Monday, March 31, 2008

How Nice!

This morning, Hanlie surprised several bloggers with a "Nice Matters" award for being "nice people, good blog friends and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world.” Thanks, Hanlie! (Sniff, sniff.)

Because Hanlie has already received her Nice Matters Award, I'll pay mine forward by awarding the honor to:
* Diana - for creating the 2008 Healthy You Challenge and giving all of us a forum to make new friends, share our challenges and celebrate our victories.
* Pattie for her sweet spirit, kind comments, and because
us "fifty-something's" have to stick together!
* Cammie for her upbeat, down-to-earth, no nonsense approach
toward life that helps to keep me grounded.

Receiving the Nice Matters Award reminded me of this verse
by Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure.
It is out light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest
the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
Have a great week!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Inspiration: Where We Sit

Count me in with the crowd who is responding to Felicia's request for us to post a picture of "Where We Sit." Well, here it is - my home office. My computer faces a large window that looks over our front yard, then across the street to a wooded area that lines the backside of a country club golf course. It's a lovely place to observe the changing seasons.

"Being seated" is actually an ancient concept with a wide range of meanings - including responsiveness, authority and rest. Etiquette dictates where guests of honor are seated at a dinner table, a wedding and other important events. The Buddha is typically pictured seated on a lotus flower. The Bible says that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.

For us, "where we sit" mentally either augments or undermines our efforts to lose weight and become fit. If we passionately believe and say NOW, "I am a Divinely healthy and fit human being," we activate a whole set of desires in line with that expressed belief. By choosing thoughts in line with our originating Spirit, we leave no room for unhealthy habits.

"It may happen gradually, but there it is," says Wayne Dyer. "You see yourself not living in fear or overly focused on your appearance. This wonderful awareness of self-acceptance combines with a strong desire to treat your body with respect...You've found a better way to balance and enjoy your life by trusting your thoughts to attract the health you desire."

By choosing to be seated as a guest of honor with Spirit - which has no excess fat, indigestion, hunger pangs or overeating habits - you relegate your ego (which identifies with body) to a place way down the table.

"Truly, you are not what you eat or how much you exercise," Dyer concludes," but rather what you believe about the you that you're presently birthing in your thoughts."

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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Run, Ready Maid, Run!

A couple of weeks ago, a few well-meaning folks who knew of my upcoming media trip to Brenham, Texas, said, "You're gonna hafta eat; so, you might as well prepare yourself.
Setbacks are inevitable."

Ummm, maybe not. In the first place, if I were to actually believe that, the entire universe would go to work
to create setbacks for me. Period.

Secondly, I believe that knowing ahead of time when you're going to be in challenging situations creates an opportunity to PREPARE and STRATEGIZE. To do otherwise is to digress into rationalizing irrational behavior, making food our "sweet poison," as Dr. Phil says. "This sort of payoff system, in which you reward yourself with food or overeating, is irrational, counterproductive and cannot be a plus in any sense of the word," he continues. "It undoes any good you've done to yourself and shifts into reverse any progress you've made toward your weight-loss goal. Stop justifying your behavior in that manner." That makes sense.

With that in mind, I'm writing this post in preparation for next week's media trip to south Louisiana to explore the state's new Culinary Trails program. (Deep breath.) "We will greet you at the airport with jalapeno sausage bread and follow that with boudin to hold you over until our late lunch at 1:30," the itinerary begins. (One peep at those nutrition labels will curb your appetite in a heartbeat!)

Here's how I will stay on-plan while I'm gone:
* Continue aerobic exercise by Cajun dancing at Randol's, using the treadmill in the hotel gyms and walking the B&B grounds.
* Continue strength training, using the ProGym I will pack in my suitcase.
* Order substitutes for high-fat, high-calorie items, when possible.
* Pack protein bars and purchase fruit to keep in my hotel room.
* Take my camera and notepad to every meal, so that when set menus dictate off-plan choices, I can spend time taking pictures (of uneaten food) and interviewing the chef. By the time I actually start eating, everybody else will be nearly finished - giving me an opportunity to "taste" food without being too obvious that I am not consuming full portions.
* Smile, smile, smile. Getting fit is a privilege, not a punishment.
My intent is to make no one who is aware of my goals feel that I am being deprived of anything.
* Blog each night I'm on the road. You folks are a tremendous support system for which I am most grateful.

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Recommended : Frozen Breakfast Blend

Getting my husband to "eat healthy" is sort of like training a child. One of the hardest things I've tackled so far is
finding a way to boost his breakfast protein intake - especially since he's not
a real breakfast-eater, anyway.

Anybody familiar with a drink called an Orange Julius? Well, we lucked into a similar, protein-packed breakfast version that DH tosses back like no tomorrow.

Here's the recipe:

1 envelope Trim Advantage Sugar-Free Drink Mix /
Tropical Orange Flavor

1 scoop Nutralite Protein Powder
8 oz. water
6-8 ice cubes
Blend until ice cubes are totally mushed - like a frozen margarita!

