15 @ 150

59.4photoLisa’s plan calls for four mini-meals of 150 calories plus a normal dinner. People hate counting calories. I know I do. I wrote down everything I ate and what it cost in calories for years. I made recipes where I calculated out to the calorie how much a serving would “cost” me. That’s a lot of work!

But there is an easier way. First, you eventually learn that a banana is 100 calories and so is an egg. An apple is 50 calories and an almond milk latte is 50. But what if you’ve never counted calories and are finding it difficult to start now? Writing down every bite of food I eat? That was the most difficult step of WW for me.

As usual I whined about this to Lisa and she sent me a little list. 15 mini-meals for 150 calories. No counting. No writing. Just whip together and go. Here they are:

1. Light English Muffin with turkey slice
2. Light bagel with cream cheese
3. Turkey sausage on toast
4. Stir half cup ricotta with a few mini chocolate chips plus sugar free dulce deleche.
5. Low cal whole wheat tortilla spread with one TBS of nutella, brown slightly on both sides of pan til gooey.
6. Hot chocolate made with almond milk plus a calcium chew
7. Two slices 35 cal bread (Aunt Millie!) plus two fat free cheese slices, grilled
8. Chobani yogurt with fruit
9. Chobani as an onion dip. Half cup with 6 Pretzel Thins
10. Hungry Girl “Pie One On”
11. Grits, half cup almond milk, and a herb/garlic laughing cow wedge
12. Oatmeal, truvia, sugar free maple syrup
13. Waffle with blueberries (microwave blueberries in some sugar free maple syrup)
14. Half a fiber bar
15. Apple with a TBS cashew butter

Those are all Lisa’s, but I don’t eat sugar, sugar free, or fat free products. Nor do I eat meat. But I love soy sausage! Less calories, too:) I do also love the low cal Laughing Cow cheeses, Chobani yogurt, and grits. Almond milk is my go-to treat. So if like me you want no sugar or meat, but prefer real butter on your toast, or the whole egg, not an egg beater, or a whole grain slice of bread, be like me. I eat 3 minis at about 200 calories each. You just have to watch how much cashew butter goes on the toast or how many nuts you chop into the oatmeal.

I stopped writing down my calories after awhile, if you stick to basics, and this was Lisa’s pep talk to me, just mentally adjust to eating those 15 or 20 auto-foods you love, and you will lose weight. Even if you like full or low fat versions, you’ll still lose, just slower. I lost 25 pounds in a year, so half a pound a week, but feeling fully satisfied and never hungry. I am not sure how many calories I eat these days. I just try to be mindful of portion size and hop on the scale once in a while. It always points down a pound or so. Because I still have a ways to go.

Of course I’m doing yoga. Been walking since I got those great gel shoes, too. See you at the finish line, or next week when the topic is one of my biggest obstacles: emotional eating.

Lisa Plan Over Easy

sneakersKey parts to Lisa’s food plan (not a “diet” but a way of eating for life.) are mini-meals and exercise. Just trying to stay even is a struggle as we age. I had an early, surgical menopause, and then weight loss got really challenging. About the same time, I transitioned into many more writing hours after an super-active life. These events did not do my body any favors. Hence, the plea to Lisa for help.

Mini-meal Basics
Lisa’s mini-meals are 150 calories (600 calories for four) then a normal dinner (depending on how many calories your body needs to consume to lose weight). I tried eating just 150 calories and was hungry after an hour. Always. Lisa said if you play with your plan, you won’t be hungry, but you have to find what works for you. She eats at 8, 10:30, 12:30, then 2:30 or 3. If dinner is after 5, she’ll have another mini and take it off her dinner calorie count.

