What not to eat…why not!

I’m getting a little frustrated by all the messages out there about what not to eat during the holidays. It is overwhelming. Add to that the rest of the years messages. What not to eat to look younger. What not to eat if you don’t want cancer. What not to eat if you want to live until 100. It just sounds like a whole lot of shaming.

In the grand scheme of things, knowing what is a healthy choice and what is not is important. What drives me crazy is that the denial of things you love is a sure way of going back to old unhealthy habits.

What do I mean?

If you eat healthy 80% of the time, that apple pie with salted caramel ice cream and whipped cream is not going to kill you the one time you indulge at the holiday table. If you are staying active and working out 4-5 days per week, going to a micro brew pub for beers and plates of gastro goodies is something you don’t have to pass up. The key is balance.

All the sinner talk about sugar, fat and processed foods is because our society is eating crappy more than 80% of the time and not active. Keep shaming and denying the masses their goodies and the rebellion will ensue. We are at that point, where at every turn there is something else we shouldn’t be eating. If you listen to all the advice on cutting out this and denying yourself that, there will be nothing left to eat but kale…except kale may be crawling with E.coli and you don’t even know it – CRAP!

In fact, there is a militant tone out there if you don’t follow the rules.

Don’t believe me? Go find an article about the benefits of plant based eating and add a message how someone would have to pry your steak out of your cold dead hands. Warning – children should not try this and make sure you are near your phone to dial 911. There are some real believers out there.

Anyway, will I be watching what I eat this season? Yes. Will I slack on my workouts? No. Will I cut out sugar, fat and processed foods as they are passed around the table? No.

If you are transitioning to healthy eating and living, then this season is going to be difficult. But, don’t overly restrict yourself. It is a sure way to resent getting healthy. Instead, indulge in a single chocolate. A small portion of mashed potatoes. A single gingerbread cooking. A small glass of eggnog.

If you can stick to your plan mostly and make it through the season by not gaining weight, you won. You won by not sliding backward. But, more importantly, you won by learning what the rest of your life will look like with small indulgences in maintenance mode.

Yes you can.

 

 

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Michele’s Hockey Tournament Parent Survival Guide

If the holiday season kicking off early for me last Thursday with my in-laws coming in wasn’t enough, this weekend saw me in NH for my son Matt’s hockey tournament. For those of you not familiar with hockey culture, the tournament is as much for the kids as it is for the adults. Its one of the few times us hockey parents can step out of the grind. We can get a block of hotel rooms, let the kids loose with all the other hockey teams, and kick back with food, drinks, and late night socializing. This is a three day party.

Now, if you are hotel staff used to hosting hockey teams, then this is not an issue, you know what you are in for. For guests that are not with any of the hockey teams staying at your chosen hotel – sorry. We do try to keep the kids from running through the halls and carrying on. We do reserve function rooms for them to play knee hockey. We do take them to the pool – but you don’t want to be there then. We do book at least one night where we take the party to a restaurant for several hours. But, invariably, we do take over. Advice, grab a beer and join the hockey parents.

Anyway, believe it or not, staying healthy during this weekend of early mornings, late nights, and running to and from the rink and pool is harder than a holiday routine. I’m guaranteed meals of hamburgers, pizza, chicken fingers, fries, pasta casseroles and junk food.

The only saving grace is that our tournament was up at Waterville Valley where they have a full athletic center. And, when the cold and wind weren’t beating us into submission, it was not a bad walk from the lodge to the “town” and rink. So, I was able to hit the gym when I pulled in on Friday then again on Saturday morning for a run and the weight room. And any walking about easily got me between 16K and 20K steps.

My meal strategy was a crazy mix. I packed a bag with oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, butternut squash soup, my cauliflower broccoli pilaf, granola, wheat crackers, Babybel cheese and homemade pate. I also grabbed some turkey and tuna at the local grocer. Breakfasts and lunches were at least in line so that even as I packed in the junk food for dinner and over drinks, it could have been a lot worse.

I tried, really I tried. But when you’ve had a first drink the inhibitions already start to kick in. When the table in front of you is filled with corn chips, guacamole and caramel corn, that is going to go in my mouth. At our team dinner, the healthiest things on the buffet were cesar salad and eggplant lasagna. While I grabbed both, two meatballs came along for the ride as well as a piece of garlic toast. I can’t really blame that meal choice on having a drink though. I stuck to soda with a splash of cranberry and lime. No, it was all me!

In the end, I did fine. My weigh-in was 109.1 this morning. Just where I need to be. What made the difference?

