Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tasteful Tweaking Tips

One of the biggest challenges (perhaps even the biggest challenge) of switching from unhealthy eating to healthy eating involves taste...

Who doesn't love a bowl of creamy mac and cheese, a pizza loaded with good ole greasy pepperoni, or even those salty McDonald's fries?

Stack those fattening comfort favorites against a bowl of broccoli or a plate of celery sticks and there is just no contest--at least in the beginning. Once your tastebuds adjust, as mine have, you'll likely find that even the old "dieter's standby" that I ate over and over in the 70s tastes good: a hamburger patty (updated with some savory spices and grilled on the George Foreman grill), with a cottage cheese(Breakstone only for me)/canned pineapple/lettuce salad. Even Chicago Man enjoyed that trip back into food time.

But since taste is such an important part of the transition process, I was glad to find these tastebud tweaking tips from Alison Johnson of the Daily Press in Newport News, VA. And here they are:

1. Go slowly. Make changes one at a time over a period of weeks, gradually adding more fresh vegetables, fruit, and seafood.

2. Don't be Plain! Don't start off with a plate of raw broccoli (Alison, I so agree!). She suggests mixing pureed or diced veggies into foods you already enjoy such as mac and cheese, meafloaf, chili, seasoned noodles, soup, or baked items.

3. Use flavoring. Herbs and spices, healthy dips such as hummus, or simply salt (be sure to use Celtic sea salt) and pepper. My absolute favorite is a bottle of Italian herbs that I get at Big Lot's for $1.

4. Give fish a chance; less "fishy" tasting fish include tilapia, cod, and flounder.

5. Be adventurous, each time you visit the store, try a new fruit or vegetable. There are so many recipes available on the internet. I can pretty much find out how to cook anything easily that tastes good, too.

6. Alison's final tip is to be patient. She says children often won't accept a new food till they've tried it 8 or 9 times, "and the same may be true of grown-ups".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Healthy Self Esteem

So far this blog has mostly focused on physical health and wellness, but since I take a holistic approach to my life, I thought it was time to include a post about spiritual wellness.

Without digging more deeply into my "issues" and opening myself up spiritually, I don't think I would have lost 40 lbs since September, improved my fitness, and upped my happiness level.

Opening myself up spiritually and dealing with "buried stuff"--or maybe it's really buried treasure--is what reassures me that this time I really will keep the weight off and finally live the life of my dreams. I've been thin before, and being thin just didn't do it.

It takes more.

Awhile back I got an email newsletter from Louise Kaelin, a life coach in Pennsylvania. I have been getting her newsletters for several years now, and always like what she had to say. The recent issue on "Components of Self-Esteem" really resonated with me.

I did the exercise I am about to share (it's all about exercise one way or another, isn't it?) over a period of weeks, and it helped me tremendously. I spent years dwelling in a state of self-loathing, not forgiving myself for things of the past, and for not being perfect. It feels great to be liberated from that prison! In fact, Louse uses a jail analogy in Step 1, Forgiveness. It was a huge clarifying moment for me when I realized that if I had served jail time for anything in my past, it would have been over long ago and the debt forgiven. Duh! I never thought of it that way before, just kept dragging old garbage around and piling on the pounds of self-loathing.

So here the exercise, with Louise's copyright and contact info at the end.

"Becoming your best self involves a positive healty regard for oneself. Most of us are aware of the extremes of too much self regard (arrogance) or too little (self loathing). A healthy self-regard (like Goldilocks and the Three Bears!) is just right. It's a positive, blaanced, and healthy self-regard and is essential to become spiritually and emotionally evolved.

Self Esteem can be broken down into the following four components. The lower your self esteem, the more important it is to work on these elements individually, and in this order:

1. Forgiveness. So much of what we believe about ourselves is dependent on actions taken years previously. While almost never as bad as we think, these "unforgivable" actions cause us to feel underserving and unworthy of anything good. The odd part is, if it had been an event for which jail time was given, you would have paid your debt and been released years ago. Instead, it's a dirty secret thatyou carry around with you, hoping against hope that no one will find out how bad you really are.

To facilitate forgiveness, complete the following sentence, after taking three long, slow breaths: 'The thing I am most ashamed (or guilty) of is ________' Go with the firs tthing that enters your mind and then use the following clarifying statement: 'I forgive myself for x' until you begin to actually feel yourself forgiven.

2. Acceptance. Once we've forgiven ourselves, the next step is accepting ourselves for who we are right now. Starting with three long, slow deep breaths, use this clarifying statement: 'I accept myself, just the way I am.' Again, repeat this until there is no question of doubting your acceptance.

3. Trust. The third step of improving self-esteem is trusting yourself. Trust your thoughts, your instincts, your gut reaction to things. After the three long slow deep breaths, use the following clarifying statement: 'I trust myself and others'. Repeat until there is no question of doubting yourself.

4. Love. The final and possibly most important component of positive self esteem is self love. Unfortunately, with a sense of self racked by guilt, rejection, and mistrust, it is near impossible to love oneself enough to maintain a healthy level of self esteem. To work on this finally step, use the following clarifying statement, after the three long, slow deep breaths: 'I love myself in a healthy, balanced way'.

Once you've followed these four steps an are beginning to feel good about yourself, start taking actions that support this new self view. Watch the words you use and how you interact with others. Keep it up and you'll have a very healthy and balanced self esteem in no time!

(c) Copyright - Louise Morganti Kaelin, All rights reserved worldwide.
Louise is a Life Success Coach who partners with individuals who are READY (to live their best life), WILLING (to explore all options) and ABLE (to accept total support). She specializes in helping those who know what they want to do and how to do it but still can't seem to get it done by breaking through the blocks and barriers to their success. For many free resources, including Louise's free newsletter of insightful, practical suggestions for creating your best life, visit her website at www.touchpointcoaching.com

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recipe for Life: GF, Vegetarian Lasagna

I made vegetarian lasagna for dinner last night, and both Chicago Man and I loved it! I have made vegetarian lasagna before, but never gluten-free and never with this recipe, which is adapted from Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine's March 2010 issue. (www.tasteofhome.com/healthy-cooking-magazine).

Taste of Home Healthy Cooking is one of my favorite cooking magazines, by the way. Most of the recipes originate from readers, not test kitchens, and it features pared-down versions of many of our old favorites such as country fried steak, meatloaf, and the like.

This vegetarian lasagna recipe came from reader Colleen Cassaday of Lancaster, NH.

It was not originally gluten-free, but I "made it so" by a simple substitution of rice pasta for wheat pasta. The rice pasta (see photo) has a nice, light texture to it. Otherwise, you would never know the difference. We decided we like it even better than wheat pasta because it is not so heavy and "gluey".

I made this dish yesterday morning as I was rushing around, preparing to take my mother to the doctor. I had already pre-cut the vegetables the day before, so I think if you did that it could easily be made before work and then heated, or re-heated when you get home.

Here's my version of Colleen's "Scrumptious Vegetable Lasagna"

9 lasagna noodles (whole wheat or GF, and I only used six noodles to make two layers instead of three)
2 med yellow squash cut into 1/4 inch slices ( sprinkled garlic powder on all the veggies before cooking)
2 med zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 lg green pepper, chopped (I used red that I got on sale a few weeks ago and froze)
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1 large sweet onion, chopped (I omitted this since CM and I have an intolerance for onion)
I TBsp olive oil
1 25 oz jar of marinara sauce (I love Donatelli's which I get at Big Lot's for $1.20 a jar; it tastes like real Italian "red gravy" to me)
1 carton fat free ricotta cheese
9 slices reduced fat provolone cheese (I omitted this)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions (If you want to omit this step, you can include them dry and they will still cook perfectly!)

In large nonstick skillet coated w/ cooking spray, saute the vegetables in oil till tender.

Drain noodles and rinse in cold water, then drain again.

Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce in a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top w/ three noodles, a scant 1 cup marinara sauce, 2 cups veggies, 1/2 cup ricotta, 2/3 halved slices of provolone, 2/3 cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup Parmesan. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

1 piece equals 269 calories (that's using 9 noodles and the provolone), 9 g fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 441 mg sodium 27 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 19 g protein. Diabetic Exchange: 2 lean meat, 2 vegetable, 1 starch, 1 fat.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Yesterday, Sunday March 14, marked the end of my week-long experiment of eating wheat- and gluten-free.

I knew I would be able to do this for one week, but at the start of the process I was not sure how long I wanted to continue it, mostly because it can be challenging to eat gluten-free.

By Tuesday, Day 3, I knew I wanted to continue on this path.

My body, especially my digestive system, felt at peace. My mind was more clear and focused, and while physically I sometimes felt tired, my spirit seemed to have more energy...if that makes sense.

On Thursday Chicago Man and I began reading "Eat Right For Your Type" by Dr. Peter D'Adamo. (www.dadamo.com). I had first read the book in the late 90s, and Chicago Man read it in around 2005.

Twelve or so years ago, I took some of the information to heart--I quit eating chicken (not good for my type), and tried to elminiate tomatoes from my diet. Have you ever tried to cook without tomatoes in some way? It's hard! Spaghetti, pizza, meatloaf, vegetable soups, have all been dietary stapes of mine. Plus, I love tomatoes!

Anyway, all those years ago I really didn't pay attention to the book telling me that wheat is bad for my type. I just kept eating it, because I felt it was too hard to change. (translation: I felt like I was not worth it!, but I didn't recognize it as that at the time)

Now that I am off of wheat, I don't want to go back feeling the way I felt before.

Plus, I lost a pound! My weight loss had been stalled since the end of January when I began consuming more wheat and having more digestive problems. So it was exciting to lost that pound, especially since I did not get much exercise last week (overdid it on the BL Cardio Max DVD and hurt my back).

Dr. D'Adamo states that once a person whose blood type is incompatible with wheat, the person will start dropping weight, and I believe this.

I felt full and satisfied all week, felt like I was eating more than usual, and still lost a decent amount of weight. I finally got into the 220s...yay!

It was a challenge, though. Pasta is easy; there are lots of gluten-free pastas available for decent prices. Bread, however, is another story: expensive, and hard to find.

For whatever reason, Saturday was the most difficult day. I had terrible food cravings, and felt like if I did not get some bread and tomato soup I could eat (my old standby, Campbell's, has wheat and also HFCS--high fructose corn syrup--which I am trying to avoid as well)that I would go crazy!

After a fruitless trip to The Turnip Truck, we finally wound up at Kroger in Inglewood. I did not find any gluten-free bread there that I wanted to try, because the ones they had contained methyl cellulose, not easily digestivle, but I did get some gluten-free waffles by Van's Foods (www.vansfoods.com). And some organic tomato soup.

So that was my dinner: two waffles with a little syrup and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and organic tomato soup. Yum. I felt like those waffles saved me!

I could go on and on about all the changes that happened in the past week, but this is enough for one post.

I want to close by showing a sample menu for today, which is gluten-free, wheat-free, and for me, what also constitutes a healthy eating/weight loss menu.

Breakfast: smoothie made with fresh strawberries, frozen peaches, organic Stonyfield yogurt, a splash of almond milk, and vegan rice protein powder. Delicious!

Mid-Morning snack: banana

Lunch: 2 Slices of GF bread (which I finally found Sunday at Kroger Green Hills), two slices of Hormel Naturals turkey, Swiss cheese, a spoonful of artichoke/kalamata olive hummous as a condiment, and celery sticks.

Afternoon snack: pecans, and an orange

Dinner: vegetable lasagna made with GF, rice noodles, green salad using organic greens and homemade dressing w/ olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and for dessert, one GF chocolate chip cookie and half a cup of Chicago Man's Soylicious vanilla ice milk! Or, I might substitute some more of the fresh strawberries with a bit of yogurt.

Happy Monday, and bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thank Goodness For Bob!

OK, I decided to take the bull by the horns and do something to make me forget about tomato soup!

So I popped my new, Biggest Loser Cardio Max dvd into the computer and started working out with BL trainer Bob Harper and some of the BL cast members from Season 3...and it worked!

I feel energized, and not quite so interested in tomato soup anymore. I don't even want the gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I made earlier today. (ironically, I did not miss "regular" chocolate chips cookies but this wheat free thing set off such powerful cravings I felt like I HAD to have those GF cookies, and it was kinda scary). Better yet, I burned some calories and got a great cardio workout.

I needed Bob's nurturing today...it didn't matter if I couldn't keep up or whether I got out of sync with jumping jacks...which I usually do, lol! His goal is to make ya feel good and keep ya movin', and it worked for me. Even though Bob's "gone Hollywood" he's still a good ole Tennessee country boy and I appreciate him being there for me when I needed him!

Best of all...I felt like I took responsibility instead of wallowing in my grief over what I can't eat anymore!

This reminds me of Abraham-Hicks' emotional guidance system (www.abrahamhicks.com)...moving up into a higher feeling, and I did it by literally moving.

Do you have a favorite method of dealing with your emotions around food...instead of eating food?

No More Amber Waves of Grain?

Today is Day 3 without wheat products, and I have to say...it's not easy.

Nearly 6 months ago I changed my eating habits drastically. I cut out desserts. I switched from white bread and white pasta to whole grain. I began eating more vegetables and lean meats. I cut out fried food and junk food. I thought that was enough.

But towards the end of January, my longstanding digestive problems (I have diverticulitis and some suspected food allergies and intolerances) got worse.

Finally, I decided to do something about it. I have suspected for quite awhile that I have a wheat allergy or intolerance, and wondered if I have celiac disease. (If you are not familiar with celiac disease, read about it here: www.celiac.org). It takes a doctor's visit to get tested for celiac, and since I don't have insurance right now, that will be deferred.

The primary method of detecting food allergies/intolerances are by elimination, so I decided to eliminate anything containing wheat or wheat gluten for at least a week. I also decided to give up eating meat for awhile as I also felt it was affecting my digestive system.

The biggest challenge was breakfast (I usually eat whole grain cereal, or whole grain toast with boiled eggs). So I decided on yogurt and almond milk smoothies with frozen fruit and vegan rice protein powder and "green stuff". Surprisingly, the smoothies taste pretty good. (They would taste better without the green stuff, but I know it's important.).

This change hopefully will be good in the long run, but it has activated a lot of food cravings that I just had not been experiencing previously. Apparently, I had been getting a lot of sugar in the cereal even though I was eating "healthy" cereal.

I can't even eat my favorite lunch, Campbell's Tomato Soup, anymore because it contains wheat flour.

I am frustrated right now!

I feel like I can't even right about it anymore!

If anyone has wisdom or stories to share that will help me along with this, I'd sure appreciate it. I just was not prepared to be having these food cravings.

What I gave up six months ago were things I was ready to give up. I don't miss fried chicken or brownies at all. But I do miss my tomato soup, and also my whole grain tortilla chips from Trader Joe's.

And Chicago Man was kind of overwhelmed to realize he gets all the Vitalicious muffin tops, all the multigrain chips, all the Kashi bars, pretty much everything that was in the house!

It kind of made me feel like I was leaving him all these things in my will, lol. There, at least I found something to laugh about!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Meeting With Biggest Loser Cast Members--A Dream Come True

I live in an area--Metro Nashville/Franklin--that is chock-full of celebrities.

I have friends who regularly run into Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at J Alexanders or Starbucks in Green Hills. (They love my friend's sporty red MG!) Other friends have spotted Kenny Chesney at PF Changs, and Faith Hill at Whole Foods and Green Hills Mall. I know a Realtor who knows where Robert Plant's Nashville home is located, and I have a friend who lives on the same street as Allison Krauss. Taylor Swift was spotted recently at Riverside Antiques in Franklin, presumably buying for her new condo, and the list goes on...

But for me, there is only one Nashville-area celebrity I wanted to meet, and she hasn't been nominated for a Grammy, Dove, Oscar, or any other kind of big-name award. But she is definitely one of my heroes and an inspiration.

Her name is Liz Young, she lives in Chapel Hill, TN, not far from Nashville, and she was on Season 8 of The Biggest Loser. In fact, she is the oldest woman to make it into the Final Four of Biggest Loser, and that has a lot to do with why I admire her so much--she represents all of us "women of a certain age" who were told growing up that fat was inevitable after 40. Liz lost 90 lbs on the show, but more than that…she shared her innermost feelings and experiences with 24 million viewers, changed her own life, and is inspiring others to change theirs as well.

