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Saturday, December 31, 2011

25th Year College reunion- really? just can't be possible.  I received an invitation last week to attend my 25th year college reunion at my alma mater. It brings to mind the Talking Heads song I remember so well from the 1980's, "Once in a Lifetime".  Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask "Well how did I get here?".  I don't feel like I am 46, let alone 4 years from the big 50.  I know when I graduated from college I thought people in their forties were, well...old. 

So how does my life stack up to where I thought I would be at this age?

On a positive note, I am at peace with myself at my current weight. I feel well and have been making the effort to exercise and stay physically fit. This helps me to cope better with stress and feel comfortable with my body.

I was fortunate to have met the love of my life the year I graduated from college and have been married 23 years.  Our children are growing up fast.  Our oldest daughter will be starting college in the fall of 2012. So yes, I did imagine that at my age I would be happily married with children.

Looking ahead, here are some things I would like to accomplish sometime during the next 20 years.  Yes, I will dare to dream.

Live in a foreign country.

Visit a haunted hotel.

Travel to Australia.

Take a cruise to Hawaii.

Take a road trip with friends.

Learn to Scuba Dive.

Go on an African safari.

Big dream - to own and manage a gym.

Build my dream house in a warm and sunny location.

Plan a reunion with my friends from college.

And how about you, what are some of your dreams and aspirations for the future?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Multi Grain Hot Cereal (Crockpot)

I wanted to prepare a healthy whole grain cereal in the crockpot.  This is a recipe adapted from the Complete Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson.  I modified the recipe to give it more flavor.  It was a little bland so I added natural applesauce and additional fresh cut apples.  It is very healthy and easy to prepare.

Multi Grain Hot Cereal Recipe

1/2 cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup wheat berries
1/2 cup steel cut oats
5 and 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
23 oz. jar of natural applesauce
1/4 cup sugar or preferred sweetener to taste ( I only added about 1/8 cup)


Combine all the ingredients in a lightly greased crockpot.

Cook on low overnight for about 6 hours or on the high setting for 4 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries.  I added raisins which worked out well in the recipe.

Nutritional information per serving:

Yield - 5 servings
Approximate calories per serving - 230
Dietary Fiber 5.7 grams
Protein 5.5 grams

Monday, December 26, 2011

My painful memories of being overweight

My weight loss journey helped to restore my confidence and self esteem.  I can only hope by sharing my story I might move past that period in my life when I was not taking very good care of myself.  I was struggling to adjust to the dark long days of a typical Buffalo winter after moving from Virginia.  For me solace was found in comfort foods.  I will not post a picture or share the amount of weight I had lost.  Only that it was a very difficult and emotionally painful period for me.  I no longer would recognize that woman, a shade of my former self.  It has been 4 years since I have lost the weight, and I have no doubt that I will never let my emotions control my relationship with food again.

My husband says, how do you know that, how can you be so sure of what the future holds? I can only say this, and maybe someone else out there knows where I am coming from.  When I look at old pictures of myself, it takes me to a place I never want to go again.  I can't do it again, I have found an inner peace I have never known before.  My emotions no longer drive my relationship with food.  I will tell you this, I found the habits which drove my compulsion much more difficult to control when I was eating the wrong foods.  A big change I have made is give up eating junk and surgary snack foods.  End of story, that is how I did it.  Another thing I credit with my transformation is making the time for exercise.  I've always enjoyed exercising and working out, but being a busy Mom made the choice to be active a much more challenging proposition.

For most of my life I had not seriously struggled with my weight.  I put on most, if not all of the weight shortly after I moved to the Buffalo area.  Seasonal depression is a very serious condition.  Don't brush it off, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be.  I have learned how to cope, going to the gym and staying active in my community has helped me tremendously. You don't have to face it alone.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Crustless Broccoli Cheese Quiche

I wanted to prepare a healthy brunch for my family on Christmas Day. I made a crustless quiche and served it with Whole Wheat English Muffins. This quiche serves 6 at approximately 111 calories per serving.  My previous blog post has the recipe for the whole wheat english muffins.

Broccoli Cheese Crustless Quiche

2 cups chopped Broccoli
1/4 chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green peppers
Vegetable oil
8 oz. shredded fat free cheddar cheese (I used Kraft Fat free cheddar and some part skim mozzarella)
1 and 1/2 cups lowfat milk
4 eggs
1/4 tsp dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Saute broccoli, onions, and green peppers in vegetable oil until tender over medium heat.
Use a non stick spray to coat a 9 inch deep dish pie pan. Spread the vegetables on the bottom of the pan. Spread the shredded cheddar cheese over the broccoli, peppers and onions.
In a bowl whisk or blend the 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, dry mustard, salt, pepper, and parsley. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place the quiche on the center rack of the oven.
Begin checking for doneness after 30 minutes. You want the outside to be done so that a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The center will be soft. The quiche will continue to cook after it is removed from the center of the oven. Keep checking the oven periodically until it is done.

Remove from the oven. The quiche can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Yield: 5-6 servings

Whole Wheat English Muffins

I was looking for whole wheat bread to serve with a crustless quiche. This english muffin recipe was very tasty and not too difficult to prepare. The recipe yields 12 english muffins. About 212 calories per muffin as prepared.

Whole Wheat English Muffins

1 cup milk warmed until barely bubbling
2 TBS. honey
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water, just warm to the touch
1/4 cup vegetable oil
About 5 cups whole wheat flour
Use up to 1 cup all purpose flour for a lighter muffin. I used only a sprinkle as I prefer to stick with whole wheat flour.
1 tsp. salt

Combine the warm milk and honey in a stand mixer and stir until dissolved. In a seperate bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes until creamy.

