Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Small Meals Throughout the Day

Tonight I wanted to share some more on calories. As I've said before, in general, women need 1800-2200 calories a day. If you eat less than that, your body will start to store fat, fearing that you might stop feeding it at any time.

I've written that pregnant women need 300 extra calories a day. But that is only true if you are eating within the 1800-2200 calorie range already. If you are eating 3,000 calories a day, you don't need an extra 300. You don't want to cut back, or your body might think you are starving it and somehow lash out to protect itself. You don't want your body on the defense while you're pregnant.

If you are breastfeeding, you need to eat at least 1800 calories a day to produce an adequate milk supply. If you want to lose weight AND breastfeed, aim to lose one pound a week. Now, if you are eating 3,000 calories a day, that means that you need to be careful to cut out and burn through exercise ONLY 500 calories a day. More than that could drastically reduce your milk supply.

If you aren't a mommy yet, aren't pregnant yet, or aren't breastfeeding, you should still aim to eat 1800 calories a day. If you want your weight loss to be lasting, sustainable weight loss, you want to slowly cut calories consumed through food and slowly add in calories burned through exercise.

If you are one of the women who has lost weight in the past by drastically cutting back on the number of calories you eat and need to add calories in to reach the 1800-2200 calorie point, you also need to do it gradually. Otherwise, you will just put on a lot of weight.

So - how do we choose what we are going to eat to get these calories? Well, I have read that you should eat six small meals a day. The article on stress and weight gain from the previous post suggested five. For the six small meals a day plan, you need to eat six 300 calorie meals at regular intervals throughout your day. Or maybe you want to eat three 400 calorie meals and three 200 calorie snacks. Whatever your preference, find what balance works with your weight, your needs, your levels of hunger throughout the day, etc. THAT DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD HURRY OUT AND START EATING 1800 CALORIES STARTING TOMORROW. Again, gradually cut back and work into it. If you eat around 3000 calories a day (the average in 2003 was 3770 for most Americans), you want to just start cutting 500 calories a day, aiming for 1 pound a week weight loss. Then see how your body handles that and cut back a few more.

To help in this process, we are going to add a new sidebar item: A sample menu for six meals a day. Dinner will be up to you, since dinner is usually something you eat with your family. BUT, since we're giving you great recipe ideas, dinner shouldn't be a problem; and cooking dinner means leftovers for lunches or other small meals throughout the day.

As a general rule, each of our six meals will include a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate. We'll also try to throw some guiltless snacks in there and some dessert options -- but remember, you have your FREE DAY, so whatever you decide to throw in or leave out from our menus, you're bound to LOVE what you eat all week long and get a little bit of EVERYTHING YOU WANT!!!!

Catching Up -- Nutrition Information

I have found some nutrition guidelines for breastfeeding moms. NOW -- if you are not or have not been pregnant, don't overlook this and think, "That doesn't apply to me." Because, the truth is, that it WILL at some time; and if we can form good habits that will give our bodies the best nutrition possible BEFORE and DURING pregnancy, we will be able to meet our bodies' and our children's nutritional needs when THEIR growth and development and OUR strength and ability to contribute to their growth and development are essential.

Here are the guidelines:
1) The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that, after the first six to eight weeks after the birth of your baby, you should ONLY lose about 1 pound a week. No more. More can cause you to either NOT produce enough milk for your baby OR not produce enough nutrients for your own sustenance while your body is taking from you what your baby needs.
2) Eat the following quantities of the following foods:
Grains: 8 ounces a day
Veggies: 3 cups a day (about three 1-cup servings of fresh veggies; six 1/2cup servings of cooked/steamed veggies)
Fruit: 2 cups a day (about one medium banana, one medium apple, etc.)
Dairy: 3 cups a day (aim for fat-free or low-fat options first; limit amount of cheese)
Meat and Beans: 3 servings a day (stick with lean proteins wherever possible)
Healthy Oils: 3 tsp. a day (includes Olive Oil, avocados, nuts, etc.; you and baby need the Vitamin E)
Water: At LEAST 8 glasses per day (more for when you exercise/sweat a lot)

That's it -- now evaluate where you are. If you start to lose milk or find your baby isn't gaining weight as quickly as necessary, it may be because you aren't eating enough of the right foods for your body and baby's needs.


Sorry I got behind last week -- bad internet connections, sick babies, and not having a computer all caught up with me. But we're back on track now, and I'm excited for another week.

How are you doing? How is your water intake? Are you drinking a glass of water before each meal? Did you take a day and TRACK EVERYTHING YOU ATE to see where you are, on average, and make some goals about where you need to go? I did -- and I was surprised by the results. What about the recipe of the week -- did you try the meatloaf? Did you like it? My friend Stephanie commented that she made it for dinner for herself, her husband, and their friend with success! It's really a favorite of ours, as is the next recipe I'll post tomorrow for the new week!

So - today's post: FREE DAY!!!!

I think with all of the talk about counting calories and making sure our bodies get enough and deciding what we are willing to give up and what we aren't made me think about LIMITING versus INCREASING. The truth is, if we are going to be successful, we can't feel LIMITED in our choices, options, favorite foods, etc. HOWEVER, let's face it: We didn't get where we are by having occasional splurges here and there. So, we aren't going to get past it without cutting out the daily splurges and making them MORE MEANINGFUL by regulating how often they occur. Might I make a suggestion? PICK A FREE DAY EVERY WEEK TO EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT -- GUILT FREE! That's right; that's what I said: WHATEVER YOU WANT -- ABSOLUTELY GUILT FREE! Some of the most successful diets I have researched have some sort of "FREE" day or flexibility in the food routine, so you feel FREE instead of RESTRICTED and have the strength to see it through on HARD DAYS.

