From Points to pregnancy: dealing with weight gain so far


This time last year, I was celebrating two milestones: my first anniversary with Weight Watchers and achieving lifetime status with the program after reaching my goal weight. Dropping those 35 pounds took me out of the “overweight” category for the first time in my adult life.

Shedding that weight was life-changing for me. Beyond being happier with my appearance, I actually had energy. Drive. Purpose. My new relationship with food made me feel empowered, not guilty. I slept better, walked taller and generally felt like Meg 2.0. And I was getting married!

Life was great before, but after WW? It was fantastic.

When I learned I was pregnant last September, I had every intention — every intention in the world! — of maintaining my healthy eating habits. Reaching for a banana instead of a high-calorie snack was just what I did — not something I thought about. I was so well-versed in the Weight Watchers way of life that I tracked Points in my head, naturally knowing when I’d overdone it or could indulge a little that day.

And I wanted — want — to have a fit pregnancy. As Spence and I began to discuss starting a family, I started researching prenatal health and nutrition. Armed with facts, data and support from doctors and other mamas, I felt fairly confident that I could continue to be me . . . just with a baby bump.

And then I got sick.

Funnel cake

The nausea started in week five, reaching a delirious fever pitch in week eight. Though I have heard so many stories that make my own morning (er, all day) sickness seem wimpy by comparison, there is no denying I was ill. Perpetually nauseous. Foods I once loved — Brussels sprouts, hummus, green beans, yogurt, chicken — became Enemy No. 1. In the weeks after we learned I was expecting, my husband and I basically had to empty out our fridge and start again.

There was no telling what would set off my gag reflex, which made it even harder. I would walk into a restaurant craving chips and queso, then panic and walk out before I’d even gotten to the counter. Something I loved one day — spicy pickles, chocolate ice cream — would sicken me the next.

What I could count on? Breads. Macaroni and cheese. Bagels. Potato chips. Rich, carb-heavy foods that seemed to settle my stomach the way my lighter fare could not.

In short? I wanted everything I stopped eating after committing to healthy eating. For the first time in more than a year, our house was packed with junk food — and I began packing on the pounds.

At this point, 20 of them.

Until I began to make my peace with it, that number terrified me. Though I limit what/how much I’m reading about pregnancy (online, especially), I know a “healthy” weight gain in the first few months is generally between one and five pounds. I probably gained that in the second week.

Now 19 weeks along, I’ve discussed this with my doctor. I’m closely monitored. I weigh in at every appointment, give blood and urine — all the normal procedures. And so far, I’m good. We’re good. At this point, there is no reason to worry or obsess about my weight — and that knowledge calms me down.

Also? I’ve learned to cut myself some slack.

Brussels sprouts

Those early months felt like I was stumbling around with an awful stomach virus — and if I thought I was going to be munching on salad greens with a light vinaigrette, well . . . there was no way. No way. I wasn’t sitting down to five-course dinners, but I was eating what I could stomach — and snacking often to keep the queasiness at bay.

Physically, I did what I had to do to get through it.

But emotionally, it was tough.

After feeling so healthy, strong and slim, my body’s rapid transformation was crazy. I felt sick, not pregnant, so it was psychologically tough to differentiate between gaining weight for a little one and just . . . gaining weight.

Those early months were hard.

I subscribe to a few baby boards for expectant moms also due in June. Though they can be something of a dark hole sometimes, especially for nervous first-timers, I do find camaraderie there — and answers to many “Is this normal?”-type questions. (Answer: probably. Everything is weird in pregnancy.)

But when I see a post called “No weight gain!!!” or “Feeling fat,” I know to stay away.

They’re triggers for me . . . especially when I started scrolling through posts from women who had not gained a pound — or actually lost weight — in their first trimester. Even recently, at almost five months along, some ladies can still fit into non-maternity clothing. Entire threads of women showing off their svelte figures at 12, 14 or 16 weeks made me self-conscious and anxious.

I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at six weeks along — because I really needed them. My pants with their single-digit tags now look laughably small, and 75 percent of my wardrobe is completely unwearable.

But this is a season. You’re growing a baby, I gently remind myself — so of course I’m growing, too.

Though I know they’re probably innocent, remarks about suddenly seeing weight gain “in my face” take me aback. I’m so happy to be having this baby, but the comments about my changing shape are hard to take. Especially with a smile.

A friend — a mom of two herself — recently told me that, once you’re obviously expecting, everyone feels as though your body is public property. Your breasts, rump and belly are all open for conversation, scrutiny and comparison . . . along with your eating habits. And parenting style. And so on.

