Friday, December 11, 2009

Weight Watchers Weigh In #2

My second weight watchers meeting and weigh in was yesterday and I am happy to report that I lost 3.4 lbs this week, bringing my grand total to -7.2lbs!! I was especially excited when my leader gave me a pretty gold sticker because I hit the 5lb loss mark. I respond really well to little prizes like stickers so that worked out well for me.

My leader had some shocking revelations about this week's topic (which was stress) to share with the group. You guys might want to sit down for this one. Ready? Here it comes...eating is a coping mechanism for stress. HA. Thanks for the news flash. Alert the media.

Ok, but in all seriousness, even though I have Captain Obvious as my weight watchers leader, I am really really glad I signed up. The feeling of accountability (knowing I have to get on that scale each week/that it means something/that I could possibly earn shiny things like stickers) keeps me on track and actually gets me really excited throughout the week. And, to be fair, a lot of people in my group are learning lots and it makes me so happy for them. Some of my colleagues have never given a thought to portion size and in the past, haven't thought twice about mowing down multiple big fat cookies at a staff meeting. Now, I see some of them enter the kitchen at work, look at a big platter of baked goods, and turn around to get their apple out of the fridge, which makes me proud!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Top 10 Reasons To Put The Cookie (or cake or any other fatty deliciousness down)...

10 A moment on the lips = ten years on the hips.

9. You will regret it later. Pinky swear...

8. If you have to walk the length of a football field to walk off one little M&M, how long do you think it's going to take you to work off a treat that isn't pea-sized?

7. Carrots and celery are just as tasty as that yummy baked good. (Ok no, they aren't at all...but at least they won't add to the size of your ass).

6. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels (Side note on this one: Apparently, Kate Moss recently told some magazine that this is one of her mantras and received tons of criticism for encouraging girls to starve themselves. I'm not saying don't eat. I'm saying it's not worth it to eat crap that's going to make you fat and feel bad about yourself).

5. Santa eats cookies. Look at him. Do you want to look like that? I don't think so.

4. You exercised. Let's be real, exercise makes us feel good and some of us even want/like to do it, but really deep down, if you were naturally skinny, you probably wouldn't have exercised at all and also you wouldn't have to worry about eating sweets, but since you aren't and you do, don't waste all of your efforts and put the calories you just burned right back on...

3. Bathing suit season is only 6 months away.

2. Cookies are evil.

And, if those fabulous 9 reasons don't work and you still want that treat...

1. No one is perfect and balance is key. So, don't obsess. Enjoy your treat. Just remember, the first bite is really what tastes the best. Allow yourself that, but don't go crazy (or you'll turn into this guy)!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Woohoo: First Weight Watchers Weigh In

Quick update! Down 3.8 lbs at first Weight Watchers weigh in this week. Woohoo! I'm especially excited because this last week was so off with all of the pie and stuffing and other impossible-to-resist goodies.

Hoping to step it up for next week's weigh in!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Italian Tradition: food, food, and oh wait, more food

Like most big Italian families, my family likes to eat, especially around the holidays. Don't get me wrong: we are equal opportunity eaters. We don't require some holiday to get together and pounds delciousness...nope, not us. We'll use any excuse really--from a birthday to a holiday to a Sunday. In fact, growing up, I went to my Grandmother Yola's house every single Sunday for a huge family dinner. There were 16 of us that gathered around the table every week. The usual meal was pasta topped with my Grandmother's gravy. And what feast could be complete without a bowl of steaming hot meatballs and a loaf of Italian bread?

These days, we don't eat as many huge pasta Sunday dinners, but we sure know how to do it up (aka waaay over do it) for a holiday. To give you an idea, this past Thanksgiving we started with a ton of picky appetizer type foods, before we moved on to the traditional Italian antipasto (and by traditional I mean best to ever exist) and then indulged in the full turkey dinner. The real disgustingness occurred during dessert when we had 9 pies! After all of that eating, we did not have room for one of my most favorite holiday traditions: the stuffed artichoke. I don't know why we eat the artichokes last, but I know that for as long as I've been alive, that is just what we have done. So, like every year, no one could fit the artichokes at the end of the meal, so we all take them home and enjoy them the next day.

Usually, my Grandmother makes the artichokes but because she is getting a bit older and I am the world's best Granddaughter, I decided to make them this year. And, because I am so proud of myself and because they turned out peeerfect, I am going to be nice and share the awesome recipe with all of you! And, good news, these artichokes are a tasty treat that are good for you!

