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Why wait until January 1? I've already started

This post is inspired by my Internet pal Jamie (inventor of the cauliflower pizza!), who decided to start crushing her goals ahead of time as well!

I haven't done a lot of posting here for the past few weeks because I caught a cold that turned into a massive ear infection. the Monday before Thanksgiving I bit the bullet and headed to the walk-in clinic because the mere act of swallowing was unbearable. I thought I had strep (nope!) but my right ear was so badly infected that the pain was traveling all the way down the right side of my head.

I really never run to the doctor with things like ear and sinus infections but I'm glad I did because the doctor said, no you can't wait this out. You need antibiotics. And sure enough after a couple days on the Z pack I started to feel better.

Now the antibiotic aftermath!

Between Thanksgiving leftovers and the antibiotics, I felt, for lack of a better word, polluted. And miraculously a book came in the mail.

 It's The Shred Power Cleanse, the latest book by Dr. Ian K. Smith, one of my favorite TV docs. It's not a "get slim quick" diet -- it's a way to reboot your system with super clean, primarily plant-based foods. And, yes, there are LOADS of similar plans out there, but this one focuses on nutrient-packed smoothies, something that I absolutely love, and they don't taste disgusting like other plans I've tried. 

The cornerstone of the plan is his Purple Power Detox Smoothie. There are lots of smoothie recipes in the book, which comes out Dec. 29, but you drink (or eat) this one at least once a day. And while you're waiting for the book to come out, here's the recipe:

Purple Power Detox Smoothie Recipe

1 cup cold-pressed apple juice (sub fresh if available)
1 cup frozen blueberries (fresh can be used, but if so, use 1 cup ice cubes to make smoothie immediately cold)
1 cup red Anjou pear (peeled, cored and sliced)
½ cup low-fat strawberry or plain yogurt
½ cup frozen sliced strawberries (substitute fresh if preferred)
½ cup loosely packed curly kale (stems removed)
2 tablespoons unfiltered organic flaxseed oil
Juice of ½ large lemon
Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.

This recipe makes 2 servings. Drink half and freeze the remainder for the next day.

Nutritional Information Per Single 12oz Serving:
300 cal., 15g fat, 2g sat. fat, 43g carb., 3g protein, 42mg sodium, 32g sugar, 6g fiber.

I'm only on day 4 of this plan, but my digestive system is feeling better. 

Sure, you can wait until New Year's Day to turn things around but seeing how crappy I was feeling, I decided that NOW is the perfect time.

Smoothie packThe plan is basically three smoothies a day, plus two snacks and either a big salad or a plate of roasted vegetables. Basically, it's loaded with nutrients and fiber, and it's easy on the digestive system. And so far every smoothie has been fantastic. I had a green smoothie made with mango, one that features peanut butter, and lots of the purple one. As far as "eating" your smoothies, if you want to work your jaws more, you can deconstruct your smoothie and simply eat the main ingredients.

Since it's all smoothies all the time up in here, I made some smoothie freezer packs with the non-liquid ingredients. That way I can whip out a bag and dump it in the blender with the liquid ingredients. Another plus is that each recipe makes two servings so I can stick a finished smoothie in the freezer and thaw it overnight in the fridge so it's ready to go the next day.

Exercise is also an integral part of the plan and I headed back to the gym on Monday after nearly two weeks of sick time. I switched things around and am focusing on cardio with strength training as "dessert."

The Thanksgiving leftovers were healthy and my kid took care of the excess desserts, but still there was more festive food sitting around than usual and portion control was a little out the window.

I'm hoping this straightens out my head and my gut and leads me back on a cleaner path.

Do I not trust myself?

Good food thought with a warning

I haven't weighed myself since before Mother's Day, during which I had a lovely brunch with my family at a vegan restaurant.

Also during that time was my nephew's high school graduation celebration and BlogHer Food, which I have dubbed my "healthy snack food vision quest." I am also in the middle of an "extended PMS holding pattern slow jam" -- women of my age will know what that means. (Is it coming? Is it not?)

I feared stepping on the scale like I do stepping on a cockroach. (Eeek! Eeek! Jump off!)

This morning I did it anyway and I was down 2 pounds.

To be honest, I wasn't really surprised. My clothes weren't getting tight. I didn't feel especially bloated. But there was extra food, and snacking and samples and "Don't mind if I do's!"

That's why I put that graphic up there. I like the sentiment but you can definitely overdo it on "good food."

Almonds, avocados, edamame, cherries, almond milk lattes -- all good and all some of my favorites.

And if I'm not careful and conscious with my eating, all capable of stalling weight loss.

So back to the scale: While I didn't track a lot of those samples and snacks, I did track all my meals, and I got in five days of exercise every week. I didn't booze it up, save for a couple of gin and tonics.

Why did I think I'd have a scale disaster? Do I not trust myself?

I guess, from all the years of having a dieting mentality, I still don't.

I'm not sure what I would have felt if the number on the scale had gone up instead of down. I guess I also wouldn't have been surprised.

True, the number on the scale doesn't define ME, but it does give me a good indication of whether what I'm doing is working. 

I kinda feel relieved that I finally got on the scale -- now I can move on and keep the success rolling.

I finally cracked open the book "State of Slim" (Rodale Books, 2013) -- the book's goal is to fix a broken metabolism. I'm barely through the first chapter but I know my metabolism is broken from decades of dieting/not dieting/thinking Im dieting. I like that the book is grounded in years and years of science and studies and testing. It's definitely not a fad diet book. If you want to find out a little more about the book and the science behind it, you can check out my pals Kymberly and Alexandra, who recorded a podcast with Dr. James O. Hill, one of the "State of Slim" authors. (You may even hear a question from me!).

I took a peek at the menu for the first two weeks and it's pretty limited, but that's the point. We're fixing what's broken, and apparently chocolate ice cream doesn't fix a broken metabolism.

 Oh, BTW, I've been working on cleaning up my blog's email feed so if you'd like to subscribe and get blog updates (and that's all, no spam), click on the sign-up box on the right. (It's one of the things I learned at BlogHer Food.)

I need to take something to the next level (but what is it?)

Color me frustrated.

(What color is frustrated? Gray? Purple?)

Frustration face

(Yeah, this kinda sums things up.)

That one pound that I wanted to lose seemed so within my grasp last week has turned into 2 pounds.

I delved into the stats on my Withings scale and here's what I saw:

Muscle up fat down weight same

Since I started adding regular strength training to my exercise, my fat mass has gone down and my lean mass has gone up, but as you can see, my weight is kind of flatlining with a very slight drop. 

While that's encouraging, that change in body composition has stabilized the past few weeks. I need to take things to the next level to progress, but I don't know what to change.

I recently switched up my cardio/strength ratio -- instead of 2 days of strength training and 3 days of cardio, I'm now doing 3 days of strength training and 2 days of cardio. (I also do about a mile of warm-up on a bike or treadmill before I strength train.)

Exercise is not my issue. I'm really enjoying the gym (like I LOVE it) and I've long enjoyed my neighborhood walks/jogs.

Food is what's freaking me out right now. And when I mean freaking me out, I mean when I wake up in the morning, I go to the kitchen and don't know what to do. I stand, frozen, in front of the pantry or the fridge, trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast.

Do I eat carbs? Make a smoothie? Eggs? Oatmeal? What will start my day off on the right foot? What will ruin my day.

These are the things that are spinning in my head whenever meal time rolls around.

It's exhausting.

And it's also frustrating the people in my "weight loss/health care circle." Do I reduce calories? I really don't want to get into that cycle because I'll only be cutting and cutting until I'm freaking starving all the time instead of, like now, sometimes. 

Here's where it gets infuriating. I get a LOT of books sent to me and lately it's a ratio of 33-33-33 of "not all calories are created equal and don't cut back on the good ones" to "I'm a famous trainer/chef/celebrity/nutritionist/doctor and here's my really low calorie diet that will work for everyone" to "cut out all these bad foods and weight will miraculously drop off."

I tend to lean toward the "eat the good calories" trend of weight loss science. Last week I got wrapped up in one of those "cut out all your favorite foods for no really good reason" books and I lasted half a day. 

CalorieMythI just started reading "The Calorie Myth" by Jonathan Bailor. I listen to his Smarter Science of Slim podcasts all the time (actually, a few of my pals have been on his show -- I'm looking at you, Brandi, Jenn and Lisa!). I talked at length with Lisa a couple years ago at BlogHer about her experience with Bailor's theories and it has taken me until now to finally give them a try myself.

His way of eating is "paleo-ish," which, I discovered, agrees with me, as Dr. Mark Hyman's Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet is a similar way of eating. Bailor's approach is very science based, which I dig because I'm a bit of a geek.

Preworkout drinkSo, off to the gym for the teenager and I! I came up with a new pre-workout drink, which involves a teaspoon each of Naturally Calm magnesium powder, Pines Beet Juice Powder and a packet of Emergen-C. I figure the B vitamins, magnesium and beet juice will help with energy, stamina, focus and oxygen uptake, which everyone needs at the gym.

