Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cardio Challenge - Oooooh, it's gonna be a challenge!

Greg did his initial cardio challenge last night, and he beat me! Yeah. By A LOT.

His time is 6:31--The best of anyone in the contest so far!

So, while I'm really proud of him, I'm still going to try to beat him.

He's goin' dowwwwwnnnnnn.

(And if he wins, you know I'm going to take his prize away from him anyway.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cardio Challenge - Day 1

I did my initial cardio challenge run-through this morning. My time was 8:39.

Wow. So I need to set a goal for what I want my end time to be. I wonder what a realistic end time would be...I'm at a loss.

The times for everyone in the contest will be posted by the end of the week, so I'll be able to see where I stack up as compared to my competition.

SO, let the training begin!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fit Friday Report

I did it. I signed up for Circuit Cardio Challenge at my gym. If I win, I get my choice of a free one hour massage or a personal training session. (And the sick thing is, I'm going to choose the personal training session if I win.)

Anyway, here's how it works. I have to have the fastest time in my age group performing these five circuit cardio activities, in any order I choose.

  • Farmer's Walk carrying 35 lb. plate weights in each hand. Description: You grab two plate weights totaling 70 lbs. and carry them 3 laps around the gym.
  • Sled Push with 125 lbs. on the sled. Description: At our gym, we have this sled-type thing--Kind of like a cart with no wheels. So I have to put 125 lbs on that thing and push it forward about 25 yards and then backpedal with it to the beginning--Four times.
  • EFX Trainer/Eliptical Machine - 500 strides
  • Plyometric squats on the BOSU (half ball thing) - 20 times
  • Clean and press - 25 reps with 35 lbs. Description: This is what you see people do at weightlifting competitions where the pick the barbell up off the floor and pull it to the chest; Then lift over the head, back to the chest, back to the floor.

So, how's THAT for Fit Friday? I'm going to do my initial run at it next week. Then I'll train for it until December 15 when I do the final run (and get to see how much I've improved!) and see how I rank.

Ohhhh, this is going to be FUN!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

ATTN: Fit Friday Mommies

A post just for you...

Although Fit Friday has already begun, I want to encourage you to do something that I so wish I would've done from the onset of my crusade for fitness.

Find yourself a trusted friend. A trusted husband. An older offspring. Have said friend/husband/offspring break out the old tape measure and measure around your waist (right around the top of that pelvic bone), around your upper arms, and around your thighs.

If person is any kind of friend at all, they'll not tell you what these numbers are, but will write them down for you and put them in a safe place until a later date.

A later date when you'll get them out and compare them to your NEW AND IMPROVED measurements!

You see, the scale can be quite cruel to you when you're working out, lifting weights, doing cardio, and going to every yoga class you can find within a 50 mile radius. Because the scale won't tell the tale. You could be building muscle and losing fat, and that scale can't tell the difference!

So, don't go by the scale. In fact, truth be told, I don't even own one.

Happy measuring!

Cardio--Is It Really What You Need to Reach Your Fitness Goals?

Simple Question for you. Which of these two pictures better represents your fitness goals? Look carefully, now! Which body do you wish you could model yours after?

Most of us have established that we want to look better and feel better and be HEALTHIER! And most of us think that the best way to do that is through cardio, cardio, and MORE cardio. Because that's what's been drilled into your head for years. Decades, even.
For years, my dad has told me that he can always tell when a particular friend of his cranks up his running routine because he starts looking sick! I always noted that that was true, but I never could figure out why in the world a seemingly healthy activity like running would always tend to make a person look like they were about to keel over dead.
Now, I know.
Those marathon-running people (and I'm so not one of "those" people) cannot possibly eat enough carbs to keep their bodies from eating away at muscle. They are over-trained cardiovascularly and severely under-trained strength-wise. And because of their rigorous cardio training, there's no way they can eat enough carbs to keep up.
The other picture is not a body builder, but rather a fitness competitor. (Please note that my research indicates that you can have certain parts of your own body look exactly like certain parts of her body--For about $5,000. But, that's another post.)
The fitness competitor does some cardio, I'm quite sure. But her focus is more on weight training.
You sold, yet? A picture says a thousand words, they say!
Next post: Let's get started on some weight training. It's not just for boys!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Yeah, I'm a Local Celebrity

Check out page 38!

