TFS Wednesday: Surfing for Food

Some of the best tips I got while working the scale were about internet sites.  Whether inspirational or informative, these can help you get over stuck spots.  

Plateau’s are par for the course, so a little encouragement and inspiration from others in the same boat can make a big difference.  One of the best places I know of for realistic (at least for me) inspiration is WeightWatchers.com.  There is a ton of organized, doable ideas on the free part of the site that are great when I am running short of inspiration.  Two of my favorite areas are the message boards and the recipe swap.  

The message boards let you find others like you who are probably facing the same issues you are.  There are boards divided by age, boards for working women and/or moms, boards for those with more than 100 lbs. to lose, etc.  Even if I don’t feel the need to post anything, I can always get inspired or re-inspired. 

The community recipe swap has been a gold mine of ideas.  There are some super-creative and motivated people out there who refuse to give up their favorite foods, so they get busy recreating them in a healthier version.  Scroll through these recipes and you will find better versions of all sorts of restaurant favorites and new ways to make classic family favorites.  Most of the everyday cooks on the board don’t get really wild with odd ingredients (unlike professional chefs), so you don’t get as many recipes for things like lentil tacos here.  


Another favorites website is Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone (DWLZ.com).  Dottie is a St. Louis woman who started posting the points for restaurant foods online years ago.  Since she was not limited by corporate contracts she has always had hundreds more restaurants and foods listed than were ever available on the official Weight Watchers list.  (She now has an app too.)  Even if you are not counting points, this site is helpful because it gives you a clear picture of what the better choices are at each restaurant.  Knowing that a certain salad is 15 points and the petite steak dinner is 10 can be helpful even if you don’t know how points work for you.  (hint:  take the 10 point steak).  Some foods are shockingly high and that is good information to know.  It is also interesting to compare foods, like french fries.  They all taste pretty much the same, but they way they are made can make a world of difference in the amount of fat and calories in them.  Compare them from all your favorite fast food places and you will be amazed.  

With so many resources available there is no reason for you to have to reinvent the wheel.  If you set aside a few hours you can find weight loss buddies, revised recipes and a huge list of best options when eating out.  Let’s surf.

Jaded

On a continuum there is uncool, cool and jaded.  There were times I wished I were more in the cool zone than the uncool, but I’m glad to say I have yet to fall into the jaded.  Because jaded is just sad.

I first recognized these categories when I was working at Busch Creative.  It was the funnest division of (what was) an already fun company.  Our group was in charge of things like spring break activities and conventions for a company that sold FUN.  You would think this would be staffed by a bunch of really fun people.  

Some were, but most were at least too cool and quite a few fell off into jaded.  They had an attitude of ‘been there, done that, nothing exciting’  (said in a monotone voice).  Most were not old, but they were worldly.  For them this was the job they got after traveling the world running tours for bands.  They had seen a lot and done a lot by the time they were 35 or 40.  So maybe they were justified in being jaded, but that didn’t make it all any less sad (and a memorable lesson for me.)

I was 25 when I started working there, so I had youth combined with a natural joie de vivre that stood out in stark contract to the others.  They laughed at me for getting excited about any and everything.  I would be like, “we get to go out to lunch on the company dime — WooHoo!!”  and they would counter by complaining that there wasn’t a single good restaurant to go to in all of St. Louis.  Wherever we all ended up eating they would have to tell me what was wrong with the food there and how you could get much better (insert name of food) in Shri Lanka or Prague.  Each of them carried a big bottle of Tabasco in their briefcase which they would use to liberally douse on their lunch before ever taking a bite to see how it tasted.  It was almost a contest of who could be the most blase and jaded while having this amazingly cushy, fun job.  

I was young enough that I considered becoming more like them, acting too cool just to fit in with the group.  But it was just too much against my nature.  I was super excited by everything that happened there.  I traveled, met celebrities, and had swag coming out my ears that I could share with my friends and cute guys.  There was too much to like not to be all happy puppy about it. When I left I had a swag-filled apartment and a promise to myself to avoid ever being jaded.

