Archive for holiday weight gain

‘Tis the Season For Soup

Most of the US has been cold for the last week or so, with the exception of Florida. My friend Jan pointed that out in a Facebook post. If you happen to be reading this from the back deck of your house in Florida and you’re enjoying a sunny day, you are still welcome here – we love you anyway – but this particular post is intended for those of us who are freezing our assets off lately.

When it’s cold outside, the last thing in the world I feel like eating is a salad. Salads are good, salads can be really healthy, but this is the time of year for something hot. Soup warms a body from the belly out. A former co-worker of mine used to make soup in the microwave of our breakroom with leftovers she’d brought from home. It always smelled delicious, and I never quite figured out how she did it. A little hot water, soy sauce, leftover chunks of meat, rice, vegetables, and a big dose of magic, I think.

Around our house, the big guy makes the soup.  I asked him for the recipe so I could share it with you.  He said, just put it all in the pot. It really is about that simple! You can easily customize it to your taste, and to use what you already have in the house.

Here’s the basic recipe.  The vegetables can be cut up to whatever size you like in your soup, they don’t need to be in teeny little pieces unless that is your family’s preference:

1 leek, chopped – or you can use a medium mild onion, or a couple of shallots
about 3 ribs of celery, chopped
a handful of baby carrots, chopped – or one full-size carrot
2 or 3 potatoes, chopped – we use the little red potatoes
1 can (15-ounce size) beans, drained and rinsed – white beans, Great Northerns, black beans, whatever you like
1 cup or more of diced ham or Canadian bacon – this is optional

Put all the goodies into a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add chicken broth and water, roughly half and half, to cover the vegetables, plus a little. Salt and pepper to your taste. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes are tender.

I love that this soup can be customized so every bowl you serve is different. Chunk up some leftover chicken or turkey and add it to one bowlful of soup for a little extra protein. We also like to add slices of leftover sausage, like Aidells chicken sausages. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese – we’ve used Cheddar, jack, and Parmesan and they are all good.

So, that’s it – put it all in the pot and within an hour you have a hot, filling, nourishing, and belly-warming soup. Bon appétit!



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Do You Keep Track?

One of the very best ways to fail at getting fit, losing weight, or improving your health is to not keep track. You can tell everyone you know that you work out for an hour each day, six days a week – but do you, really? Let’s see, you always take a rest day on Sunday. But, you missed your workout on Thursday last week because you felt lousy. Yesterday you missed another one to attend a co-worker’s birthday bash. Neither of those misses was planned, they just worked out that way because that’s how a busy life goes.

On the nutrition side of things, you’re pretty sure you take in about 1,800 calories a day. Do you, really? Calories are much harder to keep track of than workouts, because they happen so many times each day – and how many calories are in one apple, anyway? Clearly some apples are bigger than others, so there is always a bit of guesswork. Calories also happen in different places throughout the day. Breakfast at home, a little Starbucks stop on the way to the office, a doughnut during a meeting, lunch wherever you find yourself at lunchtime, and so on. Even if you try to add it all up at the end of the day, it is really easy to forget some things. Consider the last time you stopped at Costco. How many calories could be in those samples?

What can you do? It would be a pain to write down every single thing you eat or drink every single day and then go look all that stuff up and try to figure it out. You are right, it can be a pain. What about writing everything down one day a week, just as a reality check? Put a sticky note on the kitchen counter and one on your desk at work, and jot down everything you eat or drink that has calories. Or, track everything on your smartphone, either in a note or using an app like MyFitnessPal. Give the phone a chance to really be smart once a week. At the end of the day, tally it up. On days you think you’re around 1,800, are you really? Adjust accordingly, and keep track again one day next week. Repeat as necessary.

For tracking workouts, I’ll share how we do it at my house: we use a paper calendar on the refrigerator and a sheet of little stick-on stars. Did a workout? Give yourself a star! It’s simple, it’s flexible, and it’s right in our faces. I hit 5 workouts last week, so I have 5 little silver stars for the week. There are bonuses to keeping it on the fridge, of course. Maybe on days I do not work out I should open the refrigerator a little less often. We also keep each other on track, since it is clear and obvious who worked out and who did not.

