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May 04, 2021

Sneaking Off For a Date...

It's Sunday, and Randy and I needed to run to Home Depot and other exciting spots to do some shopping that would bore Matt (age 12) to tears.

So Matt volunteered to stay home and work on homework and household chores(!) while Randy and I went to buy towel bars and toilet plungers. (Yeah, marriage doesn't get any sexier than that...)

In the middle of running errands, with my stomach growling, I spotted our favorite burger joint, In 'N Out. I didn't have to work too hard to convince Randy to stop for lunch. We had so much fun! (Especially since our usual at-home meals consist of healthy chicken, pasta, fish, chicken, pasta, fish, chicken, pasta, fish...)

Can't remember the last time the two of us had just gone out for a burger, alone, on the spur of the moment. "Don't tell Matt!" we laughed, knowing he'd be mighty jealous.

As marital secrets go, this isn't a barn-burner, I know. But Randy and I must have looked pretty funny, sneaking out of the car when we got back home and tossing our In 'N Out soda cups in the recycling bin out by the street before we entered the house.

Shhh! Don't tell Matt.

February 07, 2022

Guest Blog: Our Get-Fat-Tuesday Family Tradition

Here's a fun post from first-time guest blogger Ellen Cajka, who knows all about healthy eating (and when to not worry about it) AND raising teenagers. I love her "Get Fat Tuesday" family tradition.

Mardi Gras, otherwise known as "Fat Tuesday," was a lot of fun at our house this year. No, we didn't have a wild costume party, partake in alcohol or even "earn" multi-colored beads.

My 14-year-old daughter, Taylor, and I planned our own version of Fat Tuesday — and boy did we do it up right! We called it "Get Fat Tuesday." Taylor is giving up fast food for Lent, and I am giving up sweets. No small task! So we decided to go out with a bang.

We ordered  three different kinds of takeout: pizza, Taco Bell and El Pollo Loco. And we finished the evening off with 31 Flavors ice cream and had two scoops each. I was planning on having a hot fudge sundae, but after a piece of pizza, 3/4 of a cheese quesadilla, some Nachos Bell Grande, chicken and mashed potatoes, a sundae suddenly didn't sound all that appetizing.

We had fun planning and it certainly felt sinful enjoying all those forbidden foods. Sweets are my nemesis, and any teen would struggle to go just a week without pizza or a burger. It's going to be LONG 40 days and 40 nights.

But hey, maybe the Easter Bunny will bring me some chocolate.

February 04, 2022

Get Thee Behind Me, Cheesecake!

How do you spell S-T-R-E-S-S?

My son, Matt, was fighting a cold this morning and trudged off to school looking like a doomed man. I had to take the dog to the vet. And then I had one of those work mornings I'd just as soon bury in the back yard...

But there was no time for pity parties. I had a lunch date scheduled with my friend Robi, who deserved to have a happy lunch companion for her BIRTHDAY lunch, for crying in the soup! Clearly, it was no time to actually cry in my soup.

But as I was driving to meet her at the Cheesecake Factory, where I usually order something diet-worthy, like the luncheon-potion grilled salmon, I was overcome by an urge to eat cheesecake. A BIG piece of CHOCOLATE cheesecake. Because (say it with me now) I DESERVED IT.

You know the drill: Stressed-out mom has a tough day and decides to indulge in something that (a) doesn't talk back, (b) provides unconditional comfort (at least until I try to fit into my jeans or I need an angioplasty) and (c) makes me happy.

Well, let's hear it for the power of friendship. Robi actually encouraged me to whine a bit over my salmon. (What a pal.) Then we went on to talk about everything from scrapbooking to writers' conferences. Some things are even better — and certainly better for me — than scarfing down a huge wedge of cheesecake.

I ended up bringing home a slice for my son as a special treat. (He's on the swim team and burns calories like crazy, but I don't even let him eat stuff like this all that often.) I checked out the nutrition information later and learned that one slice of the Cheesecake Factory's chocolate mousse cheesecake is (get this!) 780 calories and 55 grams of fat. Yowza.