The key here is that you have ONE FREE DAY, not a free ticket to use whenever you want to splurge! ;-D That's where you get into trouble and start losing the progress that you work so hard to get the rest of the week.

How will you make sure that your FREE DAY is actually working FOR YOU AND NOT AGAINST YOU? You need to be TRACKING what you eat each day and making sure that you only have ONE FREE DAY A WEEK. If you're like me, you have to sit and really think hard to remember what you DID yesterday, let alone what you ate. So - if you keep track, write it down in a place that will be easy to access and stay on top of, all you have to do from week to week is look to see if you've had your free day yet. OR, BETTER YET, pick one day a week to be your free day, consistently, and just change it on weeks when you have a special occasion -- birthday, anniversary, etc.

Cut Cellulite Fast - Part 2

And here is the strength training portion:


These six moves tone your hips, butt, and thighs—the most common sites for cellulite. For each move we offer an easier option, in case the main move is too difficult. If it's too easy, increase the intensity of the standing exercises by holding dumbbells. To avoid injury, warm up with five minutes of marching in place or do these moves directly after your cardio workout when muscles are already warmed.

1. Squat Kickback

Stand with feet together, toes pointing forward, and arms bent at sides.

Bend knees and hips into a squat, as if you were sitting in a chair (A), and hold for three counts.

As you rise, press right leg back and squeeze glutes (B). Hold for one count, then lower. Switch legs after each set.

Make it easier: Don't squat as deeply, and keep toes on floor when pressing back.

2. Curtsy and Kick

Stand with feet together, hands on hips.

Step right foot behind left leg and bend knees until left thigh is almost parallel to floor (A). Keep left knee over ankle. Hold for three counts.

As you stand back up, kick right leg out to side before doing another curtsy (B). Switch legs after each set.

Make it easier: Skip the kick and bring feet together between each curtsy.

3. PliƩ Sweep

Stand with feet wide apart, toes pointing out, and hands on hips.

Keeping back straight and abs tight, tuck tailbone and bend knees, lowering until thighs are almost parallel to floor. Hold for three counts.

As you stand up, sweep left leg across body, as if you're kicking a soccer ball. Switch legs after each set.

Make it easier: Eliminate the leg sweep.

4. Glute Squeeze

Lie on floor with knees bent, feet beneath knees and hip-width apart.

Keeping hips level and abs tight, press into heels and squeeze glutes, lifting hips to form a bridge.

Lower hips halfway to floor for two counts, then press back up. (Instead of pulses on your third set, do a Hip Rock: In bridge position, squeeze left buttocks and lift left hip. Repeat on right side. That's one rep.)

Make it easier: Lower hips to floor between reps.

5. Bun Burner

Get on all fours, with hands beneath shoulders, knees beneath hips, and abs tight. Extend right leg behind you so it's in line with back, toes pointed and hips square to floor.

Pull knee into chest (A), contracting abs, and extend leg back out 12 times.

Next, extend right leg and pulse, lifting and lowering a few inches, 12 times. Then bend right leg so sole of foot faces ceiling and pulse 12 times. That's one set.

Repeat with left leg. (No need to add additional pulses when you progress to three sets.)

Make it easier: Place forearms on floor.

6. Pass-Through Lunges

Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Step right foot forward 2 to 3 feet and bend knees, lowering until right thigh is parallel to floor. Keep right knee over ankle. Hold for one count.

In one swift movement, press off right foot and bring it behind you. (Left foot doesn't move.) Lower into another lunge so left thigh is parallel to floor, holding for one count.

Continue passing right foot through into a front then a back lunge without bringing feet together. Switch legs after each set.

Make it easier: Rather than pushing through from front to back in one swift movement, bring feet together before going into back lunge.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tex-Mex Bean Salad

1/3 cup fat-free salsa
3 Tbl. reduced-fat sour cream
1 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
3 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed (about two 15.5 ounce cans)
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup canned yellow corn (or freshly cooked or frozen and heated)
1/2 cup diced avocado
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 oz pepper jack (or other favorite) cheese
24 baked, low-fat tortilla chips (or make it a wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla)

In a large bowl, stir together salsa, sour cream, and vinegar until blended. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, avocado, scallions, and cilantro; toss to mix and coat.

Place 1 1/2 cups of lettuce on each of four serving plates (or on whole wheat tortillas). Top each with 1 1/2 cups of bean mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 2 TBL. cheese. If using chips instead of tortillas, arrange six chips around edge of plate.

Serves 4

Friday, March 27, 2009

MSN on Cellulite

My friend Shawna sent me a link to this article. I thought it was a great work-out plan to combine with our leaps and bounds changes in becoming aware of the number of calories we eat and the food we choose to give us those calories. It's an 8-week plan, just in time for Spring weather to make it possible to get out and DO MORE!!! I am going to post several exercise ideas/options on here because the truth is that YOU JUST HAVE TO FIND SOMETHING THAT YOU ENJOY AND CONSISTENTLY DO IT. So, depending on your personality, I want to give some honest feedback on ideas and also my experience trying them. My sister and I are going to talk about workout videos we've tried and our thoughts on them and WOULD LOVE TO HEAR ANY FEEDBACK FROM YOU on things you have tried -- especially things that you can do during the dreary winter months, even when your spouse's schedule doesn't let you get out and walk/run like you might like to. So - I really liked this one. It's very similar to the 8-week program I found for building up your endurance to run 30 minutes without stopping (the minimum for the marathon training I found and will comment on at a later time). So -- look over it; try it for a week or so; see what you think and either keep going or try something else. Either way, let us know what you think!

