Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Stew

It's Wednesday, not Thursday, but since I'll be taking a little Christmas vacation beginning tomorrow, I want to squeeze in one last slow cooker recipe this month. I'll be posting to my goals every day, but I won't be back to blogging until January 4th. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a joyous and healthy new year!

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Stew

This is one of those rare recipes that my entire family enjoyed the first time I made it. It's a wonderful combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors. It takes beautifully to all sorts of changes and alterations, so have fun experimenting!


1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups frozen seasoning blend
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added corn or hominy, drained
1 (14-ounce) can white beans, drained (and rinsed, if desired)
1 (6-ounce) can mild green chiles
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, lowered-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine sweet potatoes, seasoning blend, tomatoes, corn, beans, chiles, chicken broth, cumin, and oregano flakes in slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Cook on HIGH 4 - 6 hours, or on LOW for 6 - 8 hours, until chicken is tender. Shred chicken with two forks. Stir well to combine.

Cook's Notes:

Frozen seasoning blend is a mixture of sliced red, green, and yellow bell peppers and chopped white onions. If you prefer, you can use half an onion and one large green bell pepper instead.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

Yes, it's already that day of the week when I hand the mic to you. What's up? Do you have a weight management question or concern? Have you enjoyed a weight management success? Are you stuck in a plateau? Today's the day to ask your questions, seek support, or celebrate your successes, so let's hear from you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 21st -- January 3rd

My dance performance was yesterday, but we're already talking about a springtime show -- maybe Valentine's Day, maybe Mother's Day, but soon, so I'm pretty much keeping things as they are:

1) Planner/praise every day -- especially the weekends!

2) Dance 1/2 hour and Gazelle 1/2 hour, or run

3) 3 liters of water every day

4) Breathe 3 times a day

I'm finding this process of daily posting to be incredibly helpful, so if you'd like to jump in and post your goals and observations, please join me! I'd love to hear from you :).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Surviving Holiday Stress

We're past the mid-month mark, and for many of us, it's crunch time. Between buying and wrapping presents, decorating, parties, cards, dinner party planning and preparation, and religious celebrations, it's easy to get overwhelmed. It's ironic that many of us get so "into" the holiday season that we end up feeling angry, frustrated, tired and anything but joyous and celebratory.

If you're already feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to take five minutes today to just stop. Spend five minutes just sitting still. After the five minutes have passed, ask yourself what you need to do to truly enjoy the holiday season.

As you're considering, keep in mind you're still human. That means you'll be healthier and happier if you're eating healthfully, getting enough rest, drinking enough water, managing your stress effectively, and exercising regularly. These tenets of successful weight management are also the foundation of healthy, happy living...and it's hard to enjoy life to its fullest when they're not in place.

Today I'm going to keep plugging away with my 3 liters of water, make a favorite (easy ;) dinner (using an ingredient my sister sent me--I'll be thinking of her as I'm cooking and eating), dance for a half-hour twice, use my tai chi chuan breathing three times, and get to bed early.

I'm also going to ask my husband for help with a few last Christmas presents, finish up a Christmas gift for a friend with my kids' help, and spend a half-hour listening to Christmas music and finishing up a few last cards. I'm going to skip the Christmas cantata at 7 PM tonight, and instead go to bed early.

What are you doing today to maintain your health and happiness? And what do you really need to do today to enjoy the holidays? Leave a post and let us know!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Date Chicken

As we get closer to the end of this month, it gets more and more challenging to stay on track with good nutrition. Here's another slow cooker recipe that's quick and easy to prepare, and will fill your house with the aroma of Middle Eastern cooking.

Slow Cooker Date Chicken

This is one of the few recipes that everyone in my family enjoyed the first time I prepared it. It's a wonderfully complex blend of sweet, savory, and tart flavors that come from the dates, chicken, and tomatoes.

The cayenne helps counteract the tinny flavor common to canned ingredients, and adds a hint of mouthfeel to balance the low fat content. The recipe isn't spicy at all.


