Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's No Secret: I Went Fishing!

Like many folks, I put some extra thought into choosing what to read at the beach. Oddly, I'm not now, and never have been, a fiction reader. (I know, I know. Believe me, I know. The rest of my family are voracious fiction readers. And they all think I'm weird.)

Although I'm a little slow picking up the trend, I chose The Secret And before I left home, I even downloaded the movie.

The book poses some interesting theories, which I had plenty of time to ponder while drifting a few feet from shore on my neon green raft:
* If our entire bodies are replaced within a few years, as science has proven, the how can it be that degeneration or illness remains in our bodies for years?

* Think of a car driving through the night. The headlights only go a couple of hundred feet forward, but you can make it all the way from California to New York driving through the dark, because all you have to see is the next 200 feet. And that's how life tends to unfold before us. If we just trust that the next 200 feet will unfold after that, and the next 200 feet will unfold after that, your life will keep unfolding. And it eventually get you to the destination of whatever it is you truly want, because you want it.

* To lose weight, don't focus on "losing weight." Instead, focus on your perfect weight. Feel the feelings of your perfect weight, and you will summon it to you.
Well, one of the things I wanted to unfold for me was a fishing trip with Dale Woodruff, captain of a charter boat called Class Act.

A call last week to book a reservation left little hope for going fishing this week. Capt. Woodruff told me he had no charters on the books - partly because many travelers are having to spending more of their vacation budget on gasoline.

Why not use "The Secret" to manifest the fishing trip, I thought. Using the Creative Process involves three steps: ask, believe and receive. Simple enough? Sure.

Wednesday afternoon, Capt. Dale called to announce he had a charter going out Thursday morning. Less than 12 hours hours later, I was aboard Class Act for a six-hour trip with 11 men - a grandfather, his three grown sons, his three sons-in-law and four grandsons.

Not only did we have an absolute ball catching fish - red snapper, bonita and trigger fish - but we also had plenty to take home for dinner Thursday night.

And once again, the Universe confirmed what I have always believed: Life is good, especially when the fish are biting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Free and the Brave

Alright, all you other brave ones who have posted your "works-in-progress" photos. Here's mine, taken today at The Beach Club Resort in Gulf Shores, Ala.

As you recall, this vacation represents several "firsts":

* The first vacation I've taken in over seven years when I have finished all my writing assignments ahead of time so that I have
NO WORK to do while I'm on vacation!

* The first time I've put on a bathing suit in public in over 10 years.

Although I'm still 13 pounds from goal weight, I have thoroughly enjoyed doing what I love again...being suited up on the beach!

More to come...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strong Beginning to Week in Paradise

We're heeeere, and life is good at The Beach Club Resort in Gulf Shores, Ala. So far, I've used the fitness center, attended a church service on the veranda and listed to live music by the pool.

On our way down from Arkansas Saturday, we stopped on Highway 59 at Burris Farm Market, a fabulous stand in Loxley. This spacious, open-sided building is lined with hampers of Alabama-grown goodies ranging from asparagus and broccoli to summer squash and zucchini. We loaded up all of that, plus gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes, plump juicy peaches, the sweetest sweet corn and a couple of watermelons that "thumped" just right.

Our schedule is loose enough for plenty of time on the beach. Yesterday, we rented a set of beach rental lounging chairs shaded by an umbrella for the entire week. I spent most of the morning riding the waves on a neon green raft, laughing with children and loving the day. Later, I took a nap to the lullaby of a pleasant morning breeze while Myron played a round of golf.

By the time late afternoon clouds exploded into a thunderstorm, we were safely tucked under the tin-roofed patio at Lulu's Homeport Marina. On the banks of the Intercoastal Waterway, Lucy Anne Buffett has carved out a niche with far more than the "Cheeseburger in Paradise," made famous by her ballad-singing brother. LuLu's new cookbook, "Crazy Sista Cooking: Cuisine & Conversation With Lucy Buffettis already in its second printing.

And if the Summer Shrimp Salad wasn't enough, we crooned "Brown Eyed Girl" and other crowd favorites with singer/songwriter Greg Brown.

By sundown, boasting the firstfruits of our tan, we slept soundly - looking forward to our spa appointments this morning!

P.S. Pictures of me coming later today!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Get Human

Hardly anything is more annoying than trying to fix a virtual problem with virtually no human help.

Recently, I signed up for a one-month-trial-and-cancel-if-you-don't-like-it subscription to (Warning: Step away from the copy and paste.) The service obviously had no problem debiting my account through PayPal. But when I try to use the site, they don't recognize me at all.

Trying to cancel my subscription generated this automatic email response: "For all inquiries regarding cancelling your paid membership of Freelance Work Exchange, please visit our dedicated cancellation page here." (Try that link. I couldn't even get the page to load. Duh.)

