Monthly Archives: February 2009

Pushing Through the Pain to Find the Purpose

I can honestly say that exercise has become something that I really do enjoy. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t get those words out with a straight face, but now I am thankful for a healthy body that is strong enough to exercise. It’s therapeutic in many ways. And for me, it’s also “social.”

I’ve mentioned several times the women’s “boot camp classes” that I attend three days a week. We all sweat together and whine and complain together and yes, we all celebrate our accomplishments together. One of the things I think is the most crucial in the successful journey to not only losing weight to begin with, but also to keeping it off is accountability.

Everyone in the class is at different levels as far as physical fitness. But I still can’t forget how it felt to be obese. And I remember the little victories along the way. That’s why it is so easy for me to get excited with my friends when I see them hit a milestone or accomplish something significant in their own weight-loss journey.

I wanted to share a specific incident that happened with one of my friends who was new to the class. This particular instance was her very first time working out with us. It’s always interesting to watch others “experience” a Biggest Loser-type workout for the first time. As I’ve often shared, I literally had to crawl to the bathroom in those early days because I was in so much pain.

Well, towards the end of this particular work out session my friend just broke down in tears. It’s normal to see people cry during intense workouts. It’s a physically and emotionally exhausting experience. (In fact, I watched some big, grown men cry like babies on The Biggest Loser campus.) As she struggled to catch her breath and talk through the tears she said she couldn’t articulate why she was crying so hard.

Because of what I’ve been through, I knew immediately. I said, “I totally get it. You are crying for three reasons…”

1. This is the hardest thing you’ve ever done and it hurts!

2. You are incredibly proud of yourself for actually doing it!

3. You can’t believe you’ve let it get so out of control and that you are in the shape you are in.

She said that was it completely! I had “read her mind.”

Of course not really—but I did recognize the tears because they were my own not too long ago. But I am here to tell my friend and anybody else who is just getting started that YOU CAN DO IT!!!! It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But like me—you didn’t get in the shape you are in overnight—and you won’t “undo the damage” overnight either.

Don’t get me wrong, I have good days and bad days. I have victorious days, and then days when I still struggle. But I am here to tell you that it can be done. And it is so worth it. So to my friend—if she’s reading this—I am more proud of you than you’ll ever understand. And to everybody else—keep making progress one day at a time. And if you haven’t started…today is the day! There really is purpose in the pain.

A Lesson from the Heart

This past weekend I was invited to travel to St. Louis, Missouri to speak at an event for Christian Hospital. It was a “Heart Fair” and several hundred people were in attendance.

I was asked to be a guest speaker to share “my story” and to educate others of what I had learned on my “journey from obesity to good health.” I think after having attended the function I realized that I probably learned far more than I taught.

The motto for the event was “Learn, Change, Live…a healthier life.” And there were so many incredible resources at the disposal of the attendees. In addition to presentations on the importance of health screenings, how to live longer, and what food to eat for a better life; there were informational displays where people could talk to health care professionals. I jumped right in, eager to soak in all the information I could. One in particular just about made my jaw drop.

There was a display of real human organs. I was flabbergasted to see the effects that excess fat has on the human body. Having been an obese person, I saw the detriments of fat on the outside. I never really considered what it was doing to my inside.

I never truly thought about the fact that fat accumulates around heart and leads to cholesterol build up in the arteries—and what that looks like in a healthy heart versus one affected by obesity. I’ve heard things like this for years as my own weight ballooned out of control. But seeing the organs was startling and took my head-knowledge to a whole new level. It truly reiterated to me the importance of being healthy and maintaining a healthy body weight.

I am always careful to give advice regarding diet, because I am not a dietician or a doctor and before you do any kind of weight-loss regime or diet program you should check first with your physician. But I did learn some practical, common sense things that I wanted to share with you. They are just some simple things that can make a difference, for example:

* Eat foods that are naturally low in fat such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

* Get plenty of soluble fiber such as oats, bran, dry peas, beans, cereal, and rice.

* Limit fried foods, processed foods, and commercially prepared baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers).

* Limit animal products such as egg yolks, cheeses, whole milk, cream, ice cream, and fatty meats (and large portions of meats).