And here are the recipes so that you don't have to get a microscope to see them. A couple of them are more geared toward holiday baking since it's the November issue, but most of them are pretty heart-healthy. So try them out and let me know what you think!

Glazed Fruit Salad
· Fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
· Apples
· Oranges
· Bananas
· Strawberries
· Grapes
· Kiwi
· One plastic jar of Dole peaches
· Any other favorite fresh fruit
· 1 large box of vanilla cook and serve pudding
· Pineapple juice and juice from Dole peaches
Drain the peach juice into a measuring cup. Add enough pineapple juice to make two cups of juice. Mix juice with the pudding and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thick. Wash and cut fresh fruit into bite-sized chunks. Toss fruit mixture in the cooled glaze. Will stay good for several days and can be made ahead.

Italian Cream Cake
· 2 c. sugar
· ½ c. cooking oil
· ½ c. shortening
· 5 eggs, separated
· 2 c. flour
· 1 tsp. baking soda
· 1 c. buttermilk
· 1 c. coconut
· ½ tsp. vanilla
· ½ tsp. butter flavoring
Cream together oil and shortening. Add sugar, then egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each. Add flour and soda. Add alternately with buttermilk. Add coconut, vanilla, and butter flavoring. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold in. Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes. Makes three 8” layers.
Icing for Italian Cream Cake
· 1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
· 1 stick oleo (room temperature)
· 1 box powdered sugar
· 1 tsp. vanilla
· 1 ½ c. finely chopped pecans
Beat together cheese and oleo. Add sugar, vanilla, and pecans.

Pear Cake (a new family favorite…My dad has a huge pear tree, and it makes the sweetest, most fabulous pears. And a lot of them! I had to come up with something to do with all those wonderful pears!)
· 2 c. flour
· 2 c. sugar
· ½ tsp. salt
· 1 tsp. soda
· 2 tsp. cinnamon
· 1 c. cooking oil
· 1 tsp. vanilla
· 3 eggs
· 3 c. chopped pears
· 1 c. chopped pecans
Sift dry ingredients. Add oil and vanilla. Beat eggs until foamy. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; beat well. Fold in pears and pecans. Bake in tube pan for 1 hour at 350.

Broccoli Salad (a low fat, much healthier version of a Paula Deen recipe)
4 cups small broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 lbs.)1 1/2 cups seedless green grapes, halved1 cup chopped celery1 cup raisins1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds1/3 cup light mayo1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt3 tablespoons sugar1 tablespoon white vinegarCombine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine mayo and remaining ingredients, stirring with at whisk. Pour dressing over broccoli mixture and toss well. Chill 1 hour. Yield: 8 servings.

Pizza Crust (My children love pizza, and I don’t like all the fat and calories that come with take-out pizza. This recipe makes us BOTH happy.)

· 1 pkg. active dry yeast
· 1 c. warm water (105 – 115 degrees)
· 1 ¼ c. all purpose flour
· 1 ¼ c. whole wheat flour
· 2 T. olive oil
· ½ t. salt
· ½ T. Italian seasoning (dried herbs)
· Vegetable oil
· Cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water. In a large bowl, mix flour with salt and herbs. Drizzle in olive oil. Pour yeast-water mixture in center of flour mixture (rinse out small bowl with a teaspoon or two of warm water, if necessary), then stir together just until mixed. Do not overwork dough. Sprinkle dough very lightly with all purpose flour, then cover with a warm, damp cloth and allow to rise for 20-30 minutes. Coat cast iron skillet very lightly with vegetable oil (should already be seasoned well). Sprinkle bottom with thin layer of cornmeal, if desired. Work dough into skillet until it fits evenly. Sprinkle dough very lightly with all purpose flour, if necessary. Cover with warm, damp cloth and allow to rise for 30-40 minutes. Pre-heat over to 375 degrees. Press dough in center down lightly, so as to create a slightly risen edge for a crust. Bake in over for 18 minutes. Remove from over, cover with Ragu ready-made sauce, black olives, sautéed spinach (sautéed in olive oil with a little garlic), and fresh mushrooms and/or any other toppings, then bake again until cheese begins to brown.