Well, the good folks at PayPal heard my complaint and came to my rescue, blocking future payments to and also furnishing me a telephone number (in Australia!) to follow up with the lazy service provider.

Ever wish you could talk to a REAL PERSON when you need help to fix a problem?? is one of the best places to start.

Sick of pressing 10 or more options and spending valuable time on hold? Right now, you can search GetHuman's free database of secret phone numbers and codes that get an actual, live person on the line for customer service at nearly 1000 major companies.

This friendly tip brought to you by beach-bound Ready Maid.
Stay tuned for updates from Gulf Shores, Ala.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beach Club - Here We Come!

If you've been reading Ready Maid for any length of time, you've probably scrolled past this image in the sidebar. Dr. Wayne Dyer says every thought is like a ticket to purchase more of the same. Think about frustration; you'll get more. Think about lack; you'll get more. Think about love; you'll get more.

"The most important tool to being in balance is knowing that you and you alone are responsible for the imbalance between what you dream your life is meant to be, and the daily habits that drain life from that dream," he instructs. "In the early stages of the rebalancing process, concentrate on this awareness: You get what you think about, whether you want it or not. Commit to thinking about what you want, rather than how impossible or difficult that dream may seem."

In the last four years, we've been to the beach three times. I love to go to the beach. I dream of the beach. I could live on the beach.

But can you believe the last three times I've been to the beach, I never even put on a swimsuit to enjoy being at the beach?! In fact, the last time I was there in June of 2006, I didn't even walk on the beach. Why? I didn't like the way I looked. But I told everybody I couldn't go out because I had to work. So I sat at my computer and wrote stories I could have finished before I left home.

Well, heads up everybody. Write this one down: When I get to The Beach Club Resort Saturday, the first thing I'll do is put on my swimsuit and head for the water. And I promise to put on my swimsuit every day I'm there. I'll post pictures. And I will milk next week for all it's beachy worth...outside, in the sun, enjoying what I love!

From now on, I will NOT be denied. I've visualized this moment since January 15, and I'm ready to make up for lost time!

Quotes from Being In Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's Not Over Till YOU Win!

Yesterday, several of my favorite HYC bloggers shared personal struggles - either to stay on track, to get back on track, or to figure out what the heck a track is. Isn't it comforting to have friends who share our struggles as well as our successes?

A few days ago, I told you about Staci Wallace, a remarkable woman whose equally talented husband has joined her to found an online community called Their goal is to equip a million women to make positive life changes in the areas of faith, family, finances, fitness and philanthropy in order to change the world.

Although the couple looks like Barbie and Ken, each of them has overcome unique circumstances to pursue their dream. Behind those perfect smiles are real people whose strength of character has been sifted on the threshing floor, tested in the valley and tried in the fire.

Throughout history, songs have helped to solidify purpose in people united by a common vision. Staci's song, "It's Not Over Till I Win," speaks to every person who's ever had to overcome an obstacle, jump a hurdle, straighten out a mess or just plain start over.

Now, turn up your speakers click this link to listen. (The music has more impact if you're standing up, pumping two fists overhead.)

I woke up this morning stumbled out of my bed
So many questions rolling round in my head
Can I really make it?
Should I just give in?
I know that's not the answer
Cause it's not over till I win

I'm not giving up I'm not givin' in
I've gotta keep believing
I'm not giving up I'm not givin' in
I've gotta keep on reaching
I'm not giving up I'm not givin' in
Cause it's not over till I win

People had me thinking I was losing the war
They looked at me and said girl, you just can't take it no more
You might as well just give up you're gonna fail again
But they don't understand
It's not over till I win
No, it's not over till I win

I'm not giving up I'm not givin in
I've gotta keep believing
I'm not giving up I'm not givin in
I've gotta keep on reaching
There's so much more that I can give
There's so much more of life to live.

I'm not giving up I'm not givin' in
Cause It's not over till I win

No I won't give up this time
There's not a single doubt in my mind
This time I'm gonna win.
I'm not givin in

I'm not giving up I'm not givin in
I've gotta keep believing
I'm not giving up I'm not givin in
I've gotta keep on reaching
There's so much more that I can give
There's so much more of life to live.
I'm not giving up I'm not givin' in
Cause it's not over till I win

Monday, July 7, 2008

One Inch Goes a Long Way

It's probably happened to everybody who has lost a significant amount of weight: You finally reach a point where, even though you're a certain number of pounds from goal weight, people start saying you don't need to lose any more. You look fine now, they insist.

Still, something on the inside of you pushes you to stay on track, keep pushing, don't give up.

After it happened to me a few times, I questioned the BMI chart, which still categorized me as overweight. "I'm not even in the normal range yet," I told my husband over dinner last night.

