Tag Archives: diet

Beans and rice


Our church is challenging the congregation to take part in a Beans and Rice Challenge on Monday through Friday of this week.  Basically that means to make beans and rice the main course for every meal of the day. There are two purposes to this challenge. The first is to give us a taste of what it’s like in other countries who have no choice but to eat beans and rice for every meal.  Of course, we are still spoiled in this challenge since we can also add different things like spices, vegetables, meat, tortillas, etc.  Other countries have only beans and rice, no seasonings, and definitely no meat. In fact, many times they don’t even have clean water to cook their beans and rice in.  The second purpose of this challenge is to save the money we would have spent on groceries for the week and donate it to help build a church in India.  The goal is $10,000.  Before the challenge started, two families pledged to give $500 each, one family pledged $2,000, and a local business donated $1,000.  We are only on day 1 and already 40% to our goal!

Our family admittedly hemmed and hawed about the beans and rice challenge a little bit. Or should I say, Mr. W and I were hesitant.  He was concerned about being hungry all the time, an understandable concern since the boys in our family tend to be hypoglycemic without enough food.  I was vainly concerned because I’ve lost all this weight avoiding things like rice and too many beans.  But when the challenge got closer and we talked about it with the family, it was the Taz who was instantly intrigued.

Ask the Taz what his favorite dish in the whole world is, and he’ll tell you ‘burritos’.  The kid lives for them.  If we have refried beans in the fridge, he’s good for lunch.  He’ll even pack burritos in a brown bag for school, not even caring that they’re cold by the time lunch rolls around.  And rice?  Probably in his top 5 of favorite foods.  So a week of beans and rice sounded like heaven to him.

I went about packing mine and the Taz’ lunches last night just to set us on a good start for the first day of beans and rice.  For me, I packed a breakfast of red beans, rice, and yams.  For lunch it was red beans, rice, and avocado.  I added a little salt to each for flavor, and had an orange for lunch.  For Taz, I gave him red beans and rice for breakfast.  For lunch he had red beans, rice, and avocado in two tortillas.

I brought all my food to work, and immediately ate my breakfast.  It was a little bland, but not that bad.  But having avoided rice for so long, I felt really bloated when I was done – almost too full.  “This is going to be easy,” I thought.

An hour later I was starving.

I spent the next three hours until lunch time drinking tons of water to keep me filled, as well as half of my orange.  When lunchtime came I nonchalantly heated up my beans and rice and brought them to my desk where I proceeded to devour them.  They were even plainer than before, though the avocado gave it a nice texture.  I was full and hungry at the same time.  I ate the rest of my orange, drank a boatload of water, went pee about 50 times, and then waited till it was time to get home.

Once home, I could barely function.  I was in one of those places where it was best if I just avoided everyone altogether.  It’s luckily Mr. W’s turn to make dinner, so I sat outside and read a magazine until dinner.

For dinner we had…..wait for it….beans and rice.  But we also had all the fixings for tacos, including chicken.  I made sure to put a good amount of chicken and beans on my plate, but I avoided the rice like the plague.  Still counting calories, I couldn’t fathom filling up on something that was so lacking in nutrients when what I really needed was a proper amount of protein.

“Thanks God,” I said, when I saw everyone was waiting for a prayer before beginning to eat.  And then I bit into my first bite of dinner as if I were coming up for air.

“I find it strange that you’re doing all this challenge for a Godly reason, and can’t even pray before we eat,” DQ said with her nose up in the air.  I was just about to hit her over the head with my taco and a flurry of unGodly words when Mr. W interrupted with a much more proper prayer.  I decided it was better to be holy in my discontent at my self-righteous daughter than to say something that might make me slightly less holy in my sacrifices.  Besides, it took about two tacos worth for anything that made sense to come out of my mouth and be able to look people in the eye again.

The Taz admitted that he, too, suffered adverse effects from a day of beans and rice.  He had no energy when it came to playing with his friends during recess.  And in class, his teacher had to kept reminding him not to lay his head on his desk.  And then there were all the times he kept sneaking a left-cheek sneak, and then looking at the person next to him so that everyone in class thought it was the other guy and not Taz.

Day 1 down and I’m already sick of beans and rice.

I am re-evaluating the whole challenge for my diet by nixing the rice.  I just can’t eat it.  I hate the way it felt to feel that full and then that empty soon after.  I know, I know, there are starving children in India who are forced to eat this way daily, and I can’t handle even one day of it.  But hey, those starving children aren’t going to be fitting into a wedding gown in a month and a half, either.  Besides, this whole stomach-eating-brain-because-I’m-so-hungry thing just doesn’t bode well for being able to work properly, and especially for keeping the peace in the household.  It’s only been one day, and I feel like we’re all ready to bite each other’s heads off.

Only 4 more days.

Here’s a cool recipe I found for Bean Cookies that I plan on trying out this week just for the fun of it:

Breakfast Bean Cookies
by juliewashere.blogspot.com

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda (I’m guessing, since the original omitted this step)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 – 19 oz. (540 mL) can white kidney or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips, the darker the better
1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or a combination of dried fruits
1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

Preheat oven to 350° F.

1. In a food processor, Pulse the oats until it resembles coarse flour. Add in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and process until it’s combined.  Transfer to a large bowl.

2. In the food processor, add in beans, butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla, pulsing till smooth.

3. Combine bean and oat mixture in bowl and stir by hand until combined.  Add in chocolate, raisins, nuts, and flaxseed.  Stir till just blended.

4. Place large spoonfuls of dough on a greased (or parchment papered) sheet, and flatten each one slightly.  (The blog I borrowed this from suggests dampening your hand first to keep it from sticking).

5. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until slightly browned on edges but soft in middle.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie: 138 calories, 3.5 g total fat (1.4 g saturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 0.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 14.2 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber. 22% calories from fat.

Carb lusting

I had a sandwich today. It was horribly amazing, possibly the best thing I’d eaten in a long time.  Because I’ve been Paleo for so long, it occurred to me that I would regret this decision as soon as my protruding wheat belly caught up with me.  But as the juice from the tomato dripped down my arm and the chewy sourdough of the bread flirted with my taste buds, I was perfectly content in the moment.

I regretted nothing.

Totally absorbed in the decadence of my totally carbed up sandwich, I didn’t need electronic gadgets to amuse me or even someone to keep me company.  My book lay closed next to my juicy elbow, and I found solace  in staring straight ahead at the waterfalling fountain in front of me.  As I sat, the sun gently caressed my back, my crowded mind slowly winding down as my mouth filled with Heaven.

Eating like a normal human being is divine. And my pants already feel tighter. But it’s not like all this edible sacrifice has even touched those ten pounds I keep wishing away….  And I swear I ate less today NOT Paleo since my carb craving was finally appeased.  I’m starting to wonder if it’s even worth it to limit my diet so much since all I end up doing as a result is obsess about the foods I can’t eat.  I may have some thinking to do.

Fat Tuesday, Lean Wednesday

While no longer the genuflecting type, my Catholic roots have kept a few traditions under my belt that I cherish in my Christian faith. One of those is the season of Lent. I find it a beautiful time of starting over and ridding myself of the things that are warping my life. Much like the rest of the population has New Year’s Day to create resolutions, Lent is the perfect time to rid my life of everything that is bringing me down.

It’s the time when I make my life more holy.

Admittedly, diet is about to take a huge part of my Lenten fasting. Knowing I’m embarking on stricter food rules come Wednesday, I relaxed my regiment over the weekend. On Saturday I had a sandwich in a thick Dutch Crunch roll. I had not eaten bread in months. It was delicious, if not super filling. That night I enjoyed a dessert of King’s Cake in honor of Mardi Gras. The almondy taste was heavenly. Over the weekend I filled up on Ritz crackers. OMG. Ritz crackers are golden! I could eat those buttery loves all day long. And then last night I took a flour tortilla, filled it with refried beans, and then topped it with cheese. Dairy is another food item I have nixed from my diet in suspicions of being lactose intolerant. But nevertheless, I figured a little bit wouldn’t hurt.

Today I am down for the count and have been a slave to the toilet for the past 3 hours. Damn you cheese.

I fantasize about chocolate. I feel dumb when I go out to eat and can’t enjoy what everyone else is eating. I hate that I gain 5 pounds immediately when I stop eating “clean”, and it takes me weeks to lose it again. I think about food all the time.

I suffer from food addictions.

So yes, I am going to be making some changes for Lent, and am starting early today to give my tummy a break, as well as to fix some of the other areas in my life that are less than holy.

Lent Promises

Paleo Diet: So easy a caveman can do it

1. Diet: I am going back to my Paleo way of eating, but will be even stricter about it in the next 40+ days of Lent. I will allow beans in my diet (not considered Paleo), but am giving up corn and corn products, soybean, grains, and dairy – focusing my diet mainly on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. I also plan on trying my best to stick to non-GMO foods (I am really scared at how genetically modified food has transformed the health of our society!).  And buh-bye sugar. It’s been sweet knowing you.

2. Use my inside voice: I am raising a teenage daughter. I have not been very good at it. I find myself acting in ways I swore I never would. In the past few weeks we’ve gotten into at least two screaming matches. I said things I’m not proud of, and acted out in ways I’m ashamed of. If I were my daughter, I would want to move out of my house and in with my dad – just as she wants to do. I can’t blame her. So the first rule on this I am making for the next 40 days is that I am not allowed to raise my voice. If I feel the need to yell, I need to take a moment and think before speaking. It is my hope that this will also help me to pause and remember what it felt like in her shoes, and to not take everything so personally. And perhaps I can become the kind of parent I’d want to have if I had to (God forbid) relive my teenage years.

3. Make my phone “dumb”: Another addiction? My smart phone. I am attached to my iPhone, and have become dependent on it. Free time? Feeling lonely? Need to do something I don’t want to? My iPhone is right there to distract me and help me procrastinate, replace my need for actual socialization, and help me feel less awkward in times of discomfort. And it’s holding me back. I have a wedding to prepare for. I have a novel that will never be completed until I start editing it. I have kids who need my attention and a career I need to refind my passion for. And my smart phone is right there telling me that all of that can wait because I need to beat my high score on Bejeweled. I can use the Internet when I’m sitting at a computer. All other times, I don’t need to. So my iPhone is about to become really “dumb” and lose its internet abilities so it can be used only as a (gasp!) phone.

One of the bridesmaid bouquets in the DIY wedding project I've imprisoned myself to.

4. Wedded focus: I have a bunch of really cute DIY bouquets I’m creating instead of using real flowers. But they aren’t going to get done if I’m not doing them. By Easter, these bouquets are going to be finished. I also plan on finalizing the centerpieces, invitations, and have my dress ordered. Phew!

5. A novel idea: This step is tentative, and really hinges on whether I can get the steps in #4 done. But I need to work on my book. I’ve written it, and marked it up with a red pen after re-reading it twice. But I am scared to make any changes. I need to step over my fear of altering it and dive right in. After all, what if my procrastination is depriving the world of the next NY Times Bestseller?

