Posts filed under ‘tips & techniques’

Talk about pork barrel!

bacon650_33 Yowsa!  The meaty monostrosity that is the Bacon Explosion is all over the web, having caught fire online like pork drippings in a BBQ pit.

The Bacon Explosion has developed a cult following, becoming so popular that it was recently written up in the New York Times.  We Americans are nutty sometimes in our rebelliousness.  Tell us to eat healthy, and we’ll laugh in your face while creating a flab-o-licious carnivorous treat like this one, “containing at least 5,000 calories and 500 grams of fat.”

I’ll probably be banned for the planet for good, but I suggest that we could create a healthy version of this decadence by using turkey bacon, vegetarian sausage, bacon bits, and low-carb/low-calorie BBQ sauce.  I may just have to give it a go myself and see how it comes out.  You never know; it may develop its own cult following.


February 2, 2009 at 12:40 am Leave a comment

Mastering the movies (and more)

moviefood3 What to eat at the movies? If you’ve gotta go with what they’re selling there, here are your best bets according to Glamour online.

  • Soft pretzel – 310 calories, 4 grams fat
  • Milk Duds (3 oz.) – 371 calories,13.1 grams fat
  • Edy’s strawberry iced-fruit bar – 120 calories, 0 grams fat
  • Small Popcorn, no butter – 400 calories, 27 grams fat or Kid Size Popcorn, no butter – 300 calories, 20 grams fat
  • Sour Patch Soft & Chewy Candy (3.5 oz.) – 375 calories, 0 grams fat

Personally, I prefer to sneak my own items into the theatre. I bring 1-cup servings of Kashi GO LEAN cereal, a Z Bar, or some free trade dried mango from Whole Foods.

I also frequently sneak in my own veggie/salmon combo. That’s right. I microwave the Green Giant Health Blends veggies, mix in a pouch of wild-caught salmon, and tuck the entire container deep into my purse. Of course, preparing a hot meal presumes that you know you’re going to the movies beforehand. But, you can keep the other stuff in your bag so you’re always prepared… no matter what you end up doing.

January 30, 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Getting happier

So much of why we overeat is linked to our emotions.  So, it would make sense that if we are feeling happier, we will probably eat better and may even exercise more.

Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., from Prevention magazine, offers some ideas on how to improve our moods through productive socializing.

  • “Team up for chores” – It’s like barn-raising for the modern age. Get a group of friends together, pick a tough chore, and alternate helping each other out getting that chore accomplished.
  • “Hold a swap meet” – Before donating outdated clothes and shoes to charity, gather everything up and invite your pals over for a swap party.
  • “Have a dinner exchange” – Exchange dinners with friends once a week. Keep it simple by making the meal a surprise. No pre-planning necessarily required.
  • “Share a journal” – Write letters or free-form entries in a journal that you then pass along to family or friends. It can be a great way to keep in touch if your support system is far away.
  • “Retreat once a year” – Take an “adopted family” trip once a year where you and your like-family friends get away together someplace fun.

January 27, 2009 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

The upside of stress

We’re always hearing about how bad stress is for us. And, considering what extreme stress does to the body – “…headaches, stomach pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and mind freeze…” – it’s understandable that we’re not encouraged to embrace it.

But can stress actually help us, rather than just hurting?  Turns out, it can.

In reasonable amounts, stress can make you more alert. The “fight or flight” hormones and other stress-induced hormones heighten your senses, speeding up your heartbeat, improving your brain’s blood flow and improving vision and hearing. These hormones can even strengthen your immune system and prevent age-related memory loss by increasing brain cell activity. All this can serve to help you get more stuff done when you need to.

It can be hard to find the balance between good-for-you levels of stress and a harmful state of agitation, but you can learn where the tipping point is and utilize a variety of techniques to keep yourself on the right side of the line.

Having some degree of control – or thinking you do – generates more beneficial stress hormones. Even if you don’t have control, you can fool your brain into thinking you do. Choose not to respond to a certain stressor. Don’t check e-mail, for example, except at designated times. Or, work on other areas of your life over which you do have control, particularly if you’re good at whatever it is. Do something meaningful, like volunteering or donating or helping a friend in a difficult situation.

Taking time to pause also helps keep stress at positive levels. That’s often easier said than done, but when you force yourself to stop and breathe deeply, you often recognize which situations are beyond your control and which ones you can do something about. Pausing keeps you from letting your anxiety spiral into an unchecked panic attack. Ask yourself, too, if your immediate response to the situation is going to make things better or worse. Are you generalizing about your role in whatever is causing you stress?