Pregnant mommies: WALK, WALK, WALK, WALK, WALK! If you aren't a runner before you get pregnant, you probably shouldn't pick up an intense running program while you are pregnant. HOWEVER, you can walk -- and walking will help you to feel good, prevent the formation of those EXTRA FAT CELLS we want to avoid and shrink, and make your delivery (and recovery) much easier. No matter what week you are in, 0-40, YOU CAN GET OUT AND WALK!!!! And you can lift light weights to keep your upper-body and back strong. REMEMBER: THE MORE YOU DO NOW, THE LESS YOU WILL HAVE TO DO LATER!

Breastfeeding mommies: You should be fine to do this AS LONG AS YOU KEEP UP YOUR CALORIE AND NUTRITION GUIDELINES. I'm going to write a post tomorrow JUST FOR YOU to show you what I've been learning that you should be eating every day in order to HAVE THE MILK YOU WANT FOR YOUR BABY and LOSE THE WEIGHT YOU NEED TO FOR BOTH OF YOU!!!!!


Wipe Out Cellulite

Link: Click Here to go to the MSN website's version of this article.

Last year, American women spent nearly $100 million on creams, lotions, and other topical treatments in hopes of eradicating cellulite from our thighs and butts. We're going to make a wild guess that very few of those products worked as well as you'd hoped. That's because, despite its infamy, cellulite is just plain old fat (albeit dressed up in slightly more offensive attire), and a key to minimizing it is to drop pounds, according to a 2006 study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

But how you lose weight matters: Crash dieting can make cellulite worse by reducing skin's elasticity, making more of those little puckers noticeable. Gradual weight loss (to better preserve skin's suppleness and reduce fat) accompanied by targeted muscle development, which firms and smooths underlying tissue, is the most effective cellulite solution, says Glynis Ablon, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA.

When Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., co-author of No More Cellulite (Perigee, 2003), tested such a strategy on 115 women, all of them reported a reduction in cellulite appearance at the end of 8 weeks, and ultrasound measurements confirmed a higher proportion of muscle to fat in their thigh areas.

Now, it's your turn. This comprehensive exercise and eating plan—based on Westcott's findings—will burn fat, build muscle, and shed pounds safely. We know it's not as easy as applying a cream. But it's more effective. See for yourself.

The workout: A science-based, fat-blasting plan for a firmer butt and sleek thighs.

This two-pronged exercise program helps minimize the lumpy, bumpy appearance of cellulite. Aerobic exercise like walking and running burns fat, while lower-body moves such as squats and lunges build muscle.

To maximize fat loss, you'll do 200 minutes of cardio a week—the amount found to produce the greatest weight loss—including high-intensity exercise to rev your calorie burn for up to 19 hours after a workout. You should see the slimming, smoothing results in four weeks!

The expert: Chris Freytag, contributing fitness editor and creator of Prevention's "Fight Cellulite Fast!" DVD, designed these workouts and models the moves.

Your plan at a glance

Part 1: Burn off cellulite (five days a week)

Blast fat with two types of cardio routines: Intense Workouts (an interval program that builds from fitness walks to calorie-blasting runs) and Moderate Workouts (any aerobic activity you enjoy).

Part 2: Tone, smooth, and firm (three days a week)

Tone your muscles by doing six strengthening moves. (Take a day off between these workouts.)

  • Weeks 1-2: Do one set of 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • Weeks 3-4: Repeat the circuit twice so you're doing two sets of each exercise.
  • Weeks 5-8: Repeat the circuit three times, so you're doing three sets of each exercise. On the third set, instead of holding each move, pulse for three counts by lifting and lowering a few inches before returning to the start position.


Week 1

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, two minutes; run interval*, one minute
  • Number of intervals: 10
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 40 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: walking, swimming, or cycling, 40 minutes

Week 2

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, one minute
  • Number of intervals: 15
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 40 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 3

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, two minutes
  • Number of intervals: 10
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 40 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 4

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, four minutes
  • Number of intervals: Seven
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 45 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 5

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, six minutes
  • Number of intervals: Five
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 45 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 6

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute run interval*, seven minutes
  • Number of intervals: Four
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 42 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 7

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, eight minutes
  • Number of intervals: Four
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 46 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

Week 8

  • Intense workouts (three days a week)
  • Brisk walk interval, one minute; run interval*, nine minutes
  • Number of intervals: Three
  • Total workout (five-minute warm-up, five-minute cool-down included): 40 minutes
  • Moderate workouts (two days a week)
  • You choose: Walking, swimming, or cycling: 40 minutes

*If you have joint problems, you can substitute fast walking for running.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Your Calories

According to WikiAnswers, in 2003 the average American ate 3770 calories a day. That's more than twice the low-range recommendation for most women (1800 to 2200 a day). So, how many calories do you eat a day? Take a day and actually write down everything you eat. Then, sometime in the next few days, research how many calories were in the food you ate. Be sure to monitor how MUCH you eat of each food in order to get accurate numbers for the number of servings you ate. On average, we eat two to four times as much as we need.

