Nine Tips for Losing Nineteen Pounds (and Counting)

IMG_2989It felt so good, that one little comment made by a friend after Mass on Sunday. “Psst, Amy, have you lost weight?” Someone noticed! In fact, I’ve lost 19 pounds in the past few months. For the first time in years, I have to keep pulling up my shorts, and my shirts are hanging on me. It feels good, and honestly, it has been easy. Yes, I’ve had to completely re-evaluate what I eat, how much I eat, what I cook, and what I order out (the hardest of all). I’ve had to come around to a whole new way of looking at meals, but you know what? It worked. And I’m not starving, nor am I giving up my favorite foods. It was a learning process, and I’m happy to share it with you.

  1. fmimg22490971610149207.ss-0-Weight Watchers was a starting point but not a crutch. I joined, after the encouragement of a few friends, but I knew I didn’t have the time for meetings, so I joined using the app. I found that I only needed to be a member for about three months in order to see what I was eating and how it affected my diet (that’s diet with a small “d” because I don’t feel like I’m on a Diet). I had to learn what foods I was eating that needed to be scaled back or cut out. It was also a great help in restaurants as I shifted into eating things that would satisfy but not add too many calories. I was able to track my food as well as my exercising and learned how each affected my weight. It was also nice to see the weight chart go down each week! I’ve stopped using the app, but I’m still applying the principles, and I’m still losing weight.
  2. Breakfast was hard. I won’t lie. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t eat doughnuts or pastries or waffles or bagels. They just leave me feeling bloated. I enjoy a good pancake but not enough to eat them very often. Cereal works for me, but only about once a week. My go-to breakfast has always been yogurt, but it just doesn’t fill me up. What I really love is oatmeal, but plain, unflavored oatmeal? Yuck! So here’s my recipe for a tasty, healthy, and satisfying breakfast: I cook one serving of plain, instant oatmeal, add a quarter cup of fruit, a half cup of plain, Greek yogurt, and a dash of cinnamon. Mixed together, it’s just the right temperature, tastes great, and leaves me satisfied until lunch.
  3. Lunch was even harder. Okay, don’t laugh. In my mind, I was eating the healthiest lunch I could possibly eat. I ate a piece of fruit, a small helping of crackers and light cream cheese, and a serving size of dark chocolate almonds (hey, it’s dark chocolate, the heart’s vitamin). The first day I loaded the meal into my app, I was shocked. My little tiny lunch ate up half of my allowed points for the entire day! It took some time, but I learned what I can eat that will be nutritious and keep me from snacking before dinner. A healthy sandwich (my favorite is peanut butter and banana on Foldit 5 Grain Flax Bread), a piece of fruit, and a serving of crackers keeps my stomach happy until dinner. I’ve even gotten to where I can forego the crackers and go heavy on the fruit and still be satisfied. Or I substitute the crackers with Half Naked Popcorn. Yummy!
  4. Finding new dinner recipes was fun, and everyone chipped in. Nobody complained when I wanted to try something new. Katie is a vegetarian, so she happily helped me create new meals that were to her liking. The key was making sure that the meal was heavy on fruits and veggies and light on carbs. To be honest, it’s easier than it sounds. Spaghetti, a staple in our home, was even within my point value if I made it the right way. I have always make my sauce from scratch, so that helps. We only use whole grain noodles, so that’s another plus. Ken hunts, so elk burger is our meat of choice (if I’m adding meat). Another plus. It was the portion size that was really the issue, but when served with a nice salad, a smaller portion was easy. Once I learned that not only was I satisfied with a smaller portion, I also felt less bloated, then all was good. And that garlic bread we all like to have on the side? No problem. I just made sure that whatever I ate the next night was lighter. It’s all about balance, but haven’t we been hearing that for years?
  5. valpollicellaCSWe found new ways to make old favorites. I wanted food that was satisfying and healthy, so we found ways to add veggies into things. For example, our favorite new recipe is baked ziti. No, I’m not kidding! It was Katie’s idea that put it over the top. I made the whole grain noodles and my homemade sauce. At the same time, I sautéed fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. I then mixed the spinach into a bowl of fat free ricotta cheese. I layered the noodles, cheese, and then the sauce and baked it. It was fabulous! Served with a salad, it was filling and rich but not heavy. And I even enjoyed a glass of wine with it and felt no guilt at all.
  6. Ah yes, the wine. That was a killer. If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely, it’s a good glass of Italian wine with dinner. Perhaps that was my problem. I like to eat and drink like I’m in Italy, but I don’t walk everywhere I go like they do in Italy! So I had to decide, eat a filling meal or drink a glass of wine. My stomach won out, and I cut my wine consumption to one glass per week. Okay two, because…
  7. I always take a day off. It seems like there is always one night, usually over a weekend, when we go out to eat, attend a party, or entertain guests. That’s my time to relax, have a drink or maybe two, and eat what I want. I forget the meal plan for that one meal and just enjoy myself. Here’s what I learned, though: eating everything I want just leaves me feeling miserable. So I’ve learned to eat what I want within reason. If I know I’m having a couple of drinks or really want that specialty dessert, I go with a light dinner. And I spend more time thinking about the company I am with than the food I am eating. Life is too short to spend every minute worrying about something, so I just let go and enjoy.
  8. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. I’ve been doing yoga for almost four years. I try to go three times a week. I do the fitness yoga, or strength yoga, so I’m working my body and not just clearing my mind. It works for me, and I feel good about myself when I leave the gym. And I try to stay active even when I’m not able to make it to class. When we vacation, we don’t spend a week sitting on the beach. We see and do everything, and I mean everything. That usually requires a heck of a lot of walking and often other activities such as horseback riding or mountain climbing. As far as I’m concerned, exercise is about moving, no matter what form of movement you choose to make.IMG_2151
  9. strawberry-shortcake2Snacks and desserts are well-deserved. And every now and then I will indulge in a small hot fudge sundae or even a cookie. But I snack all the time and don’t feel guilty. Remember the Half Naked Popcorn? It has become my go-to pick me up along with whatever fresh fruit is in season. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon this summer, and I do mean a lot! We’ve also kept the strawberry and blueberry growers in business along with the peach farmers. I will miss the fresh fruit when winter sets in, so feel free to let me know what winter varieties you enjoy. I’ll be sure to check them out. As far as sweets, I haven’t given those up entirely either. This week, we made a homemade strawberry shortcake for Rebecca’s final dinner at home before she went back to school. It was made with angel food cake and fat free Readi Whip. I ate a piece without any remorse, and to be honest, I had another piece the next day.

