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You Versus the Chocolate Santa

Category : Uncategorized

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, checkout counters displaying chocolate Santas and foil wrapped reindeer can be a serious threat to your dieting efforts. The same can be said of  the overflowing candy dishes or trays of homemade cookies at the office. And arriving at a party and facing a bounty of high calorie “family traditions” homemade foods. And eggnog! And let’s not forget chocolate Yule Log with cream filling (Be still my heart!)

This season is right up there as the major high-calorie temptation holiday.

So what’s a dieter to do? Will power, of course. First of all, do you really like foil wrapped chocolate that sells for a dollar? Is THAT worth blowing your diet? Unless it’s really good chocolate, why bother?

It’s less easy diet choice when you are faced with exceptional good and scrumptious high calories seasonal offerings.

What to do? You have to weigh the pros and cons of everything you put in your mouth. When a holiday treat calls to you, acknowledge the consequences of giving in. If having Aunt Marie’s homemade fudge is the pinnacle of your holiday season, then enjoy! Go right ahead. But accept that your scale is going to reflect your bad decision and that however many months of dieting you’ve been on, that fudge (unless you can stop at one piece) is going to be a negative blip on your diet success. And, we all know that allowing ourselves some fudge today is the slippery slope of sugar cookies tomorrow!

Three cheers for the holiday season. May it be jolly and bright and fun for you and your family.   But may it not show up on your hips or scale. If you blow it,  plan to read my next blog about your New Year’s Resolutions

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Getting Through the Holiday Season Without Totally Blowing the Diet

Category : Uncategorized

Several years ago I went to an Italian Christmas Eve dinner (but not the traditional seven course fish dinner; rather 12 courses!). The event started at 4:00 and went to 11:00 PM. It was an amazing array of food; the hostess had cooked for weeks ahead. The 14 guests ate and ate and ate. The 15th guest (me!) did not eat.

Before you criticize me for being a rude and boorish guest, know that I called the hostess ahead of time and told her I was trying very hard to diet and that she should not worry about me. To her credit (a wonderful woman), she accepted what I said and never once forced food on me.

Also interesting is that – as far as I could tell – no one realized I was not eating. We all sat in the living room and the various courses came out and were enjoyed with relish. As the shrimp in puff pastry and clams casino passed by me, I would graciously say “no thanks,” observing that I was pacing myself and waiting for the next offering.   I didn’t obviously sit with an empty and look forlorn.  I put some salad on it, which I stirred around every so often.

This story is not about my strong willpower (okay, I will admit, I even surprised myself), but YOUR willpower.

When it comes to the temptations of the holiday season, there are a couple of truths:

You do not need to eat every high calorie food that is placed in front of you.

Those around you probably won’t notice your refusal to eat certain foods (although they likely will notice if your plate is so overflowing that food is dripping onto your shirt).

If you alert the hostess ahead of time, there are less likely to be hurt feelings when you refuse a dish.

And, most important:

By exercising your will power, you do not need to gain weight during the holidays.

Finding the willpower

Okay, here’s the hard part. Where do you find the inner strength to resist eating a 12-course meal topped off with two or three desserts?

Actually, the answer is fairly simple: Your desire to lose weight (your desperate need to lose weight) needs to be a higher priority then a plate of scallops fettuccine al fredo.

As I’ve said before, there’s no magic wand that will make your love of food become secondary to your desire to lose weight. Sure, during the week you can do the broiled chicken breast diet, but there are always occasions that place the creme de la creme of fine high calorie foods directly in front of you.

What to do? Surprisingly, my answer is Eat It! Yes, if a food you absolutely adore is put in front of you, enjoy! HOWEVER, totally enjoy only a small portion (very small portion) of that one dish – and graciously refuse the rest. Although, as we know too well, once the appetite has been whetted, it’s hard to stop. We allow ourselves one food excess and the mind throws in the towel and gives us inner permission to eat more, more, more.

Realize that one special food once in a great while is not going to kill your diet. It’s the eating all the food being offered that spells disaster.

To get back to my story and your options:

I went to that feast and did not eat. (Caveat: I did not starve; I ate before I arrived and had a snack when I got home). For me, that choice lead to my losing 110 pounds in two years.


When you are at a holiday gathering are you there to eat or to enjoy the good company? If the answer is you are there to eat, you might as well give up on the diet now and enjoy yourself. Get back on the diet in January. But realize there are a lot more food events ahead. If you can’t get your head together around holiday eating, do you really think all the future holidays will be any easier and that your diet will ever be a success?

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Using Guilt to Get Your Diet Back on Track

Category : Uncategorized

Last week I went off my diet. After a satisfying meal, I got into a box of  ice cream bars.

