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12:54 pm - Posted by Gregg

There was a time in my life when I traveled extensively for business. This was while I was an Associate Creative Director with an advertising agency, which took me from San Francisco (where the agency was located) to all over the United States. While I had already lost the bulk of my 250 excess pounds at this point, I was still learning how to keep it off (and was admittedly struggling with yo-yo-ing, weight-wise).

This was why I decided to try being a vegan. This lasted for about 2 years. But during this time I was very careful about what I ate and found it did help me think more about every morsel of food I put into my mouth. Now, being a vegan in San Francisco was easy. But the rest of the country? Not so much. Thus, I found whenever I ordered food (which I often had to do since I was traveling for business), I had to be very explicit in my instructions.

I still laugh about one time I flew into Boston (where I had a client) and checked into a hotel late at night. As I hadn’t been able to eat much on the airplane, I was quite hungry and decided that, even though it was late, I was going to order dinner from room service. Yet because of the time of day (or night) even room service had a very limited menu. I quickly scanned the ten or so choices and focused in on the pasta dish. I decided I could give the room service staff enough direction to make sure that the pasta was plain and wouldn’t come with any dairy or animal product.

While ordering on the phone, I said “No cheese.” Several times. I’m sure the guy taking the order thought I was nuts. If I said it once, I said it five times. “No cheese.” I even made the guy say it back to me. I hung up the phone, got unpacked, and soon heard a knock at the door letting me know that my order had arrived.

After the room service attendant left the room, I uncovered my dish to discover… Gnocchi. That’s right. I had been so animate about getting “No cheese” in my order, that the room service staff had somehow found and cooked “Gno-chhi-s” for me — even though it was no where to be found on the room service menu. Instead of getting angry, I had to laugh. And actually I was impressed that the room service staff was so anxious to please (even so late at night).

For those of you reading this who want to know if I re-ordered or if I ate the gnocchi… I ate it. And I enjoyed it. And yeah, that was sort of the end of my years-long attempt to be vegan. I will point out that I didn’t eat the entire portion that room service had delivered. That counts for something, right?

I share this story in order to laugh at myself — and to remind us all that being on a diet or trying to eat healthy should always be done not only with flexibility, but also with a sense of humor (the most necessary ingredient of all).

Do you have any travel related dieting stories to share? I’d love to hear them. Please post below — whether the story involves “No cheese” or “Gno-chhi-s” — is totally up to you.

Photo Source: I Eat Grass

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12:10 pm - Posted by Gregg

Craving something sweet that won’t wreck your dieting and overall health-related efforts? Thankfully, nature has some goodies that can rival even the sweetest cakes or frozen treats. And one of these bounties is good ol’ watermelon. When fresh, crisp and sweet, I find it as enjoyable as a bowl of ice cream. And yes — I still enjoy naturally made ice cream or frozen yogurt from time to time. But I balance those treats out with fresh fruit. And during the summer, I do everything I can to enjoy watermelon for all it’s worth.

Studies have revealed that besides being delicious, watermelon delivers several health benefits, including being an excellent source of Vitamin C as well as a good source of Vitamins A and B6. It also contains the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene, which can help neutralize free radicals and help prevent prostate cancer. Watermelon has been shown to reduce the risk of other types of cancers as well. Plus, its high water content makes it great for hydration. What’s more, it’s a terrific dessert or snack for kids and can help them understand that not every “treat” has to come covered in fudge.

When selecting watermelon, I always go for seedless. I’m not a happy camper if I must interrupt my chewing with spitting seeds into a nearby napkin (even though I suppose it burns a few more calories).

According to produce specialists, Mid-June through mid-August is when watermelon is at its ripest (with July being the most prized month of all). So let’s go watermelon shopping, shall we?

When picking a whole watermelon, size matters since 80% of a watermelon is water. Pick one of the largest you can find, while making sure the exterior doesn’t have any visible cuts, bruising, dents or soft spots. Experts also suggest looking for a yellowish area on the melon’s exterior, which indicates its ripeness after sitting in the sun.

Next, do what you’ve likely seen other shoppers do — knock-knock on the exterior with your knuckle. You’re listening for a slight echo to your knock, which indicates that the fruit is ripe. A dull thud could indicate otherwise.

When preparing watermelon for guests, or myself, I make sure to make the eating experience as relaxed and “special” as possible — therefore I don’t usually serve it in wedges. Giving food a more delectable presentation is something I strive for almost every time I eat. This helps my brain, eyes and other senses know that I’m eating, which helps ‘up’ the enjoyment factor — and, therefore, the satisfaction and fullness factors.