Live life. Enjoy yourself. But be healthy. I haven’t felt this good in years, and I’m hoping that some of my tips and examples will inspire others to start eating right and getting healthy. There’s only one time when it’s too late to start, so what are you waiting for?

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

 

Ten Things Your Teen Should Know Before Leaving Home

DSC01651The summer of 2016 will soon come to a close, and a chapter in my life will end.  For almost my entire adult life, I have been the mother of three school-aged children. While all of my children will still be in school for a few more years, the dynamic is shifting, and my world is changing. This was possibly the last summer that our oldest, Rebecca, will be living at home.  She will graduate from Mount St. Mary’s in the spring and go on to law school.  She is already looking into the cost and availability of apartments in Washington, D.C., and she reminds me often that she will not be returning home after graduation.  Of course, I remember telling my mother the same thing when I was at this stage, but desire is often met with that brick wall called affordability, and I ended up living at home another year until I married.  But the reality is that she will still be in school, and she will need to live close to the city, so I will have to get used to one of my children no longer being a resident of my home.  As Rebecca embarks on her senior year of college and her sister, Katie Ann, starts her senior year of high school, here are some things that I have realized every high school graduate should know how to do:

  1. Cook a basic meal.  The numbers are staggering.  Young people today do not know how to cook. It’s something that we talk about all the time when planning camp each summer.  Someone needs to make sure that young people know how to cook because most mothers are at work, and grandmas no longer live with, or even near, their extended families.  Rebecca found that cooking her own meals in her on-campus apartment was a full one-third the cost of eating in the college cafeteria.  The article referenced above from MarketWatch points out that the economy is stable right now, and most young people feel like they can afford to eat out several times a week.  Imagine how they would feel with three times the extra money in their pockets.  Not to mention, three times fewer calories.  Cooking at home would not only pad their bank accounts, it would reduce the padding along their waistlines.
  2. Sew on a button or mend a hem.  Rebecca once tagged me in a post that said, “There has yet to be a school dance when I didn’t have to sew a button or fix a hem for a friend.  Thank you, Mom and Girl Scouts, for teaching me to sew.”  In an article in the Huffington Post, a mother lamented that she felt like a failure when her twenty-something daughter asked if she could take a pair of pants to a tailor to have a button sewn on.  I think there’s a feeling out there that sewing is old fashioned and that girls don’t need or want to know the skill.  Think again.  Guess what our single, most popular camp program among middle schoolers is.  Yep, sewing.  Any kind of sewing–hand sewing, machine sewing, quilting, fashion design, etc.  Girls are begging to learn how to sew.  It’s a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives.
  3. Do their own laundry.  In the same HP article, the writer points out that “clothing maintenance” skills have dramatically decreased.  This includes knowing how to properly do laundry.  For years, my girls have seen me hanging out certain articles of clothing.  Not until she went to school did Rebecca come to understand why.  When her brand-new, worn-only-once dress came out of the dryer more aptly sized for her American Girl doll, she called me in tears.  I asked, “Did you read the tag?  Is it cotton?  Does it say not to heat dry?”  Stunned silence.  It was a mistake she never repeated.  But here’s what I think is a bigger issue.  The dress shrunk?  No problem, I’ll just buy a new one.  Bathing suit is too tight and falling apart?  So what’s buying another bikini this season going to hurt?  We have become a disposable society.  For all of our talk about the environment, nobody thinks twice about ruining their clothes and running to Target to buy something new.  What would my grandmother say?  She would be shocked.  Maybe she did wear the same clothes year after year, but she didn’t hesitate to buy something when she needed it because she was frugal.  Oh, and she hung out her clothes.  Addendum: Using an iron is a lost skill that everyone should know how to do as well.  Never show up to an interview or for your first day of an internship wearing wrinkles!
  4. Learn to save money.  There seems to be a common, yet unintentional, thread within this post.  Youth today have no idea how or why to save money.  The vast majority of young adults have less than $1,000 in their bank accounts and no plans to save for retirement.  In a recent US News and World Report article, most youth say that they are not stressed at all about saving or about retirement because they feel they will be better off than my generation.  However, and it’s a big however, 40% of them have no plan, and 57% have no savings.  I have to wonder how many children or teens today have access to their bank accounts or even know how much is in them, how to save, how to monitor spending.  Morgan (age 15) and I recently contacted our bank to set her up as an online customer.  They refused.  We were told that until she is 16, she cannot have access to her account or obtain information online.  So I log into mine and let her check on her balance, ensure that her paycheck was deposited, and plan for summer expenses.  We can’t teach our kids about money unless they are earning and learning about saving and spending at an early age.
