Tag Archives: Weight Loss

The Gettysburgh Diet … or Not-So-Much Diet


by Deborah Riley-Magnus

Sometimes you simply gotta get outta town! Period. This past week, two lovely things happened. My roommate landed a terrific new job, and my second book, a non fiction entitled Finding author Success: Discovering and Uncovering the Marketing Power Within Your Manuscript arrived, (official release date is November 5)! It’s a major event because my fiction is released in ebook format and there’s just something magical about holding a book you wrote in your hands! The publisher was so cool, just sending my copies to my front door. Early Christmas, I tell ya! So what do women do under these circumstances?


My roomie, Natalie, is a native Californian, born and honed in the web of Los Angeles freeways, traffic and diverse population. I spent five years there myself, and now that we’re both here in lovely Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I seriously appreciate the things I’d taken for granted. She, of course, lives in aw. I don’t think two cities could be so different … outside of Gulliver’s Travels, of course. Taking a road trip across one of the most hilly, beautiful and autumn-colorful states in the country seemed like a perfect way to celebrate our good fortune.

We chose Gettysburg, making reservations at a hotel in Chambersburg (30 miles away) because nothing was available in town. It was perfect! I packed a healthy road-food bag, some clothes and we were off!

Diet? On a spontaneous weekend vacation? I suppose it’s possible but the other side of our New Lifestyle Plan is to actually, you know, live. In reality, jumping in the car and heading off for an unplanned few days isn’t normal, so when it happens, the last thing I want to think about is calories, exercise and getting the burn. Hell, I’m still suffering with some heel pain, so I figured whatever workout I got would be more than I’d gotten lately anyway. As it was, we walked all around the historic town and Cemetery Hill, took a Candlelight Ghost tour covering a few miles, then checked out the things that intrigued us most on those various ventures. THAT was just Saturday! On Sunday we drove back to Gettysburg from Chambersburg (along a road that the soldiers followed, mind you) and climbed onto a bus for an extensive historic tour of the battlegrounds. Several times the bus stopped and the guide walked us around the areas, spouting more (sad, frightening and historic) information along the way.

Needless to say, by the time we got home on Sunday evening, I was exhausted from not only the few hours drive back, but all the walking I’d done. The aching feet held up but want a little rest today, that’s for sure.

Now, about dieting … um … I made good choices, just not all the time. I did taste a homemade Italian lemon cake after my late lunch on Saturday. I did tire of the healthy road food and eat a Snickers bar on the drive home. But, so what. It doesn’t happen all the time and isn’t my real life (anymore than exciting road trips are my normal activity). The scale said nothing … nothing lost and nothing gained, whew. Today I’m fine, had my oatmeal for breakfast, have no desire to eat lemon cake or chocolate candy, and am already thawing the ingredients for a well-balanced, calorie-conscience dinner.

I wasn’t bad, I was on a road trip. I wasn’t out of control, I was fine! What a revelation that I can actually do such a thing! It was exciting to go somewhere and focus less on what I’ll eat at the next meal, and more on “Ohhh, what’s that over there? Let’s do that!”

It was wonderful.

Now, if I can only recover from the strange paranormal stuff that introduced itself to us over the weekend. Seriously, if you like ghosts, are interested in the paranormal, or just want confirmation that something remarkable hovers over places like Gettysburg … it’s a road trip you too should take!


Mind Games


by Natalie Preston

First off, I’d like to apologize for missing my post last week. I’ve been interviewing like crazy these last two weeks to find a job here in Pittsburgh. And, finally, I found one. My first day was today, and I’m glad to be working again. Woo Hoo!

So, back to the regularly scheduled blog … At last week’s weigh-in, I’d lost only a pound. But this week, it was much better and I’d lost five pounds. That makes a total of ten pounds in four weeks. Not a bad beginning!