Add yeast mixture, oil, and three cups of the flour to the milk. Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer and beat at low speed until mostly smooth. You can successfully hand mix the dough if necessary. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments until a soft dough is formed. The dough has the right amount of flour once it forms into a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. It will take a few minutes for the flour to successfully combine and be incorporated in the dough.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about an hour until it has doubled in size.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal. Punch down the dough and move to the floured surface. Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll the pieces into a ball and place on the waxed paper with cornmeal. Space each ball about 3 inches apart. Slightly flatten the dough balls and sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a lightly greased griddle to the medium heat setting. Dust excess cornmeal off of the muffins and place on the griddle. Cook until a deep brown color is reached on each side. Approximately 5-7 minutes on each side. Place the muffins on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes or until the edges are firm.

Cool and toast before serving.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cardamon Citrus Salad

I recently purchased oranges and grapefruits from a friend for a fundraiser and wanted to make a fruit salad for my family to enjoy. This recipe brought out the natural flavors of the fruit and the cardamon added just the perfect amount of spice and flavor. I was in sticker shock over the high price of the ground cardamon spice at the supermarket ($13). I purchased green cardamon pods in the international section of my local market and ground it myself as it was less than half the price. In a saucepan on medium heat I sauteed 6 pods for about 3 minutes. I mashed the pods on a cutting board with a potato masher and carefully removed the seeds. I placed the mashed seeds in a coffee grinder and ground it up until it was fine. This is the amount I used in the following recipe.

There are about 250 calories in 1/4 cup of honey. Honey helps to build immunity against illness. It is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Honey is high in vitamin C, a variety of B vitamins, and also A1, D and E.

Cardamon Citrus Salad

2 large ruby pink grapefruit
6 navel oranges
1/4 cup honey
4 TBS. fresh lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon (or 6 pods green cardamon ground)

Peel and section the fruit and place in a bowl. Drain the excess juice from the bowl and pour into a saucepan. Add the lemon or lime juice, honey, and cardamon to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Pour over fruit mixture and gently stir to coat the fruit. Let stand for 15 minutes or chill until ready to serve. Yield approximately 6 to 8 servings.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Challenges of Holiday Parties and Get Togethers

This is definitely the most challenging time of year for those of us trying to stay fit and healthy. If the temptation of holiday treats wasn't bad enough, this is also when our kids are most likely to get sick and expose our families to colds, the flu, and viruses. Holiday get togethers and parties represent a tremendous challenge to our willpower and self control. Especially on occasions where you are the guest and must selectively decide which foods and or drinks to try.

Tomorrow evening is the annual Christmas party for my husband's office. It is a wonderfully planned event every year and I am looking forward to it. It will be held at a local science museum and the food will be catered. My approach every year is to be mindful of my choices so I will enjoy myself, but not be overindulgent. What I usually try to keep in mind is to eat and drink in moderation. Otherwise I will wake up the next morning feeling defeated, and when I step on the scale, frustrated. Before the big event, I will eat a healthy lunch and drink plenty of water. When the hors d'oeuvres make their rounds, I will look for the healthier choices such as fruit cocktail, shrimp cocktail, or fresh cut vegetables. I will enjoy the main course, and yes, I selected the filet mignon and not the vegetarian entree. I skip the dessert because for me it always spells trouble with a capital "T". This is the approach which works best for me. What is the most challenging aspect of the holiday season for you?

Here are some suggestions on how to lighten up your holiday meal.

Try using greek yogurt in your dips or as a healthier topping for baked potato.

Substitute skim milk for whole milk in mashed potatoes and add just enough butter for flavor.

Serve fresh cut celery and carrot sticks as an appetizer.

Make a healthy vegetable soup to serve before the big meal.

Serve a healthy fruit salad as a dessert option for guests who prefer to avoid sweets.

Avoid heavy creamy sauces for pasta in casseroles and try substituting whole grain noodles for regular to add more fiber.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Whole Wheat Waffles Recipe

I tried this Whole Wheat Waffle recipe and it was delicious. For toppings I added fresh cut strawberries and blueberries and sugar free syrup. My family enjoyed them as well, even my son who is a very fussy eater.

Whole Wheat Waffles Recipe

1 and 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar (I used Splenda)
1 large egg
1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preheat waffle iron while you make the batter. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a seperate bowl whisk together the egg, milk, and oil. Mix together the milk mixture with the dry ingredients until combined. The batter will be slightly lumpy. Yield- 4 standard size waffles.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Thoughts on Goals and Resolutions for 2012

I can't believe it's that time of year again. It is almost time to usher in the new year and say farewell to 2011. This has been a great year. I am back to work again after being a stay at home Mom to my 3 children for 13 years. It feels great to be out in the working world. I have a renewed sense of accomplishment and purpose. Of course in life nothing is ever perfect, and I have started to think about my goals and ambitions for the year ahead.

A helpful way to start the process is to begin answering questions which will help you focus on those areas where you would like to make some improvements.

What changes could you make in your diet to help you feel better and eat healthier?

Are there fitness challenges that you are facing which you would like to overcome?

What are some of your greatest personal weaknesses and have you thought about strategies to overcome them?

What are some areas in your life in which you might benefit by becoming more organized?

Are there some areas in which training or education might help you to improve your prospects at work?

One goal I have for 2012 is that I would like to hire a personal fitness trainer. I enjoy weight training but I am a little intimidated to join in the "Body Pump" class which my gym offers. It would help to have guidance on how best to workout with the free weights. I have also given thought to becoming a licensed physical trainer and it would be educational for me to see what a typical training session is like. I am hoping working with someone might challenge and motivate me to get the most from my workouts.

My other goal this year is to try to become more organized at home so that I will make more effective use of my time. This has become increasingly difficult now that I am back to work and I have more competing demands on my free time. The biggest challenge is staying organized enough so that I continue to find the time to exercise regularly.

