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Monday

Homemade Granola Bars

Here's what I've been doing lately, as a healthier alternative for myself and my kids. Rather than buying granola or cereal bars, I've been making them myself. Although the store bought ones are very convenient if you're counting calories, the homemade ones can be so much healthier.

Here's my recipe. Quantities are approximate, and you can vary the ingredients slightly as long as you have the main elements in place:

Main ingredients (provide the foundation)

3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup liquid honey

Additional ingredients (add nutritional punch and flavour)

Vanilla
Cinammon

1/3 cup each: raisins, chocolate chips, quinoa, wheat germ, flax, coconut, sunflower seeds, etc...


...and so on. You could add all kinds of nuts as well but I don't, because nuts are not allowed at my kids' school due to allergy concerns.

Basically you mix all the dry ingredients together, then add the oil and honey, and stir until combined. Press the mixture flat into a greased 9x13 pan. Cook at 350F for about 20 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm but leave them in the pan - don't remove them until completely cool or they'll fall apart. Once they're cool, I wrap them each in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge. 

Yum :)

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Why Is Maintaining Weight Loss So Hard?

My friend is gaining back the 25 pounds she lost on the Dr. Berstein diet.

The diet was very effective in taking the weight off, but she's simply not able to follow it long term. It makes me think yet again about lifestyle and overall awareness of what keeps weight off.

There's more to keeping weight off than skipping egg yolks and getting vitamin B shots, or weigh-ins and point counts. It's more than just time on a treadmill or laps on a track. It's more than a goal, an objective, a dangling carrot.

It's about making a lot of small changes that will end in one big result. What good will eating the egg whites do if you still have the processed food in the pantry? What good will training for a yearly community run do if you still drive your kids several blocks to school every day?  Sure you can eat the egg whites and stay away from the pantry for awhile, or you can turn your already tight schedule upside down even further to squeeze in time for the runs, but isn't that just so hard? Isn't that too hard?

It would be for me. I take my hat off to you for trying. I wouldn't be able to keep doing it.

Instead, healthy weight maintenance could fit your life like a comfortable pair of shoes - ones that you slide your feet into and would prefer to wear than to take off. They would add support to each step, without pinching or leaving blisters.

Like a pantry stocked with whole grain foods, instead of sugary cereal. Go ahead, have a snack! Or the mini-van that stays parked in the mornings before school, to be replaced by an umbrella on rainy days. Guess what - you won't have to look for parking. Oh sure in the beginning change is hard, but once you get used to it, you won't remember what the beginning felt like.

I think the major difference between myself and my friend is lifestyle. My exercise isn't a yearly event that's participated in and then finished (her community run). Mine is part of my day to day life which is set up in such a way as to leave me little choice. We have only one vehicle insured, so I have to walk the kids everywhere, for example. The work from home job that I've chosen is a paper route, all done on foot.  She works from home as well, but at a computer doing customer service for a telecom company. She earns more money than I do (which enables her to afford to insure a second vehicle ;)  Hmmm.

I could go on and on, and to be fair, there are equal pros and cons to different lifestyles. Some are just better suited to maintaining a healthy weight.

Why is maintaining weight loss so hard? Maybe because it's not at the top of the priority list.

The first step could be assessing what your priorities are. The next, figuring out what changes need to be made to fit that list. The next after that, accepting that not all the changes will be easy.

The objective, though, is to make the changes that best support the item on the top of the priority list, so that item is most likely to be achieved. Sure it's hard to brave the cold when you're walking and not in a heated car, but you know what? Maintaining a healthy weight won't be hard.


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Saturday

Making Healthy Choices For Quick Snacks

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about boxed cereal. She loves it, because it's "quick and easy". The problem she has with cereal, though, is the fact that it uses up too many of her diet's daily points all at once.

This got me thinking about the "quick and easy" aspect. I'm not on a points based diet plan - I count calories and exercise. I too love quick and easy food. I have two kids to chase around (part of the exercise ;) and a house to de-chaos, so quick and easy works for me. I think many people are in the same boat.

I also think that for many people, quick and easy amounts to high calorie/additive and low nutrient food. Anyone can buy the ingredients for a salad or stir fry, but if you're starving, you want something right now.

The solution, then, would be to have a stock of right now foods that are also healthy. Here are some ideas...

  1. bananas
  2. cheese strings
  3. grapes
  4. granola bars
  5. yogurt
  6. apple sauce
  7. raisins
  8. apples
  9. whole grain crackers
  10. homemade whole grain cookies
  11. carrots
The list is endless, but you get the idea. If I come home and am absolutely STARVING, instead of pouring some high calorie sugared cereal into a bowl, I'll grab a banana instead. The health benefits are much greater, and it tames the hunger monster long enough so that I have the patience to make the salad or stir fry.

What healthy right now foods are in your kitchen? I'd love to hear more ideas!



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Thursday

How Many Calories Are In Fast Food?

Ohhh I don't wanna know. DON'T wanna know.

Somehow I ended yesterday at under 1,700 cals, even though my kids begged their Dad to go get Burger King take out. In their defense, it had been a long time, so I agreed.

You can find most caloric values on-line simply by Googling, and I was impressed to find that Burger King actually has their own nutritional summary for their menu items.

This is where you need to bother checking, because something as harmless seeming as their Tendergrill Garden Salad has 460 calories. That's a lot for a salad, on a calorie restricted diet! (I'm not even going to mention  the Triple Whopper With Cheese value meal at 1,710 calories, which is more than I try and eat in an entire day - oh wait, I just did mention it ;)  OMG

I opted for the 6 piece chicken fries at 250 cals, plus a Dutch Apple pie at 320. While I know this is more than the salad and not as nutritious, this way I got to have a "junk fix", complete with dessert, and not blow my calorie count.  I had a few fries too (maybe 8-10), so I called it a total of 700 cals just to be safe.

