3 ways to beat serving-size guilt

A meal bar that offered an astonishing 48 grams of protein in exchange for 24 carbs, 6 grams of fat and 320 calories would seem like a nutritional powerhouse.

So why is it that when I get those same numbers from two cups of low-fat cottage cheese, I feel like I screwed up?

It’s serving size guilt. Everybody knows you’re only supposed to eat half a cup of cottage cheese; the label tells you so.

But sometimes I need two cups to feel like I’m getting a breakfast that’s going to get me through a demanding day. If I can disregard the guilt and just focus on the numbers, I usually wind up feeling pretty good about my choice.

Here are two other ways to seize control of serving-size guilt and make food labels work for you instead of against you:

Go for a double. A double serving size sounds decadent, but in many cases it’s actually a calorie savings compared with the amount of food you’d normally eat. If you normally eat a large bowl of ice cream, measure out a double serving size instead. You’ll be saving calories yet still feel like you’re defying the serving-size police.

Don’t mistake freedom for ignorance: If it seems like a hassle to measure out servings every time, make a note of how much food your favorite mug or bowl holds. Once I discovered our bowls hold two cups of cereal, I switched to eating mine out of a dainty glass punch cup. If I fill it to the rim, that’s half a cup. Sometimes that’s enough; sometimes it’s not. But even if I refill my punch cup two more times, I’m still eating less than a cereal bowl. (In  my fat days I often wound up eating two bowls of Raisin Bran. That’s 4 cups – or a startling 760 calories — even before adding the milk!)

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Giving goat yoga a try

goat yoga 2I’m not an animal person, but I couldn’t resist giving goat yoga a try.

It was a fundraiser at our local YMCA. Seventy-five people spread their mats in the gym while 10 small goats wandered among us, bleating nonstop, climbing over people and, on occasion, peeing on their mats.

I was never in any real danger of having my mat peed on because any loose goats that wandered my way were usually snagged by animal lovers who wanted to snuggle (and/or get out of doing the yoga poses).

Like beer yoga, goat yoga takes away all the pretension. You can only take yourself so seriously in the midst of baby goats.

I suppose it’s also a test of your mindfulness abilities, though I seriously doubt anyone was focusing overly much on their breathing amid all that bleating.

The goats belonged to a farmer I went to elementary school with. He sat on the floor in his overalls but did not attempt any yoga poses.

Was it amusing? Sure. Would I do this again? Probably not. But if it becomes a thing that one must practice yoga with an animal, I guess I’d rather do it with goats than, say, grizzly bears or boa constrictors.

goat yoga 1

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5K Challenge: A race that felt more like a club run

The North Adams Strides for Students 5K felt more like a club run than a race. Most of the 39 runners knew each other, and even though I’m from out of county, I’m starting to identify who’s who.

I know where to fall in line in the early stages of the race, trying to stay within plausible trailing distance of the runners who generally place ahead of me, hoping that each time out I’ll get a little closer.

In Saturday’s race, I narrowed the gap – and even passed one of the runners who usually beats me by two minutes or so, though she later sucked it up and finished 26 seconds ahead of me.

I was initially disappointed to see my time, which at 33:02 was my slowest effort in the last three races. But comparing notes with others, and looking over the results afterward, it turned out that everybody’s time was slower than expected. Barry Humble, who won his age group in last year’s Adams County 5K Challenge, told me he was a minute and a half slower this week than he was last week at the Swiss Days Race.

Either the heat was a factor or the course was a little long. Either way, it was a worthwhile run.

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Swiss Days Race disappointment

I’d really hoped that by this year’s Swiss Day’s Race I’d have my 5K time under 30 minutes. Instead, I took a step backward, running a 32:38 after logging 31:58 in a June 9 race in the Adams County 5K Challenge.

I lost some training time along the way to a hamstring pull, but my running has suffered more recently due to being increasingly busy at work (and then often being busy after work as well). In the week before the race I did not get in a single run, though I did make it to boot camp one morning.

What I’m discovering with my new schedule is that if I don’t run in the morning before work, it’s not likely to happen at all. That doesn’t give me a lot of time to get in the longer runs I’d like to be doing, but it’s just the reality of my current situation.

