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Naming your vegetables

April 1, 2012

I found it very helpful to name my vegetables. Prior to making a salad, I would come up with names for each vegetable that was going into the salad. This way, I felt a personal connection with each vegetable on its trip down my gullet.

Some of my favorite names came from cartoon characters. For example, I named an unruly burdock root “Huey,” the accompanying ginger root “Dewey,” and the arugula “Louie,” although the last one proved to be confusing for me when I chose to make Shrimp Louie salad later that day.

One very special beet was just too dear to me to have only one name. For this particular beet [with which I felt a close, personal relationship], I felt that only giving it seven names would adequately express the depth and breadth of its noble qualities. I named this beet Matthew Frederick Dumbledore Ferdinand Clement Cornelius Montmorency the Fourth.

I honestly do not know if there were three beets that directly preceded it in its ancestry, but I needed to add something on the end of the name which alluded to the fact that this beet clearly arose from superior root lineage.

I highly encourage you to name your vegetables as well. I think you’ll ultimately look forward to this unique strategy as one of your very favorites.








Happy April Fool’s Day, everyone! 🙂

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Patience: Who has the time for it?

Being a naturally impatient person, one of my biggest areas of discouragement at the start of my weight loss journey was how much time it was going to take for me to lose my extra 32 pounds healthfully. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the trap of considering fad diets; after all, the whole point of losing weight is to increase well-being. However, I felt very frustrated by the fact that it was going to take me 7-8 months to lose my weight.

I would look in the mirror, after working very hard to stick to my goals all week, and what did I see there? Basically, I saw the same body.

I wanted my body to change faster!

One of the things that I told myself continually during the first couple of months:

The 7 months will pass by anyway, whether or not I do this.

For the past 20-30 minutes or so, I’ve been looking through search results for a good list of strategies to improve delayed gratification skills.

I didn’t find anything that I felt really good about sharing.

But, I did find this lovely story symbolizing delayed gratification, from the following website:


“Two Trees
China is home to one of the most interesting and extraordinary plants called Moso Bamboo.This curious plant has an amazing growth process which quite closely parallels our own growth process of human endeavors.

In the beginning, the Moso Bamboo may begin its first several years growing its root-base before a single leaf sprouts out of the ground. From the surface, nothing appears to be happening at all, yet below there is an expansive root-system forming in preparation for the next phase of its growth process.

One day, suddenly, this plant finally breaks the surface,  shooting up from the earth at an extremely rapid rate of growth and, within just a few months,  reaches up to 80 feet high!

Much different than the Moso Bamboo, another type of tree, known as the Cottonwood Aspen,  grows just as tall as the Moso Bamboo without spending years growing such an extensive network of roots. Rather, the Cottonwood Aspen grows at such breakneck speed, it doesn’t have time to build strong molecular fiber. Therefore, it’s branches break off and often the entire tree falls to the ground.”

Along with this story is an image that I really like, that I have seen posted around Facebook lately, and have posted myself.

I have taken the liberty of changing the orange carrot to… a RED carrot! 😀

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Social Situations / Drinking

There are several strategies that you can use if social eating / drinking is an issue for you.

The following article, from sparkpeople.com, a weight-loss website, outlines four of these strategies:

From the article:

“So what’s the solution? Lock yourself in your house for the rest of your life? Of course not. It’s not easy, but developing a game-plan ahead of time can help you stay on track and not regret going out for a good time with your buddies.

• If possible, review the menu ahead of time and make your selection. That way you’ll be less tempted by what others are ordering.

• Split a dessert with a friend. If you’re craving the apple pie, ask someone if they want to share it with you.

• Suggest other activities that don’t have to involve food, such as bowling, a movie or dancing.

• Bring along a friend who is also trying to make healthy choices. It’s easier to resist temptations when you’re doing it with someone else.”

I found this article after realizing that my own strategy for social situations may not work for you.