Hockey Tournament Parent Survival Guide For Healthy Living

  • Keep room for one meal cheat. My group meals were the killers even with portion control and a tight grip on the alcohol (no more than 2). They accounted for more than half my daily intake. But, keeping my other meals healthy and under calorie gave me wiggle room. A large Americano gave me enough caffeine to curb my hunger and avoid snacking.
  • Just exercise. I took my own advise from my travel tips. After 2 1/2 hour driving in the car it was as bad as sitting on the plane. Even though everyone had gathered already when I got to the hotel, I still got in my running gear and ran. I also made sure I got in a good weekend workout at the gym. Sunday was a day of rest because of schedule, but I still had put in 6 days of exercise.
  • Keep tracking. It’s sobering when you continually track all you meals and can see the calories add up. By tracking after each meal, it kept me mindful even when the bad stuff was in front of me. Watching my activity level along side my eating also made me aware of keeping calories in and calories out in balance.
  • Get inspired by the hockey. Watching 14 year old boys skate hard and battle it out over the puck and on the boards makes you very aware of your own age and fitness. Could I do that today? No. But, it sure looked fun and I would love to play. Add to the fact that we were at a ski resort and my ski passion kept me motivated to stay fit and get my exercise in.
  • Wear Team USA exercise gear. Okay, this is really dorky and to some a waste of money. But, I got a Nike Team USA track and field jacket at a deep discount at TJMaxx a couple weeks back. Of course I’m not a professional or Olympian. The thought of a marathon kills me. Yet, there is something amazingly awesome about pulling on that jacket that makes me feel like one and inspires me to just run!
  • Its about the distance, not the day. When I got back home I immediately started to get back on the program by cooking up healthy food that I can grab and go. I don’t have to think about cooking and what I’ll eat, I can easily cleanse my systems of all that horrible, but so good, junk food.

It was all worth going up. They won! (There’s my Matt on the right – he’s the goalie)

EC Leafs Waterville Vallley Hockey Tournament 2017

Holiday Healthy Living Strategy

It’s been 319 days since I starting my Chubbygirl journey to healthy weight and healthy living. I hit my goal weight of 110 back in September and hover around 108 and 109. The true challenge will be the holidays and all the eating. For me, it starts at 5:00p today when the in-laws arrive. I’ve already got a brisket in the oven and potatoes ready for mashing.

Which brings me to the holiday conundrum. I landed on my goal weight based on what should my optimal weight be as well as giving me a five pound buffer during the holidays. I know that I won’t be able to resist stuffing, or wine, or egg nog, or cookies. Chocolate is another one that while the single square or two isn’t bad (and I do this now), it is the whole bar or those boxes of truffles that kill me. Nut bowls? OMG, shoot me now. Yes, my hand lives in them.

In reality, I don’t want to gain five pounds. That is a month of 1200 calories again and more exercise. Its a diet that I will fail at. It puts my healthy living mindset at odds with a quick fix to a lack of self-control and gluttony.

I’ve come up with a strategy based on what we do in our house and with our family and not use this time to deviate to far from healthy living. In the end, I still want to enjoy the holidays. So here it goes:

  • Snack bowls go away: We always have bowls of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit out. I would typically make a meal out of that before eating a meal. Now, if I want a sweet (or others do) you have to get it out. I can keep with my portioning that way.
  • Keep with smaller plates or eating inside the rim: I can portion my meals better if I shrink the footprint they sit on. I do that today and need to do  that for our big family meals.
  • Don’t have to try everything: Thanksgiving in our family means 3 kinds of stuffing (regular, corn, meat). I need to pick one. I like mashed potatoes, but I don’t need them and sweet potatoes and squash. Roasted and smoked turkey are served, but I don’t need full portions of both.
  • Big meal, will race: I think every town has a 5k the morning of thanksgiving. There are also a ton of jingle bell runs this time of year. I’m just going to do it to add some fun to my running ritual.
  • Go for hikes in the woods: There are so many state and town parks around with great trails. Instead of lazing around the house we can add in a hike or trail run.
  • Take some time for rest and family bonding: Our big family thing is pulling out an insanely difficult puzzle and diving in together over the course of the vacation. We spend time together, talk, and chill out – except when the end is near and we compete to be the one to put in the last puzzle piece!
  • Keep to my exercise regimen: If I can get off a plane, get into a hotel at 9p or be severely jetlagged and still get on a treadmill, the holiday’s are no excuse to slack off.
  • Don’t sweat the gluttonous meal: If I fail on Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and a party here or there, so be it. I’ve had unplanned cheat meals that haven’t killed me yet. Just don’t make it a daily habit.

