The Journey to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane

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Cleanse versus lifestyle

Recently a friend of mine at work said he paid over $400 for a “24 day cleanse.” Really? I was intrigued. So, I checked out the website. The philosophy I love: clean eating, protein shake for breakfast, I was a little hesitant about the supplements because I personally haven’t had much luck with them. But it occurred to me: do you really need to spend $400 on something that should be obvious: cleaner eating, drinking more water, starting the day out with high-protein in the form of a shake, taking all the crap out of your diet, and eating less calories will help you lose weight. I also look at crap as CRAP: caffeine, artificial ingredients, refined sugars, and processed foods. Now, sure, every once in a while I have a cupcake with my daughter, or I find myself on a bus trip for over eight hours for work and I’ll have a bite of a processed granola bar claiming to be high in protein. But for the most part… In my day-to-day life… I try not to eat anything if it didn’t grow in the ground on a tree or once had a mother. I also try to cook all my own meals. I have a protein shake for breakfast every day.
What really gets me is that people think that spending a lot of money on a “cleanse” is going to help them lose weight. Of course it’s going to help you lose weight – you completely changed your lifestyle, and started eating healthier, drinking more water, and reduced your calories. But what happens on day 25? Do you get to eat a pizza? What do you do? Maybe you’ll be on your best behavior days 25 through 30, but what about after that?
Clean eating and a “cleanse” should really be a lifestyle and the exception to that rule be a treat and a once in a while occurrence.
Oh – and regarding caffeine: studies have shown that one 8 ounce cup of coffee is an excellent antioxidant. The problem is that Americans are so overworked and sleep deprived but they rely on caffeine to function. One 8 ounce cup of coffee in the morning is actually very good for you. It’s when we drink four Venti coffee’s. A.k.a. 20 ounces that it really starts to become a problem. Also – all the fancy coffees from Starbucks have a ton of garbage in them loaded with sugar and empty calories. But one cup of organic coffee with a little organic creamer in the morning is really not a bad thing. Not to mention, there is a bit of caffeine in green tea, which is one of the most healthy things you can drink during the day.
So, the basic principle of the $400 cleanse is terrific: high protein, low sugar and low refined carbohydrates, eat real food. Drink a lot of water. But why just 24 days? And can we really make blanket statements about things like caffeine and protein? I’d rather spend that $400 on talking to a nutritionist or a personal trainer or maybe save the $400 altogether and start doing your homework: start reading what clean eating is all about and how to slowly make it a lifestyle and not a temporary fix.


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All Natural: buyer beware!

I wanted to do a quick post regarding something that I just learned: did you know that the term “all-natural” is not regulated by anyone? I really find this to be incredibly irresponsible by the USDA – which would be par for the course for that agency. Nonetheless it is important to note that the term “all natural” is extremely loose and not regulated by any organization. Since we are on the subject I rarely trust “USDA organic” labels. If you can find something that is certified organic by another organic organization that is ideal.
So what’s the lesson here? Read labels! If there is a word in there that you cannot pronounce or you need to Google- skip it! Definitely doublecheck with your Fooducate app as well. Question everything when it comes to your health and your body.

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Surviving the barbecue

Surviving the summertime barbecues is not much different than surviving holiday parties. Basically: a little planning goes a long way. The barbecue is actually even easier to navigate because typically, as the name states, people will be grilling things and you can bring your own food to grill. If that’s not really your style definitely offer to bring sides. If you can control the sides you can control a lot of the unhealthy choices that will be available. We grilled meats are actually a great choice when trying to eat healthy or cleaning. Of course you want your meat to be organic and responsibly grown, however, as far as healthy eating goes grilled lean meat is perfectly okay. It’s the macaroni salads, egg salad, cold slaw’s, chips, dips, and other sides made with a lot of fattening mayonnaise and other mystery ingredients that will get you.

Offer to bring healthy sides like fruit salad, traditional salad, homemade guacamole, or quinoa salad. Always have a healthy snack before you leave like apples and almond butter or a banana smoothie so that when you first arrive you don’t head right for the chips and dips.

Control as much as you possibly can in these situations. Offer to bring things, often to bring things to put on the grill, and definitely make sure you don’t arrive hungry. If you control what you can control and make smart choices ahead of time, you should have a fabulous barbecue season!