If you drink the whole thing by yourself, here's what you get:
* 25 whoppin' grams of protein!
* Balanced amounts of nine essential and 11 non-essential
amino acids
* 35% of the daily value for 24 essential vitamins and minerals. including 100 mg of calcium
* No sugar, no fat, no cholesterol
* Only 155 calories

Of course, if you do as we do and split the drink, you still get half the amounts listed above. What a great way to start the day!

Share the love, Baby.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

All Choked Up

From my desk calendar today:

Here's a sure-fire diet: eat small portions of food you don't like.


Whey Cool!

When I talked to my son on the phone last night, Wayne said, "Wow, Mom! The last thing I ever expected to be talking to YOU about is working out with weights. This is way cool!"

James B. LaValle, R. Ph., CCN, MSi - a licensed pharmacist, board certified clinical nutritionist, and doctor of naturopathic medicine, with more than 20 years of clinical experience in the field of natural therapeutics and functional medicine - says one of the things that bothers many of his patients about growing older is losing the strong, muscular body they enjoyed in their youth. There are lots of good reasons to want strong, healthy muscles. While "washboard abs" may not be a realistic goal for you, strengthening your abdominal muscles can play a big role in protecting your back against injury. Plus, a muscular body burns more calories than a fat body (Yay!) - even when you're not exercising (Yay!) - by simply raising your "basal" (resting) metabolic rate.

Muscle in your body is constantly being built up and broken down. That makes whey protein an excellent food to consider. Whey comes from the liquid that remains after milk has been processed into cheese, and there are very good reasons why it's so popular with body builders. In one study, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, whey not only increased muscle more than casein (the protein found in cheese), but also contributed to loss of body fat. But whey can do a lot more than help you build healthy muscles. It can help you build a healthy immune system and boost your metabolism, thereby helping to keep your mood upbeat and sunny.

You can pick up whey at most health food stores or you can get it right here. Blend it into your favorite shakes or mix it into an eight-ounce glass of milk or water. If you're strength training, you'll probably find the whey protein not only helps energize your workout, but also helps to rebuild your muscles afterward.

[Jim LaValle is a contributor to ETR's free natural health newsletter and the author of 13 books, including Cracking the Metabolic Code.]

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Bob Greene says a workout that feels too easy (little sweating, no huffing and puffing, for example) won't produce any real results. So how do you know if your sweat sessions are challenging enough to help you slim down? You can rely on the perceived exertion scale, a tool that uses your breathing to determine how hard you're working out. Ideally, you want to be exercising at a 7 or 8. Here's a look at what each number represents:

0 This is how you feel at rest. You're not tired and your breathing is normal.

1 This is how you feel while working at your desk or reading. There is no fatigue and your breathing is normal.

2 This is what you feel like when you're getting dressed. There is little or no feeling of fatigue, and your breathing is still normal.

3 This is how you feel while walking across a room to turn on the TV. You may feel a bit fatigued. You may also be aware of your breathing, but it's still natural and slow.

4 This is the way you feel when you're walking slowly outside. There is a slight feeling of fatigue and your breathing is slightly elevated, but you're comfortable. You should experience this level at the start of your warm-up.

5 This is how you feel while walking at a normal pace. You're aware of your breathing, which is now deeper, and there is a slight feeling of fatigue. You should experience this level at the end of your warm-up.

6 This is how you feel while walking to a meeting that you're late for. There's a feeling of fatigue, but you can maintain this level of exertion. Your breathing is deep and you're aware of it. This is how you should feel as you transition from warm-up to your regular exercise session.

7 This is how you feel when you are exercising vigorously. There's a feeling of fatigue, but you're sure you can maintain this level for the rest of your session. Your breathing is deep and you're aware of it. You could carry on a conversation, but would probably not choose to do so. You should try to maintain this level during your workouts.

8 This is how you feel when you're exercising very vigorously. You're feeling fatigued and if you asked yourself if you could continue this pace for the remainder of your exercise session, your answer would be that you think you could, but you're not sure. Your breathing is very deep, and though you could still carry on a conversation, you don't feel like it. You should only try to exercise at this level after you feel comfortable enough at level 7. This is the level that produces rapid results for many people.

9 This is what you feel when you're exercising very, very vigorously. You'd definitely feel fatigued and you probably wouldn't be able to maintain this level for very long. Your breathing is very labored and it would be difficult to talk. You may sometimes reach this level when trying to reach an 8 on the scale; if you hit this point, slow up until you're back down to a level 7 or 8.

10 This level is all-out exercise. It's so difficult, you couldn't maintain it for very long, and therefore, there's no benefit to it.

(For all you C25K people, I'm wondering if this approach will work for your training program?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Healthy You Challenge Check In

The seventh key in Dr. Phil's "The Ultimate Weight Solution" is about assembling a circle of support.

"You need people to believe in you, and if they cannot do that, then you may have to re-invent your relationships and surround yourself with people who will...Don't continue to pretend that you don't know who has your best interests at heart and who does not. You know it as surely as you are sitting there. Give yourself permission to act on that knowledge and claim your right to a healthy existence."