Limiting perfectionist tendencies is important, too. Perfectionism is unrealistic and sets up unreasonable expectations that lead to unnecessary stress.

Believe it or not, a little bit of stress acts almost like a stress vaccine. If you’ve never experienced a stressful situation, you may fall completely apart when it happens, not being able to handle the surge of hormones flooding it. Having survived some stressful times means that your body is prepared to deal with its biological response when something negative occurs.

And, as we all know, exercising is a terrific way to manage stress. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” mood boosters.  Benefits typically kick in about an hour after you’ve worked out.

So, when you’re feeling stressed, don’t automatically assume it’s a bad thing. Remember that stress can be beneficial when it’s kept at manageable levels and use all the techniques at your disposal to make the most of it.

January 23, 2009 at 8:17 am 1 comment

Fitness doesn’t come in 60 minutes with time for commercials

I am a living, breathing, real-life example of the fact that yes, you can change the way you look. I am also an example of the fact that it can’t be done overnight or even in six or eight weeks.

According to Dr. William Kraemer, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut, making a change in how you look “…takes six months to a year.” And doing it requires consistent strength training with body-challenging weights and a customized program.

What’s up with our desire to accomplish life-changing goals in 24 hours or less? Is it that our attention spans are that short? Or, do we just abhor hard work?

I don’t think so. I think we’ve been conditioned by TV and magazines to believe that transformations are nearly instant. Reality TV portrays extreme makeovers – of all kinds – in timeframes that are compressed by clever editing to make it seem like changes are happening much more quickly than they are. Even though we know it’s not real, we believe it anyway, and that becomes our expectation. No wonder we get frustrated when we don’t drop 10 pounds in our first week of dieting!

I am very aware of this, and yet I struggle when I don’t succeed at a new goal right away. This is happening right now with my pole fitness classes. I take Lap Dance class once a week, and I get irritated with myself when I can’t get the routine just right AND look super hot doing it. Intellectually, I know this is silly. I have only been taking this class for a couple of months, and it’s only offered once a week. My instructor is a professional stripper who’s been dancing since she was five years old. I am just not going to be as good as her right away. Yet, I still leave the studio bummed out sometimes, disappointed in myself, thinking I am not nearly as clever and sexy as I should be.

Thankfully, the lessons of my six-year lifestyle change carry me through. Although I get unreasonably discouraged, I persevere. I know that, in the long run, I’ll get there if I stick to the fundamentals of hard work and consistency.

Guess that means I’m more of a mini-series than a sitcom, hunh?!  J

January 22, 2009 at 5:25 am 1 comment

Losing is the easy part

Okay, not really.  Losing weight is HARD, especially if you have over 100 pounds to lose like I did. 

But, even tougher is maintaining your weight after you’ve dropped those pounds, and we never really talk about that.  So why do we have so much trouble keeping the pounds off once we’ve dropped ’em?

I think it has to do with our instant-gratification culture.  In fact, I was just talking about this very problem last night with one of my pole class instructors.  She is also one of the owners, and she started the business in Canada.  She told me that people in Canada have a very different approach to exercise and joining “gyms”.  She said, in Canada, they can count on a new customer staying in the program for about a year and half.  Here, in the U.S., they’re lucky if they see their new customers for three months.  We just don’t seem to hav the same stick-to-it-iveness as the rest of the world.

This “solve it in 30 minutes” mentality is perpetuated by shows like The Biggest Loser, where overweight people are put into a very artificial environments, losing weight too quickly and exercising at extreme levels that generally cannot be maintained once they get back to their real lives.  Case in point: Erik Chopin, season three Biggest Loser winner, dropped 214 pounds (starting at 407).  In the three years since winning, he has gained back 122, now weighing in at 315.  And, in reading about other Biggest Loser winners, I’ve discovered that most of them have gained significant amounts of weight back.

Interestingly enough, I find this encouraging.  I get so frusrated when my weight goes up a couple of pounds.  I’d like to feel like I’ve reached my goal and I’m done, that I don’t have to think about it anymore.  But I do have to think about it.  I have to continue to work my plan, day in and day out, in order to keep off the weight I’ve lost.  And reading about others’ struggles lets me know that it isn’t easy and that I’m not alone… and, more important, that I’m doing pretty well.

January 15, 2009 at 3:10 pm Leave a comment

Top Ten useful articles to make 2009 your healthiest yet!

January 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm 1 comment

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