Saturday, September 19, 2015

BIKE MS 2015 - Thank YOU for your Support!

Here I am... Top row, third from the left. Riding BIKE MS
today with Team Champion for the second year in a row!
And, there I am with my trusty BIKE MS bike buddies, Valerie
and Maureen with whom I rode last year's BIKE MS ride!
And, just like last year... We met a few characters along the way!
And, yes...
He did ride every mile of BIKE MS today wearing this tuxedo!
I cannot tell you how much your support meant to me!
Because of you and mostly because of my sweet
friend, Leah who pushed me waaaay over the mark...
I reached my VIBE fundraising goal again this year!

It was a beautiful day for a ride along central Carolina's
country roads. Right here I was singing: Country Roads... Take
me home... To the place where I belong... NOT West Virginia!
Today is also my dad's birthday! He is my real Champion so thinking
about how much he supports me in all things I do, kept me going!
Like last year, I rode again for my dear friend and fellow Ranger
mom, Dr. Liz. I also just finished putting this into the mail for her!
By the way, her Ranger has just deployed again...
So if you have a moment today, I would love it if you would send her a prayer!
For those of you that have so kindly asked about my Ranger... I am
thrilled, grateful and relieved to tell you that he is doing well!
He spent a lot of time working and doing his thing out at the range this summer...
His part time job fits his school schedule and interests perfectly. And, he gets
to work and surround himself with other like-minded veterans and friends...
Clearly, I am one very happy mom! Especially when I see photos
of him like this one taken a couple of weeks ago after he went back
to University - This is the way my heart remembers him before the
Army - An expression that says war, worry, five long deployments and
too many Ranger brothers lost forever almost never happened...
I said, almost. Because of course, they did. Nevertheless, while we will never forget,
our family is picking up the pieces and we are moving on. With a few new things
to look forward to... Ranger now lives and attends college far away from home,
which still leaves me looking forward to the next time I will get to see him...
As for me... In addition to my bike riding, in May I took up a whole new
hobby. Something I have always wanted to do but did not believe I could...
Something that provides me great excuses to de-clutter my home; as
well as opportunities to shop auctions and tag sales for new treasures!
It is also a hobby that gives me a much needed creative outlet... But, unlike my
work food blogging and cookie baking/decorating, is completely calorie-free!
Have you guessed what I have been up to yet?
No?! Okay... Then, we shall talk about it a little later!
Because for now... Now that I have ridden BIKE MS somewhat like
a Champion - And, showered and caught up on my blog like
a Champion - I think it is time to give in to my little Leo here and...
Nap like a Champion!
Again, thank you for your support of my BIKE MS ride
and for checking in with me today... Especially since I have
given you precious little reason to keep reading my blog!
I will be back very soon to tell you all about my new hobby...
I promise!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dreamfields #Pastapalooza Gourmet Market Basket Challenge to Help End Hunger

UPDATE! The #Pastapalooza Gourmet Market Basket Challenge has ended and, it appears that with 306 votes, we've won for my local Food Bank! I cannot thank you enough for your participation!
Remember... One lucky voter will be chosen to receive $1,000 for their food bank and a load of pasta to keep so PLEASE watch your SPAM/Junk folders so you don't miss the e-mail from Dreamfields. Per the official rules, winner must respond within 48 hours of being notified. Again, thank you for your votes and thank you for your continued friendship!
              Please cast your Vote for this deliciousness here!

For many of us, summer is a time to relax and enjoy the warmer weather... Slower schedules... and more than likely, a cookout or two! But for the 49 million Americans identified as “food insecure” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), summer is no trip to the beach. Hunger doesn’t take a vacation for them, but in fact intensifies.

One of the primary reasons for the increased need for food assistance during summer is because federal breakfast and lunch support programs only operate during the school year. That translates into 21 million children missing out on free or reduced-price meals from June till September.

