Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recipe: Hoppin' John Soup

This soup is based on ingredients traditionally served in the Southern United States on New Year's Day to ensure a prosperous new year, but my family likes this recipe so much we enjoy it all year long. It takes about 2 hours to make in the pressure cooker, but requires very little hands-on time. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can prepare it on the stove top or slow cooker--just extend the cooking time by several hours.

Hoppin' John Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black peppercorn mix
8 cups water
1 pound black-eyed peas
1 ham steak, diced
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups fresh collard greens, chopped
1 tablespoon Frank’s hot sauce


Heat olive oil in pressure cooker on SAUTE. Add onion, garlic, and pepper, and sauté 5 minutes, or until just tender. Add water, peas, and ham steak, and cook on HIGH pressure for 45 minutes. Allow steam to escape, then add tomatoes, greens, and hot sauce. Cook on SIMMER for at least 5 minutes (soup is improved by simmering for 30 minutes).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dialectics: Awareness, Acceptance and Change

I've been reading about a relatively new behavior theory called dialectics recently. Greatly simplified, dialectics is grounded in radical acceptance; that is, being fully aware and accepting oneself, others, or a situation, without judgment, blame, anger, or justifications. Once we radically accept, we can move along to the heart of dialectics, which is grounded in finding a perfect balance between acceptance and the need for change.

I'll be the first to agree that both radical acceptance and balancing acceptance and change are challenging skills. That said, both are ideas that are essentials in our weight management journey.

How? Being fully aware is at the core of mindfulness--and mindfulness is at the core of healthy eating. Although you can lose weight by following a strict diet instead of being aware of hunger and fullness, it's hard to eat that way indefinitely. In fact, that's a major reason most people end up regaining weight after dieting. When people learn how to eat mindfully -- being fully aware of what, when, why, and how much they are eating -- weight management becomes a comfortable lifestyle, rather than a painful temporary change.

The core of dialectics -- the ability to balance acceptance with change -- is inherent to other elements of successful weight maintenance. The most obvious example is body pride. Many people neglect their body until they become fed up with their appearance, then plunge into a strict diet, as though they deserve to be punished for their appearance. It makes more sense to accept that your body is an amazing and wonderful creation, while simultaneously recognizing that a healthier lifestyle would show respect for that creation -- that is, finding a balance between acceptance and change.

A less obvious connection is the relationship between dialectic thinking and motivation. Simply put, motivation is the answer to the question, "Why bother?" When you're trying to juggle a long workday, an hour-long commute, three kids, a dog, and two cats, squeezing in a workout and a healthy dinner demands some motivation! If we can't find a balance between why we need to change and accepting our body as it is right now, it can be all-too-easy to say, "Why bother? I'm already fat and dumpy. I've always been overweight. It'll always be this way!"

Dialectic thinking allows us to think, "Well, right now I'm fifty pounds heavier than I've ever been, and I accept that. I wasn't eating healthy or physically active for many years. But now, today, I'm taking better care of my body, and one way I'm doing that is by eating more meals at home, and walking the dog with the kids every evening." In other words, dialectic thinking helps us be more patient -- with ourselves, with others, and with the process of weight management.

How can you put dialectic thinking to work for you? Good question! Here are some ideas:
  • Practice mindful eating: Forego distractions (driving, TV, Internet, etc.) while you're eating. Observe what, when, why, and how much you're eating. Enjoy your meal!
  • Look at your body in the mirror, and choose a particular body part or area to focus on (your stomach, thighs, buttocks, etc.). For every negative thought or emotion you notice, come up with a positive thought or emotion about that same body part or area.
  • Take a few minutes to sit down and just breathe. Then, ask yourself what you're feeling, and what you most need. Make a plan to nurture yourself -- without using food (unless you're actually feeling hungry).
There are more ways to put dialectic thinking into play as we make our weight management journey, and we'll explore them next year. For now, I encourage you to experiment with radical acceptance, and with balancing acceptance and change. Next week, we'll take a look at a recipe for New Year's Eve. Until then, I hope you enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Recipe: Hot Spiced Cider

I've prepared this recipe for years, because it's both nearly calorie-free and delicious, making it easy for me to pass on high-calorie drinks that are so popular this time of year. Plus, it's simmered with fruit and spices, which are loaded with phytochemicals that are good for you. I use my slow cooker, so I can make it ahead of time and keep it hot while decorating for the holidays, or when company's visiting. As an extra bonus, it fills the house with a sweet-spicy aroma!

If you prefer, you can use reduced-sugar apple juice, or regular apple juice, but be aware that doing so will add calories. You can also add a splash of brandy or rum (which will not only increase the alcoholic content, but the calories, too!).

Hot Spiced Cider


2 quarts apple-flavored sugar-free beverage (such as Crystal Light) or apple juice
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
3 whole allspice berries
1/2 orange, thickly sliced
1/2 lemon, thickly sliced


Combine all ingredients in slow cooker (or on stove top). Cook on HIGH until boiling, then reduce heat to LOW.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Handling the Holidays

Christmas is almost here, and New Year's Eve is fast approaching! As we head into these final weeks of the year, losing -- or even maintaining -- weight can be a real challenge. So, let's take a look at...

Donna's Top Five Tips for Handling the Holidays

1. Stay active. This is not the time of year to worry over whether you're logging enough time in the gym, or getting enough steps on your pedometer. All that matters in these last two weeks of December is whether you are moving around as often as you can. Organize a family walk, have a dance party, go caroling, or start a tennis or bowling championship with friends and family using your gaming system. If all you can manage is a ten-minute walk, don't sweat it. Get up and get walking!

2. Plan ahead for balance. There's no better time than the holidays to think about what really matters, and make sure your actions are in line with your beliefs. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to do everything perfectly, attend every party, or drink eggnog and eat fruitcake. You do have to set limits, though, so you can actually enjoy the activities that matter most to you.

3. Manage stress. The holidays, for all their joy and wonder, can also be a difficult time. The general hustle and bustle, societal expectations, loneliness and loss, financial worries, and many other concerns can ramp up in December. Break out your assertive communication skills. Take time for yourself. Ask for help when you need it.

4. Up your water intake. It's one of the simplest things you can do during the holiday season, but it's often overlooked. Staying hydrated is good for your mood, helps you avoid headaches, and does wonders for dry skin. Drinking water also gives you something to do with your hands, instead of eating or drinking at get-togethers. In addition, all that extra water gives you an excuse to head to the restroom, where you can take a short sanity break!

5. Write it down. Whether we're talking about a food record, physical activity, or any other aspect of weight management, you'll find it easier to focus on -- and reach -- your goals if you keep track. Write down your goals, and keep them where you'll see them throughout the day. Keep track of how it goes as the day progresses. Don't worry about being perfect. Learn from what happens, and build on your successes.

 Regardless of what holidays you may be celebrating this time of year, I wish you and yours all the best, and hope you enjoy a happy, healthy December! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Focus on Maintaining, Not Losing

For many people, December isn't just the holiday season. It's also a time when weight loss is a real challenge. Chances are, you're busier than usual, which makes physical activity and adequate rest less likely. You'll probably face both more frequent and higher-calorie temptations, food-wise. And the holidays tend to bring a mix of both positive and negative stresses, on top of the ordinary stress and anxiety we face every day. Many people find that, despite their best intentions to lose weight in December, they weigh more in January than they did in November.

When I first began working in weight maintenance, the doctor I was working with expressed complete confidence that our clients would gain weight in December, undoing all the hard work they'd put in for the past few months. I just smiled and said, "We'll see." To his surprise, not a single one of our clients gained weight. Most maintained, and a few even lost weight!

