Tag Archives: Health

Copycat Recipes with Healthy Substitutions: An Ongoing Project

I love restaurant food, but I abhor going to restaurants because I have absolutely no control over what goes into my foods.  In our maintenance class, one of our field trips is called, “Dine with a Dietitian.”  Last time we went to Taziki’s, and I had salmon.  It was pretty good, but heavily seasoned.  I could feel myself gaining water weight with every bite.  I keep my meals pretty simple, as you can see from the meal plans I’ve posted.  Recently, though, I’ve been branching out and looking at growing my kitchen repertoire.


I came across this book, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes Lite, which contains a bunch of copycat restaurant recipes I’m planning on trying.  What I would like to do is start with the copycat recipe and then healthify the recipe even more.  For instance, this book has a recipe for Cheesecake Factory Thai Lettuce Wraps.  Sounds healthy, right?  Google the nutrition info on that item.  Over 1,000 calories per serving!  It also has over 2300 milligrams of sodium.  This is an appetizer, people!

So, having access to these recipes will give me the chance to make the healthy substitutions that I’ve learned to do through my nutrition classes while still eating the restaurant foods that sound so yummy.  Check out the over 1000 Amazing Famous Food Secrets revealed by Todd Wilbur and let me know what you think I should make first!  One of the recipes available is for Olive Garden Tira Misu.


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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, http://youtube.com/needlesspounds

Here’s to YOUR future self

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The Arc Trainer at 10 Fitness

I love my gym.  My gym-going experience has only improved since I started in September.  I chose 10 Fitness initially because of its simple motto, “$10 a month, no contract.”  I stay because of their friendly staff, the comfortable atmosphere, and the dedication to continuous improvement that I see.  There’s something moved, fixed, or added all the time at 10 Fitness in Conway.  The latest addition is a new set of Cybex Arc Trainer machines.

When I approached it, I was looking for a new piece of equipment that I could warm up with, having decoupled my warm-ups from my cardio workout.  It looked somewhat like an elliptical machine, but one which had been attacked by a cyborg.  I got on it, pushed the “I don’t know how to use this — just give me something simple” default workout button, and found it to be very simple to stride on.

I fussed with the level buttons a bit more, and I found that I could make it behave less like a Nordic Track and more like an elliptical machine in terms of how hard I had to push on the pedals and how far I had to lift my knees on each stride.  Where this machine was different was that I could keep increasing the level, and I could have very deep strides.  I felt like I was marching in the North Korean Army on each dip.

Needless to say, I was warmed up.  I decided to return to this machine for my cardio, too.  It has 9 workouts, 3 of which say they are good for weight loss.  One looks to be an interval workout, and two are rolling hills at different levels.  I chose the rolling hills #2, which resembled the Cross Train #2 that I like on the Precor Elliptical Trainer that I normally use.

I’m not sure if it’s because the machine is new or if it truly is “revolutionary” in its design, but it’s so smooth!  You just sort of float away on it.  Then, the intensity kicks in, and you’re climbing.  While I never trust the calorie estimates on gym equipment, I like to think that they’re at least something to go by.  Whereas on the elliptical it says I burn 300 – 350 calories in 30 minutes, the arc trainer claims it’s working off 400-500.  I know I’m dipping lower and pushing harder.

Here’s a video from the manufacturer’s website that explains the differences between the two types of equipment. 

I came across a blog post, also from the manufacturer, that recommends a particular workout with the machine.  You can read up on that if you like.  I know little about fitness other than what I’ve learned from seminars, friends, and my own personal experience.  What I will say is that the puddle of sweat after my cardio is much bigger when I step off this machine.  It looks like this is going to be my new friend until 10 Fitness buys me a new new toy to play with.

Do you have a favorite gym or piece of gym equipment?

Postscript:  Now that I’ve been using the Arc Trainer for a while, I have discovered that I gravitate toward the model without the moving arms.  On the elliptical machines that 10 Fitness has, most of them have the option to use either the moving arms or they have a place to rest your hands.  The Cybex Arc Trainer is all or nothing.  One model has only moving arms, and the other has only handles.  I wish I could have the best of both worlds.

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6 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

SparkPeople, an online wellness community that I belong to, sent me a list of “Six Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight.”  Looking over the list, I’ve been guilty of at least a couple of these at one point or another in my life.  While on lunch break, I recorded a quick video in which I review the list and give my personal experiences with each reason.  As you watch, I encourage you to find ways you can be more effective at meeting your weight-related goals.

