Category Archives: Uncategorized

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Behavior Modification: Getting Rid of Those Bad, Bad Habits

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According to Wikipedia

Behavior modification is the traditional term for the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors, such as altering an individual’s behaviors and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of behavior through its extinction, punishment and/or satiation.

If you were able to get through that description without glazing over – well done!

Behavior modification: It’s facing that moment of diet truth when deciding whether to eat an entire bag of cookies or take a walk. It’s being able to say “no” to dessert even though your entire being says: “I want it.” It’s taking a walk on your lunch hour or getting up early to go to the gym. It’s working hard to change old bad habits into new good ones.

Basically, behavior modification is the secret to losing weight. It’s changing the behaviors that made you overweight in the first place.

As I so often write, I’m no expert in dieting – or behavior modification, but here are some steps I have taken that seem to have worked. Change your behavior by changing your thinking from the moment you start your new diet.

Attitude

Commit to your diet with your whole mind and body. There’s no “maybe” on dieting – you’re either in or you’re wasting your time.

Set realistic weight loss goals. Sure, we all want to be size 2 skinny, but really????

Think long term. Approach a diet plan as your new eating pattern – for life.

Your home environment

Don’t have bad and tempting foods in your home. If the cookies or chips are there, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Celery is boring. Get used to it!

Shut down your kitchen (and the urge to snack) by 7:00 PM. Okay, maybe 7:30.

Purge those high calorie snacks out of your house. Throw them away, give them away, stomp on them! Whatever gets them out of your sight – and mouth.

Your work environment

Do not eat at your desk. It’s unneeded calories and unprofessional. Plus, there’s nothing worse than food on your keyboard.

Do not encourage or support the office candy dish.

Start walking on your lunch hour, opt for the stairs over the elevator. Bottom line, get off your bottom!

Grocery Shopping:

Do not shop when hungry or tired or you will suffer impulse buying consequences.

Shop from a list. Just because ice cream is on sale, you do not need it.

If shopping makes you hungry, buy fruit (not a candy bar) for the ride home. Read nutritional labels; check for calories and sodium (and yucky chemical additives)

Home meal times:

Slow down when you eat. You heard me: SLOW DOWN. Since I tend to wolf down my food and then look for seconds, this is a tough one. If you’re the first one finished at the table, you eat too fast!

Take small bites. Shoveling huge portions of food into your gaping mouth is not a pretty sight and is lousy for your digestion.

Assuming you’re not alone at meals, talk. If you are alone, read a book or the newspaper.

Always try and cook your own meals from scratch (versus prepackaged). That way you know exactly what ingredients are used.

Do not eat half the meal as you’re cooking it. Amazing how a taste of this and that can empty the serving dish before it reaches the table. And yes – tastes do have calories.

Do not eat your meal at the stove or kitchen counter. Sit down!

Do not eat watching television. Okay, I have to admit I sometimes watch TV while eating.

Use smaller dishes. My dinner dishes are the size of salad plates (designed that way). Surprising how quickly they appear full – but with half the calories. Know that a meal without dessert is NOT a tragedy.

Restaurant eating

Don’t eat from the bread basket – ever! Even if it’s home made focaccia bread. Sorry.

Ask for a take-home box at the start of the meal. And use it.

Don’t drink too much alcohol, if any. Sorry again.

Order a la carte. You don’t need all the sides, unless they are steamed vegetables. Get double veggies in place of high carbs.

Order plain food, no heavy sauces. I always ask for “bald” fish – no bread crumbs or butter.

Ask for salad dressing on the side. You should know this one by heart!!

Going to a party:

Do not arrive hungry. If need be, eat something light before the meal. That does not mean cheese and crackers!

Bring a dish that is low in calories that you can eat. It’s common sense to contribute something you can eat.

Alert the hostess that you are dieting (thus not insulting her if you don’t eat).

Always opt for the small portion (no, you don’t want the oversized baked potato)

Don’t mindlessly eat from a snack dish while chatting with another guest.

Help out. Get off the sofa and lend a hand with serving or clean up.

Behavior modification takes time. Old habits die hard. The more you set aside those bad habits, the better dieter you will be.

 


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Why I Didn’t Make My Favorite Fudge This Holiday Season

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I’ve been doing pretty well diet wise this holiday season. I’ve been resisting cookies and cakes. When at a recent buffet brunch, I passed on the pancakes, home fries, and bacon and had a veggie omelet and fresh fruit.  That worked for me – no regrets.

However, my biggest diet accomplishment this month is that I did NOT make my favorite fudge with tiny marshmallows. I purchased the ingredients, but they are still sitting on my shelf because I knew that if I made that fudge, I would eat it. Normally I made my fudge on the premise of giving it as gifts. But when I asked several family members: “Would you like some of my fudge this year?” they said “No.” Drat!