6. Pray. Pray like there’s no tomorrow. Pray like there is a tomorrow. Use this time of Lent to remember to lean on God when times get heavy, when parenting hurts the most, when going to work feels like heading to my execution, when I’m scared to talk to people, when every day feels like a repeat of the last, when life seems bleak, when friends feel far away, when I feel fat and ugly, when I’ve lost my purpose, when time seems too fast, when the clock seems at a standstill, when unfairness rears its ugly head, when I’m overwhelmed, when I don’t know what to do with myself…. And pray when I remember all that God has blessed me with in the hurdles he’s helped me overcome.

And perhaps some of this might become lifelong habits long after Lent has ended.

A personal battle with child obesity

One of the lowest points of this past year was when a reader left a comment on my blog, remarking that the Taz had gained a considerable amount of weight. I deleted it as soon as I read it, afraid that he might see it. And then I hemmed and hawed over that comment, whether I should have left it or was right to leave it off.

In the end, it remains deleted, even as I print the words on this blog post.

I mention that deleted comment because weight is a very huge part in our resolutions this year. The Taz is overweight. He knows it. I know it. And it’s been known for a while. It’s something we’ve struggled with all year long. Last January, I mentioned the weight problem and our goals to tackle it. I received a lot of support from other people struggling with weight issues of their own – either with their kid or with themselves. And it really helped to motivate us in our health journey.

But somewhere along the way, we lost track.

Maybe it was busyness, or maybe laziness (or maybe a combination of the two), but I stopped paying close enough attention to what the Taz was eating and how much screen time and play time he was getting. I allowed him to make his own lunches, trusting him to make the right choices in what he was eating. But at 10 years old, willpower can be a very nonexistent thing. A corn muffin and chips sound like a way better lunch than a turkey sandwich and an apple, right? He hadn’t developed healthy habits that were strong enough to be able to make good choices. And yet I was putting the power in his hands.

We were both bound to fail.

What the Taz really needed from me was to take control of the battle for his health. With the New Year fast approaching, I knew I needed a game plan. I was afraid for the Taz’ health, and afraid that he’d be destined towards a life of obesity. Thing is, I didn’t really know where to start. And that’s when I came across the book, Healthy Choices, Healthy Children, by Lori S. Brizee, MS, RD, CSP (a registered dietitian and certified specialist in pediatric nutrition) and Sue Schumann Warner (an award winning journalist and author).

Now don’t get me wrong, I was mailed this book with the hopes that I would do a review on it. And being that faithful book reviewer that I am, I put it aside and almost forgot about it. But in a moment when I was going over a meal plan for the first week of January, I suddenly remembered this book and pulled it out to start reading. What I found were chapters that gave step-by-step instructions on how to turn around bad habits and change them for healthier ones.

The first thing the authors are clear on is having respect for the body. The book comes from a spiritual point of view, but the message is relevant whether the reader is religious or not. We should treat our bodies more kindly, respecting them with healthier food and keeping them active so they can continue to do us good. The authors go on to encourage parents to involve their kids in the shopping and cooking process, teaching them the “hows” of eating. And at the end of each chapter, an action is listed for the week to help continue down a path of healthy decisions.

What I love most about this book is the fact that it is step-by-step instead of all-or-nothing. Each chapter is another rung up the ladder towards instilling good habits in eating and exercise. The guidelines offers small changes that can be made each week – making it the ideal model for busy parents (like me!) to help our families be successful in establishing healthy choices. Real recipes are offered in the book (I’ve actually included a couple on my meal plan for the week), and there are different ideas listed to encourage activities for the whole family. There’s even a chapter on helping picky children (like my veggie-averted son) to eat well.

I’ve found this book to be incredibly useful to help me get the Taz back on a healthier track, and to give me the tools to know how to do it. If you’re interested in checking out the book, Lori S. Brizee will be at the Petaluma Copperfields (140 Kentucky St) on January 28th at 7pm to promote her book, “Healthy Choices, Healthy Children”. I hope you can make it to hear her speak and pick up her book for your own family.

For more info or to purchase this book ($13), visit paracletepress.com.

Recap: Anyone miss summer yet?

Featured photo: Karen's son Zachary went for the surfer look on his first day of school. Share your own first day photos in our photo gallery!

Hello all you Moms and Dads! Did you survive the first week of school? Take a break from helping your kids with homework and packing lunches, and join us over at SantaRosaMom.com. Here’s what’s going on this week:

Back to School tips
The APA (American Pediatrics Association) has released some very useful tips for Back-to-School. They give advice on how to help kids entering a new school, how to save their backs from backpack weight, rules of the road for walkers and bikers, and more. This is a vital topic you’ll want to read.

School pics in our Photo Gallery!
Have you checked out the first day of school photos in our photo gallery?  The photo to the right is from Karen who sent in photos of all her kids’ first day. Take a peek, and then upload some school photos of your own!

What do you miss about summer?
Now that we’re in the throes of school, I can bet there are some of you looking back at that short summer vacation and missing it like crazy. For me, there’s a little beach house in San Diego I’d give anything to be back at. How about you?

Diet book for kids?
Parents are up in arms over a book set to release in October called “Maggie Goes on a Diet”. Many are upset that a book would target girls in this way and give possible eating disorders and self-esteem issues. But others see this book as a good thing that most children need to read, especially as we battle the obesity epidemic that has taken over our country. What are your thoughts on this?

Protecting against childhood
A blogger is taking issue with the fact that playgrounds are being modified to make it impossible to get hurt, Happy Meal toys are being banned, and parents are going overboard in child-proofing their surroundings. His question: “Is childhood going out of style?”

Deep, dark Mommy secrets
Our Petaluma360.com mommy blogger, Veronica, wrote a really deep post about the secrets we learn as we are parents, some we share but don’t admit with others for fear of looking like a bad mom, and what would have kept us from having kids had we known them before. Have you discovered any of these secrets about yourself? Share them if you dare!