But, I’m at the point where in the past I always started to play mind games. Games like “If I eat a doughnut this morning, then I’ll eat only salads for the rest of the week to make up for it.” Or, “I can have that pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream because I’ve been so good. I deserve it, dammit!” Games that essentially sabotage any food/exercise plan or lifestyle change I tried to make. And ultimately, I always ended up back where I started; fat, out of shape and unhappy.

This time around, though, I’m trying to do it differently. The mind games are still there. I’m only human, after all. But, the rules are changing. I’m playing the games to benefit, not sabotage, my plan. For instance, it was odd but it always seemed that my total weekly weight loss was less on Monday mornings than on Sunday mornings. So now I weigh in on Sundays. It’s a psychological boost that really seems to help get me through the week. Another game is that I never tell myself I “can’t” have anything. I just can’t have it right now. That pint of Ben & Jerry’s is not off limits, only delayed to some future date. It all seems to help me carry on instead of giving up.

I played a mind game just today. This morning, my recruiter met my new boss and I at the office bearing a dozen doughnuts. Later this afternoon, I noticed where he left the box, in the desk where the department keeps their supplies. I was so tempted … You know the game … “One doughnut won’t hurt. And I can stop at just one …. And I’ll eat a light lunch the rest of the week to make up for it. So it’ll be alright.” I so wanted that doughnut! But, I played a game instead. My boss, Angie, was there with me and I told her about the blog and what Deb and I are attempting. And I even said, “That’s why I don’t want a doughnut.” And that caused my pride to kick in. There was no way I would take a doughnut after telling someone I didn’t want it and why. It would be too big of a ding to my pride!

So, am I learning anything from all these games I’m playing? I dunno. In the past, they were my downfall. But, if played right, they are helping me to succeed.

My challenge for this week? How to get my exercise in while I’m working eight hours a day, and it’s raining outside!


Diet Life in the S L O W Lane


by Deborah Riley-Magnus

And the heel pain continues, but not nearly as bad as it was in the beginning. I’ve really tried hard to rest my foot for a whole week, careful to eat fewer calories and drink more water. Belly Dancing was part of my plan, but that proved not such a good idea. Guess what, you belly dance on your feet. DUH. I also intended to do some floor work, flat on my back, leg raises, twists, stuff like that. One big problem there … you have to get up off the floor and use your feet to do it. Every time I thought “oh yes, this feels a whole lot better” I’d somehow, without even realizing it, push the envelope and end up aching for hours after.


Life goes on. Go to the grocery store? Good for maybe three aisles. Check out the mall? Good thing there are benches every thirty feet and I wasn’t alone. It was such a frustrating week I wanted to jump out of my skin! Who knew that the person who used to say “When I get the urge to exercise I just lie down and it passes” would suddenly salivate at the mere idea of getting out and moving. Now that I’ve changed my feelings about activity as part of my new life style, I’m forced to sit on the sidelines and watch for a few more days! This (now I need to admit it) injury must heal before I can move ahead. Sigh.

Some progress was made though. I did purchase a new pair of shoes, thanks to the expert advice of the sweet young lady at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Turns out I’m at an age (ah-hem) where the padding at my heel has thinned and I require better padding in my shoes. To get that I needed to step away from the walking shoes display and introduce my feet to running shoes. The perfect pair of light weight, comfortable running shoes were tied on and (can you hear the angelic strains of music?) I could miraculously walk without limping! Granted it only lasted a few hours and the heels made themselves known again, but at least I know that when I’m ready to hit the walking trails again I’ll be well supported.  One would think I was talking about a sports bra, but that’s a subject for another post all together.

All week I cooked carefully, focusing on low fat, well balanced meals, lots of great soups (because it was a rainy autumn week in Pittsburgh) and watching the Major League Baseball playoffs. I will give this foot-resting thing another few days then start walking again … slowly, not too far and with the full intention of stopping when I feel any pain.

Weight loss? A whopping 2 pounds. Sheesh, that’s frustrating but I suppose I should be pleased. It could have been a gain if I wasn’t so careful.