  5. Open an “adult” bank account.  So this leads me to the next piece of advice.  As soon as he or she is old enough, every young person should have his or her own checking account and access to it.  I’m not advocating the ability to spend at will.  I’m saying that they need the knowledge of what they have, how much they earn, how much they spend, and how much interest they are gathering.  They need to know how to write a check, how to use a debit card, and why a debit card can be dangerous.  Teach them how to come up with a PIN and how to resist spending every penny in their account on useless things.  We can’t teach our kids the proper way to spend and save it we aren’t giving them the tools to do it.
  6. “Check” the oil.  When I got my driver’s license, my father refused to let me drive until I could properly demonstrate how to check my oil and change a tire.  With today’s technologically advanced vehicles, a computerized voice practically calls you by name when it’s time to have the oil changed, but that doesn’t mean that we should send kids out in a car that they don’t fully understand how to maintain.  I recently had two lights illuminate on my dashboard.  I looked them up in the manual, but it simply said to take the car for diagnostics.  Three mechanics looked at my car and told me the same thing, “The diagnostics show that nothing is wrong. You’re good to go.”  Wait a minute.  Really?  A little machine tells you that it’s good, so you ignore the lights and just send me home?  Three mechanics at three different garages?  Oh, let me take that back.  It was two mechanics.  The third handed me a piece of paper with a code on it and said, “Look it up on YouTube.  That might help you figure it out.”  What?????  My car has been at the dealership since last Thursday.  They plan to have it ready by tomorrow, but they’re still trying to figure out what the lights mean.  The moral of the story?  Know your vehicle, know the warnings, pay attention to how it feels and how it drives, and get the maintenance or the repairs that it needs.  You are the pilot, and you need to know when to get something fixed, changed, or checked out.
  7. Manage time and keep a calendar.  When Tommy or Susie goes away to school, no longer will mom or dad be there to tell them to wake up, get in the car, go to school, etc.  Kids must know how to manage their time wisely but also how to schedule it.  There are so many things out there that are time hogs.  A study in Forbes showed that full-time, working millennials waste over 250 days, yes days, per year on social media and web surfing.  According to the Washington Post, teenagers spend seven and a half hours a day online.  That’s half of their waking hours!  I don’t think they even know any more what to do with that time other than be online.  As an experiment, have your child document throughout the day each time she goes online and how long she spends there.  Perhaps a real conversation is needed about what kinds of productive things she could be doing (I think I’m going to have that conversation tonight – I’m shocked by these numbers).  After the conversation, give her a datebook, or just show her the calendar app on that device attached to her hand.  Teach her how to manage her time, and be sure she knows how before she leaves for college, or you’ll be wasting a lot of money on her dismal Freshman year.
  8. Write a formal letter.  Writing is a lost art in school.  My daughters have many friends in other schools who are able to graduate without ever writing a paper or doing research.  Gone are the days when an entire week of English class was spent on the proper techniques of letter writing.  This includes emails to professors, bosses, and other important people.  Imagine this email based on an Inc. article on the language of millennials:  “Dear Professor, I would like to meet with you about my grade.  I wanted a hundo p, but I only got a B.  I mean, the test was JOMO to begin with, and sorry not sorry, but I deserved a better grade.  I mean, really.  I can’t even.  The struggle is real.  My answers were on the fleek and perf, and I’m V proud of them.  TBH, I deserved better.”  You may think I’m JK, but I do hope this never actually happens,.  On the other hand, have you read any of your children’s emails?  They can be scary.
  9. Write a resume.  One of the many things that our girls’ high school truly does right is preparing the kids to be successful.  This includes knowing how to write a resume.  Every junior is required to submit a resume to the guidance office before the last week of school.  They cannot go on with their senior activities without one on file.  It must be formatted correctly and must detail every job, every club, every award, and every community service event that they earned or participated in.  They will continue to build on that resume throughout their senior year, and it will go into their college application packets.  Rebecca still uses that same resume.  Of course, it has been chopped and updated numerous times, but the format is the same.  Some things never change, and the need for an impressive, well-formatted resume is one of them.
  10. Say NO.  Take this as you will, but the bottom line is that your child should know how to stand up for herself or himself in every situation.  Teach them that it’s not only okay but essential to stick to their beliefs, go with their gut, say no to illegal substances, say no to sex, even say no to taking on too many roles or activities.  While part of this goes back to time management, part of it goes to becoming a responsible adult, and a good chunk of it goes to safety.  Be sure that your child knows when, where, and how to draw the line.  This might be the first time he or she is on her own.  Be confident that she can take care of herself and that he knows what it means to stop before it’s too late.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