What are some of your goals for the new year?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Healthy Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

I love experimenting with healthy soup recipes during the colder fall and winter months. I tried this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup Recipe which we enjoyed this past weekend.

Healthy Minestrone Soup

4 cups Vegetable Broth
4 cups Tomato Juice
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tsp. salt
1/2 Tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 Tsp. pepper
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced mushrooms or 1 can sliced drained mushrooms
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes with olive oil & seasoning
1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta (any pasta is fine)
1 can red kidney beans, drained

In 4-5 quart slower cooker, combine all ingredients except pasta. Cover and cook on lowest setting for 8-10 hours. Stir in pasta and cook on high heat for 15-20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Keeping the Thanksgiving Holiday in Perspective

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am going to reflect about everything I have to be thankful for.  I also need to keep in mind how not to let the holiday get of control by overeating and as a result, feeling awful.  Luckily my gym is open on Thanksgiving Day and I will be able to burn off some calories before the big meal.  One thing for sure is that there will be no leftovers.  I don't want to deprive my family of a full fledged Thanksgiving feast, so a holiday buffet is our plan for the evening.  I know my husband and children will not want to miss out on dessert, however the idea of baking goodies when I am unable to eat them myself is too much! We have never been to this Thanksgiving buffet before, but we have gone to the Mothers Day brunch.  I  know they spare no expense at the dessert table, so my family will be able to enjoy all the sweets and goodies to their hearts content.

I have many reasons to be thankful this year.  I have a supportive family and many caring friends.  I am fortunate to be in good health and that I have the energy to stay active in my daily life.  I feel great, and I have no reason to not celebrate life.  Ofcourse life has its ups and downs, but I realize how many blessings I have in my life.

After stuffing yourself on turkey day, here are some thoughts on how to burn off or reduce excess calories-

- Take a long walk after the big meal.
- Put on some music and dance around the living room with friends and family.
- Try jumping rope, this burns off about 11 calories per minute.
- Go easy on the Eggnog, this has about 343 calories for a 1 cup serving.
- Choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan pie, this saves about 380 calories for 1 serving.
- Play a fun game of touch football with friends and family.
- Give some of the dessert leftovers to your dinner guests to share the joy.
- Take a bike ride if you are fortunate enough to have nice weather.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coping with the winter blues

The colder temperatures are starting to return to Buffalo, NY.  This can only mean one thing.  In another month we will likely begin to see the return of snow to our area.   I love spending time outdoors during the spring, summer and fall months.  My long walks in the fresh air are emotionally uplifting and help me to unwind after a stressful day.  I wish I could say I enjoyed winter sports like skiing or ice skating.  Unfortunately, my preference is for activities I can do in warmer weather such as hiking or taking bicycle rides. 

Since I have moved to the the Buffalo area, I have learned how to more effectively cope with the long winters.  It is important that I exercise at least 5 days a week.  Staying active boosts my energy level and gives me something to look forward to.  I prefer going to the gym over working out at home because I enjoy the social interaction.  Fitness classes are a great way to try something new as well as providing opportunities to make new friends.

I enjoy going to church every week and staying active in my community. My friends organized a Girls Night Out and we meet one evening a month.  It is so important to make the effort to be social and get out of the house when you are feeling blue.  It will help take your mind off the isolation you might be feeling because you are spending more time indoors.  Meet a friend for a coffee or beer, go out to lunch, go shopping at the mall, or visit a museum.

Maybe you could look into taking a class through a community education program in your city or at a local college.  It is a wonderful way to learn something new.  If you stay busy, you might not be thinking so much about the lousy weather!

The challenges of staying healthy during the holidays

I don't know about you, but I find the most difficult time of year to watch my weight and resist temptation is the period of time between Halloween and New Years Day.  On Halloween I try to buy candy that the kids like but I can resist.  In other words, I won't buy bags of candy containing either Almond Joys or Mounds.  The problem I have with chocolate is that one candy bar can easily turn into one more and so on.  I am fortunate that after Halloween we do not usually have candy left because we get so many trick or treaters in our neighborhood.  Otherwise, I would find a way to share it so there wouldn't be treats around the house tempting me! 

My family and I have a tradition every year of eating our Thanksgiving holiday meal at a restaurant.  The best part is not having to deal with all the leftovers. This way we are able to enjoy the food and festivities for one day and not worry about counting calories.   The day after the holiday it is back to our normal healthy eating habits.  I love this because it enables me to spend more quality time with my family than if I had spent the day slaving in the kitchen.  Has anyone ever taken a cruise either during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays? If so, what was it like and would you recommend it?

Here is some food for thought as we approach Halloween.  The number of calories in a fun size Hershey's milk chocolate bar (16 gm) is 67.  Here are a few suggestions of ways to burn 100 calories after eating a treat!

- 15 minutes of gardening
- brisk walking for 15 minutes
- dancing for 20 minutes
- playing golf for 20 minutes
- 20 minutes of climbing stairs
- 10 minutes of aerobic exercise
- mow the lawn for 25 minutes
- 15 minutes of weight training

Friday, October 14, 2011

Toastmasters anyone?

Is there one thing you always wished you were a little better at? Something that could enhance your life but is very difficult for you?

One thing I have always struggled with is public speaking.  If I am with only one or 2 people, it is not an issue.  But whenever I am in a room with a larger crowd, I have a very difficult time joining in the conversation.  Writing is completely different.  I think this is because I have time to formulate my thoughts and make adjustments as I go along.

It's not that I do not wish to join in the conversation. I enjoy listening to people talk about their experiences .  The difficult part for me is that my shyness can be misinterpreted.  It is not that I am not interested in the discussion.   I never intuitively know the right time to jump in.  Sometimes I will have a thought, but before I can formulate the words to express it, the topic has changed!  I know funny, but this is something I have always struggled with.