Are you guilty of any of these?

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How Personal Finance Relates to Weight Loss

Thanks for sticking with me this week as I brought into the open some of my past bad behaviors, my current views on debt, and now my attempt to make this relevant to weight loss.  Whenever I try to explain the notion of a calorie deficit to a person who just doesn’t “get it,’ I say, “Have you ever overdrawn your bank account?”

50/365: Hanging in the balance
Creative Commons License Betsssssy via Compfight

For some reason, people who find math challenging often find money management challenging, too.  Unless you’re operating on the envelope system, money management is mostly abstract (but I digress).  A calorie deficit is when your body spends more than it earns.  When we spend more money than we earn, we go into debt.  When we spend more calories than we earn (consume), we experience weight loss.

Just as it took me “growing up” to realize that I was handling money inappropriately, emotionally, and for sheer pleasure rather than as a responsible steward of the funds would, I was also being capricious with my calories for the first two decades of my life.

I’d like to return to the take-away bullets from the previous posts.  Here’s what I said I learned about credit card debt.  I invite you to look at the list again, substituting the concept of food with debt:

  • Daniel made a lot of stupid decisions when he was younger
  • Daniel grew up and decided to “own” those decisions rather than “fold”
  • Daniel realized a few things about bad debt food behavior
    • Before you can address bad behavior, you need to step back and figure out why you’re doing it
    • You have to stop thinking about it emotionally and start thinking about it analytically
    • You have to prioritize and strategize your efforts
    • Stick to the plan and take baby steps
    • Celebrate your initial successes and roll them forward
    • Once you’re out of the hole, look forward and grow from the experiences
  • Daniel still uses credit cards eats food, but does so as a grown-up

I’m not sure why it wasn’t clear to me earlier, but the battle I fought and won against debt was very much the same battle I fought and am winning against obesity.

Now, let’s look at my grown-up views on debt, again switching out the concept of “bad” foods:

  • There are appropriate times to incur debt indulge
  • There are inappropriate times to incur debt  indulge
  • I feel I am much better at distinguishing between them now
  • Debt “Bad” foods can be a healthy part of your life if managed responsibly

I wrap up this series by encouraging you to look more broadly at your life and ask, “Are there any patterns here?”  For me, emotional spending and eating, both on “empty” expenditures, left me with nothing to show for it other than a wrecked “bank account.”  I’m so glad that I’ve been able to balance both my fiscal and caloric books.

If you need help settling either set of books, I encourage you to reach out to a professional for help.  As an employee of a state school, I have access to an Employee Assistance Program called GuidanceResources Online, which provides on-demand access to a wealth of resources to help me deal with everything from managing debt to parenting advice.  Check with your employer to see if they offer something similar.


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National Weight Control Registry

I file this one squarely under Success!  The National Weight Control Registry is a research organization that tracks the habits of people who have successfully lost over 30 pounds and managed to keep that weight off for longer than a year.  They send out periodic questionnaires that ask successful weight loss patients about their habits, activities, strategies, and other behaviors.  One of my goals from the start of my journey was to qualify for this group, and now I have!

Weight Control Registry Acceptance Email

I applied for consideration a couple of months ago, and I knew it would take a while.  When my phone buzzed, I was elated to see that my big white package was on its way.

Doctors and research hospitals that are looking to conduct statistical research on weight loss use the National Weight Control Registry as a clearinghouse to contact successful weight loss patients.  This is important to me because it signifies success in my mind.  Additionally, it allows me the opportunity to give back to the weight loss community in a way that has the potential to help millions of people.

You can read over 30 scientific studies that were conducted using data collected through the registry on their website.  If you have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a year or more, I encourage you to sign up for the registry, too.  I consider it a community service.

The registration page confirms your eligibility, collects your contact information, and explains the process.  Essentially, your first questionnaire is delivered by mail.  Future questionnaires are completed online.  All are used for medical research.  The National Weight Control Registry isn’t a weight loss clinic or diet plan.  It’s an elite group of folks who’ve managed to lose weight and keep it off, and I’m proud to be one of the 10,000 people on the list!

Care to join me?

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8 Myths About the UAMS Weight Loss Program

When I first heard about the UAMS program, I looked on their website for more details.  There were a few patient stories and a promotional video, but the details were scarce.  I asked around, but all I could really find out about the program was what others had heard.  Facts were few and far between, but the myths were abundant.  Since I’ve been in the program for over a year, I have come to know quite a lot about the program, and I’m constantly surprised by the things I hear about the program that simply aren’t true.


