Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting Unstuck: Lifetime Member Returns to Weight Watchers

Kay at Weight Watchers, August 2011 

In one of my last blog posts I mentioned a plan to go back to Weight Watchers. Yesterday I did it!  I attended my first session in more than a year.  The subject was how to get unstuck.  Timely topic!  The scale has been stuck at the same weight for two weeks.

The leader mentioned that some people who’ve been on Weight Watchers for a long time no longer have a good gauge of how much they are eating.  Sounded suspiciously familiar.  So, I bought a food scale and today measured the amount of cheese I use on my favorite sandwich.  Wow, what a surprise.  I thought I’d been eating 1 ounce of cheese.  Instead I was eating 2.5 ounces.  Instead of the 100 calories I was counting, I was eating 250 calories.  No wonder I’m not losing weight!

Tip:  Weighing and measuring foods can give you a wake up call about how much you eat. What you’re eating is likely different than what you think!  Want another eye opener?  Then read Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating for a shock or two.  Even nutritionists had difficulty accurately estimating what they ate in his studies.

What tips do you have from your own personal experience about how to get unstuck with losing weight?

Yours in joy and health!


Kay and Session Leader, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Loving It? McDonald’s Seeks to Improve Nutrition Image

MdDonald's Restaurant, Rest Stop, France, 2011

Seemed like everywhere we went this summer in France, Krakow, and Prague we saw McDonald’s fast food restaurants and signage.  While in France I read that McDonald's corporate earnings were up for the second quarter of 2011 in the US and in Europe by 5%.  Not a surprise.  

Reminds me of other rates that are going up.  Overweight and obesity have doubled globally in the last 30 years to nearly 1.5 billion people.  And where there are larger numbers of fast food restaurants (in the US) people are heavier.

Interest in promoting good nutrition has finally reached a tipping point, enough so that McDonald’s has jumped on the bandwagon.  Is the commitment genuine? 

In July, I received an email from Today’s Dietitian addressed to nutrition professionals and dietitians.  The email message was from McDonald's and described its “commitments” to “improved nutrition choices.”  

What improvements has McDonald's planned?  They've promised to:

  • Include produce every happy meal with a resulting 20% fewer calories in the most popular happy meals and promote nutrition awareness in all national kids communications by 2012;

  • Reduce sugars, saturated fat and calories by 2020 and reduce sodium by 15% in national menu items by 2015; and

  • Increase access to nutrition information for customers and employees.

McDonald's Restaurant, France, 2011
Is this change for real?  I’ve been mulling this question over for awhile. I keep coming back to a Mark Bittman article about McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal offering published in a February NYT blog.  What Mark found out about McDonald's oatmeal recipe wasn't pretty.  

With 11 ingredients, this recipe is oatmeal turned into industrial food.  Bittman discovered that the McDonald’s oatmeal contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and about the same number of calories as an Egg McMuffin.

Fast Fact:  “The strongest association between fast food consumption and obesity is when one or more fast food meals are consumed per week.” (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010).

Tips:  Save time: make oatmeal at home.  Reconsider how often you eat at fast food restaurants.  Go less often if you eat in one regularly.  Look beyond the surface. What you learn may startle you. Look online or ask for nutrition information to help you find healthier choices if you decide to eat at a fast food restaurant.  

What have you learned lately about offerings in fast food and chain restaurants that surprised you?

Yours in joy and health!


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Go Green: Spicy BBQ Tofu and Bok Choy Recipe

Spicy BBQ Tofu and Bok Choy

Looking for ways to go green these last few weeks of summer?  I just created a new super tasty recipe to share with you.  It’s packed with nutrients and in case you care, it’s a recipe that will help you reduce your food carbon footprint.  How’s that?  Well since it’s a meatless dish, this new Spicy BBQ Tofu and Bok Choy recipe, doesn’t require nearly the energy to produce as red meat (think beef and lamb).

This recipe is so lip smacking good and simple to make that I’ll make it again real soon.  

