking it down along the way - takes a different amount of energy for different foods. According to Geoffrey Livesey, an independent nutritionist based in Norfolk, UK, this can lower the number of calories your body extracts from a meal by anywhere between 5 and 25 per cent depending on the food eaten. "These energy costs are quite significant," he says, yet are not reflected on any food label."

And, here's what's really significant, you absorb the most calories (gain more weight) from soft, sugar filled foods:

"What's more, the brownie is made from refined sugar and flour, making it easier for our bodies to extract the available calories than it would be from the complex carbohydrates of the oatmeal in the cereal bar. And while the Atwater system assumes that the proportion of food that passes through the gut undigested is more or less constant, at around 10 per cent, we have known for more than 60 years that this is not the case. Thirty per cent or more of coarse-ground wheat flour may be excreted, while today's finely milled flours may be almost completely digested. As a result, foods made from these fine flours - like that brownie - are likely to channel practically all of the energy from carbohydrate into the body."

Lesson learned? You'll lose weight faster if you stay away from overly refined white flour, rice etc.

And, what's even more interesting, your body absorbs more calories from cooked foods than from raw foods.

So, as I've been preaching all along, eliminating processed foods from your diet and replacing them with a large percentage of raw fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss. Not only do the raw fruits and vegetables have fewer calories to start with, your body will actually use more energy to digest them, increasing your chances of losing weight.

Want More Endurance for Your Work-outs?

Eat more fruits and veggies:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dinner at the Outback Steakhouse--Be Prepared

My son left for sleep away camp on Sunday. Saturday night, however, we let him choose a restaurant for his "last meal" as it were, and he chose the Outback Steakhouse.

I always find dining in restaurants challenging, because food tends to be drenched in butter, oils, sugars etc. which is tasty on the palate, but disastrous for the thighs. Chain restaurants, because they don't have chefs with skills to create yummy, low-cal, food, are particularly bad in coating the food in fats, sugars and salts to make it taste better.

I can't always be the family party pooper, so we make frequent trips to Outback. I've learned to navigate the menu by using calorie counters such as this one: and this one:

Saturday night I ordered the house salad with no cheese or croutons and vinaigrette dressing on the side. According to the calorie counter, the house salad has 200 calories with the cheese and croutons, so I probably knocked a good 60 to 100 calories off of it by ordering it without the cheese and croutons. I also ordered the grilled swordfish, without the lemon/butter sauce (but with extra lemon to squeeze on it) which was approximately 300 calories, and the steamed veggies as a side which have 69 calories. So my grand total for the evening was approximately 569 calories (not including the calories in the two glasses of wine I had.)

Other Outback favorites I like to order are the Ahi Tuna Salad (300 calories), the side sweet potato (224 calories), the Ahi Tuna appetizer (which I often get as a main course which has 260 calories) and the grilled Atlantic Salmon (180 calories).

Things to avoid include the blooming onion (2,300 calories), the blue cheese chopped salad (569 calories), the Aussie cheese fries (2,900 calories).

You can easily find out the calories in dishes at your favorite chain restaurants just by typing the restaurant name and the word calories into Google. A quick Internet search prior to heading out to a restaurant dinner can help you navigate caloric minefields. You can avoid foods that sound "healthy" and low calorie just because they're "salads" (the Outback Caesar side salad has 638 calories) and directing you to the lower calorie items, such as the grilled chicken fillet which only has 140 calories.

Knowledge can be power, and in this case, knowledge can be extra pounds not gained.