Book review: Eat Your Way to Happiness

My sister recommended Eat Your Way To Happiness to me (written by the author of Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best) and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It made me step back and examine my motives for this new journey that I’m on. While on one hand I really want to lose weight and look better, I know that the real reasons why have more to do with being happy and having a permanent change in my fitness, physical and mental health than any number on a scale (sorry, scale).

Author Elizabeth Somer doesn’t cover new ground for those of us who know a fair amount about health and nutrition, but her presentation was effective and I really enjoyed reading the quotes from folks who’d applied these principles in their lives and reaped the rewards. Before and after stories are always appealing to me and there are many scattered throughout the book.

Her 11 secrets  to “improve your mood, curb your cravings, and keep the pounds off” are:

  1. Eat Real 75% of the Time: The basic whole foods vs. processed garbage manifesto
  2. Follow the 1-2-3 Rule: A chapter mainly about the importance of breakfast and making sure you combine foods optimally (1-3 services of a quality, high-fiber carb), 2 servings of fruits or vegetables, and one protein)
  3. Choose Quality Carbs
  4. Adopt the 6% Solution:  A chapter about sugar and how 6% of your calories should come from sugars
  5. Sprinkle It with Super Mood Foods: A chapter listing super mood foods we’ve all heard of like dark, colorful vegetables and fruits, nuts, some dairy, broth soups, legumes, wheat germ, and antioxidants.
  6. Embrace the Good Fat
  7. Get Smart with Supplements
  8. Choose the Right Thirst Quenchers
  9. Indulge the Right Vices: Yay for dark chocolate!  Boo for alcohol except red wine in moderation!
  10. Eat Right at Night: How to get better sleep
  11. The One Habit You Must Embrace to Be Happy, Fit and Healthy: Exercise

Then she includes a 14-day Kick-Start Diet, recipes, and a list of 100 products that meet most of the real-food guidelines.

The biggest adjustments I made after reading this book were to add some foods back into my diet, like 100% fruit juice (my previous attitude was that juice was empty calories) and more carbs (I’d been limiting these to the point of unhappiness) and I have a clearer picture of the vitamins and minerals I need to ingest and how to tackle getting the optimal amounts.  It’s taking an Excel chart to figure it out where I’m deficient and it’s nice to have a clear discussion of where I should be and why.

There are a few bones I’d pick with Somer: her overall tone was sometimes condescending (“You and everyone within a million-mile radius knows moving is absolutely critical to mood, health and a reasonable waistline” – really?  Million-mile radius?) and some of her food suggestions seemed hypocritical.  She has an entire chapter on eating “real” foods, yet in her recipe section includes fat-free dairy products, artificial sweeteners, and soy. I have no idea what’s in fat-free half-and-half but somehow I doubt it qualifies as a “real” food. The diets currently in vogue (primal/paleo) would disagree, saying fats from animals are ok but soy and processed carbs are not.  Who is right?  I’m certainly not an expert so I’m not going to weigh in on that debate – just surfacing it.

In all I think it’s a pretty good book, especially if you don’t know much about nutrition and are just starting out on a quest for better health, or you need a little inspiration along your journey.


My dog is my inspiration

When I first saw Cash’s picture I’ll admit that I judged him harshly.  His head was way too big for his body – he had a pig belly!  It was only upon reading his description on Petfinder that I gave him a second chance. He was “devoted, gentle and sweet” and at 2 years old was ready to live out a long life in a new home. It was a happy accident that I stumbled upon him at the shelter – I’d gone to see another dog but recognized him immediately.  He looked very mellow and a bit overwhelmed so I introduced him to my other dog and the rest is history.

His description said he was 50 lbs but I could see that he was probably a bit over that.  I was shocked when I got him to the vet and found that he was 70.4 lbs!  Holy mackerel!  He had about 15 lbs to lose and on a body that small that’s a huge amount.  Imagine someone was 210 lbs and had 45 lbs to lose so he could be 165. You could tell when he walked – his front legs bowed out to the side and his gait was uneven.  I worried he might have joint damage but the vet assured me with a strict diet and consistent exercise he would be as good as new (sound familiar?).  If I care enough about a dog to ensure he lives a healthy lifestyle, why wouldn’t I care enough about myself to do the same?

Just six months later – look at him!  He’s down at least 10 lbs and looks like a totally different dog.  Happier too 🙂 So inspiring!

Summer 2011:

March 2012:

Book Review: “Half-Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir”

I read Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir last week and found it really inspiring.  It traces the weight loss journey of Jennette Fulda as she went from 372 lbs to 180 lbs over 2 years. The book was funny and poignant and I found myself engrossed in her story.

While not everyone knows what it’s like to be morbidly obese, many of us can identify with what it feels like to live with intense shame and fear. Her stories of being publicly humiliated by her peers in high school or finding herself in awkward situations with family and friends are cringe-inducing. The details about the food she ate were equally so – spoonfuls of Tang! Drinking maple syrup! However, I’ll admit to eating batches of frosting back in high school myself so “there but for the grace…” As she says, if we lived in a magical fairy land where there were no calories in cookie dough, why wouldn’t we eat it?  And I loved the part about throwing away perfectly good chocolate, even though we know there isn’t some “bundt cake relocation program” out there to solve our problems.

