Dallas Arboretum in bloom

This spring, I hope to post photos of beautiful tulips in my yard too!


Image  —  Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

My NaNoWriMo Experience

Posted: December 1, 2012 in Personal

I recently participated in NaNoWriMo – an Internet phenomenon where people try to write a novel, or at least put 50,000 words on paper during the month of November. It’s been 20 years since I’ve written anything creatively and thought I’d give it a shot.

As the calendar changed from November to December, National Novel Writing Month  finished. While I didn’t make it to 50,000 words, my writing is however still going strong. Also, I had the blessing of participating in an amazing novel writing class at Women Writing for a Change in Silverton. I got to meet a great bunch of very talented women and learn some techniques and tips that have helped me jump start my abandoned writing dream.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is you don’t have to write a book from page 1 to the end. Right now, I’m working on writing the important scenes, to move the story forward. Then I will go back in and write additional exposition to tie everything together.

The second thing I learn is that it’s very easy for me to write dialogue. The conversations between my characters – or even my main character’s own inner dialogue – just flows from my fingers. The description of things, locations, settings, etc… is more difficult for me.

Since many of you have asked what I am writing or to read what I’m working on, I thought I’d post 2 scenes here for you to read. This is a very rough draft. I’m still working on naming different things, like naming characters, restaurants, towns, colleges. But I hope it gives you a brief glimpse into what I hope someday will evolve into my first published novel. Even if I have to publish it myself.

I hope you like it.

Also, please note, in no way does Callie’s mom resemble MY Mom.


Opening Scene

Kneeling on the cold tile next to the toilet, I thought of every horrible vision I could think of, runny egg yolks dripping down my father’s chin into his beard, the bad sashimi I ate at SUSHI place in Chicago and my subsequent trip to the ER, the stench of the homeless guy in the doorway of the boarded up building down the street. Several dry heaves and cold knees later, I realized that I couldn’t vomit away this pain. The pain was not in my stomach but in my soul. How the hell do you clean that?

With one eye barely peeled open, I opened the medicine cabinet to find the Advil. Four or five of these should help, I thought, as they grinded down my throat without the assistance of water. Then, hidden behind the slightly smashed box of Band-Aids and zit cream, I found the solution to all of my troubles – the remaining muscle-relaxers I got last February from my first and only adventure with skiing. The strained Rotator cuff, the gift that keeps on giving.

I poured the precious pills into my hand. Only two left. After the initial pain from the crash into the tree wore off, I used the pills more for menstrual cramps than shoulder pain. Now I just had two. I should probably cut them in half, ration them out, since I would no longer have health insurance in two weeks. Or, I could just take them both and maybe I wouldn’t wake up to need health insurance. Can you OD on two small muscle relaxers?

I popped both pills into my mouth. Using the pill bottle as my cup, I filled it with water and swallowed the muscle relaxers down. I could feel the odd sensation of the water and muscle relaxers meeting the Advil midway through my esophagus. Oh please don’t vomit now and lose the muscle relaxers.

I laid down on the cold bathroom tile, just in case I did need to get sick now. With the way my luck was going, of course I’d puke up the muscle relaxers. I should’ve rationed them out like I originally thought. I pulled a towel off of the rack to rest my head upon. It was still slightly damp from my shower that morning.

The morning had started off so well. It was a glorious early summer day. Looking down towards Lake Michigan, the activity was already buzzing along the shore, runners, walkers, bikers, skaters, babies in strollers.  It was still early but I had a busy day ahead. I logged in on my laptop, only to find my email wasn’t working. I suppose I will have to find some time to call IT today. What a pain in the ass. Seriously, can’t they get our damn remote access to work. I have six sales calls today – really don’t have time to deal with this.

Two hours later, just as I was leaving my first appointment of the day, my boss’ phone number popped up again on my cell phone. He’d called me once during my appointment but didn’t leave a message. This time, he left a message.

