Chicago Weekend Recap

It was such an honor and pleasure to meet Chef Devin Alexander this weekend in Chicago. Our workout date was compliments of the amazing East Bank Club, and I would like to thank them for their generosity - the club is phenomenal, and the service was exceptional. Devin mentioned that Oprah works out at the East Bank Club and I can totally see why - the services that members have available to them at the club are unparalleled to anything I have ever seen!

Devin and I completed a 1 hour 10 minute cardio circuit, and we talked the entire time. It was so refreshing to talk to someone that "gets it". Devin has openly spoken of her food addiction, and how it continues to affect her life. Knowing that she continues to succeed and overcome her addiction every single day gives me immeasurable hope for my future.

Our date went by so quickly, and before we knew it, an hour and 10 minutes had flown by. Devin had to leave quickly because she was a featured chef at the Taste of Chicago, but we were able to get a few photos taken together outside the club, and she autographed my daughter's copy of "The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook" ...

Before Devin left, she gave me a box of her Healthy & Decadent Treats ...

I was so excited - I couldn't believe Devin actually took the time to make these treats just for ME!!! When do you ever have a world renown chef cook for you?

My little box contained two chocolate chocolate brownie cups, 2 fudge mint iced brownies, and a glazed lemon bundt cake. My daughter inhaled the chocolate chocolate brownie cups and a fudge mint iced brownie within 2 blocks of our walk from the gym back to the hotel. The fudge mint iced brownie was pure decadence - so rich, and bursting with flavor. We shared the glazed lemon bundt cake with our friends Melissa and Chris at the hotel. I almost wish I had been selfish and not shared it, because it was that good! :)

We then met up with Devin again at Taste of Chicago and watched her presentation - she demonstrated her McDonald's: Big Mac, Green Potato Salad, and Chocolate Chocolate Brownie Cups. Let me tell you - if you love McDonald's Big Macs, you simply MUST try Devin's healthy recipe (found in her Fast Food Fix cookbook, and also shared in yesterday's post). Devin has recreated the "special sauce" to perfection!

My trip to Chicago also included hanging out with my friends Melissa and Chris Guillaume - they are one of the most down-to-earth and genuine couples I have ever met. Melissa and Chris had received VIP passes for the Biggest Loser casting call at the NBC Tower that morning. We walked to the NBC Tower together, and I could not believe the amount of people in line for the casting call. We were still an hour or so before the casting call actually began, and the line wound completely around the block. The first woman in line had been waiting since 9pm the previous night!!

If there is ANYONE that deserves to get cast onto the Biggest Loser, it's Melissa and Chris! They have been so inspirational and motivational to me - Melissa has lost 55 lbs so far this year, so she knows how to back up her words with action.

Melissa and Chris are both diabetics, and Melissa is on a mission to save her mother's life via a bone marrow transplant but must first lose weight to be a donor. Melissa and Chris would also like to adopt a child from China, and were fairly along with the adoption process when China changed their rules to exclude obese couples from adopting children.

I asked Melissa why it was so important to get on the show, telling her that she already has what she needs inside of her to reach her goals. Melissa replied that there is never going to be an opportunity to fully and wholly forget all of her responsibilites, and take the time to focus solely on herself. I wish nothing but the best to Melissa and Chris - they are already the Biggest Winners in my book!

To cap off a perfect day, I finally got to meet the amazing Betsy IN PERSON! Betsy and I have been blogging buddies since January 2008, and she is such a sweetheart!! She has been a big supporter of mine, and is always there to cheer me up and give me that push I need when I'm feeling down or struggling. Meeting people for the first time is always nerve wracking for me, but it was so easy with Betsy - it was like reuniting with an old friend, and wasn't awkward or weird at all :)

All in all, it was one of the best days of my life!

My nutrition yesterday and today have been a struggle ... but not in the way you're probably thinking. Certain things are happening at my job due to the current economic status, things that are happening to people all over our country, and for the first time in my life, I didn't turn to food for comfort. I actually turned away from food, and barely ate anything yesterday or today. I have no appetite, and simply can't eat anything. I made Carrie's go-to meal of ground turkey, brown rice, northern beans and salsa, and ate a small bowl yesterday and today, but that's about it. It's so weird not having to fight myself about food. I think hanging out with Devin and my aha moment last week has given me a new perspective on food. I'm happy for it!

Don't worry though, I will get back on track with my nutrition tomorrow - I have to, with my triathlon less than 2 weeks away!!

Here are my workouts in review ...


5 min warm up on elliptical

A1: Squat and shoulder press on functional trainer (20 lbs)
A2: Mountain climbers
A3: Boxing
A4: Reverse flies on functional trainer (14 lbs)
* Repeat this set 3 times

B1: Hip-ups on medicine ball
B2: Standing obliques on functional trainer (10 lbs)
B3: Bicep curls (30 lbs)
B4: Crunches on bosu trainer
* Repeat this set 3 times

HIIT 13 minutes


5 minute warmup on elliptical

A1: Chest press with rotation and crunch on the bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st and 2nd set, 20 lbs for 3rd set
A2: Upright row using functional trainer while on stability ball.
A3: Knee tucks on stability ball
A4: Box jumps
*Repeat set 3 times

B1: Incline chest press on bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st and 2nd set, 20 lbs for 3rd set.
B2: Lat pulldown using functional trainer while kneeing on ground.
B3: Tricep press on stability ball with 8 lbs dumbbells
B4: Crunches on bosu trainer.
* Repeat set 3 times

I hope everyone has a great day ... I'm still working on that special project I alluded to last week, and hope to be able to share it with you all in a few days!


"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin

Mental Monday

I was extremely honored and blessed to meet Chef Devin Alexander in Chicago this weekend. We met at the East Bank Club, and worked out to a cardio circuit for over an hour, talking and sharing our stories and experiences.

I had a wonderful time, and am even more dedicated to living a healthy, decadent life! Devin is an incredible inspiration, and has shown me that I don't need to fear food. She has shown me how to eat like a "normal" person, yet still follow a healthy and clean diet. I am very grateful for the gift of her time! A full blog post will be coming shortly recapping our date!


In the kitchen with Devin Alexander: The Biggest Loser Chef Sets the Record Straight on Eating Right

Celebrity chef and author Devin Alexander is a tough cookie when it comes to the battle of the bulge. And her weapon of choice in that battle is a healthy approach to cooking and eating – an approach she shares with her many fans in her monthly newsletter and multiple speaking engagements, appearances and books.

She has maintained a 55 pound weight loss for over 15 years and she is more than happy to share her secrets, which all stem from one
principal belief: you don’t have to deprive yourself to be fit and healthy.

“I believe that most of us are wired to seek comfort in food. I know I am. The people I work with on “The Biggest Loser” are. But fighting that fact is what keeps us on the rollercoaster diets,” explains Devin. “Only when I embraced the fact that I am wired this way was I finally able to minimize my struggle and lose weight once and for all. And be happy.”

Devin’s lives by her “secret of food” – that she can have brownies and mac and cheese and all the foods she loves, as long as she cooks them herself. “I don’t deprive myself of all my comfort because that’s what I need and I feel lousy when I do.”

