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I think I found a great meal-planning app for my tiny new meals!

This is not a sponsored post. I just really think this is a great app and want you to know about it.

When I first had my weight-loss surgery back in February, and for weeks afterward, I averaged around 600 calories a day, which is TEENY-TINY, but believe it or not, that's the average. 

Now that I am 3 months out and exercising more regularly, 600 calories simply does not work. I discovered that when I started my stint with a personal trainer. I was wobbly, weak and lightheaded, and I knew that I had to get in more calories. 

Over the past couple months I've been working my way up in calories, and now I average around 900 to 1,000 calories a day and my weight loss is still plenty speedy. 

(Did I mention I'm 10 POUNDS AWAY FROM ONEDERLAND??????)

But planning a protein-heavy 1,000-calorie meal plan can be time consuming, and often I just wing it and end up not hitting my protein target.

Another problem I face is that in logging my food in My Fitness Pal, the app freaks out when I attempt to complete my food for the day. It throws up a red-lettered warning if my calorie is too low for its algorithm. 

So I don't know where I found this, but clicking around the web yesterday I discovered Eat This Much, which is an automatic meal planner app, which you can use on your phone or on your desktop. 

I can tell it to make me a 1,000-calorie day and it doesn't scold me! I also can tell it what foods to exclude, whether I want to try paleo, Mediterranean, or vegetarian, how much protein I want to get in my day, what size meals I want and how many of them I want. It's really customizable.

It'll generate a day's worth of meals, and if you aren't fond of a meal or a meal component, you can replace it with another one. If you're dining out, you can choose a restaurant meal from its database that'll fit in with your macros. And if you're thrifty, you can direct the app to give you dinner leftovers to eat for lunch or dinner the next day.

Now, I'm only a day into using this app but it looks like it'll help a lot with my meal planning and won't have me lunging for the protein bars and cottage cheese all day. And as you can probably tell, this app is great for anyone on any type of eating plan. 

The plan is free, but there is a premium version that allows you to plan a week in advance and make more modifications. The first two weeks of premium are free. 

Here's a super cute video that explains the program:

And here's a deal!

Any time someone clicks on my link ( and signs up for a subscription, you AND I will automatically receive $9 in credit. 

Let's dance!


I have seen the future and it tastes like vegetables

(Yeah, I know I said "coming Monday" but my blog platform ate my post, so here it is on Wednesday!)

Hey, it's 2017! Happy New Year! Time to start anew and all that. I've had the same resolution since about the age of, oh, 10, and you can figure out what that is:

Crouching woman hidden scale

(Seriously, what is up with this "woman crouching on scale" stock photo pose? That is not how you weigh yourself, and if you can squat like that on a little scale, then honey, you don't need to worry about a number on the scale.)

Here's where I veer off and do something differently than I've been doing lo these many years.

  1. I unloaded a huge pile of diet books, sticking some on Amazon for sale and donating the rest to the library's used-book sale.
  2. Threw out all the pitches for big, corporate diet plans that came in the mail and the email.
  3. Left various diet-related Facebook groups. Don't want to have too many different plans fighting each other in my head. It's an ongoing issue for me.

So what DID I do?

Fitness planner

Bought a cool new fitness-themed planner. Michael's had a massive sale on them so I got this kit for around $14.

Made a doctor appointment with a new primary-care physician who seems -- at least on paper -- to be more focused on preventive care and weight loss.

Decided I was going to follow the advice of Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian who just released a new book called The Superfood Swap. It's NOT a diet; instead it's a non-crazymaking plan to eat dishes you like, only much healthier versions of them. There's no points, no calorie counting, no macro obsessing -- just good, healthy food. 

And a big part of that good, healthy food is produce -- vegetables to be precise. I can eat fruit all day long, but it's vegetables that don't often find their way into certain meals, like breakfasts and snacks.

So I kicked off Tuesday with this:

Spinach eggs

Buried under all that spinach is a couple of eggs, which I plopped on top of a couple pieces of sprouted grain bread topped with avocado. That breakfast held me for hours.

I ended the day with this:

Open face arepa
 That's an open-faced arepa at a new place near us. It was hard to get all the veggies and chicken to stay on the arepa so I just mixed everything up like a big salad and put bits of it on the arepa. 

I started and ended my day with a load of veggies. And my afternoon snack was one of Dawn's "produce and protein" combos -- 2 clementines and a 100-calorie pack of unsalted almonds.

How many calories were in this meal? My day? Don't know. Dawn says to be "calorie conscious" instead of running that calorie or macro calculator in your head all day. What I did when looking at my dinner was focus on the two things that would be the most calorically dense -- the arepa and the shredded chicken. Around 110 for each thing. The rest was vegetables and a little extra for the Latin cole slaw. 

(Check out this article from Dawn on how to free yourself from obsessive calorie counting.)

When I do calorie count I get hung up on how many I have left at the end of the day and end up trying to make up for any shortfalls at night, even if I'm not hungry. By not tallying up the day and instead being conscious of the relative total at each meal and snack, I'm far less inclined to eat what I am "allotted."

I did get on the scale New Year's Day and found that even with the little tweaks I made to my eating last week, a couple pounds came off pretty easily. 

As for the gym, my IT band issue flared up last week, and I'm guessing it was from NON-use instead of overuse, so I've been focusing on core, glutes and legs to strengthen and stretch the area with a day of rest between each workout. I got the discomfort down to one little spot on my quad, so whatever I'm doing seems to be working.

So to sum it up, 2017 is:

  • Lots of vegetables, with "produce and protein" snacks.
  • More time at the gym.
  • Playing with stickers and pens at night in my planner instead of eating.

Cutting back calories without cutting back enjoyment

The scale has once again been stuck, stuck, STUCK as I push my metabolism back into motion after the "unfortunate month of generic thyroid medication."

So I've been looking for ways to shave off calories here and there, and I found a couple of smoothie subs that make a big dent in calories but not in nutrition or flavor.

I used to buy bags and bags of frozen mango but I've switched to frozen peaches, which have nearly HALF the calories. Frozen raspberries are also really low in calories and they add a bunch of dietary fiber.

I've also switched from regular almond milk to unsweetened almond milk and that also knocks off half the calories. With the fruit and protein powder you can't really tell the difference. I've been using Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk, which works great. I can't say it's great for drinking straight because it really is UNsweetened but it's perfect to add into recipes.

Here's a quick smoothie that features raspberries and peaches -- my latest flavor obsession.

Raspberry-Peachy Smoothie

  • Raspberry Peachy Smoothie8 ounces unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Twinlab Clean Series vanilla sport)
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 3/4 cup frozen peaches

That's it!

It's not super sweet but you can add a little sweetening of your choice. Depending on your protein powder, the smoothie is around 250 calories.


Jawboning about the Jawbone Up from Best Buy

Hi, I'm Gail, and I'm a gizmoholic.

"Hi, Gail."

Over the years, I have tried out fitness tech gizmos that go around my upper arm, in my pocket, around my neck, and on my wrist.

So when Best Buy offered me a Jawbone Up to test drive, I said "But of course!"

I've been wearing it for the past week, and here are a few bullet points on it:

  • Jawbone colorsIt's stylish. I was sent a black one, and at first I was bummed because they come in a rainbow of cool colors, but now I kinda like the simplicity of the black one. It goes with everything and I can even wear it with somewhat fancy clothes. (Fancy meaning anything that's not workout wear.)
  • I can program it to wake me up in the morning or "goose me" when I'm inactive. I have it programmed to buzz me if I've been inactive for 45 minutes -- not necessarily to make me run around the block but to let me be more conscious when I'm zoning out on the computer or watching TV. And I have it set to do it during daytime hours, so nighttime vegging is OK.
  • Jawbone app screenshotThe phone app is superb. When the Jawbone Up first came out, it was iPhone only, but there's an Andoid app now and it's informative, thorough and pretty darn cute. It tracks your sleep and steps, lets you set goals for them, you can track your food with it or link it to other tracking apps, such as My Fitness Pal (yay!), and gives you fitness and healthy-living tips and hints, among other things. (Click on my screenshot at right for a better view.)
  • It has good battery life. The instructions say it can go up to 10 days without a charge but mine flat-out died after 7 days. I think I felt the "your battery is dying" buzz but I think I had it confused with the "get off your butt" buzz. That said, I'll just remember to charge it every 7 days. And charging only takes a couple hours.
  • It's a big ol' mystery unless you plug it in. This part I don't really like. I like my Fitbit One's little display that shows you how you're doing with the push of a button. If you don't jam this puppy into the headphone jack of your phone, you really don't know how you're doing.

But overall, I like the Up. You can wear it in the shower and sweat all over it (unlike my previous iPod Nano watch thingie, which flipped out at the first drop of sweat), so it seems durable.

One little tip: I spin the Up around to have the smooth side on the inside of my wrist when I go walking or running, because I found it would grab onto my clothing as my arm would swipe past my side.

Oh, geez -- it just buzzed, so I must get going. See ya in the gym!

Live better. Start now. Jawbone UP. Track your sleep activity, steps, calorie intake and more with the Jawbone UP wrist sensor and free mobile app. UP gives you meaningful, personalized insights so you can make lasting improvements to your everyday life.

Best Buy sent me the Jawbone UP for review with no additional compensation.

What I do that works

Last week when the scale took a nice jump downward, I decided to focus on all the strategies that came together to make that happen. This week I took my foot off the gas pedal and coasted so I returned to this list today and will make this week just as productive as the week before. 

Funny thing is, while the scale went up 2 pounds, the fat percentage stayed the same, so either I gained a bunch of muscle or have a bad case of "starch bloat," since this past weekend was full of restaurant meals and pizza delivery.

Thought this list might be useful to y'all, so here it is:

MuscleburnsfatWhat Works:

  • Loads more fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables for meals & snacks
  • Big, filling smoothies (check out my Green Monster)
  • A serving of healthy fats at every meal (avocado, nuts, seeds)
  • More water
  • More sleep
  • Less eating late at night
  • Smaller afternoon snack (around 100-125 calories instead of 150-200)
  • Working at night to distract me
  • Spending a little more time prepping meals
  • Journaling (for me it's Weight Watchers Online)
  • Weighing myself twice a week (any more is stressing)
  • Working out whether or not it’s “too late in the day” (too bad!)
  • More weight training (muscle burns fat!)
  • Less stressing about the “right” meal/food/combination

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! People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

Don't buy crap with coupons (and check your bra straps)

So I was on the 11 p.m. news last night. Don't worry -- an alligator didn't eat my dog nor did I drive my car into an ice cream parlor (typical South Florida news stories).

No, I was talking about my secret skill -- couponing.

I've been doing it since college -- as a journalism major and longtime newspaper employee, Sunday coupon circulars were easy to come by.

But here's where coupon clipping can trip you up with weight loss (tying this into the theme of the blog) -- don't buy something just because you have a coupon. If you're clutching a coupon for chewy chocolate chip granola bars and you don't own a toddler, slip that coupon under the box of bars at the grocery store and make someone's day.

Many coupons are for processed foods, candy, sugary cereal and even dog junk food (you don't need Tuna Helper and your dog does not need Pupperoni).  Resist the urge to clip those and instead clip the ones for non-crappy foods that can help your weight-loss plan, such as coffee, produce, Greek yogurt, eggs, frozen fruit and veggies, and almonds.

Coupon gameplanI don't blog about couponing because I'm not "extreme" about it. I don't dumpster dive for newspaper circulars, South Florida stores don't double coupons, I don't have a basement to stockpile and I'm not a fan of ramen noodles. (Ever watch Extreme Couponing? For the most part, the families eat crap. "More pizza rolls and orange soda kids? Here, wash it down with a big glass of liquid soap.") My tools are at left: A small coupon organizer, preprinted shopping lists and the weekly ad -- either in printed form or on the web. (Yes, I'm a total Publix fangirl.)