HR was in the office. The Bank had decided to shut our division down, effective immediately, they had no need for the sales force. This was our two-week notice. Bill’s voice continued but I don’t really recall what he said. I knew that other mortgage companies were closing down, but we were a division of one of the most stable, oldest banks in the Midwest. We never dabbled in that C paper some of the other mortgage companies did. How is this happening to us?

I sat in my brand new Lexus I bought three months earlier. It was a huge improvement over my beat up, nine-year-old Accord. Now, I wished I had that old Accord back instead of this Lexus with its monthly payments. Son of a bitch. This can’t be happening.

The Scene Where Callie moves in with her Mom

Pulling up in front of the house, not much had changed. The maple tree in the front yard seemed taller. The driveway had recently been, well, whatever they call it when you put that black stuff on your driveway.  It had been twenty years since I last lived here. Twenty long years and the only things that had changed were the maple tree and the driveway. Thank God for Ativan.

I was still griping the steering wheel when the door opened. Mom, or Janet, as she preferred me to call her now, was standing on the porch, wearing what I can only assume was a knock off Roberto Cavalli leopard print blouse. Certainly she couldn’t afford the real deal on a college professor’s salary. It was only 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon and my Mom looked more like she was ready for an evening on the town. The hair perfectly coiffed, makeup flawless, I bet she even had her acrylics filled to celebrate my return.

What if the car locks jammed? Or if some unknown blacktop monster gobbled me up? I wasn’t sure the Ativan alone was enough to save my sanity.

She started tip toeing down the stairs. I swear her feet were shaped like a Barbie doll’s, in that permanent high heel, pointy toe deal. It wasn’t until I was six, that I realized women could wear flat shoes.

“Darling, oh there you are!” she exclaimed.

One last deep breath for courage, I opened the door and was enveloped in a cloud of Chanel #5. “It’s the only thing Marilyn wore to bed!” My mother told me this with every spritz, as if I had forgotten that she told me the exact thing the day before.

“Hey, Mom,” I said, hugging her back. Trying hard not to breathe.

“Janet, please darling. Janet. I’m so glad you’re home. Why don’t you grab your things and we’ll sit down for a nice chat.”

God forbid she would actually bother to grab one of the boxes out of my car. “So hard on the nails, darling,” her usual excuse.

Grabbing the first box from my back seat, I walked up towards the house, along the marigolds that lined the sidewalk. Marigolds stink. I can see why deer don’t like them. I miss the smelly homeless man.

Inside, the house hadn’t changed much either. The décor was mostly the same mishmash of cheap leather and brass. Clearly, Janet missed the memo that Miami Vice was canceled and the 80’s had ended. There was a new TV, flat screen. My hope over that was diminished when I saw the remote control placed on the end table next to her chair, perfectly aligned with the corner of the table. How sad that such a lovely TV would only experience the never ending cheesiness of the chick flick. Maybe, if I can sneak down here late at night, I can thrill you, darling flat screen, with some danger and intrigue, or at least a Bond movie.

An hour later, all of the boxes were piled on my bedroom floor. The twin bed was tucked under the window between the dormer ceiling. How many nights did I sit in this same bed and vow that I’d get out of College Town some day. Now I was back and my room hadn’t changed a bit. It made me wonder how much I had really changed since my last night here.

“Darling, I made some tea and have some scones. Let’s chat. I have so much to share with you.” It was actually kind of comforting that my Mom hadn’t changed. Here I’ve lost my job, my high rise condo, my entire life and it was still all about Janet. “And please take your hair out of that pony tail. I’m sure it’s fine for driving, but men like their girls to dress up a bit, put a little flair into your appearance.”

Sitting in the living room, drinking tea and picking at a cranberry orange fennel scone, Janet regaled me with the adventures of her latest man. He was a visiting professor from out east. In the History department, she said with the faintest twinge of disdain. He was in town doing research on a local Underground Railroad stop. She went on and on telling me about Grant, while I forced down the scone. It was a bit dry. But it had the exotic “fennel” seed in it. I didn’t have the heart to tell Janet, she’s been eating fennel seed for years in sausage.