Generally I think I’ve kept that promise.  I still get ridiculously uncool and overly excited about small things:  a new restaurant, a new store, a new flavor of pop tarts, the movie theater that is opening near me.  I’m working in another environment where too cool is in.  University instructors who get all excited about cookies at the faculty meeting or a small bonus check are seen as something less (usually less smart).  But I am standing firm in uncool and unjaded.  It works for me.  Big joy over little things gives me a fuller life, more fun along the way, more joie de vivre. 

Sexual Revolution Rewind

I was in grade school when the pill spawned the free love movement in the 1960’s, but I do have memories of it. I had much older cousins who (I thought) were cool and liberated because they openly discussed their sex lives in front of me.  I remember visiting Florida during spring break (with my family) and the local news running a very descriptive story about college students getting VD while there on break.  Being born in the early 1960’s put me in the middle of the sexual revolution because it has been part of my life from the beginning.

We (society) threw off some unhealthy, stifling and just plain wrong ideas about sex and sexuality in the past 50 years, but did we lose some of the good stuff along the way?


As I’ve mentioned before I am writing a novel, specifically a romance novel.  My characters are falling in love and, so far, they have yet to get to the part between the sheets, but it (they) are just as steamy outside the bedroom.  It’s the mental seduction, the loooong build up, the teasing dance that is in my book, but quite often missing from relationships today.  

There is something to be said for restraint (not the 50 Shades/tie em up kind).  Restraint as in holding back, waiting, seducing, flirting, chasing and being chased.  Skipping all that is like settling for the frozen-dinner version of fettuccine alfredo (noodles and paste) when you can have the sinful, sensual and so much more satisfying real thing if you will just invest the time and effort. 

We are losing the art of seduction and the expectation of being seduced.  

In its place, we’ve created dry, mechanical rules.  Cosmo and other magazines for (supposedly) liberated women love to run articles debating which date is the correct one to jump in bed with a new boyfriend.  (I think 3 is the current calculation.)  There are also everything short of medical charts showing which parts of him you need to do steps 1-5 to in order to make him want to stay with you forever.  

What if we all took a collective step back?  Not back to the ‘no sex before marriage’ days.  I think a lot of very horny young people jumped into life-long commitments for the wrong reasons back then.  I am proposing a step back to slow seduction, to a time when the chase was half the fun (and it wasn’t a predetermined 3 dates). 

There was a very sexy power dynamic that was lost because it was deemed inappropriate for the new gender-mixed work place created by the women’s liberation movement (and rightfully so). But the same rules don’t need to apply to the dating (and marriage) world.  There needs to be a time and place to flirt and seduce and chase and be chased.  Those activities produce an addictive, heady cocktail of endorphins and lust that can build up to some amazing between the sheets action on date 10 or year 10, (but who the hell would be counting then?)  

I think it’s time for the sexual revolution to take a turn.  Not a U turn, but a turn in a new direction.  Let’s keep the open and frank discussions that clear up so many wrong ideas from the past, but let’s also start a new campaign for seduction.  Instead of marching with large signs on sticks, let’s send secret notes, handwritten, to those we lust.  


TFS Wednesday: Make it from Scratch

There are certain foods that are just hell on a diet.  Not only are they high in calories (and points) they are foods that have been made too convenient because you can get them frozen or in a large quantity at a restaurant. 

In the past, it was much more difficult to have these foods, especially on a regular basis.  In the time before frozen convenience foods and cheap restaurant food, it was easier to lose or maintain your weight.  

So, here is a solution that lets you have your cake and eat it too (or have your cake and diet too).  Any food that falls into your high calorie/high point category that you LOVE; only allow yourself to have it if you make it from scratch.

Cake is a great example.  Making a cake from scratch (no box mix) takes time and specific ingredients, then there’s the icing.  That’s one of the reasons that cake was considered a special event item in the past.  If you are dying for cake, make one, buy all the ingredients, plan the time to make it, then share the love when it is done.  