Here are some common food examples from things I eat on a regular basis:

Oatmeal -- 150 calories for 1/2 cup cooked in water, no milk or sweetener added
Peanut Butter -- 210 calories for 2 Tbl.
Egg -- 70 calories per large egg
2% Milkfat Cheese -- 90 calories for one ounce
Skim Milk -- 90 calories per cup (8 ounces)
Whole Wheat English Muffin -- 120 calories per muffin
Deli Sliced Turkey, 94% Fat Free -- 35 calories per slice
Swiss Miss Sugar Free Hot Chocolate -- 80 calories per 1/4 cup serving
Baby Carrots -- 55 calories in 10
Small Apple -- 55 calories
Large Banana -- 121 calories
Frozen Sweet Peas -- 40 calories in 3/4 cup serving
Fresh Spinach -- 7 calories per cup
Blackberries -- 97 calories per cup
Chicken -- 120 calories per serving

A good resource for finding out how many calories are in some of your favorite foods (besides the label on the back of the food that will also give you the serving size/quantity) is You can also track your food on and

Happy tracking! I think you'll be surprised by how well you are doing in some areas and how much you can improve in others.

Beating Stress Fat

My mom was actually asking me the other day if I had heard anyone talk about weight gain caused by stress. I hadn't . . . yet. But my friend Sara sent me a link to this article. Interesting repeat of some of the things we have already talked about; and I thought it would be a good time to throw this out there. I personally can relate. I managed to only gain 14 pounds with my pregnancy, which is really great -- twins or no twins. Then the babies got here, and the stress, sleepless days, nights, weeks, months, etc., not being able to breastfeed and wondering how to help my babies gain weight, etc. all started to add up. In the following months, I gained weight! Talk about adding insult to injury. I hope this will help some of you put things in perspective and cut the stress and/or beat the stress that is already in your lives!

7 Ways To Beat Stress Fat

High stress can lead to weight gain. Here's how to stop it—fast.

By Nancy Kalish, Prevention

For most of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, recent research reveals that it's also a fact of fat. "Even if you usually eat healthfully and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds," says Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., a Prevention advisor and the author of Body for Life for Women (Rodale Books, 2005).

Here's what happens: Your body responds to all stress—physical or psychological—in exactly the same way. So every time you have a stressful day, your brain acts as though you're in physical danger and instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven't used very many calories in your stressed-out state. This can make you hungry ... very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues.

“Even if you usually eat healthfully and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds” — Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H

Sadly, few of us reach for carrot sticks in these situations. "Instead, we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that actually do reduce tension," explains Elissa Epel, Ph.D., a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco. This soothing effect becomes addicting, so every time you're anxious, you reach for fattening foods.

In addition, with your adrenal glands pumping out cortisol, production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone slows down. "Over time, this drop causes a decrease in your muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., author of The Cortisol Connection (Hunter House, 2007). "This occurs naturally as you age, but high cortisol levels accelerate the process."

Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat—especially visceral fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes.

Obviously, getting rid of all anxiety isn't an option. But by taking these seven steps to beat stress, you can get your cortisol levels and your weight under control, and improve your overall health at the same time.

Drop and do 10

That's right, power out some push-ups. "Moving your muscles is an effective, instant stress reliever. It actually fools your body into thinking you're escaping the source of your stress," says Talbott. "Exercise makes your blood circulate more quickly, transporting the cortisol to your kidneys and flushing it out of your system." But if push-ups aren't practical, just flexing your hands or calf muscles will help move cortisol along, he says. Even taking a stroll on your lunch break is beneficial. In one study, Talbott found that 18 minutes of walking 3 times per week can quickly lower the hormone's levels by 15 percent.

Go slowly at meals

Under stress, we tend to scarf down even healthy food, and research has linked this behavior to bigger portions and more belly fat. But Epel hypothesizes that slowing down, savoring each bite, and paying attention to feelings of fullness may lower cortisol levels along with decreasing the amount of food you eat, thereby shifting the distribution of fat away from the belly.

Stop strict dieting

It's ironic, but research shows that constant dieting can make cortisol levels rise as much as 18 percent. In addition, when your cortisol levels spike, your blood sugar goes haywire, first rising, then plummeting. This makes you cranky and (you guessed it) ravenous. When your brain is deprived of sugar—its main fuel—self-control takes a nosedive, and your willpower doesn't stand a chance. "The only way around this is to stop rigid dieting," advises Peeke. She suggests eating three healthful meals and two snacks spaced evenly throughout the day so that your blood sugar stays level: "You won't be hungry, you won't be stressed about being hungry, and you'll still drop the extra pounds."

Give in to cravings

When stress drives you toward something sweet or salty, it's okay to yield a little. "It's much better to indulge in a small way and cut off your cortisol response before it gets out of control," says Epel. "Have a piece of chocolate. You will feel better. Just stop at one." If you have trouble restraining yourself, take precautions so you won't binge. Buy a single cookie when you're out instead of keeping a box at home; or keep them in the freezer so you have to wait for one to defrost.

Curtail caffeine

Next time you're under duress, choose decaf. When you combine stress with caffeine, it raises cortisol levels more than stress alone. In one study by the University of Oklahoma, consuming the equivalent of 2 1/2 to 3 cups of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25 percent—and kept it up for three hours. When subjects took 600 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 6 cups of java) throughout the day, the hormone went up by 30 percent and stayed high all day long. You'll experience these effects even if your body is accustomed to a lot of lattes. And because high cortisol levels can contribute to stress eating, you might want to consider quitting caffeine altogether.

