Holiday Food Log Day 7: In search of ‘normal’

What – and how – do “normal” people eat? This was a question that obsessed me in the early days of my weight loss, and I surveyed a whole bunch of people I knew trying to find the answer to that question.

Eventually I gave up on ever being a normal eater and decided to just embrace my little diet games as a personal quirk. But every now and then I like to see if I can pull off a normal looking food log, and Wednesday was that day.

Breakfast was an egg, cheese and ham on an English muffin.

Morning snack: an apple and carrots.

Lunch: A PB&J with a banana.

Afternoon snack: ⅓ cup walnuts.

Dinner was where I almost lost it. I was unusually hungry for that time of day, probably because I was supposed to meet my sister for a rare evening run. I devoured a package of frozen broccoli with cheese, then had three small baked potatoes.

Was this ‘normal’? It was certainly a large amount of broccoli. Three baked potatoes sounds weird, but altogether they were only about the size of a regular “baker.” I wouldn’t have batted an eye fretting about overdoing it on veggies when I was losing weight, so I decided this was my normal.

Holiday run streak: We had a great 4-mile run on the new north extension of the Greenway in Bluffton. I know it was fast because I came down with a bad case of running rhinitis afterward, and that usually only happens during cold weather races. So we’ve now had two brisk 4-milers after three straight busy days with just 1 mile each. With the Galloping Gobbler, that puts me at 15 miles for the streak. Not great, but at least I haven’t missed a day.

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Holiday food log Day 6: Food as anxiety meds


Yesterday was crazy. I had a big deadline, crappy sleep, and on top of everything else, we found out the condos overlooking Gatlinburg where our family has spent group vacations for the past 20 years or so – including two of my siblings’ weddings and my parents’ 50th anniversary – were destroyed in the Great Smoky Mountains wildfire.

Though we never owned them, just rented, the Highlands felt like home. Now it doesn’t exist anymore, along with those glorious views in the mountains we loved to hike. (See below for aerial view of what the Highlands looked like before and after.)

So yeah, I ate like a demented person left alone with the family’s food supply, which is pretty much the risk you run when you work from home.

As far as I can recall, the damage report looks something like this:

A big bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, coconut, dates and walnuts.

An entire 16-ounce package of dark cherries.

A handful of cashews.

At least 15 dates. (Notice the attempt to stick with healthy overeating, up til this point? It doesn’t last).

Two homemade chocolate chip pumpkin muffins.

A chocolate-covered coconut Atkins snack bar. (Pathetic, I know, but this is about as “dangerous” of a treat food as I allow myself to keep around the house.)

Two bananas.

A slice of bread smeared with peanut butter.

Two cheese sandwiches, made with crappy processed American cheese.

I think that’s about it. It’s a good thing there wasn’t any ice cream, cookies or actual candy around the house (other than those “nature’s candy” dates and the Atkins bar) or I would’ve been in even bigger trouble.

On the plus side, I’m glad I made time to go for a brisk 4-mile run with my sister. Boy, did I need that.


The burned-out concrete shell of the condos, with the burned matchstick trees, and an aerial view of the same site, pre-fire. I don’t know if they can rebuild or not, but it will be a long time before that mountain view rebounds. 

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Holiday food log Day 5: Creating a focal point

My husband has Mondays off, and except for occasional stints as a substitute teacher I work from home these days, so sometimes we’ll go to this Mexican place we like for lunch. Given that one or the other of us has worked Saturdays for close to 20 years, it’s our way of reclaiming a little bit of what passes for other people’s weekends.

Lately I’ve been working on making this restaurant lunch the focal point of my Monday eating plan. I’ve been getting a spicy grilled chicken salad and usually a glass or two of red wine. Other than that, I’m trying to keep my breakfast and dinner pretty contained.

With this in mind, yesterday I had half a cup of walnuts for breakfast and 3 celery sticks, an apple and 4 oz of colby cheese for dinner.

I was all set to type “worked for me,” like that was all there was to it, but it was a little tough. I was a little hungry in the evening. If not for this holiday food log blog thing, I might’ve caved and had something else. But I’m glad I didn’t. I like being able to reflect on my day and being able to picture what I ate without it looking like a cluttered, blurry mess.

So, if you are reading this, thanks for being there.