"Well, how's that BMI figure calculated, anyway?" he asked with a slight edge to his voice.

"The score is a function of height and weight," I answered calmly between bites.

"Well, what height are you using?" he questioned, even more sarcastically.

"Five foot, six inches," I replied.

"Nonsense!" Myron retorted. "You're 5'7" if you're an inch. How did you measure?"

Grabbing the 60" tape measure from my office, I thrust it in his direction as I backed up against the wall to let him confirm my calculations.

"Okay, step away from the wall," he said, holding the sewing notion with his thumb while pointing toward the floor. "Now, mark where it ends, then drop it down to add the number of inches to five feet."

Suddenly confused, I remarked, "It shows only five additional inches. Are you sure you marked my height at a 90-degree angle?"

One look at his face told me I was about to be wrong.

"See that blank space just past the 60-inch mark?" he said, eyebrows lifted. "You have to add two more inches to make it accurate. That means you're five foot seven inches. Now,
let's finish eating."

Here's the good news. One more inch added to my height finally puts me in the normal BMI range (24.9)!

And on top of that, I'm happy to report one pound lost this week, keeping me on track toward reaching goal weight by August 12.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Smell the Coffee and Wake Up

Coffee is part of the morning wake-up ritual for millions of people worldwide. But recent research by South Korean scientists indicates you might not have to drink it to get that "pick-me-up" effect.

When sleep-deprived rats were exposed to coffee aromas, researchers found activity of some genes in the rats' brains changed, reducing the effects of sleeplessness.

I can't testify to rat brain gene activity. What I do know is this: Programming my Cuisinart Grind and Brew Coffee Maker to deliver a fresh pot of joe 10 minutes before my alarm sounds allows just enough time for the delectable aroma to reach my bedroom.

The promise of a fresh cup of coffee is often just the motivation I need to get out of bed 45 minutes early to squeeze in a morning jog before the workday officially begins.

What tricks to you use to motivate yourself?

(Source: Live Science)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Personal Revolution

For us, and many families like us whose loved ones have served in the military, the Fourth of July means far more than a day off from work. Our son, First Sgt. Wayne West, served active duty with the Army National Guard as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2004-2005.

Note this interesting exerpt from our 2005 Fourth of July post, quoted from David McCoullough's award-winning book, "1776":
By 1779, there were more Americans fighting with the British than with Washington! There were no less than 21 regiments of loyalists - estimated to total 6,500-8,000 men - in the British army. Washington reported a field army of 3,468. About a third of Americans opposed the Revolution.
In our own way, each of us HYC participants is in a personal revolution to reclaim our health. With the spirit of patriots, we resist armies of temptation. With dogged determination, we refuse to give up ground we have already taken. Undaunted by fear, we resolve to leave a legacy of bodily health, emotional balance and spiritual wholeness.

Happy Independence Day!

Quote from 1776: The Illustrated Edition

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Yesterday, I interviewed nationally acclaimed motivational speaker, author and life coach Staci Wallace for a magazine article to be published in August.

"I'm convinced women are our greatest and most underdeveloped natural resource," she said. "Understanding that we control over 80 percent of the nation's consumer purchases helps us realize that women are greatly influencing the current economic situation of our homes and the U.S. at large."

Staci makes these sobering observations:

* Because over 60 percent of American homes struggle with excessive debt, women need help learning to prioritize their spending.
* Because over 66 percent of our population is either overweight or obese, women must be educated how to make more nutritional food purchases.
* Because single-parent homes outnumber two-parent families in America, women need wisdom, encouragement and practical life skills needed to establish peaceful and healthy families.

To address these and other concerns, Staci and her husband have founded EMwomen, an organization dedicated to gathering a million women with a passion to change their world.

"Each week, we cover dynamic strategies to help empower you in the areas of finance, family, fitness, faith and philanthropy," she explains. "Our goal is to equip you with the tools, wisdom and confidence you need to become a world changer."

"We also know you can't change the world around you until you’ve changed the world within you," she adds. "EMcircles are a source of life-changing wisdom, hope and inspiration that will radically challenge you in every area of life."

For us Healthy You Challenge participants, Staci's free online EmCafe is full of great recipes, each under 10 grams of fat.

Be sure to check out the EMwomen conference and expo to be held here in Hot Springs, Ark., August 23. We might even tag in a HYC get-together!


P.S. Need a good warm-up song for your treadmill workout?
Try Staci's "It's Not Over Til I Win!"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesday Weigh-in

During the past few weeks, blog posts have been sparse. Strength training has been lax. And did you notice both the previous sentences were written in the "passive" voice?

