Category Archives: How To

Change is Hard

In class last week Brooklyn, my new dietitian, talked about the stages of change.  Although I’ve been through the 16 UAMS classes several times each, I saw this week’s lesson through different eyes.  We discussed the stages of change.

Stages of Change Model by Prochaska & DiClemente

Stages of Change Model by Prochaska & DiClemente

In pre-contemplation, you’re either unaware that there is a problem or you’re in denial about it.  For me, this was the first couple decades of my life.

Next comes contemplation.  You’re aware of the problem, and you’re weighing your options.  “I really need to exercise.  Oh!  Look!  House of Cards!”

I contemplated for a while before joining the UAMS weight loss program in 2011.  I looked at diet pills, fad diets, weight loss surgery, and other options, including “doing nothing.”  I ultimately decided to try UAMS.  This point of decision-making is the determination phase.

In the action phase, you do the things necessary to achieve the change you want.  For me, it was eating a low calorie diet and exercising, which established a calorie deficit and effected weight loss.  In 2011, 2012, and early 2013, I “action’ed” my butt off.  Literally.

I reached my goal in 2013, and transitioned to maintenance.  In this stage, you take the actions necessary to maintain the change.  For me, it was making informed food choices, continuing exercise, and monitoring my weight.  I maintained for about a year.

Relapse.  That’s the killer.  It’s when you slip into your old ways.  We’ll just call that one School Year 2014-2015.  As viewed through the lens of my Discover Card statement, here’s what relapse looks like for me

CC Statement Relapse

The beauty of change, I am told, is that you can jump back into it at any time.  Today, I feel that I’m in the action stage.  I’m reliably eating within my calorie budget, I’m exercising regularly, and I’m determined to reach a weight where I’ll be healthy and happy.

Which stage are you in?

Walmart Nutrition: Graham Crackers

Is it Wal*Mart? Wal-Mart? Walmart? Who knows. It’s the place we go to “save money and live better.” Sometimes, though, saving money doesn’t equal living better when it comes to choosing foods which are nutritious. It’s important to me to live as simply as I can and to avoid over-paying for things that are non-essential.  One example of a food that I try to minimize cost on is the graham cracker.  I have graham crackers with peanut butter as a snack each morning. It provides a carbohydrate bump to keep me energized, a medium-term dose of protein, and the fat from the peanut butter will make sure I have the energy to keep going until lunch. Is “Great Value” the greatest value?

one package graham crackers
Creative Commons License Stacy Spensley via Compfight

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Spring Training: Spreadsheets Part 4

In this last installment of Spreadsheet Spring Training, I demonstrate an exchange tracker tool that I created using Google Spreadsheets.  The power really comes from my ability to open and modify the spreadsheet on my mobile phone.

As I promised in the video, here is a link to the daily exchange tracker spreadsheet.  To use it, click the link to open a read-only version, and then click File -> Make a Copy so you can make changes.  I recommend you check out Google’s page on Installing the Google Drive Mobile App for specific platform apps and directions.

Hope this is helpful!

Head-to-Head “Healthy” Chip Comparison

I generally live a very low sodium lifestyle, and I keep my food choices as basic as possible.  For carbohydrates, I frequently eat whole wheat bread and brown rice.  Most evenings, I have a slice of whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of sugar-free preserves as a snack.  Recently, though, I’ve been craving more sodium and savory snacks.  I think it may have something to do with the increase in temperature and the resulting increase in sweat.  When I was in Wal-Mart the other day, I looked at some healthy-looking carbohydrates that would fill that sodium craving.  It came down to two.

Chips Collage

On the left, we see Great Value “Hearty Grains,” a store-brand corn chip available at Wal-Mart.  Its packaging includes the words, “Sea Salt” in giant letters.  Sea Salt is a great source of sodium, but it’s no healthier than plain table salt.  On the right, we see “Chip’ins,” which is a popcorn-based chip, also advertising sea salt.

My first instinct was to flip the bags over and compare the nutrition labels side-by-side. 

  Hearty Grains Chip’Ins
Serving Size 28 g / 1 oz. 28 g / 1 oz.
Calories 140 120
Protein 2 g 2 g
Carbohydrates 19 g 22 g
Fat 6 g 2.5 g
Fiber 2 g 1 g
Sodium 110 mg 210 mg
Servings Per Bag 10 6-7
Cost $2.48 $2.58
First Ingredient Whole Grain Yellow Corn Corn
Second Ingredient Sunflower Oil Sunflower Oil

I was very happy to find that the suggested serving size of both of these products was identical.  This made comparing the other values simpler.  When comparing products with different serving sizes such as Yogurt A, which suggests an 8 oz. serving versus Yogurt B, which suggests a 6 oz. serving, there’s math involved.

Calorically, they’re in the same range.  Since I’m a calorie miser, I’d call the Chip’Ins the better product in this category.  Both products have two grams of protein.  Per ounce, the Chip’ins have slightly more carbohydrates.  According to the diabetic exchange, a “serving” of carbohydrate is 15 grams.  More on that near the end.

