Previous month:
June 2012
Next month:
August 2012

July 2012

The scale is finally moving -- bring on the Rockettes!

Quick update on my part of the Shrinking Sisters Summer Spectacular. Of course not being on a week of steroids would have made this more spectacular, but this week I lost nearly 2 pounds with the magical combination of diet and exercise.

237 -- booyah!

Tuesday morning update: 235.4 -- superBooyah!

Aside from sticking to my meal plan, sticking to my workout was key. I’m doing Harley Pasternak’s 5 Factor Success System DVDs, which have one for every day of the week, Monday through Friday. They’re 30 minutes long, combine cardio and strength training and I really like them. (And I just noticed that the complete set, which includes fitness and food, is 40 percent off at right now.) The Fitbit doesn't register strength-training workouts all that well, but no activity monitor does. But the step count has been good and it'll surely perk up when I head to New York.

This week I'll be jetting off for the annual BlogHer conference and I don't think I'll be derailing any success. I'll stick with Harley through Wednesday and hit the hotel gym on the days when I'm not working out with the Rockettes. (That should be fun on Friday; I am the opposite of a Rockette.)

As for food, I am Gail from Shrinking Sisters -- seeing me shove ice cream bars in my pie hole is, as we like to say in the blogging biz, "off topic." I'll be checking out the healthy products at the expo (like my chicken sausage recipe at the Hillshire Farm booth!) and talking with people who share my interests in healthy living.

Showing off my mad skillet skills for BlogHer

Charlton frying panI’ll give you my 12-inch nonstick skillet when you take it from my cold, dead hands.

Is that a bit strong?

That’s just how I feel about my indispensible kitchen tool (it’s a Todd English stainless GreenPan, BTW). Most nights, that’s where dinner originates – I’m all about keeping it simple and stove-top cooking is just that.

But I’ll be leaving the guys (even the dog is a guy) to their own devices for the weekend – I’ll be at the BlogHer conference in New York. And my mad skillet skills will be on display at the Hillshire Farm booth.  It is letting bloggers create their own “Simplicious Dishes” with their smoked sausages, fresh vegetables and herbs and spices. And one of my creations will be on display, using Hillshire Farm Gourmet Creations Chicken Apple With Gouda sausage, which is only 160 calories a serving.

Usually I’ll do sausage and peppers with loads of red and green peppers, red or Vidalia onion and lots of sweating (the vegetables, not me). The caramelized vegetables go great with the slightly sweet sausage.

Step 3
Here’s my BlogHer recipe

I kept the peppers and onions from our usual sausage and peppers but added sliced Granny Smith apples and fresh cilantro, and served it over a bed of baby spinach with an apple vinaigrette. That way the spinach wilts from the heat of the sauté, making it a warm salad. You could also add a little brown rice to the dish.

Sausage-Pepper-Apple Saute Over Wilted Baby Spinach With Apple Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

Apple Vinaigrette:

¼ cup apple juice

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon hot sauce (I used Cholula Chili Lime) or ground cayenne pepper to taste


Sausage-Pepper-Apple Saute:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 red bell pepper, seeded, halved and sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeded, halved and sliced

1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thinly

1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored, halved and sliced

1 package Hillshire Farm Gourmet Creations Chicken Apple With Gouda sausage, sliced into ½-inch rounds

Fresh cilantro, chopped (I ADORE cilantro, so I used the entire bunch)

8 cups baby spinach, cleaned

For the vinaigrette: Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add hot sauce and salt to taste. Set aside.

Step 2For the sauté: Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onion and sauté until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and gently stir in the apple and the sausage, cooking another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped cilantro.

To serve: Place 2 cups of baby spinach in each pasta dish, then spoon the contents of the skillet over the each dish of spinach. (Don’t stir it around; let the mixture wilt the baby spinach.)  Give the vinaigrette a quick whisking again and pour a quarter of it over each dish.


What I ate on my summer vacation

I was told when you bring your kids on vacation with you, it's called a trip. When you go without them, it's a vacation.  Since I'm newly divorced, I'm happy to have taken my kids on vacation with me.