One of the basics of managing anything is measuring it. After all, you manage your weight by measuring it on the scale once in awhile, right? You manage your blood pressure by having it measured. You can manage your fitness goals by tracking at least these two important components, diet and exercise, regularly.


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Considering a Change to Gluten-Free

I often meet people who are in the process of removing gluten from their diets. Others are thinking that it might be helpful for them, but they are struggling to figure out how to do it. I was chatting with a lady a couple of days ago who told me that there were several people in her extended family with celiac disease – and that she herself often felt bloated and sluggish when she ate certain foods. I suggested it might be worth it to just try to avoid gluten for a couple of weeks to see how she felt. She shrugged, said something like “Yeah, maybe . . .” and changed the subject.

Her lack of enthusiasm is understandable. Changing the way you eat is not easy. Gluten is in a lot of different products, including some you would never guess. Reading labels becomes an absolute necessity, and in many cases an exercise in frustration. Going out to eat becomes a challenge as well. Asking a teenager at a fast-food place what they have that is gluten-free does not usually work out well. Family restaurants are getting better – many have a menu that advises about safe choices for various food allergies, including safe gluten-free choices.

So, if it’s hard and you’re not sure whether it will help, why bother? After three or four days without gluten, I was already sold on making the change. That’s how much of a difference it made for me. It still wasn’t easy, and I still occasionally ate something that I knew had gluten. Every time I slipped up, I felt lousy again. Those incidents were just stepping stones for me, concrete reminders of my reasons to make this change.

I no longer have “hay fever”, sinus infections, and I haven’t had a bout of bronchitis since making the change. I can go outside and breathe without Sudafed, what a wonderful thing! Others have different symptoms: stomach issues, depression, and migraines. (Shari Lieberman’s book, The Gluten Connection, lays out many of the chronic diseases that seem to be linked to gluten.)

The simplest way for me to get the gluten out was to keep everything as simple as possible. I mean, an apple only contains apple and there is no gluten there. A grilled chicken breast is safe – it only contains chicken, plus maybe salt, pepper, garlic, or rosemary. Gluten-free pasta is easy to find, and most of it is so good that you can even feed it to the rest of the family without them noticing a difference. Add jarred marinara sauce and a little Parmesan cheese, that is a simple meal – or a side dish to enjoy with your grilled chicken. Steam some broccoli, scramble some eggs and serve with a slice of ham. Like I said, I went very simple!

The hardest meal for me was breakfast. A friend of mine suggested that I try Shakeology, from the same company that produces P90X, Insanity, and many other well-known workout DVD’s. I tried it, and loved it – it is still my go-to, every-day breakfast. Besides being gluten-free, it packs in a ton of good nutrition! Click here for a short, entertaining video that gives a sense of what all is in this awesome shake.

There are some simple recipes on this blog, and all of them are GF. See the Food caption along the top of the page, then choose Recipes. Choose the Gluten-Free selection for more information and help. Post your questions and comments to keep the conversation going too!

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Day 30 – Keeping Healthy Through December

November is ending, and we are officially engulfed in the holiday season. Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, along with the infamous Black Friday shopping frenzy.

December is not usually considered a big month for health and fitness; it’s more about the celebration. It’s a time of indulgence: over-indulgence, self-indulgence and indulging others. There are parties to attend, presents to buy, travel to be with family – or sometimes travel to get away from family. It is often a fun time, but usually not a time of year that encourages better health. When we indulge, we tend to bulge.

How do you keep your fitness goals but still enjoy the holidays? First, decide what you want from your December. This works best if you write down the things that are absolutes for you. Maybe your list includes “I will not gain even one pound in December!”, like mine does. Or it could be “I will stick to a set amount for gifts, and will not go over that number!”, or “I will eat whatever I want at my sister’s party, but I will not overeat at the office party this year.”  Whatever is a must-do for you, write it down. Now you know that everything else is negotiable.