This is one of the reasons I love writing this blog.  It is an opportunity for me to express my ideas and opinions in a public forum.  I have the time to carefully plan each posting and what I am trying to say.  I am writing about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.  I know from personal experience how much better I feel when I incorporate exercise and a healthy diet in my daily routine.  Sharing my ideas and personal struggles with others passionate about health and fitness helps keep me motivated to stay in shape.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Staying young means never giving up on your dreams

Have you ever thought about what would be your dream job? Do you have a dream that you wish could become a reality? I have thought a lot lately about goals and ambitions and what I might try to do in the future.  I have been giving some thought to trying to become a licensed physical trainer during the less busy time of year for me at work.  It would be great to have the opportunity to work on the weekends at a fitness facility doing what I enjoy and love.  I am a numbers gal, but health and fitness is my real passion.  As my hours are part time during the late spring and summer, I would have the time to take on this new challenge.  I am heading into tax season and my schedule during the next few months will be very busy.

Are there any thoughts on the different trainer certification programs that are available? I am just beginning to research the topic and would appreciate any feedback that you might have.  Life is so short and it would be a shame to miss out on opportunities.  I don't want to look back at my life and have regrets.  It makes me think of the expression  "When one door closes another one opens; but we so often so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us".  While I have the youthfulness and energy, I know this is the time to pursue goals.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring people and I am blown away by their achievements later in life.   I may no longer be 20 years old, but I believe what keeps us youthful is to never stop learning and growing.  If anyone has a story to share about a goal or ambition they have achieved, I would love to hear it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Who is this lifestyle change for anyway?

For any lifestyle change to be effective it must be something you want to do for yourself.  It doesn't really matter what your friends or your spouse wants if your heart is not in it.  Any prodding by friends or relatives isn't going to make a difference.  Think about the smoker who doesn't want to quit smoking but is nagged by family members and friends. Likewise when you are not satisified with a certain aspect of your life but people try to convince you everything is fine.  You will not escape the nagging feeling that something needs to change.

I remember how I felt after my first child was born.  I had lost weight but was having difficulty reaching my pre-pregnancy weight.  Many of my friends and family told me I looked fine, but I just was not happy with myself.  My weight had settled at about 10 pounds higher than what I wanted it to be.  One big change I have made since then is I do not incorporate sugary or salty snacks in my diet.  As I have gotten older it is much more challenging for me to remain at a healthy weight than it was when I was younger.  Honestly, I find it much easier to control compulsive snacking when I don't eat junky foods because I no longer crave them.  There has been a lot in the news lately about the addictiveness of junk foods and I believe there is a lot of truth to this.  I try to eat things like fruit, cereal, yogurt or boiled eggs for snacks and this helps to keep my hunger under control.

I think the most important thing is to keep your progress in perspective.  This is why it is important to set goals for yourself and measure your progress as you go.  Recognizing the need to make a change is the very first step.   Following through with lifestyle changes is a very difficult process and requires committment, dedication, and patience.  Reward yourself for the small victories.  Remember that you are making these changes for yourself and not to focus too much on the judgement or criticism of others.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Staying fit and active with your partner.

I couldn't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't have a supportive spouse.  My husband and I encourage each other in our committment to eating healthy and exercising.  He is willing to try new foods when I prepare a healthy new recipe.    I have even talked him into trying the Morningstar veggie bacon strips instead of regular bacon when I make scrambled eggs.  He is willing to experiment and try vegetarian meatless entrees with me.  It is not to say that we don't enjoy a nice juicy steak once in awhile.

We both share an interest in staying fit.  We have been going to the gym together in the mornings before work.  We do different types of workouts, he is a runner and I either walk briskly on the treadmill or do aerobics and zumba classes.  We also both enjoy lifting weights. I know how easy it would be to fall into bad habits if we didn't encourage one another. There are days when we both wake up tired and decide to take a break and not go to the gym.  I just know never to let one day turn into 3, 4, or 5 more days. It becomes a lot more difficult to get motivated to go back after a long absence. 

Suggestions on ways to stay active and fit with your partner.

  •  Plan healthy menu options that you will both enjoy.
  •  Go to the gym and exercise together during the week.
  •  Try a new exercise class that looks fun which you both haven't tried.
  •  Compliment and encourage your partner when s/he has achieved fitness goals.
  •  Plan a weekend getaway at a resort where you can hike, bike, golf, or participate in fitness classes.
  • Have a bowling night and get together for a fun night with your friends.
  • Tell your partner when they look great and s/he will appreciate you have noticed.
  • Be supportive and offer to help with household chores so you both will have enough time to exercise.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding the time and energy for early morning workouts

I love to workout first thing in the morning.  I am relieved to know that no matter how busy I will become later in the evening I won't have to worry about finding time to get around to it.  I am always helping one of my kids with their homework or driving someone to an extracurricular activity. The biggest difficulty I have been facing is not to be dragging by the middle of the day because I am so tired after waking up at 6 AM to go to the gym.  I feel energized after exercising, but at about 2 PM in the afternoon I have been becoming a little sleepy.  And no, I can't take naps at my desk at work!

I know what needs to happen.  I need to move my bedtime earlier to about 10 PM at night.  I could easily manage this if my 3 children were always highly organized and managed to get their homework done on time.  But you know how it is, there are always the variables you do not plan for and are difficult to control.  Sometimes you have to leave the dishes in the sink, save that extra load of laundry for tomorrow, and not stay up to watch your favorite late night TV talk show.  It is all worth it in the end, because I feel so much better when I exercise. 

Here are some thoughts on how to be more organized in the evenings so that you will be better able to make it to the gym for those early morning workouts.

