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March 2014

A surefire way to stall your weight loss!

It's very easy to take your eating plan from that of losing weight to that of not losing weight. Here are a couple of ways. Do this every night and you'll see your weight loss stagnate -- I guarantee it!

A few fingerfuls of these:

Fingerful of peanut butter

And a few handfuls of these:

Handful of cereal

Voila! Your scale will go nowhere.

And that's what I had been doing every time I'd have a modicum of success on the scale. I'd throw a peanut butter and cereal bomb into the works and shut the whole thing down. That snowball of success, stuck on a gooey, wheaty speedbump.

Notice I said had been doing.

When I got on the scale last week and found that my totally awesome weight loss from the week before disappeared, I took stock of my eating. Sure, I was journaling my meals and snacks, but these things? They just happened to launch themselves into my piehole. 

I figured the combo was about 300 calories -- enough to take me from weight-loss mode to maintenance mode. It really doesn't take much.

So my Retrofit advisors and I worked on a way to end the habit. I now have a totally awesome 1,600-calorie eating plan with a few favorite meals, chosen by me, so that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything or eating someone else's favorites. We made a plan of a couple different choices for my meals and snacks and they're everything I love.  It comes out to three 400-calorie meals and two 200-calorie snacks. 

That amount of calories used to seem sooo hiiiigh, but really, it's not. I used to think I couldn't lose weight on that many calories but I can. I'm also a lot more active than I was a few years ago, especially in the strength-training department and I need the extra calories or else I am highly cranky. When I plug my day into My Fitness Pal, I shoot for the macros to be about equal. When I do that, I really get into weight-loss mode.

I haven't yet weighed myself (that comes on Wednesday) but my jeans are really loose and my wedding ring is barely holding onto my finger. (It's got the spins.)

As for the nighttime eating, I've been "front-loading" the day with my meals and snacks and pushing dinner closer to 7:30 or even 8. (Hey, it works for me; call me cosmopolitan) That way, I'm really not hungry at night, and if I really, really am, I'll grab an apple. 

Motivation Monday: Having a moment with Ali Vincent

I'm totally a "Biggest Loser" fangirl. I've been watching since season 1, episode 1. I have all the books and cookbooks, tried all the workout DVDs, weigh my food on a Biggest Loser food scale (which is fantastic, by the way). I've interviewed Bob Harper a few times, as well as Jillian Michaels, Dolvett Quince, chef Devin Alexander, host Alison Sweeney, dietitian Cheryl Forberg and lots and lots of contestants and winners. 

I have a Team Bob T-shirt and a Jillian Michaels T-shirt (that I wore to a Bob Harper workout for funsies). I took part in two Biggest Loser Run/Walks -- last year and this year (they're great for beginners and seasoned runners alike).

OK, you get it, total fangirl.

So when I heard that "Biggest Loser" season 5 winner Ali Vincent would be at the Broward Mall this past Saturday, I had to go. Ever since she became the first female winner of "The Biggest Loser," she has been on a mission to share her healthy message. 

I stuck a copy of her book "Believe It, Be It" in my purse and headed to the mall. She was there to talk about her show, "Live Big With Ali" on the LivingWell Network. After she addressed the crowd, I walked over to her, book in hand. 

Talk about a fangirl moment -- Ali told me that she reads my "Biggest Loser" recaps on Examiner every week and gave me a hug. (I've been doing weekly recaps since 2007 and wrote about Ali's season at my old newspaper blog.)

But what really struck me was how passionate Ali is about healthy living. She told me she was dashing out to catch a flight to California and I commented that she has pretty much been on the road ever since winning "Biggest Loser" in 2008. But she smiled and said that's what has kept her on the right path -- sharing her story with people and being a role model. 

She admits, she was at her 122-pound goal weight for "about 2 minutes," she said with a laugh but she then worked at building muscle and athletic prowess, eventually running half marathons, marathons and even an Ironman triathlon. 