I need to trust myself, continue to embrace the changes I’ve made, and realize that instead of the holiday’s being scary, they can still be fun.

What are your strategies?

 

 

Living the Commuter Life Is Cramping My Healthy Living Style

Yes, it is time for my whiney blog. This week I stayed in town but needed to commute into the city every day rather than work from home. Boo hoo, you say as the tiny violin between your fingers plays, that’s life baby. But, I am so used to the flight of stairs commute to my office that spending 90 minutes or more on the Mass Pike into the city then againout to attend an event and meetings with my best vendor clients sucks.

What also sucks is that by going into the city I am confronted with the same challenges as when I travel: access to healthy food, eating in a timely manner before I hit the red zone, and working in my run. Add in the added hassles: Having to wake up at 5:45a and the fact that daylight savings time hasn’t kicked in so it is dark until after 7:00a means no early run. Meetings at lunch means no getting out for a run or even hitting the The horrendous commute back to my house in what city people would call the boonies.

By the time I did get home each day this week, my commuter angries and low blood sugar level by not having eaten anything since 1:30p kicked in. The only way to detox was to immediately shed my monkey suit, throw on my running gear and crash my treadmill.

God I miss the road. I miss healthy food that doesn’t make me feel bloated, achy stomachy and hungry an hour later. I even miss having to live healthy when traveling since then I at least don’t have to deal with commuter traffic and the airport lounge and hotel staff always take care of me. I miss the fact that I can roll out of bed at 7:00a, hit the gym or road for a run and still have time to get ready, eat and head to my meeting.

So, to those of you struggling to get healthy and stay healthy while road warrior-ing, there are no excuses. It is so much easier on the road.

In the grand scheme of things, I dropped to 108 (almost 2 lbs) on Monday and all my running around like a crazy lady has kept me there. It gave me license to add back a little on my plates this week. Good thing too; there was Boston Cream Cake pinafores on the dessert buffet table. Score!

 

Diary of My Healthy Eating Day

I talk a lot about food and my ongoing effort to eat healthy and not return to my former eating habits. Plant-based diet, mindful eating, sugar reduction, whole foods, and macro tracking are all methods I have borrowed from to retool my meals. I avoid thinking in terms of ‘banned foods’ even as I certainly had removed some of my favorite meals while in weight loss mode. Cutting out foods had more to do with deciding between more food volume with lower calories to keep me full and get the right nutrition. As I moved into and now live in maintenance mode I keep the same trade-off mindset but I also think about portion size to keep things under control.

There is nothing boring, bland, or measly about how I eat. A healthy food addiction won’t allow any of that. And, I do change things up where my lunch looks more like dinner or I eat a big breakfast and then lighter meals the rest of the day.  I’m a petite woman so the amount of food I can eat is drastically lower than the average woman. The challenge is to keep my calories within 1400 per day and only allow myself 1600 on a given day when I have a particularly active week (climb a mountain one day, or paddle all day, or go on a longer run than usual). To be honest, if I didn’t run at least 4-5 times per week (get in at least 30 minutes) I would be eating 1200 – 1300 calories just to maintain. Doesn’t that sound like dieting?

While I talk/blog about all these things, sometimes it is easier to show what a typical day of eating looks like for me. Maybe it will help and inspire you to enjoy eating whether you are trying to maintain or on a weight loss program. Disclaimer, I arranged the food to look pretty for you but I am usually more interested in eating than creating food art. Calories and macros are from my MFP tracker.

Breakfast: Bagel and Cream Cheese with Lox and Strawberries
296 Calories 42% Carbs 31% Fat 26% Protein

My favorite meal has always been bagel and lox. On Mother’s Day my family knows that they need to always have this ready when I come down in the morning, its that important to me. Typically, a bagel when trying to lose weight is a big no-no – calories and big carbs. In keeping with my mantra of no banned foods,  I can get thin bagels at the market that are less than half the calories of regular ones. I can also use 1/3 less fat cream cheese. In addition, by right sizing my calories there I give myself room for strawberries.

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Lunch: Antipasti Plate 
211 Calories 38% Carbs 26% Fat 36% Protein

My favorite meals are nibbling meals using my fingers. In fact, last night for dinner my kitchen table looked like it belonged in Tuscany rather than a suburb outside of Boston. Italian meats, cheese, tortellini, roasted vegetables, olives, pickles, ciabatta, dipping oil, shrimp, and of course a bottle of Italian wine. Picking up on what was left over, I arranged my lunch plate with cold asparagus, cold ginger garlic carrots, plums, shrimp and smoked gruyere. You might not be able to tell, but this is on a regular dinner plate. Lots of food. Also a bit distorted, the fruit and vegetables is actually 2/3s the plate.