Nevertheless, I’ll speak a little bit here about my own social strategies.

I am a very social person, but I also have no problem being different from my group of friends, even if I really enjoy their company and want to be around them. Usually, throughout my life, this has not been much of a problem. Every once in a while, people will get repeatedly nasty about my life choices or my body, in which case their company is no longer enjoyable for me, so I decide to spend time with my other friends instead!

During my first term of massage school, I had a wonderful group of friends with whom I went to a German bar every Friday evening.

Here is a photo of us at the bar. Left to Right: Koquisa, Ed, Me, Morgan, Allison:

I ate a lot of healthy food throughout the day, so, often by the time I went to the bar, I wasn’t feeling very hungry. On the occasional Fridays when I did feel hungry, fortunately, this particular bar has some very healthy offerings (grilled chicken sandwich with apricot chutney and sweet-hot mustard, anyone? My mouth is watering right now! The sandwich didn’t even have cheese in it!). Some days (when I felt full), I would only have water! For 2-3 hours!

I occasionally fielded some good-natured ribbing from my classmates for my choice not to drink. Once, the group was ranking on me for my tiny “sample” glass of German beer, which I hadn’t even finished off yet ~ over the course of an hour! I remained good-natured about it, and made a pertinent, slightly self-deprecating joke that made everyone laugh. The group then switched to other conversational topics.

I generally have about three alcoholic drinks per year, which I recognize is probably not a workable plan for most people. I recommend enjoying a drink occasionally, but keeping in mind that alcohol is just a lot of empty calories, and usually doesn’t even taste that good.

If you cut down on alcohol and/or fatty foods, or eliminate alcohol, and your friends give you a hard time about it, stay laid-back, smiling, confident, and non-defensive regarding your choices. Humor is always a good deflector, so if you can crack a well-timed joke that is relevant to the conversation, that may be sufficient. If it feels right to you, you can also say what I did (more than once) to my hilarious, interesting, outgoing group of classmate friends: I let them know that even though I don’t really drink, I like spending time with them so much that I wanted to go to the bar anyway.

In terms of social eating, I used the following strategies:

1. Host dinner parties, or simply brunches or lunches for two. I do this frequently. I love it. This way, everyone is happy: what friend doesn’t like to come over for a delicious home-cooked meal rather than spending a lot of money on a dinner out? Also, then I can control my portion sizes, quality of food, and calorie count.

2. If at all possible, I tried to eat just prior to meeting my friend at a restaurant. I typically opted for filling, but healthy, combinations such as a whole grain, beans, and lean chicken. This way, when I arrived at the restaurant, I felt fine with ordering a salad (always get dressing on the side and then use it sparingly; most dressings are a whopping 90-100 calories per tablespoon!).

3. As the article suggests, I had friends over to my home to participate in other activities that did not center around food, such as playing a board game, watching a movie, or just chatting. In these cases, I set the time of their arrival to fall between meal-times (such as 2pm or 8pm). That way, I could simply offer a snack or two, water or juice, and tea.

One of my friends, who was trying to lose weight herself, was one of my biggest challenges. She would come over and bring a huge pile of homemade chocolates as a gift for me, or some enormous cupcakes!

Of course, she was fully informed of my weight-loss journey, and I do not believe that she was actively trying to sabotage me. I think it just didn’t occur to her that she was making things harder for me.

Because we were close enough that I did not want to distance myself from her, but not so close that I felt comfortable calling her on her “gifts,” this ended up being a tricky situation for me.

I admit: I ate the homemade chocolates. They were quite tasty, but I felt sick afterwards.

But, when the cupcakes came not long afterwards (from Whole Foods… NOT everything from Whole Foods is good for you!), I thanked her profusely with a huge smile on my face for her thoughtfulness (giving her the benefit of the doubt; I’m sure in her mind, she WAS being thoughtful), and put the cupcakes aside. Later, after she left, I threw them in the garbage.