How did we do it? It was surprisingly easy! Instead of coaching my clients to continue with weight loss, we worked out a plan for maintaining, instead of losing, weight in December.

Why? Let's be honest: The challenges of the holiday season make maintaining weight a more realistic goal, even if you're enjoying success with weight loss. Maintaining weight does mean you'll need to keep doing what you're doing, of course. But, just as with weight loss, you don't need to do weight maintenance perfectly to do it well!

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 little (or even skip a few). 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. That way, you can relax, enjoy the holiday season, and maintain your weight. So, when January arrives, you're ready to get back on track with your weight loss behaviors that will keep you on the path to health and happiness.

If you're already maintaining your weight, then spending some time thinking about how you'll maintain is even more important. Whatever you're doing on a regular basis is just enough to keep you where you are, so any indulgences you enjoy put you at risk for weight gain. That means it's especially important to think ahead to how you'll create a balance between the things you do that allow you to maintain your weight, and the things you'll do differently during the holiday season.

We'll continue talking about handling the holidays next week. Until then, post and let us know what challenge you face this holiday season, and how you plan to tackle it. See you next Tuesday! :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turkey Day Is Around the Corner!

So, are you feeling thankful? Or are you worrying about how you'll stay on track with your weight management goals next week? If you're leaning toward the latter, you're in good company. Thanksgiving is a challenging holiday, whether you're looking to lose weight or just maintain. After all, the day itself is focused on food! Happily, the day doesn't need to do damage to your weight management goals. Take a look at my top five tips for successfully managing Thanksgiving:
Donna's Top Five Thanksgiving Tips

  1. Write it down. Writing down what you're eating is the best way to stay on track with your weight management goals. If you're not in the habit of writing down what you're eating, consider focusing on a specific challenge area. For example, if you tend to overdo appetizers, write them down. If dessert or drinks are your downfall, write them down. Amping up your eating awareness, even if you're only paying attention for some of the day, is better than blindly noshing and munching your way through the day. If leftovers are a challenge, keep tracking until the leftovers are gone.
  2. Have a plan for stress management. For some, Thanksgiving is a relaxing, enjoyable day with no work and no worries. But for many of us, it's a day fraught with both work and worry. If you use food to help you cope with feelings, give some thought to how you'll manage your feelings. Thanksgiving is a perfect day to practice reasonable expectations for yourself and others, work on controlled breathing, explore aromatherapy, or put your assertive communication skills to work!
  3. Think about physical activity. The idea isn't to burn off the calories you're eating. Instead, focus on finding a balance between on food and Thanksgiving Day. For example, challenge family and friends to a game of tennis or bowling on your gaming system. Go outside and toss around a football. Or, put on your favorite music and get up to dance! Maybe you'd benefit from a quiet walk around the neighborhood. Either way, physical activity takes the focus off all the food.
  4. Be thankful. As simple and obvious as it sounds, taking the time to really experience gratitude is something that's often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the day. Write down one thing you're thankful for, and post your note where you will see it often as the day progresses. Make a list of your blessings, and share it with others. Give of your time, talent, or treasure to others, or make plan to do so during the upcoming holiday season or next year. Enjoy and share the gifts and blessings you've received this year! 
  5. Keep your goals reasonable. If you usually eat 3 pieces of pie loaded with ice cream and whipped topping, cutting back to no dessert may start off well enough. Often, though, it morphs into an evening of, "Well, I'll just have a bite of yours..." "Well, I didn't have dessert, so eating my kid's leftover pie crust should be okay..." "Well, I haven't really had a plate of my own, so a little sliver won't do me any harm..." We all know how this game ends! It's more reasonable to plan ahead for one piece of pie, with a small scoop of ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream. 
Now it's your turn...How do you successfully navigate the Thanksgiving holiday? Share your tips and tricks with us...and have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Recipe: Tofu Sweet Potato Pie

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and one of my favorite Thanksgiving desserts is sweet potato pie! I wanted to develop a tofu-based version, to up the protein content and reduce fat. I replaced eggs with egg substitute and pastry crust with crumb crust to reduce the fat content still further. To reduce carbohydrates, I replaced brown sugar with agave and molasses. Despite all these healthful changes, this recipe is still delicious!

Tofu Sweet Potato Pie

1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, well-drained
1 (12-ounce) package Mori-Nu tofu
1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)
¾ cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons molasses
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 (9”) crumb pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine sweet potatoes, tofu, agave, egg substitute, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in blender and puree until combined, stopping blender and scraping down sides of blender once. Pour into crusts and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Is a Pound of Muscle the Same as a Pound of Fat?

A student in my online class "Lose Weight" recently shared that a leader in a weight loss group told her that a pound of fat was essentially the same as a pound of muscle. Because we talk about the importance of strength training in "Lose Weight," and discuss the importance of muscle mass, she was perplexed, and wanted to know if there's really any difference between a pound of muscle and a pound of fat.

It's true, of course, that a pound of fat weighs as much as a pound of muscle. That reminds me of the old joke, "Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of bricks? Of course, the answer is, "Neither -- they both weigh the same! I loved that joke as a kid!

That said...Imagine how big a pile a pound of feathers would be. Now, compare that pile to 1/5 of a brick (a small brick weighs about 5 pounds). Naturally, the pound of feathers would be much larger than a pound of brick.

What we're looking at here is the difference between volume, which is the amount of space something takes up, as compared to density, which is how much something weighs. A pound of fat has the same density as a pound of muscle. However, a pound of fat and a pound of muscle don't have the same volume. A pound of fat takes up about twice as much space as a pound of muscle.

So far, we've been talking only about anatomy (how the body looks). When we turn our attention to physiology (how the body works), there's simply no comparison between muscle and fat. Muscle burns calories, even when inactive. Muscle provides structure, stability, and contributes to balance.
Fat does provide protection and cushion, and it's essential for many body processes.

But one thing many people aren't aware of is that fat doesn't just sit around. Fat is metabolically active; that is, it interacts with the body on a hormonal level. In particular, fat cells release chemicals that can result in chronic inflammation (an increase in the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood). Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, metabolic syndrome, and physical disability. That's why, although some fat is required for good health, too much fat can pose health risks.

So, it's simply not true that a pound of fat and a pound of muscle are essentially the same -- even if they do weigh the same amount. It's easy to get confused by the difference between volume and density, but it's important to keep those differences separate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Recipe: Indian Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

It's that time of year when recipes for sweet potatoes abound! I love sweet potatoes, and I'll be sharing more of my faves as the month progresses. I've made this recipe on the stove top and in the pressure cooker, but I usually make it in the slow cooker: It's fast and easy, and fills the house with the exotic spices of India. Garam masala is an Indian spice blend; I strongly suggest using Rani's, which you can find online at www.ranifoods.com.

Indian Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach


1 (29-ounce) can sweet potatoes, drained
1 (14-ounce) can reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly slice
2 tablespoons bottled minced ginger
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground four-peppercorn seasoning
2 dashes ground cayenne
1 (10-ounce) package spinach
1 pound chicken tenderloins


Combine sweet potatoes, broth, onion, ginger, garlic, garam masala, peppercorn, and cayenne in slow cooker. Add tenderloins and cook on LOW for 2 - 4 hours, or until chicken is cooked through. Chunk tenderloins using two forks. Add spinach and cook briefly, until spinach wilts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Recipe: Pumpkin Hummus

Those of you who know me from "Lose Weight" know one of my weaknesses is pita chips. Pita chips aren't much fun to eat by themselves, of course -- they're best with hummus! At this time of the year, I enjoy taking a break from my usual hummus, and instead, make pumpkin hummus. Pumpkin hummus is good with plain pita chips or veggies, but it's sublime with cinnamon pita chips. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Hummus


1 (29-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup bottled minced garlic (or 8 garlic cloves, minced)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup tahini paste
salt, to taste


Combine pumpkin, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini in blender or food processor and puree until very smooth. Add salt to taste.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Red Chicken Chili

Last week, I shared a recipe for slow cooker mole, a traditional Mexican dish with a sweet-savory flavor. I find that sweetness makes it a perfect recipe for Halloween. When I enjoy a meal with a little sweetness to it, all the candy treats are less tempting!