We took a road trip up to Kissimmee, about 25 minutes south of Orlando. We stayed at a hotel with a waterpark.  The kids had a blast.  I was keeping the trip on the cheap. Knowing my budgetary limitations, I bought gas for 45 cents a gallon after using my FuelPerks from Winn-Dixie, and brought a case of bottled water, two boxes of cereal, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.

We shopped for Jimmy Dean D-Lights turkey sausage breakfast sandwiches when we found that our hotel room had a microwave and a mini-fridge.  The hotel even had a promotion where you could get a free weekday cabana rental for checking in three times on Foursquare.


Cabana fan
The cabana fan probably got more activity than me.

We arrived on Sunday night; Tuesday, we got our cabana.  I brought the loaf of bread and the peanut butter.  Dining poolside was quite nice in a cabana with a ceiling fan at full throttle.  


Our last night there, I took the kids out for one "fancy" meal.  My daughter saw an advertisement for the Cheesecake Factory and told me she never ate there.  All I could think about was Gail's Facebook post awhile back that said Cheesecake Factory has pasta carbonara on their menu that has over 2,500 calories.  I figured I'll either eat "safe" or not eat at all.  

The waitress handed each of us a menu the size of a phonebook (remember phonebooks?) and a long, skinny menu that featured its "Skinnylicious" fare.

Good. Done. There were my choices.

I got the pear and endive salad with chicken at 330 calories.  Disaster averted.

But this trip was pretty sedentary. Two days of sitting on my butt.  No theme parks for us (in the monsoon season and 150-degree weather?) No chance of beating Gail's step total.  When the kids tired of the waterslides, I poured them into the car and we went to the mall. I got my 5,000+ steps on the Fitbit every day and even managed to climb a couple flights of stairs.

So while I wasn't "military strict" while on vacation, it also wasn't a complete wash-out. I kept up the fitness and kept the calories in check.

Shrinking Sisters' vacation survival guide and a way to Lighten Up

Oh, hello there! Just peeking out from under a mountain of e-mails, laundry and other assorted chores that come from taking a week off.

We spent most of last week traversing the midsection of Florida -- from Kennedy Space Center (where I was attacked by no-see-ums), to Universal Orlando, to a Tampa Bay Rays game, to checking out the sponge boats of Tarpon Springs, and even a minor league baseball game in Lakeland.

I was scale-free for a week, and all I had to gauge my diet and fitness was my Nutrisystem journal and my Fitbit. The Fitbit was very happy with me and let me know that I smashed over 16,000 steps last Wednesday at the theme park.

I was going to take a week off of Nutrisystem, but the Weight Shrink told me that I was coming up with too many excuses NOT to bring the plan with me, so I brought the breakfasts, lunches and desserts with me and did dinner on my own. I thought it would be too difficult to do the plan on the road, but it was pretty easy. All I did was supplement my meals with fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Sometimes it was easy (yogurt stop at the grocery store) and sometimes it was a pain (theme park food!). But I learned that to be successful, I had to ask for what I wanted, even if that meant poking my head into theme park cafes and scanning every stinking menu board.

Dry caesarI was a rock star at restaurants, asking questions, seeking substitutes, ordering off the menu and seeking out the healthiest options. I even had a server at Universal make me a custom salad -- the chicken caesar without dressing or croutons. That left me with a pile of romaine, grilled chicken and a light dusting of parmesan (at right). But I got what I wanted and she was more than happy to help.

One little thing got in the way of any weight loss -- those bug bites from the Space Center, which sent me to the emergency room with a bad allergic reaction. I was sent back to the hotel with a prescription for prednisone, which is not exactly conducive to weight loss.

So ... I'm the same weight I was when I left. But I guess that's good for a week of vacation diinners and steroids, huh? This week, there's no dining out, no steroids and my old routine, so I'm hopeful next Monday's weigh-in will be productive.

Vacation musthavesI wanted to share some of my favorite road-trip tools to make healthy eating easier. Here are a few of my favorites:

Camelbak Groove bottle: This refillable water bottle has a built-in filter so you can reload anywhere and you don't have to pay for overpriced bottled water at the theme park.

Barney Butter almond butter packets: I love the 1-tablespoon size of these packets because they're perfect for portable protein. I order them by the case from Amazon.

