Saturday, January 26, 2013


People blame weight gain on a lot of things; heredity, hormones, age, and metabolism, are just a few. However, for many people, eating too much food is really what's behind the extra junk in their trunk. It's important then that we pay particular attention not to just what we eat, but how much. When as little as 200 to 300 calories a day can impact your weight gain or loss you need to do more than eyeball your portions when dieting. It's estimated too that most people underestimate their food intake by 40%! So, while a lot of people dread the thought of measuring and weighing foods, it really is important.
My daughter the dietician shared that one of her colleagues had been working with a woman that despite all efforts just wasn’t losing weight. The dietician had the client keep a food diary and write down everything she ate for a week and the journal entries looked reasonable and healthy. Still unable to get to the bottom of the problem the dietician gave the client a gallon ziploc bag and told her to put into it any tastes, nibbles or bites she would normally have over a day’s time. She wouldn’t include her food from meals or a snacks but just what she would normally nibble at mindlessly and forget to add to her written eating journal.  A bit of cheese left on a child’s lunch plate, a couple of crackers when cleaning up the kitchen, a few tastes while preparing a sauce for dinner, a few chips before she rolled down the bag top. AT THE END OF THE DAY THE WOMAN HAD COMPLETELY FILLED THE ZIPLOC BAG.
While I’m sure none of us wants to cheat ourselves or our competitors it is really easy to kind of guess we got all of our water in, not count the half of hubby’s truffle he shared with us as “our sugar day”, tell ourselves that we are having a serving of crackers and then have just a couple more and a couple more and a couple more but still record just one serving.
Early on I recommended that you purchase the "EatSmart Precision Pro". It is super easy to use and stores in a small space. On there are over 2000 positive reviews.
Let's say you want to have some cheese and crackers. Your crackers are packaged so you know they are about 20 calories each and then you look at your cheese. Unless it is pre-portioned, you have to guess how much a one ounce portion will be.
So, you cut off a slice and hope that you got it right. Cheese is a fairly high calorie food as is red meat, bacon, and cooked pasta. How much did you really eat? If you have a scale, then you know the EXACT amount.
Besides measuring meats and cheeses I love it for portioning out other favorites. If I check and the portion size of my favorite Cape Cod Reduced Fat Potato Chips is 17 chips… but the chips in my bag are of varying sizes with some broken- it is easy to end up with a bit too many. But checking the portion weight makes it easy to get it exact. Personally I like to get out the scale and prepare several bags of my favorites and have them in the snack size ziplocs all ready to eat.
There are of course other tools to check your portion sizes:
Liquid measuring cup - A clear glass or plastic liquid measure is best for measuring soups, milk, juices, and other liquids.
Measuring cups - Use standard kitchen measuring cups to measure vegetables, chopped fruit, pasta, and cottage cheese.
Measuring spoons -  Measuring spoons aren't just for cooking and baking; use them to measure margarine, oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, or peanut butter. I NEVER eat peanut butter without measuring it with a Tablespoon measuring spoon. I cannot be trusted with peanut butter!
Kitchen Scale - Once you begin using a kitchen scale, you'll wonder how you ever lived without one. well.
"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health." – Hippocrates

For those of you without a kitchen scale these guidelines can be of help.

The look of normal portion sizes
   1 oz. meat = size of a matchbox 

   3 oz. meat = size of a deck of cards (the recommended portion for a meal) 

   8 oz. meat = size of a thin paperback book 

   1 medium potato = size of a computer mouse
   1 inch cube of cheese= 1 ounce

(Note: when eating out it is OK to believe their portion and calorie estimates as given on myfitnesspal or other websites) 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Week #3 Using Healthy Oils

Fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain but some fat is essential for survival. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 20% - 35% of calories should come from fat. We need this amount of fat for:
  Body to use vitamins: Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that the fat in foods helps the intestines absorb these vitamins into the body.
  Brains ability: Fat provides the structural components not only of cell membranes in the brain, but also of myelin, the fatty insulating sheath that surrounds each nerve fiber, enabling it to carry messages faster.
  Energy: Gram for gram fats is the most efficient source of food energy. Each gram of fat provides nine calories of energy for the body, compared with four calories per gram of carbohydrates and proteins.
  Healthier skin: One of the more obvious signs of fatty acid deficiency is dry, flaky skin. In addition to giving skin its rounded appeal, the layer of fat just beneath the skin acts as the body's own insulation to help regulate body temperature.
  Healthy cells: Fats are a vital part of the membrane that surrounds each cell of the body. Without a healthy cell membrane, the rest of the cell couldn't function.
  Making hormones: Fats are structural components of some of the most important substances in the body, including prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate many of the body's functions.
  Pleasure: Besides being a nutritious energy source, fat adds to the appealing taste, texture and appearance of food. Fats carry flavor.
  Protective cushion for our organs: Many of the vital organs, especially the kidneys, heart, and intestines are cushioned by fat that helps protect them from injury and hold them in place.
Not only do we need to include fats in our daily diet but we should wisely choose the most nutritious of these fats. I found this great chart on healthy fats this week that I find helpful. For better viewing and to print yourself a copy go to

Our challenge this week is to include some healthy oils in your diet and for every day that you do so you can claim the 5 daily bonus points. 

