Monday, August 17, 2020

Enjoy a healthier diet with Creative Substitution

I’m pretty wimpy about self-denial when it comes to food, as many of us are. Anytime I even think I may be denying myself, the strategy tends to boomerang. If I let my stomach rumble for too long, I end up eating twice as much when I do eat. Heaven knows what might happen if I watched as others ate birthday cake while I swallowed hard and shook my head “no.” I can’t remember ever letting that happen. You may be wondering how I maintain a normal weight.

I owe much of my success to Creative Substitution (in addition to regular exercise of course). The concept likely can help you stay full and satisfied while managing your weight as well. You may already be employing it at times without thinking. But it’s an even more powerful tool when you consciously use it. It’s easy: Just look for ways to cut calories and boost nutritional value by substituting one less-healthy food or drink for a healthy version that has a similar taste, texture and/or satisfaction level. The small pack of nuts I always keep on hand has saved me from gobbling down a fast food burger innumerable times when I get hungry away from home.

Another example of Creative Substitution: I have a bit of a beer tooth. Those liquid calories add up quickly, so when I committed myself to losing weight I decided to find a delicious low-calorie alternative. Diet ginger ale with lemon served the bill beautifully with almost zero calories. Sometimes I even serve it in a chilled mug. One more example: Because I like to have a crunchy snack while I watch TV movie, but also prefer being fit and relatively trim, I have shifted from dip and chips or nachos to microwave popcorn. I make my own microwave popcorn using a brown lunch bag and several tablespoons of generic or on-sale popping corn kernels. I season with sea salt and/or Mrs. Dash (when I’ve had my sodium quota for the day).

Creative Substitution even helps with portion control. Those healthy, low-calorie frozen meals seemed seriously small to me, and were not filling, until I started serving them on a bed of fresh spinach. A can of healthy soup can easily turn into a meal when I microwave it with fresh or frozen veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. I thought I was a little strange about my need to pump up my food until I saw “The Hungry Girl” on the Dr. Oz Show. She has taken the idea of bulking up meals with high fiber, nutrient rich foods and gone wild with it. I love her idea for using cauliflower (cooked from fresh or frozen) in combination with a small portion of pasta and healthy sauce of choice to make your dish seem like you’re eating a restaurant-size portion.

By employing Creative Substitution every day I find I’m not on or off a diet. I’ve simply made a lifestyle change in my dietary habits. If I occasionally indulge in the high-calorie food or beverage I typically substitute for, I can do it without guilt because I know that overall I’m eating well. A friend looked at me suspiciously the other day when I ordered a small serving of ice cream while she opted for black coffee at the coffee shop where we met. Our orders cost about the same. I preferred to spend my money on a real treat, plus I needed a boost of protein and carbs after two back-to-back exercise classes. I know better than to let myself get too hungry!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Meditation and Mindfulness 101

Scroll down to see the meditation/mindfulness resource list below the lead in.

How do I meditate/be mindful? Let me count the ways … So many ways to enter that meditative/mindful state and get some of the benefits of deep relaxation.

Those benefits include de-stressing, boosting mood, lowering blood pressure, relaxing the cardiovascular system, and improving sleep - as well as improving mental focus and other cognitive abilities. Through meditation we learn more about ourselves from the inside out, appreciating our life more, and deepening our compassion for others.

Meditation/mindfulness may not be a cure-all but it is an improve-much tool. But where to find time? Luckily we can mix and match meditative/mindful techniques to fit our schedule, interests and needs. The techniques build on each other over time as we invest time in them and ourselves.

I will note a few simple ways to start or take a few steps more along your meditation/mindful journey, and then point you to a resource list (below) you might want to check out and pull from to learn much, much more about meditation and mindfulness.

Start by giving yourself the gift being present for a few moments now and then. You may want to schedule the time or pair a few moments of mindfulness with a regular activity. Notice in a relaxed and accepting way what is going on right now inside and/or outside of your body.

When we are witnessing the moment, noting what is, allowing what is to be for this moment, we are present and relaxing. When we are swept into a torrent of thought worrying, judging, justifying, or resisting, we are over activated, which often isn't helpful.

When directing our attention in, feeling the sensations of the breath, the bodily sensations our sitting or standing or lying down. Scanning our body and noticing what is happening inside moment to moment, either directing our attention in a comfortable way or letting that attention float. When sensing outside, noticing sounds, sites and other sensations from the world around us. Letting thoughts or judgements drift away, bringing back our awareness to what is.

Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking Meditation, Seated Meditation, and other mind-body practices are methods of being present. Watching birds, fish, your pet or wildlife are other ways of being present. Actively listening to music or ambient sounds by focusing on tones, rhythms and other sonic characteristics can be mindful. Many, many paths for accessing that meditative mind. Enjoy!


Mindfulness-Based Stress Relief course –
Free 8-week program with breathing, body scan, yoga and other guided mindfulness exercises as well as links to related articles and videos. Visit

Mindful magazine online – Offers a wealth of free how-to articles and guided meditations. See

Tara Brach – A leading mindfulness and meditation instructor offers numerous free video lectures and guided meditations. Visit

Other online mindfulness resources that offer some free content include Sounds True, Headspace and 10% Happier.

For further reading
Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises From The Power of Now. By Echart Tolle. Essential insights by the highly regarded philosopher into how to spend more time in the present moment, developing the meditative mind and its accompanying benefits.

Everyday Mindfulness: 365 Ways to a Centered Life. By Phoebe Morgan. Inspiring quotes by contemporary to ancient observers on incorporating mindfulness and its enlightening perspective into our lives.

Real Happiness : The Power of Meditation. By Sharon Salzberg.
Excellent one-stop source for creating a basic mindfulness and meditation program for yourself, including free audio meditation downloads.

Full Catastrophe Living. By Jon Kabat-Zinn. Extensive overview of the famous 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Relief program from the father of MBSR. For those looking for user friendly yet in-depth knowledge on the subject.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book. By Dan Harris and Jeff Warren.
ABC television journalist Harris and meditation instructor Warren take us on a journey across the country to help explore and overcome common barriers many of us have in establishing a meditation practice. The book works well in tandem with accessing free related video and audio content of Harris’ 10% Happier app.

How to Sneak More Meditation Into Your Life: A Doable Meditation Plan for Busy People.
By K. Kris Loomis. A yoga and meditation instructor highlights key steps of various types of meditation and how to add them to your day in her no-nonsense, compact book. A quick overview for experimenting with various forms of meditation.

A Beginner's Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. Edited by Rod Meade Sperry. Some of the world’s most respected meditation teachers share the essentials of getting started with meditation and deepening the practice. The top experts make trying and succeeding at meditation much easier.

Staying Well with Guided Imagery. By Belleruth Naparstek. The psychotherapist and guided imagery instructor explains how using imagery meditations can reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Included are a variety of helpful imagery exercises.