Adults and seniors need assistance too. According to a Hunger in America study, the majority of the clients being served by the Feeding America network (54%) have visited a food pantry in six or more months during the prior year. Also, more than half (56%) of elderly clients aged 65+ have used a pantry every month within the prior year.

It is for these reasons I agreed to participate in the fifth annual Dreamfields #Pastapalooza campaign the moment my dear friend Susan asked me!

The fact that my local food bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina receives a $200 donation for my effort and that it could potentially turn into a $1,000 donation when you vote for my recipe (and it wins) doesn't hurt either! Oh, and the fact that YOU may win a Dreamfields Pasta Prize Package and a $1,000 donation for your local food bank too also meant I was all in on this challenge!

So what is the Gourmet Market Basket Challenge? Well, it's a bit like my favorite FoodNetwork show, Chopped - I, along with four other bloggers received a short list of random ingredients with which to create a recipe. On this Chopped-inspired list was: Any cut of Dreamfields pasta, flavored or wine Vinegar, Almonds, fresh Fennel any Protein and dried Fruit. We were also allowed two wild-card ingredients to use as we wished.

But Janet, wait a minute... You've worked so hard to eat clean, lose weight, and hello?!... You haven't posted a new recipe or cookie design to your blog in nearly a year! I know... and, I hear you! In fact, I can't actually remember the last time I ate pasta! However, I can tell you the last time I enjoyed pasta it was Dreamfields' healthy-carb living #Healthypasta! 

Nevertheless, to help avoid temptation during my food break-up and still take advantage of this incredible opportunity to benefit my local food bank and of course, you... I decided to collaborate with and enlist the help of one of my favorite blog friends and Army Veteran, Brian who authors the blog, This Cookin' Dad!

With Brian's agreement to do all the tasting, we created what I think is a winner! It's called, Fennel Pesto Pasta with Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad - How would I describe it? Well, if you enjoy Pasta e Fagioli, that Italian soup with pasta, beans, and veggies, then you'll love this recipe because it winds up being a lighter, more summery riff on that classic. Serve it with grilled chicken, a juicy filet or simply plate it up as a meat-less meal all on its own!

Honestly, just between us... The fennel pesto pasta alone is to die for! However, married with roasted tomatoes and bites of sweet and tangy apricots and creamy, slightly nutty cannellini beans, this dish turns into one incredibly delicious and beautiful thing... See?!
Now remember, just for voting you have a chance to score a family pack of Dreamfields pasta and a $1,000 donation to your local food bank too... So please, help me and Dreamfields kick hunger's butt this summer by clicking here to vote for your favorite Gourmet Market Basket recipe... Which, I sincerely hope will be mine in support of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

The voting page will be live from 12:01 a.m. EDT Thursday, July 2 through 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 8 and, you may cast a new vote every day so please do! I also hope you will spread the word to your friends and family to help put my Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and your local Food Bank in first place!

Fennel Pesto Pasta with Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time

Fennel Pesto Pasta:
1 Box Dreamfields Angel Hair pasta
2 Cups Chopped Fresh Fennel Fronds
1/2 Cup Whole Almonds, toasted and crushed
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Water
Salt and Pepper

Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad:
16 ounces mixed color cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Dried Apricots, thinly slices
2 Cups Fresh Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
1 15.5 ounce can Cannellini Beans, drained/rinsed
Fennel Fronds (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in large bowl; set aside.
3. Meanwhile, for pesto place fennel fronds and almonds in bowl of food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With food processor running, slowly add oil. Add Parmigiano, salt and pepper, as desired. Process to combine ingredients. Add water if necessary for pesto consistency. Toss with cooked pasta.
4. Place tomatoes cut-side-up on rimmed baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes have started to caramelize, but still retain their shape.
5. While tomatoes are roasting, combine 1/2 cup of the vinegar and the sliced apricots in small skillet. Cook over medium-low heat 5 to10 minutes or until vinegar has reduced by about half. Remove sliced apricots; reserve for garnish. Reserve reduced vinegar.
6. Add remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper, as desired to sliced fennel. Gently toss with roasted tomatoes and beans; season with salt and pepper, as desired.
7. Add fennel-tomato mixture to pasta. Drizzle with reserved reduced vinegar. Garnish with reserved apricots, fennel fronds and Parmigiano, as desired. 6 servings.