When I told her I was hungry after an hour her advice was to not just have a small yogurt or piece of fruit but combine protein and carb. Her suggested menu for me was a whole cup of cooked oatmeal at 8 am, cup of yogurt mid-morning, a sandwich using those great wheat rounds (tuna salad made w/yogurt, egg salad, peanut butter w/sliced banana) at noon, and another snack at 3 with a regular dinner. And you know, that works for me. I swap out the first meal, and just have yogurt and fruit, then later, when hunger kicks in, I’ll have oatmeal or a sandwich, depending on what time it is. I eat more than 150 for my mini-meals, maybe 200, so I have three instead of 4. It’s important to listen to your body and what IT needs when. Everybody’s different. Find your own mini-meal path.

It’s no secret yoga is my exercise of choice and as my teacher said last weekend “you’re as young as your spine is flexible” so, you know, yoga is good. It’s good for mind and body and I love feeling open, balanced and at peace, all of which yoga gives me. But I do want to add in some cardio, because one of the things I want to do more of is get out into the world. Lisa loves dance, she went of U of M for dance back in the day and has always been a dancer. I like to dance at parties to music, not in classes where everyone has to follow a pattern. Patterns confuse me. Lisa swears by Zumba. Maybe some day I’ll try it but for now I’m going to walk.

One of the things that inspires me is to have the right equipment for the job at hand, be it a good kitchen knife and cutting board (for all those veggies I chop) or a pair of sneakers that really do the job. You know walking shoes are ugly, right? Well, my last pair were. So I was thinking, hmmm, maybe hiking boots. But really, me, hike? I want to, I really do, but I don’t think it’s going to be happening before our Seattle trip, where we will be walking a lot, so I took myself to Kohl’s and got these babies pictured above. They’re stronger than they look, not canvas but a thick soft material and all gel inside. Toe heaven:) I’m so excited about these shoes I’ll probably go for a walk later today.

Speaking of excited, exercise is also a great mood lift. So if you are down about your inability to lose weight, get moving and accomplish two goals at once.

Real Dinners
Lisa is a great cook and I’ve been her dinner guest a number of times. She knows I’m a vegetarian, so she caters to me (I know, lucky me!) and will cook fish with yummy sides.

Dinner Menu

Tomato Bisque Soup: to 1/2 cup add cup of veggie crumbles, 1/4 C water, 1/4 C chick peas, sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Shrimp Scampi (4 large shrimp = 35 calories each!)

Hungry Girl’s Spinach Cheese Pie

Roasted Veggies: 375 oven, lay veggies of your choice on foil, drizzle with olive oil, wrap tight in two pieces of foil for an hour, take top foil off bake 25 minutes more.

Apple Cup: cut up apples, microwave with a few cinnamon red hot candies, stir. Crumble half a graham cracker, stir, and top with whipped cream.

Only Ever Book Collaboration

Lisa.PlanI have this secret book project with my best friend, Lisa. Well, it’s not so secret anymore, because I’ve been talking about it a little bit online, because someone asked about Monday’s post, “So where’s the book?” and I can’t just not answer a question like that, especially as there IS a book. We wrote it together and it was the easiest thing I’ve ever written.

Of course, we only wrote the first draft, and revision can be a bitch, which is one reason why the book has not seen the light of day until now … Monday I wrote a sort of introduction, because, really, as I told her all along, this is Lisa’s book. She wrote most of it, shared resources, and developed recipes, too.

So yay, another book. Another completely different book in a totally new genre. (That seems to be my pattern.) My first, my only, ever, book collaboration. Working title: “Lisa Plan” because people steal titles all the time and hers is really good. How do I know people steal titles? When I wrote Sugar Shack I checked Amazon for other novels with that title. There were none. And I blogged about Sugar Shack sharing the title and by the time I was ready to publish it, there were several novels with that name. Hey, it could have just been a zeitgeist thing, not accusing anyone, but since then, I’ve kept titles (mostly) under wraps. And Sugar Shack became Sister Issues one minute before I hit “publish” on KDP:)

Should You Collaborate?
I have been asked to collaborate many times by many people. These are well-intentioned innocents who have an “awesome” idea and they want to tell me the story then have me write it down. When it makes a million, we’ll split the profits. Well, no. Because everyone in the world has an awesome idea. That’s a perk of being human. We’re ALL creative. But I have more than enough of my own ideas, and while I did listen to my mother’s story about a woman who was born a queen in the time of Henry the Eighth and was reincarnated in our own time with all kinds of twisty stuff happening, and while I was fascinated by it, it was not a book I had the least interest in writing.

