Friday, November 06, 2009

Changes coming soon

I've been working on changing my Family Fitness Files blog to a Word Press template, hosted by GoDaddy. It's still in the works, but I hope to have the new site up and running soon. Don't worry, you'll still find all of the information you see here, plus lots of cool new features. I'm hoping it'll be more streamlined and easier to navigate. And when it all changes, I'll be sure to put up a link here for the new site.

Tell me: What changes are going on in your life?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I'm pleased to announce that my friends Joanna Sutter and Lance Ekum have completed their ebook, BLOG-4-CAUSE. Inside are 150 articles from bloggers all around the world. All proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I was truly honored to be asked to participate in this project. You can read more about it on Joanna's site, Fitness and Spice. Or, check out the Susan G. Komen site to download it directly. I believe the suggested donation is $5 but you may donate any amount you wish.

The content is a variety of articles, on all sorts of subjects: humor, inspiration, personal growth, even recipes. We were each asked to submit our favorite blog entry, and with that many people participating all across the globe, you're bound to get a good mix of material. I chose to submit this particular post. 

So check it out and please consider a donation if you're so inclined. Breast cancer affects one in eight US women and the Susan G. Komen Foundation is doing everything it can to help find a cure. Please take a moment and click on the links to learn more about how you can support a great cause! Thanks!

Community Health Fair this Saturday, November 7

For the past few years, it has been my honor to be involved in the Community Health Fair. I'll be honest, when I was first asked to participate, I didn't know what to think. Who me? What could I contribute? Well, it turns out, a lot. I talk about family health and fitness with people from all walks of life. I offer tips to help your family get active, recommend substitutions to make your recipes healthier and meet a lot of interesting people. Some years I hand out samples of healthy snacks. Last year, I got to make my yummy Mexican Tortilla Soup as an example of how you can cook healthy on a budget. It was a freezing cold November day, too, so the soup was a big hit. No one could guess that the secret ingredient is butternut squash, pureed and disguised in the broth. I'll be doing another presentation on healthy meals on a budget again this year. You can read more about the health fair here. It runs from 9 am to 1 pm, and will be located at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. You can get health screenings, immunizations, and lots of healthy living information. You can even get a chair massage. Read my Examiner article for more details. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Examiner Articles: Healthier Halloween

Another in the Healthier Halloween series today: This article features 25 alternatives to handing out candy. Later in the week I'll also have an article on some healthier snacks to serve at your Halloween party. Come by Examiner and check it out!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Examiner Articles: Healthier Halloween

I'm starting a short series this week on how to have a healthier Halloween. To me, Halloween starts what I call "The Eating Season." Don't tell me you don't know what it is. One day you're just cruising through life, taking brisk walks in the crisp autumn air, raking up piles of orange leaves. And then the next day you're in the throes of a candy corn-gasm. (Yes, I said it.) Everyone has "seasonal" treats - Pumpkin pie shakes! Pumpkin Lattes! Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses! And that's just the pumpkin stuff. It's everywhere and it is a serious challenge to keep yourself from going off the deep end and disappearing into a bag of fun size Snickers. But there's no need to cave. By following (and revisiting, if necessary) a few simple rules, you'll be able to stay on track. Today's article features 5 tips to control the sugar frenzy. Let me know how YOU handle this time of year.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Examiner Articles: Good for you food of the week

Every Thursday, my Examiner article focuses on a different healthy food. I call it the good for you food of the week, and this week it's garlic. Some people love it, some hate it. But regardless of how you feel about it, garlic has numerous health benefits. Read about them here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Examiner Articles: Biggest Loser Fix

Do you love Biggest Loser like our family does? Every week, I write an article detailing the lessons we can all learn from that week's episode. Today's article talks about dealing with challenging situations and making the best of them. You can read it here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Examiner Articles

Today's Examiner article details the priority groups and warning signs for swine flu. You can read it by following this link.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Examiner Articles

I'm working on getting my blog redesigned to make it a little easier to browse. Seems every time I get on a roll, we have computer issues. Tonight, my husband accidentally kicked the power strip, unplugging a cord. After 3 1/2 hours, the only way I can get my laptop to connect is to plug directly into the modem. Sort of negates the convenience of wireless, wouldn't you say? I dunno, my feeling is that if something goes wrong, you should be able to undo whatever that was and it should be fixed. Cord unplugged, cord plugged in again, problem solved. That's how it works in my world: Typo, backspace, delete, edit, fixed. But not so with the technology. Beyond my comprehension apparently.

But at any rate, here is a link to today's article I wrote for Examiner, Is it a cold, or swine flu? I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to leave a comment on the Examiner page. Thanks! (and wish me luck with this darn internet connection!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maybe Next Year ...

Some of you may know that I had nasty ankle injury in 2001. I'll go into that more in-depth another time, but basically, I snapped off a ligament that attached to the outside of my left ankle, which in turn nicked a few pieces off my shin bone. I was on fertility meds at the time and shortly afterward, I was pregnant with my daughter, which meant I could no longer have x-rays. Or surgery. I had to wait until I was done nursing my daughter, nearly two years later. But I've never regretted the decision.

At any rate, it's a family tradition to go to a pumpkin patch with a corn maze each year. You go through the maze, find each numbered checkpoint, and punch off the number on your card. The weather today was perfect. High of about 70, lovely breeze. The corn maze terrain is very uneven, with corn cobs and other debris all over the path. By the time I had ankle surgery, there wasn't enough of my ligament left to screw into place, so they trimmed it off, and removed the bone chips, which by then were smooth and round. As a result, I will always have swelling. When I walk on uneven surfaces, like the corn maze, I can't decide what's worse: the pain, or the frustration.

Every year I tell myself I'm going to do the entire corn maze. And every year I'm grateful to get through half of it and then I leave my husband and kids and go sit by the concession stands for 45 minutes until they join me. And that's what happened today. My ankle wasn't bad; in fact, it was about the best it's been ever since we started going there. But it still hurt. I know if I keep going I'll have a date with an ice pack and a bottle of ibuprofen by the end of the afternoon.