You might scoff at my diet transgressions if going off your diet means drinking a couple of beers and devouring a pepperoni pizza along with a half-gallon of ice cream.

However – as far as psychological impact, I’ll match my ice cream binge to your pizza binge any day! That’s because all things are relative. No matter what your binge food, it feels bad. Sinking to a binge of any type can be devastating to a dieter and can be a first step toward regaining lost weight.

I went to bed that night justifying my binge (not that many calories – it could have been much worse – the ice cream is gone now so it won’t tempt me again – new beginning in the morning.)  About 3:00 AM, I woke up and realized what I had done. Years of committed dieting and I blew it in one night of stupid eating! And for ice ream bars!? At least I should have gone off the diet for a chocolate lava cake!

It turns out that – for me – that transgression was a good thing.  It’s all about the guilt! There is nothing like a good case of self-loathing to get one back on the diet track.

Just as there is a moment of truth (that inner turmoil) about going off a diet (to binge or not to binge), there is an equal inner turmoil over what happens after a binge. Do you allow one binge to destroy your diet effort forever?

For a lot of people the answer is “Yes…” “I blew it, I’m a failure, I’ll get back on my diet next week, but for now I will wallow in self pity and order another pizza.”

Guilt can served as a dope slap on the side of a dieter’s head:

  • Will you allow one night of binging to negate your diet successes?
  • Is the siren call of a pizza stronger than entering your class reunion looking thinner?
  • Are you so weak that cereal or pizza can bring you down?
  • Do you really want to lose weight anyway?

Caving to a binge is bad enough; giving up on the diet because of one binge is stupidity!

So you went a food binge last night.  In the morning stand in front of the mirror and be mad at yourself. Really mad! You should be. And feel guilty – very guilty. You messed up!

Now resolve to recommit to your diet and do better! That’s making lemonade (diet lemonade) out of lemons.




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Exercise!! Yes, You Can Do It!

Category : Uncategorized

For many dieters “Exercise” is an ugly word. And I will admit that for … say … 65 years, I not only didn’t want to go near a gym, but I would have argued I had no time in my day to work out.

We all know what the experts have to say about exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic website: “Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, puts the spark back into your sex life and it can be fun.”

There you have it; all the reasons to get off your butt. Are you inspired and ready to start an exercise regimen? Probably not. We all know that exercise is good for us. We might even plan to start exercising “tomorrow.” But there’s a huge chasm between what we know we should do and actually doing it.

Since I can only speak for myself on this topic, I will do just that. And I understand that many will say “Yeah, that’s you, it could never be me.”

Five years ago, at 250 pounds, I couldn’t even walk a block with a friend without gasping for air. I HATED exercise. Then I began a new diet program (one of so many in my life) and the pounds were starting to come off. I realized that I needed to get out of my lethargic comfort zone if I wanted this diet to succeed.

All by myself I went to a big, anonymous – and inexpensive – gym. I know diet experts say you should exercise with a friend and I’m sure that’s true. But for me, anonymity seemed to work. Plus, I realized that I didn’t want my exercise schedule to be controlled by a friend’s availability.

Walking into that  big gym alone the first time was hard. And entering that gym as a “Fat Person” was mortifying. Gym stereotypes are of buff young men and women in skimpy outfits. And here was Linda in her baggy sweat pants who was.. well … sweating. Happily, I have never run into the “perfect bodies” group at the gym. And I have never felt embarrassed at the gym – even when I topped 250 pounds.

I now try to go the gym seven days a week (that doesn’t always happen) and I try to stay an hour a day (that also doesn’t always happen). How do I find the time (after all, I do run my own business)? I go according to my work schedule. I may be there anytime between 6 AM and 4PM (sorry, I fade in the evening).

Truthfully, exercise (for me) is still boring. I would like to be doing almost anything else. I shake up my exercises – use the various machines – and add weights every few days. And I watch the many television sets on the wall. (Day time television can be atrocious, but…!). Like it or not – I do what I have to do. And it pays off – just as the experts say: exercise helps with everything from losing weight to boosting energy to improved health.

Like so much of dieting, it’s about changing habits. Exercising is a habit for me now. I may not like exercise – just as I don’t like eating my fish broiled (not fried), but I sure love what my diet and exercise habits have done for me.

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If No One Sees You Eating It; Does It Still have Calories?

Category : Uncategorized

I was at a gathering and someone arrived with homemade raspberry, white chocolate scones. I love scones. Scones are a food for which I would go off my diet. They are part of a long list of high calorie foods that tempt me. We all have such lists; whether it’s scones, ice cream, chicken parmesan or honey-glazed doughnuts.

