Finding Balance as an Empty Nester

Finding Balance as an Empty Nester

Food For Thought
Finding Balance as an Empty Nester

By Leanne Ely, CNC

For all intents and purposes, I am an empty nester—my children aren’t at home full time anymore. Things have changed dramatically at my house and I didn’t fully realize this until after I did my whole Two Week Kitchen Makeover with Rubbermaid awhile back; the need to fill up all the spaces in my kitchen is no longer an issue.

I recognized something even more profound as I was chatting with dear friend on the phone today. When my children were younger, I used to eat the leftovers off their plates after we had eaten lunch together. It was unconscious; it was because I didn’t want to see that food go to waste. Talk about piling on the Body Clutter!

When we wrote Body Clutter, I talked about that from a been there/done that perspective. My kids have grown up over the last ten years. And yes, I stopped eating off their plates.

But I’ve noticed I have this tendency to shop and cook like I still had two hungry teenagers at home to feed. But because they’re not here, I’m eating more because once again, I don’t want the food to go to waste! It’s that same unconscious choice! I might not be eating off their plates anymore but guess what? Yep, the Body Clutter has been inching back with a vengeance!

Do you see the correlation? Unconscious eating will definitely make food go to WAIST!

I was cooking and eating good food, but my portion distortion both in how many I was cooking for and how much I was eating, was the issue. But as Dr. Oz wisely says portion control starts at the grocery store. I was buying and cooking like I was feeding a tribe of ravenous teenagers!

Your mindset has to change with your situation. You need to ask yourself the obvious questions you might not see even though things have obviously changed (it’s the old forest through the trees mentality). Where are you in life? Are you cooking for a family or is it just yourself? Is it time to make an adjustment to your shopping and cooking habits? Do you need to find a balance in your kitchen?

Making an adjustment means taking into account a lot of things not just how many you’re really cooking for, but how much you want to eat one particular meal and asking yourself another important question: do I want to eat this again (and again and again…)? Can you tell I’m sick of chicken and black beans? I just finished it off, 5 meals later, good grief.

There is an exception to every rule however—and that is when you’re cooking something in the crockpot. That can be justified because everything you make via the crockpot can be frozen and eaten later with no problem. That’s when you pull out the plastic freezer  bags to make quality, no brainer frozen meals.

I’ve moved the enormous soup pot, roaster and large saucepans that used to make big family meals because now they aren’t being utilized as much. I’ve scaled down my pantry, pared my grocery list and cut my recipes in half. There’s freedom in this type of cooking! I no longer have to use super-sized anythings—no big cans or packages, no big box stores requiring membership cards containing everything HUGE to feed a small village, with bigger-than-Dallas grocery carts… it’s DIFFERENT now and it’s smaller! With smaller comes less money, less food, less space taken up by all the food, less cooking implements and serving pieces. I can relax! WOW, how about THAT?

Just because children have left the nest it doesn’t mean your cooking has to stop. It just has to CHANGE is all. Get that mindset going, move stuff around, buy less, cook less and (in my case) eat less! Meals still need to be made, food still needs to be purchased and you’re still the one standing over the stove, right?

Welcome me to your world, empty nesters! I’m glad to be here. And while I will still be writing and focusing on family cooking, I’m not forgetting you in that equation. Like I said, we still have to eat (and cook!)

Our Menu-Mailer subscription takes into account empty nesters like you and me! We have recipes for TWO! Check it out!

Breakfast in a Glass

Breakfast in a Glass

Healthy Foods 

Breakfast in a Glass

by Leanne Ely, CNC

If you want to lose weight, try eating breakfast. Oh I know, you’re going to tell me you aren’t hungry—just give me some coffee and all will be right in my world. Or so you think.

The problem is that nothing will be right in our worlds if we perpetually do this. Not eating breakfast means we haven’t started our engines so to speak and consequently, we’re putting our metabolisms on hold. That means the body clutter we sit on won’t budge. How ‘bout that? Does that work for you?? It definitely doesn’t for me!

I have diligently applied myself to this Body Clutter principle to EAT BREAKFAST! And it’s made a difference, helping me to shed over 50 pounds of Body Clutter. But there have been times when I didn’t want to eat anything. So guess what I did? I DRANK my breakfast!

Here’s a smoothie recipe that I make everyday for everyone in my household. Oh and here’s something I REALLY love about this smoothie (besides the fact that it tastes AWESOME)—it helps make vitamins go down without gagging because it’s nice and thick! That’s a biggie for me, so check this wonderful easy recipe out!

Ladies and Gentlemen… start your BLENDERS!

Leanne’s Incredibly Easy, Doesn’t Have to Be Measured Smoothie “Recipe”

Makes 2 yummy smoothies

2-3 ice cubes
2-3 handfuls of frozen (organic if you can) berries, your choice, about 1 cup
2 scoops protein powder (I use a vanilla whey protein powder)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I use So Delicious brand)
Put everything in a blender (I have a 450 watt blender that works great!) and LET HER RIP!