1. Ask your kids to tackle their homework right when they get home from school.
2. Try to prepare meals in advance to freeze and serve during the week when you are busy.
3. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks in the evening.  Try decaffinated coffee or warm milk instead.
4. Try not to fill up on heavy snacks at night that might interfere with your ability to fall sleep.
5. Avoid watching TV in your bedroom as this makes it difficult to unwind at bedtime.
6. Listen to some soothing music and take a warm, relaxing bubble bath.
7. Set your workout clothes out before bed so you can make a quick dash to the gym in the morning.
8. Have family members help with household chores so that you can have an earlier bedtime.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

As we evolve and grow, so do our friendships

Sometimes I wonder how my life might have been different.  When I was younger there were friends I was certain I would remain close to and in communication with as I have gotten older.  There have been achievements I wish I could have shared with some of these friends.

Change is good.  What I mean is that as people we evolve over time and our relationships are a reflection of our identity at a given point in time.  Maybe our friends from high school would no longer identify with the person we are today.  I had tried to reach out to an old friend with whom I was very close to for many years.  I was disappointed that she did not respond.  After thinking for some time I realized that we are completely different people at this point in our lives.  She and I might share nothing in common anymore.  Is this a reason for sadness? I think it is mainly a point for reflection.  The challenges and struggles are another part of the bigger picture of who we have become.  I thought about the qualities that define me as a person.

I am a mother, a wife, and a good friend.  I enjoy staying active and fit in my daily life and eating healthy is very important to me.  I love interacting with other people who share common goals and interests.  I am an accounting nerd with a career in public accounting.  I enjoy keeping up with the latest news in my profession. 

If you could describe in a few words who you are and what defines you, what would you say?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Juggling family priorities and making the time to exercise

I was thoroughly tested on my committment to making the time to workout and exercise this week.  After a nice long relaxing summer, it is back to the busy days of after school activities and multiple demands on my free time.  My family's schedule is jam packed from Monday through Friday with activities and time is scarce!  Monday evenings are my daughter's art lessons, Tuesday evenings are my son's guitar lessons, and Thursday evenings are my youngest daughter's violin lessons.  The youth league basketball season has not even started yet.  In other words, our family is running from morning until night almost every day of the week.

I decided that my evening workouts would be too difficult and I would have to make the time in the morning to make it to the gym by 6 AM.  I will miss the hour I usually spend watching the news and drinking coffee with my husband before work.  I also know that I must make the time to exercise because of how much better I feel when I stay fit.  I plan to hit the gym on Monday through Wednesday at 6 AM each morning.  On Thursday and Friday mornings I enjoy attending the Zumba class at the gym.  On Sunday mornings I go to a class which is 20 minutes each of weight training, step aerobics, and high impact aerobics.  How do you make the time to workout when your schedule is very busy?

Here are some suggestions on how to schedule the time to workout-

Make a list of all your family's committments, appointments, and activities for the week.

Schedule a time that is convenient for you to exercise or make it to the gym and stick with it.

Enlist the help and support of friends and family members who know how important this is to you.

If you have the time while your child is at a sports practice or activity, take a walk or run.

If you are watching TV with your family, try doing some strength training exercises such as push  ups,  squats, or crunches during commercial breaks.

If time is so limited that you can't make a full hour at any point during the day, try working out in 15 to 20 minute short bursts.

Reward yourself for sticking to your exercise regimen and when you have attained some of your fitness goals.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salad Recipe

 I recently had a barbeque with some friends and tried out this recipe.  I spotted this recipe on the allrecipes website.  My friends and I loved it so I thought I would pass it along.  We enjoyed this with barbequed steaks on the grill, perfect for a summer day.

Corn and Black Bean Cilantro Salad
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Combine the lime juice, olive oil, clove garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in a jar.  Shake until well mixed.  Combine fresh vegetables, black beans and cilantro.  Pour dressing over the mixture and stir.  I would strongly recommend adding the cilantro, it gave this recipe a wonderful flavor.  Refrigerate overnight and enjoy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

People who inspire you to be your best

I remember when one of my previous supervisors had been evaluating the pool of candidates applying for a position within the company we both worked for.  Something he had said made a lasting impression on me.  While he was reviewing resumes he said he hoped he would be able to hire someone who was down on their luck and did not have a job, but showed tremendous potential.  I thought that this was an extremely rare and respectable quality in a person. I was very impressed by his professionalism and his out of the box thinking.  The world would be a much better place if more people thought the way he did.

It is possible that people are positive influences and transform our lives even when and if we do not know them very well.  I received support during my job search from some very unexpected sources. I am most grateful when I think about how much more difficult the experience might have been without the assistance and intervention of many wonderful people who came to my aid.

In facing challenges and adversity, isn't it rewarding when people notice and compliment you on your achievements? It can make you feel that all your hard work has been worthwhile.

I remember when the manager of the gym where I needed to cancel my membership let me know she was sad to see me go.  When I was at the gym she would compliment me on how disciplined I was during my workouts and on my positive attitude.  It did wonders for my self esteem when she told me how healthy and fit I looked.  I was impressed that she took the time to acknowledge my efforts and encourage me even though I did not know her very well.

Can you think of people who have inspired and motivated you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How often should you weigh yourself?

I have the habit of getting on the scale every morning when I get up.  I like to check my weight about the same time each day to monitor any changes.  The reason I do this is to be ahead of myself in the event that I should gain a few pounds.  It is definitely easier to deal with a 1-2 pound weight gain than to ignore the scale and suddenly realize you have 10 pounds to lose.