Crystal Light Pure packets: If I did want to splurge a little and forgo plain water, I'd keep these 30-calorie packs in my purse or pocket.

Starbucks Via packets: The cure for dreadful hotel-room coffee.

Mini boxes of raisins: If I was short of a fruit serving or just wanted a little snack, they came in handy and didn't need refrigeration.

Coromega 3+D Squeeze: It's a little orange-flavored packet of omega-3's plus vitamin D, which is a great way to squeeze in those important supplements. Plus it's pretty tasty and not at all fishy.

Subway breakfastAnd if you haven't tried Subway's breakfasts, I recommend the egg white and cheese muffin melt, which weighs in at less than 200 calories, even with avocado. I grabbed one on the ride home yesterday and it was a tasty calorie bargain.

But next time I'm adding jalapenos -- while I love avocado, it was a bit bland, and a few jalapenos would have helped. The spinach and tomatoes were good additions for color and crunch.

So it's back to life, back to reality (can you tell what tomorrow's Tunes for Tuesday song is going to be?). And I want to work on making more changes in my attitudes toward food and fitness and determination.

Lighten Up with me

Back from vacation and ready to tackle this weight thing head-on, I was really jazzed to be contacted by The Good Life Coalition, a team of experts in health and well-being. Starting Aug. 1 I'll be taking part in their Lighten Up six-week online weight-loss retreat of personal coaching and support. And every week I'll be letting you know a little about the program and my progress.

I love that some of the bullet points in the course target self-sabotage, trash-talking yourself and getting off the roller-coaster of the scale. It's more of a whole-body approach to getting your head together to make weight loss a success.

If you'd like to join me, you can find out more by clicking the button below:

There you can read more about the team of experts, what's included in the course, the cost and how the Good Life Coalition will donate clean drinking water on your behalf when you sign up.


Taking food off the back burner

It's summer.

My 16-year old son has opted to do nothing this summer.  No camp, no summer school, and that's just fine with him.  He's done something EVERY summer and this is his summer to vegetate.  He is, however, working on computers, building an amazing website, and eating me out of house and home.

He's 16. He can fend for himself.  He does fine with breakfast (if he wakes up before lunchtime).  He'll make a turkey or ham sandwich for lunch, and by 1:00PM, he's calling me to find out what's for dinner.   This is my ONE opportunity to shove a balanced meal down this boy's throat.  For instance last night we had salmon and brown rice and Brussels Sprouts.  "Mom, do I have to eat those?" -- plaintive wail from the boy.  You see, we have a rule at my dinner table. We must eat something green.  To which the boy will most invariably respond, "I'll have a pickle."  But, for dinner last night, I watched with pride as my nearly 6 foot child choked back the four Brussels sprouts I offered him on his plate.

I, on the other hand, am eating on auto-pilot.  I have a protein shake on my way out the door, which lasts me until about 10:30AM.  At noon, I eat a school provided lunch. Garden salad with about a tablespoon of protein.  Then I get the 1:00PM call from the boy asking about dinner.  I don't think about my breakfast, I don't think about my lunch, and now he wants me to think about dinner... I'm rattled.

Lately it's been all about the buy-1-get-1-free chicken tenderloins at my local grocery store.  I buy packages of them and marinate them then freeze them to use at a later time.  I've grilled them, sauteed them, poached them, even put them on a stick and eaten them.  Lately, they're my "go-to" food.  

In reading over this post, I've realized that I really don't think about food. Perhaps that is my problem with food. I am not giving it the attention it deserves in my life.  Maybe if I gave it more attention, I'd have better success at weight loss... any thoughts?

Being cool is cool: We check out Sleep Number's In Balance products

Are you familiar with the Middle-Aged Lady phenomenon known as “flinging off the covers at 3 a.m. and running to the air conditioner thermostat to turn the setting down to Arctic so you can get a decent night sleep”?

Sleep is really important to weight loss. A bad night’s sleep doesn’t just give you the crankies. It messes with your leptin hormone, which tells you to stop eating. When you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin and are more inclined to troll the kitchen at night.

Sleep Number caught wind of my quest for the perfect night sleep and sent me its In Balance Layer and Pillow Protector, which claim to keep your bed and pillow cool and comfy.

And they do.

