Drumroll Please… My Non-Candy Halloween Treat

Drumroll Please... My Non-candy Halloween Treat

Gourmet hulless popcorn, popped in coconut oil and topped with a scant amount of butter and popcorn salt. (Thank you to my mother-in-law who helped me pack them all up!)  For those who are curious, by my calculation, each baggie is 1 P+ for Weight Watchers followers.

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Let’s Start at the Very Beginning (Part 2)

One of my first blog posts was titled Let’s Start at the Very Beginning… a Very Nice Place to Start.  That entry discussed “calories in,” which is half of the weight loss (gain or maintenance) equation Calories in + calories out = change (or lack thereof).  The other half of the equation is “calories out,” which is the topic of this follow-up post.

Before I began this weight loss / maintenance journey, I wasn’t measuring my calories in.  And I certainly wasn’t measuring my calories out.  So while I assumed that non-exercise movement (like brushing teeth, standing in line, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming the car, etc.) didn’t really matter or add up to anything significant, I didn’t have anything upon which to base that thought.

Epiphany Alert: Normal, everyday movement can equal a lot more “calories out” than previously realized.  Additionally, consciously maximizing everyday activity can pay big dividends.

Several months into following Weight Watchers, they teamed up with the electronics company Philips, and released a nifty little device named ActiveLink.  It’s basically a super-pedometer, that not only accounts for steps, but also senses movement in all directions and velocity.  It calculates how much energy you have burned and translates that directly into Weight Watchers Activity PointsPlus (AP) that you then have available to consume.  (Note: Other companies have similar devices.  Other popular ones are FitBit and BodyBug.)

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The data that has been recorded by my AL is eye-opening.  On non-exercise days, the number of APs that I typically earn ranges from 0 on the low end to 3, for days when I’m up and moving most of the day.  On a weekly basis that adds up to almost an entire day’s worth of extra food that is available to be consumed!

Now I maximize EVERYDAY ACTIVITY every day.  So how do I maximize my everyday activity?

  • Taking extra trips to the basement to switch the laundry (and not sending the kids to do it!)
  • Walking to a neighbor’s house, instead of driving
  • Standing while folding laundry… standing burns more calories than sitting
  • Parking a little further back in the parking lot at the store
  • Cleaning the kitchen nightly (BONUS: waking up to a clean kitchen every morning)
  • Walking the compost from the kitchen out to the compost bin
  • Taking stairs instead of the escalator
  • Standing while checking e-mail – laptop stays on the countertop and not at my desk with a chair
  • Working in the yard (though not my favorite… as my husband can attest to!)

How do YOU maximize your “calories out”?  New ideas are always welcome!

Happy Birthday to Me

I love my husband, but I have to share a secret with you.  He’s not a great gift giver.  The most shining example of this was Christmas about a decade ago.  I gave him a thoughtful present.  In return, he stood up, extended his arms and gave me his present.  A hug.  Yes, a hug.  I think you get the picture.

For my birthday this year, things changed.  He hit it out of the park!  Not only did he surprise me (which almost never happens, though not for lack of trying), but he gifted me two wonderful things: 1) tickets for a cooking demonstration and tasting by my three favorite America’s Test Kitchen chefs and 2) he took the day off of work to accompany me.

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We spent the morning together, had a coffee date and window shopped at quaint little boutiques.  During our stroll, we wandered into a market that had freshly made gourmet sandwiches.  The plan was to attend the demonstration, then return to the market for grab-and-go sandwiches.

The demonstration was almost too much fun for me.  Christopher Kimball, Bridget Lancaster and Julia Collin Davison entertained with their usual banter and skill.  On the menu was “Our Favorite Chili” and Butterscotch Pudding, paired with a red and white wine selected by Marc Mondavi, of Charles Krug Winery, in Napa Valley.