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All-Star Weight-Loss Menus!

Okay, enough about the Donuts and Doritoes. That was because I think it’s important that you understand that I don’t eat perfectly.

Here are some daily menus that are just about perfect, and that I can recommend to you!

If you are trying to follow these menus, but you really do not like any one of these foods, definitely substitute something that you do like!

I was struggling with very low energy for most of my 8-month weight-loss journey, so most of these menu items should be relatively quick and easy to prepare. I was in no condition to create a gourmet 7-course dinner a la Martha Stewart, and even if I was, I’m not sure that would fit with my goals! 🙂

Early on in my journey, I ate quite a few Trader Joe’s Beef Tamales. While arguably not the healthiest food out there, they are really not bad, they’re quite filling for their calories (just 240), and they have a nice breakdown of percentage of calories from fat (43%), calories from carbohydrate (39%), and calories from protein (18%). Corn is considered to be a whole grain by many health experts. Personally, my body loves corn. It is also gluten-free, if you are trying to avoid or minimize gluten in your diet. The beef seemed to be relatively lean. And these tamales were especially good eaten alongside a raw vegetable, which made the entire meal/snack significantly healthier overall.

Here is the Nutrition Information for the tamales.

A bit of explanation about what my situation was when I began my weight-loss journey: I was not only overweight, I had inflammation that was overtaking my body. I had a positive ANA test, which, along with other factors, showed that I had inflammation in my blood. Specifically, my wrists, feet, and bladder were unusually inflamed: Concurrently, I had severe cases of wrist tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and interstitial cystitis. I was dealing with chronic pain. Each day, the question wasn’t whether or not I would be in pain, but how much pain I would be in. If you’re not dealing with chronic pain, that is wonderful! But, if you are in a similar boat to the one that I was in, please don’t let that deter you from doing what you need to do for your health.

In choosing my All-Star weight-loss menus, I considered the 5 things to remember, and evaluated each daily menu by how well it fit with those 5 standards:

  1. Fullness Quotient: Did I feel full for a decent number of calories?
  2. Variety: Are there a lot of different foods eaten that day?
  3. Nutrition: Are a great majority of my calories nutrient-dense?
  4. Portion Sizes, and…
  5. Frequency: these last two standards go together: Did I eat 3-6 times that day and keep each meal or snack to a reasonable portion size?

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Rewards! Plus: do NOT have a scale in your home.

Reward yourself!

When you have accomplished your goals for the week or the month, give yourself a small reward that makes you really happy. Your reward should, of course, have nothing to do with food.

My own reward system was fairly simple.

First off, and this is VERY important: do NOT have a scale in your home. Weigh yourself a maximum of once per month. When you have a scale in your home, no matter how much self-control you have, it is just too tempting to weigh yourself far too often, and too soon, before your progress has the chance to take root.

Ritual was closely tied to reward in my weight-loss journey.

Every month, I went to the neighborhood Bartell Drugs store and weighed myself on the scale in the back of the store, by their pharmacy. Then, if I lost ANY weight at all, I would buy myself a little treat, such as a nice new nail polish.

One day, I decided to buy myself a small yellow stuffed duck. The duck looked so happy, and every time I looked at it, I felt happy about my progress! I think the duck cost me about $5. You don’t have to give yourself big, expensive rewards each month. (Unless you really want to! In that case, go for it!) Either way, definitely acknowledge your successes along the way and congratulate yourself for them!

One year after I reached my ultimate weight-loss goal, when I realized I’d stayed at my ideal weight for that entire year, I booked a fashion photo shoot with my friend Errol. Errol is a remarkably talented photographer, and he made me feel like I was a model!

Here are a few of the photos that Errol took of me:

(Note: these are a few of my “after” photos… if I get a lot of requests for “before” photos, I’ll try to dig some up!)

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Love. Food. Pictures.