On the plus side, it’s always fun to run Swiss Days, no matter how I do personally. Among the familiar faces was Doug Bauman, who at age 71 ran just over 26 minutes in his 45th consecutive Swiss Days Race. The other 45-year runner I wrote about last year, Barry Humble, was a little slower this year, but I noticed he still had a smile on his face.

Obviously there’s more to the running experience than what time you get in any given race. But I’m not giving up on my goal just yet. There are still five races left in the 5K Challenge, which doesn’t end until November. I’m determined to get under 30 minutes in one of them, and I hope to start training for a longer race sometime this fall as well.

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How losing even a small portion of excess weight can make a big difference


Vera Richardson, left, transformed her life by losing 79 pounds. Though she’s still over twice her ideal body weight, her blood sugar is now under control and she’s got much more energy. 

Anybody who thinks weight loss is an all-or-nothing proposition ought to meet Vera Richardson.

At 308 pounds, she’s still likely to be the most overweight person in any room she enters. But the 79 pounds she’s lost over the last year have literally transformed her life.

Her blood sugar’s gone from frequent 300-plus levels to readings in the normal range, even though she’s down to two daily insulin shots rather than five.

She has more energy, enough so that she’s started going to the YMCA to walk on the treadmill.

She’s even found a job — a big step for an intellectually disabled young woman who, just a year or two ago, was considered one of the most at-risk clients at Easterseals/Arc of Fort Wayne because of all her health problems.

I wrote about Vera and her two roommates for last week’s News-Sentinel column because they’re a great example of how shedding even some of their extra bulk can make a big difference. Vera’s roommate Evelyn was carrying around an oxygen tank this time last year. Now 45 pounds lighter, she no longer needs it — even though she’s still about 50 pounds overweight. Their new roommate, Mary, who’s only been with them a couple of months, has already lost nearly 20 pounds.

These women aren’t on a diet so much as simply trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. They’re cutting back to normal serving sizes at meal times, substituting fruit, nuts and protein go-packs for sweet treats at snack time, and going to the YMCA at least three days a week.

Granted, as clients of Easterseals, they have staff who provide advice and support. But they make their own decisions. If Vera wants an ice cream sundae, for instance, she talks it over with her house manager, who helps her review how long it’s been since her last sugary treat.

In the end, it’s Vera’s call. But now that she’s got some momentum going, consistently losing 2-3 pounds a week, says staff member Rachel Wehrwein, “there’s no stopping her.”

To read more about Vera and her roommates, check out my latest Adventures in Food and Fitness column here. (The website will ask you to take a survey, but you can elect to skip it and go right to the article.)

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Food log favorites tied to days of the week

When I record my hours at my day job, if I indicate that I was working with a specific person on my caseload rather than general administrative duties, a set of goals linked to that individual will automatically pop up on the screen, giving me the option to note if any progress was made.

Lately I’ve noticed something similar happening on my interior view screen when I look ahead to the day’s eating challenges.

On Friday, for instance, recalling that we had an awards banquet to go to triggered a pop-up reminder of a food log entry I’ve labeled the Awards Banquet Template. In the past, it’s not only helped me conserve calories during the day but restrain myself at the targeted meal.

I call these preplanned daily menus “templates” because I try to replicate each meal or snack from that day as closely as possible, knowing it was not only successful in terms of controlling my eating but contains foods that were both appealing and filling.

Because it was a Friday, a couple of other templates linked to that day of the week also popped up.

One I call the SCD Post-Garage Sale Party at Rachel’s Template. That’s a mouthful, but in actuality it’s so simple I have it memorized: Five 70-calorie chicken sausages for breakfast, a 15-ounce can of refried beans with carrots and celery for lunch, and a couple of glasses of red wine with crunchy veggies from the hors d’oevre table for dinner.

This is from August 2014, when I was having decent success on Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet (SCD). This template isn’t necessarily typical of that diet, but it’s extra light dinner helped me close out a solid week of weight loss. Its appeal lies in its simplicity and the near guarantee I’ll be down a couple of pounds the following day.

However, part of the reason I was trying that diet was because I wasn’t able to run due to an injury. Most of the time, that’s not going to provide enough energy for me when I’ve got a Saturday morning race or a decent-sized run planned.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is my Baseball Sectional Template from May 2016, when I had four bags of 94 percent fat free microwave popcorn and half a carton of Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom ice cream (fat free, no sugar added). Even with an egg white Subway sub and a celebratory McDonald’s soft-serve cone after the game, I still made my retro Weight Watchers points quota for the day.  