Start by rinsing the artichokes. Then, cut the bottoms (leave a little stem) and a bit of the tops off of the artichokes. They should look like this:

Next, combine breadcrumbs, evoo, parsley (dried) salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Mix ingredients together. (And, if you're really hardcore like Yola and I, you'll use your hands to mix). Your mixture should look like this (without the shadow of your iphone):


Next, grab an artichoke and use your fingers to open it up a bit. Hold artichoke over bowl and grab a handful of breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the artichoke, ensuring that the breadcrumbs fill in the space between the leaves. Stuff all of your artichokes and put them in a pan. Make sure you pack the artichokes tightly into the pan, so that they are all standing up and not leaning. Fill the pan about halfway with water. At this point, your artichokes should look amazing like this:

Put the pan with the water and artichokes on the stove and cook until the leaves are tender and you can easily break them off. While the artichokes are cooking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. When the leaves on the artichoke are tender, remove the pan from the stove and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. They should now look like this:

Note: you can serve your artichokes right away or keep them overnight. If you choose to keep them overnight, wait to bake them until before being served. If you like leftovers, they can also be heated up in the microwave.

Your mouth is probably watering by now looking at the pictures of my masterpieces (and if it isn't I don't know what is wrong with you). Now for the good news...these tasty little treats are good for you! Sure the huge bowl of breadcrumbs looks like trouble, but when you think about how many breadcrumbs end up in one artichoke, it's not much. I would estimate that in one artichoke, there is probably 1 tsp of evoo (1 WW pt) and 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs (2 WW pts). Combine that with the artichoke (1 WW pt) and you have a phenomenal 4 point meal.

Finally, I leave you with a warning and a secret.

Warning: These suckers are a HUGE hit. If you bring them somewhere, they will all get eaten and you will become known for them and then you'll always have to make them.

Secret: They are not that hard to make! You'll be famous for your artichokes and people will think you slaved for hours and hours to make the Italian tradition when you really didn't!

Just wait until I post pictures of my Grandmother's famous Christmas Cookies (15 types). Sorry though, you won't be getting those recipes...they are a secret (and also don't go with the whole healthygirl theme)!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Realistic Approach to Thanksgiving

I like to think that my blog readers (if there are any out there besides me) are somewhat knowledgeable about diet and exercise already. After all, if you're reading this post, you're likely trying to lose weight or maintain your weight or simply have an interest in a healthy lifestyle (or just think I'm ridiculously amusing and awesome). So, when thinking about writing my Thanksgiving Day survival blog, I'm going to make a couple of assumptions.

Assumption 1: Everyone knows that eating a massive plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cornbread and then washing it all down with a half of a pie, is NOT going to make the number on your scale go down.

Assumption 2: Your idea of a good time on Thanksgiving does not include making yourself miserable because your plate only has peas and carrots on it while everyone else is shoveling in the good stuff.

Ok, now that we are all on the same page, there are some things you can do to enjoy Thanksgiving and not want to kill yourself the next morning. As I've said before, I believe in balance. It's not realistic to think that the average person is going to be able to resist the deliciousness that is Thanksgiving. Sure lots of people like to "pretend" this is the case, like my favorite Biggest Loser competitors. If I was in the running to win hundreds of thousands of dollars for losing weight and the finale was only 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, yeah, maybe I'd ease up on the stuffing too or make some low-calorie version, but I'm not so I have zero intent of doing either of these things.

So, how do you enjoy your Thanksgiving and not ruin your weight loss progress? Well, there are definitely some popular tips and strategies that you can adopt. Here's a quick list of some things you can do to save yourself a few calories without missing out on anything.

Eat a healthy breakfast. It does not do you any good to skip this meal to prepare. Eat what you normally would.

Reach for the white meat. White meat is much better for you than dark meat, and while you are at it, avoid the skin.

Don't use a heavy hand on the gravy. Smothering your plate in gravy is an easy way to add hundreds of calories. If you love gravy, don't skip it, just be mindful that you don't need gravy soup with turkey floating in it, a tablespoon or 2 will do the trick.

Pick pumpkin. Pumpkin pie is typically lower in fat and calories than all other pies. If you can, don't pick pecan or cream pies. These are usually the worst for you.

Here are some other things to think about...

Thanksgiving is a holiday and therefore a special day. Its unlikely that you have Thanksgiving Day foods like stuffing many (if any) other time in the year, so it is ok to enjoy these seasonal favorites on this one day a year. If you love your Mom's pumpkin cheesecake and this is the one time of year she makes it, by all means, allow yourself a treat. That being said, don't go crazy. In other words, have a piece of the pumpkin cheesecake. Don't take the whole thing to your face or I promise you will regret it later. After all, it's the first bite that tastes the best anyway.

Even though its a special day, keep the important question in mind, is this worth it? In the example above, the piece of pumpkin cheesecake is worth it. You love it and its not something that you can eat everyday. Maybe before you hit the bread basket hard, think about whether or not you need that roll in addition to the heaping pile of mashed potatoes you are about to consume. Unless you make some sandwich concoction (which is usually for leftovers--which I will cover shortly) than you probably can skip the roll and not miss anything special. Rolls are not Thanksgiving specific and you can get one any day of the year. Remember, don't eat as much as you can until you feel sick just because you feel like its the one day you are allowed to cheat. Eat what you want until you are full. After that, stop eating, because it does not taste as good and you will feel sick.

