Author Archives: Melinda

MySisterSaid Keep a Food Journal and Lose Weight

Putting pen to paper may help you lose weight!

Putting pen to paper may help you lose weight!

As Julie Andrews said, “Let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start…”  For me, getting on track with losing or maintaining my weight always comes back to keeping a food journal. The fact of the matter is that taking this one relatively easy step can help most people gain a bit more control over what, when and how much they eat.

A recent article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics backs this up. The study found that the women who consistently kept a food journal lost on average 6 more pounds over a 6-month period than those who kept a journal more sporadically or did not journal at all.

Sounds like a no brainer to me – I write down what I eat, and I lose weight! Just the act of writing down everything you eat begins the process of making you mindful of what and how much you are eating.

The trick is being consistent. Figure out what format will be easiest for you to follow  – are you a notebook and pen type, or do you want the latest app for your smart phone? The one that is best is simply the one that you will do most consistently.

For a long time, I kept a small notebook and pen in my purse. In addition to jotting down what I ate, I also ranked my hunger level from 0-10. Yes, I have been known to eat when I was absolutely not hungry! I also tried to put in a quick description of how I was feeling: content, tired, anxious, etc. While that isn’t vitally important, I do think it helps us get in touch with our feelings and how they may be affecting what and how much we eat. You may be surprised at the patterns you see over time.

Eventually, I loaded the Lose It! app on my phone, and while it took some getting used to, I found it to be really effective when trying to lose weight. I especially like the graphs that showed the downward trend in my weight! Other apps that have positive reviews include MyFitnessPal and CalorieCount. All three are great apps for tracking exercise as well, which I find helps with motivation.

Whether you put pen to paper, or use an app, try to document what you eat shortly after eating it so you don’t forget anything. And last but not least, be brutally honest and record everything (yes, that means the sleeve of Thin Mints). Now that we survived “Snowzilla” and my kids and I are back to school, I’m back to journaling. I’m looking at it as a mid-winter resolution. Why not give it a try–what have you got to lose?



MySisterSaid Do You Follow the Food Rules?

Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much 

This thoughtful book of Food Rules really simplifies things.

This thoughtful book of Food Rules really simplifies things.

Have you heard of Michael Pollan, one of the gurus of the healthy eating movement?  A dear friend just gave me a beautifully bound and illustrated special edition of his book “Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual,” and if you aren’t familiar with his work, it boils down to just three things: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.

The first rule,Eat Food”, sounds almost insultingly simple, but when you dig a little deeper, it really isn’t.  In addition to healthy, real food, the supermarket is full thousands of edible food-like substances. They are highly processed, often derived from corn and soy, and are chock full of chemical additives.  Sound yummy, don’t they?!?  We are continually bombarded with exposure to and advertising for these edible food-like substances.  Take a moment next time you do your grocery shopping and really look at what you are buying and what the ingredients are….wouldn’t you rather eat food?

The second rule, Mostly Plants, is one of those that intimidates gals like me from Oklahoma.  We grew up knowing that beef was what’s for dinner, and we’ll take ours medium rare, thank you.  But even this Okie is smart enough to read the writing on the wall. Populations who eat a Western Diet, one full of meat, processed foods, added fats and sugars, and lacking in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are literally killing themselves.  Here’s a sobering quote from the book: Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80% of the cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers are linked to this diet.  While the quote is sobering, it also leaves room for hope.  Shifting our diet by adding more of the healthy stuff and cutting back on the less healthy stuff is doable, and it will make a difference!

The third rule,Not too Much, is a topic many struggle with. We celebrate with food, commiserate with food, and everything in between involves food!  What it comes down to is we ought to eat only when we are hungry.  I know I can’t be the only one who has difficulties with this — food is tasty and comforting. One of his recommendations is to eat fewer snacks, and make sure the snacks you eat include a serving of fruit or vegetables. Many of us also have a tendency to equate a snack with a treat, but they aren’t the same!  A treat is an occasional piece of birthday cake or an ice cream cone on a sunny day at the beach.  A snack is something you need now and then to tide you over until the next meal.

MySisterSaid are you a Food Rule follower?  Which Food Rule do you find most challenging, and what successes have you had in changing your eating patterns?

MySisterSaid Happy Chinese New Year Resolutions!

chinese_dragon_sculpture_01_hd_pictures_170896Between the polar vortex, a long visit with my mom as she recovered from a hip fracture, and the start of school, January passed by in a snowy haze.  Since I wasn’t too focused on the start of the new year, I decided to have a “do over” and consider Chinese New Year as my fresh start.  Kung Hei Fat Choy, everyone—Happy New Year!

Part of the tradition of the Chinese New Year is to give the house a thorough cleaning…a sweeping away of any misfortune or bad luck from the past year to make way for the incoming good luck and fortune that will surely arrive during the new year.  While I can’t say I gave the whole house a thorough cleaning, I did sweep and tidy up the front porch and landing, so I’m hoping for at least a little good fortune!

Along with new years come new resolutions. Did you make any this year, and have you kept them?  If so, way to go—double down on them and keep it going!  If not, then now’s the time.  They can be your Chinese New Year Resolutions…and no, I don’t mean resolve to eat more Cantonese and Shichuan food!

In essence, a resolution is just a big word for goal.  Goals should be attainable with a reasonable amount of work and discipline, and they should be measurable.  My main resolution involves a little gadget I gave myself for Christmas–a personal fitness tracker called the Jawbone Up. It tracks steps, food intake and sleep patterns. There are other trackers such as the FitBit and the Nike+ that are very similar.  I am aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day, and what I have found is that it definitely takes some planning and discipline to reach that goal.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Parking the car in the spot farthest from where you are headed really does make a difference in terms of getting those steps in
  • On days when I don’t do a workout I better get myself out there walking for at least 30-45 minutes if I’m going to meet my goal
  • Teaming up with a buddy is a good way to keep motivated–my device allows me to see my teammate’s activity and vice-versa so we push each other along
  • I plan to do laundry on a day when I don’t work out–doing 4 or 5 loads of laundry and going up and down stairs really adds up
  • Chester the wonder dog is the beneficiary of my new goal–at the end of the day if I don’t have enough steps we head out for a walk
  • I programmed my tracker to vibrate if I have been sedentary for 30 minutes–that prompts me to get up and get moving for a bit

Using the tracker has definitely motivated me to move more, but even an inexpensive pedometer would do the trick.  If you haven’t tried it before, you definitely should–just track your steps for a few days to see what you average, then start ramping up.  MySisterSaid we’ll be stepping our way into 2015 a little more fit and healthy!



MySisterSaid Slow Down…..


Life intervenes, schedules are busy, and we find ourselves in December—how did that happen?  Anyone else feel like they have whiplash?  Between Thanksgiving travel, a biochemistry midterm that kicked my butt, children, the dog, and the barrage of autumnal leaves from my old red oak tree, life has been coming at me pretty fast of late!

Anyone who knows me, knows I attend a pretty tough outdoor boot camp workout 3 mornings a week (rain, snow or shine), and it takes a lot for me to miss out on that.  I always leave feeling rejuvenated and with a better outlook on the day, and on life in general.  The woman who leads my boot camp is a super-smart, energetic 50 something, with years of experience in nutrition and exercise.  Every couple of months she throws a new fitness and nutrition challenge at us to help us stay engaged and focused.

Her recent challenge, in addition to attending three classes a week, and eating only lean protein and veggies for lunch and dinner, involved what she called a lifestyle challenge…getting enough rest, giving others in our lives small gifts through our generous actions, and taking 10 minutes a day to ourselves to just sit and slow down.

For the most part, I embrace her challenges and I do my best to adhere to them. The thing that has surprised me the most about this challenge is how difficult I am finding it to take 10 minutes a day to myself to try to do nothing and think about nothing.

I start off resolved to just “be” for 10 minutes, then before I know it I am thinking about the budget for the farmers market; the blog I want to write; studying for my biochemistry final; Christmas shopping; what to feed the boys for dinner; scheduling the dog’s haircut (yes, I have a high maintenance hypo-allergenic dog).  And the list seems to go on, and on, and on.  None of it is life shattering—it’s just life!  If we are lucky, we have this messy, busy, engaging life that we love, but we also need to have a moment of silence now and then, to slow down and disengage from the frenzy.

tea2This afternoon, I fixed myself a cup of tea and turned on the Christmas tree lights.  I dimmed the lights in my living room, held my poorly groomed dog on my lap, and sipped my tea.  Whenever a thought about what I needed to do or accomplish popped into my head I pushed it out.  What I will say is that I was a surprised as to how quickly the 10 minutes passed (yes, I set a timer).  I felt a bit calmer, and a little more focused, and found that as the evening progressed, I felt more productive.  Maybe taking a few minutes to slow down and decompress allowed my brain enough time to catch up.  I’m taking on the challenge of being still, if only for a few moments each day—care to join me?