Devin has spent years creating decadent, yet healthy, versions of her favorite foods. She is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Biggest Loser Cookbook”, for the hit show. She also wrote the recently released “The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook” and before that, she perfected take out in “Fast Food Fix”, a cookbook that has changed the lives of many a fast food lover (try the Big Mac and you’ll be a fan instantly!). In it, readers can find healthful versions of their favorite fast food restaurant meals like the Big Mac – special sauce included, Filet ‘o Fish, Papa John’s pizza and many, many more.

In addition, she is the host of “Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander” on FitTV and is a regular contributor to “The Today Show”, “Good Morning America”, “The View”, and of course, “The Biggest Loser”.

“So much of what we do centers around eating and drinking. I love… and hate this.”

Devin still struggles with the pressure that keeping weight off brings. “Toward the end of writing each book, I always gain 5 pounds for whatever reason (stress, testing, less time to exercise) so I go on calorie-high-alert and am extra-careful about what I eat so I lose those 5 extras.”

Healthful decisions like foregoing beef for a veggie dish and snacking on reduced fat cheese sticks helps her stick to the program. In her recent newsletter, Devin explains that even when stressed, tired or just plain hungry, being aware of your choices is key.

“I can be conscious about why and when I am putting food in my mouth. Before I mistake those energy cravings for hunger, I have learned to ask myself, “Am I really hungry?” Try and do this when things are ridiculously crazy. It may not work every time. But often it will help you stop.”

Devin’s website ( and monthly newsletter is abundant with more information on Devin’s approach to food and her healthy recipes. And fans can send ideas and questions to her at

McDonald’s: Big Mac

Reprinted from “Fast Food Fix:75+ Amazing Recipe Makeovers of Your
Fast Food Restaurant Favorites” by Devin Alexander

Makes 1 serving

386 calories, 26 g protein, 44 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 3 g sat. fat, 2 g fiber

Original McDonald’s Big Mac: 560 calories, 25 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 30 g fat, 10 g sat. fat, 3 g fiber

Save: 174 calories, 19 g fat, 7 g sat. fat

The key to re-creating the Big Mac is obviously perfecting the sauce. Some say it’s simply Thousand Island dressing, but the clever folks at McDonald’s deserve much more credit for this masterpiece we crave. To re-create the sauce, I had to ensure that I had a supply that I could taste on its own — away from the other great flavors this burger stacks. So I requested “extra on the side.” The friendly woman behind the counter didn’t flinch. She quickly produced a sundae cup half filled with the salmon-colored sauce. When I took a big sniff, all I could smell was a chemicalesque aroma. Tasting, on the other hand, yielded that wonderful flavor. Several tastings and I was convinced. The secret ingredient? Mustard. Simple yellow mustard. Add that and a pinch of sugar to a Thousand Island-style sauce, and you’ll be surprised how closely it resembles the real deal.

3 ounces 96% of lean ground beef (about 1/3 cup)

2 pinches of salt

1 sesame seed hamburger bun plus 1 bun bottom

1 slice (½ ounce) 2 percent milk yellow American cheese

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon McDonald’s Big Mac sauce (recipe below)

1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

1/3 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

2 rounds dill pickle

Divide the beef in half. On a sheet of waxed paper, shape each half into a 4-inch patty. Season both sides with salt. Transfer the waxed paper to a plate. Place,
uncovered, in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until drops of water sizzle when splashed on the pan. Place the patties in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, place the bun top and bottoms, cut-side down, in the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, or until toasted. (If the pan is not large enough to hold the patties and the buns, first cook 1 patty with the bottom bun and then start assembling the sandwich while the others cook.) Just before the patties are cooked, place the cheese on 1 patty.

Place 1 bun bottom on a plate. Spread on 1 tablespoon sauce. Place the cheeseburger, cheese-side down, on the bun. Spread 1 teaspoon sauce on the second bun bottom and place, sauce-side down, on the cheeseburger. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon sauce, the onion, lettuce, pickles, the remaining burger, and the bun top.

Drive-Through: It’s easy to throw together a Big Mac–style burger in minutes once you have the sauce made. So to save time, make a big batch of the sauce, omitting the onions (they are the only ingredient that will spoil quickly). Refrigerate the sauce in a plastic container for up to 1 month. When you’re ready to enjoy a burger, simply add the correct quantity of onion to the amount of sauce you’re using.

Even Better: Save time and calories by omitting the second bun bottom and simply making 1 patty instead of 2 with the 3 ounces of beef. This way, you’ll need only 1½ tablespoons of sauce. You’ll be left with a more nutritionally balanced burger. Plus, you’ll still have room for some fries or a side salad, all the while still enjoying that great Big Mac flavor … in minutes.

The revised version will have 310 calories, 24 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, and 1 g fiber. You’ll save 250 calories, 21 g fat, and 9 g sat. fat over the

McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce

Makes about 2/3 cup, enough for 4 servings

Each serving: 49 calories, trace protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, trace sat. fat, trace fiber

1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise

2 teaspoons dill pickle relish

2 teaspoons ketchup

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, sugar and mustard. Stir to blend well. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Stir in the onion just before serving.

Written by Fabiana Santana
Published May 2009

Former Fat Girl of the Week

Former Fat Girl of the Week is a place for us to come to celebrate and learn from the success and achievements of one another. Former Fat Girls of the Week are regular women like you and me, living normal lives, but are extraordinarily inspirational. This is their time to shine, and I hope you are as inspired by them as I am.

Carrie, Former Fat Girl of the Week

Name: Carrie
Age: 30
Occupation: Operations Technician

How often do you exercise?
We shoot for 5 days a week - but it doesn't always happen!

What's your favorite workout?
I'd probably have to say Running Outside

What 5 food items are "must haves" in your kitchen?

How about one of my Fav lunch recipes?? is so simple brown ground turkey, add a jar of salsa, a can of great northern beans (rinsed), and a bag of steamed brown rice - mix and enjoy!! We'll make this once a week or so - perfect protein and carbs and a lot of flavor (heat!!)

What motivates you to do what you do?
My Daughter - I want her to grow up and see how active we are. I want her to WANT to come to races with us, and run with us and play outside and be active. I want to be around a long time to watch her grow, live and love life!

Also - ME - I want to be healthy for me, I want to enjoy doing things I can do because I am healthy, I want to love the way I feel and no be inhibited by thoughts of others or thoughts of myself.

What is your greatest accomplishment?
Well...I'd think it would be making it through Charley's labor...but nobody wants to hear that story :) So I'd have to say completing my first triathlon 5 months after having Charley. It wasn't pretty, but I did it! And seeing and hearing all of the comments from people who were at the race about how I was one of the few women to have done the race with such a young baby, was such a great feeling. And that Charley and Jimmy were there to cheer me on...was the best part :)

Carrie completed a triathlon when her daughter was just 5 months old

What's your favorite motivational or inspirational quote?
It might have to be one of the ones from my blog: "If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."-Thomas Edison

Last 5 songs listened to you on your iPod:
OK here are my current top 5 workout songs...I love fast beat songs that I can run in tempo to...they get my speed up!

  • Lollipop - Mika
  • I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull
  • Here It Goes Again - Ok Go
  • Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
  • Say Hey - Michael Franti Spearhead

What do you love most about your body?
That it is shrinking..HA! :) um...I love my legs...there is the picture [shown below] from when we did our climb a few weekends back...I saw that picture and was like..."I have great leg muscles!!" and Jimmy said - "yes you do and I love your legs" :) me too!! And I remember thinking when I was training for our half marathon how lucky I was to be blessed enough to be able to run - that my legs were strong enough to carry me 13.1 miles...and boy did that feel good!!!