I looked at the scones several times – torn between those tasty little breads versus a bowl of cut up fruit.

There have been times – okay every day for 50 years of my life – when I would have secretly eaten that scone (hidden by some cut up fruit so that no one could see me go off my diet). And, for me, one scone would probably have been the appetizer for a second scone.

Why not? What’s the harm of a scone or any special treat once in a while?

Here’s the truth of it: Aside from the fact that a good scone can be as much as 450 calories, it’s what that one scone does to your resolve and commitment that is so destructive.

Quite simply: today a scone, tomorrow a muffin, the next day a slab of mile-high chocolate cake.

Permission to waiver on your diet once can so easily become permission to do it again. That’s the slippery slope of a faltering diet commitment. Of course there are some strong people out there who can have one taste of a dessert or can go off their diet one meal a day or can successfully diet all week and eat with abandon on weekends.

But for most of us, dieting is difficult, challenging and painful. We want what we shouldn’t have and we are unhappy when we have to deny ourselves. It’s not fair – why shouldn’t we be able to have treats? Well, you can’t. It’s either stick to your diet or blow your diet. True dieting doesn’t allow for cheating. A just-this-once mentality is a lack of resolve.

When you eat a high calorie food – either boldly or secretly, you are blowing your diet – not only while eating it, but very likely for the rest of that day – and days to come.

No, I didn’t eat the scone. I considered sneaking it (wolfing it down when no one was watching). I would have enjoyed it at the time. But I would have felt guilty for the rest of the day. In fact, historically, I would have given up on my diet by 11:00 AM (“Today’s diet is already ruined; I’ll start fresh tomorrow”). Instead – I got on the scale this morning and my scale was unchanged. Skipping the scone didn’t mean I lost weight, but I’ll take the same number on the scale over eating that scone and gaining weight.

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The Ultimate Diet Challenge: We Love Food and We Love to Eat

Category : Uncategorized

I’ve written a lot about nutrition, exercise, behavior modification – all factors in losing weight. But the bottom line issue for most dieters is simple: “We Love Food!”

Food is better and more tantalizing than ever before. I grew up in a plain old meat and potatoes household (boring, tasteless food). If we occasionally had Chinese take out, it was chow mein or if it was Italian, it was spaghetti with canned sauce and a meatball. Pizza was cheese only with none of today’s unique toppings.

In the last few decades, food has gone from mundane to amazing.

And food presentation! Omigosh. When I was growing up, food was slopped onto a plate with a quadrant for each food group. These days at a restaurant or at home, the meal service is an art form in itself.

I admire people who can go out to a restaurant and pass on a high calorie food, well – let’s say that focaccia bread. That takes will power. You succeed in beating that temptation and next comes an epicurean delight meal, loaded with calories and so delicious. If you’re in a good place diet wise, perhaps you can resist those high calorie foods and be satisfied with a broiled chicken breast. But it sure isn’t easy.

I believe dieting is tougher than ever in this 21st century because the taste, look and feel of food is just so rich and enticing. And, of course, we all need food to survive. So it’s a losing (sorry, not in the sense of weight losing) combination. We gotta eat, it looks wonderful – and WE WANT IT.

How does one diet in this time of good and plenty? And how does one diet when one loves (absolutely loves) to eat?

You’re waiting for the be all and end all answer, aren’t you? You want to read the ultimate secret to diet success.

Sorry – here’s all I know about this. The desire to be thin and healthy and to live a longer and fuller life has to be stronger than the desire to eat that phenomenal plate of food that is in front of you. There’s no other way to do it.

For me, it’s “Goodbye focaccia bread with oil; I will miss you.” I could tell you that someday you can have those foods back, but, personally I don’t believe that’s true. I have yo-yo dieted for decades because I have walked away from bad foods – and walked right back to them when I neared my goal weight. Returning to your old eating habits may work for you, but are you sure that’s not one of your ultimate slippery slopes?

You need to make your own choice: What is more important to you – your food or your health and appearance? Until you make that choice, the focaccia will always be there.

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Dieting with Lollipops and Bubble Gum

Category : Uncategorized

When I was a child, my mother always criticized those who chewed gum: “Like cows chewing their cuds,” she would say. I grew up taking a dim view of “gum people,” especially those crass bubble blowers and gum smackers. Gross!

Sigh – if my mother could see me now. These days, I chew gum with the best of them.

I’ll back up and explain why a woman of my venerable years would take up gum chewing: It’s a way for me to deal with food grazing. Simply stated: It’s a lot more difficult to scarf up a broken cookie if you have to take gum out of your mouth.