Fortunately, I didn't have to nix any folks off my list. I've got a great group of supporters who fall into the slots on Dr. Phil's recommended team:

* The Coach - someone with technical expertise or professional training who can provide knowledge on nutrition, exercise or some other aspect of health management. (For me, it's my trainer.)

* The Teammate - someone whose weight loss and fitness goals are similar to your own. (My hubby falls into this category, as does my workout buddy.)

* The Cheerleader - Someone to give you honest, meaningful words of encouragement, building you up at critical times and offering support without a hint of judgmental attitude. (This is my sister and YOU!)

* The Umpire - This is a good observer and listener who cares enough about you to tell you the truth, constructively and helpfully. (You'll recognize him as Dr. George Monta when he comments.)

So far, this approach is working wonders to help me maintain accountability and a commitment to healthy living.

Since January 15, I have lost 25 pounds and 24.75 inches.
Thanks, everybody!

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

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peace or Drama?

Getting started on The Best Life program was fairly easy. "Get a grip on emotional eating, eat breakfast, have an eating cutoff time, drink plenty of water and abstain from alcohol." Check.

Next, I got warmed up to the idea of becoming more active, simply by moving more - which for me translated into doing an extra "lap" around the living room-dining room-kitchen circuit of the house each time I went for another cup of coffee during working hours. (I office at home.)

Ten weeks into the program, I'm officially in Phase 3 of Bob Greene's exercise plan - which involves a minimum of five days aerobic exercise (150-249.9 minutes) and two days of strength training
(6 exercises each day). But once I found out that building muscle turns you into a fat-burning incinerator, strength training became appealing enough that I now do three sessions a week. And the payoff has been a loss of nearly 25 inches!

One thing that has sort of caught me off guard is how losing weight can leave you feeling exposed, vulnerable. This journey eclipses a mathematical formula of burning more calories than you eat. The real transformation happens inside, where you peel back layer after layer of stuff - most of which is a mask for what's really been hiding underneath a cocoon of fat.

Sarah Ban Breathnach declares it takes tenacity and daring to travel to the darkest interior of one's self:

"Our dragons are our fears: our day stalkers, our night sweats. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of starting something new and not finishing. Again. Or the real rear, the one that sends shivers up our spines: the fear of succeeding, of becoming our authentic selves and facing the changes that will inevitably bring. We might not be happy with the way we are living now, but at least it's safely familiar."

If you're following Oprah's "A New Earth" webinar with Eckhart Tolle, you're familiar with the illusory identity of the ego.

"Can you feel that there is something in you that is at war, something that feels threatened and wants to survive at all cost, that needs drama in order to assert its identity as the victorious character within your theatrical production? Can you feel there is something in you that would rather be right than at peace?" (Insert the nagging negative voice in your head.)

Dear friends, we are doing far more than losing physical weight. We are losing the trappings of what was not really "us" at all. By taking up the swords of Love and Light on behalf of our true selves, we are revealing the "what-I-AM-is-wonderful" us. And that makes it all worth the effort.

Quotes from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy
and A NEW EARTH by Eckhart Tolle

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Inspiration: Family and Friends

Holidays at my mom's house are always a treat, and today was no exception. After church, we enjoyed a healthy lunch and a couple hours of pleasant conversation.

Yesterday, I received an email from long-time friend, Mary Weeks-Ayala. Having fought a courageous two-year battle with liver cancer, she and her husband left Dallas today, headed back to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for what is scheduled to be the final operation to rid her body of that tortuous disease!

Whenever I hesitate the slightest bit on my exercise regimen, I consider Mary, who, for the past two years, would give anything to feel well enough to go to the gym.

Mary's perspective on Easter is better than any I could write. I invite you to read the inspirational words from her own blog. And while you're there, feel free to leave a note of encouragement.
(Click here to meet Mary.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

To Love, Honor, Cherish...Yourself!

Yesterday, we explored our struggle to quiet the negative, accusing voices that keep us bound in the past, anxious of the future - forever tossed like debris in the wind of a busy mind.

Today, I picked up a book given to me by a friend in 1995, when I was newly divorced. Sarah Ban Breathnach's words from the
March 13 entry of Simple Abundance had new meaning today.

"Today, we make peace with the past: with the bodies and faces we were born with and those that have evolved. Today, we embrace the lines that stare back at us, the parts that sag in the middle or stick out where they shouldn't, the hair that never keeps a curl or never loses it. We begin when we invoke the Tibetan prayer and Teacher Saraha's song of praise. 'Here in this body are the sacred rivers; here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places...I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.'

"It will take a bit of doing, learning to love all our personal pilgrimage places. However, before genuine love can flourish, we must finally accept ourselves exactly as we are today. Not tomorrow or next week or when we lose 25 pounds. Remember, acceptance is acknowledging the reality of a situation: that we're heavier than we'd like to be, for example, or that our complexion is ruddy or sallow, or that we've got gray streaks, or that leggings just don't work for us. Most of us think of other women as beauties, never ourselves. But every woman was created by Spirit to be a genuine beauty. We learn how to reveal to the world our unique radiance only after we acknowledge it ourselves. Today, take as your personal mantra:
I am what I am and what I am is wonderful.

