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Succeeding isn’t always about how physically strong or well-prepared you are.  The same goes for managing your way through a rough spot.  A lot of it has to do with how well you can motivate yourself mentally.  Let me start with a personal example. 

If you read my blog, you know that almost a year ago I lost my grandfather to cancer.  He was 92-years-old and had he lived a few more months, he and my grandmother would have been married for 70 years.  Seventy years is a long time to be with one person, so you can imagine that our family was worried about how my grandmother would cope with the loss of her lifelong companion.  We’d heard the stories of people who lose someone after such a long time and basically give up on life.  I’m pleased to say that today my grandmother is successfully taking care of herself in the house she lived in with my grandfather.   She has started doing things like participating in a weekly bingo group and attending community functions provided through the hospital’s grief  group for widows.  During the holidays she traveled from Florida to spend a few weeks with my family.  I won’t tell you that it’s been easy–she has her bad days.  That’s exactly what she calls them, “my bad days” and she allows herself to have a bad day here and there, but then she gets herself back on track and feels better.

A photo of me with my grandmother at Christmas.

A photo of me with my grandmother at Christmas.

So many times we make a decision to lose weight or eat healthier and then something happens that causes us to temporarily falter.  The problem is that many of us see this as a failure–it’s not.  The path to success is not a straight one.  There are going to be days when you feel bad, days when you don’t stick to your diet or don’t feel like exercising.  Instead of beating yourself up about it, chalk it up to a bad day and get up the next day ready to pick up where you left off.  Having a bad day doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human and the more you can embrace this, the better the chance of you succeeding in your goal.

I can tell you from personal experience that the more I would hold myself to unrealistic expectations in the past, the less successful I was at reaching a weight loss goal.  For example, if I was trying to drop 10 or 15 pounds and was dieting and exercising to achieve this goal, there would be days I was tired and might not feel like exercising.  Likewise, there would be days I would eat something that wouldn’t be on my diet plan.  In these situations I’d feel very guilty and either try to make up for it by doubling up on my exercise the following day (which would make me extra tired, resulting in a vicious cycle) or reducing my caloric intake (which would make me edgy and tired).  Most times I’d end up never making my goal weight.  Today, I eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.  I don’t hold myself to any stringent routine and allow for days when I simply don’t feel like doing anything.  I know the next day I’m up and out there again because I don’t beat myself up about it.  I have a positive attitude about my eating and my physical activity and for the first time in my life it really shows!

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My kids recently informed me that their school added a salad bar to the cafeteria.  I was really pleased with this news since it provides the kids who purchase their lunch with another healthy meal option.  The problem is that some of Alex’s friends who are visiting the salad bar are coming back with a mound of lettuce and cheese smothered in salad dresssing.  Not exactly a healthy salad in my book.

Salad Bar

Salad Bar

Salad bars aren’t as popular in restaurants as they once were, but they still exist in quite a few.  I decided to pull together a list of salad “fixin’s” to avoid and those you can add generously to your plate guilt-free.  You’ll start with greens as your base.  Most salad bars will provide an option of just iceberg lettuce or a mix of greens such as romain lettuce with darker greens like spinach or red leaf lettuce.  Opt for the darker greens as they contain more nutrients.  Now you’re ready to add other veggies and toppings to your salad.  Make it interesting and colorful!  A healthy tip is to cover all the colors of the rainbow if possible since different colors provide different kinds of vitamins and minerals.  Here are some common salad bar items you’ll want to load your plate with:

  • sliced bell peppers
  • sliced onion
  • grape tomatoes
  • beans (usually pinto or garbanzo beans are used at salad bars)
  • carrots
  • chopped celery
  • peas (these are frozen peas defrosted and are a terrific topping)
  • broccoli or cauliflower flowerets
  • cucumber slices
  • fresh mushrooms
  • fresh fruit salad or sliced fruit  for a side treat

Now that you have all the ingredients for your salad you’ll be tempted to add some of the higher fat or calorie toppings like croutons or cheese.  Instead, substitute a sprinkle of parmesan cheese in place of cheddar cheese to get the flavor without the calories and fat.  Add a few seeds for the crunch of the croutons and you’ll also be adding heart healthy fats to your meal.  When selecting your dressing avoid the creamy, high-fat options.  The best choice is a bit of olive oil and either red wine or balsamic vinegar.  If you’re really wanting a specific kind of dressing, fill a seperate cup and dip your fork in the dressing rather than pouring it over your salad.  This will help you control how much you’re consuming–remember, regular dressings are extremely high in fat, calories and sodium. 

A few items at the salad bar to really avoid are all those mayo-based, pre-made salads like potato salad, macaroni salad, etc.  Honestly, they’re all high in calories, fat and they’re not filled with the reason you’re at the salad bar to begin with–veggies!!!  And, I’ll bet you didn’t go to a restaurant to fill up on potato or macaroni salad, did you?

One final thought–the next time you visit a salad bar, if you have a child, bring him or her with you.  This way you can show your child the right selections to make and you have a better chance of ending up with a teen who won’t visit the salad bar at school and come back with a pile of lettuce, cheese and dressing!

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