Limits are extremely difficult for me to accept.

I want to finish the maze. It's not like I can't walk that distance. (about 3 miles) I'm in good enough shape. But it terrifies me to think of re-injuring it. Not only was my ankle broken and continually swollen, but I was already overweight, and then added pregnancy weight on top of that. Probably an extra 90 pounds on a weight-bearing joint. I've been told that each pound equals four pounds of pressure on your joints. (OK, I'll give you a minute to do the math. Yikes, huh?) And while pregnant, I had a very active three-year-old boy at home. Ever play with or take care of a three-year-old? Lots of squatting and getting up and down off the floor. Try doing that without using one of your ankles. And being pregnant.

I sometimes wonder if I use my ankle as an excuse for not trying. More than one ER attendant has told me I have a "freakishly high" pain threshold. I've always been good about managing my pain, mentally putting myself in another place so I can get through the task at hand. After my 6-hour, drug-free labor with my son, I took one Tylenol. If I take a NyQuil, I can't function until about noon the next day. I just don't like putting things in my body that don't belong there. But I think this thing with my ankle is deeper than that. It's been eight years. I wonder how much of it is in my head. And I wonder if I'm ever going to get past it. If I'll ever finish the corn maze.

What's in your head, what keeps you from doing things you want to do?
How have you dealt with it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Body Image Issues? You Can Wait

It’s taken me over a year to write this post. Don’t ask me why. I’ll just give you some excuse that I was busy, couldn’t get started, whatever. But regardless, I’m writing it now. Last year, when my daughter was 6 years old and entering 1st grade, I took her back-to-school shopping. Like many parents, I get her inexpensive basics at Target and Wal-Mart. And then I like to take her somewhere else for a couple special pieces that will work with her wardrobe. That’s how my mom always did it, only I had two older sisters, so there were lots of hand-me-downs in the mix. My daughter’s only sibling is a boy, three and a half years older, so with the exception of sweatshirts and snow boots, hand-me-downs don’t really factor into the equation. On this day, we chose Old Navy for our “special” destination. Old Navy. Cute. Fun. Reasonably affordable. Everyone loves them, right?

Well, this is a good time to disclose that my daughter is an Amazon. This is a shot of my kids and me, taken just a few weeks ago. I'm 5'9", but I'm wearing heels in this photo, probably closer to 6'0". My son is 11 and he is up to my chin when I don't wear heels. My daughter is past my elbow. She has legs like you would not believe. Easily just as tall or taller than every boy in her class. A head and shoulder taller than most of the girls. People often ask if she is one to two years older than she is. Always been that way. At birth, she was exactly the same length and weight I was. She’s going to be tall, and she loves to go out and play with the boys, run around, kick a ball, dance, and whatever else sounds like fun. She’s not super skinny, but she’s not heavy either. She’s active and fit. And I am careful to tell her that she’s just the right size for her.

Also, we don’t use the word fat at our house, at least not about people. We might say, “Look at that big, fat worm on the ground,” or “Woohoo, Mom got a nice fat check for that project,” but we’d never say it about a person, not even as a joke. We were at a friend’s house one day and my daughter ran into the room, bawling. I asked what was wrong and she said one of the boys said, “big fat body.” The boy’s father, who has a real soft spot for my daughter, immediately got up, angry and ready to punish someone. I told him to wait until we found out what exactly happened. She said they were watching TV and one of the boys, a three-year-old, said “big fat body.” I asked if he said that about her. She said no, but she was clearly very upset. The boy’s father again sprung up to talk to his son, but again, I told him to wait.

I asked my daughter, “Do you have a big fat body?”

“No,” she sobbed.

“And do you eat healthy food?”


“And do you get lots of exercise every day and go outside and play and run around?”

Her tears were drying now. “Yes,” she said quietly.

“So then, you know you don’t have a big fat body. And you’re just the right size for you, aren’t you? And besides, (the boy who said it) is only three, so he probably doesn’t even know what he said, or that it would upset you.”

She calmed down and went back to play. I was a little shook up, to be honest. Not just seeing her so upset, but because of what had upset her. I looked at my friend, whose mouth had fallen open.
“Wow,” he said. “You handled that really well.”

“Thanks,” I said. “But I never thought she’d be thinking about this at age five. I’m sure she’ll have body image issues when she’s a teenager. We all do. But why does she need to deal with that crap when she’s FIVE?

I had to think about all I had done and said over the past five years that may have influenced her to think that those were harmful words. Do I emphasize health and fitness? Of course I do. Too much? Maybe. I don’t know what the “right” amount of emphasis is. But both of my kids have grown up watching me lose a lot of weight, work out and prepare healthy meals and snacks. They’ve certainly heard me talk about it. A lot. Too much? Maybe. Again, I don’t know.

One of my proudest moments was not the day I read a certain number on a scale, measuring tape, or clothes label. It was the day my son gave me a hug and said, “Hey Mom, I can get my arms all the way around you.” I still cry thinking about that. But I’ve always told them that I made changes so I could be healthier. The word fat--and the word thin, for that matter--never entered the equation. So I had to wonder where all of this came from.

Now, remember Old Navy? Way up there at the beginning of this post? I’ll give you a second if you need to scroll. OK, so … we go to Old Navy to shop for some clothes. I happen to love the way their low-rise jeans fit me. I figured if they make the girls’ sizes like they make my size, she’ll be fine since we have similar builds. Everywhere else, she was wearing a size 6/7 or Small. Get to Old Navy, find lots of cute stuff, try it on and it doesn’t fit. None of it. Not even close. Have to go up to a Medium or an 8. OK, that’s fine. Sizing varies from place to place. She tries on this cute little polo dress, in an 8, and it’s too tight across the torso. It fits OK, but if she raises her arms, the part on her torso stays put while the hem raises two inches. Not good. Try on some jeans, in an 8, and they are not only tight in the waist, but way, way too long in the legs. She’s six years old. Why is Old Navy telling my normal-sized, long-legged six-year-old that her waist is too big and her legs are not long enough? I know this word is overused as a catch-all for people we think are too thin, but seriously … she would have to be anorexic to fit into their clothes unless she went up not one but two sizes from what fits her in other stores.

