The Siren Song of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte




There is an insidious evil in the world and thy name is…

the Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte!

The morning started innocently enough. Laura and I had an out of town appointment and, due to a comedy of errors and some early morning lack of communication, we were over an hour early. And what can you find around every corner, a hip place to consume empty caffeine filled calories and while away the time to the latest alternative crooners: our best friend – Starbucks!

So of course one found us. And, pumpkin addict that I am, I HAD to have that once a year “Pumpkin Spice Latte”. But I did get the smallest size (well next to smallest), the “Tall”. And then, of course, right beside the barista is the large case with the pumpkin sweet trio of scone, muffin, and bread. Well, the muffin has a cream cheese center so it’s a pretty easy decision. It’s an irresistible siren song of pumpkin, sugar, butter, and cream cheese.

The shame. I admit I was tempted and I fell from grace. But in life I try to look for the lessons in even the smallest, and most addictive, of places. Enter the Pumpkin Spice Latte. First, it doesn’t taste as good as it smells. Forget that at your own peril. Second, by the end of it, it’s cold and all the tasty stuff is gone. Third, the muffin is amazing so that’s worth it, but go for a plain coffee and you (and your wallet) will thank you!

On the good news front, on our way home, rather than being tempted by the dozens of restaurants, we drove to Publix and picked up a much healthier lunch (ok, except for the cookies!) and enjoyed it, chatting, as we drove along.

Pretty sometimes isn’t as pretty as it seems. Resist the Pumpkin!


Help, I’m Out of Control!

I’m Out of Control And Really Need Help

After 6 weeks I finally got the scale back and guess what, I’m almost 4 pounds heavier. Pretty upset about this.

It’s time to admit that I have a problem and figure out what to do about it. Yes, I’ve lost almost 80 pounds and for the most part have kept it off. BUT since losing that bulk of weight and still having 40 that I want to lose, I’ve been fighting a losing battle with emotional and impulse eating for the last 4 months. I’ve plateaued and been ping-ponging on the scale.

One of the reasons I’ve gained back 4 pounds is 2 weeks of limited exercise (no trainer sessions, no body pump classes, only a solid weekend of hard work outside). Even after the major lawn overhaul and then the following week getting ready for and getting some major dental work, the 2nd reason is that my eating is out of control. I try to stay with the plan my trainer gave me but during the weekend and the time around and after the dental work (about a week), it’s been carbs, carbs, carbs and SUGAR. Getting takeout, going out for lunch complete with pancakes two days in a row. Ice cream one night, a half container of caramel almond butter with chocolate chips another. Making mega brownies. Eating half a challah loaf two days in a row. No wonder the pounds are flying back on.

Add sitting on my butt on the couch for hours a day and not using the fitness equipment sitting in the other room and it all makes sense.

Although my trainer says over and over, it’s your fat percentage that counts and how your clothes fit, especially as you gain muscle and lose fat (muscle weighs more), because I am still so overweight that’s not the issue now. Get me down to 10 pounds to goal and we’ll talk.

I feel like I’m at the end of my rope – I’m sneaking sweet stuff again, staying on plan during the day and then blowing it at night, not getting in enough movement, and letting temptation rule my food choices. I’ll go for weeks on plan and then blow it over a weekend. And to make matters worse this Friday and Sat we’re eating out to celebrate with friends. So I’ll do great until Friday night then blow it with the bread at the restaurant. Saturday is a birthday party complete with cake that I’ll be making and dinner out at a japanese steakhouse. That’s what’s been happening the last few months and why I’m not making any progress. I’ll stay on plan and then at the slightest opportunity, fall right off. Sure I get back on but the damage has already been done.

Crappy factoid here: within a few hours of a high fat meal we put on 3 teaspoons of fat around our middle, waiting to move somewhere else on our body. 1 meal!!!

I’m feeling so discouraged when I should be grateful that for the most part I’ve kept off what I lost over the last year. The problem is I’m not at the maintaining stage yet and still have a ton to lose. And my willpower seems to have taken a vacation.