Is it any surprise all those weeks were BestLife “red weeks?” Recent trips were the first all year that absolutely didn’t jive with any sort of organized exercise plan other than walking. Without the strength training component, my computer coach simply will not reward the week with a green face. And I confess, once you get out of the habit, it takes focus to regain the momentum.

Ummm, a more accurate account is that I didn't put forth the effort to exercise in my hotel room after being "on tour" for 12 hours. I could have done three basic exercises in the morning and three more before bed. I just didn't.

According to my original plan, we are still ahead of schedule – although only one week, not two – and only 15 pounds from goal weight, targeted for
August 2.

Here’s where we are now:
Total pounds lost: 50
Total inches lost: 42.5
Bust: 10”
Waist: 12”
Hips: 8.25”
Upper arms: 3.75”
Upper thighs: 6”
Calves: 2.5”

Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Attitude Changes Everything

Pattie has invited us to write a post about why and how attitude has made a difference in our weight loss journeys. Here goes, Pattie...

This is certainly not my first thrill ride when it comes to losing weight. In fact, I've ridden the weight loss roller coaster ever since seventh grade. I still remember the day my dad first commented on my weight, which by then, had already crept up to 145 - the same number my P.E. teacher pronounced loudly enough for the entire class to hear when I stepped on the scale.

Ironically, the only place I felt comfortable during those years was at the local YMCA, where my athletic build wasn't out of place. In fact, I practically lived in a swimsuit, working as a life guard and swimming instructor all the way through high school.

I'm not sure what happened after college when I got married and birthed a baby, except that aerobic exercise of any kind fell completely off my radar. Whenever I needed to lose weight for a special event, I simply picked from the current menu of gimmick diets and practically starved myself back into a random size.

Looking back over the past 30 years, I realize that even when I got my weight back down to seventh-grade level, I still FELT FAT. Consequently, my thoughts always sounded like this: You look fat. Your thighs are huge. You don't even have a waist. You'll always be fat.

In response, my body simply manifested my thoughts. It worked hard to make me fat, to make my thighs large, to increase my waist size and to keep me overweight. Eventually, I reached a point last year when I finally threw in the towel and said, "What the heck? I'm fat and I know it. I might as well enjoy eating."

To get started, I took everything off my "prohibited foods list." I stuffed myself over and over, eating foods I had avoided most of my life - pizza, doughnuts, desserts, pastas, etc. As I packed on the pounds, I became more depressed and more miserable than ever...afraid I would never be able to stop the vicious cycle of destruction that consumed my waking moments and disturbed my sleep at night.

Somewhere toward the end of last year, I read Wayne Dyer's book, "Being in Balance." I was challenged by Dr. Dyer's assertion that I am not WHAT I eat so much as I am what I BELIEVE about what I eat.

Finally, on January 15, 2008, at home with the flu, I watched Oprah's show for the first time in my life. I heard Bob Greene describe what he termed "The BestLife." I cried as Oprah said loving yourself means honoring yourself and your own feelings first.

I agreed with Bob: "Losing weight is not that complicated. You simply have to eat fewer calories than you burn." But I also knew that logic alone would not get me off the killer coaster ride. I knew I had to change my thinking. I knew had to change my attitude. For that, I turned to Oprah's other buddy, Dr. Phil McGraw, and his book, "The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom."

Having already signed the BestLife contract with myself, I worked through Dr. Phil's book like an alcoholic works the 12 steps. Six months later, I still keep the book within arm's reach at my desk because I've been at this weight before - although I'm in better physical condition than I've been in 30 years - and I don't want to slide back to where I started.

During the last six years, I've learned that the only way for me not to get drunk is never to take the first drink. I'm learning that the only way for me not to regain the 50 pounds I've lost is to monitor my eating and exercise habits as consciously as I avoid alcohol.

The difference this time is I'm no longer afraid. I'm willing to be honest with myself. I'm willing to step on the scale once a week. I'm willing to 'write what I bite.' I'm willing to maintain a no-fail environment. I'm willing to exercise regularly. I'm willing to be accountable to a support team.

Has my attitude changed? You bet. How has it changed? I'm no longer moaning over the past. I'm not anxious about the future. Today - right now - is what's important. And the right decisions I make right now are the ones that will add up to right thinking and right habits. And when it's all said and done, everything will be all right.

Being In Balance: 9 Principles for Creating Habits to Match Your Desires

The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Wow! June has FLOWN by, and although blog posts have been scarce during these last few weeks of travel, I've held fast to the BestLife program guidelines to "eat less and move more." This picture was taken dockside in Jacksonville, N.C., just before boarding a charter eco-tour with Capt. Chris Sewell, pictured to my left. (I'm in the red shorts. Did I say 'shorts?!')