Unreal. I was absolutely livid. Of course she loved the clothes and wanted to get everything. I made a few concessions. I was on a limited budget anyway, so it was easy to say no to most of it. We left with a few basics and she was happy. I was not.

But what do you do? I figured that as long as she didn’t care about what the size said, I shouldn’t either. Or should I?

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fun Food Time: Tortellini Pizza Soup

I can't stress enough how much I believe in all things in moderation. That's been my mantra for several years now. I'd be lying if I said we ate healthy food for every single meal. That's a goal, of course, but by planning to have "fun food" every now and then, it keeps me from going on a binge. We call it "sometimes food" in this house and by doing so it's taught our kids that there's a reason we don't eat like this all the time.

We love to have theme meals for sports events and such. Tonight's a BSU game and I'm making one of my family's favorites: my Tortellini Pizza Soup. Sorry, the recipe is a secret, but among other things, it includes sausage, pepperoni, tortellini (actually tonight I used ravioli because my grocery store didn't have tortellini), tomatoes, and lots of herbs and other vegetables. Is it the healthiest? *Cough* Well ... *cough* not exactly. But, you can make substitutions: try soy or turkey versions for the meats. I always use low sodium broth and tomatoes. You could double the vegetables, too. Or add spinach, which I never seem to remember to buy when I'm making this.

I usually serve this with an artisan bread that I slice and then top with a little Parmesan and put under the broiler. Didn't have time for that tonight, so I just grabbed a bag of garlic bread. Also great with bread sticks, foccacia, ciabatta, or sourdough.

Did you catch today's Broncos Challege article on Examiner? Today's challenge focuses on agility training. Check it out when you have some time. It includes some cool videos.

Examiner Articles: Biggest Loser Fix

Every Wednesday, I post an article on Examiner about the previous night's Biggest Loser. Critics of the show say that it's not realistic because contestants work out all day like a full-time job, among other reasons. While I agree that it's not realistic in that aspect, the stories and struggles of the contestants are compelling and relatable. (is that a word?) So rather than focus on the absurdity of a woman losing 16 pounds in a week, I try to focus on the lessons we can all learn from each show, regardless of our size.

Here's a link for Week 5 of Biggest Loser 8. Feel free to leave a comment on the Examiner page. I asked lots of questions at the end and love the hear your feedback. There are also links to videos, trainer tips, and profiles of various contestants each week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Drive-By Post #2

Busy day today. Two interviews scheduled for ads. Early one got rescheduled for later. Late one got scheduled for earlier. My day got a little squished as a result. Oh, and did I mention --raging, eyeball popping headache? Not quite enough time to do everything I had planned, and there's not much here for lunch. First instinct was to drive up to the burger place and grab something. But I'm trying to watch expenses and that didn't seem like the best use of my time, or calories. So, I just made do with what was here--chopped up a big plate full of romaine, a little chicken lunch meat, a drizzle of Caesar dressing, a handful of croutons, and I was good to go. Delicious and it's actually making my headache feel a little better, too. Will finish with a small Fuji apple and a piece of string cheese when I'm done typing. Day derailed? No problem! Keeping good ingredients on hand and using just a little creativity helped me stay on track. What's next?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Washing It All Away

Since Oct. 1, I have had some combination of kids and/or my husband home due to illness or in-service days at school. I love my family. I love the time I spend with them. I love working at home so I can be there for them when someone's sick. That said, 11 days ... is too much. I had such great plans last week and as soon as I put them into action, I got derailed. It was devastating but what could I do? My husband was on antibiotics. My son had a 103 fever. My daughter wasn't sick, but I was going to do everything I could to keep her from getting it. So I put my stuff aside for the most part and focused on taking care of them. I did manage to get out to a cafe and work for a few hours. That's something I like to do from time to time. It gives me a fresh perspective and often helps me feel like I'm not just stuck in the house all the time.

But today, at 8 am, I pulled into my garage after dropping off the kids at school and realized the house was all mine for the next 7 hours. I honestly didn't know what to do with myself at first. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. First I spent some time just enjoying the quiet, going over emails, finishing a cup of coffee. Then I realized that I was just going to sit on my butt all day if I didn't get moving. I cleared away all the medicines that had been crowding the kitchen counter. All the papers that had just been left there until I could get to them "later." I gathered up all the table linens and tossed them in the washer. Then I did sheets. And then towels. I don't normally do laundry on Mondays, and in fact I find it a tedious chore (if only I could train it to fold itself!), but this felt like the right thing to do.

If everyone's getting better, then let's get rid of all the germs and START FRESH! I had a lot to catch up on from last week, but the more I thought about it, the more overwhelmed I became. So I figured this is just one day. I'll do what I can do today, and that will be enough. Some days it's more important to lay the foundation than to build three new floors, you know? Even SuperMom needs a day off once in a while. I looked at all my assignments, came up with a reasonable plan for the week, scheduled some appointments, did some very low-key research, and then ... I took some time to just relax. Could I have gotten more done if I really pushed myself? Sure. Would I have enjoyed it? Uhhh, hell no. But after the past 11 days, I wasn't going to let myself feel bad about it.

Now I've got the washer and dryer humming along, I have fresh linens on the kitchen table, my kitchen counter is recognizable again, my kids should be home from school in about 30 minutes, I'm not anywhere close to being "caught up" on work like I had intended to be by now, but I couldn't care less. I hate to go all Scarlett O'Hara here, but tomorrow is another day! I know what I'm capable of, and it'll all get done in due time.

What do you do to get back on track after your routine has been derailed?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Playlist: Run It Out

So, I’m thinking of moving my blog to somewhere other than blogspot. It’s been good for my purposes so far, but it may not accommodate all of the changes I want to make. Would love to hear your opinions/suggestions in the comments if you are so inclined.