My great Fudge Challenge is when I started cutting the fudge into neat little squares. I start sampling the fudge pan leftovers – then the uneven little fudge pieces that don’t pass the Gift Test. It doesn’t take long before I succumb to the perfectly squared fudge pieces (the gift pieces). It has happened (more than once) that I’ve had to make two batches of fudge because the first batch isn’t quite enough – for gifts or ME.

Some would argue, “A little fudge won’t hurt – it’s all about moderation.” Perhaps you could eat an uneven square of fudge and stop, but not me. That initial taste becomes a serious slippery slope. Not only in my eating more fudge, but totally caving on all the other high-calorie holiday foods.

I had a dieting guest visit at Thanksgiving and he announced: “I’m off my diet until January.” He proceeded to pour gravy all over his mashed potatoes and stuffing. I saw him last week and he acknowledged that his scale was up a bit.  His observation was being made while he drank some eggnog and grazed through a tray of cookies.  It was hard to tell if he was truly mad at himself for “going off the diet” for a month or was totally enjoying his food freedom and had no regrets.

Dieting comes down to personal choices.  Sadly those personal food choices are not just during the holiday season, but what we are faced with every day of the year 24/7.

If the holidays are happier, jollier and more complete for you if you eat your way through Thanksgiving to New Year’s – then go for it. I envy you. I wish I could go off my food plan for a month and get right back on the diet on January 2nd.  But for me – whether it’s a buffet with pancakes, a chocolate Easter bunny, Halloween candy or holiday fudge – there is no half way.


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The Greatest Challenges of Dieting – and How to Face Them – Especially During the Holidays

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Dieting at any time of the year is tough. But during the holiday season can be overwhelming and – for some – impossible. Let’s get our head around the major challenges of successfully dieting.

Obviously the two primary challenges of dieting are that we need to eat to survive – and we get hungry. Like it or not, food is critical to our existence. To compound these challenges, there is a magnificent array of food options these days; the choices are endless and enticing – and not always good for us.

Consider this: We live in a time in which we are all more knowledgeable about what we eat. We know what’s good for us and what’s bad. Food providers are offering more low calorie options. There are nutritional labels on what we buy. And we dare to tell restaurants: “No sauce and I want a take-home box.” Frankly, the ability to make wise dieting choices is easier now than ever.

Stress levels are soaring and comfort food is … well … such a comfort. There may be a few people in this world who react to stress by “not being able to eat a thing.” But most of us find a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips a great comfort after a bad day.

Consider this: Yes – it’s okay to occasionally indulge in an evening of comfort when times are tough. But do not let that night’s indulgence carry into the next day. It’s okay to start a new diet every morning. Better a renewed effort than allowing the previous night’s binge eating to become your new life style.

Well meaning friends sabotage us. Indeed they do. Whether it’s from nurturing – or an inner desire to see us fail (yes, that happens!), family and friends making us feel guilty can destroy a diet.

Consider this: Say, “NO!” It’s that simple. If you hurt your mother’s feeling by not eating her homemade dessert, so be it. If she knows you are trying to shed pounds and makes that dessert anyway, then she’s in the wrong, not you. If you’re the only person at dinner who doesn’t order dessert and they all reproach you, stand strong – and shame on them. Remind them you need their support. Here’s the deal: if they care about you, they should support you – not undermine. And they aren’t the ones who have to face your bathroom scale the next morning.

We don’t have time to exercise – or “it’s boring.”

Consider this: Experts agree that even a little exercise is better than being a slug. Can’t go to the gym? Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the distance of a parking lot, pace while talking on the phone, stand while folding laundry, walk fast, don’t stroll. Anything that gets you off your duff is better than sitting. And – honestly – couldn’t you find some time in the day (especially on a weekend) to truly move?

The ultimate diet challenge is that we kid ourselves. We can blame the need for food, stress, an event, family/friends and lack of time, but ultimately, we are culpable for our bad choices and our diet failures.

Consider this:

Don’t kid yourself that …

… the calories burned in a 10 minute walk equates to eating one candy bar.

… skipping breakfast means you can have a pastry at 10 AM.

… cheese and crackers before dinner are a healthy choice

… “just a taste” is calorie free

… the slacks you need to pin shut at the waist because of bulging are not a problem

… one martini and a handful of bar peanuts won’t hurt

… refusing someone’s food offering will make you unpopular

… you’re healthy, even with the extra pounds (yeah, just wait)

… you know it all when it comes to dieting

The solution to facing diet challenges and losing weight in any season? Be honest with yourself. And stand strong against all those excuses to backslide. You need to believe that you are capable of standing up to this challenge.


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You Versus the Chocolate Santa

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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

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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

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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!

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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?

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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

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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

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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).