I realized the value of gum several years ago when I was preparing food for an event and was about to slip into “Two for the guests and one for me” thinking. How often have you cut up a tray of brownies and theorized that the brownie crumbs have no calories? Something as simple as preparing a fruit tray runs the risk of more fruit being eaten during prep than ending up on the serving plate (and, yes, those dozen or so grapes that fall from the vine into the bottom on the colander do have calories).

Maybe, just maybe, a piece of gum in your mouth is one less “bite of this and bite of that” being eaten.

Onward to my beloved lollipops. Were I but a poet I would do an ode to this wonderful candy confection, which (if you chose the right ones) can be low calorie. Absolute ambrosia.

It may be hard to believe that I’ve lost 110 pounds as I sing the praises of a lollipop. I will caveat immediately that lollipops (or any candy) are NOT a diet food that I recommend one eats by the bag full all day. In fact, one pop a day – at the most two – is the absolute limit.  And BTW – we’re talking children’s little lollipops – not all day suckers!

Like the aforementioned chewing gum, a lollipop puts something tasty in your mouth that conceivably prevents you from putting something bad in your mouth. It’s that simple. A lollipop is a nice treat and unless you overdo it (a high calorie gourmet pop or multiple pops in a row), they aren’t that bad.

I will also add a little known bonus to lollipops. If you’re driving a distance and getting tired on the road, the candy can help keep you awake (it does for me anyway – a little sugar charge and flavor burst).

I’m not telling everyone to go out and buy gum and lollipops (sugarless preferred). This is simply an observation that, for me, those two treats have made a difference. They’ve allowed me to have something tasty in my mouth – as well as something to chew on – that prevented me from sampling the chips and dip.

As far as my mother is concerned, she would be pleased to know that I am quite ladylike when I chew gum and do not smack and pop it. (Although, just between us, I have been known to blow some awesome bubbles – when alone).

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Dieting: It Never Gets Any Easier

Category : Uncategorized

Achieving your diet goal doesn’t mean you can relax.  Sorry.  Personally, I have found maintaining my weight to be just as difficult as losing it. I am as food conscious now – and exercising as much – as I ever did at the height of my weight loss.

Why?  Because I have been that “she-gained-it-all-back” statistic before.  I lost a lot of weight back in the 1990s and gained it all back within five years – plus 50 pounds more.

There are all those food temptations out there. As a good dieter, you may have gone months (years) without a double cheeseburger, a gooey dessert or a favorite pasta dish. Then one day there is a new ice cream flavor that you want to taste. Or you decide to have one drink with friends, which leads to the bowl of peanuts. Or you are hungry and can’t make it by the candy counter at the grocery store.

The ultimate culprit

The biggest challenge to keeping weight off is that evil little inner voice that is constantly telling us to give up the diet battle “Just this once.”

I’ve reached a goal weight that works for me and I’ve maintained for four years. However, I am still the 260-pounds-overweight person inside. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thinking about my next meal. Given a choice, I would still opt for any high calorie carbohydrate over a celery stick.

Confession time: recently I went to a gathering and brought a trifle (a dessert with cake, pudding, candy bits and whipped topping). I had no problem making it (no sampling) and eating it at the party was not an issue. But at the end of the event, my serving dish had one portion of trifle left. On the drive home, I thought about that trifle. I had two choices: immediately put the dish in the sink with running water or eat the left over dessert before I washed the dish. I ate the dessert.

How bad was the transgression? In the scheme of calorie cheating, it was not that bad. Perhaps 300 or 400 unneeded calories. EXCEPT, what was bad was the head game that ensued. Dieters know the mantra: “Well, I blew the diet today so I might as well keep eating and start again tomorrow.” How many times have you had a food backslide and used that as an excuse to throw in the diet towel for the day – and thereafter?

Obviously a committed dieter can make a bad food choice and recover. However, those nasty 83% failure statistics are not based on a one-time slip up. The dieters who regain all their weight are the ones who finish off the trifle, give up for the day – and then cave the following days.

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Are We Trying Too Hard to Lose Weight?

Category : Uncategorized

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a little militaristic about dieting (ya think?!). Well, I’ve had a “Ta Da” moment. A dear friend has started a new diet. Like so many of us, her life has been a series of new diets – some successful for a while, but most ending in sadness and frustrations.

She told me she’s using a different approach this time: “Not to try so hard.”

Now that may sound counterproductive to being a committed dieter, but let me explain. My friend is a business woman with a high stress job, a family with teenagers (eek), way too many commitments, and not enough time in her day for self care. The list goes on and on and I’m sure many of you would say “That sounds like me.”