My goal is to maintain my "happy weight".  This is what I call the weight range that I am most happy to stay within.  My goal weight is between 135 and 140 pounds.  When I am going on vacation or I have a special event to attend, I am happiest at 135 pounds.  You know, it's the weight that you feel most confident wearing that extra special dress in your closet.  To get there sometimes I have to make some minor changes in my activity level and monitor my diet.    I will cut back on snacks, which for me these days includes nuts and dry cereal.  Maybe I will squeeze in a few more Zumba classes during the week and take longer brisk walks.

There is some debate about whether it is healthy to check your weight daily.  Minor fluctuations are not a cause for concern.  I just want to be aware and honest with myself of what is going on with my body.  I eat healthy so my relationship with the scale is not out of a compulsion to lose weight.  I know I feel my best when I stick with a healthy diet and exercise regimen and I maintain my "happy weight".

Do you have a "happy weight"?  How do you monitor changes in your weight?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to stay on your diet when eating with friends

It can be very difficult in social settings to follow your diet as you might have planned.  Many times well intentioned friends encourage us to eat "just one cookie" but just one often leads to 4 or more.  What I have learned over the years is that the healthy diet that works best for me is probably completely different from the approach that works for you.  This is why it might be so difficult for friends to understand why what they think is helpful advice might actually be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. I had a difficult time explaining why I completely abstain from sugary and junk foods.  The simple reason is that I just do not feel well after eating them. 

I live in Buffalo, NY, and a tremendous aspect of the culture here is dining and eating out in the local restaurants.  It is not easy being a health nut in the chicken wing capital of the world.  Sometimes I feel a little disjointed from the culture because I do not eat the wings or many of the other popular local eating fare.  When I go out with friends I will order a bowl of soup and a salad when the rest of my friends are eating wings and fries. My guess is that they do not even notice and I am more sensitive to it because I feel like I am the only one not joining them.

What I try to do is ask myself several questions and let my conscience lead me to the right decision.  How will I feel in a few hours? Often food might taste good while I am eating it, but later on I will not feel so well.  Have I exercised enough during the day that I should not worry about the excess calories? Maybe I could have a small portion now and bring home the rest to eat later.  Is there salad on the menu that I could order with my entree?  If so, it will help me to not overeat.

What tricks help you to stay in control when you are eating with friends or family?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to overcome obstacles & achieve your goals

In 2009, I had been a stay at home Mom to my 3 children for 11 years.  I had previously worked in accounting and I wanted to reenter the job market.   I thought about things I could do to improve my job prospects.  I always had wanted to study for and pass the CPA exam, but there never seemed to be the perfect time to prepare.  I received my accounting degree 20 years ago, and the material to study was no longer fresh in my mind.  The first step was to fill out the application with New York state Department of Professions to sit for the exam. 

The first obstacle I had to overcome was that I did not meet the state's requirements for credit hours.  I had to enroll in 2 courses at the local community college before I could even take the exam.  Thankfully the courses I needed were offered during the spring semester.

Once I finished these courses, I began studying for the first of 4 exams.  I purchased review materials and just dove right in.  It was tough, I spent most weekends apart from my family and studying became my full time job.  I spent 3 months studying for each exam and during the next year, I passed each of the 4 exams on the first try.  I didn't think it was possible, but because I was committed to making this happen, I pushed myself and never gave up.  I can happily say now that 2 years later I am working again in public accounting and I am very happy.

I wanted to share this story because so many of us face challenges in our daily lives.  This is what I learned from the experience.

Step 1 - Write down and think about the goals you would like to achieve and the obstacles that you are facing.

Step 2 - Make a plan and think about how you can break down what is overwhelming into smaller and more manageable steps.

Step 3 - Make sure that you have a support system in place to get you through the rough patches. 

Step 4  - Remain true to your goal.  If you are committed and make the time and effort, your diligence will be rewarded.

Step 5 - Have faith in yourself and don't give up.  Yes, there will be difficult times ahead, but be assured that all your hard work will make a difference.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What to do when temptation strikes?

Don't you just hate it? You are enjoying the afternoon at the mall and the delicious scent of fresh baked cookies or brownies is calling your name.  Or it is Halloween week and everywhere you look in your house is a Snickers or Almond Joy candy bar that your children have gotten from trick or treating.  What can you do when temptation strikes?

The first thing I try to do is to think about how much better I will look in my clothes if I avoid junk and unhealthy foods.  Shallow, maybe, but it is one of the best benefits that comes from eating healthy and exercising.  My diet has been junk food free for three years now, and I do notice that I have much more energy than I did before.  While I may have gotten a brief boost from sugary foods, it would soon be followed by a crash and I would feel awful.

Another approach that could be helpful is to try to keep a stash of healthy foods around your house that will feed your impulse to snack when hunger strikes.I will sometimes munch on dry nutritious cereals when I am craving chips or other salty snacks.  Instead of eating ice cream, I enjoy a smoothie made with Kefir Nonfat Probiotic, almond mik, and fresh fruit.  If I am watching a DVD with my family at home, I will munch on fresh sliced carrots, peppers and celery with lowfat salad dressing.  It satisfies my desire to munch on something but I do not have the guilt that comes from eating something junky.

If all else fails, sometimes nothing is better than taking a long run or walk to take your mind off these impulses.  Sometimes the desire to eat when you are not hungry is nothing more than boredom.  First have a glass of water, then call a friend, solve a crossword puzzle, or take your kids to the park. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to unwind after a stressful day

I had a stressful week at work and thought about the activities that help most to settle my nerves.  I work in accounting and occasionally after a long day of number crunching, I need an escape. Stress can be a factor leading to the development of future health problems, so it is important to manage it.  I love taking long walks alone, especially in the evening, just to reflect and think about the days' events.  I also love yoga because the stretching helps to melt away the tension that builds up in my body.  Here are a few suggestions of healthy activities to help reduce stress.  How do you unwind after a long day?

