TFS Wednesday – The Foodie Factor

I’m a Taurus.  (play cheezy 70’s disco background music) and I’m a lover of all things sensual (Floaters sing, “float on” in the background) especially food.  Mmmm, yeah, I love me some chocolate, dark chocolate, ya know what I mean.  And pasta … baby, I’m a foodie.  

If you don’t get the above reference, please refer to “Float On” by the Floaters, 1977.  It’s groovy.  

And me … not so groovy, but definitely a foodie.  My horoscope told me so when I read it for my birthday month, but I pretty much knew that already.  My love affair with food goes way back.  I was a cookie stealer from a very young age.  Oreos called to me and damn if my mom didn’t put the cookie jar where I could reach it if I climbed on a chair, then the counter, then the top of the fridge.  Too easy.  

I’ve planned entire vacations around eating.  If  I’m going to see one of the 7 wonders of the world my main thought would be, “but what are we going to eat there?”  

I swear I’m not out on some tangent, this does tie into TFS Wednesday.  It has to do with knowing yourself; your wants, your needs, the things that thrill you to no end.  If you try to lose weight by giving up those things … give up on that diet plan right now.  If you are not a foodie, this may not apply to you.  

I know people who can eat the same thing day after day, year after year.  Food is not one of the ways they get their kicks.  It’s just sustenance and something they have to do to keep their engine running.  For them, almost any diet will do.  These are the people who give up bread (the white soft fluffy stuff) and sugar (gasp!) and live a healthy, skinny spartan life.  These are also the people who like to write diet books, assuming that everyone will also be content to live on only veggies and lean protein.  

I can do that, for a week or two.  I’m such a foodie that there are lots of veggies I love and lean proteins.  But after week two, or as soon as any holiday, vacation, opportunity for something different comes along, I’m moving on to other (probably less healthy) foods. 

It always cracks me up when I hear studies that cutting sugar and white bread from you life can increase your life expectancy by a few years.  A few sucky years!  Assuming I’m not hit by a bus before then, I can’t image that I will be sitting in an old folks home, thrilled to pieces that I’ll be there another year or two because I suffered through decades of no chocolate cake.  

So the foodie diet, the one I have been talking about since I started this blog, is all about having that cake but not the whole thing (or even 1/2 of it).  My birthday is this weekend and I will pay homage at the alter of GiGi’s cupcakes, but my 1 ginormous choco-worship cupcake will probably last through at least four meals.  That way I not only consume less fat, sugar, calories (fun) in one sitting; I spread out the fun, making my food thrill last even longer. 

A line up of one guilty looking cupcake and his lemon accomplice(?)

TFS Wednesday: Smoothies

It’s hard for me to think about drinking an ice-cold smoothie for any meal during the winter.  I spend too much time devising ways to thaw myself out.  Even for a great weight management idea I just can’t make myself any colder.  

Luckily, spring has sprung here in Memphis.  It is officially warm enough (for me) to add smoothies back into my diet.  It’s also a great time to do it because they are a fast, efficient, delicious way to eat healthier and lose weight.  

In the past I relied on Weight Watchers smoothies only.  They are still a delicious option, but since Pintrest came along, I have been inundated with all kinds of homemade smoothie ideas.  The key is finding the ingredients that both taste great to you and also fill whatever health need you have.

Smoothies can be created to fill you up with lots of fibrous foods (like oatmeal) and liquids (juices).  They can be a way to add more veggies to your diet.  You would be surprised how little you taste  spinach or kale when you combine them with a banana.  Add a little protein powder in and your smoothie is a meal replacement.  

Here’s a few of my favorite sources for smoothie ideas:

And a few smoothie making tips:

One final note:  Most diet plans and sites promote smoothies as a breakfast or lunch replacement.  Great idea if either of these are your least favorite meal of the day.  Personally, I love breakfast and lunch and could skip dinner most days.  Pay attention to your own rhythm and have one a day as a meal replacement when you want it, not when a diet plan tells you to.  If you are home or have access to a blender, smoothies can also be a great between meal snack.

TFS Wednesday: Water

No matter what diet plan (or cleanse) you do, you will be asked to drink water … lots of water.  It’s a good habit to pick up and one where most people fall way short of the ideal amount.  