Now, onto the leftovers. Let's be real here. Leftovers are often better than the original meal. So, what do you do? Normally, I would give that advice that it is ok to splurge on the special day, in this case on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. I would normally tell you that after that one day, it's time to get back on track. I would warn people not to think that because they over-ate on Thursday, it is ok to just call the weekend a wash and start again Monday. But, since Thanksgiving leftovers cannot possibly be put into the normal category, I am altering my advice. Here it is: If you host Thanksgiving at your house, give away most (not all of your leftovers). Keep enough for you and anyone else you live with to enjoy ONE plate of leftovers. On Friday, eat breakfast and lunch like you normally would, and eat your delicious tasting leftovers for dinner. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT keep enough leftovers so that the next morning, you are eating mashed potatoes and pie for breakfast and then again for lunch and for an afternoon snack and so on... If you do not host, maybe you are lucky enough to have someone give you some leftovers to take home. If not, you don't even have to worry! But, be careful. Eat your one plate of leftovers and do not call the weekend a wash. It won't make for a pretty sight on the scale on Monday.

I've read in numerous places that the average American consumes over 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day. This whole time, I've been telling you this is ok. While that number is beyond disturbing, I still don't think it will stop many of us from pounding on Thursday. Personally, I want to eat my favorites on Thanksgiving, but not at the cost of completely blowing all of my recent hard work. Since I know my will power is non-existent when there is a bowl of stuffing in front of me, I know I need to work out on Thanksgiving to at least give myself a little piece of mind. So, if you're going to eat it, you might as well work some of it off. Find some time to hit the gym or get in some form of physical activity (and no, mashing the potatoes does not count). You obviously won't be working out after dinner, so you must get this done in the morning. If you can, up your workout a bit to prepare for the big meal. Also, make sure you hit the gym the next day too!

To end this post, here is a little poem I found:

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Weight Watchers @ Work: First Meeting

Yesterday, I went to my first ever Weight Watchers meeting. I have followed the Weight Watchers program (though I've never officially joined or attended a meeting) for the past 3 years. Now, I think I've mentioned before, I'm not extremely overweight. I've always been stuck in the middle and for the past 3 years have been toward the lower end of the middle. (Go me!) However, I do still want to lose 10% of my body weight and think that attending a Weight Watchers @ Work meeting is a good way to hold myself accountable for what I eat and it's a proven fact that the group atmosphere helps people lose weight. So, I was excited for the big meeting and ready to learn a couple of new ways to kick it up a notch and get those last lbs off.

Let me tell you what I learned: (INSERT AWKWARD SILENCE HERE)...

Ok so obviously, I didn't go into the meeting expecting to have some kind of eye-opening moment about eating and looking at food differently and all of that good stuff. I already know that eating a banana as a snack is much better for you than eating a nice slice of chocolate cake. I already know that lots of liquids (like little juice bottles) often have 2.5 servings per bottle and are empty calories. Anyway, you get the point.

The first thing we did was weigh in. I was not too nervous to do this, since my I check my weight once (ok sometimes multiple) times a day on my scale at home. So, when it was my turn to get on the scale, I took off my fabulous boots and chunky cardigan sweater and prepared to step on up. (I had previously considered adopting some kind of game play strategy and trying to get the highest number possible by wearing heavy clothes and drinking tons and tons of water right before the weigh in so that I could "lose" something at the next meeting, but decided against it at the last minute in an attempt to start off thinking positively). So, I step on the scale and listen as Meg, the weigh in lady gives me the news. This is when I realized a few things:

1. My scale at home is waaaay better than this official Weight Watchers scale. I came to this realization because my scale at home had a lower number than the one at the meeting and is therefore nicer and far superior.

2. Obviously, Meg is a liar. Since the inferior Weight Watchers scale doesn't have a display, the only person who sees the number is this Meg character. So, she can pretty much make the number whatever she feels like making it. I think Meg and Weight Watchers maybe pad the first week's number a bit. That way, you feel down on yourself and think, "Thank God I joined Weight Watchers!" Then, when you go back the second week, you feel like you've really lost something.

3. Meg should weigh in too and tell all of us her number. I mean, it's only fair...

Aside from the absolutely rude scale and Meg's little problem with telling the truth, I was fine with my number. I wasn't shocked, though it was clear lots of my colleagues were, judging by the pale, "I just saw a ghost" look plastered across their faces when they came back in the room. The meeting continued as everyone figured out their point allotments and how to use the point finder and all of those nuts and bolts type things.

Our next meeting is in 2 weeks, since we obviously cannot meet on Thanksgiving because I'll be shoving stuffing and pie in my face. (Ok, that's not the only reason but it does matter...) Though I didn't technically learn anything yesterday, I do feel a renewed spirit today to lose. I intend to stick with this (except on Thanksgiving and the day immediately after Thanksgiving because I refuse to deny myself one serving of leftovers).