* Look at food labels, especially the level of saturated fat. Avoid or limit foods high in saturated fat.

* Choose lean, protein-rich foods such as soy, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and fat free or 1% dairy products.

To be honest, I have never been a big fan of fish, but this past weekend as I heard of the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids in preventing cardiovascular disease I became convinced that I need to introduce these more into my own diet and into that of my family.

So I contacted a fabulous local chef in my hometown of Jacksonville—Chef Jessica Bright—to see if she would share a healthy recipe with me so I could share it with you. She was happy to comply. (And this sounds delicious to me!)


Grilled Salmon with Mustard Glaze and Grilled Broccoli


This quick and easy meal can be prepared in minutes and it is wonderfully nutritious, the recommended portion size for the salmon is 3.5 oz per person:


2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 ¼-pound salmon fillets with skin on

1 large head of broccoli, trimmed to medium florets

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


1. Preheat grill to high.

2. Pat fillets dry, place skin side down, and season with salt and pepper. Combine mustard and brown sugar then apply paste to the top side of the filets.

3. Spray the grill with grill-safe non-stick cooking spray. Gently place salmon on grill skin side down and grill until skin turns black, about 3 minutes. Turn salmon over and cook until desired doneness.

4. While salmon is cooking toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in grilling basket and stir occasionally until stalks are tender and florets are nicely browned. Serve immediately.

Note: If you are watching the sodium in your diet omit salt and substitute your favorite sodium-free seasoning.

This Heart Fair opened my eyes to many things. I hope that me sharing with you will give you “food for thought”—and a new recipe which will give you “food for your family.” Take care of your heart. And take care of yourself…until next time.

Treat Your Calories Like Money…Really Make Them Count!

I like to think of my home as a safe place in all respects, but safe regarding food in particular. I am a firm believer in “setting yourself up for success”—and I say that all the time. And part of what I am referring to involves stocking your pantry and fridge with good, wholesome, healthy foods.

So you can imagine my struggle when my son had to do a “one hundred day project” at school and informed me that his project of choice was to decorate a picture of a lion (his school mascot) with Reeses Pieces.

Say what???

You have got to be kidding me? A second grader, a glue gun and a bag full of Reeses Pieces is the equation for disaster. However, me and a bag of Reeses Pieces in any scenario…is also the equation for a disaster! It’s amazing how old feelings about food and indulgences you have deprived yourself of for so long can creep back into your mind and become a temptation.

I must be honest with you, I did enjoy a handful of the little orange, yellow and brown tempters. They seemed to call my name from the bag. But I quickly got it under control. This would not have been my response in the past. And I felt good about my decision. But it came on the heels of a recent reality I experienced when looking on the back of the can of some sort of energy drink. It said something to the effect of, “Treat your calories like hundred dollar bills. Make them count.”

That really got me thinking about that concept and how brilliant it is. In the past, I was always an “all or nothing” person. If I fell off the “diet wagon” in the morning I used that as justification to continue to make bad decisions regarding food all day. I would console myself by saying, “I’ll just start tomorrow.” And then tomorrow would become the next week…then the next month…you get the picture.

So I thought about the money connection. Let’s say you had $1,200 and you went on a vacation and early in the morning on that first day you blew $500 of it right away. Would you say to yourself, “Well, I’ve already blown $500 so I might as well just fritter away the remaining $700?”

Absolutely not. You would pace yourself much more responsibly and budget the remaining money for other things you had to pay for. So it should be the same with our calories. If you slip up and blow your calories on…let’s say…some Reeses Pieces, for example, does that mean you eat whatever you want the rest of the day?

Aboslutely not. You pace yourself much more responsibly and budget the remainder of your calories so that you enjoy nutritious, smart choices the rest of the day. You don’t feel guilty, and you stay on track. And that’s one of the biggest challenges with losing weight initially and then with maintaining your weight loss afterwards.

In these tough economic times we all want to get the most for our money. And that’s the way we should view our calories too. If there’s something you really want—then spend those calories on it. But then budget the rest responsibly.

I really have adapted this new “treat money like calories” mindset into my way of thinking. And at the very least—it’s fun to pretend I have $1,200 to spend everyday.