1 (8-ounce) package chopped dates
1 (14-ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
4 cups cooked rice or couscous, if desired


Combine dates, tomatoes, onion, cumin, coriander, pepper, and cayenne in slow cooker and stir to mix well. Place chicken on top and cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender. Shred chicken with two forks. Serve on cooked rice or couscous, if desired.

Cook's Notes:

Thanks to the dates, this recipe has enough carbs in it to make it a complete meal without the couscous or rice. If you're not carb-counting and you'd like to incorporate carbs right into the recipe, simply add 2 (14-ounce) cans of drained chickpeas before adding the chicken.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can You Be a Weight Loss Failure?

"The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure." -- William Shakespear

For the most part, I agree with Shakespear's wise words. You can't change the past, but you can move on from where you are. Failure, like success, is a verb, a journey. It's not something that you are, or someplace that you can arrive at.

In fact, when it comes to weight management, I wonder if it's even possible to truly fail. You can fall short of your goals (I know I do!). You may weigh more than you'd like. Your weight may even negatively affect your health. But because there's something you can do right now to change your weight-related behaviors for the better, is it really possible to fail at weight loss? Or do you learn and grow from mistakes?

What do you think? Let us know :)!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

It's that day of the week when I hand the microphone to you, so let's hear from you! How's it going? Are you keeping up with your weight management goals? Is there a particular challenge you're wrestling with? Do you have a question, want some support and encouragement, or just want to share how things have been? Today's the day, so jump in and speak up!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 14th -- December 20th

Although I don't stray far from my goals on weekends in terms of behavior, developing the habit of stopping by my blog obviously hasn't happened yet :). I'll try again this weekend, although this upcoming weekend will be even more hectic than this one, so I'll admit I'm not making promises!

1) Planner and praise every day, including weekends

2) 3 liters of water 5 days a week, 2 liters 2 days a week

3) Dance, run or gazelle for 1 hour every day

4) Breathe 3x a day

So, what's your game plan as we approach the mid-month mark? Feel free to post what you're planning. I'm finding updating my post daily to be very helpful and informative, so if you'd like to do so as well, join in!

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season to Be Indulgent, Part II

I'm trusting that you're convinced indulgence is a bad thing. That said, it's almost impossible to move through the holiday season without taking a little vacation from weight loss or weight maintenance habits. If you deviate once or twice a month, you'll probably continue to see weight loss. If you eat more, sleep less, drink less water, feel more stress, or exercise less on a regular basis, you can still maintain your weight--if you take steps to ensure you're enjoying, not indulging, in the holiday season.

So how do you enjoy the holidays without going overboard? Here's a baker's dozen of tips and tricks to help you navigate all the temptations and balance out the occasional indulgence:

1) Many people justify their eating by saying, "Well, I won't be able to enjoy this again until next year." That's an excuse, not a reason! Eating more of it now doesn't mean you won't get a craving later. You can't save the flavor for later! And if you really have a craving for eggnog or marshmellow chicks in June, chances are you could either make it yourself, or find it online somewhere any time of year.

2) Your taste buds stop registering flavor after three bites. So take just three bites' worth of those foods you love that aren't your best nutritional choices, and enjoy every bite!

3) Eating and socializing is challenging under the best of circumstances. And, interestingly, many people end up not even tasting all those delicious holiday treats because they're so busy talking and listening! Don't mix eating and socializing unless you can manage it. Get your plate, and go somewhere peaceful to enjoy your meal. Or, get a glass of water or a calorie-free beverage, and get to socializing!

4) Be aware of how alcohol affects your choices. If you know that a spiked eggnog is likely to lead to a big food binge, consider avoiding it unless you won't be able to, or won't be tempted to, overindulge.

5) Keep in mind that alcohol is a high-calorie choice. With 7 calories per gram, it's almost like fats and oils, which have 9 calories per gram. If you imbibe, don't forget it's not calorie-free!