When I was craving Milano cookies in November, someone casually mentioned “all the sweets” at my desk.

“Remember, you’re going to have to take all that weight back off,” she warned. “And good luck with that.”

I feel I need a disclaimer here . . . a big, bold one that says, Yes, I am so unbelievably happy about this baby! We already love him or her so much, and I know all these changes will be more than worth it. With time and patience, I’m sure I’ll begin to feel like my old self again.

But it’s still hard sometimes.

Honestly, it is.

So, the title of my post: how I’m “dealing with” weight gain at five months along? Now that the dark, sick days of the first trimester are behind me, I find myself . . . thinking again. Thinking like Meg 2.0.

About what I’m eating.
Why I’m eating it.
How it’s benefiting Baby J — and if it’s benefiting me.
Am I hungry . . . or bored?
If I’m hungry, is this what I’m really hungry for?

Slowly, slowly, the fruit and vegetables have returned to my plate. Slowly, slowly, I’m reaching less for the chips and more for the almonds. String cheese is back, as is Greek yogurt. And my appetite for meat, though smaller, has also returned. (Minus chicken. Something still doesn’t sit right with me.)

I’m feeling less like the junky, tired stranger who arrived in the fall and more like the empowered, choosy woman — the mom-to-be (!) — that I’m much more comfortable with. I feel human.

I guess that’s why everyone loves the second trimester, right?

Shifting from Points to pregnancy hasn’t been seamless, and I know I’ll feel a thousand conflicted emotions between now and June. (And, you know, for the rest of my life.) But I feel like I’ve reached a place where I’m feeling well enough — and strong enough — to take control of my nutrition again.

And I really want to. Moving forward, I want to approach healthy eating during pregnancy with the same zeal that first brought me to Weight Watchers in 2013.

Though part of me does wish we could take that whole “eating for two” thing literally sometimes — especially when funnel cake is involved.

Pass me an apple instead?

Party food: navigating the table without guilt

You know, I love a good party. Like most folks, an opportunity to socialize and eat and give presents and generally enjoying the camaraderie of hey, we’re all here and enjoying the sunshine! is enough to get me out of the house. Though I have my socially-awkward moments, I really do enjoy a good get-together. So pass the spinach dip!

(Is it low-fat?)

Since going on my healthy-eating crusade, I’ve worked hard to identify the “danger zones” that propel me into overeating, snacking . . . or generally wolfing down food that simply ain’t so good for me.

Unsurprisingly, I kept coming back to parties — those hotbeds of deliciousness.

When we’re out with friends, we are often focus on chatting. Meals play a large part in the get-togethers we enjoy with others, yes, but food isn’t always the main focus. I usually find myself mindlessly biting into cream-cheese-stuffed celery, or downing pita chips and hummus like we’re approaching some kind of a hummus drought. I’m talking and laughing, probably taking photos.

What I’m not doing? Paying attention to what I’m consuming.

Personally, I’ve started following a few “rules” to get through these functions without overindulging. (Minus the cake, because: cake.) Now more than 16 lbs. down, I’m working to not slip back into old habits. With wedding showers, weddings, birthdays and more on the horizon, it’s important I keep it together.

So what I’m sharing is absolutely nothing new and, of course, I am no expert. But here are my party tips:

How to eat and have fun at a party
without that savory side of guilt

Be last in line. Whether it’s a work potluck or bridal shower, I make sure I’m one of the last people to get food. Because I’m always worried about holding people up, getting in line first means I’m more likely to make quick decisions and pile my plate with whatever is in reach. I just want to keep things moving. If I wait until the end, I don’t feel pressured to make a plate quickly — and I can focus on loading up on healthier items and tracking my portions. Plus, if other guests have already taken all of a particular dish? Well, less to tempt me. (And there are always vegetables left.)

Don’t hover. Everyone knows the best way to keep from eating a whole bag of potato chips is not to have the whole bag handy. It’s easy for me to hover around the snack table — c’mon, it’s the best place to be! — but I’m usually talking there, mindlessly dipping carrots into ranch dressing . . . and I’m not paying attention to how much I’m eating. Make a small plate with your favorites and walk away.


If you want it, bring it. If you’re worried about a lack of healthy options at a get-together, offer to bring a fruit and vegetable tray and/or low-fat dip. You could even go a step further by stowing a small piece of candy in your bag for when you want something sweet, but don’t want to nosh on a cupcake. If you can’t eat what you don’t have, then make sure you have it.