One of the features I want to add is a tab/section for workout playlists. When I was a fitness instructor—long before the days of mp3s, or CDs—I loved creating playlists with fun themes to complement different workouts. My fitness level has certainly changed from those days—tell me again, why did I give up a job that paid me to work out a minimum of five times a week?—but I still love creating playlists for different workouts.

Here’s one I like for a run/walk on the treadmill. It’s just the list, sorry. No links to download, but if you think you’ll like this kind of thing as a regular feature, I’ll look into it.

Run It Out Playlist
1. Rich Girl, Hall & Oates
2. Gonna Fly Now, Rocky Orchestra
3. By the Way (album version), Red Hot Chili Peppers
4. Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
5. Rock You Like A Hurricane, Scorpions
6. Message of Love, Pretenders
7. I’ ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight, U2
8. No One Is To Blame, Howard Jones

This playlist is about 31 minutes. I like to use it for what I call a “dirty 30,” one of those workouts when you don’t have a lot of time, but you still want to get moving. Hall & Oates is a nice, bouncy warm-up. Trying singing along, from your diaphragm, on the don’t you know’s. Rocky music, Gonna Fly Now & Eye of the Tiger, is great motivation. By the Way has a nice shift of speeds if you like to do intervals. If I don’t feel like sprinting, I’ll change the elevation on my treadmill to make it more challenging. Try to clap and keep pace on the oooh-ahhh’s. Scorpions—if this isn’t the best song for running on an incline, I don’t know what is. Admittedly, the lyrics are totally sexist. But that’s not really what I’m thinking about when I’m working out. Message of Love has a good, easy beat to use for pace. Dig with your elbows to get more momentum as you run. The U2 song is the pusher. Just push through that and you know you’re almost at the end. I think the lyrics help, “It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain, when you start out the climb.” Finally, a nice cool-down with Howard Jones.

Let me know if you like it/how you would use it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Drive-By Post #1

From time to time, I'd like to do what I call a "drive-by": a short, quick hit/observation. Here's the first:

I'm at my local cafe today and it's not really helping my writing mood that they have the radio set to country music. Getting all serious into my work and they're playing Here's A Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares, by Travis Tritt.

Seriously, not helping ....

Perfect Timing

OK, so today is just a little microcosm of the way my life is going lately. Yesterday, my husband was diagnosed w/ a viral infection and lung congestion. Got some antibiotics and was told to stay home from work until he was feeling better. Our son was sick over the weekend, stayed home Monday and went back to school Tuesday. I had planned to spend the whole week working on my blog and other "personal" projects -- stuff that isn't attached to a paycheck -- but that's a lot easier to do when I'm the only one home. OK, so Monday was not very productive with my son home. He went to school Tuesday, and then the husband came home from work around 10:30 a.m. Two and a half hours of productivity. Wednesday, I started feeling sick myself. Sore throat, monster cough, achy. Yuck. But I pressed on and did what I could. Thursday, today, I knew my husband would be home. Tried to plan for it and get done as much as I could on Wednesday even though I was feeling cruddy. (OK, by cruddy, I mean that my throat felt like I swallowed a tack strip and then someone sharpened a straight razor on it.) Got up and actually felt a lot better. But with both my husband and son home, it's hard to concentrate on my work. So I did a little at the house while it was still quiet, then packed up my laptop and headed to my local cafe. Is it way more productive than being at the house? Umm, probably not. There are probably just as many distractions, if not more, here than there are at home, to be honest. But a change of scenery is sometimes necessary. I know I won't be working out much until everyone is over this viral thing. I'm not sure that I'm over it myself. I tend to err on the side of caution and take it easy a little too long when I probably could be working out. But, my opinion is this: I'm the one who keeps this household running. It's not that I don't trust my husband to do it. I just know that he's got other things to do. He's not going to remember which day our daughter needs to bring her library book to school, or when our son's class project is due. He's not here when they get home from school to ask about their day, see their homework log or class agenda. I am. And that's just part of my responsibilities. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself (wouldn't be the first time), but I like things to run smoothly. And leaving it up to someone else isn't always the solution. So I do it myself.

It's frustrating to feel like I'm losing ground on my big project this week, a project I really wanted to do for me, but I'll just trust that there will be time later on to get back to it. I started feeling a little guilty when I left them both home, sick, and told my husband I wasn't sure when I'd be back. But then I figured that this is probaby keeping me healthier and I shouldn't worry about it too much.

What do you guys do when you get sidetracked like this? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Not Where I Want to Be

So, the truth is out. I blog about family fitness, write articles about healthy living and guess what, I’m not where I want to be. I used to feel guilty about that. Really guilty. Almost to the point of being ashamed. How can anyone listen to anything I say when I’m not the perfect model of health and fitness? What if people find out I’m not a size 4? What will they think?

Well, the truth is, it’s been a really, really long time since I cared about what people think of me. Like, since I was a senior in high school. And I learned that lesson pretty fast. People who think less of me because of what I say, do or think, or how I look, aren’t really worth my time. Harsh? Maybe. But unabashedly true.

And then today it hit me that agonizing over not being where I want to be is subscribing to that same defeatist, all-or-nothing mentality that vaulted me up to the 200+ pound mark in the first place. And now look where I’m headed … again.

People always say I don’t look like I weigh what I weigh. For starters, I’m 5’9”. That’s five inches taller than the average U.S. woman. I got me a little more frame to fill. And—oh, how to say this delicately?—I’m sorta on the chesty side. I once read a medical chart that said I should weigh between 120 and 145. And I thought, “120? Sh*t, I have that much in my bra!” (Subsequently, that was the last time I paid attention to a medical chart.) I lost 55 pounds a few years ago, took 9” off my waist and only 4” off my chest. My jeans dropped from a size 18 to a size 10, thisclose to an 8, and I still have to buy an XL top, or shop at Lane Bryant for bras. (*cringe*) The girls are here to stay, no two ways about it.