While I don't anticipate reaching 24 million people (or should I dream bigger?) that's what I want to do as well.

I met Liz last weekend at the fabulous Women's Wellness Weekend in Franklin, sponsored by Broccoli Cupcake. BC's founder, Calie Shackleford, is an inspiring woman in her own right. To learn more about her, go to www.broccolicupcake.com. I will be blogging more about the Women's Wellness Weekend later, but for now, back to Liz.

I've wanted to meet Liz since last fall, when her season of BL was airing. Since we're in the same area, I figured it was just a matter of time. In fact, a friend of mine (who is not a Biggest Loser fan) met Liz at a "Ladies Who Launch" event last fall, and had no idea who she was.

As soon as I saw on the Women's Wellness Weekend agenda that there would be "surprise guests" from The Biggest Loser, I just knew Liz would be one of them.

And sure enough, as I was sitting in my seat Saturday morning waiting for the program to begin, Liz, dressed in her Brown Team T-shirt and black slacks, sat down right in front of me!!!! I excitedly texted Chicago Man that my dream had come true!

What I didn't realize at the time was that Tracy, also from Season 8, was with her. Tracy looks vastly different from the 250 lb woman who nearly died after trying to run a mile on her first day of The Biggest Loser, and I did not even realize who she was until she walked onstage and was introduced by the MC.

Both women were on a panel about weight issues, along with Lisa Delaney, author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl and editor of Franklin-based Spry magazine.

While Tracy shared about her Biggest Loser audition experience—last-minute scurrying to find a babysitter for four kids, waiting in line 14 hours in the rain, only to have the auditions cut off and then still being chosen after offering up a prayer—Liz talked about how she wanted to go home after a) hearing the EMT say Tracy was flat lining after her collapse and b) working out for four hours without a break (can you imagine???) on her first day in the gym.

When the producers wouldn’t get her a plane ticket home (filming had already been in progress for 2 days), Liz said she’d go back to Tennessee if she had to walk, but finally struck a deal with the medic. If she thought she was going to die during the workouts, she’d raise her hand and the medic would check her out.

After about Week 4, Liz began to settle in and realized she was on the ranch and into her weight-loss, lifestyle change commitment for the long haul.

Liz and Tracy are both Southern women who like myself, were raised on fried food. They’ve embraced their new eating habits and lifestyle changes, turning to celery and radishes instead of chips and cookies, yet still allow themselves one high-calorie day each week in order not to feel deprived.

My favorite thing they said, though, was that being chosen out of 400,000 people who auditioned for Season 8 (mind-boggling), they feel a sense of responsibility to pay it forward. These ladies are so humble, funny, and inspiring. And hardworking! That show is no piece of cake…no pun intended! Neither were thinking when they auditioned about how they’d have to appear in a sports bra in front of 24 million people each week!

During a break, I visited Liz and Tracy’s booth. They were selling t-shirts for a non-profit that builds housing for disabled veterans (Tracy’s husband is a former Marine) but I am embarrassed to say that I was so excited to meet Liz, and Tracy as an added bonus, that I don’t remember the name of the charity!

The first thing I noticed about Liz was her warmth and expressive, big brown eyes, which didn’t show up on the TV cameras.

I was so thrilled to meet Liz that I was babbling! It is just so good to have a role model in my age range (I actually am a few years older than Liz, but hey…50+ works!). If ever I get discouraged, all I have to do is remember Liz and some of my other favorite contestants, and I know I can do it.

I shared a bit about my own wellness journey, and how I have lost 40 lbs since Season 8 of the Biggest Loser started in late September. Tracy even high-fived me when I told her my size 1X velour pants and hoodie that I purchased in December are getting too big!

Liz gave me an autographed photo of herself, and my only regret about the day is that I did not ask someone to take a picture of me with Liz and Tracy. Wah! I just felt too shy to ask.

Hopefully I will run into Liz again someday, and then I will not be too shy! My camera phone will be ready to hand over to someone to take the pic.

I also hope to meet some other cast members from the Biggest Loser, like Danny Cahill, Coach Mo, Abby Rike, and of course, Jillian and Bob.

Is there someone who inspires you on your wellness journey? Tell me about him or her!