Second, decide what you can do to make your must-do goals happen. To support my goal of not gaining even one pound, I joined a challenge group that was posted on Facebook, pledging to run at least one mile every single day in December. That means I will run even if it is cold, or raining, or I just don’t feel like it. There is no decision left to be made; I already decided. Running will happen. What will you do to make sure you hit the goals that are absolutes for you? Write it down. Your brain will get clear about what it has to do when it can see what you decided.  Sounds ridiculous, but this actually works. Let your brain know that You. Are. Serious about this.

Third, set yourself up to succeed. Put that written stuff where you will see it every morning. Tape it to your mirror. Take a photo of it with your phone and put it into a reminder so it pops up at you every day. Post it on Facebook so your friends will know, and ask them to help you stay on track. Do the same for them! There is power in making your goals public. Post your goal in the Comments under this post, and the other readers and I will help you stay on track.

Small actions, done every day, compound over time into big results. You can stay well in December, and you can hit that goal that you wrote down. Welcome to the holidays!


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Black Friday Sale Without the Store

Yes, Beachbody is selling some awesome workout videos and gear at big discounts in honor of the Black Friday tradition.  Since the sale is on-line, there won’t need to be anyone reporting to work on a holiday when they can be home with their families.

Are you ready to move your fitness forward? Check out the sale!

The deals won’t last, and even if they did the sale ends on December 2nd – so if you are interested, don’t wait too long!

BB black friday sale

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Day 27 – Thankful: To The Folks in Retail

Yesterday I went to Costco and Fred Meyer to pick up groceries for our Thanksgiving Day dinner as well as a party we are hosting on Friday. Oh, my. Black Friday gets lots of press as a big shopping day, but have you ever seen a news story about the Tuesday afternoon before T-Day?  Someone is missing a big headline there, and I bet Wednesday after 5 is even worse.

For all of you who work in retail, and particularly at stores that sell groceries, I am truly grateful. You guys and gals deserve medals.

Everyone I saw working at both Costco and Fred Meyer was cheerful. Working their fannies off, but smiling. Every checkstand was open, and there were lines at every single one. Most of the carts in line were full of stuff. The shelf-stockers were putting product back on shelves as fast as their hands would go, but they still managed to smile and offer help finding items.

You know, there is more to keeping healthy than just diet and exercise, important as those things are. Holidays create stress as we feel pressed to squeeze even more into the schedule. Time stress, financial stress, family squabbles, whatever it is for you, I hope you will take a deep breath and focus on what you are thankful for. The job that drives you nuts also puts food on your table. The kids bickering about who has to clean the kitchen are the same ones you so lovingly welcomed into the world a few years ago. Look for the best in your situation, and appreciate what you have going for you.

Happy Wednesday Before Thanksgiving! If you have to hit a grocery store today, smile and thank those folks.

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Day 25 – Curbing Your Appetite

I often eat less on days that I run, compared to days when I do strength training or don’t work out at all. I also seem to make better choices about what I eat – lean proteins, more fruits and veggies, and less junk food.

Maybe part of the reason is that, if I eat a couple of cookies, I feel more sluggish and just skip the run – or the reverse, after a good hard workout, I don’t want to mess it up by pigging out.

A little digging turned up an article with some science behind it that suggests that exercise might actually help suppress appetite. Think what great news that is! Instead of hanging out, chatting with your guests, watching football, or otherwise relaxing before your big holiday dinner, why not take the party outside for a little game of street ball during halftime, or a brisk walk around the block?  Toss a Frisbee around in the yard or at the park down the street. Anything that gets the blood pumping for even 20 minutes would be worth a try.

Another fun option, especially for Thanksgiving Day, is to sign up for a local Turkey Trot. Most of them are about 3 miles, and there are plenty of people who go to walk rather than run. You don’t have to suit up in those little shorts that runners wear, either – a pair of good walking shoes and comfy pants is fine. You don’t even have to get all sweaty or mess up your hair.

Most local events are fundraisers – ours is to help support the local food bank – so you would be giving back to your community. What a great way to show your thankfulness for the abundance in your life! Many start at 9 am so you have plenty of time to stuff the turkey and put it in the oven, head to town for an exhilarating walk with lots of new friends, and get home well before you have to peel the potatoes. What’s not to love?

nitro turkey run general


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