Category Archives: Discussions

Recipe Challenge: Snickerdoodles

I’ve been challenged by my new cohort of classmates to come up with a Health One Meal Replacement recipe for Snickerdoodles.  I have in mind starting with a vanilla meal replacement base, adding butter flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and maybe extra vanilla extract.  Oh, and lots of cinnamon.

Photo Credit: Burger Baroness via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Burger Baroness via Compfight cc

What is it that makes a snickerdoodle a snickerdoodle?  What must this recipe have in order to pass as an imposter?

Where do you exercise?

Resuming this journey requires I resume exercise.  I’m doing it now the same way I did it the first time — by committing to walking at least 30 minutes per day.  When I started in 2011 I couldn’t make it across the Two Rivers Bridge without stopping to rest my ankles.  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I first crossed the Big Dam Bridge.  This was the gorgeous sunset I saw the other night as I crossed the Big Dam Bridge.

BDB Sunset

Where do you exercise?


The Foodtritionist, whom I recommend you follow on Facebook for the humor as much as the sound nutrition and recipe advice, recently posted a cartoon that resonated with me.  “You have many weight-loss options:  gastric bypass, donut shop bypass, pizza parlor bypass, buffet bypass…”

Bypass Cartoon

For me, it’s gas station bypass.  Keeping foods that I would have difficulty consuming in healthy portions and at reasonable frequencies out of my pantry has long been a key to encouraging myself to make sound food choices.  Have you been inside a gas station lately?

I commute about an hour each way to and from work, so I get gas once every two or three days.  I am signed up for the rewards program that my gas station offers so I save between 5 and 10 cents per gallon.  When you burn fuel as rapidly as I do, every little bit counts.  With that rewards program came free treats.  A free fountain drink.  A free coffee.  A free Cadbury Cream Egg.

These freebies are designed to lure us inside.  Once there, they want to keep us inside.  Buy 6 fountain drinks and get the 7th for free.  Scan this QR Code and we’ll send you a coupon for something each Thursday.  Free donut.  Free hot dog.  Free coffee.  Free calories.

It wasn’t long before I was stopping into the gas station when I didn’t even need to get gas.  The people were very friendly.  The bathrooms were always sparkling.  The employees were so helpful — “You know, if you get another one of those it’ll only be 49 cents more.  They’re on sale this week.”  How can you turn away an offer like that?

Food addiction was never something I really thought was a thing.  Sure, people make bad decisions, but addiction?  When I drive past a gas station and my mouth begins watering, what do you call that?

I’m going to have a radical gas station bypass performed.  I don’t need the fountain drinks.  I don’t need the freebies.  I can pay at the pump.  When the receipt tells me that there are free things inside, I’m going to tear it up and drive away.  When the rewards system sends me a text message encouraging me to come inside to try a new product, I’m going to delete it.  When the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup calls my name, I’m going to let that call go to voicemail.

I can bypass the unhealthy options in the grocery store, but I seem to have difficulty bypassing them in convenience stores.  The answer is to bypass convenience stores.

What are you going to bypass?

Choosing My Own Adventure

When I was a kid, I really wasn’t very interested in reading.  It took more effort than watching a movie or listening to a story.  As well, it required that I concentrate for longer than my hyper-active attention span could muster.  The one exception to that was “Choose Your Own Adventure” books.  In those, you’d read a page or two and then make a decision.  Do you explore the dark cave or go back the way you came to investigate the noise you just heard?


Since starting at my new school, I’ve been faced with an avalanche of decisions.  

  • Do I go home and grade the open-response items I put on the Chapter 1 test so the kids will have feedback before they move on to the next big thing, or do I go to the gym and spend some quality time with the elliptical machine?
  • Do I stay up an extra hour preparing healthy meals for the coming days, or do I go to bed at a reasonable hour so I’ll have the energy and patience needed to make it through a full day of problem-based learning facilitation with 60 9th graders and 60 10th-12th graders?  
  • Do I take the much-needed 3-day weekend retreat that has become a tradition, or do I stay within the confines of civilization where there’s access to the Internet so I can grade online writing assignments (360 of them)?
  • Do I take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime, week-long professional development opportunity out of state requiring me to prepare an entire week of lesson plans and substitute-friendly learning activities, or do I stay here and do things myself?