It was fascinating to hear how her own weight was normalized in her mind (along her day she saw other people, not herself), while at other times she felt as though it was an insurmountable problem that might as well be tackled tomorrow.  I can definitely relate to that, even at this weight. “Wake up call received. Snooze button pushed.” What was new to me was what it was like to be relegated to shopping online because you don’t even fit into Lane Bryant clothes.  Her relating of the victory of just shopping at normal stores was really gratifying to experience with her.

I was so happy that she stuck to her eating and exercising plan and I felt her victories as she dressed up and looked great (and ate cake!) at weddings.  I loved reading about her cooking adventures – and misadventures.  She has a section on her blog called Lick the Produce about different foods she tries.  Produce has is a hard sell – there are no promotional taglines or instructions on it!

One of the ways she got support was through a blog she started, even though she didn’t tell anyone about it at first.  Once she had some traction with her weight loss she started sharing it and it took off like a rocket, which is what inspired her to write the book. While I have more modest hopes for this blog, I do wish to give value to readers and receive support.

Check out this video she made:

How to lose 192 pounds in 7 seconds from PastaQueen on Vimeo.

I joined Eastside Gym!

I joined a gym by my house called Eastside Gym!  I used to belong to the ProClub, which was a bit too Country Club for me, and because it was a work perk you never knew when you were going to run into one of your coworkers.  The main benefit of the ProClub was its location – only 5 minutes from my house and even closer to work.  Location is my main criteria, closely followed by vibe.

I looked into 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and LA Fitness but Eastside Gym was the closest to my house and upon reading their reviews on Google and Yelp, which said it was a no-frills, unpretentious gym with a Cheers feel at a bargain price I decided to pay it a visit.  I was welcomed by the owner and felt that it would be a comfortable place for me to start working out again.

I paid my first visit this morning and ran my first installment of my C2K5 program and then did arm free weights for about 20 minutes, ending with the ab machine.  The gym is a little rough around the edges but it feels good.

Couch to 5k – ready, set, go!

I found this great Couch to 5k running plan to go literally from being a couch potato to running a 5k in 9 weeks and I am so excited about it!  I discovered it from Inhabit the Beauty who I discovered from Skinny Emmie.  I’m really loving the weight loss blogging community!

I used an awesome free app called C25K Trainer, which told me when to switch and counted down time for me.  I really appreciated it – was so glad I found it. You can use it with your own music on your iPhone and it even Tweets out your progress if you want it to. It’s available in the iTunes App Store.  There are a lot of other apps that do similar things but I thought this one looked the best.

So the first week in the plan has me walking 5 minutes and then spending 20 minutes alternating between jogging 60 seconds and walking 90 seconds. It doesn’t sound hard on paper but it is for me – I have never run that much since grade school, even when I was in a working out phase.  I made the mistake of not stretching out the first time I tried it and within 15 seconds my calves were giant balls of fire!  I’m now recalling the time spent stretching them out back when I used to work out.  Lesson learned!  I made it about 10 minutes before I literally could not bear the pain.  Second attempt was at the gym today and I made it!  I took about four breaks where I stretched out my burning calves and got my heart rate down from a ridiculous level (it was about 160 and needed to be 144) but I made it all the way through.  I didn’t Tweet my progress but I thought about it 😉

Greek Yogurt Taste Test Roundup

Greek yogurt is a mainstay these days and it’s great to read that the industry is going like gangbusters!

I’ve wondered which yogurt is really the best and found some revealing taste tests:

I’ve been eating Chobani (and Kroger brand just because I’ve been feeling cheap) but am going to track down some FAGE!

First jog

Yesterday I went on my first jog.  Well, if I walked 95% of it it’s not really going on a “jog” but I purposefully ran segments of the walk so it’s a jog in my book!  I don’t ever remember doing that in the past; I’ve always avoided jogging, even when I was in a working out phase – I just walked really fast on the treadmill. I took my dog and he was happy to be running – or it was more like trotting for him.  He looked up at me and I’m not sure he was just happy or concerned at this strange turn of events. He probably thought I was going to keel over and so did I at one point when I was going up hill and pushing really hard. I just kept trying to make it to some kind of marker like a mailbox or stop sign so I could remember how far I could run and compare it as I make progress in my fitness.  Right now I can’t really run more than a half a block at a time without my legs seizing up.  I’ll stretch next time.

My sister started running seriously in the last year and I’ve been so inspired by her.  She’s run 5 or 6 half marathons and a full marathon in Niagara Falls that looked so beautiful!  I can’t imagine having a body that could actually do that.  I’m going to start imagining!  It would be really fun to run together.  I hope I can reach that level of fitness.  Maybe not a full marathon but I want to at least run a 5k this year.

Today I am so sore from Tae Bo (and running I guess).  Hard to believe that punching an imaginary speed bag would make me this sore throughout my entire upper body!  I’ll give Billy Blanks some props – he was motivating.

Guess what? After week one I’ve lost 5 lbs! Yay!  The first 10 comes off really quickly – they go much more slowly after that.