 A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Whispering Vines (2016)

Off the Grid

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We had a problem at camp this year that we’ve never had – complaints from adults and girls alike that the teen counselors spent too much time on their phones. I was actually quite surprised considering a HUGE part of their training revolves around the rule that they are NOT to be on their phones at camp. No campers are supposed to know that anyone even has a phone. Teens (and adults) who have phones with them are to refrain from being on the phones unless they are on break or after the girls are in bed. I was disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, I just recently wrote a blog about why we need to start putting our phones down and enjoying life.

I sometimes wonder if today’s young people have any idea that they can actually exist without being on their phones. They’re either texting, or snap chatting, or instagramming, or tweeting, or uploading to FaceBook, YouTube, or Tumbler. They’re looking at posts, watching vines, or playing games. It is any wonder that employers complain that today’s recent graduates have no socials skills? 

For the past week, we have been living in paradise. We’ve been at our second home in the San Juan range of the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Our girls each brought a
friend with them, and though we tried to prepare them, I don’t think they really believed us when we kept saying that there was no cell service at our cabin. That means a week of no texting, no chatting, no posting, and no calling. For the first twenty-four hours, I wasn’t sure these poor kids were going to survive. Slowly, they started to come alive. They noticed the low-hanging clouds over the mountains, the way the morning mist clings to the treetops, and the wildlife that lives around the mountain. They went four-wheeling to look for deer, and they began to talk about which day they were going to get up at five to see the sunrise.IMG_0002
The next day, the whole gang went white water rafting. They had to brave the icy cold waters, racing rapids, and light rain without any contact with the outside world. Not only did they all survive, they had the time of their lives. There was no need to find satisfaction through electronic devices when the world at their fingertips had so much to offer.IMG_0093_KMLater that day, they pulled out the puzzles, and that evening, they played a board game. The next night, after a day of white water rafting, they brought out the cards. Uno led to blackjack, and the stakes were high – a collection of lollipops and chocolate bars. 