Most of these decisions are interwoven.  If I go to the gym, I’ll have a higher energy level and a better attitude for the problem-based learning activity.  If I go on the weekend retreat, I’ll be relaxed, but I’ll probably also make poor food choices.  If I prep my meals, it means I’ll have more time to do work at school during my 30 minute lunch break, so I can at least print off the seating charts for the substitute folder for that week I’ll be out.

“Make Good Choices.”

Kristen, the registered dietitian who has been my source of knowledge, inspiration, and, when needed, consolation, has always told me to make good choices.  When I tell her that I’ve taken an action or made a choice that turned out not to be in my favor, she always asks, “what would have been a better choice?”

The difference between “then” and “now” is not that I didn’t want to make good choices “then.”  It’s not that I lacked the analytical capacity to make good choices “then.”  It’s simply that I was nutritionally-illiterate then.  I wasn’t equipped to make good choices about what to eat, what not to eat, and what the role of physical activity (and inactivity) played in weight control.

You haven’t heard much from me in the last month because I’ve been covered up with work and life.  I haven’t been to the gym since September 5th.  I had to log into my gym account to look that up!  My work obligations, for better or worse, often take precedence over my life obligations.  As a professional educator, I cannot bring myself to let the intellectual well-being of 180 young people fall to the wayside because I haven’t done “leg day” this week.

So how am I doing?  Surprisingly well.

My last weigh-in was 193.0 pounds.  The last time I updated you on my progress I weighed 191.8 pounds.  I lost my weight by making good choices.  I’ve kept it off by continuing to make the best choices I can.  In the real world, we have to deal the hand we’re dealt.  Sometimes the best choice is the least-worst choice.  When those days come, I learn from them, taking steps to not get myself in those types of situations going forward.

If you’re trying to control your own weight, make good choices.  Learn how food works.  Learn how to balance your caloric intake with your caloric expenditures.  When I can’t get to the gym, I eat less.  When I’m eating less, I I make sure that the foods I do eat are whole grains, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and the “good fats.”  When I do have time to get to the gym, that gives me a bit more flexibility in my food choices and my “discretionary calories” (Fun-size Twix, I’m talking to you).

A good friend recently told me that he and his wife had decided that they were going to focus on losing weight.  As badly as I know they both want and need to lose weight, success all comes down to how well you play “Choose Your Own Adventure.”  In my previous life, I wanted to lose weight.  In my previous life I needed to lose weight.  The difference between then and now is that I have equipped myself with the knowledge and nutrition literacy resources necessary to make good decisions.  I know how to look things up.  I know who to ask if I can’t make sense of what I find.  I use my brain to decide what I put in my mouth.

What do you need to help you make better choices?


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Holding My Own

Ladies and Gentlemen, I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I want you to know that, as the song lyrics would have it, “I’m alive and doin’ fine!”  Each summer I spend 5 or 6 weeks on the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s campus teaching and chaperoning middle school and high school summer camps as a part of the college of Engineering and Information Technology’s outreach efforts.  I’m on a one-week break from the programs, so I have a moment to breathe, blog, and recover from the non-stop goings on.

I wrote several posts anticipating my time on campus this summer and my anxiety about how to stay on track with my healthy eating patterns while there.  Previous summer camp meals looked like this:

Typical Meal Summer 2011 at UALR

Typical Meal Summer 2011 at UALR

As a nutritionally-literate adult, I look back at meals like this and literally feel sick to my stomach.  My meals today consist of 3 ounces of lean protein such as fish or chicken, one serving of whole grain, such as 1/3 cup brown rice, and a serving of vegetables — either 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked.  This meal is loaded with simple carbohydrates which bring a sugar rush and then vanish, tons of saturated fats, no lean proteins, and vegetables which offer little to no nutrient value other than fiber (and which are all slathered with fat).