Same goes for french fries.  Potatoes aren’t expensive, so restaurants are happy to dish up a heaping helping along side anything you order.  They (usually) taste great and are so easy to just keep picking at as you wait for others to finish or the check to be paid.  To make them correctly at home takes time, effort, grease.  If you LOVE fries, get the best potatoes you can, cut them, soak them, fry them, then share them.  This same idea applies to potato chips too.  

Ice cream is another good item to put on your “only from scratch” list.  If you made one luscious batch a month and shared with your family or friends, you could have full fat, full of goodies, ice cream (and not the pretend stuff).  

Pasta can be put in this category.  It takes time, effort, and supplies to make a batch of home-made pasta (not to mention the sauce).  Bread can go on this list too.  Homemade bread is super yummy and worth the effort, occasionally.  Imagine the calorie/point savings you would get from only having bread when you made it yourself. 

The other upsides to all this cooking is learning to make different foods and making them exactly the way you like them.  Get your family involved.  Let them see what goes into making their favorite foods and get creative with new recipes. 

What Your Tribe Says About You

Tribe has still been on my mind a lot.  This past week I was thinking about how the tribe(s) we belong to effect how we age and how we feel about getting older.  

All tribes have expectations about how you should act in all parts of your life, and aging is one of them.  But tribes don’t hand you a list of rules when you join (but that would be so convenient).  We are drawn to tribes through mutual interests or we are born in to them in family or community.  If you pay close attention, there are subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) messages about behaviors that are acceptable in that group for every age.  


Growing up I had an Aunt who was a blast.  She and her family were very social, very involved with their church and the local VFW.  They constantly had really fun parties at their house.  My Aunt was a big woman, but the thing I remember most about her was how stylish she was.  She went to the salon every week to have her hair styled and get a mani/pedi (bright red, of course).  Those social groups were her tribe and the time, effort and money she invested into looking glamorous was part of being a member of those tribes.  She was following the unspoken formula to be a member in good standing of that tribe.  

Other tribes can really suck the life out of you.  The fearful tribe comes to mind.  This group spends an inordinate amount of time looking for signs of the end of the world and preparing for it.  Not only does the stress of living this lifestyle make you look and feel old, but their focus is never on things as useless as beauty and fun.  My Aunt would have been seen as a frivolous and silly for enjoying her life instead of spending it fearing the oncoming doom (that never happened in her lifetime anyway).  

I am also avoiding any women-hating tribes.  These don’t usually actively advertise that they hate women, but they spend a lot of time and energy suppressing women’s beauty, sensuality, joy, power.  The saddest thing about these tribes is that it is almost always the women in the group who hold each other down.  God forbid any of them get so uppity as to try some blue nail polish or spend an hour or so on themselves, exercising or primping or just being a girl.  

The final tribe I am running from is the nay-sayers.  No one in this group is ever going to be successful and they make sure of this by knocking any big idea or dream you might have.  This group shuns and punishes those who dare to reach beyond the rest of the group.  Gossip is their favorite weapon and they are easy to spot on social media.  They post hate rants about whatever or whoever is the current media rage.  Members are rewarded with praise by other members for taking the time to write hate letters to Miley Cyrus or create mocking videos on YouTube.  I stumbled on a writers group the other day who have dedicated an entire forum to writing biting criticism of “50 Shades of Grey”.  Jealousy never makes you feel young (childish maybe).  

The best news is that you get to chose your tribe(s).  If you find yourself in one that doesn’t suit you, don’t stick with it because it’s the people in your neighborhood or people you work with, etc.  Go out and consciously find people you truly connect with, who build you up, enhance your life, and make you feel genuinely happy to be whatever age you are.   

Outlandish Fun!

I wasn’t sure when I was going to post about this, because it is a loooong ongoing event, but today I want to share so anyone and everyone who reads my blog can get in on the fun.  