I don’t know whether I need to go see my therapist again for a booster or figure out what’s really going on mentally that’s blowing my progress. Going to a training session today and hopefully trainer will help put this in perspective. That and planning ahead for this weekend’s meals, making a single layer cake (just use 1 pan), and starting to journal food again. The picture journal is a lot of work and a real pain which is why it was a short lived venture. Trainer has nixed the calorie counting but a simple daily listing of intake seems like the best way to go.

Even bought a book about stopping emotional eating, which I put down after a few chapters and haven’t picked back up. Can’t tell if I’m not ready to face this yet but if I want to achieve my goals I really need to suck it up and figure out how to be the winner when faced with chocolate (and ice cream)! Something has to change and stay changed for this journey to continue and figure out how not to fall back into sabotaging habits. Many of you have inspired me so much and would love your feedback on this. Right now I’m my own worse enemy!

A little late…But Some Terrific, Healthy Breakfast Ideas

You’ve got to love SparkPeople! Got this in my mailbox this morning and sorry so late in sharing it. But hey, it’s only ___ hours until your next breakfast!

Quick and Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Eat Right, Even When There’s No Time

— By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer,

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 937 times: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why? You just spent eight hours with no food or water. You’re dehydrated, your blood sugar is low and you have little energy. And now it’s time to hurry the kids off to school before the eight-hour workday. More than any other point in the day, you need nourishment. Right now.

Besides, eating breakfast actually helps you lose weight. Those who skip the meal tend to snack before lunch and throughout the day, usually on unhealthy, high-calorie foods. Breakfast eaters typically cruise until lunch, while beaming with energy.

So what are some breakfast ideas? Scratch that–healthy and quick ideas? Here are some of our favorites:

  • Prepare a casserole the night before. Pop it in the microwave when you wake up and it will be ready to go when you are.
  • Incorporate complex carbohydrates, such as whole wheat toast and bagels. Spread peanut butter and raisins on top of either for added flavor.
  • Bake bran muffins early in the week, then grab one or two each morning. Or check out a local bakery for healthy varieties.
  • Make waffles Sunday morning and freeze the leftovers. You can pop ‘em in the toaster for a homemade breakfast. Also, grocery stores sell frozen whole grain selections.
  • Have you ever tried a tortilla for breakfast? Wrap up cold turkey and cheese, grab an apple and you’re on your way.
  • Don’t forget cold cereal. We’re not talking about those covered with sugar, but the healthy variety. Items such as Wheaties and Cheerios are always good choices.
  • Whole-egg or egg white omelets with fresh or frozen veggies (carrots, broccoli, celery, peppers, onions and even black beans make great additions).
  • Make a shake or a smoothie. Blend fruit and yogurt and then drink it in the car. A side option is a small bag of finger foods, such as a mixture of granola and grapes.


One important additional tip:

If you’re working out fairly soon after your first meal of the day, you’ll want to have a small protein/carb combo shortly before you work out, in addition to your breakfast. Why? Your body is in starvation mode after no food for 8 hours so rapidly processes what you first put in it. You’ll want to give it some extra fuel about 1/2 hour before putting stress on it. And don’t forget your post-work out protein boost. Taking a shake with you to sip in the car on the way home is easy and quick. And of course, don’t forget your water for during and afters (sorry, know that one’s obvious!).

Food & Activity Log: 7-21-12

Here you go with today’s indiscretions! Just kidding, not really!


Breakfast: Total Calories – 214 calories

Coffee w/ fat free half & half –25 calories

Egg white scramble w/spinach and mushrooms – 186

Hot water w/fresh lemon juice – 3 calories

Lunch: Total Calories – 375 calories

Protein Shake – 195 calories

Chicken Breast (4 slices) – 180 calories

Afternoon Snack: Total Calories – 304 calories

Celery sticks w/ peanut butter – 304 calories

Dinner: Total Calories –580 calories

Chipolte Burrito Bowl – 450 calories

Ciao Bella Greek Frozen Yogurt – 130 calories

Green Tea – 0 calories

Night Snack: Total Calories – 358 calories

Quaker Natural Granola w/ 1 cup almond milk – 358 calories

TOTAL CALORIES FOR DAY: 1,831 of 1,700


Lots of walking (i.e. shopping). But lots of sitting too. Back to gym tomorrow!