Don’t go hungry. Just as we’re told to never grocery shop hungry, don’t go to a party with a screamin’-empty stomach. Have a small meal or healthy snack to tide you over. Eat a banana or apple. You’ll be less likely to go crazy at the party table, and maybe you’ll even save room for dessert. And speaking of which . . .

Eat that cake, but watch your portions. Y’all know I’m going to eat cake, and it’s not realistic to swear off all sweets. So though I do have dessert, I make sure I’m not being served the thickest slice in the lot. I used to be really timid with others, afraid of offending someone by not taking what they’d offered, but now I just politely explain that I’m eating healthy and I’d like something smaller, or I’m just going to skip it altogether. Everyone understand and has been awesome.

Though I may eventually reach for the taco dip, I feel more in control — and empowered — when I think about my long-term goals and actual hunger cues. Do I really want those chips, or am I just feeling left out? Am I hungry or just looking for something to do? Answering these questions isn’t always easy, but I force myself. I force myself to be honest.

But eh, yes — I totally want some taco dip.

Scale and non-scale victories

Blackberries and yogurt

I had my 12-week weigh-in this week — and I’m officially down 14.4 lbs. Aside from the blinking number on that scale, this loss has translated into . . .

• Losing almost two dress sizes, resulting in the acquisition of all-new pants;
• Wearing my skinny jeans with startling regularity (and buying another pair);
• Buying jeans in a size I haven’t worn since my sophomore year in college;
• Lookin’ awesome in the maid of honor dress I ordered for my sister’s wedding;
• And generally feeling great.

Continuing with my weight loss goals has been both harder and easier than I expected. I’m still gung-ho on Weight Watchers, utilizing all the tips and tools they offer — and I’m definitely in a rhythm. I don’t have to think about Points values and “good” foods and portion control . . . I just know it. And do it. Though I still reach for desserts at office parties and family gatherings, I’ve learned the necessarily skills to simply dial it back. To take control of my eating — something I didn’t realize was so out of control until I got a reality check.

Though I don’t have any full-body shots to share (and am not sure I’d be brave enough even if I did!), I think you can start to see the weight loss in my face. And I’m smiling pretty often these days!

December 2012

April - us

Also, that red coat is super loose now — and it barely zipped back then. Progress!

That’s how I’m really measuring the journey . . . by the difference in my clothes. I feel like I can “shop” in my own closet now, digging out pieces I haven’t been able to wear for years (or ever), and it feels so encouraging to realize that for every new item I must buy (like those aforementioned jeans), an older item can be re-entered into the rotation.

And as for my habits? The biggest changes have been . . .

Eating breakfast. Where once I scarfed down a granola bar and sipped a Diet Coke as my morning “meal,” I now take the time to eat low-fat Greek yogurt (I love the 100 calorie Yoplait varieties) with my own added blackberries, strawberries or banana slices, and often drink hot tea in the morning. On the weekends, I eat low-sugar oatmeal and fruit. I also eat a mid-morning snack — like low-fat mozzarella or cottage cheese — to tide me over until lunchtime, which brings me to . . .

Eating lunch at my desk. If you asked me what my single biggest hang-up regarding joining a weight loss program would be back in January, I’d have unequivocally shouted “HAVING TO EAT AT MY DESK.” Before January, I went out to lunch every. single. day. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Friends teased me about my constant runs to Panera, Noodles & Co. and Einstein Bros. Bagels, places that have probably shuttered in my absence. I supported the local lunch economy single-handledly, y’all.

But now? I make myself a healthy sandwich (bagel thin, lean turkey, fat-free mustard, low-fat Swiss cheese), eat Progresso Light soups or pop open healthy leftovers from last night’s dinner. If I go out to eat, it’s typically on a Friday — and it’s a real treat. I wait until someone is free to go with me, then make it a combination social outing/lunch treat. And yes, my wallet and check book — and wedding budget — are thanking me.

• Watching the sweets. This has been tough, but I’ve managed to enjoy small, simple portions of desserts rather than the big ol’ honking slice of something I’d preferred to have before. In the past week I have chowed down on my mom’s birthday cake, a friend’s Smith Island Cake and chocolate chip cookies, though, so really: it’s all about moderation. I’m still eating what I like — I’m just eating less of what I like.

In another three months, I plan to be on the same healthy track I am now . . . and if I lose another dress size, I will officially be the thinnest I’ve ever, ever been in my adult life.