Quotes from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

"...a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Whatchu Say!?

Today, I recognized a pattern of thinking that recurs each time I approach this stage of weight loss. Because my mind can't seem to wrap around the changes in my body, the internal dialogue goes like this: "Wow, I'm starting to feel thin. My clothes are getting loose. Healthy eating and exercise are starting to pay off."

"Are you kidding?" the other voice answers. "You still weigh more than your brother! Have you measured your thighs lately??"

And so it goes, ad nauseum. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Fertile Healthy posted a passage written by Christine Northrup that suggests women need to be in tune with their bodies.
"What is your image of yourself? How do you think you look to the world? To yourself? Through years of chronic dissatisfaction with their bodies and chronic dieting, many women develop an unrealistic image of themselves. Some feel much heavier than they actually are. But women who are in touch with their inner guidance system will often appear taller and more imposing physically than their actual body size indicates. The way you feel about yourself creates an electromagnetic field of energy around you that broadcasts these feelings to the world and attracts your reality to you. Choose your signal consciously."
Dr. Phil advises that we combat negative internal dialog with a confident verbal affirmation that reinforces mastery over previously destructive behaviors:

"It feels good to be in control. When I get up in the morning, I'm excited about the day. No longer ashamed of my reflection in the mirror, I like what I see and I'm proud of who I am. I've found the discipline to eat according to my needs rather than being driven by self-destructive habits, impulses, or diets. Able to face the day without overeating, I no longer allow habit and cues to dictate my life. I have a rock-solid foundation for my new eating habits that cannot be destroyed. I live more fully now that my body is functioning better, and I am free to forget about food and get on with living. Gone are my old excesses, and I now have time to use for productive, enjoyable activities....When I walk into a room, people are cheering for me because they have known and shared my struggle...As my body gets thinner, healthier and more athletic, I experience it with greater awareness and pleasure. I have gained a new satisfaction and self-respect in whatever I choose to do. I know life wont be a bed of roses in the future any more than it is today, but I know how to deal with difficulties. I know how to handle life with greater maturity. I know how to cope with life in positive ways without escaping into food. I am no longer going in circles but moving forward with tremendous clarity about why I am in this world and what I am supposed to do while I am here. There is adventure in my day and joy in my heart. I have learned to live a life of meaning and significance."

As I move forward, my intention is to repeat this sort of affirmation out loud until it drowns out the "other" voice that wants to doubt, question and undermine the progress I am making.

How do you monitor your internal dialog?

(Dr. Phil's quote from The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Back in the Nest

DH and I each had uneventful travel days today, returning home after having been in different states on business all week.

If you read my blog post Monday, you know what a test of commitment and creativity a press tour can be to somebody like me who’s trying to stay on plan. Now that I'm back home, I can look back on the week with no regrets - thanks in large part to the enouragement from all my faithful HYC friends who cheered me along the way.

A few “aha” moments on this trip are worth sharing. When I pulled my luggage across the inclined crossover from the parking garage to the airport terminal, I felt strong, not strained this time. Also, I was able to walk around all day every day - usually about four miles - without feeling fatigued or experiencing horrible lower back pain…which used to happen any time I had to stand a long time. I was also able to “stay aware” during meals all week, eating to satisfy hunger instead of something else.

One very nice surprise happened this afternoon when I got home. After DH asked me to go out for a healthy dinner, I changed clothes and learned I can now fit back into my size 14 pants!!


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bushed, but Smiling!

One more GoFit ProGym workout this morning before a healthy breakfast of low-fat yogurt and an apple got me off to a good start for the last day of our press tour in Washington County, Texas.

A busy schedule throughout the day helped to log plenty of footsteps for exercise. Food choices at subsequent meals were once again broad enough to include fresh fruit, salads with low-fat dressings, plus grilled meat and steamed or sauteed vegetables

The big surprise of the day came just before lunch at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas.

The former President and Mrs. Bush were in town to greet an Australian ambassador, but were kind enough to share their time and hospitality with our group. Visiting with such a kind and gracious couple was a special treat to end a fun, informative and diverse week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Under the Food Radar

Compared to yesterday, today was a breeze - mostly because I had more choices from which to make healthy-eating selections.

To begin with, our host at The Murski Homestead B&B offered yogurt with fresh fruit for breakfast.

Much to my surprise, lunch at an old family-run cafe turned out fine, too. I was skeptical when I saw the plate special...hamburger steak with gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy and corn. Everybody at my table ordered either giant hamburgers with fries or grilled cheese sandwiches with onion rings. You get the picture.