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Snacks: Anise Cookie, cut off piece of Framingham Baking Co cheese Pizza
Calories 196 58% Carbs 29% Fat 13% Protein

Yes, I do splurge. The Framingham Baking Co. is an institution and has some nostalgia for me. Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, my history with this gem started 30 years ago in high school. Me and my friends would jump in the car and head over after school for a big slice of focaccia pizza baked fresh that day. My son Matt is now hooked on the pizza himself. Today, I made a stop and picked up pizza, cookies, and homemade pasta. Not being able to wait until I made it home, I snuck an Anise cookie and took a strip off of a pizza slice (full slice shown). Yes, it was before I could have my lunch, but so worth it!

fbc

Dinner: Chicken and gravy with mushrooms, asparagus, spinach and polenta, Can of Guinness
Calories 379 40% Carbs 28% Fat 32% Protein

We sat down to a Thanksgiving style meal (sub chicken for turkey) complete with mashed potatoes, butternut squash, stuffing, green beans, roasted carrots, and yes, gravy a few nights ago. Well, I have a lot of chicken left over and what better to do with it than turn it into chicken and gravy. I love a creamy garlicky polenta, but the boys don’t, so they had open faced hot chicken sandwiches while I had polenta. A small variation that isn’t hard to adjust for and we all get another fall comfort meal this week. And, let’s not forget that it is dinner, so what better to pair with this meal than a cold creamy Guinness.

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So far I’ve had 1182 calories. I’m going to add 100 ghost calories since I was tasting my food as I cooked and I’m still not completely sure that I got the calories right on my cookie and pizza. That brings me to 1282 – lets just round up to 1300. The plan is to chill with Tom watching Mr. Robot and then grab a chocolate pop for dessert with a few strawberries. That gets me to almost 1400 calories.

Chloe's Dark Chocolate

So that is it. A bit short for the day, but I’m full, enjoyed my meals, and feel like overall I succeeded in staying the course.

 

Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

Vegan Can Be Yummy

Give me a Five Guys Burger and you can’t go wrong. But, getting healthy has definitely changed my taste buds and tolerance for protein heavy and fat heavy meals. My body craves vegetables. Tom tells me my gut flora has changed and it is telling me what it wants to eat. Whatever…

The thing is, I really like my veggies. Even those veggies that I tolerated (eggplant, yellow squash, mushrooms) and those I hated (kales, swiss chard) are regular visitors to my meals. I can even eat tofu, although I have to say it is not my favorite and is only in the tolerated column. In fact, if you look at my meals, and even some of my days, I’m definitely on the verge of a vegetarian diet and not always so far off from a vegan diet.

Don’t get me wrong. I applaud those that morally live by veganism. I just don’t have that moral fortitude and am happy to keep my omnivorous ancestry alive in my diet. I love eggs, cheese and fish. What I will own up to is that if you take away the moral argument and only apply the healthy argument, then verging on vegan is possible and not at all a restriction.

Case in point. Heading to San Francisco, the restaurants know their customers and recognize that vegans are a dominate group – for moral and health reasons. It isn’t uncommon to see menu items with vegan symbols to make it easy to find dishes to eat when dining out with your non-vegan friends. In fact, restaurants are going out of their way to create amazing vegan food that rivals non-vegan menu items. It is almost hard for the non-vegan to ignore these delicacies. I can’t!

Always searching for healthy menu items to avoid travel spread, and formerly trying to still lose weight while on the road, restaurants that had vegetarian and vegan items were a god send. Being in California is always the easiest, and this visit was no disappointment.

Anku, an Asian restaurant inside the Hotel Nikko, not only has an entirely healthy menu, but also has vegetarian options that can easily be converted to vegan dishes. Purple Cauliflower Soup and a Portobello Mushroom and Couscous Purse surrounded by baby carrots, asparagus and yellow squash sitting in a vegetable puree  (the purse is swiss chard) was my dinner.  The lack of meat wasn’t noticeable. The flavors and textures were surprising and wonderful. Along with a glass of French rose wine and my meal was every bit as good as a steak dinner. The fact that my meal was preceded by complementary nuts, olives and pickled purple cauliflower made it that much better. Really!

I’m not saying you need to give up your meat. I am only saying that there is enough evidence that too much meat has health risks and cutting your 10 oz steak down to 3-4 oz and loading your plate with vegetables or creative vegan delicacies isn’t the hardship your mind keeps telling you. Don’t deny yourself, just nurture your body a bit more.

Be a vegan for a day. It can be yummy.