Day 2 – Food and Exercise Log

Well, so far a few of you have voted and you won’t be sorry you did – so more votes please!

And, after you see today’s insane food consumption – Holiday or No Holiday, am pretty sure will be getting more votes. See the end for a Major Lesson Learned!!!

Breakfast: 2 homemade blueberry/lemon turnovers, coffee w/ff half and half & stevia

Holiday Luncheon with the Gang: OMG!!

1st – Appetizer plate (spinach dip w/bread, chips w/golden onion dip, crab dip w/crackers)

2nd – Lunch, Part 1 (beer brat on bun, hamburger w/muenster cheese, coleslaw, beans)

3rd – Lunch, Part 2 (beer brat solo)

4th – Lunch Dessert (slice coconut custard pie, small piece brownie w/strawberries and small side of light ice cream)

5th – a few hours later, a light snack of chips and dip

6th – a few hours after that (small piece of brownie)

Ok, at this point you’re probably thinking OMG she’s the pig of the century!

BUT STOP – choosing to take pics of my all my food choices actually KEPT ME FROM EATING A 2ND AFTER LUNCH PLATE OF CHIPS AND DIP! Hey, this is working and after only 2 days. I ate only 1 plate of appetizers, didn’t graze, and didn’t go back for more dessert while at friend’s house.

THAT is a huge improvement over how I usually eat at special, or any occasion, get togethers. It is making me accountable for my food choices and actually prevented me from overeating to the same extent today. This pic log is working already!

Oh, and as promised Exercise Log:

Walking – to the car, then from car to friend’s front door, and from chair to food table a few times. Not a whole lot obviously.

Tomorrow: working on windows and hour training session in the afternoon at gym, Yay!

Stay Tuned Tommorow for better food choice pics and exercise updates!

Day 1: No Scale

It was a hard but hot day on Day 1 without the scale. I was out of sorts and passed on going to the movies but was better by the afternoon.

Friends came over and that always perks me up. We even had an impromptu “Sunday Night Supper”, a simple one of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. But those kind of dinners seem to always be the best kind. Lots of joking, great cameraderie, and good food.

By the evening I was perked up and ready to do more with a project, plan the week ahead, and get ready to do lots of exercise. Since it’s the July 4th week, have a mid week food fest but will be careful with diet the rest of the time. With no scale I won’t be able to report on weight loss, but will do measurements and guage how clothes are fitting.

Got a terrific email from another blogger with some wonderful guest posts. Will check them out and post if they turn out to be worthwhile! Stay tuned during the week to see the best of them!

It’s All a Matter of Perspective…

No, duh right?!

Seriously, isn’t it easy to lose that priceless thought process when life throws it’s slings and arrows our way/weigh? When the scale pulls it “evil overlord” prank, we have an argument with someone we care about, the dog gets sick and we’re hit with a big medical bill and we scour the furniture for change to help pay for it, etc.

The Buddha isn’t the first to say that life is suffering. It’s painful to be born, all the most important lessons in life are usually learned the hard way, and I can’t count the times I’ve swallowed lemon juice instead of lemonade. You, too right? But there is a way out of suffering and it’s not some amazing spiritual awakening or giant light bulb over our heads.

I’ve found that no matter how bad the depression is, how hopeless I feel about ____, how worried I am about money, the future, the cost of tea in China, as long as I remember my wife’s advice about perspective, I know I can get through anything. It’s a simple question: Did anyone die or lose a limb? If not, go ahead and cry and get upset, then sit down and breathe. Then either get out pen and paper or call a friend and you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to get at least the basics of a game plan. This is absolutely not to minimize how tough things can get, just to help put it in perspective.

That includes a slower than planned weight loss, awhol motivation, and getting sick and tired of working out so hard and not seeing hoped for results.