“So, darling, what is this nasty little business with your job?” She actually put her tea down and looked at me. There were times I almost believed she was sincere.

“Well, the mortgage industry has basically self-imploded. The Bank had to shut our division down.” It’s odd, trying to explain financial concepts that I myself didn’t think made sense to my PhD English professor mother. I went on for another few minutes, talking about Wall Street investors, CDOs, and subprime mortgages. She let me have those precious few moments to vent before she went to fix it mode.

“Well, you should talk to Frank McTavish. He’s the manager at the Bank of College Town. We went out a few times years ago, but we’re still close. I told him you were back in town and he said he has an opening for a teller. It would be a great way for you to meet someone. Not Frank, of course. He’s too old for you and he’s dating that horrible Peggy Buckwalter, from Admissions. She looks like she’s been rode hard and put out wet.”

I’ve been home 145 minutes and Janet has decided the answer to my life is a man. She is evolving. Typically, she introduces the Man Cure after 60 minutes.

“OK, thanks, Janet. I don’t really have much experience as a teller but I will talk to Frank. Maybe they have some loan officer positions available at the bank. I started out as an LO, I could always get my license back and do that. I was also thinking about looking into getting my Master’s at the U and possibly teaching, like you.”

I had already lost her interest. She had fixed my problem and was moving on with her life. “That sounds wonderful, darling. Oh dear, look at the time. I must go get ready for my date. Grant is taking me to that new B&B on the lake. It used to be the old Helmes place but some big shot from New York came here and turned it into a B&B. If you meet a man who takes you out to dinner there, he’s a keeper.”

I picked at the rest of my scone in silence as Janet completed her toilette in her bedroom. It was times like this I wished my father wasn’t an alcoholic jackass. I could really just use a hug from a real Dad and to hear him tell me everything was going to be OK.

My Life as a Spice Girl

Posted: June 27, 2012 in Personal

Spice Girls – image blatantly borrowed off Google Images. Hey, it’s a free blog. No one pays me for this. I can’t afford stock photos. Sorry.

1994 was a tumultuous year for me. I graduated from my beloved Miami University and the Spice Girls were born. OK, so they were born years earlier but some record label put them all together as the Spice Girls in 1994.

I’ve spent pretty much the next 18 years trying desperately to be Posh Spice. You know the one, Victoria Beckham, married to David Beckham, with that model-esque body and angular hair style. She’s sophisticated, beautiful and edgy. She’s my inner-SuperModel wannabe.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever achieved the Posh level of Spice Girlness.

In my twenties, I think I was probably most like Baby Spice, kind of pouty, girly, silly and most of all, young and stupid. There are so many choices I wish I had made differently. Even though I grew from it, my twenties sucked. Leaving Miami really sucked. Being an adult sucked. You spend so much time as a kid trying to grow up only to grow up and wonder why the hell you wanted to grow up.

Then I turned 30 and I decided I was going to take control of my life. No longer was I going to be a push over, an easy mark. I like to call this phase of my life, my Scary Spice years. Girl Power was my motto and all who got in my way be damned. I wanted to be the most successful, smartest, independent woman in the world.

As I entered my late 30’s, my Ginger Spice phase started. No, I didn’t dye my hair red or wear ridiculous clothing, but I feel like I left the band due to depression. It was a rough period in my life, getting laid off, losing people who were close to me, losing control of my life, having surgery. So I found comfort in the only way I knew how, I ate fabulous food and I drank fabulous wine. Rinse. Repeat. I self medicated with food and wine.

When I turned 40 last year, after fighting back the overwhelming desire to jump off the roof of the American Airlines Center, I decided to make some changes to my life, to try to recapture some of the control I lost. But I knew it couldn’t just be professionally because companies open and close, get bought out and get shut down. I’m at a good company now, and have been there 4 ½ years, but as this economy has shown us, anything can happen. I never in a million years suspected that my job with an AIG company would go away.

