Archive for July, 2012

Just Say “I Don’t”

Mind over matter.


“It’s all in how you look at it.”

The overwhelming majority of how we live is due to mindset. The hardest part about exercising is starting. Getting out the door. Getting out of bed. Turning on the video. Lacing up the shoes. For most people, whatever your means of exercise is, getting started is the hardest part. That’s not a physical hurdle — that’s a mental one.

Deciding to eat — or not to eat — a plate full of cookies is a decision. Mental. (Nothing tastes as good after the first bite or two anyway, so you can’t blame your taste buds. Most of the crap we eat doesn’t even taste that good anyway.)

Last week, I saw this article that talks about a simple way to reframe cravings (or anything along those lines, really) to make it more likely to stay on the path towards your goals.

When presented with something that is no longer part of what you’d like to be consuming, instead of saying, “I can’t have that,” say “I don’t eat that.”

“I don’t” is language of empowerment; “I can’t” is language of deprivation.

Going to try it? Report back and let me know what you find. 

(photo from

Recipe: Green Grilled Cheese

I am a fan of grilled cheese. My usual grilled cheese is bread, cheese, sliced tomato, cheese, bread, but this recipe intrigued me.

It came through Pinterest. The original included an herb pesto, but we were lazy and skipped it.

If you are not a huge fan of goat cheese, use it sparingly. If you really hate it, skip it. I’m not a fan (though I love the vanilla blueberry from Trader Joe’s!), but on this sandwich, it added a nice kick. I’m sure the pesto would have rounded this out nicely. So would tomatoes. Or salsa. Mmmmmm….

Green Grilled Cheese

  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese
  • handful fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ avocado, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • olive oil or butter


On one slice of bread, stack 1 slice of mozzarella, avocado, goat cheese, spinach, second slice of mozzarella; top it with second slice of bread.

Press together gently.

Heat olive oil or butter in a frying pan over medium low heat.

Add the sandwich and cook until bread is golden brown.

Press down on the sandwich lightly, then flip the sandwich over and cook until second side is golden brown.

Is It Over Yet?

Nichol is going to do some whining right now.

That’s probably not a great question to ask, especially seeing as how I have 160-someodd days to go on this adventure.

I’ll be honest. I’ve essentially begun to neglect my mile. This doesn’t mean I’m not exercising everyday, I’ve still got my P90X, but I almost miss the excruciating half hour on the stationary bike, or the endless back and forth of laps in the pool.

I’m taking this as a good sign though. It means that I’ve developed a habit. Whether it’s P90X or a walk with the doggies, I’ve exercised EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE . . . since January 1, 2012.

disclaimer: This quickly veers into territory that does not have a lot to do with my healthy lifestyle journey, but I promise it’s relevant!

I am getting really nervous about the time crunch factor when school starts again. If you are my real life friend, you’ve heard me endlessly complain about this already so skip down a few paragraphs so you don’t have to hear it again (until you see me sometime in the near future).

After August 23rd, I’m not sure what to do. Factoring in my daily exercise (estimating one hour a day for that), this is what my weekly schedule will look like in terms of hours: 40 work hours. 6 classroom hours. 16 intern hours. Plus (roughly) 7 hours of exercise. Anyone have a calculator? Hold on…

So 69 hours a week. Plus homework, reading assignments, which usually take 5-6 hours a week. Let’s say 5 (because I don’t like homework); that’s 74! That’s 44% of my week.

What about my family? My extracurriculars? My friends? How am I ever going to get a boyfriend? Where will my “me” time go?

Then I start to think about people who do all this stuff and have kids… And it makes me feel better inadequate.

But seriously. I’m taking real life suggestions here. I need some suggestions.

Postscript: it’s a good sign that I’m worried about my exercise. It means I’m enjoying it, although not always when I’m doing it.

Are You Motivated? Neither Am I

People assume that I am always motivated, that I always want to hit the gym, that I never want to just sit with a bowl of kettle corn and veg. On the contrary. I am human 🙂 The better I eat, the less I want to eat junk food (something that surprised me as it evolved) and when I’m in a regular routine for exercise, I am less likely not to feel like doing it.

But just last week, for example, I debated taking a nap versus going to spin. The Kid was (finally) napping and I was really tired … but I went to spin. And I was glad I did — I felt better within the first few minutes of the class and pushed through what turned out to be quite the challenging class.

I read a great piece on motivation just a few days ago that really speaks to this better than I can. I’ll quote my favorite parts here for you, but you should click through and read it.

I have really come to the conclusion that the very term “motivation” is the cop-out. It can become the rationalization and the justification you need to cease setting goals and the processes behind reaching them if you are prepared to allow it to.

I have never thought about it like that, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Do you agree that “motivation” or “lack of motivation” is a cop out?

So how do I stay motivated all the time? The answer is that I don’t—and I don’t expect to.