Above, to start off this post, is the cover sheet that I created for my weight-loss binder. I cut out photos of healthy foods from magazines. I think that shrimp is succulent, apples are appetizing, and spinach is super!

Every day when I recorded my foods eaten for that day, I saw these pictures. Particularly if you are a visual person, this is a great strategy to consider.

I caution against having a photo of another woman for inspiration, or even a photo of yourself when you were slimmer, if such a photo exists. Having this sort of “inspiration” is sort of like seeing those friends pop up in your Facebook news feed who just had lunch with a famous, handsome actor last week, or just achieved their second graduate degree. You’re happy for them and everything, but how does that really make you feel? If you’re like me, it makes you feel a little wistful, and slightly inadequate. Mindset is EVERYTHING when it comes to successfully losing weight. Please, don’t choose to look at something over and over again if it makes you feel inadequate.

You are not only adequate, you are excellent!!! 🙂

It may be harder to recognize this if you are comparing yourself to others.

However, if you feel only totally motivated by choosing a photo of someone else prominently displayed for your daily visual inspiration, go for it!

One last word of caution, though: when Brooke Shields was attempting to improve her body while she was married to Andre Agassi, she posted up a photo of Steffi Graf for motivation. Andre Agassi divorced her in 1999 after two years of marriage… and, the very same year, started dating Steffi Graf. Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf have now been happily married for the past ten years. I am willing to bet that Steffi Graf does not have a photo of another woman up on their fridge!!! 😉

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5 things to remember

5 things to remember when planning your daily menus:
1. Variety

2. Nutrition

3. Something that I call “Fullness Quotient”: how full any one food, or any one combination of foods, makes you feel, compared to how many calories are in that food. This is individual for every person: my “Fullness Quotient” for a particular food is not going to be the same as your “Fullness Quotient” for a particular food.

4. Portion sizes

5. Frequency (how often you eat a meal or a snack)

In terms of variety and nutrition, here is a helpful list of a variety of “superfoods”:


Very important: Don’t give up the foods that you love. If the foods that you love are helpful for your weight-loss goal, eat them frequently. If they are not helpful, simply eat very very small portions of them and savor them.

Write a list of the foods that you love. Work with the foods that you already love, and start from there to create a personalized diet that will help you lose weight. I am passionate about healthy eating and healthy living, and I am happy to help you with this!!! It will take a lot of work, but I know you can do it!!! I did, so I know you can!

Example: foods that I love: raspberries (helpful), dark chocolate (not helpful), pistachio nuts (helpful, but in small quantities) etc.

In order to truly savor the higher-fat and higher-calorie foods that you love, and still stick to a tiny portion size for those foods, be sure to eat them AFTER you have eaten a full, healthy, balanced meal. This way, it is much less likely that you will overindulge. Also, decide ahead of time what your portion size will be, and break up the food into those portion sizes in advance.

Ziploc bags were very helpful for me along my weight-loss journey. If you are the type of person, like I am, who can eat an entire bag of chips or 2 chocolate bars in a row, it helps a lot to break off squares of the chocolate (get chocolate bars that are made with small squares scored into them – I bought Trader Joe’s dark chocolate bars) and put a couple of squares into a Ziploc bag. Chips (corn or potato) are VERY high calorie. One full bag (not the snack-size bag, but the full-size bag) of chips can equal an entire day’s calories! That is definitely not enough nutrition for the calories. I like chips, but eating that many of them is just not worth it!

Snack-size bags of chips are good, too, but it is difficult to find high-quality corn chips (without unhealthy additives such as MSG) in snack-sized bags. They do exist, but I don’t see them at most grocery stores.

So, if you do not want to give up chips entirely (I certainly didn’t), weigh out one serving of chips on your food scale, then put that serving in a Ziploc bag, and put the bag back in your cupboard. That way, you can finish off the WHOLE bag, and still manage to eat only about 140 calories!

Here’s a good food scale that is similar to the one that I bought: