New York Times bestselling author, slow cooking expert and mommy blogger next door
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Totally Together

How to Bust Through a Weight Loss Plateau

March 5, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

Six 10-Minute-or-Less Exercise Moves/Videos for busy Moms


I have been trying to lose the same 8 to 10 pounds for 2 years. I’ve had plateaus before, but nothing like this — and I was truly getting frustrated. I tried blaming it on my thyroid (it’s fine), my potassium (it’s fine), lack of Vitamin D (it’s okay, too), and getting old (that’s true, I’m older than I used to be!).

But these last few weeks I’ve gotten through this tough spot, and actually feel better and more motivated about working out and eating properly than I have in a good 6 years.

I am certainly not an expert, and am only going to share what has begun to work (FINALLY!) for me. I got motivated after reading through Sandy’s Fitness Friday posts last month, and decided that once and for all March was going to be the month to finally lose the 8 pound blanket so I can be more comfortable and confident this summer.

There are many different reasons to lose weight, and I know that my 8 to 10 pounds is nothing for those who need to lose more. I find weight loss and working out to be somewhat personal, but really had an AHA! moment when I read what Sandy wrote about needing to be held accountable for my diet and exercise. I have pretty good habits already, but found that I was mindlessly eating throughout the day when I wasn’t even hungry. I’d finish the end of a kid sandwich, or pop a few too many tatertots in my mouth while I was preparing lunch.

Since I write cookbooks, I’d justify my large portions and crazy taste-testing — it’s for work! I’ve got to keep making sure it’s perfect! šŸ˜‰

But I do believe the largest culprit these last two years has been alcohol. I began having a glass of wine or beer every night. I’d again justify that “I worked hard! I deserve this!” and mindlessly fill my glass or say yes to another drink. And that’s not good for me. It might be okay for you, but for me it means that I am no longer in total control of my snacking and am more likely to down a bag of tortilla chips or talk Adam into a late-night icecream run. And each beer is about 250 calories, each glass of wine is about 125 calories, and each shot of whatever is about 100 calories (and when it’sĀ  mixed with margarita mix? a LOT more!)


The stuff that was okay for me at age 22 isn’t okay at 36. I remember fondly eating and eating and eating. And then washing it down. And washing it down again. But if I’m going to have MORE “good ol’ days” in the years to come, I needed to stop and take charge of my health.

And I need to be a proper role model to these three girls I’m raising.


Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked. I do that a lot.

So! My non-stop reading of personal development books has led me to read a lot of diet and fitness books. I usually take bits and pieces of what makes sense to me and leave the rest. These are the favorites that I keep returning to:

8 Minutes a Day by Jorge Cruise

Body For Life by Bill Phillips

The Dukan Diet by Pierre Dukan


I do the best when I eat whole foods that are low in sugar and high in protein. I feel the best when my carbs come from vegetables and fruit. I bet you probably do, too.


I wish there was more of a revolutionary secret. There really isn’t. I am intrigued by Dr. Dukan’s protein-only days — they seem to really do a good job of getting you back on track when you have a free-for-all day. I think the Body for Life workout is a very good one, and I feel the strongest and most healthy when I workout that way. I like the food and flax recommendation from 8 Minutes a Day and like the basic exercises and photo descriptions.

I have been tracking (loosely) my eating and working out since January– it’s taken 3 months of me writing it out to realize that if I just stopped eating crap the plateau would finally break. It’s annoying to me that even though I KNOW what to do, I just don’t sometimes.

I’ve been eating a lot of 1 minute muffins, have been drinking tons of water, choosing to fill my plate with lean protein and leafy greens, and have limited my eating between 7 am and 7 pm. That’s about it.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people do the things the unsuccessful do not. — Brian Tracy

I’ve found a few quick workout videos on You Tube. I’ve been trying to pick 2 or 3 a day to do, and really like the following:

3 Minute Mini Walk

5 Minute Ab and Obliques

10 Minute Muffin Top and Quick Cardio

10 Minute Tank Top Arms and Shoulders

10 Minute Bikini Abs (planks, no crunches)

10 Minute Tank Top Arms (different than other video; I like to switch them up)


What about you? Have you found that you have needed to increase your protein, or your workouts after a certain age, or after having children? Have you needed to change your mindset about food and exercise?