De-stress breakfast

Deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium are stressful to your body, leading to increased cortisol levels and food cravings, says Talbott. But you can fight back by eating a breakfast that's high in these nutrients. He suggests some OJ, a grapefruit, or a large handful of strawberries to supply vitamin C; 6 to 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, which contains calcium and magnesium; and a whole-grain bagel or toast with a bit of peanut butter. Whole grains are bursting with B vitamins, while peanut butter contains fatty acids that can decrease the production of stress hormones.

Sleep it off

The most effective stress-reduction strategy of all: Get enough shut-eye. "Your body perceives sleep deprivation as a major stressor," says Talbott. A University of Chicago study found that getting an average of 6 1/2 hours each night can increase cortisol, appetite, and weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours. As if that weren't enough, other research shows that lack of sleep also raises levels of ghrelin, a hunger-boosting hormone. In one study, appetite—particularly for sweet and salty foods—increased by 23 percent in people who lacked sleep. The good news: A few nights of solid sleep can bring all this back into balance, and getting enough regularly helps keep it there. Says Talbott, "You'll eat less, and you'll feel better, too."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mushroom Meatloaf

Serve this meatloaf with a baked potato or a baked sweet potato, or even a serving of mashed potatoes (1/2 cup). Add in some fresh spinach salad with grapes and mandarin oranges or some steamed veggies. We also like to sautee some mushrooms in Olive Oil Cooking Spray and serve them on top.

1 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 (10 oz) package fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 c reduced-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 pounds ground lean beef (7% fat or less)
1 Large Egg
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 tsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Ground Pepper

Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until softened (2-3 min.). Add mushrooms; cook, stirring until browned (4-5 min.). Add broth; bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid almost evaporates (5-6 min.).

Transfer mushroom mixture to large bowl; let cool (5 min.). Add beef, egg, oregano, basil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper; mix just until blended. Transfer mixture to broiler rack (sprayed with non-stick spray); form into 4 x 9 inch loaf. Bake at 350 until an instant-red thermometer reads 160 F, 60-65 min. Let stand about 5 min., cut into 6 slices. Serve! Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Per Serving: 191 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 1 g trans. fat, 98 mg. cholesterol, 418 mg. sodium, 4 g carb., 1 g fiber, 26 g. protein, 31 mg. calcium.

Calories Count!

Okay, so I have a little secret to reveal this post. Are you ready? If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. No. Seriously! You didn't know?

Honestly, though, there really aren't any shortcuts besides cutting calories and increasing activity. And, putting it back into the perspective of being healthy and active and able to ENJOY YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST, doesn't it just make sense? Remember how you feel when you eat too much? Think Thanksgiving. What does everyone do after dinner? Sleep! Yeah, no energy to go and do and create memories beyond the turkey and pumpkin pie! That's FABULOUS a few times a year, but every day? Well, you may not be eating Thanksgiving dinner every day, but you may be following the same pattern in your daily living: not eating on a regular basis and then overeating as soon as you get a chance and can stuff everything in sight in your overly anxious face!

Someone told me about a woman who wants very badly to lose weight. She's a veterinarian and is on her feet all day long. So, she decided that she wanted to get surgery done to lose weight. Problem: She found out that she isn't fat enough to qualify for the surgery. Bummer, right? How often do you hear, "I'm sorry, but you are just too thin!"? Know what she did? She started eating milkshakes every break she had, all day long. Know what happened? Well, believe it or not she must have engaged her metabolism because she lost five pounds! Who would have guessed, right?

Well, it makes sense. Our bodies need fuel throughout the day in order to function properly. And really, the only way to make sure it is getting the BEST fuel is to identify what you are getting vs. what you need. I know what you are saying: "Melinda, I am NOT a calorie counter! I don't have time to count calories. I will never BE a calorie counter. It just isn't me." Well, there is something we can work on together because the big secret still stands: Calories out have to exceed calories in; but your body still needs a certain amount of calories to function and run. If you are going to be in control of this, you have to first be aware of it.

I'll write more on how many calories your body needs in order to function in a later post; but for now, here are some simple calculations to help motivate you to get informed and START EATING THE RIGHT KINDS OF CALORIES and BURN THE UNWANTED CALORIES YOU ALREADY STORED.

Number of calories necessary to lose 1 pound of body fat: 3,500
Number of hours of exercise needed to lose 1 pound of body fat: 2 1/2 (more or less)

Now, let's break that down to TODAY:

To lose 1 pound of body fat a week (that's 52 pounds a year - more than most of us need to lose; but still -- perspective), cut 500 calories a day, through food intake and exercise. Divided equally between the two, that means you need to burn 250 calories (about what you would burn running two 10-minute miles a day) and cut out 250 calories (about a bowl of cereal with 1/2 c skim milk and an apple) a day.

If you're pregnant, did you know that you just need an extra 300 calories a day? And that is only if you are already eating only the recommended amount of calories for your fitness, age, activity level. If you are already overeating, you don't need extra calories at all when you get pregnant. If you're overweight and pregnant, you actually need to eat less. Again, we're talking about an extra apple with peanut butter, a bowl of cereal and two apples, 1/2 cup cottage cheese and a banana, etc. If you watch yourself now and don't go overboard, you'll reap the rewards later and have a healthier, easier, happier pregnancy and delivery.