 1.    Take a yoga class.
 2.    Take a kickboxing class.
 3.    Watch a funny movie.
 4.    Take a bubble bath.
 5.    Meditate.
 6.    Take a long walk outside.
 7.    Clean or organize your home.
 8.    Go on a date with your significant other.
 9.    Dance your heart out.
10.   Get lost in a novel.
11.   Plan a weekend getaway.
12.   Take a hike in the woods.
13.   Pick up the phone and call an old friend.
14.   Meet a friend out for coffee or drinks
15.   Listen to soothing and relaxing music.
16.   Take a long nap.
17.   Go for a swim.
18.   Take a new fitness class.
19.   Have a girls night out.
20.   Plan a night free from the computer and cell phones.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Facing your workout challenges

I love doing a variety of aerobics and zumba classes.  I must confess that my lack of coordination makes these types of workouts extremely challenging.  I know you have seen me, I am the one in class who is at least 2 steps behind everyone else.   I try to land a spot right up in the front so as not to miss a single step.  Although I mentally process what I should be doing, my body simply refuses to cooperate.  I feel like a 2000 pound gorilla wearing a tutu, clumsily out of step and time with the momentum of the class.

However, once I master the routines, which at times can take weeks,  I feel wonderful.  The workouts are a perfect way for me to challenge and test my physical limitations.  It is precisely what I need to do to try to improve in these areas.  One thing I do know is not lacking is my will and desire to stay in the best shape I can.  Hopefully a positive attitude and perseverence helps me overcome many of my shortcomings.

How have you been challenged by your workouts? What steps have you taken to try and overcome these limitations?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Easing back into my exercise routine.

This has been a better week than I had expected.  I was not sure how I would feel after trying to resume my workouts.  I walked every night and went to my favorite yoga classes at the gym with my daughter.  I did mention my injury to the yoga instructor so she would not be surprised if I was unable to participate fully during the classes. 

Yes, there were some stretches that I had to modify because of the pain that I have been experiencing on the left side of my body.  Usually I am able to push myself to the limits with the stretching, but I had to keep myself in check so as to not to risk my recovery.  I am slowly beginning to feel more like myself again.  I am noticing much less pain when I wake up in the morning.  I really do believe in the positive benefits of exercise in how our bodies recover after an injury.  For me it is not only physical, but emotional.  I am much happier when I make the effort to include exercise as part of my day.

Things are starting to look up, and hopefully, I am just a few short weeks from feeling great again!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Staying Motivated to Workout and Exercise

We've all been there.  Maybe we have been putting too many hours in at work, we overindulge on a holiday meal, or just lack motivation.  What helps you to get back in the swing of your exercise regimen?

I love it during the summers when the weather is nice in Buffalo.  There are many ways to actively spend the day outdoors and exercise.  I love to walk on the riverwalk path in Niawanda Park alongside the Niagara River with my family in North Tonawanda on a beautiful summer day.   The summer months are not usually when I run into difficulty finding the time or energy to exercise.

The most difficult period of time for me is during the dreadfully long winters in Buffalo.  I have found the local gym where my family has a membership to be what helps out the most.  They offer a wide variety of classes and if I get bored, there are plenty of new ones to try.  Lately my 17 year old daughter has been joining me for the Tue/Thur. evening yoga classes.  There are many new classes I hope to try which are offered on their schedule.  One of these days I will have to make it to the Basic Training class!  Things will definitely get more hectic in the fall when the school activities resume, but I must remain committed to making the time for exercise.   I feel so much stronger and healthier when I do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Resuming workouts after an injury

This week I am bummed out, I sustained an an injury on Saturday after a fall.  I have discomfort on my left side and it is especially painful when I bend down to pick something up or sit down.  Little by little I am feeling stronger and hope to get back into my exercise routine by next week.  How soon is too soon to resume your workouts after an injury?

The worst part for me is that exercising is an integral part of my daily life.  I feel better emotionally as well as physically and I deal better with stress when I incorporate activity into my daily routine.   I am hoping to resume slowly next week with some yoga and stretching. This will depend on how I am feeling and what my doctor recommends.  At least I should be able to take long strolls around my neighborhood this week, as this is very uplifting to me emotionally.  I am missing my workouts and I hope to not be out of commission for too long.

For all my friends out there, what has helped you cope with an injury?  Did you ease back into exercise and avoid more strenuous workouts?  The good news is that after 5 days I am starting to feel that I am getting more of my strength back.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do you buy or pack lunch for work?

Normally when I go to work I like to pack my lunch everyday.  I like to be in control of what I am eating and I know that I am eating healthy if I pack it myself.  I usually have a sandwich on whole wheat bread with mustard (usually turkey or ham), a yogurt (plain or sugar free), an apple, fresh berries, and a salad with light or fat free dressing.  Occasionally I will mix things up, but this is a typical idea of what I pack.

Occasionally with my job I am on the road and I just have to exercise some discretion of what I order when I am dining out.  Last week while on a road trip with my daughter, we stopped at a TGI Fridays.  I was happy to see that the nutritional information and calorie counts were provided for each dish.  I was suprised to see that several of the appetizers had more fat/calories than a typical entree!  At least now there is no mystery and you know exactly what you are getting.

I tried the Petite Sirloin which is listed as a RPRP (Right Portion, Right Price) option on the menu.  I enjoyed this dish and it came with steamed brocolli and ginger lime slaw.  At least options like these are available for people like me who are health conscious.   It takes the guesswork out of dining out!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What motivates you to stay healthy and fit?

Life is so busy that sometimes it makes me think about why it is important to stay fit and healthy.  It is not always easy to take time out of our busy schedules to get to the gym.  There are some evenings especially during the school year when I am running from one activity to the other with 1 of my 3 kids.  The one thing I do know is that I have so much more energy to get through a busy day when I am eating healthier and exercising.

