Tag Archives: nutrition

When 50% is a Good Thing


If you don’t already know, I’m a school teacher. I spend a lot of my time marking and grading. When I was a kid, if you got 50% on a test, it was a bad thing (I can’t remember, but I seem to think it earned you a “D”) Nowadays, a 50% is a C- (which means “not yet meeting expectations”). Grades are a big thing for me – not only professionally, but personally. I have spent pretty much all of my life around this idea of being graded. In elementary and secondary school, I brought home decent enough grades to keep my parents happy without having to do too much work. Now that my own children are entering high school, we talk about the importance of a good GPA as it pertains to getting into post-secondary programs.  As a music student, I took Royal Conservatory Exams, and remember the thrill of getting a “First Class Honours with Distinction” on a few theory exams…. and, I remember the devastation of failing my grade 10 practical exam the first time I took it (a pass, in that instance, was 70%). When I recently returned to university, I decided that this was my time to shine, and I pushed myself to get straight As. Each essay I got back with a lovely red “A” on the last page brought me joy. Those A+s were cause for celebration. When I was doing my teaching practicum, which was a pass/fail program, a friend and I resolved to give each other As at the end of the term, because we were both so driven by letter grades.  And, I’ve been known to brag about graduation from my B.Ed program with straight A+s. Grades are omnipresent in my life.

Today, however, I realized something very important: 50% is good enough.

Wow – I could hear my friends gasping at reading me say that!!! But, it’s true.

This week, I started following the Eat-Clean Diet (which isn’t really a diet as much as it is a lifestyle change for me). Typically, when I start a new “diet” it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. If I couldn’t give myself a grade of “A” (or better) after a couple of days, I’d get so discouraged, and quit. Which would often lead to me feeling depressed and thereby eating more (usually in the form of chocolate).

Last Friday, during my counselling appointment, my counsellor had me set some goals. I decided that I’d eat clean for breakfast and lunch, which, a few days later, turned into “eat clean for two meals/snacks per day.” I know it sounds like a simple goal, but for me to not strive for perfection is very, very difficult.

You know what? It’s working! In striving for this partial goal, this ‘not-quite-perfect’ goal, I am actually feeling successful!! Sure, I’ve had a few “dirty meals” (um, Burger King isn’t ‘clean eating’ last time I checked), but, because my goal is two meals/day clean, I’m not beating myself up when I have one unhealthy meal. Ok, so I had that piece of cake and a can of pop at lunch today… who cares?!? It was one meal, and I didn’t let it ruin my day! I had a very healthy breakfast, and my dinner was really clean…. and tonight, when I was having a major sugar craving, I waited it out, reminding myself that this is just my body’s way of getting used to a new lifestyle, one that doesn’t depend on refined sugars for energy.

How cool is that?!?!

Even though yesterday I had Burger King for lunch, and today I splurged a bit, I don’t feel like a failure. I am able to focus on my success because I met my goal. And I can do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Then, once I get used to eating 50% clean, I can increase it to 75% clean.

When I went to search for an image for this post, the first thing I typed into the search engine was “50%.” Do you know what came up? A bunch of 50% Off sale signs. That made me chuckle… maybe this 50% approach will help me take pounds off!!

I’ve never been one for baby steps. No siree. I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ type gal. However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I’ve said it before that we treat our pets better than we treat ourselves. As I get ready to embark on a new year of teaching (and grading!) I need to remember something very, very important:

I am a great teacher who treats her students with love, compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and dignity (as every good teacher does): it’s time I started treating myself as well as I treat my students.

When a student fails a spelling test, I don’t tell them they should just quit school! When a student feels discouraged by an assignment that seems too difficult, I help them work through it, step by step. My goal as an educator is to help my students believe in themselves and feel proud of a job well done. I have come to learn that one student’s amazing achievement may be another student’s worst work; I work hard to help my kids recognize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. I encourage them to keep trying, over and over again, until they learn.

Why should I be any different with myself? Why can’t I encourage myself to keep trying and trying until I learn a new way of living? Because, really, it isn’t about the grade. Ask any teacher: grades are not as important as the lessons learned.