Thinking back on meals like this one, I packed my bags accordingly when I set out for this summer’s first session.  I bought peanut butter for a high-protein source of fat, cans of tuna and chicken for a source of protein that I could throw into my go-bag and eat without heat or cooking, whole wheat bread and crackers for low-fat carb options, and baby carrots and green beans for my vegetables.  I’ve learned that it’s best to come prepared than to be left with nothing to eat but bad options.

In the cafeteria, I surveyed the scene, and this was all I could come out with:

UALR Sodexo Veggies


I chose chose broccoli and a salad, which was just iceberg lettuce.  When I took the first bite of broccoli, I nearly spit it out.  Butter.  Grease.  Fat.  Something was coating it, and it wasn’t as healthy as it looked.  What’s a guy have to do to get a clean vegetable on this campus?

For a couple of days, I ate my canned tuna and crackers, remaining on the lookout at each meal for something in the cafeteria that was compatible with my needs.  One evening there was a pork roast, but it was covered in gravy.  I ate it anyway, eager to have some variety.

Meals for summer programs at this campus are pre-purchased.  That plate of lettuce and greasy broccoli cost my camp director somewhere in the neighborhood of $10.00.  As my personal supplies of groceries were running low, I grew frustrated knowing that there was “food” already paid for that I was having to re-buy with my own money.  I had a visit with the catering manager in a tone that I’m not particularly proud of.  She asked me to send her an email with my specific needs in writing, so I did. 


Ms. R:

It is so good to see you again this summer. I appreciate you taking time to print off a copy of the upcoming meals this week. I was able to locate the nutrition facts calculator on your website, which is very helpful in keeping within my caloric budget for the day.

As you know, I have lost over 250 pounds through diet and exercise, and I have a following of over 1,000 people on Facebook in addition to my blog readership at who keep close tabs on me and my eating decisions. I share my successes and my failures very candidly in both writing and photographs.

I wrote recently on my blog about how my need to stay within my nutritional boundaries will be a challenge while living on UALR’s campus this summer. Here are some relevant links to my blog which reference UALR’s dining services and/or Sodexo:

In a less formal way, I also share my day-to-day food experiences with my personal Facebook network, which is about half the size of my blog readership. Most recently, I posted photos of today’s meal at which I only ate iceberg lettuce and broccoli.

(You might have to be logged into Facebook to view that link)

My general meal pattern is 3 ounces of a lean protein such as grilled or baked chicken, fish, or pork; 1/2 – 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables, preferably steamed, roasted, or otherwise prepared with no extra fats; and a complex carbohydrate such as a whole wheat bread, brown or wild rice, or beans. The system I use is referred to as the Diabetic Exchange System. Here’s a link to a page that gives examples of foods and their appropriate portions for the system:

Looking at Friday’s lunch, I’m having difficulty locating a lean protein. I see that there are burger patties, fried fish, and “Buffalo Meltdown,” which your own website shows to contain 57 grams of fat. In an entire day, I only eat 30-40 grams of fat. For a non-starchy vegetable, I see that you have summer squash and carrot medley. Can you verify what type of cooking preparation is used and whether or not oils, butters, or other fats will be added? Finally, I’m looking for a complex carbohydrate. Simple starches like the roasted potatoes, fried potatoes, and white bread which “turn to
sugar” are a concern for me.

In the past two weeks, I have spent over $100 on groceries to supplement the meals at which I didn’t find the nutritious options I require and that I would hope we would be offering to the children while their parents entrust them to us. Although I had great
expectations after our initial meal of pork roast, steamed vegetables, etc., I was let down to find that most days are more like this coming Friday than not. With the exception of next week, I will be with you for the greater part of July.

You and the entire crew have always taken good care of me, and I appreciate that. Please excuse the tone I used this afternoon when venting my frustration about not finding the foods I had hoped to find on the menu. A few days of eating canned tuna can
make a person irritable. I hope this letter better explains the situation that I’m in, the types of foods that I’m allowed, and my frustration today.

Again, I am very glad to be back with you this summer, and I hope you’ll forgive my crankiness.