Chicken Fajita Marinade

· ¼ c. red wine vinegar
· Cilantro
· 3 – 4 cloves garlic
· Juice of 6 limes
· 1 ½ T. Fiesta Chicken Fajita Seasoning
· 1 T. Teriyaki sauce

Use the food processor to finely chop garlic and a handful or two of cilantro (depending on your individual taste). Add red wine vinegar, lime juice, Teriyaki sauce, and seasoning and mix in a gallon size freezer bag. Add 4-5 chicken breasts and marinate for at least an hour before grilling.

Serve with vegetables—bell pepper, onion, and tomato—grilled in lime, garlic, and cilantro.

Wrap in whole wheat tortillas and top with salsa.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Absentee Blogger

I promise I'm not abandoning my blog! And I promise to come back and answer all your questions and post some more about physical activity and nutrition! I just got roped into a lil project this week, so I'm reallllly busy.

Back ASAP...Hopefully this weekend.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Eating After 8:00 p.m.

I've had many questions about my statement that you definitely SHOULD eat after 8:00 p.m. so I thought I would address the issue in more detail.

Now, let me preface this by saying that, if you can't resist the late-night ice cream, candy bars, and pototo chips, maybe you should, in fact, not eat after 8:00. But, here's the deal folks...You shouldn't be eating those things on a regular basis anyway.

I found this article a while back, and I thought it really summed it up nicely. Read on:

This concept is also supported by The Cooper Institute.

And I think I should also take this opportunity to point out that you should NEVER let your stomach growl. (I think I had a question about this, too.) Because your body is trying to tell you something when that happens. "Hey, chica, you need to FEED me! I need energy (aka, calories)!" Don't deprive your body of the nourishment it needs. When you do, you tend to be absolutely ravenous the next time you sit down and eat a meal. And you eat everything that's not nailed down. (I know this from experience.) You'll end up eating more calories during the meal where your stomach is empty than you would have if you had had yourself a little snack an hour or so beforehand.

So that crap that your mom always told you about "don't have a snack right now because you'll spoil your dinner" just doesn't fly when it comes to healthy eating habits. It goes right out the window with "clean your plate."

I'm always hungry after 8:00 p.m. And it's because of my increased physical activity. So I feed my body some little something at around 9:00 or 10:00 so that I don't go to bed with my tummy growling. I usually try to pair a carb with a protein...Because carbs give you a little energy and protein helps you stay feeling fuller longer. Try a small apple (maybe split one with the hubby!) and a small tub of yogurt.

And, is only 40% of it. Get moving!

(Speaking of getting moving, I'll do another post on physical activity tomorrow. I had quite a few requests for more cardio workout ideas. And, might I add, that it'll probably blow your mind when I tell you that cardio is not the best way to get yourself into shape. Stay tuned.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Time to Get Started, Fit Friday Folks!

Oh, where to start, where to start!

I'm quite sure that the vast majority of you are motivated and ready to roll with this Fit Friday project. But I venture to say that no one is more excited than I am about it. I am PASSIONATE about proper nutrition and exercise, and ultimately, health. (And, yes, I do drive my family crazy with it. My dad is about ready to commit me.)

Here are a few tips to get you started on your fitness journey. Consider it a gift--from me to you.

First of all, this is an opportunity for you to change your life. And it's not just your life you'll be changing. It's the lives of your entire family. You, your husband, and your children. You're adopting a healthier lifestyle, and a side effect of that healthy lifestyle is a happier mommy who fits into a teeny tiny little pair of really cool jeans. SO, in summary, first lesson: It's for your health. And it's a family affair. And the family has to like it...Because you're the mommy.

If you'll go back in my posts and read the one about kids and childhood obesity, you'll understand why it's so important that we make these lifestyle changes not just for us, but for our spouses and kids, too.

Now, for the meat and potatoes of it, so to speak.

This weight loss thing is 60% exercise, 40% diet. So, my suggestion is that you start with exercise. Don't try to cut calories dramatically. It will only serve to cause your body to feel like you're starving and hang on to the extra fat.