If you are breastfeeding, you need to eat 1800 calories a day. That will be enough to give you an adequate milk supply. And they say the average woman burns 500 calories a day breastfeeding (I didn't, I don't think -- but I'm apparently not average!). I have also read that if you ARE breastfeeding, you really shouldn't lose more than about 1 pound a week in order to keep your milk supply. So - there are some guidelines for us, no matter our category.

There -- now on a day-to-day basis, that doesn't look so bad, does it? Why is it so hard? Well, we miscalculate what we are eating or aren't aware of what we are eating and cannot, therefore, make those few tiny cuts on a daily basis to reach our goals. So - now we know what lies ahead on our journey to success!

Start watching how many calories are in your favorite, daily foods. Just for fun, keep track one day and see where you honestly are in an average day.

Remember: Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Just a Thought

My uncle shared this thought with me in an e-mail, and I thought it was very appropriate to motivate us to move forward and become the women (and men) of our dreams.

No limits are set to the ascent of man, and to each and every one the highest stands open. Here it is only your personal choice that decides. (Martin Buber)

You can do anything you put your mind to! Don't doubt it! You have within you all the qualities you need to be successful at anything you desire. All you need to do is want it badly enough, believe it strongly enough, ask for help when you might forget it (that's why we're here), and then work for it. One step at a time, YOU WILL SUCCEED!

Well, this is the last post for this week. So how are you doing? Are you sleeping? Did you exercise at least one time yet? Have you tried the hummus recipe? Have you tried any of the exercises Mike suggested for the days when all you have are five minutes? Have you set some realistic goals for yourself, looking at what you are willing to give up and what you are actually going to sustain BEYOND WEIGHT LOSS? Write a note and let me know what you think.

I must admit that this has not been my week for sleeping! I guess I should have put that down as the week's goal on a week when it wasn't Spring Break and I didn't have my husband home and a huge list of things we want to get done with this time. But we are already re-evaluating our life choices and looking at what we need to do TO BE IN BED EARLY and ARISE EARLY each day. And to HELP EACH OTHER HAVE TIME TO EXERCISE and GIVE OUR BODIES A CHANCE to be healthy and strong.

Until next week!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Habit, Habit, Habit

When I was getting my M.A., I studied and read a lot about habit formation. It's an intriguing process and interesting to see how our minds and bodies form and cling to habits.

As we are looking at "weight loss" and building healthy habits for ourselves and generations to come, I think habit is a key part of what will be our success.

It is a common tendency to start a diet by thinking about what you CAN'T EAT and what you HAVE TO LIMIT. However, that isn't really practical and will not lead to lasting results. If, for example, you say that you are not going to eat anything sweet until you lose all of your weight, you need to be prepared to not eat anything sweet for the rest of your life. If you say you are going to eat just 1200 calories a day until you lose your weight, you are -- once again -- setting yourself up to only be able to eat 1200 calories a day for the rest of your life. Why? Let me explain some of the things I have been learning that lead me to these conclusions.

1) Our bodies have fat cells. Though I plan on writing an entire blog on what I am learning about fat cells, the gist is this: At the conference I attended, I heard that there are three times in a woman's life when those fat cells DOUBLE: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Once a fat cell is formed, IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY (unless you have surgery to remove it, which doesn't really appeal or apply to us here). HOWEVER, though you cannot get rid of a fat cell, you can PROGRAM YOUR FAT CELLS to be thin or fat. That's funny, isn't it? Have you ever thought of a THIN fat cell? Well, look around you. There are people around you -- somewhere in your family or among your roommates from college or whatever -- who have lost weight and been able to keep their fat cells thin.

Once you have fat cells in your body, you cannot get rid of them; so they will always have at least a little bit of fat in them because they are, indeed, FAT CELLS. HOWEVER, do not despair! Everyone can program their fat cells to be thin or to be fat. But IT TAKES TIME for these things to happen. That's why they tell you to exercise during pregnancy -- to keep your fat cells as THIN as possible or, better yet, to keep your body from creating extra fat cells. SO -- we are NOT JUST LOSING WEIGHT; we are REPROGRAMMING FAT CELLS to be THIN FAT CELLS instead of FAT FAT CELLS and preparing our bodies to NOT form additional fat cells during periods when we cannot help but put on a lot of excess weight (like pregnancy). And that tells me that whatever you do to reprogram them is what you are going to have to do to keep them thin.

#2) My nutrition friend from the seminar I attended said that one of the #1 mistakes women make in this country is that they UNDEREAT. Can that be possible? With obesity on the rise, is it possible that women really under-eat? YES. And, believe it or not, CALORIES ARE GOOD -- CALORIES ARE OUR FRIENDS. Calories are what give our bodies fuel to function every day, fuel to get through the days and nights, to keep our blood pumping and our brain working and our muscles moving, etc. So, if you cut out calories that YOUR BODY NEEDS TO FUNCTION and maintain itself, you are slowly destroying your body.

So how many calories does the average woman need? 1800-2200 a day! Seriously, folks! That is how many we should be eating a day -- fat, fit, and everything in between. It doesn't matter. If you are going to DRASTICALLY CUT CALORIES, you are eventually going to throw your body into survival mode where it feels it needs to horde all of the calories it is getting out of fear that at some point, you are going to stop feeding it altogether and it's going to have to be able to sustain itself. Is that a message you want to send your body when you are trying to LOSE WEIGHT and MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT AND LIFESTLYE? No-o-o-o-o! Besides which, if you do take away from your body the calories that it needs to sustain itself, when you stop dieting and stop eating those 1200 calories a day because you are right where you need to be, YOU ARE GOING TO GAIN WEIGHT.