Perhaps the best news this week is my new bling...the big 5-0!! Coupled with a loss of 41 inches, I'm a happy camper, now only 15 pounds from goal weight.

Thanks to everybody who has continued to stop by while I've been away. Now, I'll begin to catch up on YOUR news...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sweet Sunshine News

Last week, while much of the Midwest endured tornadoes and flooding, the weather in Michigan's thumb provided a string of mild, sunny days. Friday morning, we enjoyed these early morning rays while eating a healthy breakfast on the back porch of Inn the Garden Bed & Breakfast in Lexington, Mich.

Surprisingly, "The People's Chemist" Shane Ellison crosses the grain of prevailing medical advice, saying that
sunshine is actually good for you.

Furthermore, he poo-poos popular sunscreens , calling them
cancer-causing agents:

1. Sunscreen blocks the production of melanin (pigment causing a protective tan to form) resulting in higher risk of skin cancer.

2. Sunscreen blocks the production of vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D weakens the immune system and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. In children especially, vitamin D deficiency is also correlated with tooth decay and crooked teeth.

3. Many of the chemicals found in sunscreens are actually carcinogenic (cancer causing) and estrogenic. If you see any of the following ingredients, steer clear: Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone), PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA), Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate), Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate), Digalloyl trioleate, Menthyl anthranilate, and Avobenzone.

Contrary to what sunscreen manufacturers wish you to believe, sunshine is not a death ray. It is a healing ray.

Ellison cites four main benefits of sun exposure:

1. It boosts neuropeptides that boost our mood and regulate appetite.

2. It reduces risk of the deadly skin cancer melanoma and 16 other types of cancer.

3. It reduces the risk of osteoporosis and increases bone density courtesy of enhanced "mineralization."

4. It increases sex drive. Not that I want my kids libido to be rockin’ but this is good info for the Dad who needs to get his bedroom energy back.

Note that he's not suggesting that you or your kids should ever get sunburned. You can definitely get too much of a good thing. Use clothing to block the sun or go indoors if your skin is getting pink.

His advice is to use a natural sunscreen like UV Naturals. Not only does it protect your skin from excess sun exposure, it also helps your skin look and feel younger with "youthanizers." They include green tea extract, bees wax, vitamin E and grape seed oil.

My plans later this week include deep-sea fishing and kayaking trips in Jacksonville, N.C. I'll be looking for UV Naturals before I leave Tuesday.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

To our surprise, Flint, Michigan's ABC television affiliate showed up to interview some of us who were visiting the world headquarters of The Coffee Beanery, where I bought Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans. But if any one of you tells my husband I spent $70 on two pounds of coffee, I'll ban you from this site.
(Just kidding. Honestly, I had NO IDEA it would be that much, but with 30 other journalists watching, what could I do but smile and hand over the card?)

This has absolutely been the most challenging week of any press trip this year, as far as staying on course with healthy eating.

Check out this breakfast yesterday morning. FYI, a HALF order of bacon is a half pound!!

One guy in our group went out on a limb and ordered a banana split for breakfast just because he had heard how outlandishly huge they were.

Or how about this delightful duck soup, mentioned in the restaurant menu as having been created "from an Old World recipe in the tradition of our family." What is NOT mentioned is that in addition to vinegar, plums, raisins, noodles and duck meat, the primary ingredient is duck's BLOOD. Yummo.

Exercise equipment has been sorely lacking since Monday, and our schedule has been so crammed, I've scarcely had time to blog, much less work out. On the other hand, every day has been filled with endless walking, enthusiastic hosts and engaging attractions. And I've made the best choices possible from food that's been available. We'll see how successful (or not!) I've been when I return home tomorrow.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


My apologies to everybody for the scanty posts lately. The summer travel season has begun, and an average day on our itinerary easily comprises 15 hours of scheduled activities. When the choice is whether to sleep five hours and blog or sleep six hours but not blog, I have opted for the extra sleep - especially since I'm typically an eight-hour-a-night snoozer.

I grew up vacationing at my grandparents’ home in Dalton, Georgia. Every night just before bedtime, my grandfather – a banker by trade, but a farmer by instinct – sat me down at the kitchen table to share a bowl of peaches. Not just any peaches, mind you; his peaches. Juicy, just-peeled peaches. The kind that explode in your mouth when you bite down on the fleshy pulp.

Pop liked his peaches swimming in cold whole milk. Me, too.

Although he’s been gone a long time now, I still love Pop’s kind of peaches. You can keep those stony, bland-tasting look-alikes. My taste buds have been tainted by the real thing.

Thank goodness we don’t have to drive to north Georgia to find “real” peaches anymore. This time of year, we head straight to Mitcham Farms, three turns off Interstate 20 about two miles north of Ruston, La.