So it’s a total loss of 13 pounds in four weeks, the gain of perfect shoes for future activity and a tentative acquisition of patience. A lot to ask of OCD me, but it is, after all, a journey.

A Pain in the Foot!


By Deborah Riley-Magnus


It’s a great week here in beautiful, Autumn painted Southwestern Pennsylvania, and to get my walking in, I chose the trails that showed off the season at its best. Pittsburgh’s South Park, a drive up to the gorgeous trails at Presque Isle in Erie, even making sure I parked as far as possible from the grocery store entrance! What a wonderful time! The air is crisp and crackling with energy as everywhere I turned there were brilliant golds and reds and oranges accented by the deep richness and pungent scents of pines reaching to tickle the passing clouds.

That’s when it happened. Maybe it was happening since my roommate and I began this diet and exercise journey but I didn’t really notice until last Thursday. I tried to ignore it on Friday while I pushed through the mile and a half walk. I finally threw up my hands on Saturday when it became just impossible to continue.

It was a pain in the heels I never felt before in my whole life! What began as a mild irritation made itself clearly known after doing three days of walking in a row. Brilliant me, I thought “hey, we have a busy weekend, so let’s just get all this walking stuff done in a clump on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday!” Dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I’m not on a medically supervised program like the Biggest Loser contestants, I don’t have trainers to advise me, wrap sore muscles with warm towels and massage away the aches and pains. I just have me and my body and I forgot to listen to one of us.

Ow, ow, ow ouch!

The culprit? It looks like my Sketcher walking shoes are breaking down over the past few years of use. Not that I did a great deal of power walking before this current effort, I just liked them so much I wore them all the time. Apparently, now that I’m using them to seriously raise my heart rate and burn calories, the shoes are having a laugh over my ambitious expectations for them.

No worries, a new pair of walking shoes are on the near horizon but … I do have this niggling issue of aching heels to deal with in the meantime. I can’t just stop trying to exercise, I can’t just throw up my hands and give up! That was the old me. The new me, the one with the new life and determination to get it together, lose the weight and live healthier, has to find a way to get through this week without injuring myself further … and hopefully without gaining weight.

My planned solution? Belly Dancing (because I can do it in my bare feet), and floor work, (because I can do it on my butt and back). Both have specific body activities I haven’t done yet, arm, leg, strength and balance. Both will hopefully do some toning, even if they don’t burn as many calories … and speaking of calories, I know I’ll need to cut back this week while I work my body differently. At least, that’s what my logic says, so I’ll be cutting a few hundred calories off my daily intake. We’ll see how this works.

As for the last week, I lost 1½ pound – after all that misery! I can pinpoint the issue without even looking back. See on Saturday and Sunday I spent a lot of time on the road. Long drives and stopping to pee every twenty minutes just didn’t seem practical so I cut back on the water, from 7 glasses a day to 2 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. I kinda expected a low weight loss because of it. Nothing else changed in the calorie counts for those days. My theory is that WATER IS YOUR FRIEND and I need to make peace with stopping at rest stops more often while on a road trip.

So, this week I’ll be staying away from the walking trails, working hard on movements that will help tone my muscles … and drinking my 7-8 glasses of water every single day.

On the bright side … even though the total weight loss over three weeks is 11.5 pounds, I look and feel better, my clothes and my friends have noticed the changes and I am not discouraged! How’s that for lifestyle change and success?


Second Week Blues


by Natalie Preston

Monday was the dreaded weigh-in. I pulled out the scale and stepped on, anxious but hopeful that the number would have changed in the right direction.

It didn’t.

I’d gained a pound and a half. Deep breath. Sigh. Lots of “where did I go wrong” thoughts. Lots of analyzing the past week in minute detail. But what’s different this time from all the times before is that I didn’t beat myself up for gaining weight and I didn’t give up. I’m still here, dammit!