But regardless, I could be doing better. In order to make progress, I think it’s necessary to revisit the past. What were my successes, and where did I fall short? My top weight, at least the top weight I admit to, was 229 pounds, just before I moved to Idaho in June 2004. (OK, don’t tell anyone, but just before I delivered my daughter, I was closer to 250. Linebacker size. Two weeks before she was born, the nurse weighed me and told me I was 248, and after that I told her not to tell me my weight anymore. But that’s just our little secret, K? All right, thanks.) I’m going to really go out on a limb here and post the picture, taken in August 2004. OK, look. What do you see? A fat girl, right? A fat girl with a bad haircut. (Short? What was I thinking?) But that’s not all I see. I see a girl who was really unhappy and unhealthy, just reacting to life, eating anything and everything because it was available, losing her temper a little too often and feeling very sorry for herself. Misery personified.

Now check out the next picture. That’s me just one year later, in 2005, 55 pounds lighter and much happier and healthier. That’s a girl who said “Eff you, misery! I got stuff to do. I deserve a better life than this, and I’m gonna fight for it!” That’s the girl who met her friend at 0:Dark:30 every morning to hit the gym. And then made time to lift weights at night when the kids went to bed. That’s the girl who stopped buying cookies because she figured out she couldn’t eat what wasn’t there. (Duh!) That’s the girl who found a way to be active no matter what, whether it was going out to play soccer (which she hates) with the kids or shoveling 49 yards of dirt out of the driveway to put in the backyard, busted ankle and all. She made it a workout, whatever it was.

So where is she now? Somewhere between those two pictures. Not where she wants to be. But she has come to the realization that it’s not all or nothing. It’s day by day, and each one is a new opportunity. And if she falls, she’ll get back up. It’s only a failure if you refuse to try again. So I’m officially dropping the guilt today. It never helps anything anyway. No matter what size pants I’m wearing, I know a lot about health and fitness. I have much to say and share and do. And I still want to help others achieve their own success, one day, one pound, one good decision at a time. Because THAT is where I want to be.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Change Is Gonna Come ...

Wow, where does the time go? Just when I think I've got a spare moment, it's gone. I have been working hard at Examiner and other gigs, and have seriously neglected this site, which is tragic because this truly represents why I do what I do. And there are no restrictions here! I can write in first person! Forget about word count! Curse if I want to! (*GASP*) Come on, those of you who know me know I can curse a sailor under a table straight out of bed. Be myself!

Wait, what was that last one? Oh, yeah. Be myself.

And there's the crux of it. Crazy as it may sound, I've been soooooo busy lately that I sort of forgot to do that. The simplest thing in the world. When I started this blog a few years back, it was for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it was to communicate the changes I was going through and, as a verrrrry close second, to help others who had given up on health and fitness. I wanted to show people that there is a better way to go through life than zooming through a drive-thru window or sitting on your ass (does that count as cursing?) and watching sports instead of actually getting up and playing them.

Like many work at home moms, my day is never done. No, that's not a plea for sympathy. Believe me, I could use it, but I have other things to deal with. The point is that I am continually juggling multiple deadlines, in addition to homework supervision, menu planning, grocery shopping, church activities, laundry, etc., etc., etc. Factor in the schedules of the other three members of my family, other numerous obligations, and the stress that has come from our world's financial meltdown and how it's affecting our household, and it's a lot to handle. I feel like I'm stuck in a hole right now and I need to get out of it. Fast. I find one of the easiest ways to deal with it all is to just work my ass off. (oops, cursing again) So that's all well and good when the paychecks roll in. Except I've been neglecting something: Being myself.

So ... with a much-needed break in my schedule, I am taking this week to give my blog a serious makeover. It may take more than a week. But that's fine. I want to do it right and if it takes a little longer, it's worth it. Speaking of what I want:

  • I want to provide good, solid information that everyday people will find interesting and useful.
  • I want to create a community of people who have both succeeded and failed at living a healthy lifestyle and see how we can help each other.
  • I want to share my (eyebrow-raisingly intimate) love for food and demonstrate that it's not a crime to indulge once in a while. Some of the buzz words around here are "sometimes foods" and "all things in moderation." Life is not an all or nothing choice. Just be smart. You can make substitutions. You don't have to agonize. You can eat a smaller portion. Or you can just have the damn brownie, enjoy it, and hit the treadmill later. No. Big. Whoop.
  • I want to gain momentum as I get myself back on track, too. It's been a while since I've exercised regularly. I'm not gaining, but I'm not where I want to be, either. I have dedicated so much time and energy to earning income that I've just let that slide. And I miss it. But every day that goes by, it becomes more of a routine to look past the treadmill and find something else to do. I want to feel that encouragement again and get back to the point where I wouldn't dream of a day without doing at least something to burn a calorie.
  • And most of all, I still want to show others that a healthy lifestyle is possible. For all of us. Myself included.

I have had numerous ideas for this blog over the past several months and haven't made time to write about them or implement them. But that's going to change. I'm hoping to not only get back on a regular writing schedule, but make some major changes in the look of the blog as well. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time but just haven't made time for.

That ends today. Like Sam Cooke sang, A Change Is Gonna Come, and here's hoping it will be better than ever.

Monday, July 27, 2009

No, I'm Not Ignoring You!

I know ... it's been such a long time since I've posted anything here on Family Fitness Files. I have been concentrating on my work as the Boise Healthy Living Examiner. However, now that I am pretty well established there, I plan to update my blog a little more regularly. While I am reworking much of my FFF material for Examiner and you will read most of my health-related content there, Examiner discourages articles written in the first person. Work is slowing down for the time being, so I should have a little more time to work on some of those more personal posts. Look for a "ranticle" coming up soon regarding back to school shopping and body image.