And, as someone who’s been through the “yes” to the perspective question – it’s the hardest to get through, it takes for many a lot of time, and a lot of help and support, but each of us is stronger than we could possibly believe. The kernel of the superhuman capacity to overcome literally anything life throws our way is within all of us.

At this point you may be wondering the point of all this: easy, if you, like me, took the holiday weekend off from our particular weight loss / activity journeys, no one lost a limb. No beating up ourselves for that 2nd hotdog or excessive use of puff pastry! Once again, get back up and on the elliptical! I’m behind you 100%!

Food Obligation…No It’s Not!

A Great Deal For A “Great Meal”?:

Last night my wife and I talked it over and bought a Groupon to try out a local Polish restaurant. A great deal, had eaten carefully all week, so thought we could enjoy a wonderful Eastern European meal (happiness to my Russian heart) with no ill effects.

Well, the food was fantastic and brought back wonderful memories of meals with my Baba (grandmother), Didi (great-grandfather), and Tetahs (aunts) in their warm home. The portions were huge and we started off with an order of potato pancakes. And the familiar dense, sweet bread, the periogis with their delicious potato and cheese filling, and the haluptky (stuffed cabbage) were a taste of treasured memories…and so heavy I felt like one big CARB!


The good news: we did stop eating halfway through and took over half of our meals home. However, we went ahead and ordered two orders of apple struedel for later in the evening (we ate dinner early).

Lesson Learned:

We waited until after 7 to have the struedel, warmed it up for 30 seconds in the microwave, and dug in. And the ball dropped. What a disappointment! The apples were more like applesauce, the pastry was not flaky, it was tart without even a hint of cinnamon, and strangely, it has sliced almonds on top. But we paid good money for that crappy stuedel – $6 for a rather small slice – so we ate it. We didn’t like it, it was mindless eating, but we felt obligated to finish it anyway.

We’ve come so far with being able to make healthier menu and meal choices, portion size control, and limiting “treats”. But we’re still saddled with the idea that, especially with desserts, if we spent good money on it, we HAVE to finish it.

THAT IS A FALLACY!  Better to put down the fork and decide never to order the item again, a lesson learned the hard way, than mindlessly eating empty calories that you’re not tasting, much less enjoying. That is the struggle we’re facing now and I’m sure we’re not alone. Splitting 1 piece of struedel would have been a much better choice. And then not eating it after the first crappy few bites.

** Just because you bought that piece of ______ doesn’t mean:

a. you have to eat the whole thing,

b. you have to eat it if you don’t like it,

c. you have to eat it at all!

There are times, especially for us emotional eaters, when we buy something for motives that have nothing to do with hunger. But if we can space out the time from when we bought “it” to when we’re ready to eat “it”, sometimes we find that we really didn’t want it after all. And you know what, that’s ok!

Toss out the “it’s not ok to waste or throw away food” mantra. If you can give the “it” to a friend or neighbor, great. If not, can you freeze it? No? Well, it’s ok to introduce it to “Mr. Trash Can or Ms. Recycle Bin”. Once it’s out of your face, you’re free. Free to congratulate yourself on not giving in to a perceived obligation. Free to congratulate yourself for not eating mindlessly instead of mindfully. Free to make someone else’s day with something they may enjoy (please trim item before giving!). Free to know: You Have A Choice!

I will be the first to admit this is still a struggle for me and for my wife. But at least we’re at the point where we’re able to recognize it for what it is. And that’s the first step to change. If we can work on this, so can you!

Flavored Vinegars…Your Friends and Friendly on Your Wallet

Let’s start off with a motivational piece, shall we!

– Or SHE! –

The Joy of Flavored Vinegars…Or How to Eat Healthy and Save A Bundle!:

(From Left: White Balsalmic Pear Infused Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, Tarragon Wine Vinegar, Moderna Aged Balsalmic Vinegar, Champagne Vinegar, Vanilla Fig Vinegar, Salad Vinegar, Raspberry Blush Vinegar. Not pictured: Apple Cider Vinegar, Asian Rice Wine Vinegar)

So if you’re eating more salad these days, getting in those veggies, that’s great. And you’re probably buying low fat or fat free dressings, right? But do you know what they replace the fat with? Yup, SUGAR! In all of it’s varied forms, it’s in there. Plus a heap load of sodium to boot.

