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Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm not Superwoman! (and other shocking discoveries)

Boy, am I tired! No one warned me that running a household was so stressful! A lot has changed for me in the past few months -- I got married, built a house, inherited two beautiful children, got a dog, got a cat, started a new business and published a cookbook. Whew! Just typing that makes me tired.

I've figured out this month that I'm not Superwoman (I've suspected this for quite some time, but now I know for sure). I take on too much, like I'm sure most of you do. The extra stress and running around does burn off some calories, but that's all counteracted by the "grab-and-go" mentality when it comes to eating.

I know when I grab a handful of junk food on my way out the door that I'm doing myself an injustice. So I'm careful later. What sneaks up on me, though, is the junk food that's disguised as health food. I've seen this happen so often that I have to mention it -- just because it says "lowfat" or "light" doesn't mean it won't contribute to weight gain.

Case in point: In college, fat free frozen yogurt was a staple of my diet. I have a big appetite, so my portions were a little off -- but since it was fat free, I wasn't doing any harm, right? WRONG. I've since figured out that the yogurt I was eating still had 600 calories. OUCH! A serving size is 1/2 cup, but I was eating 4 times that, probably more, several times a week. No wonder!

Now that I'm cooking healthy food and sharing it with others through this blog and my business, I've seen this type of self-sabotage happening more and more. "This is healthy!" followed by overeating. When we see something that's obviously fattening, we know to watch our portion sizes (or at least be more careful later). But when we're faced with healthy choices, all bets are off. Sure there's more breathing room with the healthy food, but if you are trying to lose weight, portion size still matters. After all, it's a numbers game -- calories in, calories out.

For me, it's not the endless holiday party buffets that get me. I know what to do with those (the veggie tray is my best friend, but watch the dressing!). The problem is eating on the run, being too tired to cook dinner and snacking during all the great holiday movies! So here are a couple tips. If you have more, please share them!

Read labels. In my opinion, the most important information on a nutrition label isn't the calories or fat, it's the serving size. Read the label and measure a serving size -- even if you eat more, you'll be conscious of what a serving size should be and you'll learn to cut back on other things to balance it out. This will be discouraging at first -- you'll be shocked at how little a serving size actually is for most things. But the lesson is worth it!

When it seems too good to be true, investigate! Spray butter that tastes really good and has 0 calories? Yahoo! I was so ecstatic, I used it on everything. But then I dug a little deeper and learned that the nutrition label can say 0 calories if one serving has less than 5 calories and 0 fat if one serving has less than 1/2 a gram. So guess what? That bottle has over 900 calories. OUCH! I've heard similar reports about diet soda (which has no nutritional value, anyway), so stick to water!

Don't snack with an open bag. When you want a snack, measure out how much you should be eating, put it in a bowl and put the bag away. Trust me, you'll think twice about going back for more. But if you sit in front of the television with an open bag of anything, you'll eat WAY more than you intended. Even a bag of rice cakes (ew!) has a ton of calories if you eat the whole thing! I'm speaking from experience. This is also why I love fruit -- it's perfectly portioned!

Chew gum. Want to fend off cravings or between-meal snacking? Chew a piece of gum. My friend shared this tip with me, and it's worked for her. She's lost 9 pounds so far! Awesome! And during the holidays, too. While gum keeps your mouth busy longer, I also find that popping a mint or brushing your teeth works, too. That minty flavor makes just about anything that follows taste bland or bitter. Perfect!

Take time to eat regular meals. When I don't eat regularly, my hands shake, I get irritable and I can't function. Thus, I get desperate and grab whatever is closest. Bad idea! The best lesson I learned when I wrote my cookbook is that cooking dinner doesn't take that long. I cooked 30 dinners in 4 days and I can tell you for a fact that this is true. A chicken breast will cook in 15 minutes. Lean steak is even less! That is faster than the drive-thru! But if you're out and you need to grab something on the go, opt for Subway over virtually any burger joint. Skip the cheese, the mayo and the oil on your 6-inch sub (load up on veggies, mustard and vinegar!) and you'll come in around 300 calories. Can't beat that!

I know we can make it through this season without weight gain. I have faith! Please feel free to share the tips that work for you. Here's to a healthy, happy, and fit holiday season!

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