#8 “UAMS Program.  That’s that liquid diet.”

The UAMS Program uses Health One Meal Replacements, a nutritionally-designed meal replacement that can be prepared in a variety of ways.  Yes, you can consume it as a shake, but it has a variety of non-liquid forms, too.  I’ve made it into muffins, chips, cookies, pasta, pretzels, chocolate bunnies, and waffles just to name a few.  Making it into a pudding or brownie batter is, by far, my favorite way to consume it.  The UAMS Program is not a liquid diet.

#7 “Parking is impossible at UAMS.”

Parking is not only possible, it’s included in the program costs!  The UAMS Program is located in the outpatient clinic, which is served by Parking Deck 3.  Program participants park on level 3A and walk across a covered skybridge to the clinic.  Parking is validated at check-in for each visit.  I have never had difficulty finding a convenient parking spot.  Even at 448 pounds, the walk from the car to the clinic was never a burden.

#6 “You don’t eat anything but meal replacements for 16 weeks.”

While the duration of the UAMS Program is 16 weeks, fruits and vegetables are introduced during week 6.  As participants gain control over their behaviors and learn to make nutritionally-sound food choices, the types of foods available to the participant increase.  As you approach your goal weight, the Registered Dietitians work with you to incorporate more and more conventional foods until eventually you are consuming no meal replacements at all.

Continue reading

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Craving Elvis Presley Cake

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a slew of recipes making the rounds.  Many of them have mouth-watering photos attached.  Today, I saw “Elvis Presley Cake,” and I couldn’t stop thinking about how delicious and down-right disastrous it sounded.



1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup white sugar
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans


Photo Source Unknown

Photo Source Unknown

1. Prepare cake according to instructions on package. Bake in a 9×13 inch pan. Allow to cool. Make holes in cake with fork.
2. Combine pineapple and sugar in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Spoon over cooled cake.
3. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Add pecans and mix well.
4. Spread cream cheese frosting over cake.

Once I got to my computer, I ran the numbers.  The recipe didn’t specify a serving size, so I imagined how I would have portioned this cake in my previous life.  Generously.  I calculated the nutrition facts for this serving recipe 12, which is what the Internet told me “family-size portions” would be.

Here’s what I came up with:  648 Calories, 6g Protein, 89g Carbohydrates, 32g Fat (13g monounsaturated, 5g polyunsaturated, 12g saturated), 95mg Cholesterol, 1.5g Fiber, and 419mg Sodium PER SLICE.

As the day went on, I kept thinking about this cake.  What’s special about it?  The cake part itself doesn’t appeal to me at all.  It’s a boxed cake mix.  Sure, it’s saturated with a pineapple reduction.  I’ve had a cake doused in a coconut reduction before that left me weak at the knees.  No, for me, this cake is all about the cream cheese frosting.

My mouth is watering right now thinking about it… creamy, buttery, gooey, so saturated with sugar that it melts on your tongue.  Yes, I’ve thought a lot about this cake today at work.  When I stepped off the elliptical machine after working out, I noticed that I had burned almost one slice of Elvis Presley Cake.

629 Calories

As a quick aside, know that the calorie counts from gym equipment are estimates of how many calories a typical person might consume while operating the machine.  These figures should never be used to justify eating, in my case, 629 calories.

After finishing at the gym, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items.  What was in that cake again?  I went down the baking aisle to pick up some Splenda, and I stopped at the extracts.  “You know, I could probably make something that tastes like that frosting out of Greek Yogurt.”

Fake Frosting

A container of plain Greek Yogurt, 1/2 tsp. of Butter Extract, 1/4 tsp. of Vanilla Extract, and enough Splenda Granulated to make it taste like frosting, and I was living the dream.  Part of dealing with cravings, for me anyhow, is deconstructing the craving.  I thought I wanted this cake.  What I really wanted was this frosting.  Using healthy substitutes, I satisfied the craving.  I’ve done this before when I was craving a danish.

I love experimenting with recipe substitutions.  If I get some free time this weekend, I may play with a cake recipe based on a healthy spice muffin recipe and frost it with Greek Yogurt.  We can call it Elvis Has Left The Building Cake.

What cravings do you have?  What healthy alternatives work to satiate those cravings?

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