Ali bandShe signed my book and took a photo with me and then told me she had something for me. She asked me which hand was my "grab hand" and I held out my left arm. She put a hot pink (her "Biggest Loser" team color) "Live Big With Ali" rubber bracelet on it and told me to look at that "grab band" every time I wanted to grab something that might not be the best choice for weight loss.

I'm still wearing the grab band next to my Fitbit Force (yes, I know it was recalled, but I don't have a rash so I'm keeping it because I love it). 

And Ali wrote in my book:


Thank you for all your support and for helping share and stay in the conversation of wellness.

  Ali and gail 2014

I am succeeding on my own terms

Sitting here, clearing out my inbox, watching basketball and arguing with myself about going to the gym.

I've been going to the gym like clockwork three times a week (I'm still the mayor of Planet Fitness!) and walking/jogging twice a week. 

All that work, plus a major tweak to my eating has produced great results in the past couple weeks. I had been stuck around 235 for months and months (and MONTHS).

As of Wednesday, I'm at 231.8, a number that I honestly can't remember being at AT ALL. I got married in 1992 at around 180ish and before I found out I was pregnant (late 1997) I was 235. Somewhere in those years I was this weight. 

image from
I made this graphic a couple years ago, when I wanted to smash another plateau.

I smashed that plateau, and I don't ever want to be back on it.

Every single thing in my closet fits me, save for a pair of jeans I bought when I was feeling emboldened. I tried them on yesterday and stuck a Post-It note on them with the number "225?" I'll revisit them then.

Oh, that major tweak to my eating? I've really cut back on starches. I'm trying to get the bulk of my carbs from plants, and I'm not missing the starches, because AVOCADOS! I love those nubby little suckers. I have a bag of chunks of Florida avocado in the freezer, ready to plop into a smoothie. I keep a few California avocados on the kitchen counter, ready to add a half into a big salad, as a snack with chopped tomatoes or as a side to my dinner. (I tried that egg baked into an avocado half but I don't really dig it.)

I can't really call what I'm doing Paleo, because I'm still using dairy products, like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and whey protein. I'm also eating some fruits that are a little higher in sugar than berries, like bananas in my smoothies, fresh pineapple and apples. 

I guess I'm on a Gail-eo plan.

But, yeesh! I feel so guilty if I skip an exercise day. That's what I'm working through right now in my head (and here). I'm tired and sore and I would like to be not tired and sore. 

I've gotten MUCH better in the sleep department. I've gotten 8 hours of sleep consistently since last weekend and since the teenager is on spring break next week I'm sure I'll keep that up. 

But there's still that lingering tiredness and soreness. I have been working really hard in the gym and I think I need to rethink the upper body stuff I'm doing because the way my head is screwed onto my shoulders (ie, badly), I already have extremely strong neck and shoulder muscles. Too strong, really, so I'm making an executive decision to move the upper body work down a bit to my mid and lower back and abs. I think that might ease the achiness. Evenings shouldn't have to end with an Aleve.

Yikes -- 4 o'clock already. Think I'll do "what I can when I can" and do one of the many workout DVDs on my "to review" list.

I used to get really nervous when I'd get my weight down to an "all-time low" but this time I don't feel that way. I'm more than a couple pounds under the plateau and I'll be damned if I gain that much weight to go back. No -- this plateau is DONE.

Tunes for Tuesday: Houdini, by Foster the People

The new Foster the People album, "Supermodel," drops today (as the kids say) and as we speak, my preorder is being delivered to my iTunes account (thanks for the birthday present, pal!). But I want to acquaint you with a song from the band's first album, which came on just as I was pushing through a tough set on the overhead press machine, which I am totally a weakling with. 

You gotta focus on your ability
Focus on your ability
You gotta focus on your ability
Focus on your ability

Boy, did I need to hear those words at that exact moment.

Hoping the new album is as great as "Torches."

Keepin’ it real (food)

I came up with the most amazing snack last week. I’ve been eating it nearly every afternoon. It’s a creamy and crunchy salty-sweet combo and I can’t wait to share it with you:

Cheese and apple

(Yep, it’s an apple and a piece of cheese.)