SO ---- THUS WE SEE FROM ALL OF THIS that when we are talking about losing weight and being HEALTHY, we need to use wisdom and do it correctly: SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE!!! Thank you, Mr. Turtle and Mr. Hare, for that great lesson!

As you sit down now and think about what goals you want to set for yourself and how you are going to walk this journey to a healthier, fitter, and slimmer YOU, think about what you are going to CHANGE -- FOREVER -- and decide what you are willing to give up and what you are not.

I AM NOT WILLING TO GIVE UP SWEETS for the rest of my life! So, as I'm losing weight I need to learn to be moderate in my intake of sweets so that I can still eat them and enjoy them without feeling attached to them or having withdrawals from NOT getting enough.

On the other hand, I could just tell myself I'm diabetic and then give them up completely! WRONG!!! No way - my mind knows I'm NOT diabetic; my body knows I'm NOT diabetic, and they are the only things that matter in MY weight loss. So -- sweets are IN -- in moderation!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Ounce Counts

Okay, well I have had trouble deciding what to write about today -- there's so much to choose from! But a lesson from my little baby boy wins.

When my little man was four months old, he still was not sleeping through the night and was eating every two hours. They both were. So, my sister and sister-in-law suggested I just let him eat as big of a bottle as he would eat. I was skeptical, but I decided to add one ounce at a time and try to determine when he was "full." The results? I added one ounce (making six total) with no change -- still eating every two hours. I added one more ounce (making seven total) and -- TADA!!!! He began eating every FOUR HOURS instead of every TWO!!! That made a huge difference in my day.

HOWEVER, it also made me think about what I was eating and made me wonder what would happen if I added just a little bit to each meal, not getting too full but not feeling hungry. The results? Well, so far they've been GREAT. For example, this morning I had my usual cup of oatmeal. This usually holds me over for about an hour and a half. Then I get hungry again. So this morning I added an egg. Three and a half hours later, I was ready to eat again! Seriously! Just adding some protein to my oatmeal, a fairly nutritious addition at that, and I made it more than twice the time between feedings. That's much better than before when I was eating my oatmeal and then a sandwich an hour or so later and then whatever a few hours after that.

So -- try it! Find out what your level of fullness is and how you can maximize it. Like I said in my first post (and will follow up on with a more detailed post later), it is best for your body to fight off the hunger hormone by EATING SIX SMALL MEALS A DAY. Try combining a complex carbohydrate and a lean protein (and something else if you feel the urge to splurge a tiny bit) and see how it holds you over in comparison with just a protein or just a carbohydrate. I think we're onto something here.

Thanks a bunch to my little man -- and my sister and sister-in-law, of course, for the seedling of the idea!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing Already!

Okay -- so I have so many thoughts and so many hopes that people are going to jump on board that I've decided to change things up a bit. I'm going to try to post five posts a week instead of just one (I was thinking about time; but I think I can recruit help from others and get five). Here is one from my friend, Mike (I think I'll include Daddies from here on out! This is GREAT!!!!):

How many times do you use the excuse that you "don't have time to workout today"?

Well, I know for many people this is a frequent excuse, and with super-busy schedules these days, it's not a surprise. However, there ARE still ways to make sure you do something to stimulate your metabolism, increase your heart rate, and work your full body muscles, all in less than 5 minutes.

Since you can do this in only 5 minutes/day, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for not at least getting in some sort of workout. Now I don't recommend this being your only form of workout as you'll still want other variety, but for those extra busy days where you just can't find the time, this will keep you on track.

Set aside 5 minutes either in the morning before work, on your lunch break, or after work for this "mini-workout".

What you can do is this:

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell (if you have one at your house). If you don't have a dbell or kbell, I have an alternate below.

Now spend 5 minutes doing as many reps as you can of 1-arm dbell or kettlebell swings alternated with 1-arm snatches.

After 60-90 seconds, most people will start to slow down, so start taking 10 second breaks to catch your breath enough to do another 5-6 swings and snatches with each arm. Keep alternated as many reps as you can get of each exercise with 10 second mini-rests.

Get as many reps as you can in 5 minutes. We're going for as much work accomplished as possible in these 5 minutes!

If you do this with intensity, you'll have worked your entire body VERY thoroughly in only 5 minutes and will be huffing and puffing for breath.

If all you've got is 5 minutes, this is a great way to really "shock" your body into increasing metabolic rate. And there's really no way that you can't fit at least a 5-minute workout into your daily schedule no matter how hectic the day is.

If you don't have a dumbbell or kettlebell available, you can substitute any 2 of these exercises alternated with one another for the 5 minutes:

bodyweight squats
jump squats
jump lunges

If you're not familiar with any of the exercises mentioned in this article, make sure you get a copy of the Truth about Six Pack Abs, and you'll see everything in detail.

Thanks, Mike!!!!

I have just a few thoughts to add to this. If you don't have dumbbells, use CANS OF SOUP or BAKED BEANS or whatever else you have around the house (or just invest in a few low-weight dumbbells from Wal-Mart (that's what I've decided to do). BUT, even if you can't afford it right now, get the heaviest can of whatever that you have and can still safely lift. The other day, my friend Anna came over and we decided to do a workout video together, but I only had one set of hand weights (held together by duct tape, I might add). So - she used the Progresso lentil soup and still got a good workout.