Some of my personal suggestions to including healthy oils are:
1. First inventory your kitchen oils. Throw out anything that is past the use date. Note that many oils (olive oil included) are light and heat sensitive. Olive oil should only be purchased in cans or dark bottles and stored in dark cool cupboards.
2. My favorite way to use healthy oils in is home made salad dressing. While the usual recipe is 2 T. oil to 1 T balsamic vinegar I reverse it and splash our evening salad with a quickly whisked 2 T. balsamic vinegar with 1 T. of a high quality olive oil. I've been experimenting with avocado and macadamia nut oil for salads as well (my children actually gave us healthy oil for Christmas!)
3. Another yummy way to get in healthy oils is to pour some good quality oil on a plate with some vinegar and perhaps some fresh herbs or spices and use for dipping a hearty whole grain bread.
3. Fresh raw nuts are another way to get healthy oil whether eaten plain or ground into a fresh nut butter.
4. Add whole flax seed or flax or other healthy oils to a smoothie. (Note flax seeds and oils are best stored in the refrigerator) 
5. Pop popcorn with one of the healthy oils that is stable at higher temperatures (Macadamia oil is yum for this )
6. Eat foods that are rich with healthy oil like fresh fish and avocados.
7. Use healthy oil medicinally. I take 3 grams of fish oil daily and have also heard Udo's Oil highly recommended (available in health food stores). 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rub a dub dub

I don't know about you but it seems like EVERYONE is getting the flu! And although you might lose a couple pounds by barfing your guts out for a few days and enjoying some diarrhea as well --illness is just plain 'ol awful. 

One of the most important healthy habits to forge is keeping your hands clean to prevent the spread of infection and illness.

I clearly remember one Christmas when my daughter Kaitlyn came home with what she claimed was a tragic case of food poisoning. It wasn't until her sister caught it that we realized it was a very contagious form of the flu. Not wanting to spread it-- I was meticulous (where I'm usually pretty dang lazy) about washing everything either of them touched in scalding hot water and washing my hands (super scrubbed to the elbow!)  No one else got sick. 
Handwashing is easy to do and it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness in all settings—from your home and workplace to child care facilities and hospitals. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community.

Photo: Washing hands with soap and water.Learn more about when and how to wash your hands.

When should you wash your hands?
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage
  • After handling dirty laundry
  • After cleaning bathrooms or kitchen
  • Before touching your face (and especially your eyes) after shaking hands, touching railings, door knobs, or other public areas

Photo: Washihing hands.What is the right way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. Soap and water is always best. Hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

And so our challenge for week # 2 will be to wash your hands in ALL the situations listed above. For every day you make an extra effort in hand washing you will earn your weekly challenge points!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Like a Gazelle

I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio this week. For those of you not familiar-- he is a radio talk show host that speaks on the subject of frugal living to achieve independence from debt. Folks routinely call his show for advice on eliminating debt from their lives and he recommends a "Rice and beans, beans and rice" strategy. Listeners are encouraged to focus wholly on their goal and eliminate ALL extra spending so that they can become debt free in record time. Many of his broadcasts feature successful listeners that phone in to give a debt free yell "3, 2, 1-- We are totally debt free!"

The other day a caller phoned in to ask was it OK if they slowed down their plan to eliminate their debt from 7 months to 12 months so that they could take the children to Washington DC for Spring break. Ramsey advised they NOT take the vacation but instead take a staycation and postpone the trip until their debt was eliminated. And then he said something I wanted to share with you today. He said they needed to keep a GAZELLE APPROACH to debt elimination. That he had found that when people became more casual and less intensely focused on their goals the goal tended to slip away from their vision and fade away into nothingness.

That got me really thinking about gazelles. Did you know a Gazelle can run 60 m.p.h. and can run at a sustained speed of 30 m.p.h. What do you think might inspire a Gazelle to run so fast?

When I was on a trip to South Africa with my youngest daughter our guide shared that "Gazelles are the Mcdonald's of America" He pointed out the M on their behinds and said they are the preferred dinner menu for lion's.

Seem's like if I had a Lion chasing me at top speed I might be inspired to focus everything I had on my efforts to run faster. It would definitely NOT be a time to be casual about my goal to escape.

January brings a renewed desire to improve ourselves and to give our goals an extra effort. I want to encourage you to focus intensely on our healthy living challenge. You might want to think in detail about the reasons you want to develop some new healthier habits. Can you focus on this desire like a Gazelle?

For those of you that are new to our challenge you may feel overwhelmed by how many behaviors we track daily and weekly. Really?? You have to drink a lot of water, and cut back sweets to once a week, and write down every mouthful you eat on, and exercise 6 days a week for a full hour and eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and complete a weekly challenge? How overwhelming, how all encompassing, how Gazelle like! For those of you that are returning have you been getting a little lax in your healthy habits? Are you thinking 2 sugar days in a week are OK? Bites and nibbles don't need to be entered in myfitnesspal? Cleaning house or walking to your car can count on exercise? I challenge you to see how exacting you can be on following the program. NOTE THAT I  HAVE NEVER HAD ANYONE FOLLOW THE PROGRAM TO EXACTNESS THAT DID NOT FORGE WONDERFUL HABITS AND IF THERE WAS A NEED ALSO EXPERIENCE BIG WEIGHT LOSS. 

However I have seen many folks fudge a bit here and a bit more there and discontinue entering their numbers part way through that experienced little change. The LION ATE THEM. 

As we begin our first week of competition you must:
1. Read the Rules page and Frequently Asked Questions page on the blog site (yes even if you are returning to the competition) 
2. Start an account on and seek at least 5 "friends" from our competition (search for them by e-mail addresses in my e-mail headers).
3. Weigh and measure yourself and include these numbers in the weigh in tab of (you might also want to take note in a personal notebook).
4. Contact your partner DAILY to remind and encourage. You can hang out in person, text, phone, e-mail but contact EVERY DAY. 
5. Notify me if you earned Gold (stayed with 2-3 pounds of the weight you ended our last competition) or Silver (if you stayed within 4-5 pounds of your ending weight) Status. 

If you complete the above assignments you can claim 5 bonus points for every day of week #1 that you remember to contact your partner. Have a great week!