Sun-Kissed Cantaloupe

December 12, 2011

Sometimes plain fruit gets a bit boring. Keep your taste buds satisfied by jazzing things up a bit.

Using a microplane or grater, zest the rind of one orange over chunks of cantaloupe. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar or artificial sweetener if desired.

Toss and refrigerate for two hours.

So many people have been asking what I’m doing to shed the LBs. Instead of being coy, I’ll share what has been working for me.  But, like anyone offering diet advice, I must add a disclaimer: Before starting any weight loss or exercise regimen, talk to your doctor.


1.  Eliminate temptation from your diet. This is a no-brainer. If there are certain foods you absolutely cannot resist, cut them out 100 percent. Don’t tell yourself you’ll only have one Oreo if that is your weakness. For me, it’s carbs – bread, pasta, rice, crackers, bagels, pancakes, cornbread, muffins, donuts, noodles, stuffing, etc. I adore carbs. Unfortunately, they attach themselves to my arse and thighs with industrial strength fixative. I also have zero impulse control when it comes to these food items, so I simply stopped eating them. That simple.

2.  Move. You gain weight for two reasons – too much food and not enough movement. I was guilty of both. The elliptical is a great choice for those just starting out; it is low impact and you can actually do a decent chunk of time on it without dying, which creates powerful, positive feelings of success. Walk, bike, swim, run, dance, ice skate, canoe, tumble down a hill in a giant hamster wheel. Just get thyself off the sofa and start using all those soft, mushy muscles.

3.  Document. Virtually every diet plan recommends tracking your food intake and activity. I record what I eat for two reasons: the first is so I can look back and review my eating habits if I’m not losing to identify trouble spots (like the time I was eating three Clif bars a day — too many!); the second is that days and weeks of eating healthy create powerful, positive feelings of success.

4.  Support system. Losing weight requires change – frequently significant, lifestyle-altering, permanent change. That’s hard to do alone, so surround yourself with supportive, encouraging, knowledgeable, positive people. Get yourself some cheerleaders. Tell people about your challenges and your accomplishments, and allow yourself  to bask in the glow of their praise. Team Maria includes Mammy Jammy, sister ShaSha,  BFF Shannon and Ricardo Amore.  When my powerful, positive feelings of success are waning, they remind me of what I’ve accomplished and give me a nice kick in the arse to stay on track.

5. Walk the talk. Forty pounds ago I didn’t feel like a person who made healthy lifestyle choices. I didn’t feel active. I didn’t feel self-disciplined. I didn’t feel like I could just say no to Arby’s. But it helped to “pretend” I was this sort of person – I bought cute athletic wear for the gym, I started drinking my coffee black, I even started “pretending” to enjoy edamame and tofu. And you know what? I still hate tofu, but I am a person who makes healthy choices and is active and can say no to potato cakes and a jamocha shake.

6. Be selfish. I struggle with this one, because sometimes my new lifestyle infringes on others. The kids don’t get to have donuts on Sunday morning, and Number Two Son can’t take off in the car because I have to get to the gym. I get mad when my husband monitors my eating, even when he’s just kidding around. I fear friends feel self conscious in restaurants when I order a salad, hold the cheese/croutons/dressing. I recognize that I’m rocking the boat and it makes some folks sea sick. But ultimately we are each responsible for ourselves, and while disconcerting, this change is really a good thing!

7. It’s not a diet. I think the top reason people fail at weight loss is because of the negative connotation to dieting, the sense of deprivation and restriction. They have to forfeit foods they love, foods that soothe them and satisfy them. I’ve been there — looking longingly at a big, juicy bacon cheeseburger and chili fries while I resentfully consume a tasteless hunk of iceberg lettuce. BUT…when I began creating healthful, flavorful meals with quality ingredients, it no longer felt punitive. Now, instead of having that burger and fries, I tempt myself with a spinach salad made of fresh sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of Asian sesame dressing. In the past, I never took the time to realize that a  pint of blueberries probably cost the same as a gallon of ice cream, yet I argued that the berries were too expensive. However, I had no qualms about buying one, two or three gallons of ice cream!