So which Spice Girl am I now? Yep, you got it, Sporty Spice. Zumba and Yoga have given me control of my life back. They have helped me recapture some of that little kid who loved to dance and tumble and play. It’s given me a relief from some of the tremendous pressure I put on myself. It’s given me a great group of women who are all supporting each other with our goals, whatever they are. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds and have found an inner strength I never knew I had. I also laugh a lot more now and sleep better. Sleeping well is such an amazing experience.

My goals have changed too through each Spice Girl phase. My dream of getting married and having a family is for all intents and purposes not very realistic at my age. My dream of being an EVP for a Fortune 100 company is probably shot too. My new dreams involve fixing up my falling apart house, being able to pay off my mortgage, losing 30 more pounds, being healthy and continuing to build a great group of friends to spend the rest of my life with.

Maybe someday, I’ll find my inner Posh Spice and wear fabulous Louboutins too.

Girl Power!

This is where I get to tell you about all of the amazing people I’ve met on this journey.

This is my favorite thing to write about because I would not be here without so many fabulous, amazing women and men. Dieting and working out are hard choices to make. As with any difficult lifestyle change, you need support. One reason programs like Weight Watchers are so popular is because they give you a support network.

But I’m here to tell you that you probably don’t need to join a program like that unless you want to. I’ve gotten so much encouragement and support off and online. It’s an amazing feeling when someone at D2D or the office tells me how great I look. It’s so positive when people on Twitter ask me questions about Zumba.

It keeps me going on days I would rather stay home in bed.

I’ve created my own support network on Facebook and Twitter and at work. I have people I talk to about my struggles, about my desire to eat cheesecake, about my frustrations over being fat, about the weight not coming off as quickly as I would like it to.

I encourage you to find a group of people you can turn to for support while you’re getting healthy. Just as you need a good pair of shoes to support your feet and help you keep your balance, you need a good group of people to pick you up and support you when you’re tired, or burned out.

During the boot camp, there were times when we were running laps, (I HATE RUNNING) and I thought I was going to die. Literally thought I was going to keel over and die in the parking lot. I was always the last person to finish running. It hurts my feet. It hurts my breasts. It’s not comfortable. I hate it.

Then I’d see Kerri, Donna, Laura or Katie smiling at me. One of them would say something encouraging or just remind me to breathe. Then Zumba Shelly would yell how great we all looked and how proud she was of us. It’s those little things that can keep you going when you think you cannot.

Many people have difficulty asking for help or support. This is crazy because most people I know are so happy to give help and support to others.

After the first boot camp class, I thought I would die. I wasn’t sure if I would go to the second class. I didn’t even care about losing my money. But I went not only to that second class but to the third and fourth classes too. Zumba Shelly pushed my body harder than it’s ever been pushed before.

Now that I’m finished, I have such a great sense of accomplishment that I made it through. I’ve learned so much about my body, how strong women can be and a lot about good nutrition.

I’ve made my own vow to add five exercises into my normal work out routine, along with my Zumba, to keep the muscle toning/strength conditioning up. My five are: walking lunges with weights, bicycles, standing push ups, tricep extensions and ab tilts.

I’ve also vowed never to let my emotions take control over my body and get so fat in the first place.  I know now that I have the tools, knowledge, and SUPPORT to make sure I stick with this vow.

So to ALL of you who have supported me during this journey, THANK YOU. Without you, I’d still be eating ice cream and pasta and wearing my size 16 pants.

Special thanks to all of my friends at Dare to Dance. Z love to you all – xoxo

YUM you know you want some of this.

This is all of that weird stuff I’m drinking.