Nutrition information (1/6 of recipe): 650 calories; 20 g protein; 75 g carbohydrates; 32 g total fat; 5 g saturated fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 240 mg sodium; 13 g total dietary fiber.

Disclaimer: Although I was compensated for my effort, all opinions and thoughts about this campaign are my own. xo
Go cast your Vote here now!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Last year's 75-mile ride was so much fun...

I'm doing it again... On my dad's birthday no less!
This is my sweet friend Valerie. We met at last year's
BIKE MS event and have been riding together ever since!
I'd love and appreciate your support. So please... Please visit my
BIKE MS page here to donate because when it comes to finding a
cure for Multiple Sclerosis, every dollar counts... Especially yours!
Wish me luck!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Here I am!

Getting plenty of Vitamin Sea!
Here I am at Biltmore two weekends ago...
With my honey!
And, here we are last weekend at Lake Johnson in Raleigh...
And, yesterday we spent the day in Cape Charles on the Chesapeake Bay!
This morning we ventured out to The Great Dismal Swamp
to kayak our way around scenic Lake Drummond...
Where the water was black as tea and...
Very choppy!
And lastly, here we are at Merchant's Mill Pond this afternoon!
Where the water was very green...
Very peaceful...
And, a little creepy too. Yes, that is an alligator!
I've also been spending hours and hours riding my bike after work...
But as busy as I've been not blogging, I have
missed you so I wanted to pop in and let you know!
Love, Me

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

On the Menu... No Regrets! Plus... FitBit Give-Away!

So what was on the menu for your Super Bowl weekend? Did you feel
bombarded by non-stop images of cheesy, melty, crunchy, sweet
calorie-garbage posted by your Facebook/Blogger friends like I did?
I felt your pain, I really did... Because truth is, most of the bloggers posting and pinning those recipes are people I know and truly like. But rather than feeling deprived or tempted, today I know I can like those people without liking their food. Today I know I can like those people without recreating their recipes for you here on my own blog. Fact is, I no longer feel the need or obligation to be a delivery system for recipes that, in truth, do nothing but a disservice to both of us. Instead, I'd rather have a conversation about how to live in a world where food that is killing us is regarded as more fun, more popular and more socially acceptable than taking care of ourselves.

You see, as I thought about how I ate leading up to the holidays and Super Bowl last year, I realized that just as any occasion can be a reason/excuse to eat poorly... It can also be a reason/excuse to NOT eat poorly. So, I decided that at the top of this year's party menu would be No Regrets! Which, pretty much explains how I've managed to lose the weight I talked about in this post and, how I plan to keep it off when I reach my goal. Because I've decided not to trade what I want most for what I want now.

Now, does this mean I'll never be able to eat whatever I want ever again? No. It just means that to reach my goal and to be successful at maintenance requires me to redefine what it means to eat whatever I want.

Think about this for a moment... Are you like me? Either on a plan, restricting every calorie and losing a ton of weight or off plan, eating everything in sight and gaining a ton of weight... On the promise, of course, that as soon as you finish cheating you'll start over tomorrow. And, if you are like me, then you believe you're only capable of losing weight so long as whatever plan you're on holds up - Because as soon as the plan ends, your old habits creep back in and take over. Old habits that take us right back to where we started or worse, right past the old number and onto a new, all-time high. Finally, if you are like me, then you know being off plan also comes with permission to eat whatever you want until that certain someday when you're able to get back on your current plan or find a new one that is sure to work this time... Because you are either on or off plan, you can't be both.