I am learning. I am learning a new way of being. It won’t always come easy, but as long as I try my best, I will succeed.

So, yeah, 50% is a good thing!


















Oven Roasted Brown Rice Pilaf



I took this recipe and modified it, as I didn’t have tomatoes on hand.


  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/3 – 1/2 c finely chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped.
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano or thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, heated (you can use vegetable broth to make it a vegetarian dish)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste.


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy ovenproof saucepan with a lid. Add the onion & garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and red pepper, saute until soft.
  3. Add rice and chopped oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is shiny, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in hot stock. Cover pot and bring to a boil.
  6. Transfer to oven and continue to cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed – about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. Remove the rice from the oven and fluff with a fork. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.


The original recipe called for 4 1/4 cups of broth, but I misread the recipe while making it and used 4 1/2 cups – the rice was nice and soft. All three boys said they liked it – and they don’t normally eat brown rice.

Eating Clean


Today, I am starting something new: Clean Eating. It’s a term I’ve been hearing over and over again since starting this journey. The way I see it is that if the universe keeps presenting you with an idea, perhaps you should listen. There are hundreds and hundreds of diet books, programs, pills, magic potions, on which you can spend money. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’m trying to become fit and healthy without giving into the propaganda of the diet industry (and without giving them a ton of money!)

Well, I have to admit, I gave in the other day and bought a “diet book”. Actually, I bought three diet books, costing me a total of $33. Which really isn’t that bad.

What books, you ask?

From the research I’ve been doing, this approach seems to make sense to me. Eat more of the healthy stuff – protein, complex carbs, healthy oils; Eat less of the unhealthy stuff – sugars, refined foods, calorie-dense/nutrient poor, prepackaged foods. Sure, I could probably figure this out all on my own, but I love learning, and knowledge is power, right?

Tosca Reno, the author, states that our physiques are 10% genetics, 10% training and 80% nutrition.  I cannot control genetics (which, in reality, I’ve been somewhat blessed with! My dad is a very trim man. From my mother, I am blessed with amazing skin!). The thought of training freaks me out – I still don’t see myself as a ‘exerciser’. But I love to eat. And, I can control food!! And if 80% of how I look is determined by what I eat, that means I can control how I look! That’s great news.

This past week, I have felt tired, depressed, unmotivated, lazy, listless, and have sat around on the couch like a blob.  I’m not surprised: I’ve been filling up on simple carbs and sugary food. I really don’t recall eating much fruit and veggies in the last week. And once you feel that way, it is really hard to be motived out of it.

Fortunately, I have help. My darling friend Jenn and I went grocery shopping together this morning. She’s doing the Eat-Clean thing too (albeit for slightly different reasons than I). She’s helping me with grocery lists and menu plans, which is a godsend. It was nice to go shopping with someone else – I felt far less tempted to buy junky stuff (although, I did buy some not-so-healthy choices for my kids, but it’s things that I generally don’t eat, so I’m not tempted to eat it).

I had my first Eat-Clean lunch today:

2 pc. sprout grain bread

1/2 avocado

1 tomato slice

1 oz. reduced fat cheese

A bit of sprouts

1 c. strawberries

I am SO full, and feel great. I am looking forward to seeing what heath benefits I can notice in the next few days. I’m a bit worried that it will be hard to give up sugar entirely, wondering what type of withdrawal symptoms I may experience. I am looking forward to having more energy, feeling more clear-headed and emotionally stable (less mood swings), having healthier looking skin and, of course, losing weight.

I was reading in Tosca’s book that you can expect to lose 3 lbs a week. I’m not sure if that will happen to me, because I’m not focusing on going “all or nothing” with this. I know myself well enough to know that if I do go all gung-ho on this, and try my best to follow it perfectly, the minute I mess up, I’ll give up. I’m trying to see this as a lifestyle change, taking it one day at a time. I was talking with my therapist yesterday, and she was helping me set some  goals. This week’s goal that I came up with in counselling is to eat clean for breakfast and lunch.  I think I’m going to tweak that a bit: Aim to eat clean for two main meals and snacks/day. I have menu plans and a fully stocked fridge with healthy food. I think I can do this!