Second of all, if you are NOT familiar with these exercises, just go and do a search online. Some GREAT resources, especially if you are pregnant, include, Baby Center, and What to My favorite, favorite, FAVORITE for pregnant mommies is BabyFit. I have actually been tempted to go and pretend I'm pregnant again just to get the GREAT nutrition and exercise benefits available there. But, wait, I just logged on and can still ACCESS EVERYTHING without having to be PREGNANT again! Now THAT'S amazing. If you aren't pregnant, check out I think you can see all the exercises there.

ALSO -- if you aren't familiar with how to do lunges and squats properly, BE CAREFUL so you don't injure yourself. Have someone check you and/or hold your knees for you while you are learning. If it hurts (more than the muscles), you're doing something wrong.

Third of all -- if you're like me, push-ups may NOT QUITE BE YOUR THING YET. To my military husband's chagrine, I'm not a push-up master! HOWEVER, I am going to be; I have no reason NOT to be. If you can't do "man push-ups" (full body push-ups), do "girl push-ups" (push-ups on your knees with your legs bent and feet crossed at the ankle -- and a baby blanket or something folded under your knees if you have hard floors). If even THAT doesn't work for you, do WALL PUSH-UPS!!!! Pregnant mommies -- if that belly isn't too much in the way yet, do the wall push-ups! It's great! My sister introduced me to these, and you STILL GET GREAT BENEFITS if you are doing them correctly and can slowly build up.

Incidentally, you'll be amazed at how QUICKLY your body responds as you push it just a little bit further each time. I can do twice as many push-ups today with 1/2 the energy as I could a month ago. So -- the main point here is that EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING! And if you want TO BE ABLE TO DO IT, YOU HAVE TO DO IT!!!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Week #1 - Extra! Extra!

Well, we are just starting this little blog, so we're going to experiment with what people want. So far, I'm thinking a food and exercise tip for the week, a recipe for the week, a myth buster or informational post for the week, and some personal stories about successes and/or struggles. Most of all, we want this to be fun, informative, motivational, and something anyone can find, read, relate to, comment on, and just enjoy.

So - for the first informational piece. Did you know that there is a hormone that is released into your stomach every thirty minutes causing you to feel hunger? This hormone is called ghrelin. From Wikipedia (gotta love Wiki, even when it may not ALWAYS be 100% accurate, it usually offers some good food for thought):

"Ghrelin levels in the plasma of obese individuals are lower than those in leaner individuals. Yildiz and colleagues found that the level of ghrelin increases during the time of day from midnight to dawn in thinner people, suggesting a flaw in the circadian system of obese individuals. Professor Cappuccio of the University of Warwick has recently discovered that short sleep duration may also lead to obesity, through an increase of appetite via hormonal changes. Lack of sleep produces ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and creates less leptin which, amongst its many other effects, suppresses appetite. In the fetuses, it seems that ghrelin is early produced by the lung and promotes its growth. Those suffering from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa appear to have high plasma levels of ghrelin."

TRANSLATION? Well, there are a few things here. First of all, this hormone makes you hungry. The nutritionist who told me about it said that one way to ward it off and stop negative side effects is to EAT SIX SMALL MEALS A DAY. I'm going to cover that suggestion later.

Second of all, GET ADEQUATE SLEEP. Now, I realize that my primary audience here are mommies, like me, who are trying to lose those 15 (or more) pounds that came with those sweet bundles of joy that fill our every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moments. I struggle with getting enough sleep. My little girl is still waking up every four, five, or six hours on a regular basis. But we need to find a way! I have heard time and time and time again that SLEEP INFLUENCES WEIGHT LOSS. At a recent Weight Watchers meeting, the team leader told the ladies there to weigh themselves the morning after they had A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP and the morning after a poor (or short) night's sleep, promising that they would BE AMAZED AT THE DIFFERENCE! I haven't done it yet, but I'm going to. I'll let you know what I find.

More importantly than weight loss is the overall benefits of sleep. In a study done back in 2001 (when I was in Virginia attending school -- I can't find the source right now), they tested 100 college students. They were looking to see if sleep influenced their success, responsiveness, ability to perform, etc. What they found is that inadequate sleep for three or four days in a row showed the same inadequacies and responses as those produced by drinking too much alcohol! I think that can explain a few of the mindless things I've caught myself doing with/to my children!

I have also read that there is a connection between lack of sleep in children and ADHD.

So, one of my first steps to improve my overall health and lose the weight I need to lose is to re-evaluate the time I spend AFTER the babies are in bed; time that I COULD be sleeping (like I could be right now instead of writing this post) and re-evaluate morning and afternoon nap time. We spend a lot of time making sure that our babies get enough sleep and have all of their needs taken care of; now let's focus on US, ENLISTING THE HELP OF OUR HUSBANDS if we have to (maybe take turns waking up and getting the baby, even if you are breastfeeding and are the only one that can actually FEED the baby, and putting it back down to sleep) and making sure that WE ARE GETTING ADEQUATE SLEEP, not only for the weight loss factor but also in order to HAVE ENOUGH ENERGY to play with, tend to the needs of, and love our babies like they deserve.

So - I'm signing off this first post of this first week and getting myself off to bed! Good night, ghrelin!