“People start asking about the peaches in January, but now the phone rings all day every day,” says Joe Mitcham, second-generation owner of the 130-acre farm. “Everybody wants to know if the peaches are in. We picked our first batch around May 20 and will likely continue through the end of July.”

Joe’s father was a little like my part-farmer Pop. Mr. Mitcham had a day job as a high school music teacher, but he bought land in 1946 and planted his first trees the following year.

“Dad retired from the classroom in ’63,” says Joe, “but he served as principal for 10 more years. Now 91, he was still active in the fields until two years ago.”

The peach fields originally planted by J.E. Mitcham, Sr., have gradually become woven into the fabric of Ruston’s economy. The Squire Creek Louisiana Peach Festival, held the fourth weekend in June, has been a local tradition for 57 years.

Today, we took my grandson to Mitcham's to taste his first "real" peaches and to sample their homemade peach ice cream.

Part of the beauty of our summers is enjoying the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available at area farms and markets!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Magic Bullet

Maybe I just don't watch enough television, but when my brother asked if I used a magic bullet, I thought he was making a sarcastic comment about how I've lost weight.

Come to find out, the Magic Bullet is a souped up "personal counter top blender," that'll do just about everything except cook your food.

Blair's favorite recipe sounds yummy.

"First, you freeze skim milk in an ice tray.
To make a peach shake, put one 8-ounce container of Yoplait low-fat peach-flavored yogurt into the Bullet. Add a couple of frozen milk cubes with just enough additional skim milk to blend. Voila! You've got a peach shake that'll make you think you're eating peach ice cream."

Blair says you can also slice bananas and/or strawberries before freezing, then mix frozen fruit with vanilla yogurt for a different flavored treat.

Can't WAIT!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Getting Enough Veggies?

The advice is old as cooking: Eat your veggies.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition says a diet with eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables representing 18 plant families is more effective in preventing DNA damage than a diet with an equal number of servings from only eight plant families.

I don't know about you, but some days, it ain't gonna happen -
at least not on my plate. Especially when I'm on the road, I often don't have the privilege to order my own food. What's offered to me is more frequently designed to showcase local culinary specialties than it is to meet my daily nutritional requirements. Still, I understand the importance of eating the right
combination of colorful foods.

My ace in the hole is Nutralite Concentrated Fruits and Vegetables.

Two easy-to-swallow tablets a day gives me enough crucial phytonutrients from natural fruits, vegetables, and plants to equal the amount found in over ten servings. And it's a lot easier to pack a few tablets than it is to put a bushel of veggies in my suitcase!

The key to this power-packed formula is Nutrilite harvests fruits and vegetables ripe with the right phytonutrients fresh from their fields and then concentrates them for maximum potency. With patents for many of their discoveries, Nutralite has been doing nutrition right for over 70 years.

I should know. I even got my OB-GYN to prescribe Nutralite
Double X
as my prenatal vitamin - 26 years ago!!

Now, go eat some veggies!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tuesday Weigh-In: A Mixed Bag

Yesterday afternoon, I made it a point to watch Oprah's interview with six people who accepted the 2008 BestLife Challenge.

"Everyone had different results from a weight loss standpoint. But I think across the board, everyone here had a revelation inside and made some changes," trainer Bob Greene said. "It's more about inside. If you start to [think], 'Oh, I'll be happy when I'm this weight,' that's when problems start because one of two outcomes: You never reach that weight and you're not happy, or you reach that weight and realize it had nothing to do with your happiness." Good advice.

Well, my own computer trainer is red-faced this morning because I didn’t meet my exercise goals for the week. I admit: bad planning on my part.

Although I walked the neighborhood regularly, I shaved extra minutes from my schedule by not going to the gym every day. Not a very good excuse, actually, when I promised to make exercise a daily priority. And after doing a little clothes shopping earlier this week, I can see why I need to keep exercise a daily priority!

The good news is we’re still celebrating a three-pound and 1.75-inch loss this week (go figure!) bringing the Healthy You Challenge totals since January 15 to 47 pounds and 39.75 inches.
BMI: Start 33.9 /Current 26.3 /Goal 23.4 or less
(D-a-n-g, this thing goes down slowly!)

Waist-to-hip ratio: Start .94 /Current .83 /Goal .80 or less
(At least we’re still making progress!)
Beginning Friday, I’ll be on the road again - for nearly two months! Back to the hotel fitness centers!

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's Got a Ring to It!

Okay, am I the only one who, on any given day, walks an extra thousand steps because I can't find my cell phone?

My DH sometimes shakes his head and calls me Poor Thing because I also tend to leave drawers open, forget where I parked my, you get the point.

That may be the reason I'm part geek - always on the prowl for a good tip how to make my life easier, faster or more efficient. Give me a new gadget, and I'm a happy girl!