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I enjoyed every moment of the demonstrations.  When it was time to sample the fare, we were not disappointed.  I didn’t realize that chili could taste that interesting and delicious.  And then came dessert.  From scratch butterscotch pudding.  The recipe included butter, sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream, whole milk and egg yolks.  Not exactly a “light” ingredient list.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the samples and the wine.  (I may or may not have also had my husband’s wine.)  Though the chili and butterscotch pudding weren’t large portions, it turns out that they were enough.  We skipped the sandwiches from the market and headed for home.

Butter, sugar, syrup, cream, milk and yolks.  Just a dot, not a lot.

Note: The following photos are included to make my foodie friends insanely jealous.

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P.S.  In my husband’s defense, neither of us are great gift givers.  Quite honestly, rather than material possessions, I much prefer his unconditional love and support.  He’s a gem!

Reader Question: I want to run, but need to lose more weight first. What exercise do you recommend?

I recently received a message from a reader.  She said that she wants to start running, but needs to lose weight first, and wanted to know what exercise I would suggest in the meantime.

My journey to running began long before I ever went for a jog.  Prior to running or losing weight, I began doing yoga and walking.  Both forms of exercise have their advantages and can help prepare your body for running.

Yoga primarily uses stretches and isometric poses to increase flexibility and strength.  There is a yoga style for everybody and yoga is a very individualized exercise.  All moves (know as poses in the yoga world) can be adapted for your body and fitness level.  As you progress in your practice, you are able to take the stretches deeper or hold them longer, if your body allows it.  For me, yoga laid the foundation and increased my strength, so that when it was time to start running, I had an adequate base from which to build.

In today’s information age, yoga is quite accessible.  There are clips available with On-Demand cable, countless YouTube videos, as well as DVDs available online or to checkout at your library.  For more personalized instruction, many fitness facilities offer yoga classes, including gyms, YMCAs and (of course) dedicated yoga studios.  Yogis are a very welcoming lot, so I would encourage you to not be intimidated walking into a yoga class or studio for the first time.

In addition to yoga, low-impact exercise is important for improving cardiovascular performance and burning calories, in anticipation of running.  Walking, biking (outdoor, stationary and spinning class) and elliptical machines are all excellent low-impact ways to start preparing.

So if you are wanting to give running a try, but aren’t ready to begin just yet, I would strongly encourage you to give yoga a look and find a low-impact cardio exercise that you enjoy.  Namaste!

Trick or Treat

By my own admission, this is not an earth-shattering, life changing post.  It is, however, yet another “dot” in the bigger picture.  It’s the small changes, that when compounded with other small changes, can change our trajectory.

We enjoy trick-or-treating as much as (if not more than) most families.  Our kids love the excitement of deciding on a costume, I enjoy making their costumes, my husband delights in wearing his Spongebob Squarepants get-up (that he wears every single year)… and we all relish the camaraderie of strolling the streets and visiting with friends and neighbors.  By the end of the night, our little goblins will have amassed more sweets than they likely should consume in a great while.

Two years ago, I had the bright idea and forethought to order our Halloween “treats” in advance.  The treats, however, weren’t sweet treats.  They were GLOW STICKS.  And the glow sticks were a huge hit with the trick-or-treaters who came to our door!

I don’t know about you, but when my house is filled with goodies, I’m likely to cave to temptation.  (Thankfully, glow sticks don’t taste very good.)  There will be enough candy to sample on Halloween night.  I don’t need to have temptation lurking in the cabinet for the days and weeks leading up to Halloween.

There are many non-food and healthier food options for trick or treat loot.  In addition to the glow sticks, the kids have received granola bars, raisin packs, pretzels in Halloween foil, pencils and erasers, single-serve microwave popcorn bags and so on.  My kids are excited by the healthier treats that are lunchbox-worthy and by treats that they can use at home or school, like cool pencils and erasers.

Though I haven’t settled on our treat for this year, I can guarantee that it will not be candy.  I would encourage you to also ‘think outside the candy aisle’!   (Your willpower and waistline will thank you.)