Spicy BBQ Tofu and Bok Choy Recipe (serves 4)

1          Block Tofu, firm, drained
1          Bunch Bok Choy, washed, medium dice
2 T       Hoisin Sauce (Asian BBQ)
1          Clove Garlic
3          Dried Red Hot Peppers (adjust amount to taste)
3          Slices Fresh Ginger
4 T       Peanut Oil
1 Tsp.  Sesame Oil

2 cups  Cooked Multi-colored Whole Grain Rice (1/2 cup per person)

Directions (5 easy steps):

  • Cut tofu into 1/3 inch thick strips.  Brown in 1 T peanut oil over medium high heat in sauté pan until brown (or scored, if sauté pan grill ridges).

  • Place cooked tofu on cookie sheet and brush all sides lightly with Hoisin sauce.

  • Heat wok to high heat, add 3 T peanut oil and hot peppers then cook for 2 minutes.  Add garlic, and ginger slices and cook about 1 more minute.

  • Add Bok Choy, stir continuously using folding motion, until leaves are wilted and evenly cooked. Cover wok, reduce heat to low, and cook until lid is very warm.

  • Uncover wok, add tofu and sesame oil, gently combined.  Cover until lid is very warm, about 3 minutes.
Nutrition content (per serving):  Calories: 386; Sodium: 114 mg

Voila!  Serve over warm rice, and you’ve got a complete meal.

What’s so special about Bok Choy?

Besides it’s vibrant color, crunch, Bok Choy is filling, low in calories and sodium, and is packed with potassium and vitamin A (as betacarotene), and also contains calcium, and vitamin c.

What’s your favorite meatless summer meal?

Yours in joy and health!


Spicy BBQ Tofu and Bok Choy Served with Rice

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back from Provence: Back on Track with Losing Weight

Vegetable Appetizer, 2011
I weighed myself today and I lost a little more than one of the four pounds gained while in France.  I’ve recorded what I eat for the last week and we’re substituting luscious farm raised white peaches or a Weight Watchers ice cream sandwich for desserts (most of the time), and enjoying the good summer produce. 

I just came back from a workout on the elliptical and bicycle in our gym downstairs.  I’m gradually building back up to the 30 minutes on the elliptical, my favorite workout.  I’m mixing it up though.  I started swimming again in our pool two days ago because of the gorgeous weather.

Tip:  Did you know that the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest doing moderate level of physical activity (like brisk walking) for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week?  There’s also a booklet to show you how to get started or increase your physical activity.  The Guidelines suggest building up gradually.  The idea when getting started is to slowly add more time to your routine.

What are you doing this summer to lose or maintain your weight?

Yours in joy and health!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Return from Provence: Gearing Up to Lose Weight

Summer Fruits, 2011
Last blog entry, I admitted that I slipped up. I didn’t maintain my weight during our summer in Provence.  Instead, I gained four pounds!  Extra wine and desserts were too much of a good thing. 

What am I going to do now?

The first step is setting a target. My goals are to:

  • Lose the weight I gained; and

  • Lose four more pounds by the end of October and then maintain this weight loss.

I can use some encouragement just now. “Success is never final.  Failure is never fatal.  Courage is what counts.”  Thanks Peggy Murrah for putting this quote from Winston Churchill on Facebook today. 

What else am I going to do?

  • Resume writing down what I eat and drink daily.
  • Walk, bike, and exercise on the elliptical for an hour a day. 
  • Fill up on low calorie food and drinks like watermelon, other summer fruits and vegetables, and iced mint tea; 
  • Drink less alcohol (2 glasses of wine a week instead of 7) and eat fewer desserts (a slice of tart once a week instead of one a day).
  • Go to Weight Watchers and weigh in weekly with my buddy Judy.
Like many others, I’ve struggled with my weight over a number of years. 
I’ve been on a weight maintenance plan for the past 3 years after having lost 12 pounds on Weight Watchers. 

Weight management tips:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 cites these behaviors with the strongest evidence for helping manage body weight:

·        Focus on the total number of calories consumed.
·        Monitor food intake.
·        When eating out choose smaller or lower-calorie options.
·        Prepare, serve, and consume smaller portions of foods and beverages especially those high in calories.
·        Eat a nutrient dense breakfast.
·        Limit screen time.

What steps have you found most useful for managing weight?

Yours in joy and health!