On that note, I am a firm believer in balance and don't think people should deprive themselves on special occasions so my next post will be dedicated to making it through Thanksgiving without making yourself miserable or popping the button on your pants. Coming soon...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weight Loss Tool: The Food Journal

One of the easiest (and cheapest) weight loss tools out there is a food journal. Here is my current food journal. See how small and pretty it is? It fits nicely into all of my handbags and I carry it with me everywhere I go.

What is a food journal?
A food journal is simply a log of everything you consume in a day. Simple huh? From the time you wake up, to the time you go to bed, record ALL of the food you eat. (I also record how much water I drink, my exercise and the Weight Watchers points for each food that I eat.) Here's a sample page from my food journal:

For some people, the first week of their food journal might be scary and shocking. Seeing all of the food you have eaten listed on paper is a reality check. So, how does this little book help you lose weight?

If you write everything you eat down, you are held accountable. You can't just forget about that handful of M&Ms you grabbed from the candy bowl. If you eat, it you have to write it down and those M&M's will be staring you in the face all day from the page of your journal. The fact that you have to write it down makes you think twice before putting anything in your mouth.

Identifies Problem Areas
The point of the food journal is not simply to eat less so you have less to write down. Instead, the food journal can help you identify your problem areas. After you've kept the journal for a week, go back and look at your eating habits. Perhaps you'll notice that you do more mindless snacking than you realize. Or, maybe you'll see that you eat less in the day and end up compensating at night. By keeping a food journal, you're more likely to see where you need improvement and can work to correct your bad eating habits.

Do What Works For You
You can organize your food journal any way you want. I used to categorize my journal by meal type. So I'd write "Breakfast" and underneath, I would record everything I had for that meal. After a while, I changed the way I was eating so I changed the way I recorded. Most days, I eat more small meals. So I simply write everything down without worrying about what meal each food is associated with. Maybe you don't follow Weight Watchers, but instead count calories. Include a calories column instead of points values.

Just Remember...
Cheaters Never Win (Or Lose Weight)
If you aren't honest in your food journal, you're only hurting yourself! So, even if you don't want to own up to eating that cookie, you should. There a days where I add up all of my Weight Watchers points in my food journal, and see that I have come in over my allowance. Though it would be just as easy for me to take something off the list and seemingly "stick" to my points, that would just be a lie and not help me. So, write down EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) you eat in the journal.

Electronic Food Journals
For the tech-savvy healthy friends out there, you can record your food journal electronically. There are TONS of different options out there, ranging from keeping your journal in a word document to websites and services that calculate calories for all of the foods you eat. You can google "food journal" and you'll get a lot of free, easy to use choices. One web-based program that I have used and like is called FitDay. It's free and very user-friendly. Click here to check it out.

If you don't have access to a computer all day or are just forgetful, than a program like fitday might not work for you. If you have a phone that allows you download applications, like the Iphone, well, there's an app for you! I have two weight loss apps on my phone now that are like portable food journals. One is called Lose It! and it is very easy to use. You simply add the foods you eat, and it provides the calories for those foods. I also have an app called IWatchr that isn't Weight Watchers approved, but really just keeps track of points for you. It includes a point calculator.

Both FitDay and Lose It! allow you to enter a common food or add your own. So, for instance, if you eat an apple, you can search for apple and add to your log. The programs will automatically give you the nutrition info for that apple. Both also offer nutrition info for brands so you can easily look up foods that you buy in the supermarket based on brand name. If you can't find your brand or food, you can create your own and add the nutrition info yourself. Another benefit of using these type of programs is that they also track progress. You can enter your goal and they calculate how many calories you should have a day to reach your goal. They also can create charts to track weight loss.

So, whichever route you go, old-school paper journal or new-age Iphone app, you should definitely keep a food journal!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Enjoying Sports Socially, Without Ending Up Looking Like A Linebacker

Being from Boston, naturally, I'm a sports fan. My Dad is a huge Celtics and Patriots fan. I grew up watching the great Boston sports teams and stuck with them through their "rough" patches (86 years of Red Sox pain. Last night's Patriots loss to the Colts...the list goes on). I worked at a bar next to Fenway Park for 6 years. My boyfriend, like many out there, rarely turns off ESPN and automatically looks for a sports game to put on whenever he turns the TV on. We have a fantasy football team so we must watch football all day on Sundays, and Monday nights, and sometimes Thursdays. (And by we, I mean HE has a fantasy team. I just pretend to have say so I can be cool and in the know).

To me, sports are more than just watching. I often associate sports with a eating or drinking or going out with friends to catch a game. None of which, are remotely helpful to losing weight. When I think of watching a baseball game, I think of drinking a nice cold beer on a summer day. I'm sure all you meat eaters out there are also thinking about hot dogs, and if you're a meat eater from Boston, you're probably dreaming about Fenway Franks. Football is probably the worst for me. Football reminds me of fatty appetizer type foods (think nachos, poppers, wings) and again, beer.

If I'm home watching a game, I am fine. I don't need a beer and I certainly won't be making those appetizers. No. Instead, I run into the most problems when I watch games in a social setting with friends, family or my boyfriend. So, how do you go out with others, watch sports, and resist all of the beer and fatty foods being put right in front of your face? How do you lose weight without letting diet control your whole life?

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The food:

Eat before you go. This one is for those who are lucky enough to have tickets to a sporting event. Eat before you go. There just are not healthy options from the concession stands and you know it! So, fill up before the big game and save money and calories. You don't need a fatty snack to be social and enjoy the game. No one is shoving it in your face. Just don't buy any and concentrate on your team.

Bring your own options. This one is for the house party. If you're headed to a friend's house to watch the big game, or hosting friends at your home, make sure you have a healthy option. You know there is likely to be a table full of tempting little treats. So, make sure that you add at least one option that won't pop the button on your pants. That way, you at least have a shot of sticking to your plan. You cannot use the excuse that you had no choice but to cheat because there weren't any healthy snacks. If you cheat, it's because you made the choice. (See below for some healthy snacking recipes).

The drink:

Beware the beer. If you are going to enjoy some adult beverages while watching sports, try to stick to light beer. It's not always reasonable to assume you are going to skip the beer all together. I've tried this before. Sometimes it works, other times, I am out at a bar or at a game or even someone's house and just want a beer. So, keep with the light beers and stick with bottles whenever possible. Think of the last time you were at a stadium or arena for a sports event and think of how full your draft beers were. Most places serve plastic bottles now. If you get bottles, you'll not only save from all that spilling, but won't have to deal with over-pours and extra calories in every cup. (And, there's talk that draft beer gives you nasty hangovers...)

Don't drunk eat. Let's say you go out to watch a game and end of enjoying more light beers than you had originally planned. Being a 25 year old fun loving girl who goes out a lot, this CAN (and will--Ooops!) happen. If you are like me, you might have a tendency to drunk eat. Don't. It's hard, but try to remember, it just isn't worth it. #1. Remember that whatever food you're going to shove in your drunk face, is still there in the morning. You won't be missing out on anything except extra calories if you pass. #2. You're drunk. If you're going to cheat, you should at least be sober so you can savor it! Just go home, go to bed and when you wake up, you'll be glad you didn't give in to your drunk voice telling you to eat a grilled cheese at 3 in the morning.

Don't sabotage yourself. Hangovers stink. There's not a single good thing about them. No one goes to bed thinking, "Gee, I hope I wake up tomorrow and my head is pounding, the room is spinning and I feel so nauseous, I could really throw up at any second). Though we can't totally control whether or not we are hungover, I've found that two asprin and a bottle of water to the face right before bed helps. And, if I'm still hurting in the morning, I swear by a bottle of Gatorade. If you cheated a bit the night before, you'll want to get in a good workout the next day so don't sabotage yourself by drinking so much you're sick.

And remember:

Work hard. Play hard.
Here is where the balance comes in. It's ok to go out with friends and have fun and even splurge on some of those fatty appetizers and beers sometimes (just not all of the time). So, on days that I know I might run into some trouble, I work extra hard at the gym. And the next morning, I'm not disappointed or puzzled if the number on the scale hasn't exactly plummeted. Remain realistic.

The key is making sure to not fall of the wagon completely. Allow yourself a couple of bites of nachos, but don't go pounding the platter. And, if you cheat one day or one meal, don't just throw away the rest of your eating for that weekend or day. Enjoy your splurge. Don't obsess. Work extra hard at the gym and keep on track.

Now, here are some recipes and ideas for healthier options you can bring to a sports party at a friends house or serve up to your guests:

Veggies with hummus or another healthy dip. This is the easiest option by far. You don't need any cooking skills to chop up some fresh veggies and buy a container of hummus. You also don't need much time to prepare this one either. Sometimes, all we want to do while watching TV is snack, even when we aren't really hungry. Well, snack away on crunchy, fresh veggies. You can pop carrots, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, really any veggie you want into your mouth without feeling guilty. Just be careful with the dips. Hummus is an excellent dipping option. Trader Joes also has a delicious spicy black bean dip that is very low in calories and has no fat. If you want to make your own healthy dip, you can buy the dip packet and substitute fat-free sour cream to save calories and fat. Don't go eating creamy, fatty dips, like french onion dip, spinach artichoke dip etc. You'll ruin the nutritional value of your veggies. Here's a swap for a layered Mexican dip from Weight Watchers that's just as tasty as the original. Click here for it.

Portabello skins. Yes potato skins are yummy. No they aren't going to make you any skinnier. At all. Try swapping out the potato for a portabello mushroom cap. You can still stuff it with yummy goodness. I like stuffing mine with chopped broccoli and fat-free or low-fat cheddar. If I'm feeling Italian, I'll go with chopped tomatoes, fat free mozzarella and drizzle with a bit of evoo. Bake them and enjoy the gooey cheesiness without extra calories and fat. Oh and if you want bacon, try substituting turkey bacon--I'm told it's just as good on these skins.