Ah — an expectation piece! Hadn’t worked that into the equation, either, but again, makes sense. If you expect to be motivated all the time, you’ll be easily derailed when the motivation just isn’t there.

Accept that a lack of motivation is normal, but refuse to accept that it will derail your drive and your goals.

Accept that it exists but not what many consider to be the “natural” outcome.

Manage your time! The biggest issue I see in people’s fight for motivation is that they try to cram too much into a tight time period, and the hassle of it takes away the enjoyment.

This is applicable to everything in life, I think…

Be process-driven, not always goal-driven. Goals, when set, can be lofty and at times far away…The process is the most important, and understanding how it relates to the bigger picture helps you remain in control of the journey.

Good stuff! Wish I had written it 😉

Between this and yesterday’s post on finding your stumbling block, are you ready to get up and get moving yet? Do it!!

Find Your Block To Getting Started

Yesterday, I went to the gym pool and did laps for the first time in a very long time. It went something like this:

25m: Ahhhhhhhhhhh…..

50m: This feels great! I haven’t been here in so long!

75m: Crap! My arms are burning already! I haven’t even done 100 meters yet!

100m: OK, arms are tired. Might not get the full 800 meters done. Will swim until I’m done or my arms fail, whichever comes first…

I took a break at 200m, stretched my triceps and lats a bit, then continued on. The stretch felt really good, and the second 200 meters felt better than the previous 100. No problems finishing all 800. Soaked and stretched in the hot tub for a few minutes, showered, home, about an hour and 15 minutes from when I left home. Not bad.

I first learned to swim (for exercise) shortly after I finished chemo just to have something else to do for cardio. Learning to swim opened the gates to triathlon, and I’m training now for a sprint tri in October that I’ve already registered for.

I like swimming. It’s great exercise. It’s mind-clearing. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what exactly about swimming is so fabulous. Some of it is the water, no doubt. Water is calming. But I think part of it is that there’s no one else’s noise. I don’t hear cars or music or TVs or conversations. It’s just me and the water. I always feel better emotionally when I get out of the pool than when I get in, even if I didn’t feel bad when I got in. The only problem with the pool is that when I have good ideas, I have no means of recording them to remember for later. Many good ideas have drowned.

So if swimming is so great, why have I not done it in so long? I’m pretty sure that I’ve gone to do laps only once since The Kid was born. Didn’t do laps much while pregnant, either.

I could blame it on having a kid, not enough time, not enough sleep, blah, blah, blah. There are a million reasons that I could list that many people would say, “Well of course!” and I would be excused.

But they’re not true. I mean, I do have a kid, and he’s time-consuming. But The Big Man is good about sharing parenting responsibilities (not helping me — it’s our job, not my job), so I know I could get to the pool a couple of times a week. I go to spin once a week, meet friends for coffee or dinner sans baby, etc., etc. Going swimming is no different than any of those. My time is often full, usually with baby things, things around the house, trying to maintain relationships (marriage, friends, family), blogging, business-related stuff and so on.

So why haven’t I been swimming? The answer is so simple, but not obvious.

Bathing suit.

This is not a vanity issue.

In my pre-pregnancy life, I had two bathing suits: a two-piece (shirt/shorts-style, not underwear-style) that I wore for social swimming, and a one-piece that I wore for swimming laps. I bought a two-piece (shirt/shorts-style) maternity suit when it became appropriate.

But until very recently, the maternity suit was the only one that fit. And it sucked to swim laps in.

“Go buy another bathing suit.”

But you see, I have never liked to spend money on clothes. Ever. And temporary clothes are even worse. Bathing suits are expensive. I hate spending money on bathing suits, especially one I consider transitional. I’m only going to “need” this suit until my old one fits. There are MANY other things I would rather spend that money on. And I really don’t need another bathing suit…

So I didn’t swim.

A couple of weeks ago, after a pee-related incident with The Kid, my last pair of non-sweatpants headed to the hamper. I decided to try on the pants I had that were the most loose-fitting before I got pregnant. They fit! A week or so later, I tried on my biggest pair of jeans. They fit!

And so I got brave and tried on my lap-swimming suit.

It fit! More or less.

Lots of sausage. Not a lot of casing. But it got the job done.

It’s not very comfortable, and if this was a long-haul fit, I would buy one size bigger. But it’s not, and it’s not so uncomfortable that it impeded my swim. Still better than the maternity suit! And it gives me another piece of incentive to keep chunking away at the baby weight.

So what’s the point of the story? There is something that is stopping you from making a change that you want to make. What is it? Move past the normal excuses. Dig a little deeper. What’s stopping you?

Why Are Germs “Scarier” Than Chemicals?

Here’s a scenario:

You buy a bag of frozen vegetables. You steam them in the bag in the microwave. You serve them to your children. Some fall on the floor. You pick them up and throw them away.