Here's a different take on a sweet-savory meal. Mole is usually served in a bowl over rice, but I prefer it in a corn tortilla, like a taco. I go with this recipe when I want a sweet-savory dish that's just right for serving in a bowl.

Slow Cooker Red Chicken Chili

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 boneless, skinless chicken 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.

When chicken is cooked through, shred chicken using two forks, and stir to combine well.

Cook's Notes: I call for chicken because I always have it in the freezer, but this recipe is even better if you replace the chicken with cooked turkey. Turkey, with its more intense flavor than chicken, is a perfect foil for the flavors in this dish. It's an excellent post-Thanksgiving recipe!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Mole

Mole is one of my favorite Mexican dishes. Given my sweet tooth, that's not surprising: Mole incorporates cocoa powder and sugar. That also makes mole the perfect recipe for Halloween -- a little chocolate in my dinner makes it easier to steer clear of all the candy and treats! I use the slow cooker to prepare mole, which makes this a terrific recipe if you're hosting a party or headed out to celebrate the evening.

My husband was reluctant to try my take on mole because his mother and aunts prepared mole that was more sweet than spicy. Mole is typically a high-fat dish, too. I've eliminated nearly all of the fat, and struck a balance between sweet, spicy, and savory flavors, so my husband and I can both enjoy mole. !Buen provecho!

Slow Cooker Chicken Mole


1 (1 1/2 ounce) package dried pasilla, mulato, or ancho chiles
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins


Remove stems from chiles, if necessary. Combine chiles and tomato sauce in blender, and puree until chiles are well-integrated into sauce.

Pour sauce into slow cooker. Add cornmeal, cocoa powder, sugar, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cloves, and stir to combine. Place chicken on top of sauce. Cook on LOW setting 4-6 hours, or until chicken is cooked through.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Here Comes Halloween!

Yes, it's that time of year again, when goblins and ghosts creep from their lairs! Whether or not you get into the "spirit" of things, the scariest part of Halloween for most grown-ups is the oncoming calorie onslaught. Whether you love chocolate candies, sour candies, jelly beans, or the seasonal candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins, there's a candy for practically everyone.  Or, perhaps you're fearing the temptations that leap out from around every corner as we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter. Whew!

So, what can you do to stave off those extra pounds? Here's a short-but-sweet list of tips to keep the calories at bay during the Halloween season (and beyond!):

Donna's Top Six Tips for Handling Halloween
  1. Avoid buying candy early. Sure, you might save a dollar or two, but consider: How much time will you need to burn off all those candy calories? How much is your time worth to you? Is saving a few bucks really a value in the long run? If you must buy candy early, choose candy you don't like. That'll reduce the likelihood of hearing the candy call to you in the middle of the night.
  2. Steer clear of the scarcity mentality. Don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, I'll have just one more handful of candy corn...after all, I won't have them again until next year!" If you really want candy corn in June, you can find it on the Internet year-round. But scarcity isn't the only reason we binge on candy, which is why my third tip is...
  3. Manage stress and anxiety. Make a plan now to handle holiday stresses. Practice assertive communication. Make sure your self-talk is realistic and positive. Say "no" when you need to do so. Ask for help when you need it.
  4. Make a plan to stay on track. Do your best to stick to your routines. After all, they're working, right? Yes, it's okay to shorten your workout time, go to bed an hour later, skip food recording for a day or two, drink a little less water, or have a few pieces of candy. That said, sticking as closely as you can to your usual routines will help you stay on track, and get back on track when you slip. 
  5. Consider changing your focus. Weight loss is challenging under the best of circumstances; it's very difficult during the holidays. Maintaining weight, however, is realistic for most people. If you're currently focusing on weight loss, it may make more sense to focus on maintaining your weight loss until the new year.
  6. Get right back on track. Remember, you do not have to do weight management perfectly to do it well! The trick to successful long-term weight management is to get back on track as quickly as possible. That means no harsh self-judgment. Instead, learn from it, then shrug it off and return to what works. If you maintain your weight during the holiday season, you'll be ahead of most Americans.
Now it's your turn! What do you do to keep the number on the scale from scaring you? Let us know below! :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and the Top 3 Percent

It's almost impossible to go a day interacting with the world and not encounter information on weight loss, isn't it? Whether you're reading magazine headlines at the grocery store, enjoying a little water cooler chat at work, or watching TV, you'll hear all about how to lose weight.

But what about weight maintenance? When was the last time you read an article, had a conversation, or saw a TV show that focused on keeping the weight off? The unspoken assumption seems to be that once you reach the magical state of being thin, you'll magically stay thin.

Most of us know that's anything but true. For many people, losing weight is actually easier than keeping it off. I've worked with hundreds of people who have lost and gained the same 25, 50, or even 100 pounds, over and over again.

I believe this happens, in part, because we focus exclusively on weight loss. Research has found that a mere 3% of Americans eat healthy and exercise daily, maintain their weight, and don't smoke. That statistic amazes me, as healthy eating and daily physical activity are the cornerstones of successful weight maintenance -- and they create healthy weight loss, too. Instead of focusing on get-thin-quick schemes, I think it makes more sense to focus on gradual changes you can actually maintain, because that's the only way to keep the weight off.

There's one other take-away from this statistic, this one for those of us who are already at our desired weight. My husband likes to say, "It's lonely at the top!" and this certainly applies to weight maintenance. To put that 3% statistic into perspective, imagine you're one of one hundred people at a social gathering. Assuming you eat healthy, exercise daily, maintain your weight, and don't smoke, there will be just two others in the group who share your lifestyle.

Rather than focusing on how lonely it can be to live a healthy lifestyle, I prefer to say, "Knowledge is power!" When we know there are few people who have made the commitment to a lifetime of good health and happiness, it's easier to navigate a world filled with conversations about weight loss. We know ahead of time we'll hear all about the latest diets, and who's losing and who's gaining...So, we can plan ahead for how we'll respond assertively to those who question our decision to focus on slow-but-steady weight loss. We can think out our replies to those who question our decision to focus on our happiness, rather than chasing a so-called ideal weight. In short, we can be prepared...and we can stay on track with what really works!

Are you part of the 3%? If so, how do you handle the chronic conversations about get-thin-quick schemes? Let us know below! :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nighttime Noshing...No More!

One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "Why do I do so well with eating all day, and then after dinner, I start snacking and I can't stop?" Let's take a look at some of the most common reasons...and what you can do instead!

The Reason: You're hungry. Depending on how much time there is between your supper and your bedtime, it's possible to be genuinely hungry before it's time for your bedtime routine. It's hard to avoid nighttime noshing when your stomach's growling!

The Fix: Consider upping the amount of protein or fat in your supper. Explore eating more non-starchy veggies, either with supper or as a snack later in the evening. Try drinking more water, or enjoy a non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverage.

The Reason: You're up past your bedtime. If you aren't waking up refreshed most mornings, chances are good you're not getting enough rest. If your cravings lean toward sugary or carbohydrate-laden snacks like ice cream, chips, or candy, you may be snacking because you're tired.