Carrie's amazing legs

How do you find balance in your life?
This one is hard, with a 16 month old - there is a real struggle for balance. I am a big planner (just ask Jimmy...I can tell you what we will be doing in October :)) and I try to plan out our days...well then we come home and Charley has a fever - so no gym that night. Or she is cranky and tired, so we need to get her to bed early. So these days balance has to be flexible. I need to spend time with our family - but I need time for me.

Some of the days that are toughest are when Charley is with the sitter all day - then we come home only to take her to the day care at the gym for an hour or so. I feel like a terrible mother - but I just keep reminding myself, that me being at the gym is making myself a better mother for her. And her seeing us go to the gym all week will be good for her when she is old enough to go - she'll think it is a normal part of the day - not a chore.

Lately though, some things have not been in balance - my ME time (blogging has suffered a lot and this bothers me). I have also been trying to set up an Etsy store - and might finally get around to it this weekend...there are things I want to make for Charley, oh and our house needs to be majorly cleaned...but when I get stressed about all the things "I want to do" I think...if I were to die tomorrow, were people going to remember...damn Carrie's house was messy...NOPE! They hopefully will remember all of the fun times, my wonderful family and friends and how I loved and lived life....and that is what matters.

So if the balance I have makes me happy with how I live my life. I'm doing good.
Thank you Carrie for being an incredible inspiration to me! You are an amazing wife, mother and friend, and are setting a great example for your daughter to follow! Please don't forget to visit Carrie's blog and her brand new Esty store!!

Visit Carrie's Store - Adorable Dimples


Twitter Question of the Week

Fridays at Secrets of a Former Fat Girl is Twitter Question of the Week day, and I want to hear from YOU! There is so much we can learn from one another, and this is a great place to show us your sparkle!

Want to join in? Just follow me on Twitter, and watch for the Twitter Question of the Week (posted by 8am CST on the previous Thursday). All replies received via Twitter or Facebook by 10am on Friday will get posted with a link back to you!

"What are three food MUST-HAVEs in your kitchen/frig?"

  • Betsy says "mine are fat free milk, cheese, and fruits/veggies! :)"
  • Sarah says "My 3 must have, and I eat/drink everyday are egg beaters, luna bars, and milk. Luna bars are great in the purse when on the go, and taste great"
  • Kristie says "Picante Sauce, milk and portobello mushrooms - but not all in the same meal."
  • Kelley says "Almonds, Apples, Olive Oil"
  • Courtney says "Frank's hot sauce, bagged salad (to top off with steak or chicken or pork), my homemade balsamic vinegraitte. If I can add one more, crystal light."
  • @BrianneLSturt says "Smart and delicious tortillas, grapes, cool whip free."
  • @HeatherSutton says "peanut butter, apples and water!!!"
  • @akean81 says "Dannon' Light N' Fit yogurt, baby carrots, and sugar free pudding"
  • @lynnkelly says "bananas, popsicles for the sweet tooth, protein supplement of some sort. quite boring!"

Thank you for your answers! Here are my 3 must-haves:

  • organic baby spinach (I eat it every single day, all year!)
  • ice cold water (gotta be ice cold, even in the winter)
  • fresh fruit (depending on the season - watermelon, honeydew, strawberries, blueberries, apples, nectarines, kiwi, mango, bananas)

I love learning more about you, and I think we all have such great things to contribute and share with each other :)

Today was a whole body workout day with CrazyTrainerGuy ...

5 min warmup on elliptical

A1: Shoulder press and squats on functional trainer
A2: Mountain Climbers
A3: Boxing
A4: Crunches on bosu
*Repeat 3 times

B1: Hip-ups on medicine ball
B2: Overhead lats on functional trainer
B3: Bicep curls with 30lb barbell
B4: Standing obliques on functional trainer
*Repeat 3 times

Cardio interval on elliptical
4 mins @ 150 - 155 bpm
3 mins @ 155 - 160 bpm
2 mins @ 160 - 165 bpm
1 mins @ 170 bpm or higher
2 mins recovery

I walked out of my workout a little sad ... I got my final schedule for personal training sessions, and my last session will be July 25th. I cannot believe my five months of personal training are almost over! :( While I haven't quite gotten the results I'd hoped for when I first started (primarily weight loss), I have seriously increased my muscle mass and decreased my fatty fatness.

I can't afford to sign up for another 5 months of personal training, with pay freezes, unpaid furloughs and possible paycuts on my horizon, but I have learned so much from my trainers. I have no doubt I will be able to continue on my own and reach my goals. It's almost like I made it to the last week on the ranch on the Biggest Loser, and am being sent home to live my life and find my own way.

Well, I'm not going to dwell too much on it because I still have 5 weeks of beatings with CrazyTrainerGuy to "enjoy" before we're done :) And that's 5 weeks to make progress with my weight loss! Anything is possible with hard work, a little bit of sweat, and determination!

Oh, before I go, please be sure to visit Jeannie, our Former Fat Girl of the Week and leave a few encouraging words as she's set to compete in the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon this weekend! Go Jeannie go!


"Don't ask for an easier life; ask to be a stronger person." Anonymous

Oh, happy day!

I am over the moon excited!!! I have a workout "date" with Chef Devin Alexander this weekend!


I absolutely adore Devin's cookbooks, "Fast Food Fix" and "The Most Decadent Diet Ever". We just got her latest cookbook "The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook" - my daughter won an autographed copy when we attended Kristin Steede and Cathy Skell's homecoming party last month.

Our family favorite receipes are Modern Day Mac & Cheese (my daughter's favorite), Double Chocolate Brownies, and Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin. Devin shares a few recipes from each cookbook on her website - you simply must check them out!

Devin also has her own television show, "Healthy Decadence with Devin Alexander" on FitTV. I haven't had a chance to watch them as I don't have cable (that's what a pay freeze and unpaid furloughs will getcha), but I've heard wonderful things, and found snippets on 'net that make me want to check my seat cushions for pennies so I can upgrade my cable again! :) I'll be sure to share all the details after our date, as well as some cool photos!!

I'm also super excited to be working on a project for a very brilliant online magazine. More details to come as we get things squared away (I have to ask and make sure I can talk to you about it first! LOL) I also have one more project in the works, but don't want to spill the beans on that one yet, but it's basically a dream come true! I think Jen knows what this one is!! ;)

I feel so blessed for these amazing opportunities - God is GREAT and I am so thankful for His blessings! This is all of HIM and none of me!

From this point forward, TrainerGuy will be henceforth forever known as CrazyTrainerGuy (yes, I'm somewhat stealing Jillian Michael's nickname for her trainer, but seriously, Crazy is the only way to describe what he's doing to me!)

Today was Cardio Torture, I mean Cardio Thursday with CrazyTrainerGuy. We typically do some sort of intervals on the elliptical, followed by heavy stretching, and finishing up with core exercises. I think CrazyTrainerGuy truly is trying to torture me (in a good way) because he really pushed me today ... there was no holding back with my cardio, and while I'm extremely exhausted, I know I'm stronger because of it!