The vegetables were grown with a wide variety of poisonous chemicals — built-in, if they’re GMOs — some of which remain in the veggie. The plastic bag is full of toxic chemicals that leach when you heat it, and microwaves are not a healthy choice.

But the dirt on the floor is why we’d throw away (or rinse off) pieces that fell on the floor?

My guess? A combination of denial and ignorance. It’s easy to justify buying conventionally-grown produce. It’s easy to justify convenience-packaging and convenience-cooking.

Available to us are a large variety of products designed to kill germs. You can also buy most cleaners in an anti-bacterial form. Hard soaps, liquid soaps, powdered soaps, spray soaps. Products to clean your body, appliances, clothes, dishes, floors, countertops, furniture.

What most of us don’t consider (and what I didn’t consider either until fairly recently) is that the chemicals in the soaps are almost always worse than what the soaps are supposed to get rid of.

It was eye-opening to look at how many products are not advised for use by (or around) pregnant women. That means that nasty stuff from the product enters the body. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be potentially harmful to a fetus.

How much of this stuff do you want in your body?

Some toxins your body can get rid of. Some it can’t. But bodies have a limit to how much toxicity they can deal with at once. And we bombard our bodies all day with things they need to get rid of.

The other piece to that is: once we wash away all of these chemicals, where do they go? How many of them end up back in our supply of drinking water? Or end up in larger bodies of water, where they affect the fish, which we later catch and eat?

Fortunately, many cleaners are easily replaced by baking soda, vinegar, or both, which are healthier for your body, healthier for the earth, and healthier for your pocketbook.

What do you use to clean? Any great green ideas you want to share?

(image from

Two Years!

It’s Wednesday! Nichol fills us in today…

I don’t remember if I mentioned that my two-year anniversary had passed. July 1st. Weird that I’ve been doing this for two years.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I thought I would be a lot further along by now. But the reality is that I have definitely had hills, valleys, and quite a few plateaus along the way.

It’s disappointing for sure. But I try to remember how I’m doing this weight loss thing. It’s all gone in baby steps. Which means the change in figure, and the numbers on the scale haven’t decreased as fast as I’d like them too.

However, I am really proud of how I’ve done this. I think I may have even conquered my pizza addiction. (I avoided it and then denied myself a few times. The last time I had it, about a month ago, I only had two slices.)

I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s a journey. It didn’t take two years to get fat, it’s not going to take two years to get rid of the fat.

Health Care

Heath care has been all over the news and a hot topic of debate since the Supreme Court’s ruling. Regardless of that, here is the problem with health care in the US:

It’s reactive.

When you have a problem, you go to doctors and see if they can fix it, or kind of fix it, or maybe just fix it enough that you can live with it.

We sit at desks all day and on couches all evening, we eat too much refined food, too much sugar, too much salt, too much meat, not enough fruits and vegetables, we don’t get enough sleep, we create stressful lives for ourselves, and then complain that we get sick.

I often bring these things back to cancer because that’s where I have the most experience.

People walk and run and bike and write checks “for a cure.” Tons and tons of money is poured into research.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that. But most people blow off what the research finds, and that drives me bonky.

There are clear connections between breast cancer and plastics. Doesn’t stop most people from drinking bottled water, steaming their veggies in the bag, eating canned food, or reheating food in plasticware.

There are clear connections between being overweight and some cancers. Not only do people deny the connection, they deny they’re overweight. There seems to be a mentality of “skinny isn’t healthy either!” And while it’s true that skinny, unless that’s your body type, isn’t healthy, that doesn’t justify being 15 pounds — or more — overweight. We’re so used to seeing people who are overweight that when we see people who are a healthy weight, we think they’re skinny.

Smoking. Yeah.

Why fund research if we’re just going to ignore it anyway?

My impression is that many (most?) people don’t want to know how to prevent diseases — at least not through lifestyle changes. They want science to develop a quick easy way to fix it once they’ve contracted something, or maybe a shot to ward it off in the first place.


Can you imagine most people’s reactions if that’s what their doctor prescribed?

People seem to take better care of their cars than their bodies … but you can buy another car (or get around without one 😉 ). You only get one body…

Where are you on preventative maintenance? Do you practice it? Are you for it in theory but haven’t gotten around to doing it? Think it’s bunk? What’s your biggest obstacle?

Recipe/Book Review: Falafels with Asparagus Hummus

I received a review copy of Muffin Tin Chef — a book of 101 recipes cooked in various sizes of muffin tins.

Unless books are labeled vegetarian or vegan, I am wary. It is amazing how many things people will add meat to! But I figured, it’s a review copy. If it’s bad, I just won’t review it!