Are you listening, Mom?
My kid is a talker. And some of the things he talks about are admittedly of no interest to me. I don’t want to know the play-by-play of his favorite TV show. I don’t really care about that person I don’t know all over YouTube. And the detailed description about how to get to the next level on his video game just goes over my head. But what kind of message am I sending to my kid when I tune him out?

Dance classes for toddlers
One of our moms Is asking about toddler dance classes in Santa Rosa. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Hot Topic: Secret Starbucks Menu
Ever ordered a Dirty Chai? How about a Chocolate Dalmatian? There are some really tasty treats you could be missing out on because they’re not on the Starbucks menu.

Several fun events are happening this weekend. There’s the Hawaiian Luau at Penngrove Park, Taste of Petaluma will be happening all over Petaluma, there’s the Rohnert Park Art & Music Festival, and you can learn about pickling at Savory Spice in Santa Rosa. And more! Check out our Events Calendar to see upcoming Family Events.

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you on the forums!

Crissi Dillon

5 tips to curb mindless grazing

As you may remember, I gave up sugar for Lent – not added sugar, but anything that might resemble dessert. And while I’d love to say it was for religious reasons since Lent is a time of meditation, it was more to get over an obscene obsession with sweets following the winter holiday season.

The first couple of weeks giving up sugar were hard. I found myself snacking on anything else I could substitute for sugar. The food victim that suffered the most at my hands was a jar of peanut butter. Yes, you could argue that it has a lot of added sugar and should therefore be considered a cheat. But being that it only has 3 grams of sugar in it and doesn’t fall in the “tasting sweet” category, I used PB as an alternative to gorging on chocolate. Unfortunately, I found myself getting just as addicted to it.  I realized it needed to be on the “do not eat” list as well, especially since the scale was creeping up despite my “no sweets” diet thanks to 16 whole grams of fat in that “tiny” serving of PB.

At any rate, I made it to the other side of Lent with my cravings curbed. I also gorged on candy all day Easter Sunday. One piece of chocolate led to an invite to several more pieces of chocolate. And soon I was hosting an all-out chocolate rager in my mouth. Obviously I still need to keep strict restrictions on my sugar intake. But luckily, I came out of this experience with a few tips for curbing the sugar cravings, as well as mindless snacking that leads to unaccounted calories throughout the day.

1. Green smoothies. I have fallen in love with this little concoction. It’s a mixture of veggies and fruit to create a sweet snack without adding sugar, and while also getting the proper amount of veggies in my diet. As someone who is not very good at eating her greens, this has been my lifesaver! I make a large cup of it in the morning and sip it throughout the day to keep me from reaching for the salty or sweet snacks. And because it’s so filling, I’m not tempted to cheat. Of course, I have yet to find the exact recipe to entice my kids to enjoy these as well since I’m trying not add anything to sweeten it besides berries or bananas. But I’m getting closer. My personal favorite is banana and kale with a little almond milk and wheat germ. But you can make it as simple as adding one serving fruit to one serving veggie, and just adding water. For some healthy smoothie ideas (green or not), visit our forum discussion at SantaRosaMom.com.

2. Plan it out. If you take the time out in the morning to list all the foods you are allowed in the day, and even when you can eat them, it will help to keep you from cheating against it with mindless snacking. If you’re going to work, pack a lunch every day to avoid eating out and consuming too many calories. Stagger your eating so that you don’t have a chance to get too hungry. An empty stomach can cause you to make bad food choices, so always allow for healthy snacks like a lower calorie yogurt (my favorites are Light Yoplait at 100 calories, or the Light Dannon at 60 calories), fruit, cut up veggies, or a small plate of lunch meat and a string cheese. And get in the habit of writing down everything you eat so that you’re holding yourself accountable.

3. Water yourself. Always keep a large water at your side, and drink it liberally. Many times when we’re hungry, we’re actually dehydrated. Our bodies need more water than many of us are supplying it with, so increasing your water intake is a great habit to get into. At first, it might be hard. But once you get used to drinking more water, you’ll find that you actually crave it. Also, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of other drinks you’re having as you increase your water intake. Nix the sodas and fancy coffees – drinks that add way too many calories to your diet for being just liquid – and drink water instead.

4. Do something – anything! I found that at times I was sitting around and bored, that’s when I wanted to snack the most. But when I was busy, I didn’t even find the desire to snack. I recently took up running, and the motivation from this simple form of exercise has motivated me to think twice before snacking as I feel more energized and way healthier than ever before. Of course, there will still be times when sitting and doing nothing is necessary. But make rules or habits that will curb mindless snacking – like no eating in the living room (to keep from grazing while watching TV), or busying your hands with knitting or the like.

5. Check out the additional tips we have listed over at SantaRosaMom.com.

What are some ways you curb mindless grazing?

Lent for everyone

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day when practicing Catholics start their 40 Day Fast from one thing until Easter Sunday when they can indulge to their heart’s content. The reason behind it is to a) make a sacrifice in honor of the sacrifice made for them, and b) up their opportunity of prayer and meditation as they struggle with giving up something they love.

Our Christian family finds this Catholic tradition beautiful. And while it’s not a required tradition in our sect of faith, it is a tradition in the roots of my faith. And it’s become something I’ve taken from my childhood religion and introduced to my family at this time of year. We welcome the challenge to give something up for 40 days, seeing if we actually can do it. And more times than not we come out of the experience with a fresh outlook, as well as an ability to lessen one more addiction from our lives.

Of course, our favorite addiction to give up is sugar.

Not only is our family in love with all things sweet (in terms of dieting, it is my #1 downfall), we crave it when it isn’t around. This is why I try to keep my house free from desserts at all times. Our biggest sweet splurges in the house are Jello pudding snacks, strawberry jelly, and honey. The absence of desserts keeps us from scarfing sugary sweets throughout the day. But, of course, when it is around us – WATCH OUT.