Feel free to stop by both places as often as you like. You can subscribe to both feeds, and leave comments.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Take A Lap

A family bike ride can be a great way to spend time together and get some exercise, but with younger children, you often alternate between worrying about their safety on city streets and waiting for them to catch up. It can put a real damper on the whole event and ruin the outing. But before you scrap your plans, consider riding your bikes at a local school. We love to ride our bikes on the high school track a few blocks from our house. Always check to make sure there aren’t any rules against riding your bikes on the track, and that there are no events scheduled. And be extra courteous to anyone there to run/walk on the track. Our rule is that we give runners "two lanes" on either side, and always say "on your right" (or left) when we pass. The track is usually softer than the street—excellent if you have inexperienced riders who might wipe out—plus, there are no cars to worry about, and everyone can go safely at their own pace. You can make it even more fun by breaking into pairs and racing each other, even do a relay. It’s easy to keep track of how far you’ve gone, since four laps equal a mile. An added bonus of using the track is that it usually surrounds a football field. If the younger kids get tired of riding, they can run around on the football field or bleachers and you can still keep an eye on them. Be sure to pack plenty of water, load up on sunscreen, and of course, ALWAYS wear your helmet!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


When the weather warms up, we love to barbecue. One of the challenges I face is that I love the taste of it all so much that I have a hard time controlling myself. I just want to eat everything! Recently, I started making mini burgers instead of regular sized burgers. I take two pounds of lean ground beef and add a little Montreal Steak Seasoning and some bread crumbs. I get about 16 mini burgers out of this. Not only is it built-in portion control, but they cook a lot faster. And you can eat two without feeling like you have to unzip your pants! My daughter is not a big meat eater and will rarely finish a regular sized burger. So these are perfect for her. (She still doesn't finish a whole one, but at least she doesn't waste as much!) For buns, I use dinner rolls. I set out the usual fixin's: cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and red onion. They are delicious and everyone loves them. It's a great way to save a little money when you're having a party, too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Games & Grooves

Looking for something fun to do this Friday or Saturday night? Maybe you’d like to plan a get-together but are feeling the pinch in this economy. You’re not alone. One of our favorite activities is to hold a Games & Grooves party. It’s fun with just the four of us, but even more fun with friends over. The format is really simple: food, games, dancing.

We start with dinner, usually a selection of cold cuts and cheeses, a sliced baguette, and loads of fresh fruit and veggies. Everyone can bring something to share, just make sure it’s simple. If you want to be decadent, add dessert. I like to make truffles—I know, wait! They’re high fat and high calorie, BUT, they’re small and I only make a few. Just enough for that little something sweet at the end of the meal, but not the same as eating a giant slab of three-layer chocolate cake! It usually comes out to one or two per person and no leftovers to wolf down after the party.

The great thing about this type of “dinner” is that you can grab a little something and then go back to the main activities: games and grooves. If we have a crowd, there’s usually a football game going on outside. Or baseball. Or Frisbee. In cold weather, we might skip this part and gather for dominoes or cards. But one of the highlights of Games & Grooves is the old school Atari that I grew up with. We love to play arcade games, and they’re fun for all ages.
Again, I know—wait! No, it’s not just an excuse to sit and play video games. Only two people can play Atari at the same time, so I also put on some mix CDs and if you’re not playing Atari, you’re dancing to the music. Hence, the Grooves part.

See how it all works together? This is a really fun way for everyone to come together, enjoy each other’s company, burn off some energy and just have a good time. I use a lot of music from when I taught aerobics and I love trying to teach my kids the steps. (Seriously, is any song better than Madonna’s “Holiday” for doing the Grapevine? My kids hear it come on and line up behind me.) And I love watching them to see their dance moves.

Now, most people don’t have an old Atari gaming system lying around. A lot of you might have a PlayStation, Nintendo or a Wii. And that’s fine. You can still integrate those games into your healthier lifestyle with no problem, especially Rock Band or Wii Fit. Just make sure you’re still getting plenty of physical activity and everyone keeps moving.

I almost forgot to mention the BEST part of Games & Grooves: you will spend most of the night LAUGHING your head off. They say it’s the best medicine. In any economy. So make some memories this weekend and have fun with your own Games & Grooves party!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Safety First!!

The weather is finally warm and you’re ready to head outdoors and have some family fun. Did you lock the house before you left? Turn off the stove? Buckle up when you got in the car? Great, but before you head out to the park or a nature trail, you’ll also want to make sure that everyone has the proper safety equipment for whatever activities you’re planning to do. So plan a trip to your local sporting goods store first to check out what’s new.

If you’re looking to save some money and don’t mind buying something used, try, or look online at or

Safety equipment includes helmets if you’re going to be cycling or skateboarding, knee and elbow pads for skating, shin guards for soccer, life vests and water wings for aquatic activities, mouth guards for various sports, and don’t forget a cup for your boy if he’s playing contact sports. (Pretty sure you’ll want to buy mouth guards and cups new, though!)

You can always ask the sales staff about each product to ensure that you’re getting the proper equipment for each family member. But in case you’re looking to save a little money and buy something used, some good general guidelines include choosing equipment that fits snugly, but not so tight that it is uncomfortable, and replacing equipment as it is outgrown or begins to show signs of wear.

With bike helmets, look for a seal of approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Be sure they sit flat on your head and don’t scoot back, and that you have proper visibility. You can adjust the fit with the foam sizing pads that come with the helmet. And parents: be a good example and make sure you wear your helmet, too!

Just a little preparation ahead of time can save you a lot of hurt down the road and keep everyone in the game.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Let It Grow

I started out last week with a flurry of new ideas for blog posts, and then mid-week I came down with a case of the cruds: sore throat, achy head and neck, fatigue. With a busy schedule, blog posts had to wait until I could recover. But it’s a new week and I’m feeling much better, so here we go.

My first topic this week is the physical and nutritional benefits of gardening. Now that most of us are enjoying spring weather, the time is right to think about planting a garden. You don’t have to sacrifice a large portion of your yard. Even if you live in an apartment or condo, you can still use containers to grow your plants, or look for a community garden in your area. Tending a garden as a family accomplishes several things: First, it provides wholesome food to feed your family, which can also save time, money and gas, since you don’t have to make that trip to the store when you need a few tomatoes for a recipe. Second, it can be a great workout. Pulling weeds and digging in the soil can increase your heart rate and strengthen yoru arms and back. And finally, it gives each member of the family a chance to contribute to a group project.