That’s not my focus, though — my focus is all those “non-scale victories,” as our Weight Watchers leader will proclaim. It’s the happiness. The pride. The energy. And the conversation topics! Who would have ever thought I’d have something to contribute to chats about healthy eating?

I’m loving it.

Ten pounds — meeting my first weight loss goal


The week I joined Weight Watchers, I was feeling pretty low. Despite getting engaged less than a month earlier and still feeling the jolt of excitement about that, I was overwhelmed — emotionally, physically, financially. Combined with getting in a minor car accident the night before, signing up for a weight loss program just felt like another source of guilt and frustration. Especially since I wasn’t sure I could succeed.

It was mid-January: gray and listless, cold and drab. I was out of sorts and anxious. After talking about wanting to lose weight for more than a year (and dealing with a health scare in December), my fiance suggested we join Weight Watchers together. Feeling as bad as I did, I agreed. Spencer met me at our local spot on a Wednesday night, arranging for us to sign up and do this together, and his presence calmed me . . . but I wasn’t convinced.

Because food is awesome.

Snacks and meals are more than sustenance: for so long, they were also comfort. Nothing makes me crankier than walking around feeling hungry, and nothing sets me up for a meltdown like being denied a good meal. “Good meals” for me were filled with my favorites: pastas and breads; cakes and candies; vegetables simmered in balsamic vinegar. Spencer loves to cook, and I love to chow down. A match made in heaven!

Here’s the thing: my story isn’t unique. Like many of us, I was physically active in college out of sheer necessity; going to school on a huge campus, I could easily walk five miles a day just getting from classes back to my car. Despite never being “skinny,” I could eat what I wanted because I was out and about so much. My weight wasn’t a huge issue.

Then came graduation. Leaving College Park for a desk job meant I was now sitting eight hours a day, and exercise and I have never been buddies. The constant advice to “find an activity you love!” has just never worked for me . . . because seriously? Don’t like running, don’t like dancing, don’t like the elliptical. My stint at the gym was a failure — and the fees piling on my credit card for unused passes another source of guilt. Though I initially liked Zumba and attended regularly for months, making the meetings became a strain on my schedule. But honestly, I just didn’t want it enough. Because I didn’t change my thinking or my eating, I saw no results.

As they always say: If you want it, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Well, I ran out of excuses. Less than a year from my wedding day, I was by far the heaviest I’d ever been. Despite being overjoyed at the idea of our marriage, I had triggers igniting stress in so many facets of my life . . . and I still do, of course. I just feel better equipped to handle them.

Because I took control.

I’m far from a health guru, and I can only speak to my own experience. I don’t work for Weight Watchers and am not an expert on the program, either, but here’s the thing: in less than two months, I’ve already lost 10 pounds. I’m back in pants I haven’t been able to wear in years. I no longer dread clothes shopping, and I loved seeing myself in my future wedding dress (that’s another post!). In celebration of meeting the first of my goals, losing 5 percent of my weight, I bought my first pair of “skinny jeans” — and am actually okay with wearing them in public. To work, even. And it isn’t the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

Skinny pants

The path still stretches out before me. At 5’2″, I’m still 25 pounds from the “high” end of my suggested weight — and am still considered obese. But 10 pounds? That would have been crazy to pre-January me. But seeing myself in photos from Christmas and getting a glimpse of myself now, I can already see a tremendous change . . . and I just feel better.


More confident.

More in control.

And proud.

Does Weight Watchers mean giving up your favorite foods? Well, yes and no. Not giving them up, but changing your portion sizes. And the frequency with which you eat them. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the program, but the jist of it? Keep track of everything you consume and keep it under a certain limit each day. Do this — really, honestly do it — and you will lose weight.

I’m not forgoing cupcakes forever and ever. I am definitely still eating out. Heck, I’m not even exercising . . . at all. (Though I do plan on changing that soon, and I know it’s nothing to brag about!) What I’ve done? Realigned my thinking and kept serious track of everything I eat.

For an OCD list-maker like me, tracking my food and drink has been much simpler than expected. I actually love the science of adding points and tracking, and religiously update my personal tracker after each and every meal or snack. And here’s what else I’ve learned:

You can’t eat what you don’t have. This works both ways, y’all: I can’t eat the bad stuff if I don’t have the bad stuff, and I can’t eat the good stuff if I haven’t stocked up on it. I need healthy snacks on hand 24/7, and my favorites include the 100-calorie packs of almonds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. And in that vein . . .