Most of us go into a diet program with a carrot dangling in front of us (literally, in some cases): We want a diet that will allow us to lose 2 to 4 pounds a week if not more (but get real!) and we want to achieve our goal in record time.

My friend is being more realistic. She says: “If I lose a pound a week, I will be down 52 pounds a year. That works for me. I can be happy with that.”

For many of us – there is only one way to approach dieting: many pounds as quickly as possible. I believe my friend’s more serene approach of not obsessing is going to work for her. She’s been on the diet a month now and is down 8 pounds. I know that goes against the scenario I just described of a pound a week, but she had Chinese food the night before weigh in and lost five pounds the first week (gotta love the kick start of a sodium/fluid weight loss). Now – she’s losing a pound a week and she feels good – really good.

This laid back approach doesn’t mean she’s eating with abandon. But it does mean she’s not beating herself up when life’s circumstance put the wrong food on her plate. It also means that she immediately recommits when she’s had a bad day. No throwing in the diet towel because of one slip up (as we more rigid dieters tend to do).

Neither the rigid nor the relaxed diet plans will work without a core commitment. Remember, saying you’re on any kind of diet and gaining three pounds in a week fools no one. Acknowledging your diet shortcomings – even figuring them into your diet plan – could well be one road to success.

Diet rigidity is what has worked for me – and it’s what I preach in my writings. However, I now realize that for others – a mistake here or there is okay as long as one embraces that weight loss will be slower, but it will happen.

Dieting is a head game. I’ve always felt that any good (meaning healthy) diet works. It’s your strength in dealing with your diet that is the difference between ultimate success – or another new diet every Monday morning.

I wish my friend well – may she lose her 52 pounds in a year. Remember, whether it takes six months, a year or 10 years, losing that excess weight and being healthy is what it’s all about.

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Binging on Ice Cream – Just a Little

Category : Uncategorized

When my head is in a good place diet-wise, I can stick to my diet pretty well all day. It’s not easy, but I can refuse the bacon with breakfast and the French fries with lunch. A reasonable and appropriate diet dinner? Not a problem.

Then comes the evening “settling in.” It’s the end of a long and busy day; a time to relax on the sofa in front of the television or with a good book.

Minutes – literally minutes – after the dinner dishes are put away, my mind begins the dreaded “Snack Foraging” mentality. “What can I find to nibble on?” “I’ve been good all day, what little diet-appropriate treat can I have now?” “I’ve saved calories, now to eat something I really want.” An evening snack is not a bad thing – most diets even allow it.

So what works for your final food intake of the day?

For me, the old standby “Have a piece of fruit” simply does not cut it. The last thing I want after dieting all day is a lousy orange (tasty as they may be). Well, in complete honesty, I do have an orange (or two or three) in the evening, but that’s often becomes the first course of the evening binge. After the orange, I launch Foraging Part B, which can take me to the inner depths of the refrigerator and cabinets.

When a binge begins, any food (even a box of slow cooking pudding or frozen cookies) can become the Holy Grail of night time eating. And let’s face it, how many of us on the binge eating slippery slope have needed to “run an errand” to the local convenience store and happened upon the freezer with ice cream?

Now I suspect you’re hoping that I’m about to impart pearls of wisdom on how to avoid binge eating. Sorry, even though I’m down 120 pounds, I do not have the answer for you. My struggle is as difficult as yours. But, I won’t leave you hanging on this. Here are some things that I do to fight the evening binges.

My house is fairly clean of pudding and frozen cookies. And I’m too lazy to go to a store at night and seek out a an ice cream sale. If you live alone, controlling food on the shelves is easier. With a snacking family, it’s harder to clean out your home except to not buy that which you love to eat.

I hate to say this because I’ve always thought it was a cop out, but having a cup of tea (or other beverage – no, not wine!) really does help.

I do nibble at night. I’m into air pop popcorn (sorry no butter or salt, just plain) and I eat a lot of it.

I like diet ice cream bars. Not the watery ones, but the ones that are like ice cream. They are about 90 to 100 calories. I’ve even been known to dip them in a little low calorie whipped topping (just enough to make it feel like a treat)

If I make it through the evening without overeating (say I’ve come in late from a meeting), I’m not above having a bowl of low calorie cereal (under 120 calories). I measure it (no – do not eat by the handful out of the box).

And finally – I do not allow self-guilt. If you have had a sterling diet day and you have left room for a few “fun” calories at night, that’s okay. If you get into those frozen cookies and eat a couple of them, don’t throw in the towel and then finish the entire package. A few cookies won’t destroy a good diet day. Feeling like a loser and eating all the cookies might.