Healthfest Day 2 – Dr. Robert Ostfeld

I decided to indulge in a rare treat…a little extra sleep in the gigantic king size hotel bed. Unfortunately this meant missing the Healthfest training run at 6:30am. Instead, I enjoyed a solo run near the hotel in Marshall. There wasn’t much to see on the main road so I turned down a side street and found myself on a quiet residential dirt road. As I came up a small hill on my way back towards the main road I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise. The weather was cool, but still a welcome change from the northeast.


It was really difficult to pick and choose which sessions to attend. There were typically two or three at a time with shorter fitness sessions woven into the day. It was nearly impossible for me to attend a yoga class and make it to the lectures I really wanted to see as well. I saw as much as I possibly could in the short time.

Healthfest Day 2

8:30 AM 

Your Heart on Plants 

The first session I attended was a talk by Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Director of Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. Dr. Ostfeld presented a straightforward, research based lecture. His use of case studies, anecdotes, and ease with which he spoke of the subject matter made the talk enjoyable. The fact that the content was upheld by scientific data reinforced my understanding of the positive effects of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet (WFPBD) on the heart.

Bypass surgery

Patient date proves effectiveness of plant based diet

Patient data proves effectiveness of plant based diet

The following are notes that I jotted down during the presentation:

  • Lifestyle is the cornerstone of preventive medicine
  • 65% of 12-14 year olds have early signs of heart disease
  • There are 2 heart attacks per minute in the United States
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States
  • Women are 6-7 times more likely to die of a Myocardial Infarction (MI) than Breast Cancer
  • Framingham Heart Study – began in 1948 and continues to track three generations of participants in Framingham, MA to help identify the factors that contribute to heart disease
  • Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) – associated with increase in cholesterol levels in the blood. Found in meat eaters, but not present in vegans.
  • Goal of Dr. Ostfeld’s Cardiac Wellness Program is to prevent and reverse heart disease with a WFPBD
  • Case study – Female patient in her mid-60s. Status post MI (heart attack), refused surgery. Shortness of breath on minimal exertion. On cardiac medications. Started a WFPBD with no oil. In 4 months her LDL dropped 70 points and she was able to walk comfortably for 30 minutes on a treadmill. There was a strong dichotomy of opinions in her family, half of the family were in full support of the WFPBD treatment and half did not approve. Patient had to move closer to the half of the family that disapproved of the WFPBD and she returned to her previous eating habits. She quickly decompensated, had another heart attack and opted for bypass surgery.
  • HDL efflux = WFPBD makes HDL cholesterol (aka “the good cholesterol”) more efficient which can actually decrease HDL level (we are ingrained to believe that our HDL should be high and LDL low).

Dr. Ostfeld did another session later in the day called Beyond the Heart, but it conflicted with another lecture I wanted to hear. What impressed me the most about Dr. Ostfeld was the fact that he’s prescribing plant based diets to his patients and he’s monitoring real success. He also follows a WFPBD so he’s not just preaching to patients. He’s actually living the same lifestyle he promotes. His message, and really the overall theme of the conference, is that if we treat our bodies the right way we can live a long healthy life despite our genetic lot in life.

Healthfest Day 1

Friday, March 27, 2015

I drove about 45 minutes from Shreveport, LA to the small town of Marshall, TX. My hotel was practically on the highway exit to Marshall so I checked in and then set out to explore the town.

Marshall Texas Court House

Marshall, Texas Court House

Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX

Quiet street on a Friday afternoon in downtown Marshall, TX

There was not much happening in Marshall. I expected to see more people with the conference set to start in just a couple of hours, but the town was very quiet. I read that a few of the local restaurants were offering special vegan menus in honor of the conference so I grabbed a quick lunch at Sweet Sabine’s Restaurant. I enjoyed a veggie wrap and a delicious vegan carrot ginger muffin.

The conference opened late in the afternoon at the Marshall Conference Center. I checked in around 4:30 and made my way around the small vendor area. I watched the Vitamix guy do his thing and grabbed a sample of his green smoothie. I was mostly in awe that some of the main presenters, like Dr. T. Colin Campell (co-author of the China Study), Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete) and Christy Morgan (The Blissful Chef) and were just walking around chatting with people. I have read their books and blogs anonymously and there they were chatting with folks and posing for photos. I suddenly became very shy! I felt a little out of place wandering around by myself.

Inside the large conference room a small vegetarian chili competition was happening. I tried the three different chilis and voted for my favorite which had almond butter in it. Sounds strange, but it really was delicious.