I almost hated to ask about salads, but I did choose a fajita chicken salad without the cheese. When it arrived, the lettuce was fresh, the bowl was full of crisp veggies, and the chicken was well-seasoned and moist. They even had Wishbone Salad Spritzers! I gotta admit, though, it WAS hard watching everybody else eat those awesome-looking homemade pies for dessert.

For dinner, even though it was a set menu, I enjoyed a green salad, a grilled salmon fillet, and steamed fresh asparagus.

I even managed to work in a crisp, cold apple this afternoon as well as a cup of popcorn during the cocktail hour.

Total calories, just under 1200. Wahoo, AGAIN!! Stay tuned for the last two days on the road. One of the most effective ways to help me stay on course is knowing I'll be writing a blog post at the end of the day; and weigh-in rolls around every Tuesday.

How do you cope with food temptation away from home?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Choices, Choices, Choices

Well, my friends, today was a challenge. Beginning with breakfast, I felt like a newly sober alchoholic in a bar.

Here in Brenham, Texas, we stayed in a very cool B&B
last night; but the second B
almost did me in this morning. Check out this breakfast menu: Custard-soaked french bread, topped with cream cheese, strawberries and chocolate sauce; ham and cheese egg strada with cilantro sauce with a side of salsa; and pork breakfast sausage.
(I ate a cherry almond meal replacement bar!)

For lunch, we were served turkey and cheese sandwiches, potato chips, broccoli salad, kosher pickle spears and brownies! (I ate the meat and one slice of cheese from the sandwich, plus the broccoli salad and pickle.)

During a short late-afternoon break, I found fresh fruit in the kitchen of my new B&B - where I'll be until Thursday. I don't know when I've ever been so glad to eat an apple!

For dinner, the other journalists enjoyed a buffet of taco casserole, chicken and sour cream enchiladas, crawfish jambalaya, chips, guacamole, beef tenderloin and dewberry cobbler.
(I ate the beef tenderloin and a tablespoon of fresh avocado.)

The good news is that before breakfast, I got in a full workout with my new ProGym. During the day, I wore my pedometer, and logged 7,508 steps traipsing around the delightful community of Brenham, Texas.

Oh, I forgot to mention our stop at the Blue Bell Creameries, where they talked about ice cream for an hour before treating everybody to Homemade Vanilla, Cookies and Cream and Celebration Cupcake varieties. I took lots of notes...and watched.

Total calories consumed today? 1230. Whew! I'm glad that's over.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Trippin' Out

Harldy anything is more fun than a grandchild's birthday party, usually. Especially when it's
the first birthday for
the first grandchild.

But when it came to driving 155 miles one way for the two-hour event, then turning around and driving 155 miles home so that I could pack and be ready to leave by 6 a.m. this morning to catch a flight and be gone for the next five days, things got complicated. At least they were complicated in my head.

After I had finally quieted the obsessive voice rattling off excuses not to go, I recognized the real reason I didn't want to make the trip was because I knew I would see a lot of folks I hadn't seen since my son's wedding in 2006...when I was 20 pounds lighter than I am right now. Simply put, I was projecting embarrassment. As if the party were about ME. How pitiful, I told that silly voice in my head.

So yep, I sucked it up. Threw some fruit, a protein bar and a bottle of water in the car and made the trip. The first thing my 25-year old son said was, "Dang, Mamma! You look GOOD!" After that, nothing else mattered. (And I politely passed on cake and ice cream.)

On the way home, sunshine warmed the spring afternoon temperatures to the mid-70s. I opened the moon roof, turned up the music and enjoyed beautiful memories of a few minutes with that precious one-year-old grandson all the way home!

P.S. I also put in a 35-minute aerobic workout at the gym before I left this morning!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

There's a Revolution Going On!

The other day, we discussed the benefits of massage. Today, I realized there's more to it than that.

For instance, whenever I used to get a massage, the first thing I did was to ask for an extra towel, sheet, cover-up, robe...whatever, because usually the ency-weensy one they put out wouldn't cover my butt and thighs. Today, the "usual" one fit, although it was still a bit snug when I sat down.

Before today, I used to always make excuses why my shoulders and back were all tight with marble-sized stress knots, telling the therapist: "I'm a journalist, blah, blah, blah." (Translation: "I sit on my tush at my computer all day long, but am not disciplined enough to prioritize exercise.")

BUT TODAY...!!! When that precious woman started working her magic on my shoulders, back and even my arms, I felt something like speed bumps. Back (blip) and forth (blip). Back (blip) and forth (blip). Every time, the same. IT WAS MUSCLES! REAL MUSCLES!!
I almost cried.

The knots-and-gravel that used to plague my shoulders weren't even there when Yolanda started today's massage. And the work she did perform helped to ease the muscle soreness from yesterday's follow-up visit with my trainer.

Underneath this melting layer of flab, there's a muscular revolution going on. One day, it will be obvious to more than just the massage therapist.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Easy Dessert Recipe: Baked Pears

The dinner we hosted last night for my brother and niece plus a couple of close friends turned out great.