Game on!


I still can’t believe the response I’ve gotten to this blog. What amazes me is not only that people are reading it (I figured at least my friends would read it), but that complete strangers are reading it and following it! So cool!

But what thrills me the most is the support I’m getting from close friends and strangers alike. One of the best things I’ve encountered since starting this blog is another blog with a very similar theme, Fat Girl PhD. Today, she wrote a great post about how she has managed to lose 110 lbs without the use of gimmicky, fad diets. I absolutely love her blog – she is such an inspiration for me, seeing someone with a similar problem be successful. The best part about her blog is that she is going to start sharing some recipes, meal plans, exercise tips and tools. I just can’t wait to see what she has to post, and to learn from her experiences!

The other amazing source of inspiration and support is my friend Jodi. Tomorrow morning, we begin a week long challenge. The goal? To track our food using iPhone apps (she uses Lose It, I use My Fitness Pal – both very similar). The person who tracks the most for the week is declared the winner; the loser buys coffee. I am game!

I am a competitive person, and I am SO going to win this challenge. Plus, it’s not like it’s an actual weight loss competition. That wouldn’t be fair because I think I’d win since one of us isn’t going to a wedding this weekend. And, I’m glad it’s not an exercise challenge – one of us (hint: not me!) did FemSport earlier this year. If you think about it, it’s kind of like competitive eating, just instead of eating two hundred hot dogs in 5 minutes, we’re eating and keeping track of it. I didn’t even say that we had to eat healthy, just that we had to track what we ate. I could eat donuts and pizza all week, but as long as I write it all down, I win.

Betcha didn’t see that one coming, my friend!

My Dietician Experience


Last week, I had a phone appointment with a dietician. Through the Employee Family Assistance Plan at work, we have access to a number of different services, a dietician being one of them. I figured, “What the heck. It’s free. What have I got to lose?” (Actually, come to think of it, it isn’t really all that free – I do pay for these great benefits!)

After talking to her, I was not all that impressed at first. A lot of what she said sounded like stuff I’ve heard at Weight Watchers meetings. And, c’mon – weight loss is just common sense, right? Eat less, eat healthier, move more. (And, really, if it was that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this blog now, would I?). She said that she would send me some stuff via email, and we booked a follow up call for later this week.

I waited and waited for the email to arrive. It didn’t come until a few days later, and I only just now had the opportunity to sit down at my computer and read through what she sent.

Let me tell you: I am now thoroughly impressed!

It is very comprehensive! There were 5 different attachments with the email:

  1. A comprehensive meal plan and nutritional recommendations, personalized just for me. This is a 13 page document that she wrote specifically to meet my concerns, and address my issues. I can tell from what she wrote that she paid attention to what I said I like to eat, as the meal plan is truly based on my personal preferences!
  2. Emotional Inventory Checklist: a list of over 100 different emotions to help me identify what I’m feeling when I want to succumb to emotional eating.
  3. An instruction guide for the emotional inventory. Basically, what you do is this: when you feel like you’re about to eat for emotional reasons, take a minute to assess what you’re feeling, and place a check mark in front of the emotion on the list. Then, go ahead an eat. After eating, re-evaluate your feelings, and place a check mark behind the appropriate emotion on the list. After a week, you should be able to notice some trends.
  4. A sheet called “Quick! Distract Me!” with a list of things to do when you feel like emotional eating.
  5. A sheet titled “Ride the Craving Wave” with tips for dealing with cravings.

I’m quite excited about all of this. I think I’m going to print off the meal plan and nutritional recommendations and put it in a binder or something. I haven’t read through the entire thing carefully yet, just skimmed it, but the thing that caught my eye was a basic skeleton meal plan, outlining when to eat, (three meals and three snacks), and how many servings from the various food groups I should eat at each meal. This sounds like it may be incredibly useful. Hmm… I think I may need to print that off, laminate it, put some of those sticky magnets on the back and post it on my fridge!! (Gee– can you tell I’m a teacher? I own a laminating machine and keep a roll of sticky -backed magnets on hand).