For years this thinking and resulting behavior with food was my normal... Just my own personal misery of being trapped in yo-yo dieting hell. However, in medical weight loss they call it, All or Nothing Thinking. And, as I've learned, to be truly successful at weight loss and maintenance, it's this thinking that has to stop. Why? Because first of all, no one can live like that and second, life happens in the middle... Life does not happen at the extreme ends of anything. Nothing is either all good or all bad. But that's how we all-or-nothing thinkers eat. When the reality is... If you need to lose fifty pounds for your high school reunion, then you probably need to lose fifty pounds for every other day in your life too. Still, we fixate on the events of our life, (such as weddings, reunions. etc.) because we think and eat in a space that must have a beginning and an end. An all or nothing... No in between.

It's crazy... I know. But that's the flawed thinking of professional dieters like us. We go into a new diet believing it will be the answer to resolving years and years of behavior that in the end has very little to do with food. We eat the food, instead of feeling the feelings. Of course, these diets usually work - Remember, we aren't quitters... In fact we are experts and most of us suffer from a healthy dose of perfectionism too - All a perfect recipe for quick but temporary weight loss that often ends up being regained in half the time it took to lose it.

For these reasons, to lose weight and keep it off, I've learned there must be flexibility in my thinking, a willingness to sit with icky feelings and, I had to implement some serious behavioral changes into my plan as well. Otherwise, the slightest misstep triggers that old message of, I've blown it so I may as well eat whatever I want and start over tomorrow - Which usually triggers a binge - Which activates the guilt that leads to the eventual feeling of hopelessness - Which delivers the negative self-talk that screams, I'll never actually be able to reach my goal weight, so why bother - Now, pass the chips!

It's a vicious, painful cycle of days that turn into weeks, weeks that turn into months and months that ultimately result in years of dieting frustration. All or nothing thinkers are the same people that believe every aspect of their life would be perfect, if only they were at their goal weight. All or nothing thinkers also live their life on hold... Postponing vacations, career decisions, dating, family portraits, reunions and other events on the promise that they'll participate in life when they reach their goal weight. Problem is, time marches on without us. Also, certain life events cannot be scheduled around the number on our scale. So if you've ever wished your sister would postpone the birth of her child to give you more time to lose a few pounds so that you'll look better in photos with your new niece or nephew... Or you've prayed that a family member doesn't suddenly drop dead because you'd die too if you had to show up to a funeral and face all the relatives you've been hiding from... Then you are most likely an all-or-nothing thinker and trapped in the same hell as I was.

The revelation of this hell and insight into how to overcome it came during sessions I had with a medical nutritionist/cognitive therapist. We were talking one day about how difficult it was for me to remain on plan while at work where food is everywhere. And, how one slip during the day always caused me to blow out the remainder of the day and eat throughout the evening - Always promising to start over the next day. Oh, I'm not talking about a few vending machines at work... I'm talking catered buffets brought in for breakfast and lunch meetings several times, if not every day of the week!

Don't believe me? Well, this is what the food outside the two conference rooms nearest to my desk looked like today...
And, since there are always leftovers...
We are always encouraged to...
In terms of this temptation and my inability to avoid this daily barrage of food... My nutritionist/cognitive therapist suggested that for me, the key to making the right choices every time will be to reframe my thoughts and the messages I send myself about this food. Notice she didn't launch into what I should be eating on my plan to reach my goal weight... Instead, she's asking me to focus on the real issue, which is how my emotions and feelings about this food cause me to eat.

At first, what she said left me confused... So she offered this as an example to jump-start my thinking... She said, unless I am invited to attend one of these catered meetings the food provided simply has nothing to do with me.

So, just because there is five pounds of bacon, cheesy hashbrowns and scrambled eggs left over from a breakfast meeting... Or our CEO's lunch meeting offered a baked potato bar with all the toppings you can imagine piling onto potatoes as big as your head, does not mean the food has anything to do with me or that I should eat it.

She said, before or immediately after being confronted by this food is when reframing my thoughts and removing negative self-talk/messages becomes vital in order to not be triggered. Now, this takes some practice; after all, I've been triggered for over three decades by all-or-nothing thinking/eating and we all know that behavioral modification in general doesn't happen overnight. But it does happen. And, I'm going to share with you how it's happening for me.