So … after all that over-analyzing, what were my successes last week? What were my failures? Well, they’re kinda jumbled up together. Basically, I ate all my meals and snacks consciously (success!), but I didn’t write everything down and relied on my memory of what I ate and when (failure). I walked three times last week, once even on sore foot (success!), but I let the rain keep me from my fourth workout (failure). So, it seems that I need to work on follow-through. To keep everything going, food diary and exercise, through to the end of the week. So far, I’ve been much better this week on follow-through … keeping my promises made to myself and to others. Keeping my food diary up to date. And, doing my exercise without excuses.

But … I am very proud of one success in particular. Deb and I had a busy week last week; we had a lunch date with her mom, did our bi-weekly shopping, and we saw a Jackson Browne concert. (It was wonderful, by the way!) So, we ended up eating out four times last week. My success? I made good choices instead of bad ones while eating out. For instance, when we were at the Mexican restaurant, I had just enough chips (total: 6) to enjoy the salsa they served. In the past, I would have eaten the whole basket then asked for more, all before the entrée was served! I also chose healthier entrees rather than the bacon cheeseburger or the pasta in heavy cream/cheese sauce. It’s all baby steps, and I’m finally learning to walk!

The outcome? Overall, even though I gained a bit of weight, I’m proud of last week and my accomplishments. And I’m doing even better this week.

Speaking about eating out … I’d like to give a shout out to Panera Bread. In the past, I rarely made it past their pastry display, but lately, I’ve discovered their “Café” menu. There’s a Panera near the park where Deb and I walk and we’ve had lunch there a couple of times since we began this lifestyle change. Once we got past the cinnamon rolls and cheese soufflés, we discovered a whole new side of Panera … sandwiches, salads and soups that fit within our diet plan. Not only that, but the calorie count of each item is listed right on the menu board, so it’s easy to order item(s) that fit in my food budget. For example, my lunch today was a tomato-mozzarella Panini, one half (385 cal.), a cup of lemon-chicken-orzo soup (130 cal), and an apple (80 cal). The total was 595 calories, a tad on the high side, but not bad for restaurant lunch.

Okay … back to our regularly scheduled blogging …

My goals this week:

1. Write everything down! It’s important!

2. Drink all my water (six 12-oz glasses a day)

3. Exercise four times this week. (As of today, I’ve walked three times.)

That’s all for this week! See you next time!

And the Waters Get Rough!


By Deborah Riley-Magnus

Hoh man, what a tough week! I had a publisher’s deadline that stressed me like crazy but I managed to meet the target date with a few hours to spare. The weather was absolutely horrible and rain dominated everything. And between finalizing the book, dealing with gloom and attempting to keep an even keel in these rough dieting waters, I ate outfour times this week and I really thought I did it well. Yesterday, our final day for walking, it was so cold and rainy we didn’t go, so our “Last Chance Workout” never happened.

The results? A one pound weight gain. Sigh. BUT …

Considering that I still drank all my water every day, I still walked three times (although it should have been four) and I did choose from menus not once but four times, I’d say I did pretty well. I know, my body doesn’t know what I didn’t eat, only what I did, but if I hadn’t chosen carefully, it could have been a five pound gain instead of just one.

My goal is to look at what worked and what didn’t work, just like last week. Granted, there was no way I can expect another 11 pound loss in one week, so maybe the slight gain was God’s way of saying “Don’t get cocky, girl.” I’m still feeling pretty good, though. And, I can actually analyze everything and see where I fell short.

STRESS – Yes, stress takes a big toll, especially at the beginning of a diet and life style change effort. I couldn’t find time to cook, and one evening I actually went out for the evening to relax! Dinner was included in that relaxation and I’m going to say clearly that dinner should be part of a celebration or an evening out. I hate when people say things like “Don’t reward yourself with food” and “You can never eat that again”, so I’m going to state a rule for my new lifestyle. YES, you can celebrate with food … healthy food choices are a must, but you can celebrate with food! Hell, the rest of the world does, so rather than drop out of life until I can wear a size six, I think food will continue to be a staple when celebrating.