Remember that scene in Finding Nemo when Marlin and Dory are at the would-be vegetarian shark meeting, and Dory is hit in the mouth so that recovering fish addict Bruce catches a whiff of her blood? This is slightly less dramatic than what it looks like when the kids and I catch sight of some innocent chocolate just laying around.

This is also what has made it so dangerous when we come over to Mr. W’s home.

Mr. W is one of those annoying people who can eat ANYTHING without gaining weight. His son has annoyingly taken on this genetic ability as well. The two of them rave about their greasy cheeseburgers, two-pound sirloins, cheesy lasagnas, and other artery clogging, thigh-enhancing, humongous meals without any sign of their health deteriorating or their waistbands expanding. I, on the other hand, only have to smell such foods to gain 5 pounds around my lower half. Another characteristic to this unfair calorie-cancelling duo is the ability to pass up sweets without a second thought. I mean, their ice cream has been in the freezer for so long, it has freezer burn. I wasn’t even aware ice cream did that! I suppose if it stayed in there longer than 3 days, however….

In Mr. W’s kitchen is a cabinet at eye level that holds the most enticing snacks a sugar-holic could dream of. Halloween candy. Easter candy. Those two-pound dark chocolate bars from Trader Joes. Truffles. Cookies…. You get the picture. When I come to Mr. W’s house, we all make a bee-line for this cabinet if only just to stare at the wonderfulness of it. Here is this magical cabinet that holds candy that has been untouched for months! Is that even possible? And for some reason, whenever we visit Mr. W, the candy on those shelves lessens just slightly. And I can’t for the life of me explain how I gained a couple pounds just from a mere visit to Mr. W’s house… I finally had to instruct the 6’ tall Mr. W to hide everything of interest on the very top shelf so that my 5’4” self couldn’t reach them without some effort, and so they weren’t staring me in the face every time I walked by. And it seemed to mostly do the trick.

But still, those sugar addictions exist.

Yesterday afternoon I caught a chocolate craving so intense I could barely think straight. And I made a beeline to our office vending machine to quiet my inner chocolate gremlin. Alas, I only had a $5 bill. I plugged it into the change making machine, and then listened to what sounded like the winning jingle at the casino slot machine. Apparently the machine was out of dollar coins and quarters. But it had plenty of dimes and nickels. :-/ No worries, I just pulled out 20 nickels and bought myself a Hershey’s chocolate bar – which promptly got stuck when it fell to a part of the machine that wouldn’t allow it to travel the rest of the way to my waiting hands. You’d think I’d listen as the universe plainly told me I didn’t need these extra sugar calories, but no. I just counted out more change and bought myself the world’s most finicky chocolate bar. And sitting at my desk, I forgot that anyone could see me as I inhaled the chocolate bar without coming up for air. And it was heavenly.

And it was also my last sugary indulgence until Easter Sunday when, appropriately enough, we will be surrounded by chocolate bunnies and crème filled eggs.

This morning my son asked me if he could give up video games instead. And I told him I thought that was a wonderful idea, but that it didn’t make much sense unless he included his computer games as well.

“But what will I do then?” he lamented before deciding that sugar was an easier addiction to avoid for 40 days.

Goodbye pudding. Goodbye yogurt. Goodbye juice and soda. Goodbye chocolate. Goodbye freezer burned ice cream at Mr. W’s house…. I’ll miss you all terribly.

Are you giving up anything right now, for Lent or for any other reason?

Overweight Kids

It doesn’t feel good to be hanging on to some extra weight. And a good majority of our population knows this fact by experience. What is a common problem for adults has created a multi-billion dollar industry in ways to let go of some of that girth – from diet foods, to detoxes, to laser surgery, to good old-fashioned PhotoShop. But the issues with weight don’t stop with adults. Nowadays kids are also battling the bulge. And no wonder – the increase in technology and convenient foods high in fat have promoted a sedentary way of life for our kids. Kids these days….  When I was a kid we used to walk uphill both ways with rocks in our shoes.  Seriously, though, there was no cable television.  There was no Facebook.  And video games weren’t all that addicting, so we actually preferred to play outside.  Kids these days are way too engrossed in virtual entertainment.  And the result is a child who is growing sideways, with a self esteem that is diminishing just as fast. And their way of dealing with it is to continue hanging out in front of the TV or computer, munching on food because it feels good in that moment.

But believe me, your child doesn’t want to be overweight. They want to be a healthier version of kids their age. They may even feel “eater’s remorse” after indulging in something sinful, just like adults tend to do. They may even know what foods they should avoid, and that they should be getting up off the couch and moving around. But they don’t know how to start.

It’s up to us to show them how. And it’s our responsibility to promote a healthier way of living.

I am not immune to this dilemma. The Taz is ending the summer roughly 30 pounds overweight. Last summer, he looked just like the other kids his age. He was active in sports, could run fast, and enjoyed playing outside. But over the year, the weight crept up. He was snacking a lot more frequently, something I excused with growth spurts. He was playing outside a lot less, preferring to play with his video games. When he did go outside to play with his friends it was to hang out at their houses, eat their food, and play their video games. And the Taz stopped having the energy to play the way he used to. And soon I realized that the Taz had put on more than just a little baby fat.  The kid was actually hanging over his jeans.