We started off with 10 minutes on the elliptical, and this is where he gets the Crazy part of his name - dude had me STARTING OFF on a level 12 for tension. Uh, what???? We usually END at a Level 12, and I'm starting at Level 12 today? Oh boy ...

1 minute @ 7.0 or higher
30 seconds in reverse as fast as I can
30 seconds @ 6.0 minimum (recovery)
* Repeat 5 times

We typically do all cardio on the elliptical, but CrazyTrainerGuy had me hop off and get on the recumbant bike, where he proceeded to plug me into Level 20!! HELLO????!!!! I seriously can't even tell you what we did because I had no idea - all I knew is that it was tough, I felt like I was pedaling through tar, and my quads were screaming in protest. I can't even tell you how long we went because it was that tough.

When CrazyTrainerGuy finally said we were done, I sent Jesus a prayer of thanks, and rubber-legged my way back for a good stretching session. And let me tell you, it was goooooood! :) CrazyTrainerGuy was buttering me up with that stretching session, because he busted out the most intense core workout I've ever had.

He introduced me to the balance disc. Up until this point, I swear I thought it was some snazzy shiatsu pillow or something. Yeah right.

You basically lie on it with it just above your hips, in the small of your back. It added such amazing intensity to my crunches - I was burning by #4, and could barely finish up 10 crunches.

When I googled "balance disc" so I could add the snazzy photo to the left, I found most people sit on the thing to help with their lower backs. I wish all I had to do was sit on it!!

Once my killer core work was done, I lay on the floor and was so thankful my torture was done for the day.

Silly me. CrazyTrainerGuy told me to get up, cuz he wasn't done with me yet. Throughout the cardio thus far, CrazyTrainerGuy is chatting away, encouraging and pushing me through my workout, telling me how strong I am, how far I've come and how well I'm doing. He also mentions he and BossTrainerGuy are putting my new program together - we typically switch up every 4 weeks, but they're putting together a special endurance workout to countdown my final 16 days before my triathlon and 37 days to my half-marathon.

Oh joy. LOL I must mention that these workouts are in addition to my triathlon and half-marathon training.

So yeah, CrazyTrainerGuy tells me we need to get more cardio in, so really earns the "Crazy" title as he coaches me through ...

60 seconds of box jumps
60 seconds of step ups
60 seconds of "boxing" @ 20 lbs on the functional trainer
*repeat 3 times

And then, blessedly, we were finished. If this is any indication of what the next few weeks will be like, I am going to have so. much. fun. :)


"You've got to say, I think that if I keep working at this and want it badly enough I can have it. It's called perseverance." Lee Iacocca

Wordless Wednesday

Pretty wrapping paper for sale in my favorite paperie store


Clean eating has become a part of my lifestyle, and I'm a better person because of it. But now ... it's not working anymore. Well, that's not quite right. I don't want anyone to think clean eating doesn't work. It DOES work, I just need to find out exactly what my body needs to blast me out of this plateau of immense proportions. I thought I was making progress last week, but am at a standstill once again.

On the plus side, I've maintained my weight loss, while actually increasing muscle mass. That's a good thing, right?

You know, as a Former Fat Girl, I know it all. I know all the tricks, all the advice, all the tips.

Stuck in a plateau? You gotta shake things up! Try a new workout! Switch up your meals! Drink more water! A plateau is just your body tackling fat it's been carrying around for a long time! It's not what the scale says, it's how you feel! You may not be losing any weight, but you're losing inches!

Yep, I know it all, and have encouraged many people with these very words. And I'm not saying they're lies or untrue or good for nothing. I think each response is very valid, and does work.

I appreciate and am extremely grateful for the important changes living a healthy lifestyle has given me - increased strength and endurance. A stronger heart. I sleep better at night. I no longer suffer from GERD. I am completely off my blood pressure medication. I have reversed my fatty liver.

Yeah, well, is it too much to ask to look good too? LOL

What I'm finally going to admit is that ... I've become a teensy, weensy, little bit of a vain person ... I want to have buns of steel, six pack abs, and glamour muscles to die for.

And that's why I continue to do what I'm doing. I refuse to give up - instead of throwing in the towel, I'm using it to wipe the sweat off my face!

Working out as hard as I do and seeing the same thing in the mirror in the morning can be pretty discouraging some days (thus my abnormal "boo-hoo" tweet yesterday morning. Thank you all for your sweet words and DMs!)

You know, this whole weight loss thing can be a pain in the kiester! The thing is, you can get advice from every single person you know (and quite a few you don't know) but the bottom line is you need to figure out what works best for YOU, and figure out if it's something you can follow for a lifetime.

So, with that said, I'm going to sit down, read a bunch of books (like this one), and figure out my new nutrition program. I'm a very exact and precise person when it comes to my nutrition, so my goal is to come up with my benchmark caloric ceiling based up on my activity level, and then figure out my meal plan from there. I'm going to involve the kids with this because there's a great deal they can learn from this - from a nutrition standpoint as well as a financial standpoint as well.

I probably won't get started tonite because it's my son's birthday ;) but within the next few days for sure. The vain person in me is anxious and impatient, I want to look good NOW, goshdarnnit! But I know whatever I figure out, I will need to give myself a good few weeks to one month to see how my body reacts to the new changes. And yes, I'll be sure to come back here to report my findings and results!

Here's a recap of yesterday's workout:

5 min warm up on elliptical

A1: Squat and shoulder press on functional trainer (20 lbs)
A2: Mountain climbers
A3: Boxing
A4: Reverse flies on functional trainer (14 lbs)
* Repeat this set 3 times

B1: Hip-ups on medicine ball
B2: Standing obliques on functional trainer (10 lbs)
B3: Bicep curls (30 lbs)
B4: Crunches on bosu trainer
* Repeat this set 3 times

HIIT 13 minutes

And here's a recap of today's workout:

5 minute warmup on elliptical

A1: Chest press with rotation and crunch on the bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st set, 20 lbs for 2nd and 3rd sets.
A2: Upright row with twist using functional trainer while on stability ball. 15 lbs for 1st and 2nd sets, 18 lbs for 3rd set.
A3: Knee tucks on stability ball (my new favorite!)
A4: Box jumps
*Repeat this set 3 times

B1: Incline chest press on bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st and 2nd set, 20 lbs for 3rd set.
B2: Lat pulldown using functional trainer while kneeing on ground.
B3: Tricep press on stability ball. 8 lbs dumbbells
B4: Crunches on bosu trainer.

13 mins HIIT

We're hitting the pool tonite to celebrate my son's birthday - it's the hottest day of the year, with the heat index at 102 degrees, so the pool will probably be crowded beyond belief. I'm hoping to get a few laps in, but we'll see. If the pool is crowded, they may take the lane markers down to accommodate all the kiddies. Hope everyone has a great night!


"Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement." Brian Tracy

13 years ago ...

My goal is to keep this blog very focused on living a healthy and fit lifestyle, but sometimes, like today, it's a bit more personal and closer to home ...

My son came into this wonderful world of ours 13 years ago today. After 29 GRUELING hours of labor, my baby boy was born. And he has been blessing my life every single day since then. He is an amazing kid, and has survived things other kids only read about or watch in the movies. Not only has he survived these things, he has learned from them, and become an incredibly amazing person in spite of them.

