Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kill Your Cows. (In a non-violent, vegetarian way)

I just finished reading a FANTASTIC book- Once Upon A Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success, by  Dr. Camilo Cruz. Since I started the book, I have been walking around the house muttering to myself about killing cows. Chris is probably pretty disturbed.
I'll fill you in on the cow story and then explain how that relates to taking 100% responsibility for your own personal success in any area of your life.  
The author starts the book with the tale of a wise man and his student who are traveling through the countryside looking for a place to stay the night. They come upon a family who takes them in and are shocked at the poverty this family is living in. Tiny living quarters, not enough to eat, basically barely surviving.  The one thing the family has going for them is a single cow.  The cow is the envy of their neighbors, and although it produces barely enough milk for them to survive on, they see it as the best thing in their life.  The family's life revolves around this cow- feeding, protecting and caring for it.
The wise man and student spend the night with the family, grateful for their kindness and wake up early to leave.  As they are passing the barn the student watches in horror as the wise man KILLS the family's cow and they continue on their way.  The student continues to be bothered by this.
The following year- the wise man and the student travel back to the same countryside and they approach same family's home. As they arrive at the spot where their tiny house had been, they see it has been replaced with a larger, nicer home.  The student fears that the family has become homeless or abandoned the area in despair and is shocked to see one of the family members come out of the large house, looking stronger and much healthier than on their previous trip.
The family- unaware that is was the wise man who had killed the cow, welcome them both in to the house warmly.  The family members tell the story of how their life has changed since the death of their cow.  The huge loss of what was the center of their universe shocked them for a while and they feared starvation and further poverty.  But that fear motivated change, and drove them to pursue new farming and business ventures to survive which grew and led to great improvement in their quality of life. 
As they left the family and continued on their way, the wise man explains to the amazed student:  "If I hadn't killed the cow they would still be living exactly as they were, barely surviving,miserable but telling themselves they were lucky to have their cow.  The loss of the cow freed/forced them to seek other opportunities and change their lives."

We develop our excuses (cows) at an early age. We use them, nurture and protect them, and even justify them until they are no longer excuses but have become our own self-created reality. The danger in this is waking up years down the road to realize we've lead a very mediocre existence and fallen short of our hopes for our life. The main point of the book is that life is too short to accept "good enough" or "getting by" and each person is responsible individually for their own success.
The book is not health focused, but can be applied to all aspects of your life. Sounds simple, but if you pay attention to how many excuses, rationalizations or justifications for average behavior you make every single day, the cows standing in your path start to be more and more apparent.  Think about what you could do- the changes and results that could be made by eliminating all excuses from your life?

Obviously- the author and the book explain this concept more eloquently I do. I encourage everyone to read the book- no matter what your individual struggles or areas of your life you wish you could improve, you will be inspired to "kill your cows" by facing your challenges head-on and taking responsibility for your own reality.
Quote of the day: "Balance. Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. So is exercise. So is mental clarity. And health is the consummate ideal at the intersection of these components." Jessica Brookman, blogger.
PPS- Book is on sale at Amazon.com, see below for less than $8! 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Win The War on Temptation

Happy Friday! Today's post was inspired by an article by Jill Waldbieser on Women's Health.com that caught my eye with the title "4 Ways to Resist Food Temptations".  Who couldn't learn something from that? I'm constantly looking for ways to prevent/resist & recover from the deadly pull of junk food.
Here's what the article had to say- and of course, my take on her suggestions :)
Strategy: Eat Smaller More Frequent Meals
What it Targets? Out of control hunger.
Why it works: Going too long without eating makes your blood sugar plummet. That leaves you with a raging appetite that can overpower your best intentions to eat well. If you have small meals every three to five hours, your blood sugar stays stable, preventing the wallop of a sugar low that will leave you vulnerable to overeating, says Lisa Jones, R.D., of LaSalle University. I COULD NOT agree with this one more.  I have noticed repeatedly through my food journaling that often my bad choices are caused directly by hunger, lack of snack planning, or the blood sugar crash following something sweet. Have a healthy snack with you at ALL times. Right now, I have a fruit leather in my purse, protein bar in my desk and crackers in my car. Seriously- these are my saviors.
Strategy: Eat With Your Other Hand
What it targets: Distraction
Why it works: Picking up a fork with the hand you don't usually use automatically slows you down and makes you focus on your meal, two things that have been proven to aid weight loss. Studies have shown that with regular practice, this kind of switcheroo can also increase your overall willpower. Hmm... ok... don't really think I'll be trying this one anytime soon (I'm laughing just picturing myself trying to do this in a restaurant! Chris would probably stop taking me out in public :) But I do agree with the underlying principle of focusing on what you are eating and slowing down the meal process. Rather than eating with the other hand, I'd suggest working on chewing your food more, not eating in front of the TV or in the car, or other strategies that help you concentrate on what you are eating.
Strategy: Weigh Yourself Regularly
What it targets: Losing sight of your goal
Why it works: Few things keep your weight-loss goal front and center better than seeing those big glowing numbers on the scale. Regular weigh-ins also make it easier to notice extra pounds creeping on, so you can slash and burn immediately. In fact, when researchers at the University of Minnesota analyzed more than 1,800 people who successfully shed pounds in weight-loss programs, they found that about 40 percent weighed themselves daily or weekly. And the more frequently they stepped on the scale, the more they lost: 12 pounds on average for daily weighers, compared with six for weekly weighers. (Scale shunners, meanwhile, gained an average of five pounds.)  Interesting study! And I agree that weighing yourself keeps you accountable.  I know for myself, when I'm "being bad" I just stop weighing myself, which never leads to anything good.  Then I'll go 6 weeks without weighing myself and it's torture to step back on the scale.  There's definitely a healthy balance between obsessive weighing and scale avoidance, find what works for you. For me- I do best if I weigh myself once a week, same day & same time.
Strategy: Lift Your Spirits
What it targets: Emotional eating
Why it works: It's estimated that when people overeat, nearly 75 percent of the time it's because they're feeling blue.
Even small doses of pleasant emotions can quickly renew your ability to say no. So the next time you're facing down temptation, surf over to theonion.com or buy yourself that going-out top you've been eyeing. The good feelings might be temporary, but they will last long enough to get you safely past that hot-fudge sundae. I do think this works.  However (and I know from experience) it can get expensive if you shop every time you feel like eating :).  Another great way to lift spirits is by getting outside, or really getting your serotonin flowing with some exercise.  Obviously easier said than done when you are feeling down, but nothing lifts my spirits more than a run or taking Riley to dog beach. 
Now you've got the tools, so get out there and resist some temptation this weekend!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Breakfast: Quick and Easy with Egg Whites!