Granted, it’s an organic apple and an amazing slice of Irish Cheddar (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!), but, yeah, two recognizable, unadulterated pieces of real food.

I’ve been eating my meals and snacks with the mantra of “produce and protein” in the back of my mind, and wow, what a difference it’s making. The "produce and protein" was something that was suggested by my team at  Retrofit. They're literally working overtime to help me succeed, which I greatly appreciate.

Last night I had rotisserie chicken, microwaved broccoli and half an avocado for dinner. I then made my kid’s school lunch and was practically repelled by the sight of the bag of sweet potato chips. Like NOT ONE CHIP made its way into my mouth.


I also didn’t eat another thing after dinner – another crazy feat. (Seriously, that never happens.) I had absolutely no desire to eat anything.

I was satiated.

That sentence thrills me to no end. Satiated – I never feel that way in the evening. There’s always room for some yogurt, a piece of fruit, some chocolate … basically anything. But last night the “OFF” switch was solidly flipped.

I think the avocado played a big part in that.

Remember what a big no-no eating half an avocado was back in the day? I’m talking the Snackwells/air-popped popcorn/sugar-free hot cocoa day.

I’m so glad that my thinking has evolved since then.

And now we wait for my metabolism to catch up.

(I’m not scheduled to weigh myself until Wednesday but I can tell things are going well because I can feel my midsection flattening.)


A Shamrockin' protein shake for St. Patrick's Day

Gail shamrockin protein shake labeled
I didn't have any real shamrocks for garnish, so a baby spinach leaf will do.

Since Monday is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fun to come up with a healthy alternative to the Shamrock Shake, which isn’t exactly a nutritional powerhouse. My version is packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants and superfoods, so feel free to shamrock it for breakfast.

 If you’ve never put greens in a smoothie, baby spinach is a great one for newbies – it’s very mild in flavor and not very fibrous, but there’s enough plant fiber to actually thicken the smoothie. Also, it goes great with mint.

(But be careful with the peppermint extract. Too much will take it from minty to mouthwashy.)

And don’t fear the wheatgrass powder – it adds a little extra sweetness and a whole lot of nutrients. (Pines sent me a jar of its powdered wheatgrass, and it's a great addition to smoothies and juices.)

Shamrockin’ Protein Shake

Shamrockin shake ingredients(Makes 1 serving at around 260 calories, depending on the milk and the protein powder)

1 cup milk of your choice (I used Silk coconut milk)

1 serving vanilla protein powder (I used Biochem vanilla whey)

Dash of peppermint extract

1 teaspoon Pines wheatgrass powder

Handful of baby spinach

½ frozen banana

Crushed ice

Put everything into a single-serve smoothie cup (I use the Ninja Ultima to thoroughly blend smoothie ingredients), and process.

There's something about Mondays

Given the time-shift of Daylight Savings and the fact that I went to bed later than I wanted, I really wasn't into going to the gym today.

But it's Monday.

I never skip a Monday.

There's something about Mondays that makes working out non-negotiable. I kick off the week on the right foot, and I don't start the week "coulda-shoulda-wouldaing."

I stepped on the scale this morning and was pleased to see that all the birthday weekend restaurant visiting and doggie-bag leftovers didn't do a thing to me.

Blrw commit to be fit shirtSo I pulled on the workout clothes (wearing my new Biggest Loser Run/Walk T-shirt that I bought at the race expo on Saturday) and drove to the gym.

(Oh, BTW, I bettered my walk time by nearly 4 minutes from last year's Run/Walk.)

And really, once I get to the gym, there's no point in half-assing it. I did a couple warmup miles on the recumbent bike while watching Maury Povich silently announce "You ARE the father!" (can't believe that show is still on!). 

Then, since I still really wasn't feeling it, I made a bargain with myself: "Just do the lineup of machines, then you can go home. Nothing extra, no abs." 