My son is a very cool kid ... in his 13 years, he has ...

  • learned to play the piano, cello, guitar, alto saxophone, and ukulele
  • played flag football with the Green Bay Packers
  • completed a triathlon
  • auditioned for and was cast in a major production at a nationally acclaimed children's theater ... on his first try, with no training or experience
  • has his artwork displayed in a local art crawl
  • gotten stitches 4 times ... don't ask LOL
  • taught his baby sister to tie her shoes, throw a football, ride her bike without training wheels, and how to "clean" her room by shoving things under her bed and into her closet
  • given me a reason to keep fighting for a better life, to always face each day with a smile on my face and hope in my heart.

Happy Birthday son, I will always love you!


Mental Monday

What Not to Eat Right Now

This season's bounty may be impressive, but some produce that isn't in season can be pricier, clocks frequent flyer miles (increasing your carbon footprint) and lacks flavor since it's not at its peak just yet.

You know it's summer when the produce section of your local supermarket or fruit stand is bursting with fruits and vegetables – berries, fruits, melons, summer, corn, snow peas, zucchini, bell peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Although opting for variety will ensure you consume the widest array of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, some pieces of produce in stores now are not in their prime and may be sourced from overseas, costing you freshness, nutrition and money. Here are a few foods, albeit healthy, you may want to buy in smaller quantities this season or wait until their peak.

APPLES: While they are often regarded as a year-round fruit, those available now may have been in cold storage since the winter. You can count on them being their best in late August and September.

SQUASH: Butternut and acorn varieties are available now and throughout the year, but they're really at their peak during September and October.

BROCCOLI: The stir-fry staple is at its prime from fall to spring (usually October through April). Instead, consider snow peas, snap beans and string beans in the cruciferous vegetable's place.

ASPARAGUS: These harbingers of spring have all but petered out at the greengrocers by summer, although you will still see imported asparagus at supermarkets.

CAULIFLOWER: Available year-round, your best bet is to wait until the cooler months of fall to enjoy fresh cauliflower for best quality.

Written by by Claudia M. Caruana
Published June 2009

Former Fat Girl of the Week

I am very excited to share my first first installment of Former Fat Girl of the Week!

Former Fat Girl of the Week is a place for us to come to celebrate the successes and achievements of one another. Former Fat Girls of the Week are regular women like you and me, living normal lives, but are extraordinarily inspirational. This is their time to shine, and I hope you are as inspired by them as I am.

Name: Jeannie

Website: Points and Pounds and Friendly Philly Food
Age: 28
Occupation: Office Manager/Receptionist at a public radio station

How often do you exercise?
I shoot for 4 days a week. And on my off days I try to do yard work and clean the house etc so I'm still moving some! I also try to walk my pup, Maddie, at least once a day.

What's your favorite workout?
I love using the stability ball!! And I hate running :)

What 5 food items are "must haves" in your kitchen?:

  • strawberries
  • bananas
  • spinach
  • peanut butter
  • chocolate of course

Favorite quote?
I don't actually have a favorite quote. Kind of tragic, I know. Perhaps someone could suggest some quotes for me!

How do you find balance in your life?
Working out! I suppose working out more releases stress than anything, but through that I find balance. I'm at a point in my life where I don't have kids or really any responsibilities other than myself so it's pretty easy to find balance. My job is low stress, and my evenings and weekends free for fun. It works out quite nicely.

Last 5 songs listened to you on your iPod:

  • Weatherman by Kris Delmhurst
  • My Heart With You by The Rescues
  • Poker Face by Lady GaGa
  • Rockin' That Thang by The-Dream
  • Knock You Down by Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo

What do you love most about your body?
I'd normally say my eyes, but that seems to be a bit of a cop out so I'll step it up. I used to hate my arms. They were flabby and awkward. But now I have little baby muscles in my arms. Sure they're still a little flabby, but they're also strong! So at least this past week, I've been having a total love affair with my arms. I can't believe I just wrote that ... but it's true!

What is your greatest accomplishment?
About 5 years ago one of my friends talked me into doing the Philadelphia MS 150 bike ride. How she talked me into it, I have no idea. At the time I practically got winded taking the trash out. But my godfather has MS and I wanted to do it for him. So I trained for 8 months. Spent my weekends that summer doing 30 and 40 mile rides.

The actual MS 150 is a 2 day event. On Saturday you ride your bike from Philadelphia to the Jersey shore and then Sunday you ride back to Philly -- roughly 75 miles each day. We had a whole team together -- including my dad and brother. And when I crossed the finish line on the 2nd day... knowing that not only did I accomplish something for myself, but that I also raised over 1000 dollars for MS ... well I teared up a little. Perhaps it was because my butt was numb after over 15 hours sitting on a bike seat that weekend, but most likely it was simply amazing to know I could do anything I put my mind to.

Are you working towards a particular goal we can support you in?
Next weekend I'll be participating in the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon. This will be my first coed tri, but I'm excited because my dad and brother are also doing it! After that it's off to Wisconsin with Carrie to do the Trek Women's Triathlon with Michelle!

Congratulations Jeannie on being our very first Former Fat Girl of the Week! Jeannie was one of my first blogging buddies when I started out 2 years ago, and I can always count on her for inspiration, motivation, a great recipe, a caring ear, and good laughs! Be sure to check out Jeannie's blogs: Points and Pounds and Friendly Philly Food.


Sanity Saturday

I have decided to make Saturdays my "sane" day of the week. Saturday will be the day I let my hair down, and relax a little. I will allow myself one "sane" meal, but still keep things within reason. I strongly believe having one sane meal a week will really help me get through the week focused and on track. Knowing I have a sane meal coming will help keep the temptation to a minimum (I hope!)

I worked out with TrainerGirl this morning, it was a cardio day, and I swear TrainerGirl is a cyborg underneath her porcelain skin and pretty auburn curls. In many ways, she is tougher than TrainerGuy, she's relentless, but I think it's that female competition thing that pushes me to work harder with her. Not that I don't work hard with TrainerGuy, because I do. It's the same, but different. I realize I'm not making ANY sense, so here's today's workout in review:

Level 12 on ellipitcal

5 minute warmup on elliptical (get heartrate up over 150)

1 min sprint (at least 7.0, heartrate gets up to about 174 bpm)
30 seconds reverse as fast as I can
30 seconds recovery at least 6.0 (get heartrate down into 160s)
*repeat 8 times

3 minute recovery

TrainerGirl always includes a killer ab circuit when we workout, and here it is ...

A1: 60 second plank (90 seconds on 3rd circuit)
A2: 60 seconds of sitting obliques with medicine ball
A3: 25 reps of crunches, holding medicine ball up over head. Throw ball to TrainerGirl at top of crunch, hold and wait while she throws ball back keeping arms up overhead. Release crunch, lower ball to ground, then crunch up again.
*repeat this circuit 3 times

After my workout, I had to rush home to get ready for a bridal shower brunch. My friends were picking me up as it was being held at the bride's parent's house, an hour drive north of us. It was a BEAUTIFUL day, and their house was simply adorable. The brunch was held in their backyard, and was simply shabby chic in every way. I've known the bride for 5 years and she and her fiance have finally given me irrevocable proof that happily ever after really does exist.