And the Taz was aware of his body image. He saw how his friends were skinnier. He wasn’t ignorant of the fact that the kids on his baseball team were faster than him. Whenever I took a picture of him, he quickly sucked in his stomach and puffed out his chest to make himself appear thinner. He finally asked me to help him lose the weight, telling me of his desire to start eating healthier. Week one came and went, and the Taz was eating smaller, healthier meals and nixing the snacks in between. He was even exercising a bit with me. But after that first week, his interest in working at it wore thin. And he gave up. He’d give me lip service about eating healthy, and then go to his friends’ homes where he’d drink several sodas and gorge on junk food. And he’d sneak his money outside and buy all sorts of junk from the man who rides around our neighborhood selling goodies from his bike.

I’ll admit, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to promote a healthy way of eating and living when my son is unwilling to be a part of the process. It’s frustrating, to say the least. And I admit, it pisses me off.  It makes me angry that he feels inferior to those around him because he is bigger, so embarassed by his body that he won’t even take his shirt off comfortably when we go swimming.  It makes me angry that he wants to become healthier, but not enough to actually make the effort.  It makes me angry that there are so many targets out there aimed at children, like video games and high calorie kid meals, that make it even harder for them to even have the desire to be healthy.  How can healthy living win out when the alternative is so much more appealing?  And it makes me angry that I have dropped the ball and have allowed him to gain weight.  But I haven’t given up. The most recent development on this path is that we’ve started taking family walks in the evening. It’s become something that we all look forward to every evening. The Taz walks with us for one lap, and then skateboards the second half.   And while I cannot easily stop him from eating unhealthy food at his friends’ homes, I can continue encouraging healthier eating at home, and continue creating a habit that will hopefully become second-nature.

I also found some great tips written by Dr. Holly Atkinson, the Chief Medical Officer and Senior Medical Correspondent for HealthiNation. She encourages parents of overweight children to emotionally support children, letting them know they are loved and accepted no matter what their size is. She also mentions that parents should be the role model when it comes to changes an overweight child should make to become healthier. “Children look to their parents as their models. If you eat healthy foods, your child will too. If you exercise, they are more likely to exercise.” And it’s a good idea to limit the amount of TV watching, computer, and video games your child is playing. To see more of Holly’s tips, check them out in the forums at SantaRosaMom.com.

What are your thoughts on weight gain in kids? Is there any easy way to prevent obesity in kids? Are there uncommonly known things about our society that is actually encouraging this weight gain? And what happens after our kids have gained an abnormal amount of weight, how can we turn things around?

Weight issues in kids

“Mom, I’ve gained weight,” the Taz told me with a forlorn look on his face after weighing himself on the upstairs scale.

It’s true. Over the past year the Taz has packed on a bit of baby pudge on his once trim body. It probably has to do with the way he helps himself to thirds for every meal. It may have something to do with the obsessive snacking he does in between meals. Maybe it’s his need to sneak some money outside whenever he hears the jangle of the ice cream man riding by on his bike. It’s all of those things, but it’s also the normal weight shift that kids go through around the age of 9 when their bodies slow down for a second in growing before shooting up like a weed. His sister went through the same battle at his age, and only lost the weight this last year when she went through a growth spurt. But she had also helped along the process when she became aware of her own body for the first time, and decided that eating more healthy foods and fewer proportions was a better answer than constant snacking.

The Taz had finally noticed his body, and now wanted to make a change.

Weight issues in kids are a very slippery slope. You want your child to be fit, trim, and healthy. But you don’t want them so obsessed with their body that they develop self esteem issues or an unhealthy relationship with food that goes from love to hate. Somehow, as parents, we must help our kids to be healthy, but not give them impulses to starve themselves (which later turns to more bingeing, which then turns into more weight gain) to “fit in”.

“Am I fat?” the Taz asked me. I wasn’t sure what to say in that moment. I had seen kids that had packed on an enormous amount of weight, and the Taz didn’t resemble these kids at all. But he had definitely changed in the past year where his stomach didn’t quite fit into the pants that fit his length. DQ stepped in before I could even say anything.

“You’re not fat. In fact, I was larger than you at your age. You’ll lose the weight just like me once you get taller, you’ll see.” Sometimes I love my daughter more than words can describe.

“You will lose it naturally,” I continued. “But the thing is, DQ changed her body not just by growing, but by changing the way she eats. She started eating healthier. Would you like to do the same?” I asked him. He nodded his head. Together we talked about a game plan for the next several months. I told him that I wouldn’t make him eat anything he didn’t like, and he wouldn’t have to give up many of his favorite foods. But he would not be eating seconds at any meal. He would also have to give up snacking in between meals. We decided on a couple of good breakfasts I could prepare for him every day so that he’d avoid cereal for awhile (no nutritional value, and definitely not filling). I promised to make him oatmeal or eggs and toast every day. I also made sure to stock up on turkey for his sandwiches so that he didn’t have to eat peanut butter and jelly (you’d be shocked at how many empty calories exists in this sandwich!).

“Does that mean I’ll never be able to eat dessert?” he asked, a worried look on his face.

“Of course you can have dessert, but it’s going to be more of a once in a while treat rather than an every day occurrence. And dessert can be a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie a lot of times.”

“What if one of the parents brings cupcakes to the baseball game?” he asked.

“Then you can eat it,” I told him. “That’s a once in a while treat.”

“And what about fast food?” he asked me. “A lot of times when I go to my dad’s, that’s what we have for dinner.” I gave him a list of things he could eat off the menu without going overboard, like two soft tacos or one bean burrito or one hamburger.

When my parents heard about the Taz’s new healthy eating plan, they wanted to get in on helping him out as well. They recently joined Weight Watchers, and my mom had a whole box of fun recipes that hardly seemed like diet foods. She gave me a recipe for a Ricotta Smoothie, a filling breakfast that both the kids agreed was delicious (recipe at end). And I talked to the Taz’s dad who also agreed that he would be making a conscious effort to make more dinners and to help the Taz with portion control.