When people say it costs too much to eat healthfully, I say "Ha!" Yeah, you can go through the drive-thru and pick up a cheeseburger for a buck, but you can also pick up a metric ton of fresh green beans for the same price (OK, I exaggerate), rinse them and microwave them for a couple minutes. On Christmas Eve, my two main side dishes for eight people were steamed green beans and sweet potatoes. The green beans were around a dollar and eight sweet potatoes were around $1.50. That's cheap food, folks. And I didn't even need a coupon for those.

Here's the video from last night. (All week the only thing on my mind was "my bra strap was totally hanging out of my shirt," but alas it stayed hidden.)


Tunes for Tuesday: How Do You Spell Hanukkah, by The LeeVees

This is from my only favorite alt-rock Hanukkah CD -- Hanukkah Rocks, by The LeeVees. The band comprises Adam Gardner of Guster and Dave Schneider of the Zambonis.

Chappy Chanuka!

We'll be celebrating at an actual hockey game, watching a Zamboni between periods, so it's all kinda related.

And as a bonus video, here's a HealthBuzz!

Motivation Monday: 5 fab fitness must-haves

Looking for an inexpensive little gift for yourself to keep your exercise streak going? Here are a few cheap thrills that I absolutely love:

Oldnavyshirt Old Navy T-shirts: I used to be all about the giant workout T-shirts that looked like a tent and covered me down to my hips. Not flattering at all. After countless episodes of What Not to Wear, it finally sunk into my head that a more fitted T-shirt will make you look thinner. So I've been working out in Old Navy T-shirts. Lighter, slimmer fitting and usually crazy cheap when they're on clearance. I've even downsized from XXL to XL. And no, they don't cover my butt -- deal with it, spectators.

Iwatchz iPod Nano watch band: My fifth-generation iPod video has always been a bit too bulky strapped to my arm, and since I've been using my BodyMedia FIT, there just isn't room on my arm for it. So I gathered up a bunch of Toys R Us gift cards (we have a Toys R Us credit card that awards us with those) and got myself one of the new itty bitty Nanos, which is oh-so-easier to workout with. After clipping it to my waistband for awhile I sprung for one of those watch bands that turns the Nano into a very cool watch. I bought one on Amazon for $17 in a zippy orange. It's a great way to wear your Nano while working out.

Hanes socks Hanes Comfort-Toe Seam socks: I have gigantic feet. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. My sneakers are a women's size 12. So most ordinary socks don't fit me, especially if they're low cut. But I was recently set a trio of new socks from Hanes (I'm a BzzAgent) and these are super stretchy, comfortable and, best of all, inexpensive. The seam across the toes is just about invisible, so there's no rubbing while you run or walk.  

Rs914_11_buds_chops-bud_navylightblue_s4chdz-132_web Skullcandy Chops ear buds: I have a problem with ear buds. The ones that you jam in your ears get really uncomfortable, plus I tend to lose those little rubber tips on the earpieces, which makes the ear buds unusable. While on vacation last month, I lost one of the rubber tips (again), so I headed over to Target and discovered these over-the-ear ear buds that don't have any tips to lose. So since they don't jam into your ears, they're way more comfortable for long periods of time, and the ear hooks are super comfy and infinitely adjustable. Also, they're less than $20 and come in lots of colors.

Suckitupcupcakebondiband Bondi Bands: Often I'll grab a bandanna from my huge collection that I've had for probably 20 years (they never wear out), and workout "pirate style," but when I want to make a statement, I'll grab my "Suck it Up, Cupcake" Bondi Band instead. What are Bondi Bands? They're awesome wide headbands that wick up sweat like nobody's business. I have a nice little collection of colors and designs, but the "cupcake" one is my fave. I also love that Bondi Band is a small company