There were over 60 ladies in attendance (the bride has a huge family), and we had a great time. Here's a photo of the simple floral centerpieces (yes, that's my mimosa in the photo - I only had a few sips):

And here's a photo of what I ate ...

Starting clockwise, I had roast beef, a croissant, fruit salad pineapple, watermelon, blueberries, and kiwi), bell peppers and cucumbers, and a potato casserole thing. This was my sane meal for the day (actually counted as breakfast AND lunch)- and I also had a piece of cake too! I worked hard this week, and having one meal a week where I don't really "think" too much really does keep me from going crazy and prevents a huge fall off the wagon.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home with the kids. They each had a friend over to play, and I was able to sit on my porch, catch up on my reading and knitting, and simply relax. It was a beautiful day, and I hope you had a wonderful day too! Be sure to swing by tomorrow - I'm unveiling something really awesome and inspiring!


“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” - William James

Ding ding ding!!!

TrainerGuy made a comment that he wants me to realize it's okay to "just eat". He said that when we first started working out together, and I have to say it kinda pissed me off. I felt like he didn't even know me, didn't know ANYTHING about my food addiction, and everything I've had to do to achieve my current weight loss success.

I mean, I can't "just eat". "Just eating" got me to my morbidly obese state last year. Pfft ... telling a food addict to "just eat" is like telling an alcoholic to drink but not swallow ...

I've been smoldering ever since then, but seriously, as I'm sitting here, listening to the drawbridge bell ringing outside my window, something finally clicked inside of me. It's like the ringing outside is celebrating the huge lightbulb that just went on over my head.

I refrain from eating "bad foods" because I've been afraid (and I know) once I start, I can't stop. But why ... why can't I stop? It's not the food's fault. Food doesn't control me. Food doesn't tell me to eat it, hand over fist, shoveling whatever it is down my gullet to escape from my insecurities. Food doesn't jump into my shopping cart at the market. It doesn't magically appear in my car, or in my purse, or in my desk drawer at work.

Food is just food. Food is fuel. Food is what my body needs in order to do what I want it to do.

I'm in control. (Okay, actually GOD is in control, but you know what I mean) ...

I see now that I've been sort of subletting my power and my control to food. And I've paid dearly because of it. Here I am, woe is me, I'm a food addict and I'm afraid of food, waaah, waaaah, waaaaaaahhh ..

I've been making a big deal and it's all my own fault. Blaming my food addiction on situations that occured in my past is a cop-out. Just because xyz happened, doesn't mean xyz forced me to eat M&Ms until the cows came home. I chose to escape the pain and memories of xyz by eating M&Ms until I couldn't even think about xyz anymore, which never really worked. After eating all those M&Ms, all I could think about was how bloated and disgusting I felt. Which then led me to think about what a failure I was. Which led me to think things would never get better. Which led me to waddle over to the store to buy more M&Ms.

I chose to do that to myself. ME.

I just realized I have the choice to stop being a food addict.

I choose to take back control, and not be afraid.

If you are suffering from an addiction, please do not take offense to what I'm saying. I'm talking purely about my own life and my own experiences.

But the bottom line is ... I'm in control.


Fridays are whole body workout days with TrainerGuy. He takes certain exercises from my Monday and Tuesday workouts and throws them all together...

4 min warm-up on elliptical (instead of my usual 5 minute warm up. I was late to my workout because we had a big storm overnight and some of the streets were closed off due to standing water).

Stretching w/ TrainerGuy

15 - 20 reps each of:

A1: Chest press and squats with functional trainer
A2: Mountain climbers
A3: Boxing (cross jabs, uppercuts, and speedball)
A4: Crunches on the stability ball
* repeat this set 3 times

15 - 20 reps each of:

B1: Hips ups on medicine ball
B2: Overhead cross rows with functional trainer
B3:Woodchops with functional trainer
* repeat this set 3 times

Finish up on elliptical

4 mins @ 145 - 150 bpm (I'm at 154)
3 mins @ 150 - 155 bpm (I'm at 163)
2 mins @ 155 - 160 bpm (I'm at 168)
1 min @ 170+ bpm (I'm at 176)
2 min recovery (back down to 160)

Today's workout was really good - I felt very strong and energized, but still not quite 100% from being sick. All that mattered was I felt better today than yesterday, so that makes today a success in my book!


Thursday Torture

Thursdays are cardio days with TrainerGuy, and I really do feel sorry for him.

I. Hate. Cardio.

I hated cardio as a morbidly obese person, and I hate cardio as an overweight person. I'm pretty sure I'll hate cardio as a healthy person. LOL

Wait, let me clarify that. I don't hate ALL cardio ... I love Zumba, Spin, and step aerobics. But toiling away on an elliptical or treadmill ... I hate that. It's not fun.

So back to feeling sorry for TrainerGuy - I'm typically a happy person, always smiling and cheerful. Except for 5:55am on Thursday mornings. Thursday mornings find me pretty crabby. The alarm goes off and I curse under my breath, "I hate #)($#* cardio days." But I get up, brush my teeth, eat breakfast, prepare my lunch, and get my butt out of the house and off to the gym.

TrainerGuy greets me with a smile, and gets a grunt and a grimace in return. LOL The first 75% of my cardio workout is pretty awful. I'm grouchy, and it hurts, and I hate it, but I do it. TrainerGuy smiles and laughs and chit chats away and completely ignores the mutterings coming out of my mouth. He happily increases the tension and encourages me to go faster, harder, longer ... I curse and mutter and complain, but I do what he asks, to the best of my ability.

And then, miraculously, after 15 mins or so, the sun breaks through the clouds, the angels begin to sing, and I suddenly smile. I participate in his conversation, albeit between gasps and heaving lungfuls of air. Before I know it, TrainerGuy is coaching me through my final sprint, and my Thursday torture session is done. As TrainerGuy leads me off to a really good stretching session, we joke at how schzio I am on Thursday mornings.


Today's torture session was something new, and consisted of the following performed on an elliptical machine:

5 min warm-up to get to 145 bpm

1 min sprint @ 8.0
5 sec slowdown
30 seconds backwards as fast as I can
5 sec slowdown
*repeat 7 times

then ...

1 min sprint as fast as I can
5 sec slowdown
1 min backwards as fast as I can
5 sec slowdown
30 seconds recovery
*repeat 5 times

5 min easy recovery @ 6.0

I think TrainerGuy put this new program together to combat the grouchy Michelle because with all the switches from forward to backward to sprint to recovery really didn't give me much time to wallow in my usual Thursday pity party. I think he's onto something! I actually didn't completely hate my cardio today. LOL

I'll be back later tonite to update on today's food, but it's gonna be a 100% on-plan day, I guarantee it!


"It's so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to." Annie Gottlier

Wordless Wednesday

This is my office building - I love working along the riverwalk - and just 6 blocks from Lake Michigan

I ain't what I used to be ...

Exciting news ... I've increased my body strength by 44% since March 9, 2009!! I'm pretty stoked - I've been stuck in my plateau since March, and sure, I could have thrown in the towel and given up after the first few weeks of plateauing.

And believe me, that thought certainly crossed my mind!

MANY times!