6) For some people, not being with family, mourning the loss of a loved one, or being single can make the holiday season a miserable experience. If you're feeling isolated and alone, come up with a plan to ask for help. Your health care provider, spiritual advisor, or a trusted friend or family member can be a good place to start. And, of course, if you're here, you've got support! Post and let us know how you're feeling, and what you need.

7) For others, the holiday season brings up old unhappy memories, brings together people who otherwise avoid one another, and generally kicks up the stress response, which affects appetite and weight gain. If you can't change the circumstances, change your response to them. Ask for support, use assertive communication skills, set limits with others, and nurture yourself.

8) Sleeplessless wreaks havoc on appetite and mood. Be proactive and take responsibility for your sleep needs. If you'll be traveling, consider bringing your favorite pillow, blanket, or a room spray with you so you can connect with your life back home. And don't forget to be proactive about food and water needs if you'll be flying or taking a long car trip. Thinking ahead to snacks and hydration can make all the difference between gaining, maintaining, or even losing weight during the holiday season!

9) Choose to take responsibility for your own feelings. No one can make you feel a feeling. If you don't like how someone makes you feel, take charge. Often, we feel unhappy with others when we think they should think, act, believe, or feel the same way we do. As tempting as that belief may be, it's not especially realistic, or even all that desirable. Most importantly, it's not true, and holding on to it is only hurting you. Why not try something different, and allow others to be who they are? Trust they're doing the best they can with what they have at their disposal, and focus on doing your best instead.

10) You can't control others' behavior, but you can control yours. Avoid taking or assuming responsibility for what you can't control, and focus on what you say and do. If you're speaking and acting in accord with what you believe is the right thing to do, you're good!

11) There's a saying that goes, "It's easier to save $1 a hundred times than save $100." The same goes for time management! Reduce your stress by being proactive and managing your spare time effectively. Don't just watch a TV show--fill out a few cards during the commercials, or lift weights while you watch. Make a list of the gifts you need to purchase, and take all the information you need with you when you shop. Keep gifts and receipts in one place. Make time to plan ahead, and you'll save time in the long run.

12) Take advantage of every opportunity to get up and move. Put on music and dance at your next family get-together. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Walk through the mall first before you begin your shopping, just for the exercise. Don't worry about whether it counts--just move! All of those little bits of exercise add up every day, week, and month, and help counteract the days when you have to cut exercise short or skip it altogether.

13) The holiday season is a wonderful time to experiment with new ways to nurture yourself. Ask friends and family for ideas. What nurtures them? Bonus: You'll get a great jump-start on ideas for your gift list!

If you try any of these ideas, I'd love to hear how they work for you. If you've got a tip you'd like to share, please post it! Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Chicken Florentine Pasta

Busy with holiday shopping, decorating, and socializing? That's no reason not to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal! I'm devoting the month of December to slow-cooker meals that will get you in and out of the kitchen quickly, without compromising your nutrition needs and goals.

This is a slow-cooker version of a recipe from my online class "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals." If you've taken the course and tried the stove top version, I'd love to hear how you think this version compares!

Slow Cooker Chicken Florentine

Spinach haters will change their mind about it after they try this recipe! The long cooking time gives the flavors time to blend, the chicken is supremely tender, and of course, the slow cooker makes it oh-so-easy...luscious, low-fat, and lightning-quick, indeed!

Nutmeg, usually used as a so-called "sweet spice," is used only as a seasoning, not a flavoring, in this recipe and gives the sauce a wonderful depth. The cayenne helps counter the tinny flavor often encountered in using canned ingredients, and also acts as a fat replacer. It doesn't make the recipe spicy at all.