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My 1 Week Reset Cleanse

Recently I have definitely felt little off-track. Miraculously I have not gained any weight, but I haven’t felt good or that I was making the right choices. Maybe it was too much pizza, or breaking away from my routine of MyFitnessPal, but whatever it was it didn’t feel right.

One quick way I have found to get back on track is a clean eating cleanse. If you read my blog, you would know that I recently did a one-week very strict cleanse. And if you read my blog you know I was miserable. I have added one small element to this cleanse that is really made a difference: fish.

So here are the rules of my cleanse – and I’m in day three and it feels great! No animal products except fish. So no cheese no eggs no milk obviously no meat or chicken or lamb – basically no land grazing animals or their by products. I actually didn’t have any fish for the first two days, and today I had a couple of small shrimp on my salad. I feel lighter and my stomach feels terrific. I even feel like I have more energy.

I always laugh when I tell people that I’m doing a cleanse like this. I always get the same question: “what is left to eat?”

As most of you know: plenty! I made fresh guacamole and used organic lime flavored tortilla chips as a snack before my black bean soup on the night when everyone else had tacos. I chopped up some cucumbers and great tomatoes and marinated them overnight in olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and ate that while I made dinner another night. Okay I know what you thinking: cucumbers and tomatoes and you call that dinner? You’d be surprised how filling they really are! I had a little bit of all natural light popcorn and an apple and I was full and ready for yoga class. I also attribute that to my water intake. As you know I’m really been concentrating on making sure I drink enough water. That is definitely kept me fuller longer and kept my hunger at bay.

Some other defenses:

1. 100 cal snack pack of low-sodium almonds at my desk
2. Green tea
3. Apples
4. Beans- black are best
5. Popcorn – a lifesaver during some of these cleanses when I need something crunchy and a little salty but not fattening and full of carbohydrates and sugar

I love this cleanse because it is not full-blown vegan. And please keep in mind – cleanse is a term I use loosely. The are so many cleanses out there! Everything from the juice cleanse to fasting and everything in between. When I look at my diet, something like this really is a way to cleanse my eating habits and get back on track.

Adding fish really opens up my options obviously. Going to enjoy grilled salmon tomorrow and possibly a fish soup on Friday night! Fish is a terrific protein. It’s extremely lean with amazing health benefits. By adding that in as an option I definitely feel like I’m taking full advantage of super healthy eating.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a “go to” cleanse to stay on track or increase your health!

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Do I really have to drink that much water?

Yes. Take whatever you weigh right now and cut it in half. That’s how much water you should drink in ounces per day. Just think: the more you lose the less water you’ll have to drink! But as you lose weight you crave water and you will want to stay hydrated. If you research any diet you’ll find one constant: water. Whether it’s a sustainable diet like weight watchers or crazy fad diet – you will always see water as a recommendation. If you’re not used to drinking a lot of water this can be very difficult. Here are a few things I think make it a little bit easier to up the water intake and actually enjoy it!

1. Buy fresh lemons and cut them into wedges then remove the peel and cut in half. Place them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer. Use them as ice cubes. Studies have shown that adding lemon to your water can improve digestion and also lower water weight.

2. Use a straw! Get a nice fun glass maybe with your initial on it or a butterfly- whatever – a nice big glass and fill it with water and your lemon ice cubes and use a straw. You’d be surprised how fast you can suck down 24 ounces of water!

3. Water travels! It should travel with you anyway… Everywhere you go. Have a bottle of water in your car in your purse & at your desk. You should have a container of water accessible at all times.

4. Water is boring! Use my one rule: one non-water cold drink per day. (And if you drink soda – try as best you can to stop. I know it’s almost like quitting smoking – but honestly the health benefits could probably be similar). If you really just can’t take it anymore – have a couple cups of green tea. And if you absolutely must have soda – try to only have half a can. But I assure you – if you take soda out of your diet completely you will not only lose weight but you will feel a lot better.

Cheers! (I’m holding up my lemon water and toasting YOU)!

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The Power of Peer Pressure (and why you need it)

For me and my journey, everything has hinged on exercise.  If I exercise I feel good, I lose weight, and I make good food choices.  If I am not exercising, I am doing the exact opposite: feeling depressed and stressed, gaining, and throwing caution to the wind when it comes to food choices.