Homegrown produce always tastes best! By growing your own, you will know exactly which products were used on your fruits and vegetables. Kids love to “get dirty” and can help by putting plants in the ground and watering. And don't forget the physical benefits: A 150-pound person can burn 286 calories by gardening for an hour.

A garden can also be a source of pride. Even young children can literally see the fruits (or veggies, or even flowers) of their labors and say, “I helped create that!” Taking care of something and watching it grow and prosper carries over to other lessons in life. Besides, at the end of a warm summer day, there is nothing like sitting on the back porch and enjoying a bowl of homegrown strawberries with your family.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Have you heard about the “conditioned hypereating” theory? (Check the link section.)

Dr. David Kessler of UCSF suggests that millions of us can’t resist foods that are bad for us because we are slaves to the pleasure-inducing combination of fat and sugar. And because many foods that are marketed as “healthy” simply replace fat with more sugar, we wind up wanting to eat even more, our bodies can’t metabolize the sugar so it turns into fat, and we’re right back where we started. Thank you, makers of “light” ice cream everywhere.

It’s not major news that food can be addictive, just like alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. Look at our obesity rate: we didn’t get this way because overeating is a challenge. The difference is that even at the height of addiction, any logical person can see the reason to stop drinking, smoking or taking drugs: your body doesn’t need that stuff. But you can’t stop eating.
The key is retraining your brain to resist those foods that are so unhealthy.

One way you can do this is to stop buying it in the first place. If I don’t put the cookies in my shopping cart, I don’t have them in the pantry later when I’m bored and looking for a snack, hungry or not. So I might eat an apple or a banana, a piece of cheese or some turkey instead.

Of course, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and over time, if I really want that cookie, I’ll go to the store to get it. A little indulgence once in a while is fine, and it keeps us from going on a binge. So here’s another trick: buy or make a single serving. Just buy one cookie from your grocery’s bakery department, instead of a big bag that you will inhale in no time flat.

Or make one of my family’s favorite desserts: parfaits. We’ll layer pudding, whipped cream, and cake, cookie or brownie pieces in a tall sundae glass. You can also use fruit or granola. Get creative. The kids love it because it looks like a fancy treat. I love it because there are no leftovers to tempt me the next day. It helps when I can say, “I had it, I enjoyed it, and now I can burn it off.” And my craving has been quashed.

Finally, recognize that no food should be off-limits. Just enjoy it in moderation. Put a portion on a plate or in a bowl and then put the package away. It’s a lot easier to stop eating those chips when the bowl is empty, even if you know there’s ¾ of a bag left in the pantry. Seeing the portion size makes you feel satisfied faster, so you’re less likely to gorge.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Cola Wars

I'll admit it: I have a love/hate relationship with diet soda. On the one hand, it's a calorie free way to quench my thirst and has more flavor than water. On the other hand, there is more and more research to show that it can be much more harmful than you may realize. Recent studies suggest that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda actually make us crave more of the real thing. And that leads to overeating.

I joke sometimes that I need a diet Pepsi "patch." I've given it up several times--as part of a new nutrition plan, for Lent, as a New Year's resolution--but I always seem to find myself running back to my old flame. I'll be out running errands and that cooler at the checkout will seduce me like Antonio Banderas holding a bouquet of roses in a candlelit room. Without thinking, I add it to my cart. As soon as my purchases are stored away, I climb in behind the wheel, open the cap and those fizzy bubbles start tickling my nose. I take a long sip of the sweet, dark beverage, savoring it as it bounces down my throat. OK, I'll say it: I might even let out a loud, raucous burp of satisfaction. But as is true with any addiction, the following sips are not quite as fulfilling as the first.

At one point, I was going through 2 to 4 cans every day. More than a 12-pack each week. That can really add up, especially if you're not the only one in the house drinking it. And I've found that it's true: I really do crave sweet things when I drink diet sodas. I try to avoid caffeine, but sometimes it's the only option. When I drink too much of it, I get headaches and I tend to develop fibroid tumors in my breasts, which can be painful, and may panic you into scheduling a mammogram if you haven't had one recently. Better to be safe than sorry.

Well, this year I took a different approach to giving up soda, one not entirely of my choosing. Like most humans, I have been forced to reexamine my spending during this recession and eliminate anything that's not an absolute essential, so soda has been out for the past few months. Instead, I usually drink water or decaf herbal tea. And guess what? No more headaches, no sugary cravings, my skin looks better, and I just feel better in general. I can't really say for sure, but I think I may have finally kicked the diet soda habit for good.

There will always be that temptation at the checkout, and it will be hard to avoid diet soda entirely. In the past four months, I have had maybe 8 diet sodas, a dramatic change from my 2+ can a day habit. Sure, I'll probably still order an occasional soda if we go out to eat or if we're at a party and there are some in the cooler. But from now on, I'm putting diet soda in the category of "sometimes food" and I think that's the way it will stay.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

National Turnoff Week

I've blogged about the benefits and drawbacks of TV in the past. It can be entertaining, inspiring, and informative. It can also be a convenient excuse to sit on your bottom and do nothing. And when your kids see you doing that, it's all they want to do, too. This week, April 20th - 26th, is Turnoff Week, promoted by the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (CSTA). It is intended to help people "take control of the electronic media in their lives and not allow it to control them." Sounds like something that could benefit all of us. It started as an environmental campaign, but it can certainly provide help to families looking to cut the cords to TVs, music players, gaming devices, computers, cell phones, and other things that encourage inacivity. So this week, families are challenged to find out what it's like to turn these devices off. Instead, plan a family hike or picnic, head to your local roller skating palace, go on a family bike ride to the nearest school and then play on the playground. There are so many things you can do. In the evening, plan a family game night, complete with old fashioned popcorn made on the stove--not the microwave! Do you like to watch sports? Gather up the neighbors for a baseball game. Go fishing. Addicted to home improvement shows? Plant a garden. Clean out the attic. Restain the fence. If cooking shows are more your style, plan an outing to your local farmer's market and buy all the ingredients you need for an organic feast. You will hardly miss those things you gave up.