You can mix it up on the fruit, but my preference is berries as they are low glycemic. I also add a scoop of Barleans Greens to my smoothie–makes it a dark purple! Adds a little sweet (there’s stevia in there) but still very good. This smoothie has more nutrition than my previous conconctions…enjoy!

Smoothies are pretty forgiving–the only necessary component is frozen fruit to make it shake-like.

That’s it. Pretty simple, isn’t it? That’s how easy breakfast can be in the morning. This smoothie takes me all of two minutes to make.

Have you tried out our new Summer Smoothie Menu? Be sure and check it out.

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Breakfast in a Glass

HF – Two Great Soup Recipes

Healthy Foods

Two Great Soup Recipes

by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.

It’s no secret that I’ve lost a bunch of weight. I wrote a book about it—Body Clutter—a New York Times best seller! I’ve been interviewed a LOT on the radio and online in the past and have been asked for “my secrets” for weight loss. Well, it’s hard to sum in a sentence or two (hence the book!). But there are a few handy things that helped me tremendously.

One of those things was eating in a low carb manner—I wrote a book on that too, Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way and the recipes in that book helped me to lose over 50 pounds.

Soup is another way to make a big difference in weight loss. Here are two soups from Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way—you’ll love them as much as I do, I’m sure!

Cream of Butternut Bisque
Serves 4

1 teaspoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 can chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 cup half and half

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook till onion is translucent.

Add butternut to onion and cook just a minute. Now add the chicken broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer (covered) till squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash the squash in the saucepan. If you like your soup really smooth, you can puree it in batches in a food processor or blender, but if you like a little more texture, use the potato masher. Mash or process to desired consistency.

Add squash back to saucepan (if you used your blender or processor) otherwise, just add the spices and half and half and bring soup to almost boiling point (but don’t boil it or you will curdle the soup). Serve hot.

Per Serving: 117 Calories; 7g Fat; 4g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 222mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.

LC SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with a big spinach salad.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Add whole grain rolls.

French Onion Soup
Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups beef broth
1 cup water
1/3 cup red wine (or use red grape juice, splash of vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup croutons
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

In a saucepan, heat together the olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper them to taste, and turn the heat down to medium, medium-low thereabouts. You want the onions to cook slowly and caramelize. This step takes a good 20 to 30 minutes (can be done the night before). Make sure you stir them often so they won’t stick and burn.

Add the wine, balsamic vinegar, beef broth and water; bring to a boil. Add the thyme, taste and correct the seasoning adding salt and pepper as necessary. Let simmer for about 15 minutes.

To serve, preheat the broiler. Divvy up the soup into 4 good sized, oven proof and broiler proof soup bowls, placed on a baking sheet. Now evenly distribute the croutons on top of the soup and sprinkle the Swiss cheese on top of that. Broil the tops of the soups till cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Per Serving: 195 Calories; 10g Fat; 11g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 21mg Cholesterol; 739mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.

LC SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with a big spinach salad.

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HF - Two Great Soup Recipes

Menu Planning

Buddy Hackett once said, “My mother’s menu consisted of two choices. Take it or leave it.”

That’s what my mother’s menu consisted of, too. We had the choice of eating the dinner she prepared or leaving the table hungry. If we didn’t like what she prepared, we weren’t allowed to make ourselves a PB & J. If we snuck a banana or anything else for that matter, we were in big trouble. Why? Was my mother abusive and mean? Was my family dysfunctional because the children weren’t allowed to call the shots on what was for dinner? Am I in therapy now because I was made to eat my vegetables?

Nope. My family had issues like any other family, but it was pretty “normal”. I’ve noticed however, that what was fashionable in the childrearing of yesterday is now considered barbaric and obsolete. Today, we are told, that if we “make” our children eat what’s in front of them will develop eating disorders. Not giving children “choices” will harm their self esteem, so say the “professionals”.

The very words “eating disorder” sends us into a tailspin. Consequently, after years of permissive parenting at the dinner table, we suddenly realize our children may have never eaten an honest portion of veggies in their entire young lives. In our perfectionism (and boy, parenting is the place where we wear our maternal stripes with pride!) we have been more concerned about our children’s psyches than teaching them an important life skill—eating nutritiously. Because we want to be better parents than our own parents, we want our children to have “perfect” childhoods with no conflict whatsoever. We buy all of that, don’t we? And, to use a food analogy, the proof is the pudding—just take a look at the kids.

Childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions. According to the International Obesity Task Force, there are about 22 million children in the world, UNDER 5 that are overweight or obese! In another study, the Canadian Medical Association reported that obesity among young boys ages 7 to 13 years old, TRIPLED between 1981 and 1996.

That’s just the children. What about the adults? In the United States, 7 out of 10 adults are overweight or obese (according to the Centers of Disease Control)! The problem of obesity or what we like to call Body Clutter, is a FAMILY problem. And we, the parents have a huge responsibility to teach our children how to be healthy (by eating right and exercising) and we do that primarily by example. You can’t preach healthy living if you’re not doing it yourself.