After a couple weeks of using them, I’m definitely a cooler sleeper. (And isn’t being cool cool?)

And it’s not just a Middle-Aged Lady problem. If you’re working out like a beast, you tend to run hotter, what with your raging metabolism and all.

What sort of magical properties are in the In Balance products?  It’s called Outlast and was originally developed for NASA spacesuits (cuz I'm guessing those things can be hella hot). It absorbs heat, not moisture, so it’s not a wicking material. Instead, it pulls the heat away from your hot, slumbering body, keeping you cooler.


In balance layer
Sleep Number's In Balance Layer.

The cool (ha!) thing is, when I took it out of the packaging and put it on the bed (over the mattress pad and under the fitted sheet, I immediately felt it was cooler than everything else around.


The pillow protector just has the Outlast on one side but since that side is cooler, you don’t have to flip your pillow around to find the cool side.

Both the In Balance Layer and the Pillow Protector are machine washable and dryer-friendly.

The In Balance Layer retails for $169.99 (queen size) and the Pillow Protector retails for $39.99, but there's a sale going on through Saturday, July 21, which takes the price of the Layer down to $127.

Sleep Number sent me the In Balance Layer and Pillow Protector to review, and I was not compensated for this post.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, is it PMS?

What I’m getting at is, I don’t know how much longer I can play the PMS card when it comes to my hungries.

Without getting too TMI, the biological clock is skipping some numbers.

(Why don’t dudes get to partake of this middle-aged hootenanny? Waah.)

Editor's note: Don't ever do an image search for "menopause" -- it's freaking depressing. All these photos of cranky, gray-haired women clutching their foreheads. So I'm running the opposite.

Jule menopause
So if it’s not PMS anymore, I guess it’s just life and me being hungry all the time, which leads me to my next subject: I didn’t lose any weight this week (actually went up a pound) and I’m stinkin’ tired of it.


I’ve been doing a five-days-on, two-days-off thing with my plan of choice (Nutrisystem) and those “off” days can completely undo the “on” days if I’m not careful.

And I haven’t been all that careful.


If I don’t have any big shindigs going on during the weekend, I’m going to stick with the plan, because I love the food and the ease of choosing the entrees and adding in the fruits, vegetables and proteins to my day.

When confronted with too many choices, I tend to freeze up and randomly scrounge about the kitchen, which is why I like the flexibility within the Nutrisystem structure. There’s flexibility but not crazy, wide-open flexibility – that’s not conducive to weight loss right now.

I'm even bringing the Nutrisystem food with me this week as we "staycation" at various places. I was going to wing it, but the Weight Shrink suggested that I was coming up with too many excuses not to do the plan, and she was right. There are many entrees that can be easily slipped into a bag and supplemented with a piece of fruit, a plate of veggies or a couple ounces of tuna or chicken. So I'm doing it!

I don't know about you, but when I'm not near an actual kitchen, I tend to lose weight, so this week should be really good.

Another editor's note: I was supposed to post this last Friday, but I got a new editing gig, and paying gigs – and paying the bills – come before blogging. So Carol will be checking in this Friday, and we may keep it like that.

Doesn’t really matter when we check in as long as we do, right? It’s all about being accountable, and it’s easy to hide behind a tiny blog avatar and say you’re a weight-loss blogger when you aren’t losing weight. But big picture: I’m still down 30 pounds from the all-time high and my clothes have been getting looser in the midsection, so I think I’m in a “stuff shifting around” stage.

And I'm forcing my way past the little aches and excitements.

After that heat exhaustion/overdoing it thing last month, I had an echo stress test last week which was fun and exhilarating, in that I didn’t throw up and/or pass out. In fact, the techs said I did really well. The goal was to get to my maximum heart rate (170); I made it as high as 160-something before they shut off the treadmill at 10 minutes. And by that time, the thing was at a pretty fast clip and practically vertical.

The next day there was an email in my medical inbox (Cleveland Clinic has a great online system) saying I passed the test. I tried reading the medical mumbo-jumbo of the test results but I must remind myself ‘’I AM A BLOGGER, NOT A DOCTOR.” But I did read “good exercise tolerance,” so yay, me!

And you know what else that means?

Must get off duff and workout now.