I suggest slicing watermelon into quarters, length wise, then taking a quarter and carefully running a knife along the red center’s outer edge and the whiteness of the rind. Cut all the way around on both sides, so that the whole quarter of the red stuff could slip out. But don’t slip it out just yet. Next, cut the fruit from side to side, on both exposed sides of the quarter. Finally, cut across your long slices, from left to right, leaving about 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch between each slice.

Next, slide your perfectly prepared chunks into serving bowls. But before you serve the fruit, put the bowls into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to give the fruit an extra kick of crispiness.

When time to serve, pull the bowls from the freezer and serve with a napkin underneath (to keep the bowl from being too chilly to the touch). The watermelon chunks should have a minimal layer of frost that kicks up the flavor and the crunchy quotient, making for a texture-y, sweet and delicious eating experience. (Careful not to keep the chunks in the freezer too long or the pieces will freeze and require a little defrosting before being comfortably edible).

Saving the uneaten portion of the watermelon can be handled two ways — either by “chunking up” the remaining portion and putting it into airtight containers and storing in the fridge; or wrapping up the other half or quarters (rind and all) in cellophane wrap and then wrapping them in an additional plastic bag before putting into the fridge (to avoid having to clean up leaked watermelon juice at a later time). Plan on consuming the leftover fruit sooner rather than later to enjoy it at its freshest.

Watermelon. When enjoyed at its peak, it can kick ice cream’s butt anytime. Or, at the very least, tie it in deliciousness.

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July 17, 2013

Sickly sweet

11:40 am - Posted by Gregg

Finally, a few media outlets (including The Huffington Post) are giving attention to what seems to the major hypocrisy surrounding Beyonce Knowles Carter signing a $50 million deal to promote Pepsi while having also been a significant part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move fitness campaign.

As reported in The Huffington Post, “Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi has long been criticized for targeting children (and adults) with sugary drinks that, when consumed in excess, have negative effects on long-term health.” Readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that I consider soda (both sugar-drenched and so-called “diet”) to potentially be one of the leading factors that contribute to obesity — not to mention poor health in general.

In a recent interview with Flaunt, Beyonce responds to the few critics who’ve called her to task on what seems like a major conflict of interest. Asks Flaunt, “Some were critical at your participating in a Pepsi campaign after you moved your body for childhood obesity. Where is the balance between your career objectives and your philanthropy?”

To which Beyond responds, “Pepsi is a brand I’ve grown up seeing my heroes collaborate with. The company respects musicians and artistry. I wouldn’t encourage any person, especially a child, to live life without balance.”

Uh-huh.

Some reporters, including The New York TimesMark Bittman, aren’t letting Beyonce off quite so easily. He writes, “Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in” and even goes onto note, “From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was ‘excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,’ she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis.”

I, for one, applaud Mr. Bittman for taking Beyonce to task. It’s this kind of hypocrisy that undermines the efforts being made to fight childhood obesity. CNN’s diet and fitness expert, Melina Jampolis, shares more on the dangers of drinking soda in her column, Is Drinking Soda Really That Bad for You?, which you can check out by clicking here.

As for Beyonce, I imagine the $50 million she’s supposedly earned from Pepsi will help contribute a lot to the overall health and well-being of her and her family. But what about the health and well-being of everyone who idolizes her and drinks Pepsi as a result of seeing her constant promotion for the company?

Kind of hard to swallow, isn’t it?

http://youtu.be/_2smYVl0zrk

Photo Source: ONTD

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July 10, 2013

Not so Delight-ful

12:12 pm - Posted by Gregg

Have you seen the many TV commercials from Jimmy Dean, advertising their line of Delights Breakfast Sandwiches? The dude in the sun costume quickly pulls away granola or other cereals and quickly replaces them with a frozen sandwich “fresh” from the microwave — all the while touting that it contains less than 300 calories. But after taking a look at the incredibly long ingredients lists of these various breakfast “Delights”, one has to wonder if the makers of these types of frozen breakfast sandwiches really have our health in mind.

For example, Wegmens lists the following as ingredients for Jimmy Dean Delights Breakfast Sandwich, Turkey Sausage Reduced Fat Croissant: Croissant: Enriched Bleached Flour(Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Four, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Salt, Mono- and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate [Preservative], Artificial Flavor, Beta-Carotene [Color], Vitamin A Palmitate), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Yeast, Oat Fiber, Contains 2% or Less of: Vegetable Oil (Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oils), Salt, Eggs, Mono- and Diglycerides, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sugar, Calcium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour. Fried Egg White Patty: Egg Whites, Modified Tapioca Starch, Carrageenan Gum, Salt, Natural Flavors. Cooked Turkey Sausage Patty: Turkey, Water, Contains 2% or Less of: Salt, Dextrose, Sugar, Spices, Sodium Phosphate, BHT, Citric Acid, Caramel Color. Pasteurized Process American Cheese: American Cheese (Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Artificial Color), Water, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Enzymes, Soy Lecithin.