The Fix: Get to bed earlier, or take care of morning business so you can sleep in later. Plan ahead to lie down and rest for at least 15-20 minutes when you first come home from work, so you're refreshed for the evening. Develop a nurturing bedtime routine, have a bedtime, and stick to it.

The Reason: You're stressed or anxious, or you don't nurture yourself throughout the day. Many people struggle to follow a restrictive diet that leaves them hungry for hours at a time throughout the day. Others have stress or anxiety that they keep at bay by staying busy all day. Some people give to others all day, without regard for themselves. Regardless of the motivation, the underlying thinking is, 'I deserve to have this treat, because I'm so stressed...my life is so hard...no one cares...I haven't gotten my way all day...I deserve this!"

The Fix: Take care of stress or anxiety. Either eliminate stressors, or use tools that help you cope. Pay attention to your self-talk, and make sure the things you say to yourself are both true and helpful. Find ways to nurture yourself throughout the day, beginning with spending a few minutes every hour connecting with your feelings. Double-check your self-talk; is eating more calories than your body needs really what you need?

The Reason: It's a bad habit. A surprising number of people nosh at night because...that's what they do. They're not especially hungry; they're not especially tired; they're not especially stressed or anxious. In particular, many people associate watching TV with eating, but many people associate "I've just come home from work" with "It's time to hit the refrigerator and eat."

The Fix: Don't just eliminate the bad habit; create a healthy new habit. Consider hopping on your exercise bike or treadmill, stretching, or doing a little light weightlifting while you're watching TV. Enjoy a handcraft like sewing, crochet, or needlepoint. Plan ahead to enjoy a platter of fresh fruit or veggies instead of the usual high-calorie snacks. If you eat because you've arrived home, consider a new habit, like sitting down and listening to favorite music, going for a walk, or playing with the cats.

Is there a reason for nighttime noshing that we haven't explored? Let us know below! :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recipe: Updated Oven-Fried Chicken

To my husband's consternation, I'm constantly tinkering with my recipes. Sometimes I tweak them for nutritional reasons. For instance, I updated my Tofu Key Lime Pie to make it lower in carbohydrates, so it's easier on my husband's blood sugar levels. Other times, I experiment with recipes to improve their flavor.

Today's recipe is an example of both the former and the latter. Oven-Fried Chicken is one of the most popular recipes in "Luscious," my online cooking class, but I wanted to experiment with making the flavor a bit more like what you'd expect from a fast-food restaurant. I also wanted to replace the Old Bay seasoning to make the breading sodium-free.

Naturally, I won't say this is my final take on this recipe. :) However, if you've prepared Oven-Fried Chicken from "Luscious," you'll definitely notice the difference, and I think you'll be pleased. If you get a chance to try this version of the breading, let me know what you think of it!

Updated Oven-Fried Chicken


Cooking spray (or oil in a mister)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup cornflakes, finely crushed
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil flakes
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
5 dashes ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup nonfat sour cream, Greek yogurt, or plain nonfat yogurt
Spray butter (or oil in a mister)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly coat a dark non-stick cooking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine cornflakes, cornmeal, parsley, basil, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, cayenne, and peppercorn mix in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place sour cream in a medium bowl. Set aside.

To prepare chicken, place chicken to the left of your workspace (reverse directions if you're left-handed). Place sour cream to the right of chicken. Place cornmeal mixture to the right of the sour cream. Place cooking sheet to the right of the cornmeal mixture.

Using your left hand, pick up a piece of chicken and place in sour cream. Still using only your left hand, carefully dredge the chicken, ensuring that it is well-covered in sour cream. Place the chicken in the cornmeal.

Using your right hand, carefully press the chicken into the cornmeal mixture, then turn chicken and press the other side into the cornmeal mixture. When the chicken is covered in cornmeal, use your right hand to place the chicken on the cooking sheet. Repeat until chicken breasts are battered.

Lightly spray chicken with spray butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on size of chicken breasts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

'Tis Nobler to Eat with Awareness...

Last week, we took a look at some statistics that suggest a table for one is at least a daily occurrence, and for some people, it’s the norm at most meals. Unfortunately, for many people this translates into the so-called “working meal” – that is, a meal eaten while reading, watching TV, working on paperwork, surfing the Internet, and so on.

That’s a shame, as eating alone is a terrific opportunity to practice mindful eating. While definitions of mindful eating vary, to me mindful eating means an awareness of the food itself (its colors, shapes, sizes, textures, temperatures, mouthfeel, and flavors) and an awareness of eating behavior (what, when, why, and how much you’re eating).

I’d also add that eating awareness includes a connection to one’s emotions. As we explore in “Lose Weight,” food is one of the first ways in which our parents nurture us as infants. There’s an undeniable interrelationship between our eating habits and our thoughts and feelings. Eating alone gives us a chance to unearth those thoughts and feelings – and more importantly, change them for the better.

So, the question begs itself: How can you use eating alone as a way to improve your eating awareness skills? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Enjoy a well-appointed table: Break out the cloth tablecloth and napkins, enjoy fresh flowers, and use the good china. Turn off the TV and put your work away. Play soft music. I like to choose music representative of the cuisine (i.e., Indian music with Indian food), but that's just me. Regardless of how you set the table, create a dining environment that makes it clear you matter.
  • Know your anatomy: Did you know taste buds are hard-wired to register the same flavors just two or three times in a row? This is the reason many cuisines combine textures, flavors, and tastes in the same dish to help pique appetite. So, choose interesting entrees, and side dishes that complement them, to keep your meals interesting. Take a bite or two, then switch to something else on your plate, or take a sip of your beverage. Speaking of which...
  • Put your flatware down. Take a bite, then put down your fork or spoon. You'll find you eat more slowly, and you'll need this skill for the next tip, which is...
  • Be an artist (or a scientist). I find more similarities than differences between art and science; both fields interest themselves with describing how things are. So, how's your meal? Really taste it and describe it. Is it sweet, salty, savory, or sour? Hot or cold? Crisp, smooth, or crunchy? Compare one bite to the next. Are they really the same, or can you sense a difference between the edges and the middle? Describe each bite as an artist would, or be a scientist and evaluate your meal as you enjoy it.
  • Check in with your thoughts. One of the initial challenges of eating alone is the mental aspect. It's common for people eating alone to be harsh and judgmental: "Everyone else in the world is sitting around the table with their families, while I eat alone." Not true -- and not everyone sitting around a table eating with their family is enjoying the experience. Pay attention to your thoughts. Are they really true? If they are true, are they helpful? Write down your false, unhelpful thoughts, and change them up to make them true and helpful. Keep them near the table so you can refer to them when negative, harmful thoughts arise.
Mealtime is, of course, a time when we eat to nourish our bodies. Because we're not just our bodies, though, I believe it's necessary to nurture our minds and our souls as we nourish our bodies...and I hope these tips help you do just that! What do you think? Do you have a tip for eating alone and enjoying every bite? Let us know below! :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To Cook, or Not to Cook?

A student in one of my online classes recently asked my opinion of frozen dinners, noting that she'd read an article that touted their benefits. According to the article, frozen dinners offered a variety of weight management benefits: Their single-serving size means you eat just enough, not too much; they can be stored for months in the freezer; and they're quick and easy to prepare. 

Her timing was impeccable, as I had just read an article that quoted The NPD Group stating that more than half of all meals and snacks are eaten away from home. A few days after I answered her question, I saw another article on the same topic, but with a slightly lower percentage (47% of meals and snacks), this time quoting June Jo Lee of Hartman Group.

Obviously, a table for one is the norm, or at least a daily occurrence, for many of us. So, the question begs itself: Are frozen dinners a good replacement for heading to the kitchen to prepare a home-cooked meal?