One major complaint I have with Weight Watchers is that I think they over-emphasize portion size (although that is important!) and very much under-emphasize the importance of physical activity. And I think they subscribe to that ridiculous notion that you shouldn't eat after a certain time at night. Pet peeve.

So, on the eating front, I recommend you start making small changes. Small. Really small. Try replacing that Dr. Pepper with a glass of water. Switch to whole wheat bread and skim milk. Your family might not even notice, especially if you make the changes a little at time and don't just go into your pantry and have yourself a major cleanout. It's too shocking and it won't stick. And your family will notice what you're doing. They don't have to know that you're making healthy changes. (Yeah, there's a certain amount of sneakiness to this whole thing, but come on, you're a mom. You're no stranger to sneakiness.)

One more thing you need to know about eating. You need to eat ALL THE TIME. (Wow, really???) Yes, really. I eat constantly. You just have to eat the right things. So, have a snack! Have a bunch of snacks! (Mental note: Do blog on how to eat the right foods.)

Now, on to exercise...

First thing you need to know is that this exercise thing isn't really all that time-consuming. Well, it is time-consuming for me, but that's because I'm a bit obsessed and over-the-top, but that's beside the point.

You need about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week in order to be healthy. By the way, healthy doesn't necessarily mean skinny. I know you moms are busy, so I'm telling you right now that it doesn't have to be 30 continuous minutes. Ten minutes here while you're waiting for the dryer to finish and ten minutes there right before the baby gets up from his nap will do just fine. Grab a jump rope (or just fake it!) and get with it.

If you're lucky enough to fit in a trip to the Y, grab an eliptical cycle, recumbant bike, or treadmill and do some interval work. Intervals are shown to give you more cardiovascular (yeah, health again) benefit and burn more fat than just your run-of-the-mill straight 30 minutes of cardio training. Try this:
  1. Five minutes at a brisk pace to warm up.
  2. 30 seconds of sprint--as hard as you can go without having to call an ambulance to cart you off to the ER.
  3. 1.5 minutes of what I call "working recovery." A brisk pace, but let your heart rate come down.
  4. Repeat 30 second sprint and 1.5 minute recovery until you're up to a total of about 25 minutes.
  5. Five minutes to cool down.

These intervals actually give you more of an "afterburn" effect. You'll burn more calories throughout your day than if you just did straight cardio work.

I have more cardio workouts, and I'd be happy to post them upon request.

You can also adapt this interval technique if you're doing the 10 minute spurts at home. Easy peazy lemon squeezy, as my daughter would say! (Yeah, she learned that from her British friends across the pond. So cute.)

That should be enough to get you started on your fitness journey. I'm trying to get ready for my nursing entrance exam on Saturday (prayers appreciated!), so I'll post more next week.

Another "After" Picture

Because I'm behind the camera all the time, it was difficult to find a decent picture of myself. I searched high and low yesterday to find one to post and then I thought of this one today.

Literally, behind the camera.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The After Pic

By popular demand...
And, yes, that's me hitting a baseball off a tee. In the spring, our daughter's t-ball team had a "Moms vs. Kids" t-ball game. And we moms lost. Oh, how sad to be outscored by a bunch of 5- and 6-year-old kids.
But I had SO much fun! SO much more fun than if I had been my old, fat, uncomfortable self. I find that I now enjoy so many more activities with the kids than I did when I was overweight.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Me--The Before, The During, and The After

In honor of Missy at, I'm writing this long-dreaded blog entry. I've put off doing this for so long, but I'm going to gut it up today just to show her (and YOU) that it can be done.
So here it is. For all my blogging friends to see. My before picture. I didn't want to post it on here, but I think I should be proud of where I came from and where I am today.

So, here's the story behind the picture. BIG story. Because, obviously, it's a BIG picture!

I was never skinny--except when I was about 11 years old and EVERYONE was skinny. I wasn't exactly "fat" either. Until I quit athletics and got a job in a bank when I was a sophomore in high school. (As you'll see throughout my story, jobs tend to make me fat.) So began my battle of the bulge.
Before I got out of high school, I was up to 150 lbs. All throughout college I was heavy, save about a year when I had developed a stomach ulcer and couldn't eat for a while. (Thanks, Intermediate Accounting!)
When I got married, I was heavy. And hardly anyone is heavy when they get married. But my dress was a size 12...Maybe a 14. I've sort of blocked that whole experience out, I guess! The point is, I wasn't a skinny bride. And most of you probably were.