Summer Tomatoes, "The More the Taste, the More the Pleasure," 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back from Provence: Getting Over Jet Lag

Today, I’m grateful for two nights of solid sleep.  Still everyday about 4:00 pm—BAM…exhaustion hits, and I feel like someone has just switched off the lights.  The timing is perfect because it happens at about 10:00 pm French time.  I conclude that it’s jetlag.

We returned from Provence on a hot Monday evening, at 101 degrees in Washington, DC.   Tuesday, when the effects of jetlag struck, I exercised on the elliptical machine in the gym downstairs at our condo.  Afterwards, I was more alert and surprised at my renewed energy.

Kay doing T'ai Chi, 2011 
On Wednesday the jetlag won.  I was just too tired to do anything in the afternoon but take a nap.  After a full night’s sleep I felt energized on Thursday until jetlag struck again.  This time I was determined to make it down to the gym instead of crawling off to bed.  Once more, after15 minutes on the elliptical, my focus sharpened. I felt completely transformed and invigorated. So I rode the exercise bike and did some T’ai Chi.  Could physical activity be a cure for jet lag?  Who knows.  But working out gave me just the boost I needed.

A local beer from Marseille, 2011
Apple Strudel, Prague 2011 
On the weight management front, I weighed in on Tuesday and indeed I gained four pounds on our two-month trip to France, Krakow, and Prague.  Ouch!  Even the times we shopped at the outdoor markets and ate in, shared a meal in a restaurant, and exercised (walks, hikes, and T’ai Chi), weren't enough.  We usually ate reasonable portions at meals.  Still, I had over indulged pure and simple at about 245 extra calories a day. Too much alcohol and desserts.  I can't drink a glass of wine or beer and a tart or pastry everyday without gaining weight.   If I keep this up, I’ll gain 24 pounds in a year.  Oh my.  It’s time to take action!  In my next blog post I’ll talk about how I plan to lose what I gained by the end of Labor Day weekend and another four pounds by mid October.

Yours in joy and health,


Lunch of Fresh Water Shrimp Salad in Gigondas, 2011 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Days in Provence: The Wine Country of Gigondas

Wine Country, Gigondas

We are leaving for the Marseille airport in less than an hour.  Now the wine country of Gigondas is a fond memory. The winds of the Mistral whooshed through the plane trees in the afternoon and evening.  In the morning it was calm at first.  Then the Mistral gently rustled leaves, stopped for a breath, and blasted through trees and hillsides.

Lunch in Gigondas, 2011
Yesterday morning we hiked along a marked path that goes from the jagged Dentelles de Montmirail to Gigondas, a wine Mecca of the Côte de Rhone.  The breathtaking village is full of "caves pour degustation" (cellars wine tasting) and restaurants where we ate a lunch.

We spent our last three nights of vacation in the countryside for rest and relaxation before the trip home.  The first night we went to a jazz piano concert in an old quarry in Rognes, a quiet little village.  Tigran Hamasyan played avant-garde piano music that was stirring especially when listened to in the open air of a quarry surrounded by cliffs and with outstanding acoustics.  We celebrated my birthday with dinner at the restaurant Ma Cuisine in Rogne with a grand finale of Crepes Suzette “pour les dessert.”

We stayed two nights at Les Florets, Hotel Charme with a restaurant in a garden nestled into the hillside with their own vineyards.  Thankfully Monsieur Bernard and staff were jovial and caring.  The food was exceptional and thankfully the portion sizes modest.

Three days in the wine country could not have been more peaceful or bucolic.  This is the kind of vacation we’re already envisioning for next year.  This summer we have had a grand tour of the many places we had dreamed of visiting.  Next year will be a vacation for rest and relaxation in the countryside for a mental health break.

This has been a summer packed with eight concerts, trips from Aix to the cities of Paris, Krakow, and Prague and the countryside of Provence.  We are grateful for all of the adventures, and are now ready to go home for a rest and to get back to our routines.  All of the good food and wine has added up, and I’m a little worried about what the scale will show when we get home.  My dress jacket feels a little tight, not a good sign.  I’ll give you a full report when we get home.

Yours in joy and health!


Dentelles Montmirail, 2011