One of the most important things I learned in my fitness boot camp with Zumba Shelly, is that when you’re building muscle, also known as tearing muscle fibers so that they build new muscle where the tears are, you need lots of protein. It helps the muscles regenerate. You also need a lot of vitamins and minerals. It can be hard, when you’re restricting your calories, to get enough nutrients through food. If you’re not getting enough of these vital nutrients, you will probably be tired often, be sore and your body could go into starvation mode.

Before my meals, I drink a protein shake. I like the EAS protein powder at Kroger. I buy the Vanilla flavor and I mix fruits, vegetables and other nutrients in it. I mix it with UNSWEETENED almond milk. This has lower calories, no sugar, no cholesterol than regular skim or 2% milk. I will mix in strawberries, canned pumpkin, blueberries, bananas, pineapple, kale, spinach and spices such as cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. This way, I’m not drinking the same stuff three times a week. Sometimes I use frozen fruit and the consistency is more like a milk shake. Just make sure you’re buying the plain fruit and not sweetened fruit.

I drink an alkaline drink and fiber in water. The alkaline drink gives you lots of green plant nutrients. The fiber helps to fill you up and keep you regular. The whey protein powder can have some uncomfortable gastoinstinal effects.

I still eat regular food. I need the extra protein because of all of the strength training I’m doing. I also take a multi-vitamin. I like the Alive for women.

By drinking the shakes before every meal, I also am not as hungry. So I am less likely to over indulge on pizza or cheesecake.

This isn’t for everyone. This is just what works for me. You don’t need a blender. You can buy a shaker glass. You can mix most protein powders with water if you don’t want to use soy, almond or regular cow milk. Finally, you can also buy pre-made shakes, such as the Myoflex Lite shakes. Just make sure you check the grams of protein versus how much sugar/carbs is in the drinks. Same rule goes for the protein bars.

In a shake, I’m looking for at least 26 – 30 grams of protein per serving, with 300 or fewer calories and low sugar.

In a protein bar, I’m looking for at least 15 – 20 grams of protein per serving with 300 or fewer calories and low sugar. I like the Think Thin bars.

I count calories, so the lower the calories, the more regular food I get to eat.

I can find all of these at my local Kroger grocery store except for the alkaline drink, which I get at a health food store.

If you have questions about any of these shakes, bars or supplements, please check with your doctor to make sure they won’t interfere with any medications you might be taking.

This series is finally coming to an end but not until you read the most important part in part four.

This is me at three weeks into my boot camp. Thanks to the super awesome Beth Finn for taking this photo.

This part is the fun part – also known as where I get to shake my bedazzled behind.

The second change you have to make if you want to lose weight is to MOVE YOUR BODY. Getting up from the couch to go to the kitchen to grab ice cream or another diet soda, doesn’t count.

I do Zumba, which is a high impact aerobic exercise based on Latin and Hip Hop dance moves. I love it because it’s fun, it keeps my heart rate up, it tones and it burns calories. I mostly love it because I found a great place to go, Dare To Dance, which is close to my home, like five miles away; there are classes every day of the week and mostly because the people, both the instructors and students, are all super awesome, supportive women and a few men.

I try to go at least 5 – 6 times per week. My membership there is $44. If I go five times per week that equals 20 hour long classes per month, which is $2.20 per class. Stop buying all of that diet soda and you could come shake it with me.

You don’t have to do Zumba or join a gym. You can walk, 30 minutes every day. You can buy a pair of 5-pound hand weights and do walking lunges with those in your home. You can do push ups and sit ups every morning. There are a lot of exercises you can do at home, or in your neighborhood, that won’t cost you anything. I know a lady who gets up an hour earlier than what she needs to every week day morning so she can run for 30 minutes and come home and do calisthenics in her home for another 20, such as crunches, lunges, squats and push ups.

If you have a health problem that limits your ability to exercise, you should talk to your doctor about what you can do. I have nerve damage in my hand, so it’s hard for me to grip heavy weights for an extended period of time or do push ups. So I modify those exercises. I do push ups against a wall, or a car if I’m outside. I’ll hold my 8-pound hand weight in only my left hand. I tape my right hand and wrist up to give it more support.

I have weird Morton’s toes, which causes me to have foot pain in the ball of my feet. So I buy these little toe separators and toe pads for my shoes. I also buy athletic shoes a half size larger than what I wear in a dress shoe. Sometimes if my feet are really bothering me, I don’t do the jumps in Zumba but I keep moving so I keep my heart rate up.

One of the Zumba instructors at D2D was practically 9 months pregnant and she was still teaching Zumba class. Don’t let a physical impairment, or a baby in the belly, keep you from exercising completely.

I get sore and sick just like the everyone. You have to learn the difference between being sore and being in pain. There are things you can to do prevent being sore.

When I first started Zumba, my calves were killing me. I was building the muscles in the calves and that can cause you to be sore. I did not want to lose the momentum I was building up cardiovascular so I did a few things:
1. I bought a calf sleeve at Dick’s Sporting Goods for like $20. I wrapped this sexy beast around my calf while I did Zumba. It gave my leg some support which helped alleviate some of my pain.
2. I increased the stretching I did before and after class. If you’re not sure what kind of stretches you can do to help a certain body part, ask your doctor, ask your Zumba instructor, look it up on line, ask a Yoga teacher.
3. I soak in Epsom Salts. It’s an old fashioned remedy that really does work. There is a science behind it. If you’re a science person, google it to learn more. But a 20 minute soak in a hot tub with 2 cups of Epsom Salts after working out can help ease those aches.
4. I use an empty wine bottle to roll out my large muscles after working out, quads, hamstrings, calves and forearms. You can use a piece of PVC pipe, a rolling pin, your own empty wine bottle or you can buy a roller at a sporting goods store. It helps to keep the muscles loose.
5. Drink a lot of water to help flush the toxins and acid that builds up in the muscles while you’re working them.

As far as being sick, if I have a fever or if stuff that should not be coming out of my body, is coming out of my body, I don’t go to Zumba. If I’m just tired, or have a headache or a stuffy nose, I get my butt to Zumba. It’s helped me to get rid of headaches and other aches/pains. By getting the heart rate up, your blood flowing, you bring more oxygen to your body, which helps it heal quicker.

When it comes to exercising, your body can probably handle more than you think it can. Our bodies were made to move. That’s why we get so stiff and sore when we don’t do anything. There is a big difference between pain and soreness. Pain is a sign of being injured. Soreness is usually a sign that you’re building muscle, which is good.

You need to learn the difference between pain and soreness. For me, if it’s sharp, shooting and blinding, it’s pain. It’s usually isolated to one specific area, like my hand, my neck, etc… If it’s soreness, it’s usually more dull and achy, and in several areas.  Like today, after my last boot camp class, my shoulders, quads, behind, sides of my thighs (I don’t know what that’s called) and abs are really feeling sore.

Losing weight is not rocket science. It’s a combination of decreasing your calories and increasing your activity. But it’s more than that. It’s being dedicated to being a healthier YOU. It’s reprioritizing your life to make time to cook and exercise. It’s finding a group of people who will support you.

Are there times I’d rather go to happy hour and have some chicken wings and beer than go to Zumba? Sure but I go to Zumba anyway because buying size 10 jeans or a size small dress is more fun than eating those greasy wings.

Are there times my house is messy and I need to vacuum and I go to the grocery store or Zumba instead? You bet, like right now as a matter of fact.

Have I given up different foods/drinks so I can lose weight? Yes and it sucks. I miss you baguette from Le Bon Vivant. I try to find substitutes. Instead of eating chocolate candy bars or brownies, I now will just eat  8 – 10 chocolate chips. Instead of eating potato chips, I eat pumpkin seeds.

Will people, including your family and friends be mad if you start making YOU a priority? Probably yes, but most people think when you want to lose weight, it’s all about vanity. It’s not. It’s about your health. I guarantee you’re a better daughter, wife, mother, aunt, uncle, husband, father, son, when you are HEALTHY than overweight, depressed and sick.