Shrimp Cocktail. It's simple. Shrimp and cocktail sauce. Not too hard. You don't even have to cook anything if you buy cooked shrimp. Serve on a bed of lettuce and enjoy! (Tip: Buy a bag of frozen cooked shrimp from your local supermarket. They are very tasty and cheaper than buying from the seafood counter. Defrost and your friends won't know the difference).

Popper Swap. Check out this recipe for jalapeno poppers from Hungry Girl (I love her!). These are not only delicious, but nutritious. HG even proves it by showing the damage regular poppers can do to your diet. Click here to get see the comparison and get the recipe.

Chicken Wings. And for you meat eaters, here's a Weight Watchers recipe for buffalo wings that won't ruin your diet. I know a friend who has made these and she highly recommends them. Click here for the recipe.

Hopefully, I can follow my own advice tonight. I am headed to a Bruin's game. I'll let you guys know how it goes!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rainy Day Soup Review

Today is a cold, rainy, absolutely disgusting day. Rainy days don't exactly inspire people to get up and go to the gym. But, we can't let a little rain stop us on the way to achieving our goals. Though sitting on the couch all day watching TV seems like the best way to beat a rainy day, you will feel so much better after you get up and get your workout in.

One rainy day tradition that we can all enjoy is eating a bowl of delicious hot soup. Soup is one of my favorite meals in winter and can be a healthy way to fill up and stay warm when it's cold outside. But, not all soups are created equal. People often make the mistake of assuming soups are a healthy option, but in reality, many soups are full of fat, high in calories, and contain an obscene amount of sodium.

To avoid soups that aren't diet friendly, keep away from anything with the word "chowder" or "bisque." Cream based soups are also a quick way to pack in tons of fat and calories. So, no "cream of __FILL IN BLANK__. "

One challenge I face when finding a healthy soup is that most soups are made with a beef or chicken broth. I'm a vegetarian, so these don't really work for me. So, how did I find a soup that was vegetarian, low-in fat, calories and sodium? I tried lots and lots of options.

Canned Soups:
Progresso has a line of "0 point per serving" weight watchers soups. There is one vegetarian option. The Light "Italian-Style Vegetable" soup tastes pretty good, but is ridiculously high in sodium. In one can, there is 1640 mg of sodium. That is too much for me so I rarely eat Progresso. (Note: Out of the major players in the soup isle, Campbells, HealthyChoice etc., I do enjoy Progresso the most).

My favorite brand of canned soups is Health Valley. Usually, these soups are located in the health food section of your grocery store and are also available in stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods. I love these soups. They offer low-sodium options and a large variety of vegetarian options. My favorite is the "No-Salt Added Vegetable Barley." They also have delicious vegetarian chili options. For a full list of their soups, click here. If I had to pick a negative about these soups, I would say they are pricier than brands like Progresso.

Homemade Soups
Whenever possible, I make my own soup. There are so many benefits to making your own soup. If you make a big batch of soup on a Sunday night, you'll have lunch or dinner for the week. If you make your own soup, you can use low-sodium broth or even make your own broth. If you make your own soup, you can save money. And, if you make your own soup, you can customize and fill it with your favorite veggies and leave out what you don't like.

Sold yet? After you taste this recipe you will be!

Very Veggie Soup

Veggie Broth (you can customize and use chicken or beef broth)
Canned Tomatoes

Optional Add Ins:
Brown Rice
Whole Wheat Pasta

Chop carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic into chunks. On stove, heat up large saucepot. Spray bottom of pot with Pam Spray. When pot is hot, add chopped carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic. Stir occasionally until vegetables become soft. While vegetables are cooking, chop and cabbage and tomatoes. After vegetables are soft, add broth to pot. (I like to use Trader Joe's Savory Vegetable Broth, which are packets added to water.)

After you add broth, put cabbage and tomatoes into the pot. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you choose, add any of the optional items: brown rice, beans, chicken, or whole wheat pasta.

This soup is 0 WW points. However, if you choose to add any of the additional items, the points value will increase. TIP: Don't add extras to the whole batch of soup. Make extra and add each time you have a serving. That way, you can measure out how much you are eating and have a more accurate idea of how many points you are eating.

Feel free to customize this soup to your tastes and preferences. If you don't like cabbage, try using escarole.

Here are some other favorites you can make at home:

Tuscan Pumpkin White Bean Soup
(WW Recipe)

Broccoli Cheese Soup (WW Recipe)

Click here for three recipes for other 0 points soups

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Office Food: The Dangers and How to Avoid Making Bad Choices

On the road to healthy eating, my office is the huge pothole that gives you a flat tire. It's the detour that takes you through so many back roads, you end up lost. It's the dead skunk that you don't see until it's too late and the smell lingers for days. OK. Maybe that last one was too much. You get the point.

