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La, la, la, la, la -- can't hear you


This is the physical manifestation of my food diary after dinner.

  • Where's that bowl of cantaloupe?
  • Where's the Greek yogurt?
  • Where's the 50-calorie light lemonade?
  • The cheese stick?

I was reminded of my food diary omissions with today's e-mail newsletter from

The caloric tally at day's end can be pretty sobering. Think about it — some brands of ice cream and granola contain nearly 300 calories per 1/2 cup, which means a mere tablespoon clocks in at 40 calories. Even something as innocent as cottage cheese or fruit salad can do damage if you habitually pop spoonfuls into your mouth. In fact, for many people, these little "appetizers" are a major cause of diet failure or the dreaded plateau.

See all those foods I listed? Pretty healthful, huh? But they're not calorie free. I keep getting stuck on the scale and it's not breakfast, lunch, dinner or even my afternoon snack that's the problem. It's the evening that is causing the scale to stall.

So, new hobby!

I downloaded the Geneen Roth book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: 50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy (When You Feel Anything But) to my Kindle, and my gameplan is to grab that Kindle in the evenings when the urge strikes to forage in the kitchen.

It's not that I'm hungry -- I'm not. And I can't knit -- something to do with being left-handed. So I'll read. You can't eat if your hands are full with a book, right?

And here's this week's Health Buzz

This week's video from Diets in Review features registered dietitian Mary Hartley, RD, who I met at Fitbloggin' in Baltimore. (I also met Brandi Koskie from Diets in Review there, too.)

How to volumize your diet food

Volume knob Turn up the volume!

Ever feel like your frozen entree is a bit skimpy? Before you hit the fridge or the office vending machine, try these additions to your meal:

Veg it up: Every frozen meal could use more greenery. Add some frozen or fresh green beans, broccoli or spinach to your meal. The added fiber and water in the vegetables will help fill you up and make better use of that entree's sauce.

Frozen chopped spinach: Frozen chopped spinach gets its own category because it's so awesomely versatile. It can be added to just about everything, including pasta sauce, frozen entrees of all ethnicities, egg white omelets and soups. And if you want to make a quick "creamed spinach" side dish, just melt a Laughing Cow Light wedge into a serving of spinach with a dash of pepper and nutmeg.

Volumized chicken noodles Soup it up with broth: Many entrees can be turned into soup, especially chicken-noodley ones. Dump the cooked entree into a microwave-safe mug or bowl, add a cup of low-sodium broth and zap until hot. Pasta entrees with red sauce can be turned into soup with either broth or low-sodium tomato juice. (The soup, at right, was a chicken noodle entree bulked up with broth and frozen green beans.)

Add no-cal noodles: Ever hear of glucomannan? It's the starch found in those zero-calorie noodles, which can now be found in most grocery stores. They're definitely not pasta, but they can go a long way to bulk up an entree. I find that they work best in Asian dishes since their firmer texture blends well with Asian sauces. Many of the varieties I've tried have had a weird smell, but I found a new brand that's actually made in the United States and tastes "cleaner" than others. It's called NoOodle and it's launching right now around the U.S.  

Wrap it up: Grab a 60-calorie tortilla and turn your diet dish into a burrito.  Mexican entrees obviously are a good choice but try a stir-fry for an Asian wrap. My 60-calorie go-to tortilla is Tumaro's Multi-Grain Low in Carbs Gourmet Tortilla. They have 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. And they're big enough to make a decent-sized wrap.

Sometimes a peach is just a moose

... and sometimes a peach is just a snack.

I have used myriad food scales over the years, going all the way back to those old-school Weight Watchers manual food scales with the little plastic container on top.

Food_scale I've had a digital scale for around 10 years but when I saw my latest scale advertised on QVC, it spoke to me with a little "beep-beep."

Being the Biggest Loser fangirl that I am, I fell for Ali Vincent's pitch and picked up this food scale and am very happy with it.

First off, the stats are offset so you can put a plate or bowl on the scale and still be able to read it. It cycles between ounces, grams, milliliters and fluid ounces.

But what I love most about it is that it'll give you the nutritional stats for over 1,000 foods, so I can know whether my peach has 50 calories or 100.