My fitness journey began right before I got pregnant with my little girl. I had lost my job through a RIF, and I was going CRAZY at home by myself all day long. So, one day, I thought I would go check out a water aerobics class at our local rehab/fitness center.

Oh, water aerobics. The water aerobics class at my rehab/fitness center has an average age of about 87. I was one of the only ones who didn't have to wheel my little oxygen tank to the edge of the pool and unhook before I got in the water. Yes, really.

But I was not discouraged! I continued going until I had gotten in shape enough to advance to some classes with people my own age. And I lost weight almost effortlessly and was able to continue exercising throughout my first pregnancy.

In fact, when I delivered my little girl via c-section, the nurse said, "Wow. You had great abs." Uh huh. Had. Like in Never gonna see it again, Honey.

And you know the rest. New baby. Another baby 18 months later. Postpartum depression. Drugs to combat said postpartum depression that make you blow up to roughly the size of a large barn. A job outside the home. A long commute.

And that's the way I lived for years. Fat. Uncomfortable. Unhappy. Camoflauging my body with the biggest, baggiest clothes I could find.

Then, one day, my wonderful husband came home and announced that he was offered a really fantastic one-year job assignment in the UK. We could move to the UK, maybe sell our house and build a new one (even though we had just built the house we were in and had only lived in it for about eight months), have a wonderful experience as American expats in a foreign country, give our kids a little culture, etc. etc. I would get to quit my job and have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom for the first time.


So, we moved to a little town called Woking in the county of Surrey, just outside of London.

Do the words culture shock mean anything to you? Yeah, they didn't really mean much to me either before I moved to a foreign country.

But I was in culture shock. Serious culture shock. The funny thing is, I had to get used to being a SAHM more than I had to get used to living in a different country. And my kids had to get used to not being in daycare.

I had never done this SAHM gig before. I had no IDEA what I was doing! But I figured out pretty quickly that I needed to get out of the house at least once a day.

Well, folks, it rains in the UK. And rains.

So about my only choice was to find a gym. With a nursery. (By the way, the nursery in the UK is called a creche.) Enter David Lloyd Leisure Center.

The kids and I started making a daily trek to David Lloyd. They offered a "free" personal training session about every 4-6 weeks as part of the membership. I use the term free loosely because I paid about $200 US every month PLUS $16/day for the creche.

I started losing weight. It was like a miracle even though I knew that exercising would help one shed extra pounds. It's as if I thought that little rule didn't apply to me or something. Exercise, for the record, represents about 60% of the losing weight equation.

The other 40% is diet. Not as in "I'm going on a diet." More like, "My diet consists of..."
Let me tell you a little something about the UK. The food is horrible. Just horrible. But the British do have one saving grace. The food in their supermarkets is fabulous. I have yet to find a supermarket in the US with a fresher, better selection of fruits, veggies, breads (oh, the breads!), and chicken, turkey, and pork.

So, since the restaurants in the UK 1) are overpriced, 2) serve digusting food, at best, and 3) don't get any hurry whatsoever to serve you when you have a 2- and 3-year old in tow, both of whom are usually throwing a huge fit because they're hungry, I learned to cook. Not that I didn't know before, but I never did it because I was too busy trying to get home from my outside-the-home job.

I started losing more weight as a result of eating better. I didn't realize how much I was pulling through the drive-thru at Whataburger back in the US because I was too tired to cook.

By the time Christmas rolled around, I had lost about 25 lbs. Yes, that's right. From May until November when I went home for Christmas, I had dropped 25 lbs. And I didn't diet. I did work out, but it was fun and I came to enjoy it and think of it as "my" time. I guarded that selfish time with my life, and I continue to do so today.
I still have a really hard time shopping for clothes. I tend to gravitate towards the bigger sizes, mainly because I've never in my adult life been able to wear the smaller sizes. Until now. I had a moment just this past Saturday at Costco. I found the cutest skirt and looked up at the handy dandy price sign to find that it didn't come in my size. Yes, Dockers doesn't make that skirt small enough to fit me. Wow. Never in my wildest dreams...
So, today, as a result of my newfound freedom and love of fitness, I'm a Cooper Certified Personal Trainer. I'm 40 lbs. lighter, weighing in at 128 lbs. I continue to work out five days a week. And my body is the healthiest it's ever been in my life. God is sure good.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Juicy Little Tidbit

I found this article on Sparkpeople (my favorite calorie-counting website) and thought I would share. As we all know, it's not about staying on a strict diet ALL the time. It's about making BETTER choices for our health.