1 (10 3/4 ounce) can reduced-sodium, lowered-fat cream of chicken soup
1 small white onion, quartered and thinly sliced (or one cup fresh or frozen pre-diced onion)
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (or one garlic clove, minced)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (6 ounce) package pre-washed spinach leaves
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (or 2 1-ounce slices crumbled Swiss cheese)
4 cups cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, spaghetti squash, OR 4 slices toast


Combine soup, onion, garlic, nutmeg, pepper, and cayenne in slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender.

When chicken is done, shred chicken with two forks. Add spinach and cheese, and stir to combine. Allow spinach to cook until it wilts slightly.

Serve over cooked pasta, rice, potatoes, spaghetti squash, or toast points.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Tis the Season to Be Indulgent...

"The greatest crimes do not arise from a want of feelings for others but from an over-sensibility for ourselves and an over-indulgence to our own desires." -- Edmund Burke, British statesman and philosopher (1729-1797)

Between October and February, there are ample opportunities to indulge. Most of us have to cope with cold weather, which can make taking a day off from exercise especially tempting. You may be socializing and spending more time with family, which can ramp up stress and make it easy to rationalize indulgence. With shopping, decorating, and so on, it's all-too-common to get less sleep, and then compensate with caffeine, carbs, or skipping exercise the next day. And, of course, there's food. Need I say more?

Fortunately, it's not impossible to navigate the holiday season, and still manage your weight. Avoiding indulgence is the component that underpins holiday weight management success--or failure.

I find the most common challenge in understanding indulgence is grasping the idea that indulgence is bad. I once had a student in a class share that he "nurtured" himself by going to a buffet and eating until his pants button literally popped off! Perhaps not surprisingly--but sadly--his comment met with approval from many of his classmates. Over-meeting your needs is just as perilous as under-meeting your needs, but we live in a time when indulgence is not only accepted, but encouraged.

And that's too bad, because although indulgence may make you feel better right now, it doesn't help you feel better in the long run. Weight management is perhaps the best place to clarify this truth. Overeat, and you'll gain weight in short order. And for most of us, gaining weight doesn't make us feel better in the long run.

We'll talk Friday about some specific things you can do to balance out your behavior this holiday season. Until then, I encourage you to pay attention to how you talk to yourself, especially when it comes to your particular areas of challenge. Is your self-talk indulgent? Do you speak to yourself harshly? Or do you bounce back and forth between the two? Post a comment, and let us know!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

That's right, it's Tuesday. Do you have a question about weight management or healthy cooking? Have you prepared a recipe from here or from "Luscious, Low-Fat, Lightning-Quick Meals" and want to share how it went? Are you stuck in a weight loss plateau, or enjoying a particular success? Well, we want to know, and today's the day to ask your questions, post your comments, and share your challenges or successes. Let's hear from you!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weekly Goals for December 7th - December 13th

I'm a perfect example of how true it is that, as I'm so fond of saying, "You don't have to do weight loss perfectly -- you have to do it consistently." I rarely step on the scale, but I know from how my clothes are fitting that I'm losing size. And if you've been following my blog, you know I haven't been doing weight loss perfectly :D! So, onward I go...

1) I've noticed that when I'm away from home it's much harder to get in 3 liters of water -- and this week, I'll be out and about almost as much as I'll be at home. So, this week my goal is 2 liters of water daily, as I'm out and about every day this week except Friday and Sunday.

2) I'm loving my 1/2 hour of dance and 1/2 hour of cardio daily.

3) I timed my breathing exercise. It takes about 1 minute. This week, I'm setting a goal to breathe 3 times a day -- again, I'll be out and about quite a bit. I'll amp it up next week.

4) Spending that 15 minutes a day with my planner, and focusing on praise for what I've accomplished, has been tremendously beneficial. No change here!

5) I've been posting on weekdays with my challenges and successes, and I plan to not only keep it up, but ramp it up and start posting on Saturday and Sunday, too.