The catering manager passed my concerns along to the executive chef who very kindly offered to ensure that my needs were taken care of.  Additionally, he shared with me that he, too, has been on a similar weight loss journey.  I found it very refreshing to be able to discuss dietary needs with someone not only professionally trained in cuisine, but also who has personal experience with the effort and dedication it takes to reach and maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

UALR Sodexo Grilled Chicken & Quinoa

Chef P. prepared grilled chicken with quinoa for me which I paired with the salad (which included more greens), and the cauliflower that was part of the regular meal.  The servers warned me that the cauliflower was prepared with butter, but I picked it up anyway.  After one bit, I put it back down.  Unbeknownst to me, the chef had prepared me a unseasoned portion, which he personally brought out to me.  Such a pleasant surprise!

UALR Sodexo Grilled Swai and Barley


My next UALR Sodexo meal was Cajun Swai with Barley and Steamed Broccoli.  I had never had swai or barley, but they were both absolutely delicious.  So flavorful and perfectly cooked, in fact, that I went immediately to my computer to write the catering manager another email.


Ms. R.,

I wanted to take a moment to thank you so much for putting me in contact with Chef P. He and I have been in frequent contact by email, and he has done a wonderful job identifying and delivering alternatives which are perfectly-suited to my mealtime restrictions. The anxiety and frustration that I voiced to you in my previous email
have been completely rectified through the excellent communication, flexibility, and understanding that you, Chef P., and the entire Sodexo crew have shown me.

I thank the chef daily by email, but if you get a chance, would you pass along in person how grateful I am to him for his willingness to accommodate my needs? Today’s lunch of Cajun Swai was remarkable not only for its perfect fit for my dietary needs, but also for its delightful flavor. I haven’t opened a can of tuna in days!

Thank you so much for helping me stay on track!


The title of this post is “Holding My Own.”  I have managed to hold my own in terms of maintaining my weight loss while being unable to exercise while completing my recovery from surgery.  I have managed to hold my own in terms of getting the healthy meals I need.  I’ve been holding my own in a lot of dimensions. I haven’t, however, been blogging as actively as I would like to.  Sometimes life happens, and things must be prioritized.  My campers are safe.  My meals are arranged.  My bills are paid.  My room is clean.  My blogging will be sporadic, but I’m still here!

How’s your summer?



You know how Oprah has a tendency to invite people onto her show, get them all loosened up, and then hit them with a question they didn’t see coming that sort of rips their heart out?  That happened to me a little bit in a recent interview for a project that may or may not see the light of day, so I can’t give you too many details on it.  It did kick off a chain of memories, emotions, and thoughts that I’d like to share.

Photo by kittivanilli

Photo by kittivanilli

If you’ve been on my journey for very long, you know that I’ve been the poster boy for childhood obesity since practically birth.  I was 165 pounds in the third grade.  I was 209 pounds in the fourth grade.  One does not simply sail through childhood as a big kid without attracting the attention of bullies, mean kids, and, well, everyone.  While bullying has been a buzzword in education for a while, it was something that we just lived with when I was a kid.

“Mom, the kids pick on me.  They call me names.”  Nowadays, this would prompt a phone call to the school, a committee meeting, and some “norming.”  What was the response in my day?  “Yeah.  They used to pick on me, too.  ‘Sticks and stones,’ Danny.  ‘Sticks and stones.'”

In the fifth grade, I moved to a new home in a new school district.  This meant learning a whole new set of bullies.  One particularly nasty kid, we’ll call him Rodney, nagged, harassed, and verbally exhausted me relentlessly.  One day at the tether ball pole, he said something that incensed me.  Without thought, my fist was making contact with his nose.  What was happening?

Creative Commons License alexisnyal via Compfight

I am not a violent person!  I never have been, and I never hope to be.  That day on the playground, though, something “came unglued,” and Rodney took a direct hit to the face.  Minutes later, we were both sitting in the principal’s office with our heads hung low.  Rodney had a tissue collecting the blood dripping from his nose.  He was the first to go into the principal’s office.