And I have a great smoothie recipe I made with the beet juice powder, which I'll share tomorrow.  Think red velvet cake ...

Fixing it!

Fix it
After the weekend scale freakout, I focused Sunday on eating real food in small amounts, and distracting myself at night. 

Turned out, I didn't need to distract myself at all -- I simply wasn't hungry!


I checked the My Fitness Pal pie chart and saw that the carbs, protein and fat divided into a perfect Zone -- 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. And I was floored to see that I kept my calories around 1,300. I really didn't plan on that but at the end of the day, that's where I wound up.

And when I got on the scale this morning, I had knocked off a pound and a half from Saturday.

I'm fixing it.

I did finally start something that I have been meaning to do for months -- cracking open books that focus not on the "what" but on the "why" and "how" of losing weight. Believe me, I know what to eat -- I need to master why I eat when I eat and how to focus on needing to eat instead of wanting to eat.

Thin side outLast night I started the book "Thin Side Out: Stop Binge Eating, Overeating and Dieting For Good Get the Naturally Thin Body You Crave From the Inside Out." It's written by Josie Spinardi, a behavioral change specialist. (It's only available as a Kindle book.) I'm only a couple chapters in but I love the book so far.

The premise is that conventional "dieting" turns our brains and psyches into neurotic mush and ruins our ability to eat like a normal person. 

I was talking about my new nighttime immersion reading gameplan with the Weight Shrink today and she asked me what I thought about retraining my brain to do things differently. I likened it to learning a completely new language because I've never known anything but being "on a diet" since the age of 10. 


I don't know how a naturally thin person eats because I've never been one, so I know it's an uphill battle. But I'm up for the challenge.


I yam what I yam: An ode to my 'muskles'

Gail muskles
Yes, it has come to this.

Past couple of weeks, the scale hasn't moved so I decided to stay on the scale a little longer and see what was up.

Holy muskles, Popeye!

Last time I checked, my muscle percentage was around 33 percent. This morning it was right around 37 percent. 

So I decided to check my waist circumference and darned if it wasn't down 2 inches from January. 

Yet still ...

I want to see that main number go down on the scale. I have to; I weigh too much. 

And I'm perfectly happy setting my goal weight at 199.9 pounds. While that may sound like a lot, I've been that weight before and that's a size 12 to 14 for me. I'm a large-framed, huge-footed Eastern European chick who can put on some serious muscle. 

Waif is not in my vocabulary. Or my genetics.

I need to set a hotter fire in my metabolism. Most of the time I walk around with freezing feet. My body temperature is actually lower than 98.6.

So I'm reading a book I got a couple years ago on the "metabolic effect." (It's called "The New ME Diet.") It focuses on fat loss while preserving muscle, and that is exactly what I need. I haven't read too much of the book yet so I can't really speak to what the the eating plan involves, but it mentions protein and fiber frequently. 

It also focuses on interval training, which increases the body's EPOC -- excess post-exercise oxygen consumption -- or the "afterburn."

And this all still fits in with me following Weight Watchers -- I absolutely have to journal my foods so meals don't get away from me. Something I've discovered since Weight Watchers changed from Points to PointsPlus is you get more bang for your buck from foods like lean proteins and produce (obviously -- fruits and non-starchy vegetables are 0 Points). Calories don't even fit into the equation for calculating Points -- it's protein, fiber, fat and carbs. 

It's kinda (OK, really) annoying feeling that you're at war with the scale but that's where my head is right now. But the muscle gain and waist shrinkage has tempered the annoyance somewhat.

Onward and downward. 

Disclosure: Weight Watchers is providing me three months' online membership, but really, I've been an online member for the past few months, so bonus!

What we're reading (and loving): 'The Willpower Instinct'


Willpower instinct bookNo, I’m not a zombie – I just love everything about the human brain. They are fascinating skull fillers. That’s why I jumped at the chance to review the book “The Willpower Instinct” (Avery, $26) for the BlogHer Book Club.

The book, subtitled “How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It,” is written by Kelly McGonigall, Ph.D, a psychologist who teaches a Stanford University titled “The Science of Willpower.”

Sign me up!

Everyone says they have no willpower and that they need to improve it, but how? This book outlines the “workout” that you need to do to exercise the part of your brain responsible for willpower – the prefrontal cortex, right behind your forehead.