Even though at first I wasn’t really impressed with this dietician, I am really glad I called. I finally feel like I have someone truly helping me. And, it didn’t cost a bunch of money!

Goes to show that you don’t need to spend lots to lose weight!

(Hmm…. I smell an entire new blog brewing for when I finish this one! Free & Fit? Dieting for a Dime? I’m sure I’ll come up with a good title in the next 11 months!)

Craving Ice Cream


It’s 10:45pm, and I have been battling a food craving for about an hour. I really really wanted some ice cream. I keep seeing the ads for the new chocolate blizzard flavour. My friend Scott mentioned Cherry Garcia (curse him!! That’s my favourite flavour!). It would have bee really easy to just hop in the car and go get a chocolate cherry blizzard (two birds with one stone!)

But, I didn’t. Yay me!

I contemplated a cup of tea, but really: tea? Tea is decidedly NOT ice cream. The closest I’ve come to is some yogurt with frozen berries mixed in. Sweet, creamy, healthy. After this post, if I still feel like it, I will go to the kitchen and carefully measure out 1/2 c. fat free yogurt and 1/2 c. frozen berries.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I was craving ice cream. I do know that I’m feeling a bit emotional tonight… not quite sure why. Ok. That’s a lie. I know why. There are a bunch of reasons and a bunch of emotions.  However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am actually hungry. Reflecting back on what I’ve eaten today, that makes sense:


1 cup Special K Fruit & Yogurt cereal with a banana and 1 c. milk


Some watermelon and two pieces of cheese with crackers, and two cookies (but they were small!)


Low-fat english muffin toasted, with 1 tbsp fat free cream cheese and some deli ham. Followed by more watermelon.


Beef tortellini with tomato sauce, and a Caesar salad (low fat dressing)

Okay, maybe, just maybe, I snuck a handful of chocolate chips somewhere along the way!

But really, that’s not much food. My portions were very controlled; at dinner, half my plate was salad. And, I’ve been drinking water all day to stay hydrated in this heat. So yes, it would make sense that I’m actually hungry.

So now? I’m going to go to the kitchen, take one of the small bowls out of the cupboard, and make some yogurt and frozen berries. And then? I’m going to write another blog post about my recent appointment with a dietician 🙂


See you in a few 😉

Today’s Grade: B+


Ok. Here I am. Being accountable. Yesterday, if you recall, I wrote down 5 “smart” goals, number 5 being to “check in every night here on my blog to record how my goals for the day went.” So here it goes.

1. Tracking my food: I did fairly well on this. I tracked almost everything I ate, and was very conscious about my calorie intake. However, I did not write down the grande skinny hazelnut latte I had mid-morning,  nor did I track my dinner. For the record, I had leftovers – left over tortellini and left over potatoes. I know, not every healthy, but hey, I’m admitting it! The rest of the day was fairly healthy, consisting of lots of fruits, veggies and unprocessed food.

2. Exercise: Yup. Up at 5 (ish) and did the first workout of the 30 day challenge. I’m starting out at the easy level. I could probably handle the moderate level, but I want to be successful.

3. Water: I had no idea that cut up strawberries and lemons in a bottle of water could be so refreshingly yummy! I drank two of my big bottles full of strawberry/lemon water today, and it was much, much, MUCH tastier than any powered low-cal diet crap. Plus, it’s chock full of vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins (apparently lemons are a good source for this! I did not know this.)

4. Vitamins: oops! Forgot about that one. Will try better tomorrow.

5. Being accountable on my blog. Yup!


Overall, it was a pretty decent day. I didn’t get as much stuff done as I had wanted, which I attribute to being tired. I got to bed late last night, and didn’t sleep well. Tonight I need to get to bed much earlier: tomorrow’s going to be a long day… hopefully going downtown to catch the Wayne Shorter concert 🙂