I don’t pretend for a minute to hold all the answers to this and other child rearing dilemmas. Like you, I struggle with my decisions as a parent. However, as a nutritionist, I have to look at the statistics and they are absolutely mind blowing. That’s how I want you to evaluate what I’m saying–look at this from a nutritionist’s point of view.

Believe it or not the family dinner table is one place that you can make a difference in your family health quota. By serving a healthy, balanced meal at least once a day, you’ll be making great progress. But the problem is schedules, sports, dance classes, band practice, church…did I miss something else that has you going almost every night of the week? We often find ourselves in the car at dinnertime schlepping kids to yet another activity during dinner time. Or we’re driving thru for a quick bite (and feeling guilty about it) or going out to dinner (again—there goes the family budget!).

How do we get back to the dinner table anyway? The first step would be to reevaluate your family’s schedule. What is the reality of your schedule? Are you out of the house almost every night of the week? Can any of these activities be combined and done in one night instead of two? Can you eliminate anything?

If you’re out nearly every night of the week, ask yourself these questions honestly: how often are you eating fast food? And even if you are eating fast food, how often are you making the healthiest choices on those menus?

Body Clutter is a FAMILY project– becoming healthy and fueling yourself and your family with the right amount of quality food is a lifestyle, not a diet. Talk to your family about food—have a family meeting. Tell them your intentions and invite them to come aboard. You might not get the warm welcome you’re hoping for when you’re talking about a healthy diet! But stay persistent, buy healthier foods and make them for dinner (how about adding a nice green leafy salad a few times this week for dinner? A bowl of baby carrots for the table? See how easy this can be?). Take a family walk after dinner and leave the TV in the OFF position. Just these little babysteps will make a huge difference.

Remember, you can’t organize clutter; you have to get rid of it. That means body clutter, too.

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Is it your Thyroid?

There is nothing more frustrating than eating a healthy diet, exercising and not losing weight. Doctors look at you suspiciously when you air your complaint (as if you have a 2 pound bag of M & M’s hiding in your purse) and your girlfriends think you’re living in denial.

thyroidWhat’s really going on? Could be an underactive thyroid. This is my personal story and one that is familiar to more than 25 million Americans. The metabolic slowdown of the thyroid may not be the natural progression of “middle age” but a true, under-diagnosed condition of hypothyroidism.

TSH tests (thyroid stimulating hormone) may come back in the “normal” range, but find out what that number actually is. Some practitioners say that conventional medicine’s normal range is too broad 0.5 to 5.5 uU/ml) and point to a .02 to 2.0 range as being more in line with what is optimal.

When I was finally diagnosed, my TSH came back as almost a 6. No wonder my efforts at the gym weren’t paying off. No wonder my healthy diet, calorie careful diet wasn’t helping! And then it got worse– I put on 30 pounds from August to October of 2003 while under a huge amount of stress (this is a root cause of thyroid burnout) and none of my clothes fit. My face was as round as a pumpkin and I was freaking out.

Finally, I was diagnosed with “mild hypothyroidism”. I chose to use a low dose natural thyroid medication (Armor as opposed to synthetic thyroid meds) even though my doctor wanted me to take something else.  7 years later, I’m still on it.

The result? Well, read (or listen) to my book, Body Clutter! I tell my story there. Yes, I lost the weight and it’s stayed off for over 5 years.  Here is some interesting stuff I’ve learned along the way:

The causes for hypothyroidism can be numerous: stress, poor diet, pregnancy, hormone imbalance, some medications, failure of the pituitary gland, inactivity, iodine deficiency, and Hashimoto’s disease (or any other disorder of the thyroid).

The treatment usually includes medication (and according to doctors, for life). Food recommendations are iodine rich foods like sea vegetables (I love sushi and the nori that wraps around the sushi is wonderfully iodine rich), fish, flaxseeds (mill your own flaxseeds in a clean coffee mill and throw this on top of your oatmeal/oatbran cereal in the morning), and walnuts. I adore walnuts crumbled in a salad. Try this salad: chopped romaine lettuce, chopped green apple, walnuts and crumbled blue cheese tossed together with a little olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. Great stuff!

Becoming aware was the main thing. I knew in my heart of hearts something was wrong. It was ME that asked for a thyroid test (btw, ask for a FULL PANEL thyroid test, not just the TSH) and it was because I listened to my body.

I invite you to this same empowered place of listening to your body. It’s yours for the asking. If you know something “just isn’t right”, get yourself to a doctor. If your doctor is condescending, pats you on the hand and wants to give you antidepressants instead of evaluating you, run for your life and find a doctor who will listen. There are a lot of them out there! You need to be heard, not placated and left feeling stupid.

I’m still dealing with my thyroid 7 years later. It’s a battle and tough one at that. But I don’t give up, I don’t stop doing my own research and I try with all my heart to take the best care of myself possible. I’m worth it.

And so are you.