I think by now most people know you NEED to eat breakfast if you want to lose weight, be healthy, balance your blood sugar, ETC.  It's Key.  Don't believe me? Google it and thousands of official people/studies will confirm my point. With that as a premise- I felt the need to talk about my favorite breakfast food today following a happy hour discussion last night. A girlfriend mentioned how hard it was on her current diet to find breakfast foods. I brought up egg whites and she was pretty hesitant (meaning she called them totally gross :)) but I seriously think they are one of the most diet friendly foods around.  Not only are they low calorie, you can honestly put nearly ANYTHING in them for a warm and nutritious meal. The key is figuring out what to add, which takes a little experimenting.
What seems to challenge even more people than finding what to eat in the morning is finding the time to prepare and eat breakfast.  After making a delicious Basil & Swiss egg white omelet on English muffin in LESS THAN 6 MINUTES this morning, I know it can be done. 
Here are my tips (and recipe) that will speed things up in the a.m. 
Step 1: Pop English muffin in toaster.  Turn heat on pan and spray it with PAM.  Time saving tip- use the right size skillet.  If you are making a one person omelet, this should be a small preferably stainless steel pan. 
Step 2: Get egg whites out of fridge, cheese, and any other ingredients you want to add. Time saving tips- use egg whites that are in a carton, already separated from the yolks and cheese that is pre-shredded or pre-sliced.
Step 3: Pour 1/3 cup egg whites (about the amount of two eggs) into pan.  Grind pepper or other spices onto egg mixture in pan.  Time saving tip- make sure the pan is already heated to speed up cook time.
Step 4: As the egg starts to firm up, add in additional ingredients.  This morning I used fresh basil, simply tore up a few leaves and put them in.  Then add cheese and let it melt. Once the cheese has started melting (cook time about 3.5 min), fold the egg mixture in half and it magically becomes an omelet!
Step 5: Get English muffin out of toaster, place on plate.  Remove omelet from pan and cut in half.  Put one half on each English muffin and you have a delicious, balanced, nutritious breakfast in UNDER 6 min. 
1/3 cup egg whites: 50
Slice light cheese (today I used Swiss): 50
Thomas Brand Whole wheat light English muffin: 100
Basil: I'll give it 5- it was just a few leaves for flavor. 
Basil & Swiss Egg White Omelet. Total calories: 205Total Time: 6 min. Enjoyment level: So good! Eggs stick with you and don't leave you starving (and prone to sweets/carb cravings) at 10a.m.
Other quick and easy omelet additions that you might already have in your fridge:
Cilantro & salsa, chives, lunch meat turkey, spinach, tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers & onions, Morningstar Farms brand products (the fake sausage patty is my favorite)- really anything goes!
Don't love English muffins? Substitute for a piece of ezekial bread toast (80 cal) or make an egg burrito by making the omelet a scramble and putting it in a low carb tortilla (120 cal).

Here's my challenge- try an egg white omelet this week. I PROMISE you won't regret it and you may just find a new breakfast staple.
PS.  The people who make Laughing Cow Light Cheeses have heard and answered my prayers! They created a spreadable light BLUE CHEESE version that is SO good and still only 35 calories a wedge! It might actually be a worthy substitute for my cheese cravings...