Yes, I told my mother no. But she got her own back because by far the biggest and most enthusiastic response to any section of Your Words, Your Story is the children’s story my mom wrote but couldn’t finish. She asked me to help her, and I did, but only ten years later because I wanted to put it in my own book. People love that story and she’s published, so I worked good karma for Mom, since she obviously gave me the writing gene.

As dubious as I’ve always been about collaborating, I’m doing this because I believe in Lisa’s Plan. It worked for me, and I think it will work for others, too. Also, it was damn easy.

The How
I said it was easy, but how did we do it? Well, the asking questions part was easy for me because I’m very nosy curious. Lisa lives in another state so we did the entire book through email. I’d ask a question or tell her my latest roadblock (usually involving sugar or Chardonnay) and her detailed, thoughtful responses to my questions must have taken her tons of time, but she always came through for me. When I first started asking her about how she’d lost the weight and found new energy, it was simply as a friend asking advice on a personal journey toward better health.

I don’t know when in our correspondence we realized we had a book. Or which one of us realized it. Probably not me because I’m a novelist. Or so I tell myself even as I blog and work on my second non-fiction book. I really don’t have time to revise the Lisa Plan right now, but I wanted to blog about it, and Lisa said “go for it.” She is so easy to work with. It’s not even work; it’s a labor of love. So that is the execution. Find a topic of mutual intense interest, ideally with one person acting as student and the other as teacher, email about it for several months a couple of times a week, and print those babies out. No time to revise? Blog some chapters once a week.

Soon you’ll have something like this.

And something new to blog about.

Yeah, but

I know what some new writers are thinking: somebody will steal your idea. They will rip you off and publish it as their own and then where will you be? Here’s the answer to that: it’s already ours because anything I write on this site is copyright protected by the government. It’s easy to prove by the date stamp who wrote this book first. Also: every single one of my published books is available free on pirate sites. It’s kind of like the new normal. Napster for novelists.

People don’t bother to put their name on your words so much these days, although that’s happened to me, too. More often they just wait for the book and then upload it somewhere for free. My publisher is vigilant about taking its authors’ work down from these sites, but usually, after that happens, the book pops right back up on another pirate site.

Plus, I’ve never been the cautious type. I say let’s move with the world and not worry about the rest of it.

You may feel differently, and that’s your call. Actually, I’m already getting input from readers on things they’d like to know about, which is helping shape the revision of the book. Someone mentioned SUGAR which is huge in our collaboration draft. Someone else talked about EXERCISE and another person bemoaned MENOPAUSE. All covered, but I’m taking notes and if there’s something you want to know as this plan unfolds every Monday right here, just ask. If she hasn’t answered it already, Lisa will do some more deep thinking. Saving the world one pound at a time.

Spring Cleaning Inside

Still working on the site. Molly has a set of instructions for linking inside images I printed out for tomorrow, because, while working on the website is fun, today Linda is on the front burner.  If you’re a Michigan writer (or, hey, come on up from Chicago or Toledo) and want to get published, sign up here for our free team talk.

So much happening and this is my “go slow” month. There are signs in the stars that say I need to do things more mindfully this month, and things inside my own body and brain tell me that, too.

For example: I mistakenly double-dosed myself with hormones for a couple of weeks and my mind has been jumping around like a wild monkey through constantly moving hoops. My body, the body I love but mindlessly abused for so long, has been feeling the pain as I age and continue to carry extra belly fat.