Keep it accessible. Look, I’m kind of lazy (see: hates to exercise). If a snack requires me to cut, peel or dice at work, where I spend most of my time, I won’t bother. Sitting at my desk means I have limited resources as far as cutlery is concerned, so I make sure to prepare my fruit in individual portions before I leave for the day. I wash and rinse grapes, for example, putting them in cute little bags, and then I grab them from our mini-fridge at work and get to snacking. Much better than rooting around in my coworkers’ candy bowl when the 3 p.m. munchies hit.

Watch your portions. Pre-Weight Watchers me didn’t necessarily eat terribly, but she ate too much of everything. Honestly track your portions and remember that eating several small meals rather than two or three giant ones can do wonders for boosting your metabolism — and keep you from crashing. I’ve shifted from eating a big lunch and bigger dinner to a small lunch (low-calorie soup and a low-fat cheese stick) with several healthy snacks before dinner. I rarely go more than an hour or two without eating something, and I make sure to eat a small snack after dinner, too.

Don’t walk around hungry. As soon as a twinge of hunger hits, I reach for an apple or the like. Allowing myself to get too hungry means I’m in danger of crash-eating later in the evening, overindulging in dinner or snacking like a maniac. This ties in with my first point, too: you can’t eat it if you don’t have it. So keep it around.

Breakfast really does matter. Old me would either skip breakfast completely or eat a measly granola bar, then walk around hungry for hours before going for a huge lunch (which would just sit in my stomach until dinner). New me doesn’t let herself get to the point of “starving,” and makes sure to eat something healthy and protein-rich — like low-fat Greek yogurt and bananas — each morning. Though I’m far from a breakfast person and don’t like to eat big meals in the morning, this has made a huge difference. It really does matter.

The buddy system works. Let others know about your journey. Starting on this get-healthy journey with my fiance has made a huge difference — and just having the support of another person is so crucial. I’m also very lucky that my friend and officemate is also on Weight Watchers, so we swap tips all week long! Another friend has just joined the program, too, and we met for a “Weight Watchers-friendly” lunch earlier this week. Letting others know about your goals really will make a difference.

Have a plan. When I know I’m going out for a meal, I pull up their menu ahead of time to figure out the best options for me. This eliminates awkwardness when out with others (I hate having to be on my phone at the table, perusing the Weight Watchers app), and keeps me from making impulsive decisions. When I know I’m cooking, I calculate various ingredients and actively work on “lightening” the recipe.

It’s okay to be tempted. Before embarking on this change, I would still eat dessert — but feel terribly guilty about it. Here’s where I go all Weight Watchers very-unofficial spokeswoman on y’all, but that’s the great thing about this particular program: it doesn’t require you to follow a diet. No food is “banned.” I simply keep track of what I’ve eaten that day, budget in the cupcake or candy, and go about my business. Guilt: eliminated. As long as I’ve stayed within my daily points allowance (or even if I haven’t), it ain’t a big deal.

And that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far . . . I can do it. I am strong enough. Just because I can’t have a cupcake today doesn’t mean I can’t — or won’t — tomorrow. I’m not eating weird things; I’m not unfulfilled and chowing down on diet food. I’m still sharing meals with my loved ones, still enjoying cool meals out with friends, still doing all the normal things I’ve always done . . . I’m just making smarter choices while doing it.

And physical success aside, it feels good to have found an aspect of my life where I can make positive changes and see real results. Not having “need to start losing weight!” in my headspace has opened me up to new opportunities, and I haven’t dreaded seeing doctors for routine appointments. I’ve proven to myself that I can lose weight, and that feels amazing. Regardless of whether I drop another 2 lbs. or 20, I’m just seriously proud of myself for altering something I once considered set in stone.

And that’s what I’ve been up to.

Book talk: ‘S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim’ by Cynthia Sass

Many of us struggle with our weight.

I don’t know when being “chunky” first entered my realm of consciousness. Though I was a little heavy as a kid, I never worried about it; my family certainly didn’t comment on it, and whatever self-esteem issues I had as a teen didn’t stem from my appearance. In college, my brisk walks across the University of Maryland’s sprawling (and I do mean sprawling) campus kept me lean and mean . . . even as I downed my daily meal of Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets between classes.

Of course, like so many, those carefree days of cupcakes and soda couldn’t last forever. Taking my first desk job in 2007, I’ve worked in an office — on my rear end for more than eight hours a day — for half a decade. Though the numbers on the scale didn’t immediately jump up, my weight has steadily increased. To date, I’m about 30 pounds heavier now than I was in college. And on my 5’3″ frame, that’s definitely obvious. To me and others.