(Drumroll, please!) Welcome to, a new free internet service that will call your number so that you can find your phone...assuming you didn't leave it on Vibrate.
In that case, you'll have to listen really carefully for the quiet hum! This is a lifesaver for folks like me with a kazillion cell phone minutes, but no land line.

And while we're talking cell phones, check out Billshrink.
Tech blogger Lifehacker says the service allows you to compare cell phone plans and find the perfect plan to fit your usage needs. (Sorry, U.S. only, and no pre-paid plans.)

Just enter some information about how you use your phone, along with your current monthly bills, and BillShrink will offer you an alternative plan that could save you a ton of cash. Currently BillShrink is focused on cell plans only, but they appear to be working towards offering more comparisons for cable and internet bills in the future. BillShrink doesn't take phone availability into account, so if you want an iPhone, for example, you're stuck with AT&T (unless you unlock it).

I'm checking it out now. What about you?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Are You LinkedIn?

Although I have a Facebook presence, I'm not really a "user," because HYC bloggers already make a pretty good network.

On the other hand, I use LinkedIn for professional networking, and have found it to be a handy tool to connect with people
I might not otherwise meet.

If you're wondering about the benefits of LinkedIn, here's a pretty good list of tips.

If you've already got a profile, let's get connected! And by the way, Scale Junkie,
I created a group for 2008 Healthy You Challenge with you as the lead dog. To join, create your LinkedIn profile, then click on the HYC icon to have your membership approved by our fearless leader.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bob Greene's Cure for Emotional Eating

Fitness expert Bob Greene acknowledges emotional eating is a common way we sabotage our efforts to keep off the weight we have worked so hard to lose. Here's his remedy:

"Draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper," he says. "Divide the circle into several sections so it resembles a sliced pie. Each section represents an area you feel is an integral part of a fulfilled life, such as career, family, health, fitness, friendship, romance, finance, relationships, etc. Aim for at least six categories and write them in each pie slice.

"Next, ask yourself how everything is going in that area — and be brutally honest. Going well, write a positive sign; not so well, make a negative sign. Examine the slices with a negative sign. How could you improve that area? What is something you can do every day to stimulate positive change? Write at least one item in each section that you can do right now to improve that category, and then commit yourself to it...

"People who struggle with weight gain often want instant gratification," he concludes. "But if you're patient and take small steps every day, the results can be powerful. If you can consistently do at least one thing daily to change a negative to a positive, I promise that powerful change will occur in your life after one year. If you can do three things daily you won't recognize your former life. The philosophy is similar to losing weight. If you eat healthy and exercise, you don't feel any change on a day-to-day basis. Yet, you can look back a year later and see a profound transformation. You'll also discover that since you addressed negative feelings about a relationship or money worries, your emotional eating episodes have vanished."

Making random lists, then prioritizing daily tasks keeps my mind out of the fridge and on productive action. Whenever I feel disorganized, I recognize my tendency to pick up food. Instead, I pick up a pencil and a pad of paper.

What works for you?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

HYC Weigh-In

Without the Bestlife program and the support of my Healthy You Challenge blogger-buddies, I would have been mortified to run into a high school classmate, as I did Thursday night. That's when I learned our 35th class reunion is scheduled only 10 days from today!!

Right now, I'm only 20 pounds heavier than my high school weight, and hardly anyone at the reunion will know the details below, which have transpired since January 15:
* Total weight lost: 44 pounds (two pounds this week)
* Total inches lost: 38 inches (one inch this week)
* BMI: Starting 33.9 / Current 26.8 / Goal 23.4 or less
* Waist-to-hip Ratio: Starting .94 / Current .84 / Goal .80 or less
The good part is that this time, I didn't lose the weight to prepare for an event. I changed my lifestyle because I wanted to, because I needed to, and because I was ready. And that feels a whole lot different than trying to impress someone else.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daily Bread

Happy Memorial Day, everybody. I'm one of the fortunate ones whose son came home from war; but not a day goes by I'm not conscious of and sensitive to the families whose hero paid the ultimate price for our freedom. All the rights and privileges we enjoy today are the result of our soldiers' loyalty, valor, commitment and sacrifice.

Yesterday's meals were less artistic than others we have enjoyed on this trip, but were more representative of the historical traditions of the area. At French colonial Ft. Saint John Baptiste, we sampled a one-pot meat and corn stew cooked over an open fire, started by using "char cloth" to catch a spark from flint rock and cedar shavings.

An oven made from bousillage (pronounced BOO-see-yahzh) - a mixture of clay, Spanish moss and animal hair (usually deer or horse) - takes several hours to heat, then about 45 minutes to cook bread, which the costumed historical interpreter offered for tasting.

Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a picnic on the grounds of Oakland Plantation, one of only two National Bicentennial Farms (owned by the same family for 200 years) west of the Mississippi River. Shaded by centuries-old live oaks and surrounded by the most complete set of plantation buildings in the South, it was easy to get lost in the romance of plantation life - until we remembered how much hard work it really was. Thank GOD for air conditioning!

Plenty of walking, plus nibbling on the fruit and protein bars in my camera bag helped to keep me on course with healthy eating, despite limited food choices during the day.

Have you had similar experiences where advance planning has helped you eat right?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Slim Pickins

Remember that Hungry Man's Breakfast I mentioned yesterday? Well, it's real. Only this picture (not my meal) doesn't show the softball-sized blob of sweetened whipped cream, served as an accompaniment to the pancakes! I opted for a fresh vegetable egg-white omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast.

The REAL specialty at Strawn's Eat Shop, however, is their homemade icebox pies - which, according to our server, sell for $13.75 each. On a non-holiday day, they sell an average of 50 pies, including take-outs. On any given holiday, they sell between 300-500 pies at each of their three Shreveport locations.

We spent the morning touring Melrose Plantation, home of former slave Marie Therese Coincoin (kwan-kwan). Here, she earned enough money to buy the freedom of all four of her children and two of her grandchildren - who ultimately amassed nearly 16,000 acres of land and became the most prosperous free people of color in the region. Many of her descendants still live in the area.

Back in historic downtown Natchitoches - the oldest settlement in the La. Purchase - we ate lunch at famous Lasyone's Meat Pie Restaurant.Cited by a plethora of food writers around the world, this little meat-filled fried pastry is the signature culinary identifier of the town. During "regular" weeks, the restaurant sells about 3,000 meat pies a week. During festivals, the number rises to nearly 30,000. (After dabbling in a few bits of the meat filling, I worked my fork back over to a fabulous salad of baby greens, mandarin oranges, sunflower seeds, feta cheese and grilled chicken.)

One note about traveling to Louisiana: Take your own packets of low-fat dressing. Other journalists are now placing bets whether the next restaurant we visit will even offer the low-fat variety. Most of the servers sort of chuckle when I request it, wondering why I'm even in the state if I'm trying to eat healthy. I just play along, and request extra lemons to drizzle over the greens if all else fails.

Dinner at Antoon's was a fitting capstone to the day. Although most dishes were loaded with Chef Todd's imaginative heavy cream sauces, he accommodated my special request with a made-to-order surf and turf combo served over steamed vegetables.
A true gustatory delight!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Heart and Soul Food

Whew! Yesterday's meals presented plenty of opportunity to practice the lessons I've learned about healthy choices and portion control.

We jump started the day in Monroe, La. at The Coffee Bean, where owner Kim Neck says, "The coffee is probably the worst thing on the menu." Not the best opening statement to six coffee-addicted journalists who haven't seen a decent cup of coffee since we got to north Louisiana.

In case you're not familiar with the diverse coffee culture of the state, here's the short version. In south La., coffee is typically dark-roasted and served steaming hot - sometimes as "au lait," with milk. In north La., coffee is usually a mild roast (translation: watery, as in, you can see the bottom of the cup) and is rarely hot.

Kim does a whopping business, however. Her breakfast menu includes a variety of muffins (none of which are low-fat or multi-grain), cinnamon rolls and beignets (the fried pastries dusted with powdered sugar) and quiches. I did manage to squeeze in a bowl of fresh fruit to go with my coffee - which eventually turned out pretty good after I asked for an extra shot of espresso plus a zap in the microwave.

Her blockbuster items, though, are tomato basil soup, chicken salad (300 pounds a week!) and takeout casseroles.

Thirty miles west, we at lunch at Blue Light Cafe in Ruston, La. Owners David and Eula Wright, married 53 years, treated us like family; while niece Lina Venzant cooked up some of the best "home cooking" I've ever least since I was in Monroe at Big Mama's!

Private dinner at Shreveport's ArtSpace was dubbed, "Someone's in the Kitchen with Chef David." Owner of local restaurant Bella Fresca, Chef David says he enjoys blending the Cajun/Creole traditions with the north La./Texas style of cooking.

The result was crawfish fritters, BBQ shrimp over stone-ground grits, couchon de lait (pulled pork) over dirty rice and banana pudding cheesecake. I enjoyed tiny bites of each item. (Thank goodness for the fresh fruit plate in our hotel room!)Yep, that's a piece of braised pork belly in the picture.

In an hour, we're off to Natchitoches (NACK-uh-dish), La. for another round of culinary delights...but not before we eat breakfast at Strawn's, home of the Hungry Man's breakfast. Thank goodness I've already done my cardio this morning in the hotel fitness center!