Rather than allowing old negative self-talk about the buffets at work to trigger off-plan eating, which always resulted in a totally blown day/week/month, I first had to get honest about what I was feeling about the food. Second, I had to be willing to sit with the emotions and really feel and process them, versus numbing them out with food. Finally, I had to turn negative self-talk into a positive message, one that helps me avoid the trigger. Now, don't get me wrong... This is hard work. I mean, the time between being triggered and the decision to blow it and numb the emotions with food is literally seconds. In medical weight loss this process is referred to as the, Activating Event and Resulting Behavior.

What takes practice is finding ways to stretch those seconds out, to give us time to make a better choice. Some people find it helpful to count to ten. Others, like me, find it helpful to check-in with myself and ask, How do I feel and what do I need right now? Anything you do that creates space between your emotion and trigger and the impulse to grab food or binge to avoid feeling the feelings will work.

So what does getting honest about my feelings look like? Well, by checking in with myself about this work food and how it makes me feel, I discovered my negative self-talk sounded like this: I am not qualified to participate in these meetings due to my lack of education and position in the company. Ouch! So what kind of feelings do you suppose this kind of negative self-talk inspires... Feelings of... Inadequacy? Rejection? Regret? Sadness? Anger? Usually all of the above. And, for someone like me; someone so inadequate, I must be punished. Right? Because ultimately that's what binge-eating is... Punishment. Even if I know I've done nothing to deserve punishment at that moment, the part of me that believes there's something I'm either not willing to admit or might do in the future that does requires punishment threatens to take over.

So now, left with all these crappy feelings I don't want to feel and all of this ammunition (food) with which to squash them, I feel completely justified in helping myself to the food. After all, I deserve to be punished and, even if it's not punishment I deserve I can justify it as needing to comfort, console or perhaps even reward myself. Because surely, if I eat food meant for high-level executive meetings, I must be good enough. Right? Of course not! The answer is, No! Because when you really think about it, food cannot validate or invalidate us. All it can do is provide a temporary escape for how we feel. So... When my nutritionist/therapist said to me "You have no issues with food, Janet... you just aren't willing to be emotionally uncomfortable", she was right.

So how do you fix it? Well, let's look at the reframe that's possible with all this new inner-wisdom I've gained. The truth is, no matter what meeting I order food for, it's just food. It's not a commentary about how far I did or didn't go in school; nor can it bolster or diminish my contributions. It's just food to nourish people who, because of their position, lack choice about what they eat and where they eat it

So the positive self-talk and message becomes this: Those poor people are stuck in meetings during meal times and thankfully, I am not. I have a choice about what I eat while I'm at work and I even have a choice about when and where to eat it.

Therefore, the take away from my reframe and the message is: Just as the therapist said, that this food has nothing to do with me. Taking it a step further, I might also remind myself how silly it is for me to limit my food choices to those made for people who, for the most part, probably wish they had my options! The option to go for a walk during the lunch hour and eat what they choose, not from a buffet choice made for them.

Bottom line, I very rarely ate the food offered at work because I was physically hungry. I ate it because of what I felt, what I told myself and ultimately, my inability to manage emotions in a more positive, healthy way.

Of course, this is just one example in a long list of situations I've worked through. Nevertheless, I hope it helps explain what I meant in my last post by losing weight and keeping it off by reframing my thoughts. And, when I told you that what I weigh has nothing to do with what I eat and everything to do with how I feel.

I'm excited to share with you what I've learned about listening to my body to lose weight and keep it off - But for now, I'm going to end this post because these first steps of reframing our thoughts and turning negative self-talk into positive messages is such an important component of what's working for me. I'm going to ask you to think about this for a few days and consider doing the following homework assignment, which I found very helpful as I worked to wrap my own brain around this concept and apply it to situations where I felt triggered to eat for emotional reasons.