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Holiday Food Log Day 4: The crazy carnivore

I was already up for several hours on Sunday before I figured out what eating plan I wanted to follow. By the time I settled on the “Vicki” diet, which is based on a nurse I interviewed last year who lost weight eating no more than 25 carbs every three hours, I was pretty hungry. Two bowls of leftover spicy chicken dip (recipe below) down the hatch.

vickie betz

Vickie Betz, a nurse I wrote about last year who helped motivate some people in my family to shed weight.

The good news: I stayed well within that carb count for my six 3-hour time slots, and didn’t eat anything during two of them. (On this diet, if you “miss” a time slot you don’t get to make it up later.)

The most satisfying thing was a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich on two slices of Healthy Goodness bread, which comes in right at 25 carbs.

But I came away feeling kinda grossed out about the ridiculous amount of meat I had at my folk’s house for dinner. The idea was to stick to meat and salad, but I had THREE thick slices of leftover Thanksgiving ham, a couple slices of turkey, and probably 8 meatballs. Ugh, especially when I consider I also had three bowls of that chicken dip over the course of the day!

My sister’s spicy crockpot chicken dip:

3 chicken breast halves (I used a 3-pd pkg of chicken in ours, to make it meatier)

2 cans corn, drained

2 cans black beans, drained

2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes

2 bricks cream cheese, one of which is added about half an hour before you want to eat.

Dump ingredients in crockpot and cook on high for six hours, is what her recipe says. Since I used more meat, and ours was frozen, I went a bit longer just to be safe.

Holiday running streak: Another bare minimum. Jogged a mile down the road in the dark at my folks’ house with a motley crew of likeminded relatives. (My brother drove alongside us to provide headlights and Christmas music.)



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Holiday food log Day 3

eattoliveMy plan for Saturday was to follow the guidelines in Dr. Joel Furhman’s Eat to Live. I used to think this was way too restrictive for me, especially on a weekend. But given how much I enjoy some of the all-natural, fruit-sweetened desserts in that book and a second one, The End of Dieting, I now find myself forward looking to it.

The only problem in the past has been pretty much the usual – eating too much of a good thing. This is one of those diets where the premise is, if you only eat these healthy foods and nothing else, you will lose weight. Maybe so, but I can eat a whole batch of chocolate ice bean or those fruit-sweetened oatmeal cookies I wrote about recently with no problem whatsoever.

Yesterday that wasn’t an issue, and I can only think that scrambling to finish up a project I was immersed in and – more importantly, knowing I was going to blog about what I ate – reined me in.

Breakfast, around 6 a.m.: a thick slice of homemade whole wheat bread with peanut butter and sliced banana.

Lunch, around noon: Three apples, two of which I halved and put peanut butter in the hollowed-out core. This was so good, in part because I kept thinking about how this was like nature’s Reese Cup or even, stretching my overactive imagination a bit further, those “caramel core” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors we had at my parents’ place last weekend.

Afternoon snack: 2 celery sticks, one with peanut butter, and a navel orange.

Dinner, around 5:30 p.m.: A bowl of black bean quinoa soup and a baked sweet potato. This was also so good, and super easy since I made the soup at some point in the distant past and only had to thaw it from the freezer. It also wound up seeming like a really generous portion, because I was able to ladle soup from my bowl onto the potato twice before I finished it and then still had some soup left to follow up with. I also munched on the leftover sweet potato fries, having made too much because there were only three of us home for dinner last night.

I’d been planning all day to make chocolate ice bean for dessert, but didn’t get around to it. (And you have no idea how unusual it is for me to “not get around to” eating something I love. Again, gotta credit this holiday food blog. And the fact that I didn’t have much of a run, probably, since that would’ve made me hungrier.)

Holiday run streak: 20-minute jog.😦





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Holiday Food Log Day 2: Black Friday

Every once in awhile, when I want to stay focused or recover from eating too much or just don’t feel like “counting” anything – and when I don’t plan on a run that requires much in the way of carbs – I will follow the Atkins diet, for just one day.

Black Friday was that day. I knew I was going to be busy working on a project and likely wouldn’t get in much of a run. (Colleen and I kept the Holiday Run Streak going with a 1-mile jog on the River Greenway.)

Here’s what I had to eat:

4:30 a.m.: 1 oz cashews

6:30 a.m.: 1 oz colby cheese

9 a.m.: 4 eggs with spinach, onion and 2 oz American cheese

3 p.m.: One chocolate-covered coconut Atkins bar (the snack size, 170 calories).