Why is it that we *know* what the answer is, but continuously talk ourselves out of it?

Read Me When You are Having a Bad Day

February 25, 2013 by · 10 Comments 

what to read when you have a bad day

To use as needed.

Repeat, if necessary.

For best results, use as directed.



Today was just a bad day. That’s it, just a bad day.

You are not fat.

You are not ugly.

No, that zit on your chin will not be there forever.

You have not scarred your children for life because you yelled at them.

In fact, you probably built long-lasting character.

Your husband is not going to leave you.


It was just a very bad day.


You are doing fine at work. Don’t worry about what so and so is working on.

Work on what You are working on.

What you are working on is good enough.

It is. I promise.

No one is out to get you.


Yes, you will feel better tomorrow.

No, it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things if you finished all the ice cream. And the popcorn. And drank that whole 2-liter all by yourself.

No one is taking notes or keeping track but you.

And today is a do-over. It doesn’t count.

No, the ladies in the grocery store weren’t talking about you. No, the library coordinator didn’t take it personally when you said you couldn’t help this year.


Yes, I know you feel guilty. Own the guilt.

and now move on.

really! do it! move on!!!


I know. You don’t get enough sleep. You don’t get enough exercise. You don’t get enough fresh air and sunshine. It’s not fair.

I know.

It’s going to be alright.


Today was just a really bad day.


Tomorrow will be better.


Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

February 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

new year resolutions

We’re approaching the end of February. Do you know where your New Year Resolutions are?

I’ve gotten pretty good at making and keeping my resolutions each new year — and while it’s still not super easy for me to stay on track, each and every year I have a bit more resolve to keep on course.

It doesn’t matter that we’re near the end of February — there is still plenty of time to get your new year goals and resolutions back on track. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, here are some tips to climb back in it and buckle up; there’s a long road ahead until the end of the year.

If you haven’t made any new year resolutions or goals for 2013, or don’t like to because you don’t think that’s “your thing” — okay. But you also can’t change for the better in any way unless you make the conscious decision to do so. And regardless of your personal journey or path, I believe we all could do a bit better each year.

This is it.

You’re not going to get today back again, and it’s okay to want tomorrow to be slightly better.

How to make New Year Resolutions that You’ll Keep:

1) Write it down. This is such a simple step, yet the majority of people don’t do it. Yes, there are plenty of people who have stuck to their resolve to lose weight or get out of debt by not writing down their goals, but if you DO write it down you have a greater chance of success. And who are we to fool around with statistics? If it feels hokey, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to share what you’ve written down to anybody — just keep it in a notebook or folded up in your purse.

2) Tell Someone. I know. In suggestion number 1 I said you don’t have to share your written resolution or goal list with anyone and now I’m telling you to tell someone else your personal wishes and dreams. I promise I’m not losing my mind— you still don’t have to share your written out list, but you DO have to share what you’re working on.

Accountability to someone else is a much stronger motivational drive than an intrinsic one. This means that you are more likely to disappoint yourself than you are someone else. That’s just how human nature is. We are also much more forgiving to others than we are to ourselves —- so if you veer off track, having a supportive someone in your corner is just who you’ll need to confide in and who can help you retain confidence.

This is what I did with the slow cooker site, and what Jen did with her cocktail site. We told the Internet — it’s a pretty big group to be held accountable to!

3) Review your resolutions every single day. However you do this is up to you. You can pull out your list of goals, or rewrite them every morning. Some people have excellent results by writing their resolutions out as if they have already happened. For instance, if your goal is to lose those final last ten pounds, you might start your day by thinking aboutĀ  how thankful you are that you can fit into the dress hanging in the closet. You can go a step further and visualizeĀ  yourself wearing it and hear in your head all the complements you’ll get from your friends.