The book is written by Matt Kadey, a dietician. According to the introduction, the pros of cooking in muffin tins:

  • shorter cooking times
  • built-in portion control
  • good for kids
  • easy to pack
  • conversation topic for entertaining

I flipped through the book — breakfast, appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, desserts — and added a sticky note to about two dozen recipes that looked good that we could try. (Good = tasty + not too complicated + no weird-to-our-pantry ingredients) I passed the book off to The Big Man and asked him to move the stickies on the ones he was willing to try — and he moved all of them!

So far, we’ve tried three recipes from the book. I’m going to share our favorite: Falafels with Asparagus Hummus.

I confess: we failed the first time we made these, but not because the recipe is complicated. It calls for dry chick peas to be soaked overnight. We glazed over that part, saying, “We already have soaked and cooked chick peas in the freezer. We can use those.” Except the recipe does not call for them to be cooked, just soaked. So our falafel were gooey in the middle. Texture fail, but they tasted good, so we gave them another shot, actually following the directions this time…


We made the accompanying hummus, which neither of us were huge fans of (I thought it was too lemony, but most hummus recipes are too lemony for me; The Big Man didn’t tell me what he didn’t care for), but the falafel were so good that this is still our choice for which recipe to publish. (Broccoli Bean Cakes with Garlic-Lemon-Butter Sauce came in second.)

These were listed as an appetizer, but falafel is definitely a meal in a vegetarian home!

I did take photos, but their photo is so much nicer…

Falafels with Asparagus Hummus

Very popular in the Middle East, falafels are often fried in copious amounts of oil. This baked version saves a bunch of calories but retains all the flavor. You could also use a store-bought hummus.


  • 1½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup tightly packed chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • juice of ½ lemon


  • ½ bunch green asparagus (about ½ pound), woody ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest juice of ½ lemon
  • a dash or two of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

For the Falafel: Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight or at least several hours.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas, and transfer to a food processor along with the remaining falafel ingredients. Process until the mixture is grainy but not a paste. You want a texture similar to bottled minced garlic. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours. This helps the falafels hold together during baking.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the chickpea mixture among 24 mini muffin cups, making sure to firmly pack each muffin mold to ensure they hold together during cooking. Bake until set and golden on top, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before unmolding.

For the Hummus: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Add the asparagus to the pot, return the water to boil, and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the ice water and let sit for 5 minutes. This helps keep the asparagus bright green and prevents it from going mushy. Add the edamame to the pot of boiling water, return to a boil, and cook until the beans are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer the edamame to a food processor. Drain the asparagus well, pat dry with a paper towel, and add to the food processor along with the garlic, tahini, lemon zest, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, if using, and salt and black pepper to taste. Blend until the asparagus is broken down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil through the feed tube and process until smooth and the asparagus is no longer fibrous, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more oil if needed to reach the desired consistency. Serve with the falafels.

Book Review: Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I get a lot of e-mails asking me to post information, to review books or products, or to allow a guest post with just a link included. The majority of them I pass on — it’s pretty clear that they’ve not actually read anything I’ve written — but I have received a handful of books recently that I have enjoyed and will be sharing with you. For anything that I review, the only compensation I receive is the item itself — I am not paid for any of these reviews, and the opinions are all mine.

Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts. Heck, even if they’re not the ultimate, I was curious about jump rope workouts anyway. I can definitely use jumping rope in my personal and group training, so I figured the copy would be worth perusing, even if I only picked up one or two little things.

This book is great.

It’s written by two friends, Brett Stewart and Jason Warner, and is written in a very conversational tone. Super easy to read. Not a bunch of technical language. (The only word in it that I noted as “industry language” was proprioception.)

First, they introduce themselves and sell you on jumping rope as a worthy activity. (The case for using this as a cornerstone of your exercise regimen — or as your entire exercise regimen — was easily made.)

Then they go through all the basics: what type and length of rope to use for your purposes, how to hold it and turn it, what to expect from your body if you’re a beginner. Following are three 4-week workout programs (prep, basic, and advanced), following a 3-days-per-week schedule. These include what type of jump and for how long. Also included are other exercises, making these programs full-body workouts. And they’re all short: 10 to 15 minutes.

The remainder of the book details the different jumps and the other exercises. Instructions are very thorough, include lots of pictures, and are easy to understand. To me, this is super-important. Giving written directions for exercises is always a bit tricky — it’s easier just to show you, but in print, that’s not possible. They did a nice job working around the limitations of print media.

The book is short; you can read the whole thing in a couple of hours at the most.

I was intrigued enough by the workouts that I have started the prep program. I am not always doing the other exercises that go along with, as I am doing other strength training and need to let muscles rest, but I am doing all of the jumping in the proportions suggested. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

So far: it’s not until the last couple of minutes that I don’t want to turn a rope any more and my feet are not interested in leaving the ground. But doable. Very doable. Just need to do it. And 10 minutes! You can power through 10 minutes!

Overall: highly recommend!

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