A local fitness group did a zumba presentation while people began to fill the auditorium in preparation of the opening night of Healthiest 2015. I sat anxiously in the third row with my glasses on and notebook in hand. How badly do I want to go to college again?!! Dr. Campbell was literally about 3 feet away from me politely talking with anyone who approached him. I posted about it on Facebook and a few friends insisted I try to talk to him or at least get a selfie with him. I couldn’t do it!! Instead I took a photo of him talking to someone else. He’s 81 years old!


Dr. T. Colin Campbell

Mayor Ed Smith and his wife Amanda opened the conference with a short discussion of the origins Healthfest. It began as part of the Get Healthy Marshall Texas movement which was started by the Smiths. Mayor Smith was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. After transitioning to a whole foods plant based diet the cancer was halted. Mayor Smith and his wife have encouraged and motivated their community to take charge of their health through their own enthusiasm about living a plant based lifestyle.

They introduced the keynote speaker, Rich Roll. I’ve mentioned him on the blog. I have been listening to the Rich Roll podcast for a few years now which feature a range of guests from the likes of well known health and wellness experts, bloggers, athletes and inspiring people who have overcome diversity. These people are truly living their dreams and motivating so many along the way. Rich told his story, one that I’ve heard on the podcast and read about in his book, Finding Ultra.


Rich Roll

Next up was Dr. T. Colin Campbell with a discussion of his famed book, The China Study, which essentially chronicles the link between nutrition and chronic illnesses. He also touched on the subject of what many find difficult about adopting a whole foods plant based diet (WFPBD).

The Origin and Meaning of The China Study

The Origin and Meaning of The China Study

The last presenter of the night was Chef AJ. She’s a performer and is clearly at home on the stage. Her talks are informative with a heavy dose of comedic grit thrown in for texture. She’s got a witty sarcastic humor that resonates with me. She also looks amazing and attributes her svelte body to the rather rigid oil free, whole foods plant based diet she has been living for years. Her message is all about eating to the left of the red line something I will discuss in another post.

Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss

Chef AJ telling Secrets to Ultimate Weight Loss

The night ended with the winner of the Chili cookoff being announced. I returned to the hotel tired, but excited for the next day of the conference. I browsed the Healthfest schedule and tried to decide which sessions I really wanted to attend the next day as so many of them overlapped or were held at the same time.

9-17-14 and 9-18-14

Wednesday, 9-17-14

I met a friend for coffee in the morning after dropping Carlos off to school. This is the mom of a friend of Carlos’ from his old school. I hadn’t seen her all summer so it was great to catch up.

After that I had plans to meet Kate for a long run. It has been so much fun helping her to train for her first half marathon. The summer was really tough for her because of the heat so she scaled back her training. Kate recently mentioned that she was struggling to get her breathing under control so we decided that we would really emphasize breathing this week particularly during the long run. She admitted that she was getting very caught up in her pace/mile and even felt some competition from an acquaintance who just began running.

I think it is so discouraging for new runners to worry about pace. There seems to be a lot of concern about minutes per mile. I had always run alone and was very reluctant to discuss running early on so I really had nothing to compare my time to. There are almost always time goals going into a race, but mine were very personal and private. Running and particularly running races has become much more common. With apps like Map My Run it is easy to view friends’ progress. This can create an unhealthy sense of competition.

To avoid unnecessary stress related to distance and pace we are focusing on overall time running with a goal of working up to a three hour long run before the half marathon. Kate and I ran a very consistent 7.32 miles in 1 hour 42 minutes. The goal was 90 minutes with a slow cool down. Her breathing was in control for most of the run and when it became an issue we took short walk breaks to get it under control. If she continues to train this way I think she is going to exceed her expectations on race day.

For me this is a great opportunity to get back into long runs without any pressure to improve my own time. I am running at Kate’s pace which will also help me to avoid injury during this training. It’s been a fun change running and chatting with a friend. since I’m so accustomed to running alone with music. Honestly the 90 minutes flew by.

Later that afternoon while our boys were at swimming lessons we took advantage of the gorgeous weather to stroll another 2.06 miles around the pond at the college. I’ve been trying to include more walking into my days. I think it’s a great way to include mindful activity that isn’t forced or stressful. I enjoy it alone, but it’s more fun walking and talking with a friend.

Thursday, 9-18-14

I started my morning with a nice 75 minute Vinyasa yoga class. I love yoga and really hope to begin doing it more regularly.

It’s Big E time here in Western Massachusetts! OK I’m not actually that excited about it. The Big E, is said to be the largest fair in the northeast. It opens every September and runs for 17 days. There are buildings dedicated to each of the New England States, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont…no New York is not part of New England! The fair showcases agriculture, animals, musical performances, a midway of rides and games and butter. Yup butter! Each year there is a new butter sculpture on display. Go ahead click on the link to see this year’s butter sculpture, you know you want to! There are also parades including a Mardi Gras style parade where you can catch beaded necklaces. There is an old colonial village you can tour. There are horse shows. The Better Living Center is a mecca of goods including my favorite, the Vitamix demonstration.