The most important reasons to me to stay healthy and fit is so that I can remain youthful, have more energy, and to feel better.  How about you, what reasons are most important to you to try to stay healthy?

"Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded."  -  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Monday, August 8, 2011

Taking positive steps toward a healthier lifestyle

Ephipany- A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.  Have you ever had a moment in your life when something suddenly becomes crystal clear and it motivated you to take action to make a change?

About 3 years ago I did not feel as well as I should have physically.  I took a drastic step and decided to make some huge changes in my diet and exercise routine.  I have eliminated sugar and junk food from my diet.  I have heard the chorus of "everything in moderation" but found that it just never worked for me.  Once I would have the taste of a cookie, I could never stop at just one.  For me now treats include greek yogurt with fruit or a nutrition bar only after reading the nutrition label carefully to make sure I understand what I am putting in my body.  Exercise classes at my local gym really help me feel connected to my community and I love working out with a group.

If you are looking for someone to cheer you on and celebrate your success, you have come to the right place.  I will be rooting for you and encouraging you every step of the way.  I know first hand how much better you can feel with modest changes in your diet and exercise regimen.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What type of lasting footprint will I leave?

I was doing some thinking today wondering what people would most remember about me. I know this is a strange subject, but is this not something we have all thought about?

To my children I hope that I have instilled in them the importance of working and studying hard. I know that life is not always easy, but when things don't go your way, to not give up. That despite hardship a goal is possible to achieve if you put forth the effort.

I also hope that by trying to eat healthy and staying physically fit, I have taught my children the importance of taking care of their bodies. I know that much of what I do is lost on them, because I don't want to be so strict about diet & nutrition that they feel deprived.

Most of all I just want to be remembered as someone who made a contribution. And honestly, I am still trying to figure out what I was placed on this earth to do.

How about you, how would you like to be remembered someday?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pampering yourself is good for the soul

Every once in awhile we all need good a little pick me up after a long week at work, or just because.  So what is something you do just to reward yourself for a job well done? Maybe you have reached an exercise goal, or have eaten healthy all week and want to reward yourself.  Is there something you like to do to lift your spirits?

I just love getting my hair washed and styled at my favorite salon.  I just love the confidence that I feel about how much better I can look when my hair is professionally styled.  We all have days where we just need some "me" time and to be pampered.  Maybe I would try getting a facial sometime or possibly a makeover.  What is important is making the time to do something which helps you to feel good about yourself.  When I walk out of the salon, I feel like a transformed woman.  It does wonders to lift my spirits. 

So indulge yourself every now and then. When you reward yourself for achieving your goals, it will be helpful in motivating you to continue to reach for the stars.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Making Healthy Choices while Traveling

Today I am taking my daughter on a campus tour of SUNY Binghamton. We drove from Buffalo, NY last night right after I got home from work. A challenging aspect of being away from home for me is watching what I eat and making sure I find the time to exercise.

Our hotel room stay includes continental breakfast which is great. Usually I can manage to pull a healthy breakfast together with the choices that are available.  Restaurant menus can be really tricky, and a challenging aspect is to make sure you know what you are getting. I can drive my husband crazy because I will ask the waitress 101 questions about how food is prepared before I make a decision. I am happy to see that more restaurants are now beginning to offer healthy options on their menus.

What are some tips that help you navigate a restaurant menu when trying to make healthy choices of what to eat?

Later we will make the drive to Port Washington, NY, for a planned tour of the campus of SUNY Stony Brook tomorrow. I look forward to the long walks I love taking in my hometown.  I think the people stay very fit there because they do a lot of walking and are health conscious. How much of our own attitudes about health and fitness are shaped by the people around us? It definitely helps me to be surrounded by positive people who are conscientious about their health and well being.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Coffee, the good, the bad, but why I just can't quit you!

I am consumed with trying to do what is best for my health.  But don't get me started on trying to give up my morning cup of joe!  I have heard all the reasons why I should give up drinking so much caffeine, it is a diuretic and promotes fluid loss, it has no nutritional value, it increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, and caffeine is just not good for your body. But I must confess that although I have tried to cut back, it is the one vice I indulge in on a regular basis that I truly enjoy.  I have become accustomed to drinking my coffee minus the sugar, with half and half.  

And for you other folks out there for whom health and fitness is a passion, what is a "guilty pleasure" that you would be hard pressed to give up?  Coffee is something I continue to consume in moderation because I can't imagine my life without it! 

And to be fair to the culprit that is coffee, here are a few reasons it might not be so bad for you.  People have been shown to have a lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes, caffeine may provide protection against Alzheimer's disease, and a cup of coffee represents a contribution of 1.8 grams of fiber to your daily intake just to name a few!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Time to introduce myself, and why health and fitness is so important to me.

This whole blogging thing is new to me, but I thought I would throw my hat in the ring and give it a whirl.

I am a Mom of 3, accountant by day, with a real passion for staying fit and active in my everyday life.  Much of my outlook has been influenced by events I experienced in my life.  I lost my wonderful Father when I was 3 years old to heart disease.  I have had difficulties staying in shape especially after having children with the time demands of motherhood.  Since my family and I have lived in Buffalo, NY, it is necessary for me to make the time.  It helps me cope with the blues that can be truly debilitating given the long drawn out winters here.  Once I get pumped up from exercise, I have much more energy and I really do feel stronger physically as well as mentally.  Exercise to me is more exhilirating and addictive than any drug.

I am hoping that by writing this blog, I can share my experiences with others who understand all too well the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I also believe that you will reap the benefits that you sow.  It is truly worth the effort in terms of how much better you will feel by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.