5 p.m.: Two bowls of salad. First one was lettuce with a can of tuna, 2 boiled eggs and ranch dressing. Second was lettuce with about 2 oz leftover shredded chicken, 2 boiled eggs, and around a cup of cottage cheese. Also had a small spicy turkey sausage link from a package that Ben was heating up.

Please note that I am not a proponent of the Atkins diet. It’s just something I like to do on occasion to mix things up. 

As for Black Friday, I had Ben and Colleen order a couple of things for me on Amazon, and Colleen and I stopped at the Farm Home store on the way back from our run. There was only one other person in the whole store, and we bought exactly one item. But I must say, it was a good deal.

Holiday run streak total thus far: 5 miles

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Holiday Food Log Day 1: Thanksgiving



I’m not sure why there was a T-Rex at the annual Galloping Gobbler 4-miler at Saint Francis University Thanksgiving morning, but it provided an amusing touch. 

I’m often struck by how an eating plan, like a game plan in sports, can utterly fail despite looking like sheer brilliance when it’s drawn up ahead of time. The question is, what do you do about it? There have been times when I’ve just given up on that particular day, resolving to do better next time. On Thanksgiving Day I fought through a rough period and came through at the end feeling like even though I “lost the game,” calorie-wise, I’d managed to regain my composure and make some progress on a couple of things I’d been working on.


Breakfast casserole on a bagel as prerace breakfast.

The failed gameplan was eating a small meal early on and then “saving up” for the feast. Scooping a square of the breakfast casserole I’d made for the kids onto a whole wheat bagel before the annual Galloping Gobbler was hugely satisfying and I honestly thought it would hold me. I did manage to avoid the postrace cookies. So far, so good.

But around noon, as I was baking bread to take to my parents’ place, my stomach got pretty rumbly. Another dose of breakfast casserole to tide me over. And then, because it was a holiday and I wanted to be feeling more relaxed than I was, two glasses of red wine. That led to a generous spoonful of the deviled egg filling and “cleaning up” the pumpkin bread that had stuck to the bottom on the pan.

Munch mode followed me over to Mom and Dad’s, where I sampled more bread as I sliced up four loaves (wheat as well as pumpkin). Then it was a couple of strawberries and grapes off the fruit platter, a piece of cheese, three or four handfuls of cashews, a chocolate chip cookie, and a “taste” of fruit pizza.

So yeah, this “game” was not just lost, but turning into a buttkicking. I was already full and we hadn’t even had dinner yet! I can’t even tell you how many times in the past I’ve been in this exact same situation and continued to eat myself miserable, packing in as much of the worst choices as possible. Instead, when I went through the food line, I put some turkey, green beans, corn and salad on my plate.

And then … I was done. Which is huge. Because that means no visit to the dessert bar. And the cool thing was, I didn’t feel like I was “punishing” myself. Unless I’m in the grip of a feeding frenzy, I’m just less and less interested in anything that isn’t made from scratch, using “real” ingredients, and so that eliminated three or four choices right off the bat. That left the pumpkin and sugar cream pies. But since neither of those rank among my favorites, why bother?

So. A big loss in terms of the numbers game. It definitely would’ve been preferable if my game plan would’ve worked out so that I got to really enjoy the feast rather than gorging myself on mindless snacking. On the plus side, Gunnar’s smoked turkey really stole the show on my less-crowded-than-usual dinner plate. And I probably paid more attention to another rare treat, green beans with bacon, than I would have otherwise.

Well, that wraps up Day One of the Holiday Food Log. We’ll see where it goes from here.


Colleen and I before the start of the Galloping Gobbler. Too bad her turkey hat didn’t make it into the pic. (Not sure why this is so fuzzy, either. Oh well.) 

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A new challenge (and much needed diversion) for the holidays


My sister-in-law Darcy showed up with 11 different kinds of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert last night at my parents’ house. Would I have handled this situation differently if I knew I was committed to posting my daily food log?

The past few years I’ve done a holiday run streak from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. This year, in addition to making sure I run at least 1 mile every day during that period, I’m also going to blog my food log.

The hope is that I make better food decisions, knowing I’ll be recording my daily intake in a pseudo-public space. But I also think it will be kind of interesting. Having fun with my daily  eating plan is the biggest key to how well I control intake. My worst days, as I’ve told my sister numerous times when we troubleshoot our dietary struggles during our runs, are when I don’t have a plan. Or when I’m bored.