But losing weight is not the only reason to work out.  It is part of the trifecta of good heath: eating right/ exercise/ sleep.  And I’m not just talking about physical health.  Studies have shown that mental health is positively affected by a routine that includes healthy sweat sessions.

Inevitably the question becomes: “how do you find time for workouts?”  In a former post, Making Time for Exercise, I share some tricks I have found that have made it a bit easier.  But there is one other one that is  worth sharing and discussing: peer pressure.  In high school we talked about peer pressure being a bad thing, being pressured to make bad choices because “everyone else is doing it.”  But now, in your adult life, what if you could be “pressured” to make good choices?  Not inspired, that’s different.  Sure, you can be inspired by people and friends and others…but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the person who motivates you to get out of bed or off the couch because you don’t want to disappoint them or seem like a quitter.  The person who, may not be your best friend, but is a great motivator or “work out buddy” with whom you feel pressured to perform and show up.  Most importantly the latter: show up.

Ok, seems like a good idea, but how do you choose this person?

For runners, this is a bit easier.  Your local running store hosts weekly runs.  There’s a great article I found in Fitness Magazine, How to Find a Running Buddy that’s worth a quick read.  Cyclists, you’ve got it easy too: odds are the store where you bought your bike hosts rides.  Here are my tips for finding any kind of work out buddy:

1. This person cannot be your husband or wife (this is #1 on purpose)

I know you want to show him you can do it, and you want to make him proud, and you want to “do this together,” blah blah blah.  Guess what?  At 7:30p after a long day of work, you both don’t want to do anything.  And you love each other, and can read each other’s minds, so you fire up the shows On Demand and eat dinner on the couch.  And that felt so good you do it the next night.  And 364 nights in a row, because he was just doing it to be supportive and it “was your idea in the first place.”  Or, YOU are motivated and stick with the plan, making him feel inadequate and guilty and left out.  Or HE is motivated, and you feel like a loser and like you let him down.  I have seen so many couples sign up for 5K runs together and drop out.  Or a couple comes to a spinning class once never to return.  It’s not about him (or her).  It’s about YOU.  This is YOUR time for YOUR body and mental wellbeing.  Leave the dishes in the sink for later, the laundry will be folded eventually.  Go take care of your body and mind, independent of your family.  I know I am going to get push-back on this one, folks saying “my husband and I love to work out together.”  Well, consider yourself very blessed.  Also, you both probably live a healthy lifestyle currently and when you met you had a healthy lifestyle.  Folks trying to change bad habits and create new, healthy ones need new perspective and motivation can have nothing stand in their way.  When you are starting your journey, you won’t feel “pressured” enough by your spouse, it’s just too close to home.

2. This person should not be your best friend.

In my opinion, you will be more comfortable backing out or suggesting a breakfast instead of a run to catch up.  There is a comfort level with a best friend that doesn’t really allow for peer pressure.

3. This person should be at your fitness level.

You don’t want someone stunting your fitness growth, or leaving you in their dust.  You don’t have to be side by side, but you want to be on the same playing field so you can both get something out of it.  If you find someone who is well above your fitness level who is willing to act as a coach for you, that’s a different story.  This can be a great learning and motivating experience.  And talk about “peer pressure”- you know this person is doing you a favor and not moving their own fitness forward for YOUR benefit.  Odds are you will show up for sure!

4. This “person” might not be a “person” but a “club”

There are many running clubs, boot camps, and yoga classes (that really can be like a community/ club).  If people are saying that they will meet you and wait for you before a class starts or on a running trail, you won’t want to let them down.  As a friend once said before a run with her running buddy “We met at 6a at the cemetery.  I had to show up, you don’t want to leave ANYONE stranded and alone in a cemetery at 6am!”  Now that’s a strategy.

5. This person should be reliable.

That’s really the whole point.  If you find this person canceling often or they are a no-show, find someone else.