The Hearty Grains product has more than twice the fat than the Chip-Ins.  I was surprised to see this, and it explains why it also has a higher calorie count.  Of the 6 grams of fat per ounce, the Hearty Grains have 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, and 3 g monounsaturated fat.  While unsaturated fats are preferable to saturated fats, I’m looking at this as a carbohydrate choice, so I’ll consider the Chip’Ins a better bet.

In terms of fiber, the Hearty Grains outweigh the Chip’Ins 2 to 1.  Fiber is a great way to add bulk to your diet and make you feel fuller longer.  It’s why eating an orange is preferable to drinking orange juice.  If you’re looking for fiber, Hearty Grains would be the better choice.

Sodium is the foe of many people suffering heart disease and obesity.  Sodium intake promotes water retention, which can be a bummer on weigh-in day.  The typical American consumes far more than the recommended 2400 mg per day of sodium.  For those trying to avoid sodium, the Wal-Mart product is the healthier choice.  Since sodium isn’t a major concern for me, the fact that the Chip’Ins have twice as much sodium isn’t a deal-breaker, although it is something to be mindful of.

Bang for your buck — the Wal-Mart brand contains nearly twice as many servings as the name brand product.  If you’re looking at pennies per calorie, it’s a no brainer.  I’m more concerned about value than cheapness, however.  The only way to tell if a product is worth buying is to test it out.  I bought them both, brought them home, and decided to eat half a portion of each.

The million dollar question — how much is a portion?  The bag says a serving is 1 oz.  To the diabetic exchange guidebook!

Diabetic Exchange Carbs Page

This page, from “Choose Your Foods:  Exchange Lists for Weight Management” explains that a serving of carbohydrate has 15 grams of carbs, 0-3 grams of protein, 0-1 grams of fat, and 80 calories.  Looking back at the nutrition panels, I eyeballed that a portion would be around 2/3 of an ounce, or around 15-20 grams.

I set my scale to zero and weighed out 10 grams of each of the chips, placing them side-by-side on a plate.

Chips side by side.

The Hearty Grains by Great Value had a melt-in-your-mouth texture similar to Baked Lays, although a little less crunchy and a bit more dissolve-y.  They had a nice flavor, but they melted away to nothing too quickly.  The Chip’Ins had a much more crunchy, substantial texture, similar to a tortilla chip.  They tasted of popcorn, but they weren’t brittle or full of air like puffed rice cakes are.  I much preferred the popcorn chips as a vehicle to shovel salsa.

To summarize, Hearty Grains are lower in sodium, cost less, and have double the fiber of the popcorn chip.  Chip’Ins have considerably less fat, a much better mouth feel, and fewer calories per ounce.  The product I’d buy again is the Chip’In, although I might investigate ways to make my own popcorn chips.  I’ve already learned how to make popcorn cookies.  

How hard could it be?

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Text Yourself Reminders

I think about my “past self” a lot and how I make up for a lot of his bad decisions through hard work and sacrifice.  I also think about my “future self” and how so much of the work I’m doing will pay dividends for him.  One  way that my past, present, and future selves interact is through text message, believe it or not.  If I want to remind myself to pay a bill, take out the trash, do crunches, or prep meals, I use Google Calendar to send text messages to myself.  Here’s how:


If you found this to be helpful, you may want to check out my Spring Training video series, which is currently available on my YouTube Channel,

Here’s to YOUR future self

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Spring Training: Spreadsheets Part 3

In previous weeks, we learned how to collect data and graph it using Google Drive Spreadsheets.  In the third installment, I show you how to calculate weekly changes, running monthly averages, and more.  Hit the books and get those spreadsheets humming!

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Spring Training: Spreadsheets Part 2

In this week’s episode of Spring Training:  Spreadsheets, we look at how to take the data you’ve collected in a spreadsheet and visualize it as a chart.  I also show you how to share that chart with some people, all people, or nobody at all.  Let me know if you find these tutorials helpful!


Get to Graphin’!

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Daniel Uncensored: May 2013

It’s finally here!  The fully-fleshed “Daniel Uncensored” for May 2013.  Cars come out 6 months ahead of schedule.  Magazines come out like 3-4 weeks in advance.  The May edition of my premium content has arrived, and it’s daring to be read.  This month, Daniel Uncensored comes TWO VARIETIES!  You can purchase this one, which is $4.99, including revealing photos of the skin I so badly want to have removed, or you can opt for the “Skinless” variety, which has had those images replaced by photos of puppies, kittens, and a sugar glider.  The text and other content of this and the “Skinless” variety are the same.

In Daniel Uncensored:  May 2013

  • Bad Decisions Make The Best Stories
  • How I Binge-Proofed My Pantry
  • The Most Selfish Decision of My Life
  • How Losing Over 250 Pounds Affected My Sex Life
  • Let’s Talk About The Ads
  • If You Could See Me Naked (with photos)
  • 3 Foods That Are Banned From My Home
  • The Zero Calorie Additive That Makes My Greek Yogurt Spring To Life
  • What’s Cooking?
  • The Things I See at the Gym
  • I <3 My BHAG
  • Never Underestimate the Weight Loss Potential of [Censored]
  • I Didn’t Squeeze The Charmin For Years
  • Plus, Even More Gymminess for David!

You saw the four page preview.  Now, check out the ten-page May edition.  Proceeds from the sale of this premium content go to the Belt Lipectomy fund.

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