So I did but I added 5 pounds to everything this week because It's my goal to keep adding 5 pounds a month to the machines. I'm up to 60 pounds on most of the machines; heavier on the leg press (because I have quads of steel under all the fluff) and lighter on the overhead press, which is my nemesis. 

I know most fitness pros favor free weights to machines, and I do, too, but the order of the machines keeps me from wandering the gym like a distracted zombie ("Weight Training for the ADD Ladies" -- my first book!) and I hit all the major and minor muscle groups.

So, yay! I did it. I conquered Daylight Savings Monday. "Old Gail" would have blown it off with a promise to do better tomorrow. But why not do better today?

My next amazing feat is to get my writing done before dinner so I can devote some serious time to reading. I really want to delve deeper into Jonathan Bailor's "The Calorie Myth" but I've been procrastinating too much at night and never get around to reading anything.

Brought to you by the letter P: Progress, Paleo, packet pickup, Planet Fitness

Welcome to my Friday Brain Dump! Here we go:

Progress: After having a hissy fit yesterday in the shower because the scale hasn't been moving, I slapped myself upside the head and reminded myself that I've been hitting the gym hard and that I am losing fat and gaining muscle, which is okee-dokie with me. The scale will move, sooner than later. I'm working on having two decent snacks in the afternoon and evening and GETTING TO BED EARLIER (oh, why is that such a problem for me!). I feel great, I can physically feel things getting firmer (my knees? yeah, my knees), so I know I'm making progress, healthwise.

Paleo: Today was my last day of a 5-day special deal from DeliverLean, a meal delivery service based in South Florida. I've had the opportunity to try probably every meal delivery service out there and DeliverLean is by far the best. The prices aren't crazy, the portions are decent, the food is really fresh and they offer a variety of eating plans.

A year ago, I wrote a sponsored post about them and stayed on their mailing list, so when I got a "5 days for $99" email, I couldn't pass it up. I chose the Paleo plan and it was really eye opening. 

(I hereby apologize to any and all Paleo eaters who I've mocked in the past. I love eating this way.)

I felt great, the meals were filling even though they averaged around 300 calories each, my stomach didn't make weird noises like it often does and my eczema cleared up. 

I had been cutting back on grains since I did Dr. Mark Hyman's Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox, so this plan was not a huge change. I plan on finally using the almond and coconut flours in my pantry and replicating the awesome blueberry-almond pancakes and Chunky Monkey muffins that I had in a couple of DeliverLean meals. But don't get me wrong -- I know that those are foods that I'll have sparingly.

Biggest loser runwalk race shirt 2014
Is that a cute race shirt, or what?

Packet pickup: I hustled on down (oh, if only it were that quick!) to Miami this afternoon to pick up my race swag for tomorrow's Biggest Loser Run/Walk 5K in Miami tomorrow morning, which is also my birthday. What a great way to celebrate year 52! The Biggest Loser Run/Walk is one of my favorite races, in that it's extremely inclusive. People of all shapes and speeds take part, either walking or running, and get loads of support along the way and at the finish line. The Miami race, which is at Sun Life Stadium (where the Dolphins play), is one of the first races in the series, which includes 5Ks, half marathons and off-road challenges at Spartan races. (There's a Spartan Race coming up next month in Miami but I am far too clumsy and mud-phobic to take part. But if that's your thing, then knock yourselves out!)

Planet Fitness: The inclusiveness of the Biggest Loser Run/Walk series also is why I love going to Planet Fitness. (Have I told you I'm the mayor of my Planet Fitness on Foursquare? Well, I am. I've never been the mayor of anything, let alone a GYM.) I've been going three times a week, pushing myself hard on the strength-training equipment, something I haven't done in awhile. It feels good to push myself and to see and feel the results (Did I mention my knees? Oh, I did?).

Gotta go. I need to get up at the buttcrack of dawn tomorrow for my birthday race!

Disclosure: I was given a race entry to the Biggest Loser Run/Walk. All opinions are my own.