One question I always got while working at Weight Watchers was, why water?  Can’t you drink 64 oz. of diet soda? What about 64 oz. of Crystal Light?  The short answer is, it all comes down to chemicals and how your body reacts to them. Since we all have different chemical make-ups we will all react differently to the chemicals in diet soda or water add in’s.  Some will tolerate LARGE amounts of the chemicals better than others.  Generally, however, drinking anything but water when you are dieting or trying to be healthier, sends you in the opposite direction.  

The reason every (good) diet plan has you drink at least 64 oz. of water a day is to flush your system and help you feel full.  Drinking water will actually support and strengthen your kidneys where processing a lot more chemicals will tax them more.  One promotes health, one reduces it.

Other issues cause people to start, then stop, drinking enough water before it becomes a habit.  The number of times you have to go to the bathroom is complaint number one.  This gets better with time.  During the first week of dieting and drinking more water than you ever have, your body will let go of a lot of retained water (hence that first week BIG loss).  Once your body adjusts to the idea that it will get 64 oz. of water a day, it will equalize and you will have to go less.  It is also a great idea to drink more earlier in the day.  It should go without saying (especially if you have little kids) that you should not down 8 oz. of water right before bed.  Start each morning with 16 oz. right off the bat, before breakfast.  

Keeping track of the water you drink is another challenge.  This isn’t rocket science, so you don’t have to be ‘to the ounce’ precise.  One of the most clever ways I learned from a client was using rubber bands to keep track of the number of glasses or bottles of water you have had each day.  Take your water bottle or glass and figure out how many times you need to finish it each day.  If it’s four times, put four rubber bands around it.  Each time you finish one, remove a rubber band.  It’s a simple solution and a way to make sure you don’t short yourself.  

My final tip is getting a glass or bottle that really works for you.  When I first saw the Tervis glasses and cups at Bed, Bath and Beyond I thought they were ridiculously expensive when I have a whole pile of free big plastic cups at home.  I have since changed my mind.  The fact that they are double-walled allows me to use them for hot or cold drinks and they almost never sweat a pool of water into my cup holder.  Their lids can open like a coffee lid or use a straw.  And they have a lid, so they are much less likely to spill.  They fit in the cup holders in the car and each person can have their own design on the cup, which cuts down on the horror of one of my kids drinking from the other one’s cup. 

Climbing Back on a Different Wagon

We’ve reached the point in January where many (or most) people who started a diet on January 1 have fallen off the wagon.  Plans to completely revamp their eating and/or exercise have proven to be too unrealistic and so they are dropped, completely.

I propose another plan.   This is one where you learn from the mistakes you made in your stringent New Year’s resolution and revamp it to something more realistic; as opposed to letting it all go.

When it comes to dieting or exercise, we tend to be all-or-nothing people (especially in America).  Either it’s kale and mung beans or half-pound fat burgers and onion rings.  Somewhere in the middle is the slow route to healthy and its the one most people overlook.  But it works, you will lose weight, just not as quickly as you once envisioned.  And you can maintain a healthy weight and still have all of the foods you love (just not all at once and in large quantities.)

The first step to getting on a realistic plan is resetting your expectations.  If you lose a pound a week, you are on the right course.  (I can hear the groaning now.)  “But I want to lose 40 or 50 lbs, in say 4 weeks.”  Not only is that unrealistic, it is dangerous.  Most of these unrealistic expectations come from the diet industry.  It is replete with lies and false ads.  Unfortunately we’ve all seen enough of them that we have started to believe them (and we want to.)

Once you wrap your brain around the idea that you should not, and will not lose 5-10 lbs. a week, its time to find the best way for you to slowly work your way to better eating.  If you like the power of the group, I can’t recommend Weight Watchers enough.  Yes, it costs more than a diet book, but it also has the highest success rate of any plan out there.  It is a long-term investment in yourself.  IF you follow it (and that is a big IF) it works and it will teach you how to eat in a way that is possible to use for the rest of your life.  

If you are not a group type person, then there are lots of apps (many free) that will help you track the foods you are eating and the amount of exercise you are getting.  (And that is the magic formula).  You will be accountable to no one, which can be both a blessing and a curse, but you will get a realistic picture of why you have gained weight and what you need to do to lose some of it.  These cost (alot) less than joining Weight Watchers and you pay in your learning curve.  You are on your own to figure out the right foods, the right amounts, the right exercise, etc.  But often that is the best way to find the plan that is absolutely custom designed for you although because its a hit and miss process the weight might come off even more slowly at first.