A few years ago, when I was a bartender, I used to blame any bad eating on the fact that I worked in a bar where food was constantly in my face, the long hours and the off schedule. I used to say that when I got a "9-5" type job, healthy eating would be so much better because I would have a set schedule. Well, not so much.

My office is full of bad foods ALL of the time. First, we order food for all sorts of meetings. Internal meetings. External meetings. Small meetings. Big meetings. Breakfast meetings bring trays of fatty pastries, bagels, muffins, scones, and even cinnamon buns. Lunches feature anything and everything like pasta salads, pizza, sandwiches, rolls...the list goes on and on. And, who could forget the cookies and brownies tray? A lot of the times, I'm not even in the meetings where this food is being served. However, for some reason tons and tons of leftovers appear magically in our kitchen, just sitting there, begging to be eaten.

If you can somehow survive the kitchen full of tempting foods, you still need to find a way to pass up the monthly staff birthday cake and the occasional treat or candy brought in by a colleague. Perhaps the worst at my workplace are the quarterly staff meetings we have (like we did today) where we hold our meeting off-site at a hotel and food is supplied every two hours. Today alone I was faced with bagels, scones, muffins, mini pumpkin pies, chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, cookies, brownies, bags of chips, bags of doritos, potato salad and rolls.

So, how in the world are we supposed to stay on the road to healthy eating without giving in to all of the many detours available everyday? Here are some tips and strategies that I use and that really work:

Bring your own food to work. This is the number one way I avoid eating crap at work. Pack breakfast (if you don't eat it before you go), lunch and snacks. If you have all of your food for the day planned out, you will be less likely to go looking for food and less likely to stray from your plan!

Keep some healthy snacks in your desk and choose them instead of the fatty ones! Be careful with this one...don't keep so much in your desk that you are tempted to over-indulge. Also make sure you aren't reaching for these snacks when you aren't actually hungry. This is your emergency supply. Good choices include healthy bars, almonds, etc.

Always have sugar-free gum handy. I hate when The Biggest Loser pretends that a nice piece of sugar-free gum is a good snack. It's not. C'mon now. If you're hungry, gum isn't really going to do the trick. However, often when we snack at work, we aren't eating because we're hungry. We're eating because the food is right there. If there's food around, pop a piece of gum. You'll have something in your mouth so you won't mindlessly grab something and eat it.

Ask yourself: If I eat this, will I regret it later? Chances are, you will. If you pass up that cookie, the world won't end. You don't NEED it. Cookies aren't going out of style. If the next day or week you really want a cookie, rest assured, you can find one.

Stay hydrated. Of course, you should be drinking lots and lots of water which keeps you healthy and feeling full. You can also enjoy a cup of tea or coffee to keep from grabbing food you don't really want.

So, stick to the tips above and don't be one of those people that storms the kitchen like a stampede to get your hands on a bagel that's been sitting out for hours. You don't need it! Let's all avoid the potholes, detours, and definitely the skunks, and get to our final goals!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rise and Shine: Breakfast

The most important meal of the day. Never ever skip breakfast. Sound familiar? Pretty much any fitness expert you talk to will stress how eating breakfast is a key factor in weight-loss, so I've decided to dedicate this post to our first meal of the day (that's you breakfast).

There are tons of reasons why eating breakfast is so important, (boosts your metabolism, gives you energy, keeps you on track for healthy eating all day) but you've probably heard them all before. So, here are two reasons that you may not have thought about:

1. If you are reading this blog, you, like me, probably are on a diet, which probably like food! Why would you pass up a chance to eat food? It's not too good to be true people. There's no scam. You can and should eat this meal and it will help you lose weight. DON'T go off the deep end though. I'm not telling you to go out and eat some fatty greasy plate full of crap. (See below for some tasty, filling options.)

2. This one's a shocker, so prepare yourself. You should eat breakfast because... you're hungry! It's a pretty crazy concept, but, if you're hungry, you should eat. Cutting-edge, I know.

Here are some of my breakfast staples and their Weight Watchers points:

Egg whites with veggies and reduced-fat cheese (3 WW pts)
Whole wheat english muffin with reduced fat peanut butter (3 WW pts)
Fat-free vanilla yogurt with 1 cup of berries (2 WW pts)
1 cup "healthy" cereal -- my fav is Kashi Strawberry Fields (2 WW pts)

Recipe: Healthygirl French Toast (3 WW pts w/o syrup. 4 WW pts w syrup)

2 slices of light whole wheat bread
3 egg whites
fat free maple syrup (optional)

Combine egg whites, cinnamon and splenda in a bowl. Dip slices of bread into bowl. At the same time, heat up skillet or pan on stove and coat pan with Pam spray. Place slices of bread onto hot pan and brown. Enjoy your healthygirl french toast with syrup if desired. Eat. Feel satisfied and full. YUM!