However, for most people the big attraction is the food. Each year there is something even more disturbingly unhealthy than last year. It’s not exactly a vegan’s dream dining experience. I definitely do not go for the food, but according to friends and family that love “the fair,” I’m weird! Everyone I know that attends the Big E each year goes for some specific treat or two or three. This year it seems that bacon is the most popular item. Bacon ice cream, chocolate dipped bacon, fried dough topped with maple syrup and bacon, and more I’m sure. If you’re a bbq fanatic you might love the pulled pork parfait. It’s all the fixings plus the pulled pork all in one handy dandy cup! And if you’re feeling particularly undernourished or maybe you just ran a marathon go for something deep fried, anything, literally anything you want like an Oreo, banana, Kool Aid (I don’t get it), peanut butter and jelly, cheesecake or butter. Yup butter…deep fried butter! No not your thing? How about the Craz-E Burger, a bacon cheeseburger served between two halves of a grilled glazed donut. Last but not least you absolutely cannot leave the park without eating a famous Big E Cream Puff.

Not exactly a vegan’s dream dining experience. In fact all I ate was a free packet of dried cranberries. I get the whole YOLO (you only live once) mentality, but I’d be concerned about making it out of the Big E alive if I were some of these folks.





I watched this compelling public service announcement entitled Rewind the Future issued by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2013 which essentially speaks to the fact that obesity is not a condition that arises overnight.

There was quite a debate in the comments as to whether the video depicted fat shaming or served to educate the public. This morning I read Mike’s thought provoking post “One More Pet Peeve – Fat Shaming and Thin Privilege.” The comments below the post were equally compelling and brought up many of my own conflicted feelings on the subject.

I’ve been overweight for the better part of the last 30 years. From the early age of 10, I remember overhearing my grandfather saying on what a pretty face I had, if only… You can fill in the blank. In school I was ashamed of how I looked. I felt different and awkward around my peers because of my larger size. In retrospect I was not as large as I felt. I’m still not, but it’s amazing how powerful those words in our head can be. I know what it’s like to be fat shamed by others and myself. It’s never ok to shame, bully or tease someone.

As a healthcare professional I do think patients need to be receptive to hearing the truth without assuming they are being shamed by their doctor. People also need to stop seeking the quick fix when it comes to medical conditions that can be reversed by behavioral changes. Often medications and/or surgical interventions are necessary, but they don’t eliminate the need for subsequent lifestyle alterations.  The truth is losing weight is hard work. It is tedious to have to journal your food  intake and weigh your food. It stinks say no to foods you love and feel a little hungry once in a while. Weight loss tries the patience because it can take a long time. Some days you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. On the flip side losing weight feels amazing and can inspire others around you to do the same.

Oddly enough I just started reading a continuing education module for my nursing license called The Obesity Epidemic and the Nurse’s Role. In the introduction it mentions, “worldwide, the number of overweight individuals is equal to the number who are suffering from starvation.” (Buchwald, 2007) The World Health Organization has deemed obesity a global epidemic and reports that by 2015 there will be 2.3 billion overweight people and 700 million obese people worldwide.

This is concerning on many levels. Obesity is associated with other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Obesity is expensive to treat. Obesity can impair treatment and rehabilitation of other medical issues.

As a nurse my job is to educate and support patients. I am kind, caring and compassionate. It is not my place to judge and I don’t. I’ve been there. I’m still there to some degree.

As an individual there came a time when I had to take a long hard look at my weight problem and admit to myself how I got to that point. Then I had to face the facts and the hard truth about how I was going to lose that weight. I’m still working on it. I do wish sometimes I could rewind and stop the clock at the very moment food became more than sustenance for me.

What do you think about the video? Any thoughts on this topic?


This is what I typed into my workout calendar entry for today’s exercise.


3.25 mile run in 31:42

My usual route around home

A few words about this run:

-My Garmin was acting funny and my pace was all over the place despite a steady normal pace for most of the run. This is a very familiar route and at one point on a flat bit my pace was around 15 min/mile. That is impossible. I will note that the weather is overcast and very cloudy so I’m not sure if that was interfering with the satellite signal to my Garmin.
-I binged on cereal before my run and boy could I feel it in my stomach. I am ashamed of this. I haven’t done this in ages, but I started on it and couldn’t stop. The fact that it was flavorless millet puffs doesn’t matter. What’s important is that I recognized the behavior and learn from it. It’s really hard not to be disgusted by my actions. I thought I was over this behavior.
-I am an emotional wreck for some reason. I couldn’t stop thinking about this issue with Laura and the gift card which led to all sorts of thoughts about things with my Dad. I was literally about to burst into tears and if anyone had seen my face they would have thought I was crazy or constipated!
-On a positive note I ran…I ran even though I didn’t feel like it. I went out and got fresh air. I moved my body for 3.25 miles. In doing so I stopped my binge and now I’m going to move on for the day. This will not break me. I didn’t get fat from three bowls of millet puffs. I will not beat myself up over this. 