Before you buy that bottled dressing, it’s important to read the label to check out carb numbers, sodium, and the ingredients list. Chances are, you won’t be very happy with what you see. Plus, even the cheap ones aren’t all that cheap. Whether you’re spending $2.50 for the low end or $4+ for the higher end ones, it’s still a dent in your wallet, especially if you’re eating salad regularly, or using balsalmic or fat free italian dressings as marinades.

What’s the answer? Flavored vinegars (and flavored olive oils) add a huge punch of taste for a much smaller price tag. Not only will you be wowed by how much flavor they actually have, you only need to use a small amount to make an impact. And if you pair a special vinegar with a complementarily flavored olive oil – Wow! And don’t get me started on balsalmic glazes!

The best part of all this is you control the inputs: the amount of vinegar, the amount of olive oil (it’s usually a 3/1 mix – tablespoons – which gives you plenty for a big salad or enough for 2 small ones), any fresh or dried herbs, salt free spice mixes, the sky’s the limit. You can also find very cool gourmet ones at places like Marshalls and Home Goods for a fraction of the regular prices. I picked up a vanilla fig balsalmic, which, when paired with a bit of gorgonzola cheese, makes a heavenly baked chicken. It’s so good, it tastes like going out to a nice restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Because you use so little of the actual vinegars, and they have very long shelf lives, you’ll save a bundle over time in making your own dressings and marinades. The selection pictured above is my private stash which I used in salads, baked poultry, fish, pork, and even in soup!

The Basic Salad Dressing Recipe:

1 tablespoon olive oil of your choice

2-3 tablespoons vinegar of your choice (you can use more than 1!)

fresh or dried herbs if desired

1/2 tablespoon salt free spice mix

– These can be mixed in the morning when you’re getting ready for work, put in a small container, and along with your salad, you’re good to go. – OR –

– You can make a larger quantity and keep in the fridge for an even easier pack up.

Chicken and Spinach Salad with Strawberries and White Balsalmic Pear-or-Raspberry Vinegarette

(Makes 1 Large Salad)


Cup of baby spinach leaves, or regular cut into bite size pieces

1 tomato, chopped

1/2 cucumber, chopped

any other veggies you’d like

about a tablespoon of crumbled fat free feta cheese

about 1/2 cup of leftover or canned chicken breast

The Vinegarette:

1 tablespoon good quality olive oil (virgin is fine though)

2-3 tablespoons of combo of white balsalmic pear infused and raspberry vinegars (any regular grocery will have these) or either/or

1/2 teaspoon of salt free spice mix

1 teaspoon of fresh or dried herbs of your choice

How To:

Chop and layer your veggies, then strawberry and chicken, and top with cheese. Make your vinegarette fresh or get out of fridge a pre-mixed batch. Pour dressing over salad. Enjoy!

Other Ideas:

Use balsalmic glazes (right next to the vinegars) as a great marinade for poultry or pork. Marinade for a few hours in the fridge, use cooking spray in a small oven safe pan, put in marinaded meat and top with a bit of your favorite fat free cheese if you like, pop into oven at about 375 and bake. Super easy weeknight meal!

Bottom Line:

You don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well – and healthy! Getting some basic ingredients, going “fresh”, and using your imagination ensures a wealth of options that keeps your everyday salad or chicken breast from getting old – and let’s you cut the sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor. Plus there are tons of websites that have a wide variety of vinegar choices (I’m hankering for a lemon-artichoke heart one myself) and recipes. A quick plug for spices: investing in good quality spices at a local gourmet store instead of the overpriced, mediocre ones at the grocery store will ante up the flavor in anything you make. Take your time, try some new ideas, and enjoy the results!