After a busy weekend of baseball and playing at his dad’s house, the Taz came back to me all smiles.

“Look Mom! I think I’m getting trimmer!” and he lifted his shirt to show his belly to me. It had only been a couple days, but it did look like he had slimmed up a tiny bit.

“Great job, Taz!” I told him. “Just you wait, you’re going to see a difference in no time if you keep up eating healthy.”

Recipe and meal plan of attack:

RICOTTA SMOOTHIE RECIPE (123 total calories)

½ cup Orange Juice (55 calories)
¼ cup Skim Milk (23 calories)
½ tsp Vanilla
¼ cup Non-fat Ricotta Cheese (45 calories)
1 packet sweetener

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until mixed.

Fruit can be added (though that changes the calorie count), like a banana, strawberries, or a mango, etc. I also fix him one egg and a piece of toast to go with it so that he gets a nice full breakfast to get him through the first part of the day. For lunch he gets one sandwich, a Roaring Waters Capri-Sun, a piece of fruit, and a snack (like crackers with peanut butter or cheese). After school he gets a snack like a banana or a quesadilla. And dinner is a normal sized plate of food that consists of a protein, a grain, and a vegetable with a glass of milk. No seconds allowed.

Week one has been successful. I’m very proud of my boy!

Is your child struggling with weight? What about body image issues? How have you encouraged healthy eating and exercise for weight loss without hurting their self esteem? And if you are a naturally active and slim family, what kinds of things does your family do to keep healthy?

Getting off the Dieting Roller Coaster

Dieting. It’s in every woman’s vocabulary. And the meaning of this word varies.

1. Killing yourself slowly.
2. Starving strategically.
3. Skipping foods you like only to eat them later when no one’s looking.
4. Being really good for weeks (or days) on end and then bingeing like food is going out of style.
5. Trying every damn diet that is deemed popular until you give up because it’s not working. (see #3)
6. Losing the same 5 pounds over and over again.
7. Gaining more weight each time you introduce a new diet to your system.
8. Cutting out pictures of fashion models as motivation to keep from eating that leftover piece of pie in the fridge.
9. Thinking murderous thoughts about that fashion model as you eat that leftover piece of pie in the fridge.

Can you tell I’ve been on the dieting roller coaster?

Every year I have strived to get back to my pre-baby body. Several times I came close. I tried Atkins and ate more meat than I could handle (and had the digestive problems to prove it). I tried South Beach, and kept having to repeat Phase #1 over and over every time I cheated and gave up for a stint. This resulted in a summer without fruit that I will never get back. I tired low carb diets that always ended in a complete massacre of anything that even closely resembled a piece of bread. I tried the no flour, no sugar diet, and realized I was missing the point when I was eating plates of French fries because they contained no flour and no sugar. I would go hungry only to eat more than I usually would when I could stand it no longer and gain back even more weight than I originally started out with.

Frankly, I was losing a no-win battle.

For a time, I gave up altogether. Food was my friend, I decided. I liked to eat. Good food made me happy and kept me comfortable. When anything else let me down, a nice piece of cheesecake or a grease dripping burger could always bring me up. You see where I’m going with this, right? I was using food to soothe my needs, and was only creating a monster out of my food addiction. I had no willpower left to turn down a cream based platter of noodles if they were set before me. Parties with a buffet table had me guarding the area so I could try every single item twice. Going out to eat meant foregoing any rational thinking when it came to what was going to haunt me later. After all, I may not be able to try that food every again. I was becoming a slave to food.

Not to mention my stomach – not just the pooch that was becoming more prominent, but what was going on inside. While I loved eating a lot, eating a lot did not love me. I would be left with the worst stomach aches, and my digestion was just shot. I was left without energy or motivation. And the depression from these problems only caused me to eat more.

There comes a time when enough is enough. And 6 months ago, I reached that point. I was no longer able to button my pants. And the thought that I would have to buy pants in a bigger size depressed me. I was already in a size that was more than I could handle. To go bigger was not an option. So I changed EVERYTHING.

First thing I changed was my exercise. I had been going to the gym every morning at 5:30 am. That meant I was getting up at 4:45 am. When I have to put the kids to bed at 9 pm the night before and then finish all my household chores, I was not getting to bed until 11 pm. Going to the gym in the morning was not allowing me to get enough sleep. So I decided to stop going to the gym. Now don’t get me wrong, exercise is important. As a supplement I would take walks around the neighborhood or on an occasional lunch break. But I was definitely burning less calories than I was when I was going to the gym. But, I was getting way more sleep. And this allowed me to have more energy throughout the day. I mention this not to get people to stop going to the gym, but to encourage anyone reading this that you HAVE to get rest if you want to see any weight loss. Tired bodies and brains result in uninhibited eating habits. Let’s face it, when you are exhausted, you are too tired to really care about what you are eating. And getting up and moving at any point of the day, whether it be parking on the far side of the lot or taking the stairs, is too much effort to make. So rule #1, get enough sleep.

Because I was not exercising a lot, I knew I had to really focus on the foods I was eating to encourage any weight loss. But from past experience with diets, I knew I could not go full force into a strict dieting regiment. Also from past experience, I realized that I would lose a couple pounds whenever I took the focus off of dieting and just ate when I was hungry. So it became clear that I was putting too much emphasis on food itself. So rather than tell myself I couldn’t eat certain foods, I ate whatever I wanted. But I ate only half. If I ate out at a restaurant, I ate half the plate and then boxed up the rest for leftovers. For lunch, I ate only half a sandwich. I ate dessert, but split it with Mr. W (he loves this part, by the way). By doing this, I wasn’t really putting any thought into what I was eating at all, and I wasn’t depriving myself of tasting foods that I liked. I’ll admit, it was a little hard at first. But my stomach soon got used to the smaller portions and it became easier. Rule #2, start with a small change.