Picture this:

It’s January in the suburbs of Philadelphia at 7am.  It’s 40 degrees outside.  The sun is just coming up, but it’s cloudy.  The house is eerily quiet.  I roll over and reach for my phone, and there is a text “Be there in 15 :).”  I sigh, get out of bed, and put on the “winter gear” I have laid out from the night before: my long running pants, 2 layers of shirts, head band, gloves, socks, sneakers, and a hat.  I grab my draw string bag with “Mom’s Race Bag” embroidered on the side and I throw in a dry shirt, some lip balm, and a couple of loose dollars.  My english muffin is done, and I spread some almond butter on it, grab my coffee and a banana and walk out the door.  She’s here.  I open the car door and sit on a heated seat.  “Good Morning!”  I smile, because I know I would have never gotten out of bed, and nor would she, if it weren’t for each other.  And weeks later, when we cross the finish line together and give each other a big hug, we know the peer pressure and motivation is what got us to the starting line.

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Healthy Soup: my latest cooking obsession

In a recent post I noted some newsletters and resources I use to stay informed and engaged with fitness related topics.  One of them was Healthy Living powered by Jillian Michaels.  This is a soup that I discovered from that newsletter.  I have made it about 10 times and I love it!  Super healthy, low carb, low sodium, high protein and super YUMMY!

Couple of changes:

I use cubed chicken that I cook over the stovetop while the other ingredients are cooking, and I LOVE leeks, so I add a couple more of them.  After trying this recipe and really enjoying it, I now double the recipe and freeze it.  Nice concept, but it rarely makes it through the week before I eat it!


Chicken and White Bean Soup


  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 28 ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 15 ounces cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 2 pounds precooked skinless, boneless chicken, shredded (approximately 4 cups)


Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes.

Stir in sage and continue cooking until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water, increase heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.

Add beans and chicken and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Prep Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 25 mins

Nutrition Facts 
Number of Servings: 6
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 199
Total Fat: 4 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 48 mg
Sodium: 345 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 10 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 22 g

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Super High Energy Snack – Hot Roasted Chickpeas

Love the advice about INGREDIENTS in this post. If they don’t check out, don’t bother with the nutrition label. Looks like I found a great recipe to try tonight! Thanks, as always, Tony. Great post! I hope you all enjoy it too!

One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

Regular readers know that I am a nearly daily bike rider here in Chicago. As such I read some cycling blogs, too. One of my faves is Loving the Bike.

And, one of that blog’s regular contributors is Kelli Jennings, an Expert Sports Nutritionist who writes Ask the Sports Nutritionist.

Kelli is not only a world class athlete, but also a first rate nutritionist who writes clearly and accurately about her subject.

She recently wrote an item Hot Roasted Chickpeas (World’s Best Snack) which I thought would interest you.


I can’t stop eating these.  Seriously. I just about ate the whole dang batch.  I hate to brag, but they might be the best snack food in the world.  I’ve saved about 1/2 cup for my family to share.  And the only reason I’ve saved it and not finished them off myself?  To brag to them.

This week, we’re talking…

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What’s that body worth to you?

I was a party recently that reminded me why I write my blog.  There were a handful of women there varying in age from 27 to 65.  Inevitably the subject of weight loss/ diet and exercise came up.

I don’t know everything about weight loss and exercise, however I have read and researched (and continue researching) the subject. Mostly because I enjoy it so much.  I know women, especially ones that have had children in the past couple of years, want to lose weight.  Almost all women I talk to want a flatter stomach.  Almost all women I talk to also have a number in mind.  That magical number on the scale that means, to them, that they have arrived.  That they are BACK!  And almost all women I talk to have no idea what to do, and don’t know what they don’t know, and then get frustrated when they do not see results.

One example: one of the ladies said that she is utilizing the treadmill heart rate sensor to help with her goals.  However, she does not know her maximum heart rate and what that translates into fat burning/ weight loss.  (Your maximum heart rate if you are a woman is 220 minus your age, by the way.  Men, I believe it’s 226 minus your age.  “Hard Core” training is 80% of your Max Heart Rate- Cadio is 70%).

Another example:  One lady mentioned that she will only do the weight “machines” because she doesn’t want to “bulk up.”  I told her that’s probably not going to happen.  You’re not going to look like a WWE wrestler with 5 pounders.  Or 8.  Or 10.  Then, when I mentioned after burn, I kind of lost the room.

But this conversation really opened my eyes.  The subject of money came up and not being able to pay for fancy gyms and organic food reminded me that this is hard for some and even harder for others.  And I didn’t even mention BeachBody products because, although I believe they are worth it, they are not affordable for everyone.