For more information, click here:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Check Out Pat's Run

I was born and raised in San Jose, CA. Athletics played a big part in my childhood and teen years. I did track, gymnastics, and later taught low impact and aqua aerobics. But some of my fondest memories are from my afternoons spent with my buddies, playing football, soccer, baseball, basketball, and whatever else sounded like fun. We went out as soon as our homework was done, played until dinner time, and then begged to go back out until it was time for bed. My community, the Almaden Valley, was filled with young athletes eager go out and play hard. One of those young athletes was Pat Tillman. I'm sure you know his story, and I don't want to go into politics here. The purpose of this post is to let you know that there are two events held in his honor that take place each spring. Pat's Run is held in both Tempe, AZ, where Pat played football for ASU, and our hometown of San Jose, CA. Each event includes a 4.2 mile run for adults, as well as a .42 mile kids' run. This is a great family friendly event where everyone is a winner, and it honors his memory and the principles he lived and died for, so if you are in either area and want to try something that is sure to inspire you and your family, be sure to check it out. Look in the links section to learn more.

If April's a little too soon, there is also the Team Tillman Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon Challenge on July 19.

100 Pushups--Try It!

A friend asked me to join her in the 100 Pushup Challenge. At first, I thought she was nuts. I've never had much upper body strength. As a former track athlete, I always trained my legs and forgot about the rest. That's fine when you're in high school and you take your athletic frame for granted. But after a couple pregnancies, some broken bones/injuries, a few surgeries, and a whole lot of life, you look at things a little differently. Now that I'm in my 40s, make that my very early 40s, I realize that it's important to work your entire body or you won't see results. And to be totally honest, the thought of being able to say I could do 100 pushups really spoke to my pride. The 100 Pushup Challenge is a 6-week plan and it's conveniently broken down into 3 simple workouts each week. All you're doing is pushups. Simple as that. You start with an assessment. How many good form pushups can you do before you reach exhaustion? And none of this "girl" stuff with the bent knees. It's both feet on the floor and press it out. I could only do 10. I was a little disappointed, but I realized that many women my age, and many women even younger than me, can barely do 1 standard pushup, so that's not a bad start. Never mind that my husband popped out 30 in a row like a hydraulic lift and I wanted to hit him in the back of the head with my shoe. Everyone has to start somewhere. By the end of the second week, I could crank out a set of 15 pushups like it was no big deal. I'm still working on it and I'll update you on my progress soon. Check out the link over in the Links section and see if you can do it. It's something the entire family can do and it's a fun, friendly way to get everyone working toward a common goal.

Spring Is Here -- Time to Head Outdoors!

I don't know about you, but where I live, temperatures are finally beginning to climb and all I want to do is head outside. After months of hibernating on my couch, it feels great to finally get out and get moving. Seize the opportunity to go for a family bike ride, or just take a walk through your neighborhood to see whose crocuses are sprouting up. Got a few errands to do? Why not walk or ride your bike to the market, post office or library? Or how about riding a skateboard or roller blading? This is the perfect time to do it! Or just grab a ball and go out and play catch, start up a baseball game, see if you can kick a soccer ball past your kids and make a goal. Possibilities are endless and you will feel refreshed and renewed in no time. Goodbye, harsh winter! Let's hear it for SPRING!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sweet Revenge

I have a notorious sweet tooth! One of the hardest challenges I face is convincing myself I don't really need that little sugar rush after every meal. I tried chewing gum: great, until the flavor wears off, and then I REALLY want something sweet. I've tried cutting out sugar all together. OK for some, but not realistic for me. Then one day I discovered something. If I have something sour at the end of my meal--the last taste in my mouth--I don't want anything sweet. So my secret weapon is a big jar of dill pickles that I keep in my fridge. They have to be kosher dill and they have to be cold. As a writer, I work at home and if I lose focus, I may wander through the kitchen, even though I'm not likely hungry. If I just feel like I have to eat something, I'll get myself a small plate, put a pickle or two on there, and maybe a handful of low fat whole grain Wheat Thins. Having it on a plate makes it look more substantial, and since we eat with our eyes first, this helps me feel satisfied. That sour taste just kills my sweet tooth and I can go back to my work without any more distractions. Pickles can be high in sodium, so don't eat more than a couple. And be sure to drink a little extra water. I figure it's worth it if it keeps me from downing half a bag of cookies in my quest to satisfy my sweet tooth!

Make Family Time Fitness Time

One of our family's favorite weekly activities is gathering to watch The Biggest Loser. Each season we have cheered at our favorite contestants' triumphs, and cried at their lack of success. I think it helps the kids understand that fitness is a commitment each of us must make, and take it seriously. We have followed the show on NBC and in reruns on other networks. Even though we know who's going to be eliminated, we still find the reruns just as inspiring as the new shows. In our time zone, TBL airs from 7 to 9 pm. Usually, I like to have the kids in bed around 8:30, but on Tuesday nights, we make an exception. For the first hour, we exercise during the commercials. Our son loves to do pushups on the medicine ball, rolling it back and forth between hands. Our daughter has her own version of pushups. Not quite the same, but she's only six. I think that at this stage, it's more important for her to get the idea that exercise can be fun, rather than crack down on proper form. She'll figure it out eventually. My husband and I might lift weights or use resistance bands. When the show comes back on, we finish our set. After 8, the kids know they are done exercising for the day. We like them to have the opportunity to wind down. Sometimes we'll pair up and let one team be the "trainers," while the other team follows their directions. My daughter and I might ask the boys to do stair laps or crunches, and then on the next commercial, it's the boys' turn to train us. Everyone works at their own pace, and it's fun.