Today’s post is your late-January pep talk.  My time behind the scale taught me that this is the time when so many are on the verge of quitting.  Make today the day you pick yourself up, give yourself a pat on the back for the few pounds you have lost already or all the trips you did make to the gym (and if was freezing cold, give yourself extra credit).  Take another look at your motivation for starting in the first place then rewrite your plan.  It’s January 29th, time for plan B.

TFS Wednesday: It’s All in Your Mind, or Not

“Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink, PhD.,  is one of the few ‘diet’ books that I would recommend; and I do recommend it, to everyone.  Because it really isn’t a book about which foods to eat when in order to reach some food nirvana, thus producing a weight nirvana.  

Two Covers for the same book.

“Mindless Eating” is about the psychology and sociology of eating.  It is about all the factors that go into influencing how much we eat, what we eat and most importantly, how satisfied we are with our food.  Overeating is often the result of under satisfaction with our food.

Dr. Wansink is a professor at Cornell University where he directs the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.  He studies food (what a dream job!).  In this lab they have conducted surprising and fun studies about the way we eat.  For example, they created a soup bowl for a study that had a hidden tube in the bottom of the bowl.  As the subjects were eating soup, the bowl was very slowly refilling so that it never emptied.  The researchers questioned the soup eaters about when they felt full.  For most, it took a long time.  They massively over-ate, because they were using their eyes as cues to when they should be full and finished eating.

By using the lab they can control so many elements:  lighting, air temperature, plate size, presentation of food (making it pretty), serving utensil size, names of food, etc.

The findings are presented in the book in a way that is easy to read and fascinating.  It can truly change the way you eat, even if you don’t change what you eat.  Whether your goal is weight loss or just better eating habits, the insights from this book can help you see your blind spots (and it is also makes for great cocktail party conversation!)  

Check your local library, mine has a copy that I’ll be picking up later today.  I first read it a few years ago, and in researching for this post, I realized how much I had forgotten.  It merits a reread.  It is also available electronically (Kindle) and there is a website: with videos and resources.  

TFS Wednesday: Thanksgiving

The good news about Thanksgiving in diet terms is that it is only one day.  Even if you go hog wild and consume everything you can get your hands on, you are unlikely to send your weight loss efforts back more than a few pounds. 

The first great Thanksgiving advice I always remember, don’t make “diet” food.  No matter what the magazines say, no one will be excited when you switch out the traditional creamed potatoes for some creamed cauliflower.  This is one day when traditional is better, especially if you are cooking for a large group.  (Creamed cauliflower will only guarantee tons of leftovers).  Most traditional Thanksgiving foods really aren’t super high in calories/points.  White meat turkey is an easy choice, as are sweet potatoes and there is almost always at least one plain vegetable, like carrots or green beans.  As for the heavier traditional foods, if this is your one time a year to have them, by all means, do.  Just go with a smaller amount.  1/4 cup of creamed potatoes, green bean casserole or anything will not kill you (it might even make you happy).  

My second tip is to keep your diet to yourself.  The more people who you tell that you are dieting, the more people who will be in your plate.  When you announce that you are on Weight Watchers, or any plan, it invites others to comment on everything you are eating.  Nothing sucks the fun out of your once-a-year piece of pie than having 5 or 6 people ask you if you should be eating that.  If you’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time your family saw you, it might be obvious, but in general, the more low key you are about your diet, the more you can enjoy your food.  

Finally, exercise.  This has so many uses on Thanksgiving day.  First, if you go for a walk after eating, you will offset that over-stuffed, ill feeling and wave of sleepy.  Second, it gets you out of the house.  It’s a chance to clear you head or bring your favorite relative along for a walk to catch up on the juicy family gossip.  Mall walking counts, but know that you will be stopping every 5 to 10 feet due to crowds.  I’m signed up for the 5 mile Turkey Trot with a few other family members. 

