Women of Faith Conference – Dallas

I have never attended one of these conferences. I'm not quite sure what prompted me to apply for a blogger “pass” to attend the upcoming event in Dallas, but honestly, I didn't expect to be selected, because I don't have a huge blog following and at the time I applied, I had just started posting again after months away from blogging. But to my great surprise, I received an email this morning telling me I'd been selected to attend. So I'll be blogging from (or at least during) the event at Dallas's American Airlines Center on August 26-27. I'll let you know what I think! In the meantime, I'd sure like to know if anyone else is planning to attend.

One Approach to Getting Thinner and Fitter

Before reading this post, you might want to go back to my previous post on weight loss and health, in which I explained why I'm blogging on this topic, and gave the short list of my top tips for getting thinner and fitter. In this post and one to follow, I'll provide a little explanation on the tips I shared in that first post. So . . . items one through four:

1. Write down everything you eat.

Most of us eat more than we think we do. The first step toward getting control of your weight is to get an honest look at what you're eating. So for at least a week, write down everything you put in your mouth. You can do this in a little notebook that you keep with you, or in one of the many websites that are set up for keeping food journals. You need to write down what you ate and how much of it you ate. During the initial phase of your food journal, you should actually measure your food — don't eyeball it and estimate, but get out your measuring cups. This is sure to be an eye-opening exercise, because a serving size of most foods (nutritionally speaking) is far, far smaller than most people think — and certainly far smaller than, for example, the portions served at most restaurants. You also should write down the amount of calories for each food that you eat, and total it at the end of the day. (More about why later.) For most prepackaged foods, you will find portion and calorie information on the federally mandated nutritional label. You can also buy an inexpensive paperback calorie-counter book at most bookstores. Alternatively, sign up for a free online food diary like www.fitday.com or www.my-calorie-counter.com, or check out the Lose It! app for iPhone or iPad. For maximum benefit, write down the time and location each time you eat as well. You might begin to notice some patterns of, for example, boredom eating or stress eating.

Again, the purpose of this exercise is to gain a realistic understanding of how many calories you take in each day. Why? Because the only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume.

2. Eat mindfully.
This is a corollary to the first item on the list. Part of eating mindfully is paying attention to what and how much you eat. But eating mindfully goes beyond just that. It also means thinking about why you're eating. Each time you reach for food, pause and ask yourself a few important questions.
  • Am I hungry?
  • What am I hungry for? (Is it this thing I have in my hand, or am I just about to eat it because it's here, when what I really want to eat is . . . )?
  • If I'm not hungry, why do I want to eat? Am I under stress? Am I tired? Am I bored? What else could I do to satisfy whatever urge prompted me to pick up this food?
Whole shelves full of books have been written about the way we use food as a substitute for other things — companionship, emotions, activity. Think before you eat. If what you're thinking of eating isn't the best choice, wait. Go for a walk if you can. Drink a glass of water. Wait fifteen minutes. If you still want it, then go ahead. But write it down in your food journal!
3. Cheat responsibly.
Although I know that a lot of diet and fitness gurus take a very strict approach to eating, I'm a big believer in doing all things in moderation. I know that if I tell myself I'll never eat another bit of junk food, my self is going to rebel and eat the rest of that half-gallon of chocolate ice cream (or whatever). So while most of the time I try to eat the right things in the right amounts, when I have one of those days where I really, really, really want a slice of pizza or a candy bar or some other junky treat, I give myself permission to do so. But I try to be responsible about it. Instead of a king-sized candy bar, have a miniature (or two). If dessert is too tempting to pass, share it with someone else. If you're dying for chips and dip, how about baked chips and a lowfat dip (and put a reasonable portion on your plate instead of taking the bag to the couch with you)? If you need a slice of pizza, try the thin crust version, piled with veggies. If you must have a McFlurry (yum!), get the snack size!
4. Eat breakfast.
I thought about doing some research and quoting some studies here, but surely you already know that there's all kinds of evidence that eating breakfast is important not only for your health in general, but for your weight-control efforts. At least for now I'll let it suffice to say that you should eat breakfast every day. And not Cocoa Puffs — a healthier cereal with skim milk and fruit, or perhaps a veggie omelet with a piece of wheat toast. Oatmeal, if you like it. Get something in your stomach in the morning to carry you through the morning hours.
In a subsequent post I'll elaborate a bit more on the other four “pillars” of my own weight-control program, and share some resources that I've found helpful. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from others about what does, or doesn't, work for them.

Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
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Twitter: @LauraMcMom
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How Much Stuff is Enough?

I was checking out Monica Ricci's Your Life: Organized blog and found a post with this great quote:

Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.”                          Peace Pilgrim

Interesting timing, finding this today, because I've been thinking lately about how much stuff I own, and how much time and energy it takes to maintain it and keep track of it and even to feel vaguely guilty for never using a lot of it. Further confirmation that there's great value in paring down the material possessions that clutter our lives and our space. There's a peacefulness that comes with being surrounded by open, uncluttered space in our homes, offices, etc. That gets lost in our modern culture of acquisition.
Have a look at — and maybe follow — Monica's blog for her tips and thoughts on organization and productivity.

Book Review: The Quotable Rogue – The Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words

I've been intrigued by Sarah Palin since she appeared at John McCain's side as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. After I got past my initial surprise and pleasure at his naming a woman, I was struck by her beauty, of course, by her enthusiasm, and by her straightforward, pull-no-punches style of speaking. As the mother of five, I was delighted to see a woman rise to political prominence with a family front and center, clearly visible as a priority in her life.

Sarah has been a lightning rod for criticism from the beginning. Liberals seem to despise her — odd, given the liberal support of women's rights. Conservatives seem divided in their opinions of her. Some dismiss her as an intellectual lightweight, while others laud her as the future of the Republican party and a modern-day Ronald Reagan. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say that I land somewhere in the middle.
When this book appeared on the list of books available for me to review, I jumped at the chance to read it. I liked the idea of a compilation of Sarah's own statements — her own words on topics she'd spoken about since entering the national stage. There's no shortage of reporting on her speeches and behavior, but I always would prefer to see a person's actual words, rather than judging her based on what other people say she's said.

The Quotable Rogue is a quick and easy read. Organized into topical chapters such as “On Abortion,” “On the Real America,” “On the Environment,” and many others, the book simply sets forth statements Sarah has made in various venues — TV, magazine, and newspaper interviews, mostly — without commentary or correction. Matt Lewis, a political writer, blogger, and commentator, has assembled Palin quotes from a wide variety of sources. His only commentary comes in a brief foreword and introduction, in which Lewis notes his reasons for putting this book together and gives a very short overview of her political history.

I don't think that anything in this book will change anyone's mind about Sarah Palin. Her fans will find plenty to cheer about in her unabashedly conservative perspective; her critics will note her sometimes awkward and inelegant phrasing. In reading her unedited words you don't necessarily get the sense that she's an erudite intellectual, but you certainly get a good feel for where she stands on the issues of the day.

Since Sarah Palin still seems to be an influential political figure, whether she runs for president or not, it's still worthwhile to read this book and hear what she's had to say.

Do Working Mothers Have to Pay a "Mommy Penalty"?

My experience as a working mother/attorney is different from many other women, because (a) I went to law school and started practicing law in my late 30s, after I'd already given birth to my five children and (b) I have a husband who was willing and able to change his career path to work at/from home while our children were younger and to take over a whole lot of the tasks that traditionally fall to the wife/mother (and that I handled when I was home fulltime before going to law school). I try to factor that in when I read articles talking about the disparity in income, etc., for working women — because I haven't experienced that disparity personally. This short article gives food for thought, and some worthwhile advice for young women navigating the work life/home life maze. I'd love to hear thoughts from other working moms in response to this piece: Working Mother: Minimizing the Mommy Penalty workingmother.com