Oddly enough just as I finished cutting and pasting this here my Mom called. I’m not going to get into the whole saga regarding my Dad, but my Mom managed to coax me into unloading onto her. I sobbed and sniffled my way through my feelings. My Mom demanded that I stop letting my Dad (they are divorced) make me feel badly. My aunt got on the phone (my Mom and her sister work together) and she joined in on lecturing me not to let anyone make me unhappy. They are right and by the end of the conversation I felt so much better. So now I’m going shopping in my new size 6 khaki capris. I am going to buy a nice dress for Carlos’ Kindergarten graduation tomorrow. I’m going to get a manicure, my eyebrows waxed and a makeover at Bare Escentuals. I would love a pedicure, but my feet are in need of a podiatrist before they can look pretty again. Ugghhh they’re feet who am I kidding?! More on that another day! Then I will finish putting together the Kindergarten class gift for the teacher. Eventually I will go to bed because I have two more nights to go of my 6 night stretch.

Life has been busy lately, in a good way. I keep up with blogs in the middle of the night from my phone when I’m on break and sometimes in the morning when I’m eating breakfast. I miss commenting and I miss writing here. I have some fun news to share and with any luck I’ll be back before the end of the week. Now time to hit the mall.


I eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. My meals are vibrant in color and nutrition. I recently eliminated caffeine, processed foods, added sugar, dairy and gluten from my diet for a three week cleanse. It was not a colon cleanse. I did eat a fulfilling plant based diet. I won’t get into the details, but suffice it to say the initial days were challenging. However, what followed was a feeling of lightness and clarity in both body and mind.

I slowly added things back into my diet though I have decided to remain dairy and caffeine free. Processed and packaged foods are very limited in my home anyway, but I will continue to monitor for added sugar and added preservatives in my food. I don’t eat bread regularly nor do I seem to identify with a gluten allergy so I’m not going to be overly vigilant about gluten right now.

I feel fantastic. My sugar cravings have nearly disappeared save for hormonal times of the month. I am more energetic throughout my overnight shift despite the lack of caffeine. My husband keeps complimenting my skin. My hair feels softer and is easier to manage. My workouts have been very productive. I’m tackling organizational projects around the house, slowly but surely.

Here’s the thing…I love the way I am eating these days. I’ve come a long way from the girl who didn’t eat vegetables until age 25. However, I am not immune to the occasional craving and desire for something other than a salad. Today I was hungry. Nothing was bothering me. Nothing was on my mind. I feel fine. I just had a taste for something different. Is it a coincidence that I am mid-cycle? I’m not sure, but I will keep an eye on it next month to see if there is a trend. TMI? Sorry.

I made banana muffins with dark chocolate chips and I helped myself to some extra chocolate chips along the way. I’m not sure how many I ate, but there are still some left in the bag. – I’m not sorry.

I prepared a gorgeous salad for a dinner with friends tonight. To go with it I made a Tahini Dill dressing and I helped myself to a taste or two or five. – I’m not sorry.

I ate a banana muffin warm from the oven. The chocolate chips were melty. The muffin was delicious. – I’m not sorry.

Later I shared an apple with Carlos only I had mine with some peanut butter. – I’m really not sorry.

I didn’t eat a healthy nutritious lunch today because I enjoyed the above indulgences. – I’m not sorry.

We had dinner with friends tonight. We haven’t seen each other in ages. There was lots of chatter and laughter. So nice to reconnect. I brought the salad and a quinoa dish to share. They served salmon, potatoes and rice. I enjoyed my dinner and ate until I felt satisfied. For dessert I enjoyed a clementine and grapes. – I’m most definitely not sorry.

Other than writing it out here I didn’t journal my food or count calories. Oh and I didn’t measure or weigh anything either. – I’m not sorry.

I’ve been on a diet for most of my life. I’ve both restricted and binged at different times. I’ve made significant changes over the last few years that have helped me lose weight and keep it off. These changes have become my lifestyle. They are not fleeting fads that I try for a while only to toss them to the wayside when a new diet trend comes on the scene. I do realize that I’ve been a bit strict lately with the cleanse and beyond in an effort to break through a 6 month plateau, but today I eased up on myself guilt free.