Think of a situation where you were triggered emotionally to eat
  • What did someone do or say to you? Or, what happened (activating event) that made you want to turn to food to manage the resulting feelings? Triggers can be an argument with a friend or spouse. Maybe your child got sent home from school for misbehaving. Whatever it is, before you reach for food or swerve into the drive-thru, ask yourself why - and then, be willing to sit with and feel those feelings
Think of a time you were confronted by food and were tempted to eat it, even though you were not physically hungry
  • What negative self-talk did you hear that gave you the permission and/or excuse you needed to give into the impulse to eat?
Did you hear something like: I'm tired of being excluded from the group. I deserve this because I've had a rough day. So-and-so really upset me so I deserve to have this to feel better. Going off-plan today won't really matter. I'm so fat, another few hundred calories won't matter. I have that dinner on Saturday so I may as well blow the whole week and start again next Monday.

Now, think of the same situation and come up with three things you could do instead of eating to cope with the emotions you're feeling
  • Things that work for me include: taking a shower, brushing my teeth, journaling about the feelings, calling a supportive friend/relative I can vent to, picking a closet or drawer to organize, going for a quick walk, throwing a tennis ball against a wall. Taking a nap, washing my Jeep. Give yourself a time-out of just ten-twenty minutes and find something else to do. If you still want to eat after twenty minutes, drink a bottle of water. If you still want to eat after hydrating, eat - But make sure the food your choose fits into the four P's I mentioned before - It should be: Planned, Peaceful, Purposeful and Portion-controlled 
Next, think of at least one reframe and one positive message for the situation
  • Remind yourself not to trade what you want most (weight loss/maintenance) for what you want (emotional escape) right now. Remind yourself that nothing you feel will last forever. Nothing truly terrible will happen to you if sit with the feelings and don't choose the food. You are stronger than your desire to eat for comfort
Finally, write down three positive things that happen when you do not allow yourself to eat for emotional reasons

For me, it's knowing that another day of making the correct choices puts me closer to my goal weight. My goal weight means my health improves. It means that I can continue to ride my bike with ease, wear fun clothes, fit into rollercoasters and airline seats without seatbelt extenders. It means I can be more present and participate in life!
Through the process of checking in with myself I've discovered that no craving, no matter how intense ever lasts for very long... I also figured out that every food I'm tempted by is nothing I would dream of eating at 5 o'clock the next morning. It's one of the new ways I combat cravings. I tell myself that if I still want _____ the next morning I can have it.

Think about it... Have you ever been triggered by a TV commercial to eat late at night? Like between 6-10PM, when Red Lobster seems to run their commercials on a continuous loop, so all you can think about is crab legs dipped in melted butter... Now, I've never jumped in my car and driven to Red Lobster but those commercials and others like it have triggered me to eat for no good reason. However, by checking in with myself I realized that I'd never think about eating what I saw or what I ate because of it, the next morning. Practice this... For me, Mexican food is a weakness but as much as I'd love to crunch tortilla chips and eat guacamole while I'm watching television at night, I would never consider eating guacamole for breakfast. So if you check in and find that you wouldn't eat ______ the next morning, then it's a craving, not physical hunger... And, cravings pass. So let them!

Until next time, I hope you'll consider the homework assignment and think about how reframing your thinking to turn negative self-talk into positive messages may help you off-plan and/or binge eating.

Remember, I am here to help. You asked and I've offered to share the information of my journey with you - So if you have questions, please let me know!

Speaking of sharing...
As the winner of my company's holiday Maintain-Don't-Gain challenge, I received a FitBit One activity tracker - However, since I already have a FitBit, I'd love for you to have it! All you need to do to be entered to win is leave a comment letting me know one thing about this post that you might adopt to help you on your journey to better health!

One winner will be drawn at random and announced on Valentine's Day February 14th!

Give-away is closed... Congratulations Lori! Please send your address
to me at: and I promise to mail your FitBit right away!