We drizzled Ginger Pear dressing over a spinach salad accented with fresh tangerine sections. For the entree, a three-ounce portion of butterflied pork chop took on a sweet and savory character under a sauce sauce made from sugarless strawberry jam and onion soup mix. This was accompanied by green bean bundles wrapped in turkey bacon, and brown rice cooked in chicken broth with small pineapple chunks added before serving. Petite fresh mushrooms stuffed with olive tapenade and a tiny bit of parmesan cheese browned under the broiler, finished the presentation.

But the hit of the evening was dessert: Baked Pears.

6-8 ripe pears, pealed
1/2 c. Sugar Free Maple Flavored Syrup
2 Tbls. honey
3 Tbls. water
1 tsp. lemon juice
pinch of ginger

Leave the stem on the pears; peel, then slice a small section off the bottom so that they stand up in an ovenproof dish. Mix all other ingredients. Pour over pears. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve hot, with a splash of the juice poured over the top of each pear.

OMG. Everybody LOVED this dessert. Me, too!

(Somebody will have to help me figure out the nutrition info, though.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Move that Muscle

Ruminate these words from Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover: "Muscle is the most calorie-hungry tissue in the body; maintaining it uses about four times the amount of calories that maintaining fat does...Strength training can do wonders to reverse muscle loss...Some research suggests that you can reverse two decades of muscle loss in just eight weeks if you stength train conscientiously."

And if that weren't enough, listen to this: "Strength training with weights also builds bone, lowering your risk of osteoporosis, and increases the body's ability to use insulin to clear sugar from the blood, reducing the risk of diabetes."

OK, but what if all that weight training makes me sore, I wondered? (Don't worry. If you do it right, you'll be a little sore.)
Remedy? Get a massage!

Research indicates that massage can have a positive effect on your muscle-building capabilities and fitness levels, which in turn increases your capacity to control or lose weight. Other research shows massage bursts the fat capsule in subcutaneous tissue so that the fat exudes and becomes absorbed. In this way, combined with proper nutrition and exercise, massage may actually help in weight loss. (Read more...)

Soooo, I've got my first follow-up appointment with a trainer this morning. Later this afternoon, my brother and niece arrive for a long weekend. Guess what we're doing tomorrow?
Thermal baths and massages!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Best Way to Get Tanked

After work today, DH and I made a quick run to Wal-Mart to exchange empty propane tanks for a full ones so that we could grill shishkabobs for dinner.

After we pulled back into the driveway, DH popped open the tailgate and asked if I could carry one of the two full tanks to the deck.

Sure, I thought. No problem.

Lifting the the tank off the truckbed, it quickly made more sense to carry it with two hands, close to my body, to keep from straining my back. Looking down, I read the label: 17.5 pounds.

"Honey, get a load of this!" I yelled back through the garage. "We've each lost more weight than these tanks weigh!!"

Wow. And hurray for spontaneous celebrations!

Have you had an "aha" moment of comparing your weightloss to external objects?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Recommended: Maple Grove All Natural Dressings

Thursday night, we're hosting dinner for out-of-town family and local friends, all of whom live in households where gourmet food and genuine hospitality are prized.

In my efforts to create a healthy menu with some pizazz in the taste department, I picked up Maple Grove All Natural Salad Dressings in three tempting varieties: Ginger Pear, Blueberry Pomegranate and Strawberry Balsamic. Other varieties include Champagne Vinaigrette and
Maple Fig.

Nutritional breakdowns like this make the products even more enticing. (Sugar-free , fat-free and gluten-free items are also available.)

The website is particularly informative, complete with some great-looking recipes. I'll keep you posted as the Thursday night menu evolves.

***In other news, it's Tuesday
Weigh-In time. This week I'm pleased to report another two-pound weight loss and a body reduction of an additional half-inch, for a grand total of 22 pounds/18.25" lost since January 15.

Here's where the inches are disappearing using the
BestLife program of nutritious eating and progressive exercise: bust, 5"; waist, 6"; hips, 3"; upper arms, 1.75"; upper thighs, 2"; calves, .5" (Last three categories are not doubled for right and left, which would make the total even more exciting!)

Thanks to each of your for your thoughtful words of support.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Numbers Game

"So, what size dress are you wearing these days?" asked my workout buddy, who has just returned from a three-week vacation in sunny California.

"Still in a 16," I answered, floundering in unexpected vulnerability.

"How did that happen?" she replied, innocently enough. Inside, though, it felt as if she had accused me of falling off the fitness wagon while she was away.

(Instantly, I remembered Dr. Phil's advice about internal dialogue and realized I am the only one who can let a friend's casual question create a toxic inner environment
for me. A convincing heap of evidence proving
I'm on the right track - 20 pounds and
17.75 inches lost since January 15 - barricaded the barrage of wrong thinking that had created
my uncomfortable moment in the first place.)

After a deep breath, I answered calmly, "It happened before I started the BestLife plan, when I had gotten too big for a 16.
I simply refused to buy any larger sizes. And although the 16's
are comfortably loose now, I'm not quite back into the 14's."

