Friday, December 24, 2010

Winter Eating

Fall days and apple picking are far behind, and winter snow is here to stay. Short daylight hours and long, dreary chilly nights seem to slow me down....and make me want to EAT.

The strawberries and super sweet healthy foods of summer are no longer in season and tend to lose their allure. Although nuts abound, it is easy to go overboard with these high-fat goodies during a serious case of the munchies.

Instead I have again been turning to the usual suspects - hot fudge sundaes, warm cookies, hot chocolate. High fat, low substance, high sugar, low protein....the list of no-no's goes on and on.

Why does it turn this way every year? Is my only option to move to somewhere warm year-round, to pack up and head south permanently? Or should I just resign myself to the constant yo-yo of a four seasons diet?

Not this year, I've said again. Not this year.

I'm recognizing patterns, discussing it with others, and sharing secrets and avoiding pitfalls. I think one of the biggest reasons appetites increase during this season is because activity levels decrease - and in myself and many others, this is always an inverse relationship.

So I am making a conscientious effort to move more, in the hopes of eating less. But on the coldest of days, during the long working hours of my busy season, this is just not possible. Because of this, I've come up with a game plan that involves more than just the usual, "I'm going to work out this winter" resolve.

Basically, it consists of two major but incredibly simple mindsets.

The first - I am trying to stick to a food routine this winter. I noticed that I'm not usually hungry in the morning, and especially not when I first wake up. When I wake up, I only want my coffee while I run around carrying out my crazy, harried, morning routine.

However, if I eat breakfast the moment I am done getting ready for my day, I will eat a carefully measured out portion and be satisfied, because I am eating prior to feeling it is necessary. I am then set until lunch, and can even push it back a little without overindulging.

A later lunch means a smaller afternoon snack, and hunger arriving right in line with dinner. Evening workouts and a small snack get me through on most days without going to bed feeling I haven't eaten enough - nor drained of energy.

The second - I am trying to stick to a particular menu this winter. For example, I have a selection of food available for any given day that includes both a little variety and a little routine.

The routine helps me with my portions. If I eat the same thing often enough, I don't panic if I have to pour it without a measuring cup. I can estimate the quantities much better.

The variety helps hold back cravings. A selection of warm, cooked food versus cold dishes, crunchy mouthfuls versus softer delights, salty versus sweets, helps satisfy my taste buds and varying mindsets.

The menu in total allows for holes - little areas of certain days where indulgence won't hurt a bit. For example, I have a menu day that allows for the sugar content associated with one cup of 1/2 fat ice cream at day's end, and another menu day that allows for the fat grams associated with a fast food grilled chicken sandwich or burger and a small fry.

Everything in moderation.

Will my plan work? Time will only tell...but I sure hope it does.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eating Right...What goes in, must come out!

I, like most people, understand the importance of a healthy diet. I know that I must burn more than I eat in order to lose weight, burn what I eat in order to maintain, and that if I eat more than I burn, I will gain weight.

I know these things. You know these things.

But we know other things as well....Like how good an ice cream sundae tastes. Or how much we want chocolate during certain times of the month. And how often we stop at fast food places because we are just too darn tired to cook!

That is why I love the free website calorie counters, like the Free Calorie Counter at

They help you figure out the how good, how much, and how often and then they help you balance it out with exercise and activity. Because what goes in must come out!

And I, for one, would not like my bigger serving size and extra bread rolls to come out in the form of a bigger pants size and an extra stomach roll. I have been there, done that. Its not for me. I would like to work it out, sweat it out, and push, push, push until I am in balance with myself.

The nice thing about all this is that it is not a diet. Its a lifestyle change.

Wait! Don't roll those eyes!

Yes, I know you've heard it before. But its true.

Its true that if you stop dieting and start living, it quickly becomes habit. Its true that on days when you would like nothing more than to treat yourself to some ice cream, you find yourself staring at the nutritional menu.

Even more surprising, you find yourself thinking about how although you wanted a large mix of ice cream, cookie pieces, and chocolate, you are now suddenly thinking that it doesn't taste "980 calorie good." It is no longer worth it to you to waste that amount in just the snack.