The one in the photo was 76 calories, by the way. I had it pegged for much more.

I'm not obsessive about counting every last calorie -- gum, pickles, mustard and Propel often go by the wayside. But I'd like to know whether I magically ate more than 100 calories of fruit.

(I just checked and it's not available on QVC anymore but you can get it on Amazon.

Write it before you bite it

Part of my weight-loss success this past week (5 pounds, thanks for asking!) was successfully writing down my food and exercise.

The week before, I gained weight. And I was annoyed. My "team" at Cleveland Clinic asked whether I'd be keeping track of my food. Problem was, I was doing a little online and a little on paper -- a half-assed job of both. So I started writing it down.

Fitbook And when I say writing, I don't mean "click-click-click-enter." No, it's old-school pen on paper. I have tried countless food journals, and there are half-filled journals littering my house as evidence. But I finally found one that I'll be able to stick with -- the Fitbook by Fitlosophy.

Various Twitter and Facebook friends had been raving about it so I set about to find one. Lo and behold they sell them at my gym. 

And because of its compact, square shape I can carry it everywhere. It's around 6 by 6 inches with a sturdy spiral spine into which a cute little Fitbook pen resides. Every week for 12 weeks you write down your weekly goals, and every day there's a separate page for exercise and one for a food log.

I had been writing down food as I nibbled along, but that can get me in trouble if I start tallying things up and discover that there are no calories left for dinner. So spinning around the phrase "bite it and write it" I now "write it and bite it." I try and plan out my day beforehand so there are no surprises. And if the meals add up to less than my allotted calories, I know I have room for extras.

An update on Carol

Her surgery went well and she's awake and talking.  But no head-banging yet.

Shrinking Sisters 2.0: Now with actual shrinking!

"What a stinking fraud I am. I have a blog called Shrinking Sisters, and I'm not losing any weight!"

(I'm not going to comment on my sister's weight loss; I'll leave that up to her.)

That's what I was thinking a couple weeks ago leading up to last week's Fitbloggin' convention in Baltimore.

So I took that weekend to recommit myself to do some actual shrinking because by next year's convention I want jaws to drop -- or to at least go slack a little bit.

So I'm happy to say that from the Monday after I got home to this past Monday, I dropped 4 pounds.

Scaleillo And I'm keeping track of my weight by stepping on the scale every morning.

Scales drive some people crazy and evoke all sorts of hatred but after not weighing and weighing once a week, I find that stepping on the scale every morning keeps me aware of the little fluctuations and serves as a signal to keep going.

I decided to weigh every day because I'm the kind of person who can step on the scale once a week and see it swing wildly up and down 3 or 4 pounds at a time. I want to be able to see where things start going south (north, really). 

I'm really not eating any differently, but this past Sunday's episode of Ruby had me thinking about that. Ruby's scale has been stuck and she wants to get below 300 in the worst way, so she decided to make five changes in her life -- things like taking the stairs, changing her workout and dumping the diet soda.

So I thought about what five changes I could incorporate. Here are mine (cue the trumpets):

  1. Cereal will only be eaten with a bowl and a spoon, not by the handful out of the Tupperware container.
  2. If I'm eating for recreation (yes, it happens sometimes), I'll do it with raw vegetables. My trip to the new green market in town will keep the fridge stocked with good-tasting produce.
  3. Exercise will not be negotiable. Something will be done every day, even if it's as small as the 12-minute strength-training DVD workout I did on Monday. That little bugger still has my butt sore from the squats and lunges.
  4. Coffee, tea and water will be my liquids of choice. I don't have a diet soda issue (I can quit anytime!). Seriously, I drink maybe two a week, but that carbonated science project has been shown to trigger sweet cravings in people so when I'm out and about (because it's easy to control at home), it'll be an unsweetened iced tea or water for me.

Eeek! I've only come up with four!

What should be my fifth change? Is there a "rule" you incorporate for weight-loss success?

I'll keep this my dirty little secret...

Woman eating and sitting on terrace writing

As we all know, tracking food consumption and exercise is a key to successful weight loss.  SparkPeople  is a free Web site that is chock full of tools to help achieve your weight loss goals.