Thanks to my Robi-therapy, I didn't rip open the to-go box and down the whole thing in the car on the way home.

And when he sat down for his after-school treat, Matt noticed that the edges had only been slightly evened up.

To follow this mom's weight-loss journey from the beginning, just click on "Weight Loss" on the "Categories" list at right and scroll down.


 

January 04, 2022

Sleep and Overweight Kids: What's the Connection?

Is your child having trouble with obesity? It might help to make sure he's getting enough sleep.

Kids who get less sleep in third and sixth grades are more likely to be overweight in sixth grade, according to the results of a new study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The data focused on kids’ sleep problems, how long they slept each night and their Body Mass Index (BMI).

Sixth graders who slept fewer than nine hours per night were more likely to be overweight. And third grade students who got less sleep, regardless of their BMI at the time, also were more likely to become overweight when they reached sixth grade. For every additional hour of sleep in sixth grade, a child was 20 percent less likely to be overweight. Every additional hour of sleep in third grade resulted in a 40 percent decrease in the child's risk of being overweight in sixth grade. That's a big difference.

Getting a good night's sleep can also lead to better grades, less-cranky kids and even a little time alone for mom and dad in the evenings. "Bedtime" is not a dirty word!

January 02, 2022

Yes You Can(!) Teach Your Baby to Love Veggies

Want your baby to learn to like fruits and veggies? If you’re breastfeeding, you can start by eating these healthy foods yourself, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers also suggest offering your baby plenty of opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables as she makes the transition to solid foods, by repeatedly exposing her to these healthy foods — regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula.

“The best predictor of how many fruits and vegetables children eat is whether they like the tastes of these foods. If we can get babies to learn to like these tastes, we can get them off to an early start toward healthy eating,” says study author Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D.

The researchers studied 45 infants between four and eight months old, 20 of whom were breastfed. The results revealed that breast-feeding confers an advantage for a baby’s acceptance of foods during weaning — but only if the mother regularly eats those foods.

“It’s a beautiful system,” says Mennella. “Flavors from the mother’s diet are transmitted through amniotic fluid and mother’s milk. So a baby learns to like a food’s taste when the mother eats that food on a regular basis.” Babies are born with a natural dislike for bitter tastes, explains Mennella. “If mothers want their babies to learn to like to eat vegetables, especially green vegetables, they need to provide them with opportunities to taste these foods.”

Apparently a look on a baby’s face that says “yuck!” doesn’t mean all that much, the researchers note. They found that babies’ facial expressions did not always match their willingness to continue eating a particular food, noting that infants innately display facial expressions of distaste to certain flavors. They urge parents to provide their baby with repeated opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables, focusing on the infant’s willingness to eat the food instead of on negative facial expressions during mealtime.

December 19, 2021

Now Here's a Healthy Grocery List

I don’t know about you, but I get a little weary of hearing about all the things my family and I shouldn’t do, health-wise.

That’s why I’m all over a new book, Longevity Made Simple (Williams Clark Publishing; $13.95) by Richard J. Flanigan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of cardiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Kate Flanigan Sawyer, M.D., MPH, a medical officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Together, this father-daughter team presents simple strategies that focus on preventing the top 10 diseases that kill more than 75 percent of Americans. The good news: Exercising just 30 minutes a day can help prevent all 10 of them. Try finding a pill that does all that.

Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be all that complicated, either. The authors recommend these “superfoods” for your family:

Almonds and walnuts
Apples
Avocados
Bell peppers
Blueberries
Citrus fruits
Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy
Fat-free or 1-percent milk
Garlic and onions
Legumes
Melons
Olive oil
Red wine (no more than one 5-ounce glass per day for women)
Salmon
Spinach
Squash
Sweet potatoes
Tea (green or black)
Tomatoes
Vegetable juice (try reduced-sodium juice or make your own with whole veggies in a blender)
Whole grains

OK, this I can do. Today I’ll grab my son and we'll walk the dog for 15 minutes, I'll do 15 minutes of an aerobics DVD and I'll make a 15-minute family dinner of broiled salmon, spinach salad and microwaved sweet potatoes.

Check out the book for more simple ways to improve your family's health. It's easy, I promise. Even during this crazy-making time of year!

December 11, 2021

Holiday Pig-Out Alert!

As a health and parenting writer, I cover women's health issues frequently. Here's one in an occasional series of posts on health tips for busy moms. — Kathy

It’s the holidays — and we’re all being tempted with fat-loaded dinners and butter cookies. Of course, we want to celebrate a bit. But health experts remind us to keep our eye on the long haul. How much do we really want to pay — in weight gain, potential health problems and just plain sluggishness — for our holiday cheer?

It’s about balance, our experts say, noting that we don’t need to make a Herculean effort. Even moderate changes in what we put in our mouths, and how much we shake a leg, can really add up this holiday season. But there are some simple psychological reasons why so many of us dig in our heels when it comes to building healthy habits. And during the holidays, it’s even tougher to get motivated. Here are some of the most common pitfalls, along with some suggestions for hoisting ourselves over the healthy-holiday hurdles:

°    IGNORING YOUR QUIRKS. So you can’t stand the thought of exercising after a busy day? Well then. Might as well give up, grab some eggnog and rent a few videos, right?

Try this: Work around your likes and dislikes, suggests Lynn Fischer, an author of more than 20 healthy cookbooks who hates to exercise at night. “I work out at 6 a.m.,” she says. “By 7:30, I’m home and I’ve already accomplished the toughest part of my day.” And because she has a sweet tooth, Fischer doesn’t deny herself the occasional holiday goodie, because it helps her say no to other temptations. “But I don’t make it a habit,” she says.

°    FEELING DEPRESSED. Depression occurs, for many people, during the holiday season. “When you’re depressed, exercise is the best medicine, and it has no side effects,” says Scotts Valley, California fitness-motivation consultant Ron Useldinger. But if you’re not feeling good about yourself, it’s tough to get motivated to exercise or eat healthfully. Is depression tied to decreased fitness? “Absolutely,” he says. “If your body isn’t rested, properly fed and exercised, you will feel the effects emotionally.”

Try this: Bundle up and go for a winter walk. The first few times you may have to just trust the experts who say exercise really is good medicine. But have faith. You should start to feel better fairly quickly, says Useldinger. Try to look at those walks as a gift to your well-being. Of course, if your feelings of depression continue, you’ll want to talk with your doctor.

°    BECOMING A REBEL. This is a tough one, because it’s hard to recognize it in ourselves. After all, you love yourself, and exercise is good for you, right? But have you ever heard this little voice in your head? "I have wrap packages. I have to send out all these cards. I have to decorate the house. And now they’re telling me I HAVE TO eat right and exercise, or else something horrible will happen to me? Oh yeah? I think I'll go flop on the couch, watch ‘Survivor’ reruns and have a big slab of fudge. So there.” “It's as if these healthy things become just more pieces of work that we have to do, says Robert Ochs, M.S., LCSW, a Los Angeles exercise physiologist and psychotherapist who specializes in working with clients’ exercise-related issues.

Try this: Make your choices the reward, not the torture. “People have to find things in their life that are soothing,” says Ochs. “None of us can do well if we're just going from chore to chore.” Especially in the early stages of a health-behavior change, try tying the change to a reward, he suggests. Allow yourself a massage after a certain number of workouts. Or exercise while chatting with a friend, reading or listening to music. “Now the new behavior becomes associated with something more pleasurable, and you probably won't dread it,” says Ochs. “Maybe you’ll even look forward to it.”

°    TAKING AN ALL-OR-NOTHING APPROACH. It’s easy to get psyched and start off with great intentions, only to over-do it and quit on day three. “We know that the three biggest days for exercising are January 2, 3 and 4, and then it drops off quickly,” says Useldinger.

Try this: Get the jump on the new year now by making small changes. Then you will be in the groove come January and not so inclined to over-do it — and then drop out. “Your new behavior cannot be so punishing that you give up, so start with baby steps,” suggests Ochs. “One little change at a time.”