I don’t really have time for this right now, as I’m hustling to finish up a fairly consuming writing project. But I tend to track my intake most days, anyway, so it shouldn’t take too much extra time to just put that on the blog. I may not post every day, but I’ll catch up on any missed days when I do post.

The plan is to start this food diary on Thanksgiving, though I likely won’t post anything until Friday. Here’s hoping everybody reading this has a happy Thanksgiving, with good times to go along with good food.


My niece Madison tried one spoonful of all 11 flavors, including Green Tea.



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What does it really mean to be color blind?

This election hit me like 9/11. Wednesday morning felt like awakening inside some dystopian graphic novel.

Adding to my mental anguish, through a flukey set of mostly unrelated circumstances, that was also the third day in a row I was unable to get in a run.

By the time I headed out for a quick 4-miler on Thursday, I was ready to explode.

As I churned along the road, unable to comprehend how so many otherwise well meaning people could support such a man – if you can call a spoiled tantrum-thrower who makes my 3-year-old niece look mature by comparison a “man” – I thought of a book I used to read my kids.

Seven Blind Mice is the story of how each mouse, sent to figure out what to make of a mysterious giant object, come back with seven wildly conflicting scouting reports.

This being a picture book, the reader sees all along that the sightless mice are exploring an  elephant. It’s big, like this country we live in, with some pretty diverse components. So while the mouse who explores the elephant’s leg thinks it must be a giant sturdy Romanesque column, the one who explores its tail thinks it might be a snake.

sevenblindmiceI still can’t fathom what Bible believers thought they saw in such an unChristian sleazeball, or what made poor whites think a billionaire feels their pain. But remembering that children’s story reminded me that no two people see the same thing, no matter what they’re looking at. I must admit, when someone gives off the putrid stench of hatemongering, that pretty much blinds me to whatever business acumen they may or may not possess.

Thursday’s run helped me let go of what happened. But it didn’t make me feel any better about what happens next.

Like cornered animals, the most dangerous human beings are those who are hurting inside. There’s no question that a lot of people are hurting in this changing economy. But that sure as hell doesn’t excuse all the racist bullshit that’s already percolating in our schools since the election. At my daughters’ school, even “nice kids” have been spouting ignorant slogans like “Mexicans caused the national debt!”

I’ve really struggled over the years with being a so-called blue dot in a red sea. Mostly I fumed in silence, not wanting to offend people I like or even love.

I can accept that “my side” lost, because that’s what we do in a democracy. Government policy isn’t my thing, and I can’t do anything about it, anyway, no matter who’s in the White House.

But in such potentially dangerous times, I will no longer be silent on the subject of color. In white America, people can’t always hear what they’re saying, what they’re implying. But that doesn’t make it right.  

That being said, over the next four years my personal challenge is to quit seeing people according to whether they are red or blue.

We’re all just people. Americans. No matter what color we are, inside or out.

All of us deserve a better world. And we need to work together to make that happen.

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Naturally sweetened oatmeal cookies


Lately I’ve been experimenting with no-sugar baking recipes from Joel Fuhrman’s books Eat to Live and The End of Dieting. They don’t use artificial sweeteners, usually just some kind of fruit like bananas, dates, raisins or even prunes. This is one that I modified somewhat, and then removed the coconut it called for as well after Cass and Colleen expressed interest but complained, just a bit, about that one ingredient.

The real surprise is that when Ben came home one recent weekend – we get to see him fairly often, as he’s only a little over an hour away at Trine University – he liked them as well. The batch in the photo is what I made the girls for breakfast this morning. I’m quite sure they’re much healthier than any cereal on top of the fridge, even though I stopped buying “junk” cereals a long time ago.

Naturally sweetened oatmeal cookies

2 mashed bananas, mixed with 1 teaspoon each of vanilla and cinnamon

½ cup raisins

1 ¾ cup rolled oats

¼ cup chopped walnuts

Mix ingredients and form into cookies on greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until you like the way they look, generally 8-10 minutes in our case.

(I haven’t posted a recipe in quite a while, so I’ll remind folks here that I don’t like to give baking times as ovens and personal taste vary from kitchen to kitchen. At our house, my husband prefers things in a state that seems almost burnt to me.)

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