Still, I don’t lose sleep about my weight; I mean, I’m way more than my dress size. I hadn’t really given my weight a major thought until I started noticing clothes I wore just a year ago were getting snug, and I started hating the way I appeared in photos. In an unguarded moment, my jaw actually dropped when — yes — I saw a recently tagged photo of myself on Facebook. So many chins.

This isn’t one of those “AND THEN I GOT MY ACT TOGETHER!” tales of success, friends; I wish I could spout off my recent accomplishments and how I fell in love with exercise and stopped drinking Diet Coke and dropped four sizes and now feel amazing. I hope that, someday, I’ll come back here to share some of those successes (minus giving up the whole diet soda thing — I can tell you now, that ain’t happening). But I’m not there yet. I’m not even close to there yet.

This whole thing? Getting healthy, getting in shape? As for all of us, it’s an ongoing process. I’ve written about discovering Zumba and the wake-up call that was a visit to my family doctor a month ago. I know that, at 26, I’m no longer young enough to discard health warnings or think, “Oh, those problems won’t happen to me.” I know that if I don’t get myself together now, it’ll be really hard — maybe too hard — to get myself together later. And I don’t want that.

Enter my research phase. Short of developing a way to physically push myself up off the sofa after work to walk or go to class or anything, I’m searching for a way to get myself into a healthier rhythm — through exercise and diet changes — and have turned to my favorite way to learn stuff: books. They’re great, right?

Opening Cynthia Sass’ S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, I felt a little nervous; for so many, myself included, “d-i-e-t” is a four-letter word. I’ve never been on a diet. Everyone I know on a diet seems to be, well . . . sour-faced. And liable to mouth off at you for daring to eat a piece of cake in front of them. (Jen Lancaster mentioned that in Such a Pretty Fat, and by golly — it’s so true.)

To be honest with you, I don’t want to diet. I really like food. I don’t use food (or lack thereof) to punish myself, and I certainly don’t sit around in a steaming pile of guilt for eating a cookie. Fashion bloggers’ svelte figures don’t send me into a self-hating rage, though I do tend to avoid others’ exercise-obsessed boards on Pinterest. Yeah, I know I’m not exercising; I don’t need perfect abs in my face to remind me I will never, ever look like that.

But that’s all right. I’m all about healthy — and so is Cynthia Sass. An acclaimed weight loss expert, Sass is part of the brains behind the Flat Belly Diet! — a New York Times bestseller from a few years back. She’s the real deal: a registered dietitian board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics, and the sports nutritionist for several major sports teams. Her credentials definitely stack up.

S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim, previously published as Cinch!, is a quick, engaging read that never felt belittling. Sass’ approach isn’t of the “boot camp” variety, using scare tactics and harsh words to intimidate would-be dieters. Despite what I was expecting, this book isn’t just about dropping weight quickly; it’s about making notable, small and valuable changes to your diet to help increase weight loss, improve your well-being and change your quality of life. I dug it.

Sass’ approach is designed to establish order to your meal times and isn’t built off “starving, restricting or depriving yourself,” she states. Reading the book, the plan is actually anything but starving yourself: it’s eating healthy, balanced and specific meals on a schedule, and it emphasized good, clean eating above all else. The “S.A.S.S.” part of the diet has to do with the low-fat, healthy and specific seasonings Sass recommends to cut out fattier alternatives like condiments and salad dressings.

The plan is two-fold: either begin with five days of a calculated eating plan, which Sass sets out for you, or bypass that part and go straight for a 25-day stretch of enjoying specific foods. Here’s how that all goes down:

The optional 5-Day Fast Forward jump-starts your results — up to an eight pound loss in five days. The Fast Forward calls for four simple meals a day, made from clean, delicious, detoxifying, filling, nutrient-rich foods shown to support weight loss. [Sass] even include[s] a grocery list that specifies all the ingredients you’ll need (and recipes!), so preparing for the Fast Forward (which is vegan and vegetarian friendly) is a breeze.

The 25-day plan again calls for four meals a day, but draws from a much broader but specific array of food choices. A day’s worth of meals can potentially include: a Chocolate Pear Ginger Smoothie for breakfast, Fresh Mozzarella Basil ‘Pizzalad’ for lunch, Shrimp Creole for dinner, and a snack of Cranberry Parmesan Herbed Popcorn! With this core plan (also vegan and vegetarian friendly and adaptable for gluten free diets), you can easily drop a size in just one month.