You see I didn’t fall off the proverbial wagon. This is not day one of a downward spiral back to obesity. Tomorrow I return to my healthy habits, food journaling and portion control. I was conscious of my actions today. I did not sabotage my weight loss efforts or my health. Today I took care of myself in a way that at one time would have seemed almost naughty and would have been followed up with self-inflicted punishment in the form of negative self-talk, extreme measures such as fasting which never lasted more than a day, excess exercise and new diet rules.

How do I know for sure that tomorrow won’t be repeat of today? Because I have learned to trust myself.

I don’t usually share recipes here, but this is a tried and true recipe. This is a banana muffin I have been using for a long time now; so long I can’t remember where it comes from, but I’ve adapted it along the way to accommodate my dietary changes. It’s a super easy recipe and really flexible with whatever you might have on hand. I hope you try these muffins some time. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Unapologetic Banana Muffins


  • 1/4 cup sugar (any kind)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or other flour – today I used spelt flour and they turned out really light and fluffy)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk (or nondairy milk – I use almond milk)
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed (around 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup raisins and/or nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit


1. Preheat oven to 375º F.

2. Measure sugar, baking soda, salt and flour into a bowl. Stir well to combine ingredients.

3. Add oil, milk, mashed bananas and vanilla; mix just until flour is moistened.

4. Fold in raisins.

5. Use a non-stick muffin pan, or muffin papers. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.

6. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan right away.

Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins. One muffin per serving.


The Farm Table

For Christmas we received a generous gift card from my mom for dinner at The Farm Table restaurant. We had been once before and loved it. Last night we had the rare opportunity to spend an evening out since Carlos was staying at my sister’s house.

The restaurant is housed in an 1800 colonial house located in Bernardston, MA at Kringle Candle. The Kringle Candle complex is on both sides of the street and you can smell the sweet scents of candles as soon as you step out of your car. The quaint buildings blend in with the colonial architecture of the Farm Table building. At night there are candles twinkling in the windows. It is so beautiful.

The Farm Table at Night (photo credit The Farm Table Facebook page)

It is about a 40 minute drive north of where we live, but well worth the drive. We had a 7:15pm reservation and we arrived about 45 minutes early with the intention of enjoying a glass of wine in the bar. To our surprise they were able to seat us before we could order drinks.

The dining room (photo credit The Farm Table Facebook page)

The service is impeccable, formal yet friendly. We let our server know that we were not in a hurry and wanted to take our time between courses. Yes courses! I am very dedicated to watching my weight as I continue working on losing the last 12 or so pounds. I knew we were going to dinner so I planned my day accordingly to allow for this rare occasion. Another rarity is having a drink, but I do enjoy a glass of wine every now and then. We started the night with a glass of Torres ‘Vina Esmeralda’ Moscato – Gerwurtztraminer. I don’t know what most of that means, but I will tell you that it was delicious. Orlando and I are not wine aficionados. We like it white and a bit on the sweeter side. This was crisp, refreshing and not too sweet.

After looking at the menu we decided to get different dishes and share everything. We knew from before that the portions are not huge, but the food is intensely flavorful. We started the night with an appetizer of Warm White Bean and Rosemary Hummus served with Marinated Sun Dried Tomatoes, Oil Cured Olives, Warm Toasted Flatbread with Roasted Garlic Chili Oil. We both agreed that the hummus could have been eaten straight up with a spoon.

Next was the soup and salad course. We selected the Native Butternut Squash Soup with a Seared Day Boat Sea Scallop and Chive Oil along with the Warm Quinoa and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette, Roasted Mushrooms, Carrot, Parsnip and Honey Crisp Apple, finished with Pepitas and Feta Cheese. We pretty much died and went to heaven. The soup was rich and creamy without being heavy if that makes any sense. The salad was perfect for this time of year. The flavors blended so perfectly that nothing overpowered the dish.

Break time! I’ll pause here like we did during our dinner and I’ll tell you a bit more about the restaurant. The restaurant’s motto is “The Way it Used to Be” referring to a simpler time when food was fresh, grown in a garden or obtained from a local farm. The restaurant itself has an organic garden and if the produce doesn’t come from the garden it is almost all from within a 50 mile radius. The menu changes with the seasons. I love knowing that the food I am eating is fresh and local.

After a lengthy breather we ordered our entrées. Although I do not eat meat I still eat seafood on occasion particularly when I eat at a nice restaurant. We ordered one of the specials Pan Roasted Cod and Saffron Butter Poached Lobster served on a Crispy Risotto Cake with Sauteed Swiss Chard, Smoked Paprika Oil and Rainbow Micro GreensThe other entrée was Pan Seared Salmon Lemon Ginger Beurre Blanc, Aged Balsamic Vinegar, Seasonal Vegetable Sauté, Curry Scented Quinoa. They were both delicious but I actually preferred the salmon dish. I loved the sauteed chard in the first dish and the lobster melted in your mouth, but the fried risotto cake was heavy and distracting. After one bite I ignored it and focused on the greens and seafood. The flavors in the salmon dish melded so nicely together. It was a lighter dish and less complicated which in my opinion made it much more enjoyable.