FOOD CHOICES – This week I ate at a Greek restaurant for dinner one evening, roasted chicken, sautéed veggies and rice pilaf. I didn’t eat it all, I was full and I really enjoyed the flavors too! I had lunch out three time, once it was a lovely steak salad, about 5 oz. grilled lean beef, lots of veggies and a circle of finely sliced fried onion rings. The second lunch I had out was a salad topped with about 4 oz. of ahi tuna. The third lunch was also a salad of grilled chicken over greens. In all cases, I ate very little of the dressings, dipping my fork in the dressing-on-the-side for a bit of flavor. That’s all. All those choices seemed really good … then, with one of those perfect salads, I added a cup of this absolutely yummy, totally decadently creamed, sherry crab bisque. I LOVE this soup. It was cold and raining and I wanted some comfort. I think that cup of soup is something like 500 calories! This particular restaurant is famous for it. Guess what? I distinctly tasted how salty it was and I felt like I’d swallowed a bowling ball when I was finished. Of course I ate it all, too so … no more crab bisque for me, at least not when I know it can put a kibosh on a whole week’s efforts. Some other time but in the second week of this diet, it just wasn’t worth it. Another bad choice I made was to eat after eight last evening, and even though it was a totally veggie, fresh made pizza (spinach, mushrooms, red peppers, Roma tomatoes and fresh mozzarella on whole wheat flat bread, only 300 calories) I really didn’t want it or need it. I wasn’t hungry. But I ate it. Where was my head? Well hell, who knew making good food choices could include choosing not to eat at all. Lesson learned.

EXERCISE – Toooo critical! Yes, there is nasty cool fall weather here in the north east, but I can’t be using that as an excuse. Yes, deadlines are important, but I honestly think that if I’d done the walk anyway, I might have felt better rocking out the edits on the manuscript. And yes, I now understand that walking at the park is far better than walking up and down my neighborhood street. Why? Well, I live in a hilly part of Pittsburgh and frankly, the hills are too hard and I end with hurting knees from the efforts. The hills are so challenging, I tend to give up quicker and head back home. Walking is only exercise if it raises your heart rate and holds it there for a while. I can do that a lot better at the park because the walking trails are flat and easier. It’s a ten minute drive to get there, but so much more productive. To press the envelope, Natalie and I plan how much further we’ll go the next time. We’ve also decided that we need to walk at least four times every week. When winter finally comes, we’ll need to come up with another plan but for now, we’re committed.

WATER – Yes, water. Doing my six glasses every day. Oh, and I’m trying to make friends with green tea (ew). I’ve heard that it helps raise metabolism so I substitute my first and last cup of coffee every day with green tea.

Okay, that’s it for this week. I definitely learned that playing around with the plan can be counter-productive so I’m going to let my OCD generate the next week’s efforts.

Have a great week, everyone!

Week Two – Woo Hoo!


By Natalie Preston

Woo Hoo! I think this thing works! At my weigh in this week, I lost five pounds. Last week was tough in places and hard in others. I didn’t seem to have a problem keeping within my daily calorie total, although on a couple of occasions I did get hungry late in the evening. I think my
greatest challenge was doing the walks. Deb and I walked in South Park four days, and on a couple of those mornings I’d rather have been in bed sleeping. But, with Deb’s encouragement, I got up and did the walks.

As some of you might know, I recently moved to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles. I was raised in L.A; most of my friends and my family are still there and I’ve been missing them a lot lately. The other night, I had a marathon telephone conversation with my friend Lisa. We talked about a lot of stuff and I shared what Deb and I are attempting and this blog. She understood completely and recommended this book: Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman. He proposes that people don’t need weight loss plans, etc. to get healthy. It will come naturally by making small, conscious changes in their eating habits and lifestyle. At this point, I’m only in the first chapter. He’s spent some time talking about the livestock industry and the cost to the environment of raising more and more livestock to be consumed. I’ll keep you
posted on the rest of the book.

I guess that’s it for this post. I’ll keep plugging away and will be back next week with an update.