Though my Ice Cream Diet Template didn’t originally take place on a Friday — it occurred on the hottest day I can recall during my lifetime, when the temperature hit 106 in July 2012 — it’s one of my most fun templates and on some level, even at age 53, I still associate Fridays with Fun.

This past Friday, I went with the Awards Banquet Template (see below)— only to fail miserably, because I hadn’t taken into account that the softball banquet it’s based on occurred on a Tuesday, when I was busy at the office and managed to stay fairly distracted between mealtimes. Because I was off Friday and working at home, juggling a bunch of projects I was trying to catch up on, I was plagued with a nagging sense of anxiety that translated into the munchies.

Live and learn, right? So now I’m going to write myself up a Friday Awards Banquet Template, which will have me eating as much as I want of only one type of filling-but-low-cal food during a stay-at-home day prior to a banquet … probably a staple from my 2010 Weight Loss campaign, boiled egg white sandwiches on high fiber, 35-calorie Healthy Goodness bread. (As I recall, those were only 1 Weight Watchers point on the system that was in use at the time.)

The Original Awards Banquet Template:

Breakfast: banana and ½ cup oatmeal with 1T peanut butter..

Lunch: Baby carrots, 1 ounce almonds, banana.

Snack on way home from work: 1 more ounce of almonds and more carrots, if desired.

Awards banquet: plain burger (no bun), small serving of pasta salad, larger serving of tossed salad, one cookie from the dessert table.

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Helping others race is a great feeling

Looking to boost our dreadful preregistration numbers for our local 4-H 5k, I’d recruited a handful of walkers from the agency for intellectually disabled adults where I’ve been working the last few months.

I wasn’t really sure how long it might take them to finish the race, or whether they’d even make it. The timing crew allowed them to start half an hour early, so there wouldn’t be such a big gap between the frontrunners and the back of the pack.

But as it turned out, our walkers from Bi-County Services finished in 61 minutes, about a minute ahead of the last two finishers.

4-H 5K Kevin Moser

I’ve seen frequent winner Kevin Moser at several area races the last few years, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized he’s the son of one of my co-workers, Blanca. 

What made it even better was that the winner of the event, a former local cross country star, is the son of one of our agency’s employees, so he graciously consented to having his photo taken with our walkers. (If I can track down a copy of that pic, I’ll post it later today.)

It was a huge relief that this event turned out so well. The timing crew told us beforehand that race numbers are down everywhere this summer. But we unexpectedly wound up with a respectable turnout after our race-day sign-ups literally doubled the size of the field. The only downside was that we ran out of T-shirts.

The unexpected good feelings generated from this event helped ease my disappointment from missing Friday night’s race in the Adams County 5K Challenge after pulling my hamstring earlier in the week. But it’s already starting to feel quite a bit better after taking a few days off, so I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get right back at it soon.

4H 5k race 2018

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Adapting to running while ‘on call’

In April I ran a 5k while on call and felt like I came away with a faster time because of it. Though there was a risk I’d need to stop and take a call during the race, I was hustling to get to a point where I was within 15 minutes of the finish, which meant I could’ve waited to return a call until I was done. No call came, but simply having that in mind helped.

Saturday morning I really wanted to run 6 miles to get ready for an upcoming 10k thrown into the Adams County 5K Challenge. I could carry the phone with me, but a lot of calls are scheduling questions regarding the many houses our agency maintains for intellectually disabled adults, which mean I need to have access to a fairly cumbersome binder. So I decided to run 4 x the 1.25 mile loop at the Ossian Trail, knowing I could get back to the car (and the binder) in just a few minutes.

Once again, having that “on call” status in mind proved a worthwhile distraction. It was already pretty steamy when I started around 8 a.m., and it’s always hard to stick out a certain number of laps when each time you cross the starting point it’s tempting to find a reason to stop.

As it turned out, I took a call shortly after rounding the halfway point on Lap 2. Sure enough, it was a scheduling question. I told the caller I’d call her back in 5 minutes, and picked up the pace. By the time I got to the car I was streaming sweat and out of breath. But I was also at the halfway point of my run — perfect time for a water break. I chugged water while I returned the call, then headed back out for two more laps.