And even better news, I think I'm slowly eeking my way out of this plateau. I've had consistent losses with my daily weigh-ins this past week. HOORAY!!!! (Those amazing biceps don't belong to me ... yet! They are the amazing Sarah Jessica Parker's biceps. One day I will make them mine, I guarantee it!)

Today also begins Day 2 of my clean-eating program, and after a horrible caffiene withdrawal headache most of yesterday afternoon, I woke up this morning clear-headed and ready to workout with TrainerGirl at the gym. It's technically week 3 of my program, but as I missed 3 workouts last week due to the Mongolian Hamster Flu, we're tacking another week onto this program (and I really love it - so yaaay!)

We modified today's workout as my left knee is still sore after my amazingly graceful crash onto the unforgiving hard marble floor in the lobby of my office building last week, so instead of box jumps, we did sprints, and the lat pulldowns were done on a stability ball instead of me kneeling in front of the functional trainer. Today's workout consisted of:

5 min warmup on the ellipitical

We repeat the following 3 times with 15 - 20 reps per exercise, and add heavier weights for the 3rd set and keep going until failure.

A1: Chest press with rotation and crunch on the bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st set, 20 lbs for 2nd and 3rd sets.
A2: Upright row with twist using functional trainer while on stability ball. 15 lbs for 1st and 2nd sets, 18 lbs for 3rd set.
A3: Knee tucks on stability ball (my new favorite!)
A4: 1.5 min sprint (30 seconds at 8.0, 30 seconds at 8.5, 30 seconds at 9.0)

Then we move onto:

B1: Incline chest press on bench. 15 lbs dumbbells for 1st and 2nd set, 20 lbs for 3rd set.
B2: Lat pulldown using functional trainer while on stability ball (don't remember the weights, sorry!)
B3: Tricep press on stability ball. 8 lbs dumbbells
B4: Crunches on bosu trainer.

13 mins intervals on the elliptical:

4 mins @ 145 - 150 bpm
3 mins @ 155 - 160 bpm
2 mins @ 160 - 165 bpm
1 mins @ 165 - 170 bpm
2 mins @ recovery

I start off with my tension at Level 5, and increase with each interval. I usually have no problem meeting the bpm (heartbeats per minute) goal because I'm already at 155 - 160 when I start, and can get to the 180s by the 1 minute interval.

Food today was very good, and 100% on plan:

breakfast: scrambled egg and spinach omelette
am snack: gala apple
lunch: tuna, cucumber and celery salad
dinner: salmon and asparagus
dessert: homemade honeydew sorbet

Table provided by Roni's Food Tweet, Eat, Post Generator.

I hope everyone had a great day - I'm so excited to see so many new readers subscribed to my blog feed and have to say hi to all my new friends following me on Twitter!


"Do not throw in the towel; use it to wipe of the sweat from your face." Anonymous

Mental Monday

My gym creates these little newsletters every Monday and puts them on the elliptical, treadmill, etc for us to read as we sweat away our weekend sins ... today's newsletter included the following article I'm sharing with all of you!

Some healthy foods seem to be everywhere. But there are some healthy foods that tend to get neglected - even by people who are trying to eat a healthy diet. Whether it's because we don't know how to cook them, or just because they're somehow unglamorous, we tend to ignore some of the foods that pack the best nutritional punch.

Top 5 healthy foods you're probably not eating - but should be

This is one food that definitely suffers from an unglamorous reputation - especially when referred to by their more common name: prunes. Dried plums have twice as much potassium as bananas and 38 percent more antioxidants than blueberries! Plus, they provide both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber - including pectin, a type of soluble fiber that may lower blood cholesterol levels.

To get dried plums into your diet, throw a few in your purse for easy snacking, or add some to your child's lunchbox.

Beets contain fiber, iron, and Vitamin C. Plus, they contain betacyanin - a powerful cancer-fighting agent that has been shown to help prevent colon cancer in particular. Still not convinced? They also contain antioxidants that have been shown to lower total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol.

To get beets into your diet, try marinating steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and fresh herbs; grate raw beets onto salads, or salads; or simply add chunks of beets to your roasting plan when you cook up roasted veggies! (Don't cook beets too long, since beets' anti-cancer activity is diminished by heat).

A serving of pumpkin has nearly 3 grams of fiber, and is packed with beta carotene - an antioxidant that can help improve immune function and reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease. Fresh pumpkin is only available in the fall and winter months, but canned pumpkin is available all year round.

To get pumpkin into your diet, cut fresh peeled pumpkin into chunks and roast with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper; drop a generous scoop of canned pumpkin into plain pancake batter; make a soup with canned or pureed pumpkin, chicken broth, and fat free half and half; or make a traditional pumpkin pie.

Eggplant is packed with fiber, and contains Vitamins B1, B3, and B6. Plus, it contains chlorgenic acid - one of the most potent free radical scavengers you can find in a vegetable, and nasunin - a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect lipis in brain cells, prevent cellular damage that can lead to cancer, and help prevent rheumatoid arthritis.

To get eggplant into your diet, puree roasted eggplant, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil to make home-made babaganoush that you can use in sandwiches or as a dip; add cubed eggplant to your next curry or stir-fry; or again, add to the trusty pan of roasted vegetables.

Beans are another food with an unglamorous reputation, probably attainable to the old schoolyard rhyme about the magical fruit. But research has shown that beans pack big health benefits - they can do everything from help prevent cancer and heart disease to regulate blood sugar. Plus, they're loaded with antioxidants, protein, and fiber. Dried beans are the cheapest, but canned beans work great if you're short on time.

To get beans into your diet, try a pasta salad with veggies and a can of rinsed chickpeas; use kidney beans to replace half the meat you would normally use in a chilli; or serve diced tomatoes with onion, green pepper, and black eyed peas over rice.

The Bottom Line:

There's no reason you can't work these top 5 healthy foods you're not eating into your daily diet. Try a few simple recipes, and you may find you have a new healthy family favorite!

Written by Gloria Tsang, RD and Christina Newberry
Published in July 2008

I have to fall down in order to learn how to soar ...

Confession time.

It's scary amazing how my horrible food addiction is just lying dormant beneath my skin, like those robots in War of the Worlds, patiently waiting to wake up and take over. All they need is one slip up, and they've wrestled all my success and hard won efforts out of my hands.

It's so easy to listen to their siren call and let them lull me, crashing in back into apathy ... it's scary how quickly I gave up everything and welcomed overeating back into my life.

I know what I'm doing. I know I'm making unhealthy choices. I know I can stop. I know I can do better.

But I chose not to.

I fell into the trap of thinking I deserved to give in to temptation. That I somehow earned the right to overeat.

Yeah, right.

I'm dumb, I'm stupid, I'm an idiot.

I'm strong, I'm fierce, I'm determined.

I'm all these things, and so much more.

I feel like my dieting life thus far has been like the story "The Three Little Pigs." My beginning struggle with weight loss (which resulted in my weight gain to over 255 lbs), was like the first piggy, building a house of straw. I built my house (aka fad diets, gimmicks, programs) with straw, hoping it would protect me from the big bad wolf (aka my food addiction). These diets and gimmicks were dumb, and just like the house of straw, blew down with just the slightest whisper from the big bad wolf (aka temptation).

After years of grasping at straws, I decided to build my house with sticks. I learned that straw houses (aka fad diets, gimmicks, etc.) were stupid. So I built a house of strong, sturdy sticks (aka clean eating). I only picked the strongest, straightest sticks and was very strict with building my stick house. I accepted no compromise, regardless of the situation (aka never giving in to temptation). The big bad wolf had a little harder time trying to blow down my house of sticks, but he sure did. The big bad wolf knew I was living a life too extreme to have any longlasting measure of success, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he could come knocking on my door and blow my house down.

Today finds me greatly wisened up, and following the footsteps of the third piggy, and am building my house with bricks. I already have a great foundation set in stone ... but I have to build upon it, day by day, brick by brick.

I've learned I need balance in my life. I cannot live in extremes, and must find balance. I need to build myself a home of brick ... brick that is strong and secure ... it's cool in the summer and warm in the winter ...

I realized this morning that I have to fall down in order to learn how to soar. I have to fail in order to realize how passionately, intensely and fiercely I want to succeed.

And trust me, I want it bad!

How I lost 90 lbs ...

I wish I could tell you this was easy, that there was this magical trick or pill or cure ...

The honest answer is losing 90 lbs took all of my dedication, focus, and determination. To say I've tried every single diet is a gross exaggeration, but I have tried more than my fair share of diets ...

Let's see if I have enough fingers and toes to count all the diets I've been on ... Weight Watchers Points, Weight Watchers Core, South Beach, Atkins, KimKins, 3 Day Slim Down, carb cycling, Slimfast, Velocity Diet, Anabolic Diet, Biggest Loser Club, Sparkpeople, the cabbage soup diet ...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing any of the above mentioned programs. The majority of them really do work, and are very well balanced, nutritionist-backed programs. What didn't work, was ME.

I'd start the diet excited and enthused and willing to do everything the program told me to do. This typically would last a day or two before I started making excuses and deviating from the diet, because as a fat girl, I knew everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) about losing weight. Yep, I know it all. I just didn't do it.

So I'd hop from one diet program to the next, constantly deviating from the program and making my own rules because I was too afraid to go outside of my comfort zone.

Then, one morning, I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said "Enough!" I immediately went through our kitchen cupboards and refrigerator and threw out anythign in a box or can, or anything that had an unpronounceable ingredient in the top three ingredients. This basically left me with NOTHING. LOL

I started buying fresh fruits and veggies. Lots of fish, and cage-free chickens. I don't eat alot of red meat anymore because grass-fed beef is a bit expensive, so we have it maybe once a month or so.

I could not believe how quickly the fat melted off my body. I lost 90 lbs from September 2008 through February 2009. With no exercise, no pills, no shakes, no weird, funky concoctions or plans. I ate 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, each meal contained a protein and vegetables. Snacks were usually fruit and a carb. I suffered sugar and caffeine withdrawal for the first two weeks, then it was smooth sailing.

My skin glowed, my hair and nails grew at an astonishing pace. The answer was so obvious, and so simple, I kick myself for not figuring it out ages ago!

Who is Michelle?

I wrote this article for and was extremely honored to be selected as their 2009 Transformation Winner! This was originally published on in February 2009 - see the official link here.

"Who is Michelle?"

I gave the usual answers: I'm a divorced mom, domestic abuse survivor, my life revolves around my kids, I'm originally from Hawaii and moved to the Midwest in 2002, I like this, I like that, blah, blah, blah...

He shook his head and asked again, "Who is Michelle?"

That was two years ago, during an interview for the reality show The Biggest Loser. At my heaviest weight, 255 pounds, I thought the show was my last hope. I was willing to literally bare every single roll of fat in a sports bra and shorts to the entire world.

I struggled with that question for the next twenty months. I had no idea who I was.

I've lived my life liking what other people liked, disliking what they liked. I had no real clue as to what my likes and dislikes were.

I mean, I knew the superficial facts, like the fact that I was fat. I knew I liked chocolate, and that I love to read. But deeper than those shallow facts, who was I?

The majority of my life, up until the beginning of my transformation, existed to make others happy. I learned at an early age that it was easier to pretend to be what my parents wanted me to be, than to exert my own thoughts and opinions. Don't get me wrong, my parents were the very best and loved me dearly, I just made this assumption on my own and began to apply it to everyone I met.

So and so liked this music band — so I did, too. So and so didn't like to watch this show — so I didn't either. What do I want to do today, you ask? Well, what do you want to do today, I'd counter.

I'd spent the first thirty three years of my life living like this, without even realizing I was doing it.

Back then, I avoided mirrors at all costs. I'd glance at myself as I brushed my teeth or did my hair, but avoided really looking at myself unless I absolutely had to. Why? Because I utterly despised the hopelessness, despair, and the depression I'd see staring back at me.

I saw a girl who was hopelessly lost.A few months ago, September 2008 to be exact, I finally started looking. Really looking, trying to see through this girl gazing back at me in that mirror.
I try to look into her eyes and really see her. See her the way my children do. See her like my true friends do. See her through God's eyes.At first, I had no idea what I was looking for — but slowly, I started to see the answer.

Imagine a tiny flower seed. It's so tiny and insignificant. It isn't much to look at; in fact, it's rather plain and indistinguishable. You plant it in the earth with good intentions, you water it, give it sunlight, keep it from the chill, and then you wait.

Sometimes waiting seems to take forever, but eventually, the seed sprouts out of the ground, then blossoms and flowers. It's a thing of beauty.

But it's what you can'tsee that's important: The growth deep beneath the soil, the myriad of roots that branch out, seeking out all that's important to its growth and life.

A very good friend of mine helped to plant a seed of belief inside of me a long, long time ago. It took several years of trying and failing for it to finally root and grow, as it had to crowd out the seed of self-doubt that I had carefully cultivated and nurtured for many years.

It wasn't easy, and sometimes self-doubt would try to crowd out that tiny seed of belief.

Of course, the seed of belief has won because when I look in the mirror these days, I see love, hope, and strength. I see a leaner face — without the double chin and chubby cheeks; I see a flash of the future strength and victory in my stance.

With 90 pounds lost, I know that this time is different. I know this with every fiber of my being.

Why is this time different from the rest? Because I finally learned to love myself just as I am, flaws and strengths included.

As miserable as I've been in my past, as overweight as I was and as hard as it's been to lose this weight, I truly never want to forget those feelings. Those oh-so-painful memories created the person I am today; and in some odd, twisted way, I'm happy I endured the things I've lived through.

I used to wish certain things never happened, or wish I turned left instead of right. Now, while I'm not exactly overjoyed that those things happened and certain decisions were made, I'm happy where I am today.At this moment, as I sit here in my cute black high-heeled boots and new size 12 slacks, it hits me: My life has been forever changed.

Physically, I've gone from a size 22 to a size 12 in four months. My insomnia, high blood pressure and GERD have all been cured. My skin glows, my hair shines (without products!), and my nails would become talons if I didn't give myself a manicure every Sunday.

But more important and meaningful than any physical change in the world, I've changed on the inside. I've finally found my voice. I know my self-worth and I've gained self-confidence.

Food no longer maintains its hold over me. I know food will always be there. I face whatever problem, issue, or social situation head on and deal with it; then I move on, stronger and better than ever. There's no way I will even consider stopping until I reach my new goal of becoming a Fitness Athlete. A whole new life awaits each and every one of us. All we need to do is take that first step, and believe.

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