Recipe: Healthygirl Egg Sandwich (4 WW pts)

1 whole wheat english muffin
2 egg whites
1 tbsp reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 tbsp whipped cream cheese
Franks Red Hot sauce

Toast english muffin. While toasting, cook egg whites one at a time in a hot pan. (Use Pam spray so that they egg whites don't stick). Put cheese on each egg white while cooking. Spread cream cheese on the english muffin. Sprinkle Franks Red Hot on top of the cream cheese. Put one egg white on each half of the english. Eat. Feel satisfied and full. YUM!

OK. I started writing this post while I was eating my breakfast this morning (kashi cereal). I've been writing so long, it's almost time for lunch! Maybe it would be a good time to actually do some work...being that I am at work and all. Ooops.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Now that I am a real life blogger and have committed to documenting my journey, I think I need to set some goals. That way, in a couple of months, I can look back and see how great I have done and probably buy myself a gift for doing so well! Sounds good right?

Overall, I am aiming to lose about 10% of my body weight. I currently fluctuate between 140lbs and 145lbs. This morning, my scale said 143, so that is what we are starting with. My goal weight is 130 lbs. Sooo, here is what I am aiming for:

November 30th (end of the month and gives me a few days after Thanksgiving to cancel out the pumpkin pie): 138 lbs
December 23 (right before Christmas--seems like a good time to weigh in): 134 lbs
January 15 (the day before vacation!): 130 lbs

So doable right? And also pretty random haha. In my head it makes sense, I swear. I am going on a cruise (woohoo vacation!) on January 16 so it would just be perfect if I hit my goal by then. According to my expert counting skills, I have 67 days until I am laying on the ship tanning my new skinnier bod.

Let the countdown begin!

AHH I'm a blogger?!

It's official: I am a blogger. Deep down, I think I've always been meant to be a writer of some sort. Since an actual career in writing never really materialized, I think this blog should work out just perfect for me.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I am a 25 year old girl from Boston. My whole life, I have struggled with weight. And, when I say my whole life, I mean my whole life. It all started way back when I was a baby and I was unable to keep down any formula. To make sure I ate and kept all of the food in, my mother added rice to my bottle. Thus began my lifelong love (and by love I mean absolute addiction) to carbs. Thanks a lot Mom.

Middle school and high school were full of ups and downs. I was never "fat" but never felt skinny enough or comfortable with my weight. I did a lot of comparing to my skinnier friends and quickly became self conscious. I dealt with a few "mean girls" and can still recall being called fat a fair share of times.

In college, I perfected the art of obsessing over diet and exercise. I could have been the poster girl for the freshman 15...okok, maybe it was more like the freshman 30. After my first semester at school, I joined a gym and started thinking non-stop about what I ate. Of course this did not mean that I only ate healthy foods. Oh no, I ate my share of typical college crap like late night pizza, the occasional batch of cookies made by me and my roommates, and I definitely enjoyed many maaaany alcoholic beverages. Ups and downs again. It also did not help that all of my college friends were skinny girls.

After college, I gained weight and was up to 180 lbs (my heaviest weight ever). I remember reading that the average person gains 7lbs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The week before Thanksgiving, I decided I would not, could not be in that statistic. So, I challenged my Mom and sister to our very own Biggest Loser type challenge. We would weigh in every week and whoever lost the most weight by Christmas would win some money. 6 weeks seemed doable and I was determined to win.

Let me give you a bit of info about my competition:

Competitor 1: My Mom
Advantage: She had the potential to win, because she had the most to lose.
Disadvantage: Busy lady. Not very active so tough to get started.

Competitor 2: My Sister
Advantage: Pre-challenge, she ate anything and everything she wanted. Did no physical activity but is only a year younger than me so is young and could start to be active relatively easily.
Disadvantage: Weighed the least. Had the least to lose.

Competitor 3: ME!
Advantage: Worked as a bartender so had days to go to the gym. Had a decent amount of weight to lose.
Disadvantage: For the most part, ate healthy and was active pre-challenge. Not as many bad habits to change.

This challenge changed my life. Because of my intense competitive nature and my serious desire to lose weight, I won! (Go me!) I lost 18 lbs in 6 weeks and never looked back. Even after the official challenge ended, I plunged forward into my new healthy lifestyle until I had lost a grand total of 40lbs. This was 3 years ago.

Fast foward to today. I have kept the 40lbs off and vow to never go back. Sure, I've worked hard over the last 3 years and I've had little slips here and there. There are still days when I feel heavier and days when I want to throw my scale out the window. I still struggle every single day with the choices I make when it comes to food and exercise and probably think about food and diet waaay too much.

I am proud of myself that I have kept the weight off, but now it is time for a new challenge. I would still like to lose 10-15lbs. This blog will recount my experiences along the way. I am sure there will be good days and know there will be bad days, but hope that my journey can help others out there succeed in their own personal struggles.

So, I hope you all will like/love my blog!