There is, of course, the convenience and ease of a frozen dinner, especially if you're cooking for one. It's true that, for some people, eating pre-portioned meals can change their perception of what a serving should look like -- although that isn't the case for everyone, and some people may end up overeating at a restaurant or buffet, just because they can.

For others, the single-serving dinner can be a disadvantage. After eating a 300-calorie meal, it's easy to feel hungry in a few hours, and justify nighttime noshing with, "My dinner was so low in calories...I really am a little bit hungry...I'll just have a handful of chips..." Especially for people with a previous habit of nighttime noshing, it can spiral out of control all-too-easily.

So, aside from their convenience, ease, and speed, I'd have to say no to frozen dinners. There's the obvious disadvantage of freezing, which doesn't improve the flavor, texture, or appearance of foods. Many frozen dinners are indeed lower in fat and calories, but high in sugars or salt, or contain additives or preservatives. Few frozen dinners contain the MyPlate recommendation for 1/4 of the plate from protein, 1/4 from carbohydrate, and 1/2 fruits or veggies.

There are less obvious advantages, too. I read an article many decades ago, in which the author compared cooking to alchemy. I love the analogy, and I think there's something to be said for how empowering it is to turn unappetizing raw materials into a feast that nurtures the body, as well as the mind and soul. Cooking is the only activity I'm aware of that relies on all five senses simultaneously. It's no wonder research has found that cooking helps stave off dementia.

When I was single, I prepared dinner most nights of the week. I used beautiful tableware, cloth napkins and tablecloths, enjoyed fresh flowers and candles, and played music with my meals. I firmly believe(d) I was worthy of a beautiful, delicious, home-cooked meal -- whether or not I had a companion at my table. I haven't seen any research to back me up, but I suspect that there's some psychology involved when you compare eating a frozen dinner from a tray, versus enjoying a home-cooked meal at a well-appointed table.

That said, given the research on how many people are eating alone, I'm guessing there will be a bigger push for single-meal frozen dinners...but personally, I'll stick with cooking. What do you think? Let us know below! :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Word Power: A Weighty Matter

A student in my online class recently shared she'd like to "look good" as she ages. I appreciated the timeliness of her post, as I just celebrated my 47th birthday over the weekend.

In addition to giving me pause for personal reasons, her choice of words jumped out at me. Words like good, bad, ugly, pretty, fat, and thin are all subjective terms; that is, they lack a specific meaning. We use words like good or bad, ugly or pretty, fat or thin, to compare one thing to another. Often, we use these particular subjective terms as a way to hurt ourselves or others. A friend of mine once summed this up perfectly by observing that she'd like to be as thin as she was a decade ago, back when she thought she was fat. Because neither fat nor thin have specific meanings, she saw what she once considered fat as thin!  

Not surprisingly, the use of subjective words often slips right by us, leaving us feeling inadequate as we are. It's easy for these subjective words to sneak into our self-talk and throw us off-balance. If I defined "looking good" as "looking like I did when I turned 30," then my 47th birthday would have been a severe disappointment.

Happily, because good does not have a specific meaning, we can choose for ourselves what "looking good" means. I believe "looking good" means the way I look when I'm eating healthy, getting daily physical activity, taking excellent care of my health, skin, and teeth, managing stress, getting adequate quality sleep, and getting enough water. It means taking time for makeup and fashion that flatters me and celebrates my individuality. It means taking time to love, be creative, strive for balance, grow and mature, and develop my spiritual life.

When I'm successfully following through on these activities, I look good, in the healthiest and most holistic sense. Is my hair as thick and healthy as it was when I turned 30? Am I as thin? Is my skin as supple and wrinkle-free? Of course not. But I firmly believe I look just the way I need to look, in order to do the work I was put on Earth to do. And that, my friends, is truly good -- in an objective, not subjective, way.

So, I challenge you to pay close attention to when, why, and how often you use subjective words like good, bad, thin, fat, ugly and pretty -- and question whether you're using these words as a way to hurt yourself. If you are, I encourage you to consider being honest with yourself, and to choose words that are objective and truthful, like overweight or underweight.

What do you think? Are you honest with your choice of words? Or do you choose to hurt yourself or others by using subjective words? Feel free to sound off below! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Do Your Flavor Preferences Predict Your Personality?

We've been working hard all summer here, haven't we? We've tackled all sorts of topics related to weight management, from healthy eating and physical activity while on vacation, to managing anxiety and cravings, to the pros and cons of juicing. We've been busy in the kitchen, too, preparing Spicy Cinnamon-Chipotle Chicken and Mediterranean Potato Salad.

So today, we're going to take a little break, and have some fun! I recently read an intriguing article on NCA's Website that suggests flavor choices and personality are linked.  According to the article, this is because personality and flavor preference are located in the same region of the brain.

For example, researchers found that about half of the participants they surveyed who reported a preference for bitter flavors considered themselves optimists. About 30% of people who preferred sour foods stated they were impulsive. People who prefer chocolate said they tended to be sensitive, while vanilla lovers reported they were extraverts.

These results held true for me: I have a strong preference for sour, bitter, and chocolate, and I'm definitely an impulsive optimist with a sensitive side. So, how about you? What flavors do you prefer? Do you agree with the study's observations with regard to the connections between flavor preferences and personality? Let us know! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mediterranean Potato Salad

This Mediterranean take on classic potato salad makes a cool, refreshing side dish for a hot summer's day. I've replaced the usual high-fat mayonnaise with Greek yogurt, which both makes this recipe lower in fat, and higher in protein. I like to serve it on top of a bed of chopped greens and garnish it with chopped tomato to make it a meal. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Potato Salad


2 pounds potatoes, waxy-type
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup onion, minced
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1 teaspoon whole coriander, crushed
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground peppercorn mix


Boil potatoes until just soft. Drain and cool. Chop into 1/2" cubes.

Place potatoes, yogurt, celery, onion, dill weed, coriander, and peppercorn mix in medium bowl, and stir gently to combine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Physical Activity and Summer Sojourning

Last week we took a look at healthy eating while you're vacationing this summer. Of course, healthy eating is important, but it's only part of the equation when we're talking about successful weight management. The other critical element, of course, is physical activity -- and squeezing it in can be a real challenge when you're traveling or hosting guests.

That said, it can be done. I've worked with clients who have gone on cruises, road trips, vacations, and hosted guests for weeks on end, and they lost weight while doing it!

What's their secret to success? Simple: Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't. Here are some suggestions to get you thinking about what you can do, regardless of where you are or what you're doing this summer:

  • Walk more. Whether you're hosting family and friends, on a cruise ship, or on a road trip, there are always opportunities to walk more. Organize a walk or a hike; take (or host) a walking tour; avoid the elevator and take the stairs; take advantage of pit stops and go for a short walk.
  • Make physical activity fun. Get out in the back yard with the kids and play some basketball, swim in the ocean or the pool, or organize a water balloon fight. Encourage other adults to get up and have some fun with you!
  • Take a class. If you're on a cruise, visiting friends or family, or in a hotel, research possible exercise classes. Ask family or friends if you can take advantage of a visitor's pass and join them at their class. That way, you both stay on track with physical activity!
  • Hit the gym. Your local gym may not be available where you are, but chances are good there's a gym nearby. If you're visiting family or friends, staying in a hotel, or you're going on a cruise, you'll likely have access to a gym. Many gyms also offer a free one-day pass.
  • Plan ahead, and be flexible. If you have family or friends staying with you, think ahead to days and times when you'll have an opportunity to squeeze in a workout. If you can't get in your usual yoga class or hour-long walk, don't sweat it. Go for a walk for as long as you can, or replace your workout with a fun activity that gets you up and moving. Remember, the focus is on what you can do.
Now it's your turn! What are your tips and tricks for successful weight management while you're out and about during the summer? Post below and let us know! :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Healthy Eating and Summer Sojourning

For many people, summertime means vacation time! That should mean time to relax and unwind, reconnect with family and friends, or explore and adventure far from home.