Looking ahead to this 10k, I wasn’t sure what my strategy would be. Should I just jog it at an easy pace, getting my participation points without fretting about my time? Should I try one of those 4:1 run/walk strategies that has sometimes allowed me to go harder with short recovery walks and end up with a faster time? The only problem with that is I don’t have a great watch for monitoring those intervals, and I didn’t want my mind tied up following that blueprint.

On this run, it was nice to just roll with whatever came. Not knowing whether I’d get any more calls and have to hustle back to the car again — and given the ever-rising heat — I figured I’d run at an easy pace.

As it turned out, no more calls came on that run. So I did manage to get in my 6 miles, with one fairly quick half mile and one fairly quick water break. I sort of liked how that worked out, breaking the run up into segments. So now I’m thinking my strategy for the 10K will be to run a little quicker, but take a short recovery walk at each aid station.


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Giving beer yoga a try

beer yoga

This is a scene from a previous beer yoga class at Pedal City, as featured on their Facebook page. That’s our intructor, Corinne. 

Beer yoga is supposed to be less intimidating, and I guess that’s true: There is no way under ordinary circumstances that I would stick around for a class that, due to the rain, only one other person showed up for.

But these weren’t ordinary circumstances. The other attendee was my daughter, who had just moved back after living 700 miles away. I was still in shock that she’d consented to let me join in on the plans she’d made with a friend.

A downpour that evening had apparently scuttled the enthusiasm of those who’d indicated interest on the event’s Facebook page, and with good reason: It ordinarily takes place on the outdoor patio at Pedal City, a hipster bar on West Main Street in Fort Wayne that’s operates a trolley-car sized party bike.

When I arrived, the yoga instructor, Corinne, emerged from a back room where she’d been making preparations. She didn’t seem at all discouraged by the turn of events, sipping a mimosa while we waited on Rowan, who was a few minutes late.

Her “go with the flow” attitude put me at ease, even as an anxious voice in the back of my head kept saying: “You do realize it’s just going to be the two of us and a yoga instructor with nowhere to hide, right? Flee while you can!”

But I’d already ordered a craft beer by this point, and I was curious to see how this worked. In a youtube video starring Chance the Rapper and the comedian Kevin Hart, pints of beer had been strategically placed like yoga blocks in front of each mat, and the instructor incorporated raising the glass into some of the movements.

Other local events I’d read about indicated the drinking takes place after the yoga. Corinne’s approach was to have us order our drinks, sip as desired ahead of time, then take them into the back room and set them off to the side of our mats.

Corinne only gave us one official refreshment break during the session; she is, after all, a real yoga instructor and that’s mostly what she was focused on. But having a small bit of alcohol in our system, along with being in a bar rather than the competitive social arena at the small town YMCA where I’ve most often practiced in the past, put me in an uncharacteristic state of ease.

Neither Rowan nor I had done much yoga in the last couple of years, so we were both more focused on the movements than probably the typical beer yoga crowd would be. We did some sun salutations. Some warrior poses. A less aggressive form of that maneuver (whose name I forget) where you go from down dog to cobra. We did a tree pose near the end. You’d think the alcohol might have affected my balance, but since my balance is nothing great to begin with, primarily what I noticed was the lack of anxiety or irritation that I normally feel when I fumble my way through this pose.

Was yoga better with beer? Probably not, if you’re really into yoga. But doing yoga while you have a drink or two sure beats sitting around doing nothing except periodically hoisting your glass.

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The perils of an overly large meal: a modern-day Aesop’s Fable?

Once I got over the horror of reading Saturday’s Washington Post story about a 23-foot  reticulated python that killed and swallowed a 54-year-old Indonesian woman, it occurred to me that this might be a kind of modern-day Aesop’s Fable: how one overzealous meal turned a ferocious beast into a hapless victim.

Lying in wait and striking the woman as she went to check on her garden, the giant snake likely squeezed her to death with its powerful muscles before ingesting her, a process that probably took close to an hour. But when villagers came looking for her the next day, the bloated snake was no match for the angry (and no doubt shocked) mob, which killed it and took it back to the village, where Wa Tiba’s body was found inside.

This isn’t the first time a reticulated python has swallowed a human. Just last year, the same thing happened to a 25-year-old Indonesian farmer – and the snake that consumed him met the same fate.

What would Aesop say?

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