So keep comin' around, Cowgirls. We ain't even close to the end
of this trail.

Need help balancing your own numbers?
Read Moon's excellent post.

Need help with internal dialogue?
Read this 2 Book Set: The Ulitmate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom/The Ultimate Weight Solution Food Guide

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Road Hard

I knew a quick turnaround visit to Jackson, Miss., would present some challenges to my eating and exercise routines, especially because I was riding with someone else.

First stop on the road: 2 p.m. lunch at McDonald's. Thank goodness for their salad menus, from which I ordered the Southwest Salad without the cheese or tortilla strips.

When we finally arrived to meet the family for dinner at 5:30, our casual meal had already been prepared - lasagne with extra cheese, green beans, French bread and a salad. (Hooray for salad and low-fat dressing!)

Because my family members are part of my support group, they understood when I passed on everything but the green beans and salad. My sweet sister-in-law pointed the way to the fridge, where she had stocked a good selection of fresh fruit and veggies. It actually worked out fine.

After my niece's play performance last night, we all gathered one more time for - you guessed it - pound cake and ice cream at 9 p.m.

Yep, it was a little uncomfortable being the "odd man out," but
1) that's part of accepting the responsibility for being overweight in the first place, and 2) knowing that small sacrifices along the way will be SOOOOO worth the results in the end.

Back at the hotel at 10 p.m., I teetered between going to work out or just taking a shower and hitting the sack...especially since the time would "spring forward" during the night.

Not wanting to record a day of no activity on my exercise log or to report a poor choice on this blog post was enough to motivate me to change clothes and head to the fitness center for a 30-minute treadmill session.

Hot and sweaty when I returned to the room, I slept soundly, proud of the day's effort and thankful for supportive friends and family.

Thanks, Team!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Inspiration: Meet Dr. George Monta

"I think I've become sort of like an ancient teddy bear to a lot of folks," George told me on the phone last week, speaking of his busy counseling schedule. It's been a tough year since his wife of 64 years, Adaire, passed away last summer.

Dr. George Monta is the sort of mentor everybody wishes for. I met him at a conference in Little Rock, Ark., nearly 15 years ago. In 2006, he ordained me to Christian ministry. Ironically, the book he and Adaire gave me to commemorate that event is Eckhart Tolle's
"A New Earth," the subject of Oprah's current 10-week webinar.

Dr. Monta, 83, is uniquely spiritual, but almost entirely non-religious. His counsel, while simple, is profoundly thought-provoking. Here's one of his classics: “When WATER is written on paper, it has an intellectual meaning, but is not useful in and of itself. All written truth becomes real only when lived out by experience.”

For today's inspiration, I hope you'll enjoy "meeting" one of the most important voices in my life. (Please excuse the short, but rather awkward introduction, which probably should have been edited out. The doting female voice is not mine, by the way.)

[Click the green arrow below to begin. After that, you can use your cursor to slide the green bar to the right to :59, where George begins talking.]

Friday, March 7, 2008

Travel? That's Stretching It.

Looking at the snow outside, you wouldn't know that the Spring travel season
has already begun for
travel writers like me.
My top priority while I'm on the road is to maintain
the healthy lifestyle I started January 15 by making responsible food choices (with a back-up plan if I'm stuck with a fixed menu) and by continuing a daily exercise regimen.

My plan is to structure a fitness routine using the GoFit Ultimate Pro Gym, which I have just now ordered. According to the product description, this go anywhere, train anytime home gym comes complete with its own personal trainer on DVD to help build size and strength, or to increase muscle definition. (I'll take Door No. 2, Alex.)

The key to the ProGym is supposedly the ability to add or subtract seven levels of resistance using different combinations of the tube strengths. (Here's a three-minute video showing how exercise tubes work.)

The ProGym contains two handles, three resistance tubes, two ankle straps, one door anchor, an exercise wall chart a 25-minute workout on DVD. The best part is the whole thing (including the mesh storage bag) weights only one pound. Perfect to stuff into my suitcase.

Want one for around $30? GoFit Ultimate ProGym with DVD

Here's a single Xertube for about $10: SPRI ES503R Xertube Resistance Band With Door Attachment and Exercise Charts (Purple, Very Heavy)

Any other suggestions how to "stay on plan" while traveling?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan - Sort of!

While preparing dinner tonight, I needed an accompaniment to a Greek-style baked chicken. Spying an eggplant in the fridge, I looked up a recipe for Egglant Parmesan, about the only thing I know to do with the odd vegetable. Hmmm, I thought, not really comfortable with the eggs, breadcrumbs, flour, cheese and f-r-y-i-n-g.

Okay, get ready. Instead of sopping the eggplant in eggs before dredging it in a mixture of flour, breadcrumbs and cheese, I spread each piece with a thin coating of red-pepper flavored hummus. Then, I pressed each piece into...WHEAT GERM!!