Feeling desperate, I decided to spring clean from the inside out. I’m reading “How to Live for Life: The End of Dieting” by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. and beginning to change the way I eat. I had no trouble becoming a vegetarian, and I’m hoping this next step will come naturally, too, scooping out those stubborn pounds.

Also I’m making a point of getting more exercise, including my beloved yoga. But I need cardio, need to get the blood pumping, and that means walking. I walked outside today, it’s sunny and warm, hooray! but yesterday I was so into other things I took a short break to run up and down my stairs until I was panting.

Exercise helps brain chemistry, as does daily meditation despite the monkeys, also focusing on positive feelings and letting the sad things go. Eating the right foods help clean up brain chemistry as well.  It’s a two-for-one. That mind/body connection.

I’ve needed to make some changes in my diet, permanent changes, for a very long time. My strong, sweet body took me a long way without complaint even as I filled it with toxins. But now it complains. Regularly. So I have to do this. I want to do this. And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I CAN do this, with a bit of mindful attention.

And now I must sweep the front porch before Linda arrives.


A few weeks ago, I got some unfortunate news from my doctor. I have pre-diabetes. This is not the first time I have had sugar problems, and in the past, knowing the problem, I’d cut sugar out of my diet and the issue would solve itself. So of course, I vowed this time to cut out all treats that were made with sugar, while still allowing myself a little dark chocolate with high cocoa content, because I don’t binge on it and it’s healthy.

Shortly after making that promise to myself, I went out to lunch with a friend and ate the two free warm chocolate chip cookies that came with our meal. I didn’t eat them so much as inhale them. My friend Donna had one cookie, ate it slowly, and took the other home. So sensible. So not me.

I’ve been trying to beat my sugar addiction forever. Well, since I stopped smoking in 1987 and food started tasting good. Before 1987 I could care less about candy, cake, bread, chips. Eating was an annoying necessity. I was all about the nicotine. Pack a day for 15 years, except for the two times I was pregnant and the 10-20 times I tried to quit. But finally to my utter amazement I was able to quit nicotine. Harder to get off than heroin! So how come I can’t quit sugar?

I really don’t know the answer. I just know that I can’t quit trying to quit. I’m hoping Judy Smith, who has a chapter on indulging in her book “Good Self, Bad Self” will give me clues. She does have a method, it’s a little complicated, you really have to read the book, but I’m trying to put it into action. Today I figured out that I can actually work The Plan (a healthy lifestyle eating habit my friend Lisa came up with to successfully lose 30 lbs.) and exercise.  Instead of saying “well I’m shopping later so that’s exercise” I got on my treadmill and then hit the yoga mat.

And I’m still going shopping:) Will I be able to give up sugar with the same ease that I have incorporated exercise into my life? It seems so stupid to keep eating cakes and candies and cookies when I am headed on a fast train to giving myself shots of insulin. But I’m not stupid, just a sugar junkie.

I was able to add exercise because it makes me feel so better afterward. Yoga is a must for my back. I hurt if I don’t do some yoga every day. And walking helps cheer me up. I’ve been depressed, I admit it. I hate admitting that. But what I noticed when I started walking was that I am not depressed after 30 minutes on a treadmill. A little exercise gets me through a 24 hour day in a much better mood. Amazing!

Giving up sugar doesn’t have that same gratification. Sugar tastes good. It’s an instant hit of wonderful. I don’t feel a sugar crash like some people do. There is nothing tangible to keep me from indulging. Well, except my health, and I value it as much as my mood. Except when I am confronted with a delicious something full of sugar and slip into sweet denial.

I am motivated to quit sugar. Now I just need to get some practice with “no thanks” under my belt. I need a few successes. The next three days’ social events will all be sugar-rich opportunities. If I say no three times, I’ll have those successes to lean on during the coming holiday sugar rush. Wish me luck. And determination.