As I said the portions here are not meant to stuff you so we were satisfied but not uncomfortable. We sat for quite some time after dinner chatting before ordering dessert. This was my guilty pleasure for the evening. I love dessert, but my husband can live without it although even he agreed we should give it a try since everything else had been so outstanding. We had a sampling of the vanilla bean cheesecake and the hazelnut banana cake. The descriptions were much more detailed, but the dessert menu changes so it is not listed on the website. Both were delicious. I don’t usually like banana flavored foods, but the hazelnut banana cake featured real banana and a hazelnut crust. It was quite decadent without being overly sweet. Anything with vanilla bean is a win for me so I loved the cheesecake.

I felt like I was on Top Chef last night. It was insanely fun to really savor great food. I have never had a culinary experience quite like this. It also gave me some inspiration to use in my own kitchen.

If you could dine at any restaurant in the world which would you choose and why? I would love to dine at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters’ famed restaurant in Berkeley, CA. I am fascinated with the farm to table restaurants because of the creativity and spontaneity required by the chef. Food is a work of art crafted out of what is available and in season. I also really admire the work of Alice Waters.

How to Eat Like a 6 Year Old

This morning when I came home from work I asked my son what he had for breakfast as I always do. His answers are much the same cereal, egg, toast, fruit… Today’s answer was a bit different and it still has me shaking my head in disbelief. He replied, “I had cereal mom, but I didn’t eat a lot.” I offered him an apple for the ride to school and his reply blew me away. “No I don’t want anything else to eat because today is a special day at school. We are having donuts and a movie at snack recess today and maybe some other special treats so I don’t want to make my stomach full and not be hungry later.”

I have always been in awe of how Carlos eats. He asks for food when he is hungry and stops when is full. It boggles my mind to see him literally stop eating a piece of decadent cheesecake or what have you practically mid-bite, push it away and state matter-of-factly “I’m all done.” It is as though he is hard wired with an on and off switch that I clearly lack. I am envious of that and as I work towards overcoming a life long battle with food I find myself observing my son’s eating habits in hopes that they will rub off on me a bit. He is healthy, energetic and strong. He does not and probably will never have to concern himself with his weight if he continues to remain so self-aware and maintain the habits he has now.

However, he is a child and some of his habits are tied into his environment. I have never discussed my weight issues with my son. I do not fret about how I look in front of him nor do I obsess about what I eat to him. I educate him the best I can about nutrition, fitness and overall health and wellness. I have done some things differently with him regarding food that stray from the way I was raised. I do not ever force him to eat if he says he is not hungry. I carry a few healthy snacks on me at all times so we are not at the mercy of junk food if hunger strikes. His beverage of choice is water, juice is very limited and he does not drink soda in my presence (I can’t always control what happens when I’m not around, but he seems to think it’s disgusting for now). I start him with a normal child size portion and allow him seconds if he is still hungry after eating everything on his plate rather than present him with an adult size portion which might encourage him to eat more than he wants or needs.

Maybe Carlos’ tummy was a little hungry as he left for school this morning, but he knew it would be full with a more enticing treat in no time.  In the world of Weight Watchers and other weight loss programs this is called pre-planning your day. For Carlos it was a simple decision. Psychotherapist and nutritionist Ellyn Satter sums it up nicely, “The parent is responsible for what, when and where. The child is responsible for how much and whether.”


Skin Deep: Living in America

Earlier this sumer I introduced a series of posts touching on my weight issues and body image over the years. I have wanted to return to it for some time now. If you missed any of the previous posts they can be found below.

Skin Deep: Adolescence

Skin Deep: College Years

Skin Deep: Mozambique

I left off on the verge of leaving my life in Mozambique to return to the United States. I was newlywed and had been out of the country for nearly four years. Unfortunately student loan payments began calling and neither my husband or I could find stable employment in Mozambique. So back to the U.S. it was.

I looked and felt great the day I stepped off the plane. In the back of my head I was worried about the temptations that awaited me. I returned home first. Orlando arrived two months later. I lived with my mother while I began setting up our new life in the states. I got busy applying for jobs and while I waited for work I began substitute teaching in my hometown. However, I often found myself alone on days I didn’t work. It didn’t take long for my old habits to rear their ugly heads. I began to eat my old favorite processed foods I hadn’t eaten for the years I lived abroad. I didn’t just eat a little. I ate a lot and I ate most of it in private. As you can imagine it didn’t take me long to start gaining weight.