What I hear from students and clients, though, is that summer is far from stress-free, as far as weight management is concerned. Summer vacations, traveling, staying with friends and family, or hosting visitors can make it challenging to maintain healthy habits.

In particular, students and clients worry about what they can do to maintain their healthy eating habits. This can be especially challenging if you're staying with friends or family members who don't share your perspectives when it comes to healthy eating. So, what you can do? Here are some ideas to help you stay on track with your eating habits, no matter where you sojourn this summer.

You may not have any say-so over what you eat while you're out on the road, staying with friends or family, or traveling in a foreign country. That does not mean you're powerless! You still have choices about when, how much, and why you eat. Eat only when you're hungry, and stop when you're satisfied. Use assertive communication to set limits. Be aware of portion sizes. Manage your emotions away from the table. In short, work all of your weight management skills and tools -- don't rely on healthy food choices alone.

That said, make it your goal to focus on the healthiest foods available at any particular meal or snack. Yes, you may be choosing between the lesser of two evils -- but it's still the lesser, so choose wisely!

Whenever possible, make half your meal fruits and non-starchy veggies. That said, fruits and non-starchy veggies can be hard to find when you're out on the road. Consider bringing it with you whenever you can, or plan ahead to purchase it when you arrive. When I visit my family-in-law, I bring a small cooler and stuff it with non-starchy veggies and lowered-fat dips. My family-in-law enjoys noshing with me, and they dive right in! I plan ahead for trips to the grocery store or farmer's market (which can be an exciting adventure unto itself) to restock my non-starchy veggie supply.

Be especially aware of what you drink, as well as what you eat. Make water your go-to beverage, and plan ahead for how you'll have water with you wherever you go. Sodas, juices, and alcoholic beverages won't keep you hydrated the way water does, and the calories add up all-too-quickly.

Next week, we'll take a look at ways to work in physical activity, no matter where your travels take you this summer. In the meantime, if you have a tip for managing healthy eating while you're out and about during the summer, post below and let us know! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Establishing Healthy New Habits

Have you ever noticed that most day-to-day behaviors are actually habits? What we eat and drink, how we manage stress, what we do when we come home from work, when and what we do before we go to bed -- these, and many other behaviors, are well-established habits. Clearly, successful long-term weight management depends on establishing healthy habits. 

So, how long do you think it takes to establish a new habit? I've had many students in my online weight loss class tell me they think it'll take anywhere from seven to twenty-one days to change up their behavior permanently. Unfortunately, research begs to differ: Scientists have found that making new behavior a habit can take anywhere from four to six months. So, what can you do to encourage success as you establish new habits? Give these tips a try:

Donna's Top 5 Tips for Establishing Healthy Habits
  1. Although it takes time to create change, it's easier to make change happen by starting with short-term goals. Depending on the goal, you may want to make your goal as short as one day, or as long as a week or two. As you're planning your goal...
  2. Think back to times when you've tried to make change. What got in your way? Think ahead to challenges you may encounter, and plan ahead for those challenges. But don't make the challenges your focus...
  3. Keep your focus on your goal. Falling short of your goal is nothing more than an obstacle. Don't dwell on it, or let it keep you from trying again. Learn from what happened, re-establish your goals based on your new self-knowledge, and then...
  4. Celebrate all of your successes, no matter how small. Remember, change isn't easy. In fact, just being willing to change is a big step, one worthy of celebrating. Treat yourself to a little tangible non-food reward, tell a friend, or praise yourself. But don't stop at celebrating...
  5. Plan ahead for establishing your next goal, and stick with this for at least six months. Put the day and time in your calendar, and keep your appointment with yourself. Because you're connecting many short-term goals together, following through is critical.
Don't be shy about using other skills and tools for establishing healthy new habits, like the power of positive self-talk and affirmations to reach your goals. At the end of the day, though, developing short-term goals, enjoying success, and gradually connecting one short-term goal to the next, until the behaviors are habits, is the path to creating lasting behavior change.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Cinnamon-Chipotle Rub

Several years ago, my husband found a new rub for chicken at the grocery store, and tried it out on boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I was immediately smitten with the rub's intriguing combination of sweet cinnamon and spicy chipotle, which married perfectly with the savory richness of chicken thighs.

Unfortunately, the first ingredient was salt. Just two teaspoons of the rub contained 500 milligrams (21% DV) of sodium! If you've taken "Luscious," you know I don't use salt in cooking, and I choose lower-sodium options whenever I can.

So, after a bit of experimenting, I developed my own salt-free cinnamon-chipotle rub. It offers all the flavor intrigue of the original--without providing all the sodium. (I didn't include maltodextrin, vinegar solids, or modified corn starch, either.) My taste testers unanimously preferred my version to the original, noting "I can taste the flavors instead of mostly just salt."

Spicy Cinnamon-Chipotle Rub

The word "spicy" is in the title for a reason! --this recipe is on the spicy side. If you prefer your meals mild-not-wild, reduce the amount of chipotle chili pepper powder. 


6 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute, such as Splenda
6 tablespoons ground paprika
2 tablespoons chipotle chili pepper powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
5 dashes fresh-ground peppercorn mix


Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and mix well. Makes enough rub for 6 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Conquering Cravings by Managing Anxiety

Cravings are incredibly frustrating. I've worked with many clients and students who share that they do terrific with weight management, only to succumb to cravings that seem to undo all their hard work otherwise. Cravings are especially challenging when they're frequent, intense, or both.

We've already talked about how to beat the cognitive distortions of cravings, and I hope you've found those tools helpful. Today we'll take a look at how anxiety can overlap with cravings, and consider what you can do to conquer your cravings by managing anxiety.

First, let's clarify how anxiety is different from stress. Stress is the body's response to a situation you perceive as challenging or threatening. It's often defined as the fight-flight-or-freeze response. In other words, you believe you're in danger, so your body automatically prepares to either fight back, run away, or freeze. When you're stressed, you're thinking, "How will I handle this?"

In contrast, anxiety is worrying about things that aren't happening. In fact, many (even most!) of the things that anxious people worry about never come to pass. Anxious people are inordinately fond of "What if...?" thoughts.

Personally, I'm not one to stress overmuch. When things are actually happening, I'm usually able to marshal my resources and manage situations. I often find situations many people find stressful to be fun, rather than scary.

Instead, I tend to be an anxious person. My relationship with cravings changed dramatically when I learned about anxiety and began taking steps to better manage it. In fact, discovering and managing my anxiety all but eliminated the sense of dread and panic I'd often experience in the mid-afternoons, which would then lead to intense cravings.

So, if you tend to worry about "What if..." questions, or if you've noticed that you have intense, powerful cravings that 1) aren't related to seeing or smelling food, 2) happen frequently, especially if they tend to happen at the same time of the day, 3) are for what you consider to be "comfort food," 4) are associated with feelings of dread, panic, or fear, you might benefit from exploring whether your cravings are related to anxiety.

Dr. Edmund Bourne's excellent book, "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" is a terrific place to start. This book provides a tremendous amount of information on ways to manage anxiety, ranging from self-esteem to cognitions to self-nurturing. You can find more information on his book here. If you check out the book and work on managing your anxiety, don't forget to stop by and let us know what you try, and how it goes! :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

To Juice, or Not To Juice?

