Lifelong Learning

This week I’m thinking a lot about learning.  Today is my 1-year anniversary at work, and although I’ve come a very long way, I still feel like I have so much to learn!  My husband and sister both started new jobs this week and are probably overwhelmed with how much they’ll have to learn in their new roles.  But whether you’re a “lifer”, or a “newbie” in your job, I’m a firm believer in the necessity of continuous learning because things are constantly changing and we have to keep.  The things I learned in college 12 years ago are now largely obsolete, so I take every opportunity to attend local industry events, read industry publications, and network with as many people as I can.  But I don’t think learning stops at work, it’s necessary for our personal lives as well.  Take health and wellness for example.  I sometimes take for granted how much I know since it’s been a passion of mine for a decade and I love to read about it, so when I’m talking to other people who are just getting started, I have to remember that they’re still learning the basics.  My sister has moved across the country and is trying to embark on a healthier lifestyle, and the grocery store is her first battleground.  Unlike me, who thoroughly enjoys the grocery wonderland, she sees it as a maze of too many food choices with confusing and sometimes conflicting nutritional information.


A few of her questions, and maybe yours too… Is bread bad for me?  I thought you’re suppose to avoid dairy?  Does fruit have too much sugar?  Good grief!  No wonder everyone is confused.  Even after 10 years, I’m still tweaking my diet based on what makes me feel the best, and I will never give up my beloved ice cream, but the simple answer is that everyone is different.  One person might need to avoid gluten and dairy, while others follow a high-carb, low-fat diet.  My simplest suggestion is to first focus on learning how to eat a balanced diet.  I think Cynthia Sass did a great job of summarizing this in her books (Cinch & Sass Yourself Slim), by outlining that every meal should include 5 puzzle pieces:

  1. Produce (fruits & veggies)
  2. Whole Grains (bread, rice, pasta)
  3. Lean Protein (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, dairy)
  4. Plant-based Fat:  (nuts, avocados, edamame / soy, coconut/olive/canola oil)
  5. Natural seasonings (herbs, vinegar, citrus juice)

Forget counting calories if that’s not your thing, just build properly portioned meals using these 5 puzzle pieces.  I’m sure you’ve got some ideas just reading through the list.  Not sure how to portion and don’t want to buy the book?  Use a small plate – most of the plate should be your produce, then the whole grain, then a palm-size serving of protein, plus whatever fat & seasonings you’re adding.  This is very similar to the USDA’s new “My Plate“.  Or here’s an idea – just eat slowly and stop when you’re full!  Here’s an old blog post I did that shows how I used the puzzle pieces for a few different meals, and on a tight budget!

Hopefully I did my part to offer you a little education today!  Happy learning…

Click the apple for a “Food Labeling 101” article.

A Year Later…

1 year later, and I’m back to WordPress.  Last year, my husband and I decided to start a new website dedicated to health, fitness, and a potential future business, but then life got turned upside down.  The new site was going to take a lot of work, versus using the awesome, free functionality here on WordPress and I really missed it!  Plus, I was really only using the blog function, and I found that people could not find me as easily.  My blog is more for self-motivation and venting my daily thoughts, however I think I helped inspire some people last year to lose weight and that was equally inspiring for me. 

ImageI let the website lapse and basically lost the year’s content, however I’m not sad about that.  My life got turned upside down, and while I’m happy to report that I’m still at my Summer 2011 weight, it was a tumultuous year and somehow leaving the blog behind feels like a new beginning.  Last September, I took a new job with Wendy’s (as in “old-fashioned hamburgers”) at their corporate office near Columbus, Ohio, so we made the more-difficult-than-expected move and I’m still struggling to feel settled.  We bought a new house in the cute little suburb of Powell, and I’ve been loving the endless walking trails, beautiful scenery, great food (especially ice cream), and friendly people.  However, the stress of my new job, as well as my husband’s struggle to find one is a constant strain.  I’m glad we like it here because I don’t plan to move again for a long time.