One thing I started to do especially when people try to make me eat or drink something that is not the healthiest choice, is I will tell them I am predisposed to Diabetes. I bet your chocolate cake is amazing, but honestly yes, that little itty bitty piece could kill me. I have found the more I commit to working out and eating healthy, the less I want to sabotage that hard work for the temporary enjoyment of alcohol, sweets, fats or whatever your poison is.

Do I think about chocolate? Every single day. I just choose not to eat it every day. And this BS about how the French eat all of this rich food and stay so thin? They smoke a lot which decreases your appetite. They also live in a culture that promotes eating more fresh food and taking more time to eat. I just read an article in the New York Times about the executive for Nestle in France who heads up the Jenny Craig brand. In the article, she ate a very light meal then went outside and lit up a cigarette. Now, I am NOT advocating smoking because that’s up there with diet sodas in terms of it will kill you fast.

It’s OK to indulge occasionally. But really enjoy it when you do. And learn what is occasional. That was my biggest problem. I’d have a rotten day at work or I’d be upset about being single and a pound of pasta, a loaf of bread and bottle of wine later, I was temporarily relieved of my bad mood. Then as the pounds kept pilling on, I got even more depressed, so guess what, I ate even more. Well that’s stupid and a vicious cycle to break.

So now, when I have a crappy day at work or I am depressed about being single, I go stomp it out at Zumba. I talk to my friends. I go for a walk. I make a healthier choice.

In addition to losing weight, I’ve also lowered my blood pressure and cholesterol. I’m sleeping better. I’ve made new awesome friends. I’m happier. People have even commented that I don’t look my age. (I love ALL of you who have told me that. You’re in the will.)

If after reading all of this, you’re still thinking of all of the reasons why you can’t do it, you’re right. You can’t do it, if all you can focus on are the reasons why you can’t. Start small, with small changes. I made changes to my diet at first. I stopped eating pasta and bread so much. I started walking more. I stopped drinking so much wine.

You can do it. I know this because I am doing it. And I love food and I have my own fair share of health and money issues. So if I can do it, you can too. If you need support, just let me know. I am happy to help anyone who wants to get healthy.

But fair warning, if you start giving me a bunch of excuses, don’t bother asking me for help because I’ll just tell you to call me when you’re really ready to take control of your life and your body.

So get moving and get some fresh food into your body.

To learn more about that weird stuff I’m drinking, check out part three.

Making a Healthier You

Posted: June 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

That’s me working out the abs, trying not to put my hand in the goose poop. Photo courtesy of the amazing Richele Nold.

Five weeks ago, I, along with five remarkable women, started a fitness boot camp.  We committed to do four, 90-minute classes of strength training along with food tracking and diet modifications.

I have been updating my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. The support I’ve received online has been as unexpected and amazing, as has the support I’ve received in real life from my friends and family here in Cincinnati.

I wanted to take a moment to share some of the things I’ve learned during these five weeks because many of you, both on and off-line, have asked me what I’m doing, if I could share recipes with you and how you could get started.

Before I share what I’ve learned, let me emphasize two things:
1. I am NOT a licensed medical professional – so please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise/diet routine.
2. This is what has worked for ME. Everyone is different. You have to find out what works best for you.

So how have I dropped three pants sizes and more than 30 pounds in the past 12 months? Through discipline, determination and reprioritizing my life.

The first change I made and the most important change you have to make if you seriously want to lose weight is to change your DIET.

Americans eat, in my opinion, way too much processed foods. Processed foods are usually high in sugar, fat and/or salt. You’re never going to lose weight eating a lot of processed foods. I see a lot of women eating the frozen “lean” meals. They look the same weight to me.