The juicing craze is still going strong! I've had several students in my online classes ask me my opinion on juicing, and participants in my parenting classes are asking the same question. Personally, I don't own a juicer; I'm old enough to remember the last juicing craze, back in the 1970s, and I haven't seen evidence that juicing is beneficial enough to warrant splurging on yet another kitchen appliance.


That said, juicers can be useful. I think it's a great idea for people to make their own fruit- or veggie-based beverages that they can tweak to their preferences, use the produce they grow in their own garden, or increase their fruit and veggie intake. 

Unfortunately, juicing also encourages people to prepare and drink concoctions unpleasant enough that they're posting pictures on social media and complaining about the taste, noting that they're drinking it "because it burns fat" or "cures disease." That's unfortunate, as although fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses, the perspectives some people have are less than accurate -- they're usually based on truth, but not quite true.


I have other concerns with juicing, too. Although non-starchy veggies are incredibly low in calories, they do contain calories -- and juicing is one way to get a lot of non-starchy veggies into you very quickly. It's much faster and easier to drink 200 calories of tomato-carrot juice than it is to eat 200 calories from tomatoes and carrots. (On a related side note, most people with type 2 diabetes can eat 200 calories from tomatoes and carrots. However, many would see a blood sugar rise from 200 calories' worth of tomato-carrot juice.) Because fruit contains more than twice the calories of non-starchy veggies, this is even more true for fruit-based juices.


Juicing can also get in the way of a healthy eating pattern. I love fruits and veggies, but we need more -- protein, calcium, B vitamins, iron, etc. Although it's possible to choose a balance of different kinds of fruits and veggies, because of the nature of juicing, it's easy to fall into the trap of drinking a lot of a certain kind of fruits or veggies, and miss out on the possibilities of a wider variety of fruits and veggies. It can be all-too-easy to get full on fruits and veggies, and miss out on all the nutrition you need.

So, overall, juicing can be part of a healthy eating pattern, but a juicer isn't an essential appliance. Fruits and veggies should indeed be part of your day, every day, but whether you eat them or drink them is entirely up to you!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Gear Up for Father's Day!

Father's Day is around the corner, and your dad has enough neckties. Instead of buying him the same old-same old gifts, why not surprise him with something different? -- and something will support his weight management efforts? Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Get Sporty. In the parenting classes I teach, dads are far more likely to describe themselves as "playful" than moms. (I haven't kept statistics, but I'd guess the ratio is at least 3:1 in favor of playful dads.) So, consider a new gaming system or a new game. Surprise him with new sports equipment. Spring for a gym membership, or pay for classes so he can revisit a favorite activity or explore a new activity.

Go High-Tech. Dads are infamous for craving the latest and greatest technology. Support Dad's love of all things new and his weight management efforts, and surprise him with a new pedometer, a FitBit, or a water bottle that tracks his water intake.

Support His Softer Side. Instead of the usual necktie, how about a warm and fuzzy gift that Dad can use daily, like luxurious new sheets or a soft, cozy blanket? Or, consider blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or an alarm clock that wakens with music, instead of a blaring alarm.

Help Dad De-stress. Does Dad need some encouragement to de-stress? Consider a gift certificate for a day spa or massage, or buy a chair massager for his car. Explore aromatherapy (lavender, khus, or sandalwood are good places to start) or color therapy. Treat Dad to a class on stress or time management.

Now it's your turn: Dads, what's the best Father's Day gift you've received, and why? Let us know! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Recipe: Turkish Salad

I'm posting today's recipe for a student in "Luscious," who's looking for salad ideas that are both fast and easy, and high in protein. (To up the protein content still further, you can use rinsed, drained canned soybeans instead of fava beans.) Turkish Salad is definitely a change of pace from the usual lettuce-and-veggies salad, but I sometimes serve it on a bed of spinach or romaine to make it a light meal. I adapted this recipe from Almost Turkish, a fellow blogspot that's well worth a surf. If you'd like to check out the original recipe, you can find it here.

Turkish Salad


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 - 3 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 (14-ounce) can fava beans, drained (see Cook's Notes)
2 cups frozen peas, thawed


Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mint, parsley, and dill weed in a small bowl. Combine fava beans and peas in medium bowl. Drizzle beans and peas with dressing, and add feta. Stir gently to combine.

For best results, refrigerate at least 2 hours, until chilled.

Cook's Notes:

Look for canned fava beans in Mediterranean, Indian, or Middle Eastern markets. If you can't find them, replace them with your favorite bean. I like using large butter beans, but any firm-textured bean will work.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recipe: Shrimp Pasta Primavera

Spring has sprung, and that means one thing: It's time to take full advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies showing up at the grocery store and farmer's markets! The word primavera literally means "first spring," and once you've tried it, it's easy to see where it got its name -- it's based on vegetables that are in their prime in late spring and early summer. In this take on the recipe, I add in shrimp for an easy one-dish meal that's perfect for a light supper. Frozen precooked shrimp also makes this recipe lightning-quick to prepare.

Shrimp Pasta Primavera

1 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 cup bottled roasted red bell pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced on an angle into 1” sections
1 zucchini, sliced into quarters
1 yellow squash, sliced into quarters
1 tablespoon white Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound frozen shrimp, thawed, rinsed, and well-drained


Prepare spaghetti according to manufacturer’s directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook olive oil, garlic, red bell pepper, and asparagus in a large skillet over medium-high heat until garlic is fragrant, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash; cook until just tender. Add Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes and shrimp; stir well to combine.

Add spaghetti and stir well to combine. Heat until shrimp and spaghetti are hot; serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let's Talk (Test) About Intervals

Have you hit a weight loss plateau? Weight loss plateaus often happen when your body adjusts to the physical activity you're doing. If you've been doing the same-old same-old activities for a few months, it might be time to amp things up a bit.

If you're just beginning with physical activity, increasing duration (the length of time you're active) is often the place to start. If you're engaging in cardiorespiratory exercise for less than an hour (or if you're logging fewer than 10,000 steps on your pedometer), consider increasing your exercise time by an extra 10 or 15 minutes, until you reach an hour (or 10,000 steps).

But what if you're already doing cardio for an hour, or what if you just don't have that much time in a day to squeeze in your cardio? A great way to amp up your workouts is to experiment with interval training.

In interval training, you increase intensity, rather than duration. Intervals serve a variety of purposes. They increase the number of calories you burn during your workout. Intervals also seem to encourage your body to keep burning calories long after your workout is over, too. Intervals are a terrific way to build cardiorespiratory endurance, which improves your physical health. Intervals make it easier to create an endorphin rush while you're working out, too.

Are you ready to work in a few intervals? Let's do it! Before you begin interval training, become aware of your rate of perceived exertion (the intensity at which you're exercising), and use it to manage your intervals. If you're aiming for cardiorespiratory exercise that will burn fat, your rate of perceived exertion shouldn't get too high when you're not engaging in intervals (that is, for most of your workout). You should be able to talk reasonably comfortably -- not as you would when you're inactive, but you should be able to say a few sentences without too much trouble.

When you're ready to work in an interval, you'll want to increase your intensity a little (not a lot!), until you reach the point where you can still talk, but it's not comfortable. Each interval doesn't need to be very long -- anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute is good. After the interval, go back to your previous intensity.

One easy (and fun) way to do this is to use your favorite workout music as a timer. During the chorus of a song, use that time to build up to your interval pace. Then, when the chorus ends, go back to your previous intensity.

Whether you work out to music or not, remember that the majority of your workout should be at a pace where you can talk reasonably comfortably. That way, you're burning fat as you're working out. When you first begin experimenting with intervals, a good rule of thumb is to start with about 25% of your workout at a higher intensity. From there, you can gradually increase the amount of time of each interval, or increase the number of intervals.