Reading Sass’ plans and goals, I was nodding my head vigorously and imagining myself snacking on the five foods she emphasizes in the 5-Day Fast Forward: raspberries, non-fat plain organic yogurt, spinach, almonds and organic eggs. She states from the get-go that the Fast Forward is optional — so those who aren’t interested or don’t want something to structured can skip this completely and get right to the 25-day meal plan.

The book does a great job of including materials that can actually get you started — and, in my case, these cut down on my excuses to not give it a try. Grocery lists outline everything you’ll need to get going, and the foods listed? Well, I already like ’em. The book includes real-life recipes, personal stories from those who have found success with the plan and plenty of sidebars to break up the text. This isn’t a long, droning health book you must read cover-to-cover before beginning; you can breeze through the early chapters, get a feel for the routine and get crackin’. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, “This is doable.”

For me, the highlights of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim are the success stories — with before-and-after photos (who doesn’t love those?). Women (and men!) describe how they made the plan fit into their busy lives, how it’s benefited them and how they manage to keep up with it long term. There’s the bride who had to return a size-12 wedding dress for a size 6, the couple who dropped weight together and those who shed pounds within the first week of going on the Fast Forward.

Of course, the careful individual in me views those “drop weight fast!” claims with a skeptical eye — not because I don’t believe it’s possible, but because I’m unsure whether it’s healthy. Still, Sass’ plan is certainly not based on starvation or traditional dieting, and the science behind the weight loss makes sense. Of course, there’s no substitute for good old fashioned exercise, too. Just check it all out to be sure it makes good sense to you.

So am I ready to S.A.S.S. myself slim? I’m getting there. Since starting the book a week ago, I’ve found myself picking it up often before bed and grabbed many of Sass’ recommended foods on my last grocery store run. Though I’m not ready to do the Fast Forward or commit whole-hog to the 25-day plan, I’ve learned quite a bit about the importance of good fats and how to snack healthier. I’ve already developed a raw, unsalted almond habit (so crunchy!) and am thinking more about the times at which I eat — and how big my portions are. I’ve begun drinking even more water than usual and am trying to limit myself to one Diet Coke a day.

Over the next few weeks, my plan is to incorporate one of her low-calorie recipes as a lunch or dinner substitute every day and go from there. As S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim helped drive home, a healthy lifestyle is a process . . . and a daily, conscious choice. I hope with time it can become second nature. And you know I’ll report back with my progress.

ISBN: 006197465X • AmazonGoodreadsLibraryThingAuthor Website
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion

Book review: ‘Fitness 9 to 5’ by Shirley Archer

fitness_9_to_5Anyone who finds themselves plastered to a rolling desk chair eight hours a day will certainly appreciate this small gem from Shirley Archer: a book of quick, easy fitness exercises for the cubicle dweller.

I came across a copy of Fitness 9 to 5: Easy Exercises For the Working Week at a HomeGoods, of all random places, and quickly perused the whole thing. Easily skimmed in a half hour or so, I absorbed many of the tips without any trouble and have put them to practical use at work! Archer includes tips on strengthening specific areas of the body, highlights the calorie count you’ll be burning by completing each exercise and easily guides you through the motions with very specific instructions — and awesome illustrations, done by Chuck Gonzales.

The book is laid out chronologically as you hurry through your day — starting with slight exercises you can do before even getting out of bed and guiding you all the way through your commute home. It’s also full of tips on varying the movements as you get used to them, or changing them up a little if they’re too strenuous. I love the way Archer’s book has made me look at fitness in a new way — and helped me realize that I don’t have to be jogging in place or doing crunches in order to see some results. And since I’m actively exercising nightly, these moves are an excellent way to supplement my workouts.

My personal favorites include exercises for the wrists, designed to increase range of motion and relax sore muscles. Everyone who has spent the day typing at a rapid-fire pace can appreciate that one! I also love Archer’s suggestions for ways to squeeze the exercises in — like a squatting move that can be completed in the 30 seconds it takes to wait for your computer to boot up in the morning! Since I hate waiting for a computer to turn on probably more than anything in the world, I’ve started putting that time to good use. Even if my coworkers might think I’m a little strange!

Most of them don’t, though. (Or they already know me well enough to know that if I’m being silly, it’s business as usual.) And considering each of the 69 exercises boasts how many calories you’ve burned after completing each for one day, one week and one year — and shows you how many pounds that would equate to, should you keep it up daily — I have plenty of motivation to look a little whacky around the office.