By the time I was reunited with my husband I had gained at least 10 pounds. With the weight came the old feelings, insecurity, self-consciousness and lack of confidence. I knew I was on a slippery slope and it didn’t end there. Despite being here with my husband I felt very lonely. Friendships had changed while I was away. My family was adjusting to my marriage particularly my mother who strongly disagreed with my decision. As my weight increased so did my defensive attitude. I became angry, frustrated and looking back I can now identify that I was also depressed.

A year earlier a very good college friend had asked me to be in her wedding. The wedding was 5 months after my return. I had been fitted for the bridesmaid dress a year earlier on a visit to the U.S. at a time when I was comfortable with my weight. The dress fit beautifully and looked quite nice. Cut to a year later as the wedding neared. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my body. The dress was beyond snug. It actually looked horrible.  I didn’t want to be in the wedding. Needless to say I was not the model of a supportive bridesmaid. I was resentful because of how I felt inside. I attended the wedding alone and though I did my best to be happy for my friend I clearly wasn’t happy to be there. After the wedding our communication waned. I haven’t seen my friend since. I did call her months later to apologize for my behavior but the damage had been done. This memory is cemented in my mind and thinking about it makes me feel terrible.

My husband began working within days of arriving for a swimming pool company. I was not so lucky. It turned out to be almost as difficult to find employment here in the U.S. It took me 4 months to get a full time job with health insurance. I finally took a position running a program for pregnant and parenting teens. The program was run through the state supported Department of Transitional Assistance as an alternative to traditional schooling. Since the girls were all receiving welfare they were required to attend school or obtain a GED. This program prepared the girls to take the GED. I also ran health workshops, parenting classes and life skills classes. I enjoyed the job and the day structure.

After a few months on the job I began to lose some weight and felt a bit better about myself. I began walking a lot for exercise. As I lost weight my mood improved, but I would get down 5-10 pounds and then gain again. It became a vicious cycle. My eating habits were terrible. I relied on frozen foods and convenience food for meals. My pantry was full of packages labeled fat free, low fat and light. I tricked myself into believing that I was eating healthy by eating less fat.

I also picked up some new damaging habits. This is difficult for me to write about because I haven’t readily admitted it before. I began eating in secret. I would buy a forbidden treat at the grocery store with the intent of finishing it in the car on the way home, quite a feat considering I lived about 3 minutes away. I would hide a bag of chips in the pantry and basically binge eat it when my husband was at work or asleep. Again rather risky given the fact that we lived in a small apartment. I didn’t do it all the time, but when I did I was left feeling confused, remorseful and regretful. I would instantly vow to embark on a drastic diet the following day. You can probably guess where that kind of thinking led me.

Between 2002 and 2004 my weight bounced up and down finally settling somewhere in the high 170s, a place I had been many times before. I squeezed into my familiar size 14s, did my best at hiding my body with baggie sweaters and used my go to defense mechanism of sarcasm to deal with the hurt and shame I felt. I was miserable inside.

Despite the weight I didn’t shy away from new opportunities or challenges in other aspects of my life. I had thought about becoming a nurse during my years in Mozambique because of the need for health care workers there. Also the demand for nurses here promised a decent paying career.  My job with the Young Parents Program was tenuous and budget cuts in the state forced the program to close temporarily in the beginning of 2003. When it reopened the program I ran did not so I was only offered a part-time position in another town. I declined because I had the foresight to register for a prerequisite nursing class at a local community college. At that point I decided to throw myself into preparing for nursing school full time so I signed up for more classes and began working at a pizza shop where my aunt worked for extra money.

My self-esteem was at a low. My weight was all over the place. In October of 2003 we had our U.S. wedding for my friends and family. It was a nice day, but I am disappointed looking back on it. I wanted to glow and feel my best, but instead I settled for mediocre. I didn’t feel like the beautiful bride. I was jealous of how thin my wedding party was and how great they looked in their dresses. Imagine the bride envious of her wedding party. The way I felt about myself definitely cast a shadow on my mood that day. I managed to put on a good face, but deep down I was mad at myself for once again allowing my weight to dictate my mood.

I’m aware that I may get comments about these photos. Remember that how one feels about their body is subjective. This is my story and these are my feelings. I have struggled with weight issues most of my life. While my weight in these photos may not be considered by some to be a problem, to me it was a problem.

Here comes the bride

Here comes the bride: My Dad and I walking down the aisle

I do...again!

I do…again!

After the wedding I threw myself into my studies, I joined a gym and I began waitressing full time. I was busy. My weight fluctuated and even dropped for a time, but not too low. I didn’t own a scale and didn’t weigh myself at the gym so I’m not quite sure what I weighed. My mood was often directly correlated to the current state of my weight and how I felt in my clothing.