As for my weight, which was the central theme in my previous blogs, I’m happy to report that I’m at 132 pounds, pretty close to where I ended up after my 5-month Cinch journey last year.  I also have purchased Cynthia Sass’ new book,  ” Sass Yourself Slim”, which turned out to be a slightly revised, re-named version of the original, and have continued to follow the 4-small meals using all of the puzzle pieces.  Having done if for so long now, its second nature and I don’t get it much thought. 

I will try and make time for more blogging… it’s food for my soul!  Thanks for the push, Trish!

Ruby Tuesday Rocks


Yes, I gotta give props to RT.  They’ve come a long, long way from a menu built around burgers and nothing but starchy side dishes.  They have another menu coming soon (currently testing in my area) and is sure to please all the vegetarians and healthy-eaters out there. 

First though, I was thrilled to see one of my blog-comments featured on the site!  (Click on the picture.)  I check out this blog at least once a week, as it is written Cynthia Sass, author of Cinch!, and she always offers some good, insightful advice.  This particular blog was about being “Duped by Healthy Restaurant Meals”, something I stress about often, and ironically the theme of today’s blog!


Now back to Ruby Tuesday…  they were one of the pioneers in putting nutritional information on the menu, something that did not go over well a decade ago, but will soon be required for all restaurant companies with more than 15 restaurants.  With RT’s re-branding initiative that began in 2006, they’ve also been busy upgrading the menu, which includes a lot of new healthy options.  Don’t get me wrong, a large majority of the menu is still full of high-calorie dishes (i.e. delicious), but unlike many restaurants, I never have a problem finding healthy options and don’t have to eat the same thing every time!  The menu actually highlights the “Fit & Trim” selections, which means that they are under 700 calories.  Personally, 700 calories is twice what I need for 1 of my 4 mini-meals, so if I choose one of these options, I just eat half and save the rest for later.  But you can still customize a lot of the other stuff by removing the butter, sauce, and cheese.  

Here are a few suggestions, some of which will be featured in the new April menu:

  • Garden Bar.  Fill up with all the veggies you can eat, but steer clear of the cheese, bacon, prepared salads, and most salad dressings.  Go with the Balsamic Vinaigrette or Light Ranch and NO CROUTONS!  Those things are double-fried!
  • Soup.  White Bean Chicken Chili is my favorite and the healthiest choice, and at 230 calories per bowl, there’s still room for a light salad.
  • Side Dishes.  As someone that eats a mostly vegetarian diet, I LOVE our new side dish selections!  My favorites are the grilled zucchini, sweet potato fries, spaghetti squash, and sliced tomatoes.  Warning – the Mac & Cheese is fabulous… and 570 calories!

  • Petite Plates.  I was very excited when we first started offering these smaller versions of our regular entrees.  Sometimes eating half and taking the rest home is just not an option!  They are intended for lunch, but you can order them all day.  Check out the new Zucchini Cake Petite Plate – my new favorite!
  • Grilled Fish or Chicken.  Most of the grilled fish or chicken options (and there are many to choose from) are a pretty safe bet if paired with healthy side dishes.  Just be sure and ask that it not be cooked or prepared with any butter or creamy sauces, depending on which one you choose.
  • Zucchini Cakes.  These tasty newbies will replace our traditional veggie minis and have been a huge hit in test restaurants.  They are also my new favorite!  You can get them in a Petite Plate (as listed above) with 2 sides, or as mini sandwiches with 1 side.  Just be sure you tell them to cook it “dry” (no butter) and if you get the minis, tell them no mayo and no butter on the buns.