I highly recommend Archer’s book, if for no other reason than it gets you thinking about how the simple movements in a day can really add up — and get you thinking about staying fit all the time. Instead eagerly hoping a front-row parking space is available at work or out shopping, I have no qualms with parking farther away. All those extra steps can really add up — and I’m excited to see just how much subtracting (from my waistline!) I can do! (Bad pun, I know. You forgive me, right?)

Just to whet your appetite (or decrease it?), here’s one of my personal favorites from Archer’s collection. Try it while you’re perusing the next post!

“i’m not quite ready to work!” chair squats

from Fitness 9 to 5 by Shirley Archer (pg. 34)

Before you take a seat and begin your day, practice lowering and lifting your tushie to tone your buttocks, hips and thighs. Getting up and sitting down is one of the most important activities of daily life. The leading predictor of whether you will need assisted living in your old age is your leg strength. Do squats regularly not only for a tone backside, but also to maintain your physical independence as you age.

• Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart, about one inch in front of your chair. Hold in your abdominals and relax your shoulders.

• Inhale as you sit back, as if you are going to sit in your chair. Let your bottom lightly touch the chair without sitting down.

• Exhale as you push yourself back up to standing, while squeezing your buttocks.

• Work for up to one minute.

One minute of squats burns 10 calories.
One minute of sitting while doing nothing else burns 1.1 calories.

One year:
10 calories x 5 days per week = 50 calories
50 calories x 50 weeks per year = 2,500 calories
2,500 calories / 3,500 calories per pound = .71 pound

5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0811848744 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

Sprinklegate ’08 — or, Meg sells out her sister

Everyone has their vices — those things they just can’t help themselves from doing or loving, whether or not they’re too embarrassed to admit it. Some are a little more destructive than others, of course. Mine? Chai tea lattes, staying up way too late at night, taking macro photos before I eat anything awesome-looking, e-mailing ex-boyfriends when I’m feeling sappy, and obsessively watching ‘The Tudors’… even though Dad and I are now relegated to watching pirated episodes on his laptop (can I even admit that? Am I going to jail?).

Don’t worry — I won’t ask you to cop to yours (unless you want to… might make you feel better!). But I’m totally okay with putting my sister’s on display! Oh, you know — she’s been dealing with my antics since I first held her as a baby, my 3-year-old self proclaming, “SHE’S WIGGLY!”

Yeah, Kate humors me. So what’s my sister’s vice?

Sprinkles. And not just any sprinkles, folks… ohhh, no. Rainbow sprinkles.

It’s like a moth to a flame, I tell you… and I certainly don’t help the situation as I stand in the ice-cream shop, tugging at her elbow and constantly pointing to all rainbow sprinkles and coercing her into getting them scattered all over whatever flavor she’s going to get. I just know how much she likes them! I’m just trying to help!

And all of my “helping” brought us to this moment last summer in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware:

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

The greatest rainbow sprinkled cone in the history of mankind.

And about .25867 seconds after this photo was taken, the epic and awesome rainbow cone basically collapsed in on itself and dissolved into a really gooey, horrifying and utterly colorful mess. Kate was a trooper — she tried to keep that thing from melting all over her hands, arms and shirt. But she failed. And though I’m her big sister, love her dearly and would do anything for her, I was powerless to stop it. In the immortal words of The Fray, “I don’t know how to get you out of this one.”

But at least I got that photo.

Oh, my family has about a million great food stories… in fact, many of my great memories revolve around food! Some will live on only in family lore, undocumented, but Sprinklegate ’08 is one of my favorites — and I have to share the love.

Of course, I love the simple “everyday” sprinkle stories a lot, too. Like this moment from Saturday:


Exhibit B

Same great sister, different dessert… still covered in rainbow sprinkles. And I love that her shirt has rainbow stuff on it, too. We’re just a colorful duo! To Kate, no dessert is complete without a dash of the bright, crunchy stuff. True to my aforementioned vice of constantly snapping macro photos of food, I captured Kate’s latest rainbow treat. She ate all of it. And then we both walked two miles with Leslie Sansone.


Exhibit C

And because I won’t completely sell her out and make it look like she’s the one indulging, please let me assure you — I have absolutely more than my fair share of dessert most of the time! And Kate was so good all through Lent, completely giving up sweets. I’ve since gone on a “path to health” (more to come on that one!) and am trying to get in shape. My plan was to take off the pounds before my trip but, since that’s in three weeks, I’m going to rearrange my goals and just say that I would like to be trimmer at some point very soon. In time to go to the beach in June. Or something. I know moments like this aren’t helping… but ice cream = sheer joy!

Exhibit D... but I prefer the plain variety

Exhibit D... but I prefer the plain variety