They woke at four the next morning to tackle something that none of the visiting friends had ever done. They climbed one of the highest mountains in the continental United States — Handes Peak, which stands at 14,048 feet. I will admit that they were thrilled to discover that there is LTE service at over 14K feet. They all called their moms back home in Maryland and posted pictures of their accomplishment. Then it was back to the land of no service. IMG_2136Back at the cabin, everyone was rewarded with s’mores as a rainbow lit up the evening sky. The kids ate quickly, and we enjoyed playing Dominoes until late into the night.IMG_0036Horseback riding on the high plains of the Rockies took the gang out of their element once again, and there was no mention of not being able to text or call anyone. Over the course of the two and a half hour trail ride, we all talked and took in the scenery with no mention of phones or social media. That night, we enjoyed watching the Olympics without anyone even asking about which athlete or sport was trending on Twitter. IMG_0079We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.IMG_0102On the day we left, some of us woke up to see the sunrise over the mountains. Though there were plenty of pictures taken to be shared once they had service, there were also memories made that can be shared with others for many more years than those photos will be around. While I know that this will all change one we get back to civilization, I like to imagine that these kids might actually think twice the next time they face the choice between their phones and a bike ride, or a walk in the woods, or any other activity. I hope that the the thing they will remember the most from this vacation is the reason why I love spending time at our cabin high in the Colorado Rockies – it’s a reminder of how wonderful life is when you you stop letting other things get in the way of actually enjoying life.IMG_0150

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Seeking the Silver Lining

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Recently, I sat in my car outside of a local pool waiting to hear whether or not Morgan’s swim meet was going to be cancelled. I was shocked when I saw Morgan climb onto the block and dive into the pool as the wind whipped through my open windows and the clouds darkened to a ominous, charcoal color. Were they actually letting the kids go into the water? Was nobody going to acknowledge the coming storm? Why weren’t they cancelling the meet? The weather was predicted to get worse as the evening went on. 

I sat and watched the clouds roll in, and raindrops began to ping on my windshield, growing more intense each second. It occurred to me that so many people go through life without acknowledging the coming storms. They look straight ahead with blinders on, oblivious to the gathering clouds and flashes of lightning. They close their ears to the crashing thunder and the howling wind. And then they’re shocked when they end up soaked and seeking shelter in a place where there is no place to go. 

I’m not a worrier, never have been. I keep my chin up and my spirits bright. God carries my worries, and my burden is light. However, I am always keeping my eye to the sky, recognizing that having faith and being prepared is not the same as being oblivious to the storm. 

We are entering hurricane season. Yes, it’s August, but I’m speaking about a separate hurricane season, one from which nobody in this country will escape no matter where they live. Our world is in crisis. Our politicians act shocked that things have gone this far – that terrorists are striking daily in major cities all over the world, that the people sworn to protect us aren’t always the good guys, and that the ones who are the good guys are being targeted and struck down as if they are a disease that must be eradicated. 

I wish I knew the answer, a simple way to stop the hatred, the distrust, the fear. I wish we had a better crop of politicians who would unite our nation and allow every person, from the unborn to the elderly, to live with dignity and respect. I wish we could all see past colors and borders and love everyone as God calls us to do. When will we come out of this storm and see the silver lining? At this time, I don’t see an end to the bad weather, and it is frightening. I find myself constantly relying on my faith, trusting that, somehow, things will get better, that the clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and the world will be washed clean for everyone to come out and enjoy it together.

Against all predictions, and my own misgivings, the sun did come out that evening, and the swim meet went on as planned. While I still believe that we need to be prepared and watch for the coming storms, I was reminded that night that it’s sometimes even more important to just have faith that all will turn out the way it was meant to be. Carry your umbrella, but have faith that the clouds will part, and trust that the storms will lead to a sunnier tomorrow.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)