It tastes about "300 calorie good," you decide, so you order a small chocolate cone instead. Maybe even a kiddie cone. And you don't feel deprived. Not at all.

In fact, you feel proud. You feel fulfilled. You responsibly treated yourself, which everyone needs every now and then, without even being tempted to go overboard. You allowed yourself to come in and order anything - anything! - and yet you came in and ordered something reasonable.

You should be proud! Congratulations! Its a brand new day.

Nothing feels better than living healthy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 5 Fine Arts of Dieting

If you are like me, you are always looking for a way to maintain or reach your ideal weight. Food is sometimes a friend, sometimes an enemy. Sooner or later, some tasty treats full of fat, sugar, or both show up unexpectedly. Someone presents you with a choice of foods and you are not sure which is better for you.

Don't worry, you can handle it...especially if you practice the simple and practical 5 Fine Arts of Dieting.

1. The Fine Art of Sharing

Remember when you were in preschool and everyone told you that sharing was the way to go? Well it is the way to go in dieting too! The quickest way to get temptation off of your plate is to offer to share it. Having lunch at work? Offer some of your tasty treats to your coworkers. Get in the habit of offering a bite to your kids. Let your husband eat off your plate. A medium fry can wreak havoc on your waist, but a medium fry shared by three or four people becomes a quick little treat of maybe 50 calories or less where no one has to feel guilty.

2. The Fine Art of Waiting

So someone brings in a batch of donuts on a Friday morning, or someone returns from lunch with a bag of cookies. You want some - now. Give yourself a minute to think about it, though, and that may be enough to resist the temptation. Look up the number of calories, fat, carbs, online, and that may help too. If all else fails, expound upon #1 above, and allow your coworkers or family members first dibs. Chances are, if you wait long enough, either they will all be gone before you get there, or your favorite flavors will be, and a plate full of a few picked over crumbs is much easier to resist than a fresh clean one stuffed with goodies. Of course, if you still can't resist, at least now there will only be one or two left, instead of being able to gorge!

3. The Fine Art of Timing

Are you always hungry when you get to a restaurant, and then proceed to eat a "meal before a meal" with free breadsticks or other appetizers? Learn how to better manage time in a way that suits your needs. Eat a (healthy) snack before dining out, eat a full blown meal before grocery shopping, and eat breakfast before work to avoid the pastries that inevitably show up. Time your diets with others around you, so you have to report your progress or at least compare yours to theirs, and then you can celebrate and joke together about successes and pitfalls. Always gain winter weight? Embark on a program before you are able to cover up in big sweaters for six months. Want to avoid crash dieting in summer? Hang the bathing suit up in plain view in April, or even better, March.

4. The Fine Art of Saving

Split a meal before you begin. If you cook at home, which you should for better diet control, immediately measure your portions out and refrigerate the rest. By the time you are finished, even if you are hungry, it will feel like cooking again to reheat the "leftovers" and will be easier to avoid. If you are eating out, do the same. Split half before you start, and get it cold as fast as possible. Hate to ask for a doggie bag in the beginning of a meal? Ask for an extra plate. Fill the extra with what you are supposed to eat, and push the first one far away. You have now pointed out to everyone that you have restraint, and reaching for the other plate will point out to everyone that you are caving into temptation. Set a good example and stay off the second plate. You'll feel better about it when leaving with the leftovers - and realizing you now also saved money on two meals instead of overpaying for just one.

5. The Fine Art of Verifying

This one is a little trickier, but well worth learning. Do not believe everything you hear. A friend once told me she was watching carbs and could not eat baked potatoes, only to sit down with so much fruit that she ate the same number of carbs in the meal. People have repeated many facts and fiction when it comes to dieting, and therefore you should verify as much as you can before eating anything. Want to know whether you should eat ground turkey or ground beef? Better know whether you are talking about lean ground beef or ground chuck, and whether you are talking about 97/3 ground turkey or 85/15. You also need to know what works for you - do you need to watch sodium or fat grams? Red meat intake, cholesterol, or carbohydrates? Dieting is not one sized fits all. Do not let your friends, no matter how well intentioned, sway you from what you know to be fact.

These 5 Fine Arts take practice, but with a little work, they become excellent habits to live by. Good luck!