If you decide to experiment with intervals, don't forget to come back and let us know what you try, and how it goes! :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Mole

Even though mole is typically high in fat, it's one of my favorite Mexican dishes. Given my sweet tooth, that’s not surprising: Mole incorporates cocoa powder and sugar. My husband was reluctant to try my take on mole, because his mother and aunts prepared mole that was more sweet than spicy. Here, I’ve eliminated nearly all of the fat, and struck a balance between sweet, spicy, and savory flavors, so both my husband and I can enjoy mole.
I'm sharing this recipe with you this week so you'll have time to prepare it for any Cinco de Mayo celebrations you're planning, but it's a terrific recipe for any time of the year. !Buen provecho!

Slow Cooker Chicken Mole

1 (1 ½ ounce) package dried pasilla, mulato, or ancho chiles
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
¼ cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar substitute
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound frozen boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins (see Cook's Notes)


Remove stems from chiles, if necessary. Combine chiles and tomato sauce in blender. Puree until chiles are integrated into sauce.

Pour sauce into slow cooker. Add cornmeal, cocoa powder, sugar substitute, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, and cloves, and stir to combine. Place chicken on top of sauce.

Cook on LOW for 6 – 8 hours (do NOT cook on HIGH!), or until chicken is cooked through.

Cook's Notes:

Although mole is usually plated and served with side dishes, I think it's delish in corn tortillas with just a sprinkle of queso blanco. When I prepare it this way, I use frozen chicken breasts, then shred the meat with two forks. It's not as visually appealing as tenderloins, but it's more cost-effective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mother's Day Is Just Around the Corner...

Just like last year, I received an e-mail with a variety of gift suggestions for Mother's Day. Once again, I like the idea of getting a jump-start on Mother's Day shopping, but I was alarmed by how many of the gift possibilities would hinder, rather than help, with weight management. That's unfortunate! Whether you're thinking about a gift for your mom, or you're a mom yourself, now's the perfect time to start gift-shopping...or start gift-hinting!

You don't need to settle for a bouquet of flowers or set Mom's weight management efforts back by taking her out to brunch. Instead, consider a gift grounded in the basics of successful weight management -- healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, hydration, and adequate sleep. Instead of setting her back, these outside-the-box gift ideas will give Mom a weight loss or weight maintenance boost:
  • Consider color therapy (also known as chromotherapy): Happily, color therapy is gaining more respect, but it's still a novel idea for a unique Mother's Day gift. Here's an example: Check out this LED color-changing light. Want to learn more about chromotherapy? Check out Color Therapy Association's Web site at this link.
  • Experiment with aromatherapy: A student in my online weight loss class recently posted that she relies on aromatherapy. I feel the same way! For decades, my favorite scents have been lavender, rose, frankincense, and nag champa. Whether I need to relax (lavender), feel more centered (rose, frankincense), or focus (nag champa), aromatherapy works wonders for me. Recently, I've added khus (vetiver) to my list of favorite scents, as I find it both relaxing and focusing at the same time. If you'd like to learn more, check out Aura Cacia's Website here.
  • Get peppy: Did you know peppermint is associated with weight loss? I drink a cup of peppermint tea every day for another reason (related to perimenopause), but I drink it mid-morning when I get hungry before lunch, as it acts as a mild appetite suppressant. Treat Mom to peppermint tea, peppermint incense (http://www.gonesh.net/ offers a peppermint-pine incense intended for the holidays, but it's delish all year long), or a peppermint-scented aromatherapy candle.
  • Give Mom a back rub. One of my favorite Mother's Day gifts was a massage mat for the car. I'm grateful for it every time I get in the van! If your mom doesn't drive, spring for a massage certificate.
  • Help Mom enjoy a good night's sleep. If Mom has sinus issues, a wedge pillow can make sleeping through the night considerably easier. Or, spring for a wonderful new set of sheets, pillows, blackout curtains, or another item that will enhance Mom's time in bed. 
  • Pay for a class. Pick up the tab for a fun new exercise class, like kickboxing, bikram yoga, belly dance, or Zumba. Or, maybe Mom's into a self-nurturing activity like painting, perfumery, or gardening. Get her a gift certificate to her favorite craft store or nursery. Many craft stores and nurseries also offer classes.
  • Pick up the tab for a special treat. Treat Mom to a massage, a hair appointment, a spa day, or a mani-pedi. Consider a gift certificate to her favorite store, or donate to her favorite cause.
  • Pick up the tab for new equipment. I'm almost reluctant to include this, because giving one of these gifts can easily be misconstrued. That said, a cool new water bottle, a gift certificate for those expensive workout shoes Mom's coveting, a gorgeous new yoga outfit, a pedometer, or a fancy new scale can give the mom who's serious about weight management a terrific boost. (But don't even think about giving Mom one of these gifts unless she's asked!)
  • Expand Mom's healthy eating horizons. Treat Mom to a meal at a healthy eatery, spend a leisurely afternoon at a farmer's market, or make Mom a healthy meal you know she'll love. Make Mom a basket filled with her favorite treats from her favorite specialty food store.
Now, a question for moms: What's the best Mother's Day gift you've received? Let us know below!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recipe: Cranberry Jezebel Sauce

Cranberry Jezebel Sauce is great with turkey or chicken, but it’s sublime with ham, making it a perfect side dish for Easter dinner. The sauce is a tantalizing sweet-spicy-sour combination; ham contributes the remaining two flavor bases, salty and savory.
I use sugar substitute and sugar-free marmalade to reduce carbs and calories, but if you prefer, you may use sugar or sugar-based marmalade instead. Note that the calorie and carbohydrate content will be much higher.

Cranberry Jezebel Sauce

½ cup water
1 cup sugar substitute
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 (16-ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
2/3 cup sugar-free orange marmalade
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


Dissolve sugar substitute in water in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often. Bring to a boil. Add onions and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add marmelade, cranberry sauce, horseradish, and mustard. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Serve with grilled ham, roast chicken, or roast turkey.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Hop Past Easter Treats

Depending on where you are, it may still be cold and snowy, making it hard to believe that Easter is only a little over two weeks away. Happily, Easter is the last big candy day of the holiday season. As the days grow longer and the weather warms up, the focus naturally turns from candy to fresh fruit.

Until then, here's a short-but-sweet list of tips to help you handle the Easter candy deluge:

Donna's Top Five Tips for Hopping Past Easter Candy

  1. If you're not keeping a food record, start! If you're skilled with eating awareness, you may not need to track everything you eat. Instead, you might benefit from just tracking candy, dessert, or whatever food you find most tempting. Write down every sweet treat you eat (or use your smartphone to take a picture). This tip works for soda, alcohol, and other high-calorie beverages, too.
  2. Remember that Easter, like other holidays, will come around again next year. If you don't eat a crème-filled egg, it'll be okay. This isn't your last chance. You can always enjoy one next year.
  3. Make sure you're on track with drinking water, getting enough rest, and managing stress. It's easier to resist temptation when you feel healthy and well.
  4. If you have kids or grandkids, consider balancing candy with non-food treats, or celebrating with non-food treats. Although my kids still enjoy hunting for candy-filled eggs, they look forward to receiving a little gift -- this year, it's a video game for my son, art supplies for my older daughter, and gardening goodies for my younger daughter. My kids will happily give up candy for a treasure hunt that leads them to a gift instead of the traditional candy-filled Easter basket.
  5. If you don't already have a personal or family tradition that includes physical activity, this is the year to start. Go to the park, take a walk, toss around a football or Frisbee with the kids, or get everyone dancing on the gaming system. Get a friendly competition going with friends or family!
Now it's your turn! What do you do to keep the number on the scale from hopping up during the Easter season? Let us know! :)