A light spray of olive oil Pam into the non-stick skillet made the perfect prep to saute the pieces. And since it's really not the season for fresh tomatoes, I put a little dab of Carb-Fit brand All Natural Portabello Mushroom Sauce on each one.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Recommended: Terrapin Ridge Salad Squeeze

Yesterday, while shopping at Tuesday Morning on an errand for my mother, I strolled the gourmet section and found a new product that has rocketed to my favorites list.

Terrapin Ridge Pomegranate Citrus Salad Squeeze is a gustatory delight! Sweet and tart with the fruity combination of pomegranate and citrus juices, it's loaded with flavor, antioxidants and vitamin C. You can squueeze it on greens, slaw, raw or cooked veggies, or noodles. It also makes a great marinade for fish, poultry, veggies, and tofu before cooking. My guess is that it might even add a tangy zing to fruit smoothies. I'll let you know!

Right now, it's on sale for $3.39, as is the Ginger, Carrot, Miso variety.

And they're only 40 CALORIES PER SERVING, compared with the usual 60 for low-fat variety salad dressings.

Get some. Squeeze a lot.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tight Tuesday

First the good news. I am pleased to report another two-pounds plus 3.25-inch loss this week, bringing my BestLife totals to 18 pounds and 17.75 inches lost since January 15. Right now, I am two weeks ahead of schedule on my seven-month trek to goal weight and fitness. (DH has also lost 22 pounds.) Additionally, I have reduced my waist-to-hip ratio from .94 to .89 - which is still in the high-risk category; but we're making progress!

Next, the other news. Yesterday is the first day in over a month I missed my regularly scheduled aerobics class and strength-training session. Surveying my calendar, I realize commitments have piled up again. During dinner time last night, I caught myself gulping down food and not putting my fork down between old habit of eating unconsciously.

After only 3-1/2 hours sleep (because I was on deadline to finish a story), I woke up this morning to find the ground covered with snow. My body feels stiff, begging me to go walk or go work out, but I'm buried with work that's due now. The words from Dr. Phil's opening chapter are ringing in my ears: "If you are chronically overweight, I know that your manner of living can be characterized as inert, harried and chaotic."

My next intention is to set aside a specific time each week, and a smaller amount of time at the end of each day to structure my schedule to accomplish priorities first as part of my commitment to "positively manage the stress in my life in order to stop overeating in response to stressful events."

No, I didn't overeat, binge or indulge yesterday. But I thought about it, and that's a signal I need to re-balance. Again.

Have you found this journey to be like holding a baseball bat upright in your palm?

(Quotes from 2 Book Set: The Ulitmate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom/The Ultimate Weight Solution Food Guide)

Monday, March 3, 2008

6th Wedding Anniversary Dinner

Yesterday we talked about how developing an attitude of gratitude is the first step to expressing thanks.

Last night, DH and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary at home with romantic music and dinner by candlelight. Our healthy meal consisted of a baby spinach salad with fresh strawberries and slivered almonds, then drizzled with light Asian sesame dressing, followed by a six-ounce beef tenderloin filet accompanied with baby lima beans, julienned sweet potatoes sauteed in a balsamic reduction sauce, and iced tea. (As part of the centerpiece, I used the figurines from our wedding cake. Notice the golf club at the feet of the groom in the picture above.)

Want to share the moment? Here's a short video of me reading the card from DH, followed by a video of DH reading the card from me. (Nope, he is not lying down at the table. I had the camera turned the wrong way!)

Talk about grateful! I do love my DH and am SO proud of his losing 22 pounds since January 15. Please remember us this afternoon when we visit a surgeon to discuss options to having DH's gall bladder removed.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Inspiration: Love Not Expressed is Love Not Received

Does your gratitude level need a boost?

Watch this short video about the power of saying thank you.

A written note can be enduring, poignant, personal and timeless. Too often today, it's easy to forget the value of a heartfelt, handwritten note or card. Several times on this blog, I've mentioned how prolifically my mother writes thank-you notes.

Years ago, when I was a stay-at-home mom, I had a travel-agent friend who sent me postcards from exotic destinations. Terry Seale's cards postmarked my dreams. Now, I pay her gesture forward by sending nearly 80 post cards from each place I visit. It’s a great tradition, and in many ways, a lost art.

HBO and the U.S. Postal Service have joined forces for a retail and online campaign to encourage consumers to send a handwritten card to someone they care about.

The Power of the Letter campaign promotes HBO's epic miniseries John Adams, which explores American history through one of its greatest founding fathers, a fiercely independent spirit whose unwavering vision steered America through a tumultuous period. Adams was a prolific letter-writer: He and his wife Abigail exchanged over 1,100 letters over the course of their courtship and marriage.

Starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, and produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, the John Adams film premieres on HBO
March 16.

I'm especially grateful to my new HYC friends who have so faithfully encouraged me to live a healthy life.

Who deserves your gratitude today?

"Let us dare to read, think, speak and write." (John Adams)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Celebration: 6th Wedding Anniversary!

Tomorrow, my DH and I celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. Myron has not only been a teriffic support to me on our BestLife journey the past six weeks, but he has also lost 22 pounds himself!!