My final advice — and this goes for all holidays– wear tight, uncomfortable clothes.  This is not the day for the stretchy pants and over sized sweater.  Nothing inspires you to keep your portions small like a pair of unforgiving jeans and a muffin-top revealing top.  It’s a good reminder where all those extra calories will end up.  

TFS Wednesday: The Same But Smaller

I have my great-grandmother’s arms.  I never met her but I have lots of pictures.  She was a big woman with a sweet smile and proportionally larger upper arms.  I may not be the same size she was in the photos, but the shape of my arms is the same, but smaller.

I think it is important to have realistic goals when you are trying to loose weight or generally get in shape.  Most of us have images in our minds of what we would like to look like.  We see (usually airbrushed) photos of celebrities and decide that we will diet and workout till we have abs or legs like that person.  The first problem is the massive over use of airbrushing on celebrity photos.  With Photoshop, editors are doing so much more than covering over fine lines and blemishes.  They stretch and erase and create a body for the celebrity that doesn’t really exist in this world.  

The Photoshop diet and exercise program.

The second problem is that diet and exercise cannot give you what nature didn’t (or did).  As you shrink, you will get a smaller version of you and you will generally shrink at about the same rate all over your body.  So you will loose in some of the places you want to and maybe in some of the places you don’t want to.  If you have thin legs and wide hips, you will have the same hip to leg ratio when you loose weight.  

I’m pointing this out to hopefully save some people a lot of frustrating time and effort.  I have seen many clients who loose a significant amount of weight, then become hyper focused on fixing one area.  For women it is often their bellies.  After several babies and possibly menopause too, they feel like they would reach some sort of body nirvana if they could just have flat abs.  For most of them, short of surgery, it isn’t going to happen.  They will get a nice muscle layer under the soft spot or a smaller version of the soft spot, and they would be closer to a peace-of-mind nirvana if they could live with that.  

My arms are just not my favorite feature.  I’m aware that they look much flabbier and weaker than they are. (I have nice triceps somewhere under the soft stuff.)  Sometimes I consciously dress to cover them, and sometimes, I just ignore them and dress to highlight all the parts I do love. 

TFS Wednesday: E-A-T-I-N-G

My tip for today comes from France – specifically Mireille Guiliano’s book “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”  As a side note, let me say that there are lots of great recipes, but the easiest and most effective tip I found in the book was to eat s-l-o-w-l-y.  

In general, American culture moves fast.  Compared to the rest of the world we are like road runners, zipping around, talking fast and eating fast.  Maybe it’s because a lot of what we eat doesn’t really taste that great, but we are known for rushing through our meals.  

The French, and many other cultures, see meals as a leisure activity, a chance to talk and share good food slowly (very, very, slowly compared to Americans). The side benefit to slow eating is a much lower rate of obesity despite consuming lots of foods that are on the American diet no-no list.  

And there is science behind this phenomenon to explain how it works.  The signals from your stomach, telling whether it is full or not, take about 10 minutes to process and reach the brain so it can tell your mouth to stop eating.  When your entire meal only takes 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish, you are usually over-full before the message arrives.

In order to eat really slowly so you can have delicious real food and still stay slim, you need two things:  time and new habits.  First, you need to set time aside to eat.  30 min. is good for breakfast, and at least an hour to an hour and a half for lunch and dinner.  (Side note:  in many of these countries, lunch is also the biggest meal of the day, another GREAT idea for another TFS Wednesday).  

Now that you have time, start eating your meal one bite at a time.  Literally.  Take one small bite of food, put it in your mouth, set your fork down, chew it completely, swallow it, then pick up your fork and get one more small bite of food.  It’s a game at first, because it’s not most people’s normal way of eating, but it can become a habit with time. And the one bite at a time rule works for all sorts of foods.  Popcorn is a favorite of mine, especially movie popcorn.  Chew one piece, completely, swallow it, then take another piece.  

I also talked about using this technique when I wrote my love sonnet to chocolate.  Try to eat small pieces of chocolate (like M&M size) by letting them melt in your mouth, one by one, not putting another piece in till the one before is completely gone.  

Hopefully, this style of eating will have several positive results.  You should lose weight because you will be eating less.  You should enjoy your food more because you will be taking the time to taste it instead of inhaling it.  And you might learn a lot more about those you eat with as you make time for conversation.  Which could be a good thing . . . or not.  

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  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 (  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.