I have a vision board. I make a new one every year, and I keep it in the bathroom. It’s personal, and I have sayings and quotes, and magazine cutouts on it. I only share it with Adam, and even he kind of rolls his eyes a bit at how particular some of my visions (picture cutouts) are. But that’s okay. Because my vision board makes me smile and keeps me focused on what it is I’m working towards —Ā  I look at it quite a few times a day, and somedays it spurs me on to take action on a certain writing assignment or to go do a few pushups. Other days I just zone out. I’ve decided to believe that even on my zone out days my subconscious is working on something. šŸ˜‰

4) Pretend you’ve already succeeded. Or fake it till you make it. This might seem phony at first, but you’ll get used to it in practice. If your New year’s Resolution was to work out every morning, act like a person who works out every morning. What time does that person wake up? What does she wear? Does she sleep in her workout clothes and works out before getting dressed for the day? What does she eat? Do you need different food in the house?

If your resolution was to write every day on your All American Novel, start acting like a novelist. What does a novelist do? Does she get up before everyone else in the house and write for an hour? Does she have a set of index cards with character names and traits? Does she spend 3 hours a day surfing facebook or pinterest, or does she buckle down and work?

5) Reward yourself. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, nor does it need to be expensive, but you have to find a way to celebrate the tiny steps and milestones along the way. Day to Day life is hard enough as it is — trying to change or adapt is even harder, even if you know it’s for the better.

Human nature is to find the easiest and least resistant path. It’s easier to lay around on the couch than it is to lace up your shoes and go for a walk. So reward yourself. Walk to the grocery store and after making a few laps get yourself a pack of sugarless gum. If you’ve gotten through the entire day without yelling at the kids, take a bath. Paint your toes. Do something just forĀ  you that’s a reward. And there is no harm in using the reward as motivation to keep to your goals — “if I don’t use my credit card but instead pay it off, I can use the extra savings in our vacation fund.”

I’m sure you see what I mean.

You don’t have to be in the first week of January to decide to be a New You. Or a Newer Version of You.

You can do this. I know you can.

and it’s not too late.

It’s never too late to accomplish anything you put your mind to.


It’s Okay To Be Different

January 17, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

being different is ok

Darth Vader in Barbie Dream House

Darth Vader in Barbie’s Dream House

Why are we programmed to think that it’s not okay to be different than everybody else? Why do we care so much about fitting in? Why do we worry incessantly about what other people think? Why do we try to impress complete strangers? Why does a critical statement from a casual acquaintance or even from an anonymous Internet person stick with us more than praise from a close friend?

Why do we waste time, energy, sleep, and calories trying to squeeze into an impossible-to-fill mold?

Why is there a mold in the first place?

As very young children we try to bend our personalities and our behaviors to fit into preset stereotypes — you’ve got the rambunctious toddler, the quiet preschooler, the bookworm, the artist, the jock, the social butterfly, the brainiac, the playground politician.

in college it’s the same — there are the partiers, the studiers, the rebels, the drifters, and the nerds.

When you’re pregnant, you begin searching for “like-minded” pregnancy friends. You scour Internet message boards and engage in circular arguments about whether medicated or un-medicated birth is the best. You identify whole-heartedly with a group and that becomes Your Identity.

but then things change. Complications arise. Now you’re scheduled to have a c-section. And your friends, Your Tribe, no longer sees you as a good fit. You’re the one who had a c-section. And you are starting to realize that you really had nothing else in common with this group, this tribe, this close-minded group of like-minded people.

And so after a while you look for a different group of like-minded people. Maybe it’ll be the soccer moms (no, they all wear Ugg boots and you once saw a YouTube video on how Uggs are made). Maybe it’ll be the Vegan Moms (no, they make you feel bad about giving your kids Fruit by the Foot). Maybe it’ll be the Crafty Moms (no, because they spend all their free time at Michael’s and spend more money on brown paper and raffia than you thought possible).

and so you drift some more.

Until one day, you realize that you are Happy. You are Happy with who you are —- you work out here and there, but not enough to be considered a gym rat. You eat pretty healthy, and buy organic fruit for your kids, but also buy Cheese in a Can, so you aren’tĀ  a foodie. You like HGTV but would rather watch others work than sand down the porch, so you aren’t a DIYer. You’re pretty thrifty and somewhat cheap, but loathe cutting coupons, so you could never be an Extreme Couponer.

and then you realize that not only are you Happy, you are The Normal. And categories and molds and trying to be something you are not is what’s Abnormal.

what a relief.

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