(Are we still reading?)

Personally, these kinds of foods are questionable when it comes to making meal choices for a healthy breakfast. You’d be better off having that bowl of lowfat granola that the “sun” takes away. Or even toasting some wholegrain bread, adding a minimal amount of natural peanut butter and topping it off with a small banana, sliced.

All natural. Great tasting. And honestly takes about as much time to prepare as the complicated process required for preparing the frozen breakfast sandwich (“1. Remove from wrapper. Wrap in paper towel. 2. Microwave on Defrost (30% power) for 1 minute 30 seconds or until thawed. 3. Turn sandwich over. Microwave an additional 50 seconds on High or until hot. (For compact or microwave ovens Lower than 850 watts add 25-35 seconds, if needed.). 4. Let stand in microwave 1-1/2 to 2 minutes before serving” — huh? What’s convenient about that?!).

We’ve never been fatter as a nation — and yet we’ve never been able to find more “Reduced Fat” or “Low Calorie” options at the grocery store. Could it be that our bodies can’t properly metabolize what we’re eating? Or that our brain and satisfaction sensors don’t take any real pleasure from over processed foods? Interesting food for thought, no? Key word… Food.

Join me in having real food for breakfast instead of frozen curiosities with ingredient lists (and incredibly high sodium contents) that really have no place at the breakfast (or any) table of the healthy-minded.

For some healthier (and super easy) breakfast ideas from WebMD, click here (or share your own, below!).

http://youtu.be/HjmYuigd2Jo

Photo Source: Wegmans

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9:34 am - Posted by Gregg

Every year when Independence Day rolls around, I’m reminded as much of my own individual independence as I am of the country’s. And both are worth celebrating.

It was years (and years!) ago when a friend of mine was having a July 4th picnic and barbecue at her lake house. There were lots of people there and everyone was encouraged to bring a food dish of some kind. I probably don’t have to tell you that virtually every dish there was not diet friendly. Even the fruit salad had been “goosed” with marshmallows, whipped cream and other sugary additives. This was to say nothing of all the other foods that were available.

After topping out at over 450 pounds and finally realizing I had to just stop eating so much, I had been on my new, healthier eating plan since March of that same year. So here I was at this July 4th picnic — roughly 4 months later. And while I’d had great success so far, I still wasn’t secure enough to go off my diet for a day — or even for a meal. Thus, along with the healthy salad dish I’d brought to share, I had also brought my own picnic lunch to the get together. But once there — and once surrounded by all the tempting smells and visuals — I felt overwhelmed.

I mentioned something about my eating insecurities to the party’s host, who admittedly had her hands full. Although a very good friend (and therefore very familiar with my years-long plight to lose weight), she dismissed my insecurities in a very curt fashion. And hey, she had every right to do so. But I had every right to do what I did next.

I found the friend I came with and asked her if she would mind leaving the party (even though we’d just arrived 15 minutes earlier). She was game. Thus, we “snuck out” as to not disturb any other guests and ended up going to a movie. My friend ate popcorn. I ate my little lunch I’d brought. And guess what? It was one of the best “4th of July Picnics” I’ve ever been on. And it was also a real turning point in regard to my feeling more and more confidant that this time I was finally going to take off all the excess weight once and for all. I had put myself and my needs (in regard to health) first.

Now, loyal readers of this blog know that I’m always reminding you (and myself) that we didn’t get fat from one cookie — or even one meal. And I suggest never cutting out every single treat from our lives (mainly because it’s the on/off cycle that teaches us to cheat). So I’m not saying it’s not okay to enjoy a 4th of July picnic (or other special meal) in a balanced and moderate fashion. But sometimes we know that a taste of a certain something just might trigger a binge — and therefore we decide to go without… And there are times that will mean taking ourselves out of (potential) harm’s way. Had I not left the 4th of July picnic, I might have eaten something I didn’t want to and that might have wrecked all of my efforts (and success) I’d attained during the previous 4 months.

I will admit that my friend (the party’s host) was miffed that I left the party. And I understand her feelings. But I also understand mine. And yes, me and that friend are fine to this day, friendship-wise.

Looking back, declaring a little independence was something I needed to do to prove to myself that this time I was really serious about not only taking the weight off, but keeping it off. By March of the following year, I’d shed almost all of the excess 250+ pounds that I needed to lose. And after some yo-yo-ing, as I got used to eating “normal” (whatever that is), I have kept those excess 250+ pounds off for over a decade. And if that isn’t worth waving a flag over, I don’t know what is.

Have you ever had a situation where you had to choose your sanity (or your diet) over a social occasion or (even more challenging) a friendship? Do tell!

Photo Source: Time and Date

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