After you make fitness a habit, “the exercise itself becomes the thing you look forward to when you have all those other chores to do,” says Ochs. Pretty soon, stepping away from your holiday to-do list and stepping outside for that blood-pumping daily stroll might just become your favorite part of the holidays.



October 22, 2021

Check out Froggy 92.9 This Thursday for My Halloween Tips

Ready for some Halloween safety tips (along with suggestions for what to do with all that candy — aside from sneaking it while your kids are at school)?

I'll be joining hosts Rob and Joss of the "Rob and Joss in the Morning" radio show on Froggy 92.9 in Santa Rosa, California this Thursday at 8:10 a.m. Pacific Time. Tune in if you live in the area — or visit their website and listen online.

Rob and Joss are always a hoot. And you know you need those candy-be-gone tips. See you Thursday!

October 19, 2021

Get Thee Behind Me, Halloween Candy!

It's coming. In just 12 days and 3.5 hours (but who's counting?)... Butterfinger. Milky Way. A Hershey's kiss or two (or six). All the wonderful things that my son collects in his trick-or-treat bag will call to me as I work in my home office the week after Halloween.

Normally, I sneak a few pieces here and there, and it's no big deal. I just don't get on the scale until, uh, January. But this year I've lost 18 pounds since May (14.8 of it blogging over at womansday.com), and I want to keep it OFF!

Happily, the good folks over at Keeping The Castle have some terrific suggestions for using all that excess Halloween candy that tends to hang around until Thanksgiving. Just a few of their great tips:

* Melt caramel squares to use as drizzle over apples, ice cream or cake.

* Instead of jam, put mini Reese’s cups in thumbprint cookies.

* Freeze the candy for use as decorations on gingerbread houses in December.

Of course, I realize that doing these things will fill my kitchen with caramel sauce, thumbprint cookies and gingerbread houses. But at least those are the sort of treats that I tend to make with Matt to share with friends and neighbors. Sneaking Halloween candy at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, while Matt is at school? That's a solo act of taste buds over common sense.

OK, twist my arm. Bring on the thumbprint cookies! Hey, I can freeze 'em and be that much more ahead of the game when I get invited to a cookie-exchange party. (Hint, hint.)

September 22, 2021

"Simple" Meals? Depends on Who's Doing The Cooking

Like most moms, I'm always scrambling for simple-but-healthy meals I can throw on the table between baseball practice and homework crunch time. So at first I was jazzed to come across Mark Bittman's article, "Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less" while cruising around www.nytimes.com.

But, Mr. Bittman! You're making me feel pathetic. My idea of quick and simple is ground-turkey tacos. Or a jar of pasta sauce tossed in the crock pot with a couple of sliced turkey sausages. (OK, that's cheating, I guess. The sauce cooks all day and the final prep takes 10 minutes. But it takes a whopping three minutes to throw that stuff in the crock put.)

Here are some of Bittman's suggestons:

°    Put three pounds of washed mussels in a pot with half a cup of white wine, garlic cloves, basil leaves and chopped tomatoes. Steam until mussels open. Serve with bread. (To me, simple means working with what's in the cupboard, fridge and freezer, not heading off to the store to buy fresh mussels — and then wondering what to do with the ones that don't open. Pitch 'em, right?)

°    Put a few dozen washed littlenecks in a large, hot skillet with olive oil. When clams begin to open, add a tablespoon or two of chopped garlic. When most or all are opened, add parsley. Serve alone, with bread or over angel-hair pasta. (I'm seeing a trend here. More "openings" to worry about. And more fresh stuff to buy at the last minute...)

°    Boil a lobster. Serve with lemon or melted butter. (OK, now I'm picturing that great scene from "Annie Hall." I'm Woody Allen.)

And my personal favorite...

°    Sauté squid rings and tentacles in olive oil with salt and pepper. Make a sauce of minced garlic, smoked pimentón, mayo, lots of lemon juice and fresh parsley. Serve with a chopped salad of cucumber, tomato, lettuce, grated carrot and scallion, lightly dressed.

Sigh. Scrambled eggs and hash browns, anyone?

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