Below is the full Ruby Tuesday nutritional guide (click on the picture), but this does not include any new items.  There is also a “Smart Eating” section, which features items that are available to order, but not given any space on the actual menu (space is limited to more popular / profitable items):

Cinch Detox Do Over, Day 3

I think I’ll have to come up with new post titles after detox is over… I’m getting a little tired of the word “cinch”!  Ha ha.  I’m on day 3 and it’s flying by.  So far it’s been much easier this time around, probably because I knew what to do and prepped everything in advance.  Plus, I’ve been so busy at work that I didn’t have time to think the diet.  It’s so nice not to worry about food each day – just grab and go.

After researching a reader’s question, I discovered that Cynthia Sass has a website and it includes a Cinch Q&A.  Of course, I’ll continue to answer your questions on my blog, but I thought I’d throw that out there as an expert reference.  I actually enjoy your questions and tend to learn something each time.

Oh my… I’m eating the parfait and it is sooooooo good.  Even the fruit has tasted amazing this week – probably because I decided to add a little Truvia and it’s made a huge difference.  I’m sure the Light ‘n Fit yogurt (which contains Splenda / sucralose) helped with the Parfait, but even the plain fruit and smoothie (made with greek yogurt) tastes so much better with a little shake of Truvia.  Have you guys tried this yet?  It’s a natural plant-based sweetener derived from the Stevia plant and can be found near the sugar in your grocery store.  It’s kind of expensive (about $7 for a small canister like the one shown below), but it lasts a long time.  It’s actually much stronger than sugar, so you can just use a little bit and be satisfied.  The book discourages the use of artificial sweeteners because Cynthia believes they can induce sugar cravings.  I do not find that to be the case for me, but everyone should do what works best for them.   I actually think they curb my cravings because I feel like I’m splurging when I eat it!

Lastly, so many of you send me messages thanking me for the blog and the inspiration, but actually, you are the ones that inspire me!  Every morning I see your comments, questions, and compliments, and it just encourages me to push through another day.  This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change!  No, we’re not going to be reading the book and copying the recipes forever, but after couple of months, our metabolisms should be improved, our palates accustomed to the taste of real food, and our cooking and eating habits transformed.  You’ll learn how to make meals with the puzzle pieces – 1) produce, 2) lean protein, 3) whole grain, 4) plant-based fat (nuts, avocado, olive / veg / coconut oil), and 5) healthy seasonings.  Hopefully you’re also trying to incorporate a little exercise into your day after Detox is over.  Cynthia is a big fan of walking!  This time of year can make that challenging, but there are lots of other indoor activities, or just find a good workout DVD and use your living room.  Please note that she does not recommend heavy exercise during Detox because of the limited calories.  If you do exercise or need a calorie boost, add an egg or serving of yogurt with breakfast.

Have a great day! 

Cinch 5 Day Detox

I like to occasionally read the blogs ( and one of them sparked my interest this week.  Cynthia Sass, Shape’s resident Weight Loss Coach, was discussing her new book Cinch and the 5-Day-Detox plan that can “change your life”.  The detox phase is supposed to kick-start a new diet by introducing order and simplicity and quick weight loss (up to 8 pounds) to cleanse your system and boost motivation. You eat the exact same meals, at the same times, every day for 5 days, although you can mix up the order in which you eat them (example – you can eat Meal 1 for dinner if you prefer).   According to Sass, this will “give your body, mind, and taste buds a fresh start and achieve real results.”  As an added bonus, you’ll supposedly end up with fewer cravings for salty, fatty, or sweet foods, as well as a new appreciation for real food’s natural flavor.  I can definitely use the sugar-craving suppression!

I decided to splurge and order the book ($15.59 on, which should arrive on my doorstep tomorrow.  I’ll start with the 5-day Detox and blog about my experience, then decide on how to proceed after I finish reading the book.  The detox phase consists of 5 ingredients – spinach, almonds, raspberries, eggs, and plain yogurt.  Fortunately I like all of the ingredients, so it doesn’t seem so bad.  I’ll start on Friday and continue  through Tuesday of next week, just in time for our Thursday office party!  Stay tuned…

(click on the picture to read the Shape blog from author, Cynthia Sass)