BUT: You know what’s free?  KNOWLEDGE.  Personal trainers, dieticians, and even annoying know-it-all moms who “lost all their baby weight and then some” like me are spewing information out to the internet daily.  The more you know about what you are putting into your body and how it is affecting you the better your choices will be.  The more you know about effective work outs, the more effective your work outs will be.  And, of course, results will follow- more quickly.

Here are the F R E E resources I love:

  • I get a newsletter from – you can check off what you are interested in and they send you e-articles specific to your health needs and interests.
  • DailyFitTip from Fitness Magazine email
  • Younger Next Year For Women – terrific book that explains how to be healthier and turn back the clock- go to the library if this isn’t in your budget.
  • Losing It with Jillian Michaels – eNewsletter

So, I ask you:  How badly do you want to lose weight and get healthy and look hot?  What is that body worth to you?  Is it worth the time to learn HOW?

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Your New Grocery List

Sometimes a good offense is a good defense.

If it’s not in your house, you won’t eat it.  If it’s not available, you can’t eat it.  Eventually, you won’t want it.

The other “defense” would be satiety.  If you’re not hungry, you won’t go seeking food.  That is the best defense.

So, the first thing to do is take inventory:  what in your house should go in the freezer so it’s out of sight/ out of mind?  Don’t go crazy here.  Pick 2-4 items that are really  unhealthy and stash them away and make a note to not purchase them again.  Then make note of the items you want to keep but will not buy again when they run out.  Perhaps you make a note of what healthier option you want to buy in place of those items.  You really need to take baby steps here.  Don’t throw away a 5 lb. bag of all purpose white flour and declare that all of your baking needs will now be featuring quinoa powder.  Keep the 5lb bag of flour and TRY a small bag of whole wheat flour or search the internet for some white flour alternatives.  You may find that you can substitute a lot of the OTHER ingredients in your recipes and keep the white flour.  Experiment, but don’t be extreme.  Remember- you need to make changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life.

OK, so you went around hiding food, freezing food, and vowing to never let that packet of pre-made taco seasoning back in the house.  Now what?  Here is a list of the must haves for clean eating.  DON’T TAKE THIS LIST TO THE GROCERY STORE AND BUY EVERY SINGLE THING, especially if you don’t usually eat any of them or cook with them.  Pick 2-3 things you will buy.  The goal should be to have these items be staples in your diet, but you will need to experiment a bit with recipes, different dishes, and ways to swap out these ingredients for other higher fat and calorie dense foods.  This process should take several weeks.

The goal should be to have the following incorporated in your diet regularly:

  1. Eggs (super easy recipe here)
  2. Beans (Nutritionists highly recommend dry beans, but they take a long time to prep if you soak overnight.  If you get canned beans, rinse them before use.  Frozen are good as well, but you can’t always find much variety).
  3. Berries
  4. Apples
  5. Yogurt (Be especially mindful of sugar here.  Anything more than 9 grams skip it.  Nutritionists suggest buying plain low fat or non fat yogurt and adding your own fruit.  High protein and low sugar.  There are many good low calorie varieties, so choose low calorie and low sugar here).
  6. Whole Grain Rice/ Quinoa (Make sure the ingredients say “whole grain.”  Obviously these are a great swap for white rice).
  7. Green Leafy vegetables (Kale, all color varieties of Chard, Spinach, Escarole, or any other you may like or want to try).
  8. Nuts (When in doubt- Almonds.  And really watch portion control here.  The benefits are high, but so are the calories).
  9. Low Sodium Organic Chicken Broth (For starting soups, rice, quinoa and a good alternative to oil when sauteing veggies).
  10. Lean proteins like Chicken Breast (No skin) and fish.

If you are following a vegan diet, #1, #5, #9 and #10 are off the list.  There are so many “soy” substitutes for cheese, turkey, etc.  I highly recommend caution here.  These foods are highly processed.  They soy bean by itself is fantastic.  But think about it:  how much processing does it take to turn that little bean into a cheese like substance that even melts?  Or make it look, feel and attempt to taste like turkey?  Also, if you are following a vegan diet watch the simple carbs (like pasta) and sugar.  Try to eat as clean as possible and you will feel even better.    It is imperative for vegans to read ingredients.  If it sounds like a science project don’t try it.

Pick one or two items above that you will find recipes for and try.  Eventually this list will be things you love and cannot live without.