Read on...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tell it like it is!

This restaurant in Arizona has an incredibly unhealthy menu. But you have to give them credit for disclosing that little tidbit in the names of every single one of their menu items.

The mere fact that this restaurant survives tells me that we have a severe problem in our nation in that people simply don't care about health issues. No boundaries. No consequences. At least not immediately.

So sad. I have so much work to do.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's For Dinner, Mom?

It's getting to be that time of year again--Pumpkins, cinnamon, and Crockpot dinners! Now, don't get me wrong. I usually don't like Crockpot dinners. At all. But, for this recipe, I make an exception.

Try it and let me know how you like it!

Spicy Shrimp and Chicken Jambalaya with Brown Rice

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" cubes
  • 2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice (no sugar added)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium stalks celery, chopped
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 c water
  • 3 T. minced fresh oregano, or 2 t. dried
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley
  • 2 t. Cajun seasoning
  • 2 t. cayenne
  • 1 T. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 t. dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. frozen, cooked, deveined shrimp without tails
  • 1/2 c brown rice per serving

Cook chicken to 80% doneness. Fill the slow cooker with everything EXCEPT the shrimp and chicken, and set to low/medium heat. Cook 3 hours. Add chicken and cook another 30 minutes. Add frozen shrimp and cook another 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with brown rice.

385 calories; 46 g. protein; 39 g. carbs; 7 g. fiber; 5 g. fat (1 g. saturated fat)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Snacks

Snacking has gotten a bad rep over the years, but I'm here to tell you that it's the best thing (almost) you can do for your metabolism. So grab one of these yummy snacks and stave off those hunger pangs!

1. South Beach Peanut Butter Cereal Bars - Have a little protein with your cereal!

2. Cottage Cheese - Single-serving packs are great paired with fruit, but add your own instead of buying the packages with fruit already added. They tend to add fake fruit to theirs--Yuck.

3. Nuts - A handful of mixed nuts is great way to get a little more protein into your diet. I love the cinnamon almonds by Blue Diamond!

4. Dried Fruit - Try the ones with no added sugar. I admit to you, though, that the bananas with no added sugar are downright nasty. Walmart has Wall-E raisins and Hannah Montana dried fruit in a raisin box.

5. Peanut Butter - Add a little peanut butter to whole wheat crackers or apple slices to give you some extra protein and fiber.

6. Cheese - Reduced-fat string cheese is awesome! And I was thrilled to find that Walmart is carrying Hannah Montana low-fat string cheese because we all know that kids will eat just about anything with a Disney character on it!

7. Eggs - Hard boil some eggs and keep them in your fridge for a quick snack. Limit yourself to only two yolks per week, though, to keep your heart healthy.

8. Turkey Jerky - One word--YUM. But it is high in sodium, so you'll have to nix this one if you're on a low-sodium diet.

9. The Obvious Choice - Fresh fruits and veggies! Grapes, carrots, celery, broccoli. Keep veggies cut up in the fridge so they're easy to grab and go.

Happy snacking!

Love Chocolate? You're in LUCK!

Got a sweet tooth? Love chocolate? Well, then, you're in luck!

Dark chocolate--not milk chocolate or white chocolate--actually LOWERS blood pressure and is full of antioxidants. And antioxidants eat free radicals, which cause heart disease and a number of other ailments, including cancer.

So, have yourself a little square of dark chocolate every day--Guilt free!

One word of caution: Don't wash down your dark chocolate with milk. Milk interferes with the body's absorption of the antioxidants.

Here's How Healthcare Gets Fixed

Ah, yes, it's a presidential election year. OH, we Americans LOVE those election years, don't we? No, of course we don't. Because we have better things to do than try and decipher whether what the candidates are saying is fact or fiction...When we all know that 95% of it is fiction.