It's so deceiving, isn't it? Fast food is not really that much food, and yet it's packed with so much of the stuff we're trying to avoid.I can't imagine eating this food more than once or twice a month, and yet many people do. This brings me back (yet again) to the issue of caloric awareness. If fast food chains had a caloric value by each item, say right next to the price, I wonder what kind of effect it would have on sales?



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My Push Ups Are Getting Easier :)

...they're still wall push ups (translation: the easy kind ;), but I'm noticing that my upper body has more strength than it did almost a month ago when I started them. Talk about gratifying!

This makes me think that for my fourth exercise, I'm going to choose something else that will get easier as I get more fit, as opposed to the plies and the fidgeting, which were never really hard to begin with. They're still the same. I do them without really feeling any progress, all the while trusting that they're resulting in small benefits over time.

The push ups, meanwhile, actually make me feel stronger.

Awesome!!

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Monday

Fidget!!!!!!

(Does that count as an exercise? ;) It does now!!

My kids can't seem to sit still. I know this is pretty common for kids, but is it any wonder they're leaner than adults? Hmmm.

I've decided to add fidgeting to my list of exercises. Now originally this list was started for muscle toning activities, because I already do a lot of calorie burning stuff (like walking and running), but fidgeting is something I'd forget to do unless it was on a list.

(I'm also going to ignore the fact that as parents we often tell our kids to not fidget ;)

How do you fidget? Just move when you're still! For instance as I type this I'm moving my legs under the table. It's easy, requires very little effort, and is not disruptive to what I'm doing.

 (I did a quick search on my Amazon widget of "fidget exercise" and lo and behold found an entire book about fidgeting to burn calories - awesome!!)



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Thursday

Time Passes Anyway, Might As Well Have Something To Show For It.

You can't get overnight diet or exercise results - it's simply not possible. We need to remove this instant gratification expectation from our list of wants.

So... if we can't get overnight results anyway, then...

....if you've said no to the ice cream and not seen a drop in the scale the next morning, that's ok.
....if you've done sit ups and not woken up the next  morning with six-pack abs, that's ok.
....if you've had ten glasses of water and not woken up looking ten years younger, that's ok too.

Because...

Months will pass, whether or not you do something about your goals. Time will pass regardless. If you spend each passing day waiting to change, time will pass without any change. But if you take a small step each day toward your goal, after enough time has passed, you will see the results you want.

Have you ever woken up to the first tank-top-and-shorts day of the season wishing you were ten or twenty pounds lighter, and thought to yourself  "if I had been able to stick to the diet I tried starting in November, I'd be skinny right now."

Time passes anyway, might as well have something to show for it...

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Tuesday

My Second Exercise: The Demi-Plie

Do I dare? Add another exercise? I`ve been pretty consistent with my wall push-ups - even if I forget while I`m making my morning coffee, I remember at some point during the day and then I do them. I think I`m comfortable enough with the regularity of them to add something else.

A few years back (ok, more than a few... shhh!! ;)  I took a beginner`s ballet class and was impressed with the muscle involvement required for even the simplest of moves. Even the basic demi plie involves so many of the regions I want to tone (abs, butt, thighs), all rolled into one exercise. You`d be amazed how many muscles you need working together to balance like that!!

So... the demi-plie is now my "exercise number two".  I think I`ll start with ten of those per day, in addition to my 20 wall push-ups...

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Wednesday

Can't Wait....

...to add another toning exercise!!! At the moment I do 20 wall push ups every morning. THAT'S IT, because I've done more in the past and then given it all up. I'm too "all or nothing", which is part of the reason I over eat compulsively unless I count calories.

The wall push ups have been going well in that I feel my body being worked, but it takes very little time, so if I do forget to do them while my coffee is brewing, I can easily squeeze them in another time (as soon as I realize I've forgotten, I just head to the nearest wall, and voila - 2 minutes or so later I've completed my New Year's resolution :)

The problem is now that I want to add another exercise (I'm just itching to! lol), and the push ups habit is not fully secure yet. I know from past experience that if I over schedule myself all at once, the first day I'm too tired or busy will be my last day doing the exercises.

I need to wait a bit longer before I add on another exercise... must form new habits one at a time ;)  Meanwhile, I'll just have to be patient!!
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Sunday

Holiday Aftermath

Most people I know (who are willing to 'fess up ;) gained a pound or two over the holidays. I was lucky lucky lucky to barely (by the skin of my teeth) maintain my weight. I say lucky because I counted calories for only one day out of a seven day span that covered Christmas and New Years.

I think what helped me a lot is the fact that I'm simply not used to eating that much at one time any more, so my non-counting indulgences were a lot smaller. Plus I maintained my regular level of activity, rather than slowing down for the holiday season.

That makes me happy.

What makes me over the moon ecstatic though, like happier than I can say, is the fact that after six non-counting days I am back into my calorie counting routine with no difficulty. This has always been my biggest hurdle in the past - becoming derailed and being unable to get back on track. Not this time!

Yay!!!  :) :)

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Friday

Here's To A Wonderful 2010!!

Happy New Year!!

So far so good - I actually remembered to do my wall push-ups this morning while my coffee was brewing, lol. for me the issue is not completing tasks, it's remembering them!! I need to put a note on my coffee maker, at least until the habit is established.

I'm optimistic about this resolution, because it's simple, and achievable. If I woke up this morning thinking "I resolve to have a toned upper body", that would be something that I couldn't achieve today. Instead I woke up thinking "I resolve to do 20 wall push ups".

Voila! Success :)

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