One thing that I learned in these early stages was that I had an obsessive habit of snacking whenever I was not doing anything. If I was at my desk, I had a bag of nuts or something to keep my mouth occupied. In fact, any time I was sitting, I was munching on something. This was one habit that I had to break entirely. I first tried carrots or other healthy foods to keep my mouth happy while not consuming a bunch of empty calories. But it was clear that I wasn’t eating because I was hungry, I was eating because I was bored. So I started substituting a glass of water whenever I had the urge to snack. Funny thing about water. When you aren’t in the habit of drinking it, water is one of the most dreaded things to consume. It just doesn’t taste refreshing. And I was not a water drinker. I like coffee, tea, diet soda – anything with a taste. Water was bland and boring. But over time, I came to crave water. Now, I love water so much that I have to have it around me at all times. And I sometimes feel like I can’t breathe unless I drink a glass of water. Not only that, but water is filling. At times when I feel like I might be hungry even though I have just eaten, I will drink a glass of water. That’s when I realize that I was craving the water instead of craving food. Rule #3, drink LOTS of water.

Cutting my meals in half was starting to get easy for me. And this was a good sign. I was no longer mindlessly snacking, and I was starting to see a shift in my weight. Nothing is more motivating than watching the number go down on the scale, or seeing a little looseness in your pants. It made me realize that losing weight was possible, and made my goal feel a lot more attainable. This is when I decided to kick it up a notch and start getting more serious. But knowing me, I could not do a diet that told me I could not eat certain foods. As soon as I gave myself rules like that, I was bound to go straight for that forbidden food. So instead, I set myself up with Livestrong.com and starting keeping track of my calories on their “Daily Plate” function. I decided a realistic amount of weight I wanted to lose per week, and by calculating my current weight, Livestrong gave me a calorie allowance for each day. From my iPhone, I was able to jot down my calories for every single food I ate. At first it was an eye opener. I couldn’t believe how many calories were in certain foods that I had never given much thought to. And I went over my goal consistently for the first month. But little by little, I was able to whittle down that number until I was keeping inside my calorie allowance. I treated this number like a bank account. I planned out my meals to a tee, giving myself a little wiggle room in case I needed a treat in the afternoon. I never once told myself that I couldn’t eat certain foods, but instead asked myself “Is this food worth it?” Sometimes the answer was yes, I NEED that scoop of ice cream. And I allowed myself to have it. But in return, my evening meals would suffer as I had to make them lighter to compensate for the higher calorie food I indulged in. Having suffered though several way too light meals, I learned really quickly that sometimes it really was NOT worth it, and that I didn’t want to eat that “bad for me” food. But on the other hand, there is always an allowance in my calorie count for a piece of chocolate in the afternoon. And I look forward to it every day. Rule #4, don’t focus on what you CAN’T eat, but be aware of what you are eating.

I lost 35 pounds and am now at a point that I don’t really want to lose anymore weight. I am in a size that I didn’t see since before my kids were in existence, a size I didn’t think I’d ever see again. I am still keeping up with my calorie counting, however, though not to lose weight. I can be a little more liberal in what foods I am putting in my mouth, but I will never be able to eat high calorie foods without abandon again. Before dieting, I found this truth to be unfathomable. You mean I have to give up cheeseburgers for the rest of my life? No, not really. I can have them in moderation, and in smaller sizes. But as far as eating like I used to? No. That will never be. Back then this was hard to comprehend, and made it difficult for me to want to continue. But a funny thing about changing your eating habits and the way you view foods, those desires leave as well. I don’t miss eating fatty foods. And I don’t miss the digestive problems that went with it. I don’t miss food comas, or keeping my pants unbuttoned when I sit, or raising my legs a little when I’m sitting so that the “spread” isn’t so prominent. And I don’t miss the lack of energy, either. I have resumed working out, this time in my own living room (30 Day Shred, remember?), and can actually get through a sweaty workout without wanting to die. And amazingly enough, I actually feel great afterwards. And the continued results make it worth it even more. Rule #5, don’t give in even when your goal has been met.

A couple more things to remember:
– ALWAYS eat breakfast. I eat an egg and a plain piece of sourdough toast every morning. I have to. I wake up early first thing because I am eating lighter in the evenings. And it gives me the energy I need to get through the first part of my day.
– Set up an eating schedule. I eat at the same times every day, 5 times a day. And all my eating times consist of almost the same amount of calories.
– Know what foods trigger your weaknesses, and get them OUT OF THE HOUSE. I keep snacks in the house that the kids like but that I could care less about because if I like them, I’ll gorge on them. It’s just not worth it.
– Eat your meals one at a time. If you still feel hungry after you have eaten, wait. Give yourself at least an hour before eating again. Drink water, do something constructive, just get your mind off of that food. If you are still hungry after that hour, by all means, eat. But give your stomach a chance to decide if it’s satisfied or not.
– Have a buddy. I dieted with one of my best friends, and together we kept each other accountable for what we were eating and doing to be more healthy. We were there to offer each other support whenever it got hard, and to give each other tips when we found something that was working. It always helps to have someone around with new ideas for healthy recipes. Not only that, but a little healthy competition goes a long way.
– When you have lost a size, buy a new outfit. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be in your new size. Wearing your baggy “fat” clothes will not show off the progress you have made. But a slimmer outfit will. And the compliments you will receive will further your motivation to keep going.

Are you on the dieting roller coaster? How frustrating has it been? Or maybe you’ve found something that is working for you. Share your story in the comments!

(For more on weight loss, be sure to check out my previous blog titled Battling the Baby Bulge)