This has been a very difficult and emotional post to write. This was a rather dark time in my life. It’s also important for me to write about this time period because it plays an important role in who I’ve become today. Disordered eating was accompanied by disordered thinking and both needed to be addressed before any real change could take place.

I realize this post is somewhat disjointed and unorganized. That reflects how I felt during this period of my life. To tie up some loose ends I will end with a list to make my thoughts more organized.

  • My marriage withstood my moods and frustrations with my weight primarily because I have a wonderful husband who has always loved me as I am.
  • My relationship with friends and family deteriorated because I was not a joy to be around most of the time.
  • I avoided family gatherings if possible.
  • Emotional eating was in full swing.
  • Nursing school allowed me an excuse to hide in some ways. It also provided me with added stress which led me to eat more.
  • I was unhappy and it showed most of the time.
  • I wanted to change but I wanted someone to help me. Essentially I wanted someone to do it for me.


I mentioned in this post I am determined to ring in the New Year without any extra weight. What is it about this time of year that allows us to put our health and weight loss goals on hold? Year after year I permit myself to overeat, eat things I don’t normally eat, skip workouts all the while convincing myself that come January 1st something magical will happen to make the sins of the previous month go away. Only the magic never happens, instead I’m left feeling flabby and guilty. Well something has clicked in me over the past couple of years. As I get closer to my weight loss goal I find it more difficult to justify making excuses as to why I should put my goals on hold. Writing this brings to mind all of the excuses I have made in the past. I wish so badly I could return to my teens, my 20s and even my early 30s with the knowledge I have now. I know that this is my journey and this is just how things needed to happen, but oh how I wish I could tell my younger self how wonderful it is to finally be free of the weight. I refuse to let this month or any other time of the year be cause for me to go backwards.

Here are few things that are inspiring me and motivating me this holiday season.

  • Marion, my friend over at Affection for Fitness has announced the January Jeans Club. I recently mentioned that I bought my first pair of size 8 jeans and darn it if I am going to let anything stop me from wearing them come January. I will proudly join Marion and Satu, another favorite blogger, from Body Capable in taking part in the January Jeans Club by eating healthy, committing to exercise and staying focused on my goals despite the abundance of treats this month. Satu designed the badge below for those interested in joining.

january jeans club

  • I set a goal to run a 10K in under 1 hour during 2012. I didn’t meet that goal during a 10K race this year, but I have been running the 10K distance, 6.2 miles, in under an hour consistently for the last two weeks. I even did  6.43 miles in exactly one hour. So to keep my motivation going strong I am now officially registered for the Sawmill River 10K on January 1, 2013!! From the elevation map I have some hills to contend with in the latter half of the race, but I will not let that stop me.
  • This story of Breanna Bond, a 9 year old girl who lost 66 pounds brought tears to my eyes. I wish it didn’t take the child being bullied for something to be done for this little girl, but I’m glad something prompted the change. What really caught my attention was the way her family rallied behind her once the decision was made to get serious about weight loss. In talking about a 4 mile walk the family did daily Breanna’s mom said,“We went at night, in the rain, in the hail, in the fog, nothing.  We had a zero-tolerance policy.  We’re doing the walk, no matter what.” YES!!! I get this now for myself. If I want to lose the weight and keep it off I have to do the work. There are days I really don’t want to work out, but I do it anyway and I have yet to regret one of those workouts.
  • Helen at Doing A 180 has written a series of posts chronicling the 6 hours of black belt testing she endured. There is still one post left, but whether Helen passes or not doesn’t matter because she is already an inspiration in my book. I am simply in awe of what Helen has accomplished thus far in her journey considering the painful injury she has been dealing with this year. If you haven’t already read Helen’s posts please do especially if you are struggling with motivation this time of year. Way to go Helen!!
  • I have mentioned before that having my son was the impetus to finally get healthy. Well he will be 6 next week (sniffle, sniffle) and he still continues to inspire me to try new things. On Saturday we both tried something new.
Carlos rocks!

Carlos rocks!

Look at my little guy rocking that rock climbing wall. He is honestly one of the coolest people I know and I’m so proud to call him my son. He is almost always game for a new activity. His willingness to try new things spurs on my willingness. Together we make a fun team. I don’t have any photos of myself, but I do have a month’s pass to the rock climbing gym starting January 2nd! I loved it. It is challenging, scary and unbelievably addicting all at the same time. The pass will allow me to take the belaying class for free so I can learn to hold the ropes while others climb. I will also have unlimited use of the gym as well as unlimited yoga and Pilates classes for the month. I am so excited!!

What’s motivating you?