But one of my favorite things to do is to lurk on people's profiles and see what they're eating and how much exercise they do.  I came across one of my favorite members' logs and was shocked at what was consumed.

Below is a typical lunch for this person:

Lunch Cal.   
Burger King, BK VEGGIE Burger, 1 serving 420 46 15 23
Burger King Medium French Fries (salted), 1 serving 480 61 23 5
Burger King Medium Coca Cola Classic, 1 serving 230 56 0 0
Kraft Singles White American Cheese, 1 serving 60 2 5 4

So although I may snicker at a fast-food lunch at nearly 1,200 calories, I must acknowledge that this person AT LEAST logs all that is consumed. The good, the bad and the fattening.

I dare you to track me on SparkPeople.  My user name: I_AM_CAROL.  You will never see one meal that is nearly my entire day's worth of calories.

Now to start tracking ...

More protein, fewer calories and fuller!

I printed out yesterday's food journal from SparkPeople because I had experienced a phenomenon: I only ate 1,300 calories, yet I wasn't hungry all day.

So what did I do differently? I made a deliberate attempt to eat more protein. And I'm not talking a huge change -- my diet broke down to 23 percent protein, 21 percent fat and 55 percent carbs.

One thing that I do regularly is to use hummus as a sandwich spread instead of mayo. It helps up the protein and it tastes yummy. And I don't usually use bread. I'm a big fan of Flatout wraps, which pack in a lot of protein and fiber for its 100 calories. To that I added 3 ounces of turkey breast.

Wwcookiesbar I made a Costco run yesterday and bought a big box of Weight Watchers Cookies and Cream ice cream bars (c'mon, I have a 10-year-old!). I really wanted one at snack time, so I had one. But then I balanced it out with 1/4 cup of Egg Beaters and 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat cheddar. Yes, my snack was an ice cream bar and an omelet. Weird.

Purplesmoothie I was inspired by fellow weight-loss blogger Roni at Roni's Weigh, so dinner was a smoothie. She has a hilarious video of her and her son on her other site, making a mango-banana smoothie. Mine was a cup of Cascadian Farms mixed berries, a cup of vanilla almond milk and a scoop of vanilla whey protein.

 After the kid's baseball practice, I was a bit peckish. Instead of the usual carb-heavy handful of cereal or something else carbalicious, I had 1/2 cup of cottage cheese ... with barbecue sauce (Don't judge, people. I love me some condiments.)

I'm working on getting the calorie ratio to more of a Zone-like 40-30-30. But that'll take more cottage cheese.

Rachels cottage cheeseSpeaking of cottage cheese, I'm loving Rachel's cottage cheese cups. They're the size of a yogurt and around the same calories as Rachel's yogurt, but it has twice the protein. There are 6 flavors -- 3 sweet and 3 savory. So far I've tried the Pear-Mangosteen and Lemon Verbena-Berry. They're not as sugary sweet as yogurt yet still very good.

Weights and measurements

Tools for success

I stepped on the scale and discovered to my dismay (not disgust, just dismay) that I was up 2 pounds from last week. And that's with working out three times last week.

I'm not gonna BS myself -- I know why.

  • I wasn't journaling my food.
  • I wasn't weighing and measuring enough.
  • I was fridge grazing at night.

So I had bigger work to do at home this morning. I decided to go back to basics, and the photo above is what I'll be using at every meal.

What's the shot glass for? Last week it was for margaritas. This week it's how I measure my coffee creamer.

The measuring spoons and scale go without saying -- no matter how savvy you think you are on portion size, it's worth it to weigh and measure your food. I discovered that a mere half teaspoon of oil goes a very long way in cooking an egg. I'd actually been short-changing myself on healthy fats  ... and underestimating the size of my chicken. Conventional wisdom says that a portion of protein should be the size of your palm. Well, I have big hands, and what I thought was 3 ounces was actually closer to 4 ounces.

The precise little plate below was my breakfast, and I know everything that went into it -- no "eyeballing" anything (apparently my eyeballs don't work that way).

  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
  • 1 slice part-skim mozzarella inside the omelet
  • 1 teaspoon Smart Balance spread
  • 1 100-calorie English muffin
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade

Sunday breakfast