The cable channel Starz has started production on a series called “Outlander.”  It is based on an ongoing book series by Diana Gabledon that is indescribably good.  The series will air next year, probably in the fall, but the world is already buzzing about it.  

So, to get you all in the loop, let me back up to the start of my Outlander story (abridged edition).  
I found the book when I was looking for better romance novels.  If you google ‘best romance novel ever’ you will get a lot of lists — “Outlander” is on almost every one.  


My library had a copy (actually several) because the book has been around since 1991 and developed a huge following.  I’ll tell you now, this is a BIG book (896 pages).  Don’t let that scare you.  I got so caught up in the book that 896 wasn’t enough pages.  It also started kind of slow for me.  I liked it, but I didn’t fall in love with it right away.  When I recommend the book now I always tell people to hang on till the wedding.  If they don’t like it after that, then give up because you never will, BUT, chances are you will be hooked.  

Then you can really join the crazy.  There are website, book clubs, tours of Scotland and now, the series!!  You won’t have to read the book(s) to love the series.  Unlike those poor crazed souls over at the “50 Shades” film, this production has done everything right to take a beloved book and turn it into film.  The author and the fans have been part of the fun since the beginning.  Casting has done an amazing job on a nearly impossible task — there were a few whiners, but it looks like the majority (including me) are completely sold on the actors who will bring these characters to life.  

Jamie and Claire – filming on the series in Scotland

Now is the perfect time to start on the book if you want to read it before the series.  And I am recommending that you do.  Although the series will follow the book very closely, there are some elements that just can’t be translated to film, what characters are thinking is the biggest one.  For those of you who do get hooked, you are welcome and I’m sorry — because “Outlander” is only book one.  The series is currently seven books long with another due in early 2014.  And they are all really, really long, and they are all really, really addictive.  Once you start you hate to put them down.  Things like eating and sleeping and your family become distractions that keep you away from your books. 

TFS Wednesday: Soup, Soup, Hooray

I’m so excited, it’s cold and rainy here today!  It’s a soup day! 

Soup is one of the easiest to make and most filling ways to eat healthy.  It is also total comfort food.  The first rainy, cold day of fall just begs for a big bowl of soup and a mug of hot tea. 


I have nothing against good old canned soup.  It’s not the best for nutrition, but it is convenient, cheap, easy-to-store, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.  For super-easy soup days, I break out my crockpot.  Start with a liner (which makes clean up fantastically easy), add in a can of chicken noodle soup, maybe one can of cream of chicken soup, throw in a frozen bag of mixed veggies; leave this on low for a few hours and you have a quasi-healthy meal that your kids will love.

Besides canned soup, I always keep a big supply of chicken broth on hand.  I can go Costco size with this because it really does have 1001 uses. Almost any vegetable simmered with some spices in chicken broth makes a great soup.  To make it into a low-fat cream soup add some potato and/or cauliflower then run either all or part of the soup through the blender.  If I am feeling indulgent I will add a 1/2 tablespoon of real cream to the top of my veggie soup and maybe a few seeds or nuts for crunch.  

Chicken broth also makes a great warm-you-up and fill-you-up snack.  Just pour some in a mug and heat it, then sip it slowly.  It keeps hunger at bay and can be put in a thermal mug to take with you when you are on the go.   

Today’s soup is going to be one of my all time favorites, Pacific Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup (it’s the big container in the back of the photo).  One very-filling cup is only 110 calories and 2 grams of fat with 5 grams of protein.  To jazz it up I’m adding a few spicy sausage ravioli.  

Which brings up my final point about soup, if you have a favorite, possibly high calorie, dish, you can almost always recreate it for fewer calories as a soup. For example, I love reuben sandwiches, which usually come on buttered toasted bread with lots of 1000 island dressing.  So, I created reuben soup; beef broth base with cabbage and corn beef and potatoes and lil rye bread croutons, which I of course top off with a little broiled swiss cheese.  Yummmm!