So...what are your plans for weight management this week? If you'd like some accountability or support, feel free to post your goals, too. Have a great week!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Maintaining Your Weight During the Holiday Season

We talked Wednesday about planning to maintain your weight this year during the holiday season, even if you're currently losing weight. For most people, weight loss during this time of year is a real challenge. Chances are, you're busier than usual, making exercise and adequate rest less likely. You'll probably face both more frequent and higher-calorie temptations food-wise. And the holidays bring a mix of both positive and negative stresses.

All of this means that maintaining weight during the holiday season can be a more realistic goal, even if you're currently losing weight. Maintaining weight means you'll need to keep it up with what you're doing, of course. But, just as with weight loss, you don't need to do weight maintenance perfectly.

In fact, with maintenance, you have a little more leeway than you do with weight loss. It's okay to stay up late a few nights, enjoy a half-cup or two of eggnog, have a few candy canes, and cut back on your workouts a few times a week. You won't lose weight, because you're not keeping up with the behaviors that lead to weight loss. But as long as you don't get too carried away, you won't gain weight, either.

That said, I want to point out that the holidays tend to encourage getting carried away, whether the topic is shopping for gifts, partying, or food choices. And, of course, that's why so many people gain weight during the holiday season.

So, this holiday season, I encourage you to consider how you can change what you're doing a little bit. Not a lot, just a little -- just enough to give you some leeway to enjoy the holiday season, without crossing the line to abandon. It's crucial to give it some thought now, and to plan ahead for the challenges you're likely to face.

We'll talk about that more next week, and discuss some ways to overcome some common holiday challenges to weight maintenance. If there's a particular situation you're anticipating that you'd like to discuss, please post! Until then, have a happy, healthy weekend. See you Monday :)!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Between the cooler weather and frantic pace of December, this seems like the ideal time of year for discussing slow cooker recipes. This recipe kicks off the first of several slow cooker recipes I'll be posting this month. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

My family loves chili, and because chili in the slow cooker is so quick and easy to prepare, I'm always looking for new recipes. Here's a slow cooker adaptation of a stove top recipe on The rich, spicy sauce is a perfect foil for mildly-flavored turkey.


1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 (14-ounce) cans white beans, drained
1 pound cooked turkey meat, coarsely chopped


Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 3-5 hours, or on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Cook's Notes:

To make this recipe even faster to prepare, use 1 cup frozen chopped onion.

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be used instead of turkey. Shred the chicken with two forks after cooking and stir well to combine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Should You Plan to Lose Weight During the Holidays?

It's December, and the holiday season is upon us. For many people, the holidays are anything but a time of comfort and joy. Instead, it's a season of stress and weight gain.

If you're dreading the holiday season, especially because you usually gain weight during this time of year, I encourage you to keep reading, and to stop by often during the month. I'll be turning my focus on Thursdays to healthy slow cooker meals, and discussing ways to handle the holidays healthfully on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Today I want to connect with those of you who typically gain weight this time of year. Many people -- especially those who have been successful recently with weight loss -- plan to continue their losing streak and keep the weight loss going.

That's a great idea, and for some people, it works. If you're successfully putting into play all of the necessary components of weight loss on a regular basis, you may need to make a few adjustments to help you manage the holidays and keep your weight loss going. But for most people, that's not realistic. The holidays offer so many challenges to weight management that weight loss can be incredibly challenging.

Instead of setting yourself up for failure by expecting weight loss, I have a novel suggestion. How about planning to maintain your weight this year? For most people, maintaining is a realistic goal. Maintaining means you'll need to keep it up with what you're doing, but at a less-intense level.

We'll take a closer look at this idea on Friday, but for now, I'd like to hear what you're thinking. Are you planning to continue with weight loss goals? Or do you think you'd be more successful planning to maintain your weight? Let us know :)!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What's New? Tuesday

That's right, it's Tuesday -- your day to speak up and share. So, what's new? Have you enjoyed a success? Are you struggling with a particular challenge? Hit a plateau? Want some encouragement or accountability? Or just have an interesting observation? We want to hear about it! So post a comment, and let us know what's new with you!