8. Love yourself now. Think about how you treat your best friend or your child. You are patient, kind, supportive, forgive faults and encourage them when they are down. You accept them as they are, while helping them to become better people and live up to their potential. You go out of your way to express your affection and gift them with special tokens. Sometimes you even make difficult choices because you know it is in their best interest (that’s called tough love). So why aren’t you treating yourself the same way? Whether you weight 350 pounds or 150 pounds, you are a wonderful, talented, amazing person. Don’t be afraid to celebrate that magnificence, for while a trim figure goes a long way, it is by no means the full measure of a person. Dare to dance now, even if you jiggle.

1 can black-eyed peas (rinsed and drained)

A bunch of chopped veggies (I used red onion, cucumber, a sweet orange pepper, celery, grape tomatoes and avocado)

Juice of two limes

Drizzle of olive oil

Mix peas and veggies, toss gently with lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.


In the last three months, I’ve made radical changes to my eating habits. Anything remotely close to a processed carb (bread, rice, pasta, crackers, cereal, etc.) is gone. As a carb addict  [My name is Maria Connor, and I’m a carboholic], it’s safer to avoid temptation. Instead, I eat several small meals/snacks throughout the day.

Here are a few examples:  Fruit with yogurt and sprinkle of wheat germ * string cheese and cherry tomatoes * slices of turkey dipped in spicy mustard with sliced veggies * hard-boiled eggs * almonds and a piece of fruit * peanut butter and celery sticks * glass of soy milk and a pumpkin muffin (yes, it’s a carb, but it’s an “okay” carb!)

I usually eat one larger meal at lunch or dinner, depending on my schedule. If I go out to lunch with a friend or attend an event, I’ll scale back the rest of the day. Even for my “regular” meal, I try to avoid loading up on too many calories, so I incorporate lots of veggies, fruit and a modest portion of protein, such as black beans, chicken or cheese.

I will admit it took some time to get accustomed to eating clean, and, as anyone with an eating disorder will tell you, food isn’t just about calories or nutrition or health. Some foods are more powerful than others: They represent comfort and tradition and family and habit. Virtually every day I find myself fighting not to give in to mood foods – those delicacies that soothe a troubled spirit, ease a stressful day or numb a painful emotion. The good news is that I’ve found a few healthful goodies that taste great and make me feel like I’ve indulged myself. See what you think about my five favorite go-to snacks:

Emerald  Cocoa Roast  Almonds – oven-roasted for flavor and crunch, and slightly sweetened with hint of dark chocolate-flavored cocoa powder. Preportioned in 100-cal packs. A fabulous choco-fix.

Clif Bars – at 180 calories, the Mojo Bar is my sweet treat (how about peanut butter and pretzel or nuts, raisins and chocolate chips!). My top choice is Clif Minis – just 100 calories, so I never feel guilty. A Clif Mini and an apple is my favorite post-workout snack.

Chuck E. Cheese String Cheese – I’ve tried different brands of string cheese and this is the ONLY one I like. 80 calories. I’ve been eating these long enough to reconnect with the kid inside – who wants to jump rope!

Archer Farms Real Fruit Strips – available at Target, these cellophane-wrapped goodies are just 45 calories. When I start craving something sweet or I’ve already eaten, one of these usually gets me through the moment without feeling like I’ve made a poor food choice.

Luna Bars – turned on to these little gems thanks to Mammy Jammy. A bit smaller than the Clif Minis, the Luna Minis come in at just 80 calories. A gal can have two and not have to log extra time on the treadmill!

Since I started working out, I’ve gotten stingy with my calories. There isn’t much — except maybe my Mammy Jammy’s homemade pierogies or her poppyseed bread — worth the extra minutes on a treadmill. Still, there are times I crave an indulgence and one of my favorites is pumpkin bread. I discovered this simple recipe years ago and you can do virtually anything with it. Change out the carrot cake mix for chocolate cake mix or yellow cake mix. Toss in raisins or cranberries for added texture and fiber.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 box carrot cake mix (or spice cake mix)

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix cake mix and pumpkin puree just until combined. Portion into muffin tin or mini-loaf pans sprayed with Pam Cooking Spray. Bake 25-45 minutes, until knife or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on rack.

Muffins will be dense and moist.

Nine mini-loaves = ~220 calories per loaf