Soda is the devil. Seriously, even diet soda. It’s all chemicals and there is not a single nutrient in soda. I am fortunate that when I was a small child my Mom limited the amount of soda I was allowed to drink. I never really developed that much of a taste for it. But I know some people who drink a gallon of it per day. It does NOT hydrate you, which causes you to drink even more of it. If you need it for the caffeine, try substituting with black tea, coffee or green tea.  Soda also destroys your teeth. The acid erodes the enamel and the sugar causes cavities. I’m going to throw in sports/energy drinks into this category too. It’s so bad for you. Please stop drinking it.

If you want to be healthier, you could stop drinking soda and process foods and you’d probably lose five pounds, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

So what do I eat?  I eat a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, broccoli, vegetable salads, beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, low fat dairy (greek yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese), unsweetened almond milk, tofu and fish.  And before you start telling me that eating healthy is sooo super expensive, it’s not really. It’s time consuming and requires you to cook. But it’s no more expensive than eating all of that processed food.

For example, to eat protein, you don’t always have to eat lean steak, salmon or boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You can swap out eggs, tofu and beans. A pound of dry pinto beans costs about a dollar at Kroger. Even the canned beans probably only cost about $2 per pound.

Don’t like beans, eggs or tofu? Swap out boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Those are usually $1 – $2 cheaper per pound. Try frozen tilapia or canned wild salmon or albacore tuna packed in water. Sardines are also good for you. I buy meat/poultry/fish on sale, portion it out and freeze portions.

My freezer is always full. Just ask my friend Shauna.

Shop around for your produce. If you buy what’s locally grown and in season, it’s usually cheaper than what’s not in season. I also buy a lot of frozen vegetables, such as broccoli florets, edamame, peas, corn kernels, and spinach. When it goes on sale, I stock up. I buy my fresh produce at a produce market. I go to Pipkin’s mostly here in Cincinnati. You could also go to farmer’s markets. Here in Cincinnati, there are several great places to buy produce such as Pipkin’s, Newtown Farmer’s Market, Jungle Jim’s and of course Findlay Market downtown.

There are some great ways you can add flavor to meats and veggies without adding a lot of calories or fat. Several of my favorites are:

  • Fresh herbs and/or garlic
  • Fresh or canned chiles, jalapenos, serranos, chipotles, sriracha, Tabasco sauce
  • Spice rubs/blends – I make my own as most store bought mixes tend to be high is either sugar or salt
  • Vinegars – Balsamic, Tarragon, Champagne, Apple Cider
  • Mustard – I probably have five different kinds of mustard in my fridge at any given moment (Dijon, Asian, stadium, yellow, German spicy and/or whole grain.) If you don’t like mustard, try wasabi or horseradish.

Not only do I watch what I eat, I also track my calories. You can do this in a journal, on your smart phone or on a website. I use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone. It’s a free app and has not only calorie information but other nutritional information. If you enter in how much weight you want to lose, it will tell you how many net calories you can eat per day. There is also a companion website, myfitnesspal.com, if you don’t have a smart phone.

I try to keep my net calories per day at 1300. I get more calories if I exercise that day. This is why fresh foods are essential. You can eat a lot of food for 1300 calories if it’s not processed junk.

The average American eats 131 pounds of sugar every year. That’s more than 26, five-pound bags of sugar. Now imagine where on your body you are carrying those 26 bags. Now think about where you’re going to put those 26 bags next year.

I know – you’re busy. You don’t have time to cook. You don’t like to cook. You don’t have time to go to the store. You don’t have time to track your calories.

How much time do you have to spend in doctor’s offices or hospitals getting tests run? Do you have health insurance and what is your deductible?

Losing weight is hard because it requires discipline and time. Our society promotes eating quickly and conveniently over eating healthy. All of those extreme coupon shows on TV drive me insane because all of the food those people buy is all canned or in a box. There is very little fresh food being purchased on those shows.

You have to make the time. You have to readjust your priorities to do that. Everyone is busy. Everyone needs to watch their money. You can do it though if your health is a priority.

Diet is only half of the plan. To read about the second half, check out part two of this series, Making a Healthier YOU.