Just like your abs and glutes, your brain can improve with exercise, becoming stronger and more able to flex its “pass up the cookie” muscle.

As I was reading the book, I stuck little hot pink Post-Its on passages that resonated with me.

The book looks like it was attacked by a flock of flamingos.

In addition, I probably yelled out “Oh my God!” about a thousand times.

But it’s not just me – many people have issues with self-control, procrastination, self-awareness,

Having a stronger prefrontal cortex helps you push out the “go shopping/stay up late/destroy the Doritos/screw around on Facebook” urges and allows you to do “the harder thing,” the book says.

And in the past, when I referred to my nighttime eating urges as feeling like a hungry polar bear was inhabiting my being, I wasn’t too far off. That’s just my “primitive brain” fighting the prefrontal cortex for the upper hand.

According to the book, some neuroscientists say that we have two minds or even two people living inside our mind. Remember that Steve Martin movie “All of Me”? There was a fantastic scene where Martin was attempting to walk down the street but his mind and the spirit of Lily Tomlin were pulling him in opposite directions.

That can be what it feels like when you strengthen your willpower muscle (at least that’s my fun visual).

Man, I’ve got some work to do, and it’s not just at the gym.

What are your willpower challenges? Mine are staying up too late (FULLY addressed in the book by the way), procrastinating and, of course, after-dinner foraging. Feel free to join the discussion on this topic at the link HERE at

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are completely my own.

A dose of super-tough love from Steve Siebold

Die tootsie pops
In Steve Siebold's world, there are no Halloween leftovers.

I love getting press releases from Steve Siebold's publicist. If you're not familar with Siebold, he wrote a book a few years ago called Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People.


There's no other way to say it: He's a weight-loss hard ass.

In his world, there is no slippage, corner cutting, no "just this once." And that's hard and it sucks.

That's why I love the press releases. They're like a bucket of cold water, a smack upside the head.

Today, I'm offering his tips for avoiding holiday weight gain. You may not agree with his all-or-nothing methodology, but he offers a no-nonsense approach to just getting it done.

This is from Steve:

  • 99% compliance on a diet is failure, even at the holidays! Sounds harsh, but if you’re going to get fit, it’s all or nothing. If you are in a committed relationship you wouldn’t cheat on your significant other just one time, so why would you cheat on something as important as your diet?
  • Before you put anything in your mouth, always ask yourself, “How is this food going to impact my health?”
  • If you’re on a diet during the holidays, don’t look at dieting as drudgery, but see it as a strategy for a lifetime to keep you healthy, looking good and feeling great.
  • Expect challenges such as cravings, and when this happens, have a plan in place to push forward and stay compliant.
  • Find happiness in the holidays not from food, but in time spent with friends and family creating a lifetime of memories and new traditions.
  • Realize that ultimately being fit and healthy is completely your responsibility, and blaming the holidays for your weight gain is just as bad as blaming other outside factors the rest of the year such as restaurants, the food manufacturers and portion sizes.

Live today, diet for the next two weeks

For real, my dieting experience is extremely limited. Sounds like a joke, when every woman out there has at least tried their hand at diets touting MUFAs or grapefruit or protein shakes.

Nope to all the above.

I did a 100 percent amazing job eating a diabetes diet for my entire second pregnancy. (No sugar for six months, and people were raving about my skin tone.) I made a good effort at Weight Watchers for a time (so sensible! so annoying to have to keep paying them!). And then, at the Sun Sentinel newspaper, I embarked on a nutty yet fun journey of 52 Diets in 52 Weeks for our blog, The Skinny. It was a blast, sampling varied diet and exercise philosophies and documenting my successes (a few) and failures (don't ask me to even look at a mung bean).


So, with two books in hand from my DBB (dear blogging buddy) Gail, I'll dabble in that fun again. Albeit, as an unemployed journalist: More time on my hands for effort and less cash in my wallet for expensive or exotic food ingredients.

First up, the book that sounds like less work: "2-Week Total Body Turnaround: The 14-day plan that jumpstarts weight loss, maximizes fat burn, and makes over your fitness mindset forever" by Chris Freytag (2009 Rodale), with help from the editors of Prevention magazine.

The title seems pretty low effort: "Hey! Let's toss in every diet buzzword we've heard in the last five years!" And the book's look is 1980s high school textbook (is that some retro thing or just bad design?). But lest we judge any book by it's cover, I will now embark on making this tome's credo my own for the next two weeks. And then write about it. But not til after lunch ... gotta have my ketchup-slathered Bubba burger while I read.