So, in honor of the election year that is upon us, I thought I would throw in my two cents on how to fix the healthcare system in the United States. Call me crazy, call me a dreamer, whatever.
Our US health system is based on treating people AFTER they're sick. AFTER they've developed diabetes. AFTER they've suffered a heart attack. AFTER they've been stricken with cancer.

For those of you keeping track at home, the number one killer of both men and women in our country is heart disease. Why heart disease? Because we have too MUCH food. Too MUCH fast food. Too MUCH fat, and too much cholesterol in the foods we do eat. Too little fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets. Too much smoking. ENTIRELY too many people leading sedentary lifestyles.

But...I digress. So, back to healthcare.

What if we treated people BEFORE they got sick? What if we started educating children in the schools about healthy lifestyles and good nutrition? (Yes, I know we do that now, but not nearly enough. I read so much about schools taking PE out of curriculums in order to focus more attention on the TAKS.) What if our corporate world started programs to help its employees exercise during the day? Did you know that Nike allows employees an hour (paid!) out of their workday if they'll use it to work out? And their healthcare costs have decreased as a result. What if our insurance companies began to start paying a certain amount each year for personal trainers and dieticians? Or maybe even medically-based weight loss programs (not talking about weight-loss surgery here) BEFORE people get to be at least 100 lbs. overweight? What about smoking cessation programs? What if we, as a country, finally got mad enough to tell the fast food places to shape up or ship out when it comes to high fat foods. (How 'bout Whataburger's triple meat, triple cheese burger with a whopping 1120 calories and 68 grams of fat?) You know, if people weren't BUYING those foods, Whataburger wouldn't sell them. But people don't know. They aren't educated about proper nutrition. They don't understand how food makes their bodies work.

I'd be interested in seeing what YOU think. Do you think that more of an emphasis on preventative healthcare would make a difference in our skyrocketing healthcare costs? Do you think it would make a difference in the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer? Tell me what you think!

And, perhaps more importantly, would you take advantage of preventative healthcare if it were offered to you? Would you take an hour away from your desk job to work out if you even got PAID to do it? Would you stop smoking if there were low-cost or no-cost programs made available to you? Would you work out with a trainer if you just had to pay a co-pay or visit with a dietician to help you learn to feed yourself and your family better, more nutritionally-dense foods?

Going Out for Mexican Food?

It doesn't mean you have to feel stuffed with guilt when you leave the restaurant!

  • Keep these lower fat, lower cholesterol suggestions in mind when ordering:
    Chicken, beef, or shrimp fajitas, with black beans or salad on the side instead of rice
  • Carne asada — steak with onions and peppers
  • Shrimp diablo — this dish is grilled with garlic butter, so ask them to go easy on that
  • Grilled fish tacos, with one corn tortilla rather than two
  • Taco and tostada salads with chicken, beef, or shrimp for protein — don't eat the taco bowl


Kids and Heart Disease--Who Knew They Were at Risk???

Oh, yes, you know you've been on pins and needles awaiting my latest nutrition/training wisdom. So, here you go! I apologize in advance if I get a little soapboxy. I AM passionate, people. PASSIONATE.

(From the very beginning I must admit to you all that I used to be totally guilty of this. Totally. But, I'm reformed, now.)

"You make me sick because you're so skinny that you don't need to exercise and you can eat whatever you want." "The kids can eat (insert whichever fast food restaurant/fatty, high-cholesterol food you want here) because they're kids and they run all those fat and calories off with their high levels of activity."

Once again, I readily admit I was guilty of thinking these very same thoughts. And I think this is a good time to tell you that, for those of you who don't know, my dad suffered a (very) near-fatal heart attack in April of 2006. And I was chowing down on a Whataburger as my mom was telling me that he had coded three times and been shocked back. Incidentally, my husband and children were also engulfing fast food burgers and fries.

NOW, ahem...Let me step onto my soapbox.

I actually figured out a couple of years ago that this was not a healthy mentality--Not healthy, particularly, for our children. But, when I attended a class at Cooper Institute and heard Dr. Kenneth Cooper, himself, speak on the subject, it really hit home for me.