I heard some quiet conversation through the door, some very loud paddling, some exclamations from Rodney, and then silence.  Rodney left the principal’s office with tears running down his face, reconstituting the caked blood.  If this was what they did to the “victims” of violence in this school district, I was going to be mutilated.

Very timidly, I entered when called into the principal’s office.  “Tell me what happened.”  I told the principal about the history with Rodney and how something just snapped.  The principal told me about his childhood.  He shared with me that he had once the victim of relentless teasing.  He understood.  He then stood up with his paddle.  “The handbook says the remedy for hitting someone is that I have to paddle you.  The handbook doesn’t say how hard.”

He swatted me gently and sent me back to class.  Elementary bullying was solved that day when the kids saw what happened to Rodney.  As an older student, though, bullying was much more subtle, and corporal punishment wasn’t viable in middle school and junior high.  Cliques, exclusion, and pranks replaced name calling.  I’d rather have been punched in the face than punched in the heart when told that I couldn’t sit at a particular table or join a particular study group.

I looked at popular kids who weren’t skinny.  I analyzed them.  I noticed that each and every one was humorous, happy, and full of laughs.  At that time, I did not comprehend correlation or causation.  It didn’t really dawn on me that because they were popular they were happy and full of laughs.  I deduced that because they were boisterous, they were popular.  So, I set out to reinvent myself as the clown.

I was quite good at beating bullies to the punchline of many put-downs.  I “owned” being big, and made it a part of my personality — my brand.  I leveraged my size whenever possible in humorous ways.  For the most part, that worked for me.  Even as a teacher, I referred to my last name as a unit of size.  “That door is less than one Moix wide.”  It hurt less when the person doing the name calling was me.

Speaking of being a teacher, name calling and bullying are actions that I’m particularly in tune to.  When I see it, I stop it.  When I hear it, I intervene.  Whether it’s about size, fashion, perceived sexuality, or anything else, I stop it.  Ayn Rand is quoted as saying, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”  In retrospect, it’s the bullies asking, “Who’s going to stop me?” and those being bullied asking, “Who’s going to let me?”  It’s unclear to me exactly when I switched from asking to telling, but I’m there, and in full swing.

Do you have any stories of being bullied?  How do you help your children cope with being bullied?


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Mailbag Monday: Michelle’s Question

Michelle commented on a progress photo that I posted on Facebook not long ago with a question whose answer warrants more than a simple “yes” or “no.”  Michelle said, “Look at you!!!! Bravo! I’ve been wanting to ask you this, but I keep forgetting. I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned this in your blogs or not but… Do you feel like people treat you differently since you’ve lost weight? Do you think people discriminate towards overweight people? Just wanted to know your thoughts on the matter.

To respond to Michelle’s first question, “Do you feel like people treat you differently since you’ve lost weight?” the answer is, “Yes and no”  Some people who have always known and loved me continue to know and love me regardless of my size.  I can’t think of a single friend I’ve lost because of weight loss, but I can say with certainty that meeting new people is different.

Facebook Question

I find myself with a lot more “friends” and “interested parties” as “thin Daniel,” and that makes me inherently cautions and suspicious of peoples’ motives.  I certainly get more attention.  My answer to Michelle’s second question may shock you.  Not only do I think people discriminate against overweight people, I find myself doing it!  Let me explain…

Continue reading

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“dont know what to do for lunch”

One of my Facebook friends posted this on his wall, asking input from his community of friends for input on what to eat for lunch. I know that he has been interested in, but unsuccessful at, losing weight. I also know that I had written a blog post about how to plan a lunch for weight loss. When I looked back at my post of nearly 700 words, I realized that sending him a link to the post wouldn’t provide the hands-on advice that he would need.  Frustrated with starting and restarting this blog post many times, I just put it down in a video.

It’s hard to give someone simple advice to get on track with healthy meal planning and preparation.  Maybe we should come up with a simple set of meal plans based on a small starter pantry of healthy items.  Has this been done?  Would it be reinventing the wheel?

What’s the simplest healthy meal you can think of for a true beginner to pull off?

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