Dr. Cooper's newest "project" in this country (yes, this country...The guy is big time.) is battling childhood obesity. His research indicates that children as young five years old already have plaque buildup (read gunk) forming in their little bitty tiny arteries as a result of fast food, junk food, and general inactivity. Yes, friends. Five. Years. Old.

Fat, cholesterol, and the resulting plaque know no age. It begins collecting the minute we begin to eat foods that are high in fat and cholesterol. And I'm not just talking about kids, here. I'm talking about skinny people, too. And here's the thing that's going to make your day if you tend to be a little fluffy:

It's better to be fat and healthy than it is to be skinny and unhealthy.

So, here's the point of all my rambling. We have got to stop feeding our children (or skinny people!) junk and thinking that it's okay because they're kids (or skinny!). The time to start eating right is not when you're 50 and you've already got heart disease. You have to do it for your children NOW. Start them on the path to better eating NOW. And they've got to be encouraged to get regular exercise. Healthy lifestyles now lead to healthy lifestyles later.

As a sidenote, I'd like to add that, during our time in England, I found that the government would not allow fast food places to install playground equipment in their establishments so as not to encourage little ones to eat junk food. At first, I thought it odd and felt it was an example of too much government. But I've since changed my mind. And I'll blog about that another day.
One more thing before I step off my soapbox and feed my children their healthy, low-fat lasagna (yes, it CAN be done!)...Do you know that actuaries are predicting that this generation of parents (that's most of us) will be the first to out-live their children? And the reason for that is our children eat so much junk that they're going to have heart disease at a much earlier age and Type II diabetes is already running rampant as a result of obese children.

Think about that the next time you're tempted to pull through McDonald's.

Off the soapbox...For now.

Today's Nutrition Tidbit

Black beans!
They're a wonderful way to add a little fiber and protein to your diet. Put 'em atop your salad. Or rinse them, mash them, add a little salsa, cilantro, and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO, for you Rachael Ray fans) and you have yourself a wonderful dip.

Inaugural Blog Post

As many of you know, over the last couple of years, I've managed to rid myself of 40 extra pounds. And I recently became a Cooper Certified personal trainer. I've learned a lot, and I'm ready to share!

Okay, so you're ready for a change. Ready to get in shape once and for all. Ready to make a committment.

Not so fast, there, Mama!

Committing yourself to a hard-and-fast training schedule and diet when it's not really your "lifestyle" right now could mean setting yourself up for failure. You won't stick with it and the pounds and old habits creep back over shorter and shorter periods of time. So, start small!

Personally, I started by cutting out fast food. Cutting. It. Out. Completely, y'all. That might be too lofty for some, so you might want to start with cutting it down to once a week. Then once every two weeks. By then, it'll start sounding gross to you. Really. Trust me on this one.
Another way to get on your way to a healthy lifestyle is to start MOVING! Weight loss is 60% exercise, 40% diet. You just can't do it through diet alone. Many have tried. Many have failed. (I being one of the many.)

My suggestion is that you make a run to Walmart and buy yourself a $5 pedometer. Put it on your shoe first thing in the morning, and make sure that the sun doesn't set on you until you've logged 10,000 steps. (You'd be shocked at how much a trip to the grocery store will contribute to your number.)

If you're feeling a little ambitious and want to do a little more to jump start your weight loss/healthy lifestyle efforts, hit the floor and do some push-ups. They're the best for getting that upper body toned up. Got a testy toddler? Put that baby on your back, and push, push, push!

Girls, I know you've heard others (hopefully not you, yourselves!) say, "I would lift weights, but I don't want to bulk up." Huh? Bulk up? We don't have enough testosterone to bulk up! We need those weight-bearing exercises in order to stave off osteoporosis! So, yeah, start the push-ups whenever you get used to your 10,000 steps/day and/or if you just feel like doing a little extra.

One more note about diet: NEVER let yourself get hungry. Ever. Eat constantly if you have to. Bet you weren't expecting me to say that! Just eat sensibly, and try and have a carb with a protein whenever you eat. String cheese and an apple. Tuna and a few low-fat crackers. A cup of yogurt and a few grapes. The protein helps you stay fuller longer.

Okay, so that's the first edition of my random ramblings. Questions? Just ask!