Written on March 3, 2015 at 6:37 pm , by Family Circle Momster blog
Heart disease is responsible for one in four deaths in the U.S. every year, but this mom of three was able to beat it—and you could too. In an eye-opening guest post, she describes her battle with cardiovascular disease and the serious symptoms she ignored that you never should.
By JULIA ALLEN
The bathroom floor at my job was cold and felt good against my face as I was lying there out of breath, dry heaving and dizzy. “Get up. Get back to work,” I kept telling myself.
That was Friday, April 15, 2013, the day my life changed forever. But it started out like any other. I got up at 6:30 a.m., before my three boys—Brock, 14, Bryce, 11, and Miles, 7—and worked myself into a typical frenzy trying to get everyone dressed, fed and out the door on time.
I arrived at my job as branch supervisor at a bank and went through my regular routine: answering emails, dialing into conference calls and putting out fires. Suddenly, I felt a twisting pain in my chest and had difficulty taking my next breath. Then came heartburn, jaw tightening and, the worst part, nausea. An hour later, around 9:30 a.m., I was lying on those bathroom tiles in hopes of calming down and feeling better.
At first, I convinced myself it was the flu. But I told myself I needed to save my sick days for when my kids became ill. I didn’t want to incur unnecessary bills or wait in the emergency room only to hear that nothing was seriously wrong. I needed to be at work to make sure my team was okay. Clearly, my own health and well-being were not a priority!
The symptoms came and went several times throughout that day, but as the hours passed, they only became more intense. Eventually I remembered a billboard about heart disease and the color red I had previously spotted on the highway in Charlotte, so I decided to Google it and found the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. As I sat at my desk scrolling through the tales of brave women sharing their experiences, I realized I was fighting the reality that I too could be having a heart attack.
Six hours after my initial symptoms appeared, I called my husband and doctor to explain what I was feeling. They both told me to go straight to the hospital, but I still couldn’t put myself first. After leaving work, I first stopped at home to leave my family a note and make some snacks for the kids.
Almost as soon as I got to the front desk of the ER around 2:30 p.m., I collapsed. I had my second heart attack in the hospital that evening. I lay in bed thinking, “Is this really it? Is life ending this way?” I had so many goals I still wanted to achieve. I prayed to God that he would let me live. And he did.
I was in the hospital for about five days. The doctor told me I needed to lose weight, exercise more, cut back on salt and sugar and, most important, put my own health at the top of my to-do list. I then spent three months doing cardiac rehab, which included monitored cardio and strengthen training, nutrition counseling and therapy.
Since my family has a history of heart disease, everyone has been tested and we’ve made changes to our food habits and physical activity. To start, my kids, husband and I each suggested one swap, which included avoiding sugary drinks like fruit punch and soda, adding more fruits and veggies to school lunches, giving up sweet cereals, eliminating fried foods, opting for leaner meats and having healthier snacks like yogurt, nuts and granola. I also began drinking a daily green smoothie (I love them!) and taking a walk every day during lunch. Now we’re all focused on heart-healthy living.
Some days are harder than others, but I make one good-for-me choice at a time—and my family is my motivation. The greatest lesson I’ve learned through this ordeal is that being healthy includes mind, body and soul. They all work together. So to other women I say, slow down, take care of your beautiful self and, please, make your heart a priority!
Julia Allen is 46 years old and lives in Charlotte, NC. She’s a proud two-time heart attack survivor and national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women.
Written on November 21, 2014 at 12:02 pm , by Family Circle Momster blog
Being the parent of a teen girl has never been easy. But being a parent of a teen girl in this gadget-driven, video-vixen, text-versus-talk culture can be monumentally difficult. In this guest post, Sophia A. Nelson, author of The Woman Code: Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, explains how to rise above pop culture, catty friends and blaring headphones to give your daughter the tools she needs to succeed.
As an aunt of one tween (age 12) and a bona fide teen (age 16), I take some pride in being very in touch with this new generation (Generation Text, Generation Connection or, more fondly, Gen Y) of young ladies. As a speaker, the author of two successful books about women, and a coach for women in corporate America, faith-based communities and universities, I cannot stress enough how important it is for us as moms, aunts, mentors and role models to boldly and honestly take back our girls by teaching them to know their value.
Of all the modern things we struggle with as women of our time, variations on one age-old question still determine how far we will go in life: “Am I good enough?” or “Can I be enough?” or “Am I worth enough?” Our girls struggle with this even more. They are constantly bombarded with images of beauty, overt sensuality and celebrities who make it to the top by way of YouTube—or worse. They experience the world far differently from us. And it’s up to us to be the bridge over turbulent waters to help keep them centered and focused on what matters most: their value.
How? you ask. It’s really simple.
We have got to reengage in old-fashioned conversation (that means speaking and eye-to-eye connecting) with our daughters. Make them put the gadgets down. We have to talk, not text. We have to stop trying to be a friend and start being what our moms and grandmoms were to us: teachers, advisors, protectors and disciplinarians without apology.
Here are five keys I use with my own nieces, and that I write about in The Woman Code. When put into practice, they shift the energy in our relationships as older women connecting with the next generation of young women.
1. Value yourself. Yes, we can tell our girls, daughters and nieces that their value is not defined on a TV set, a YouTube video or social media. We can drill home that it is defined from within. But know that they are also watching how YOU value yourself. So make sure you are teaching and leading by example.
2. Dare to engage in courageous conversations. Don’t duck the hard issues young girls face today. Be open and be willing to listen. You are the adult. Make sure they know you are there to protect and love them, and that you actually were their age once. It’s all about connection and conversation.
3. Teach your daughters to be authentic. Let them know who proper role models are: women like first lady Michelle Obama or singer Carrie Underwood. Teach them to live from their gifts from the inside out, not to be part of a crowd or a follower.
4. Share with your daughters the power of choosing the right friends early in life. I call it “know your front row.” If you see your daughters with the wrong crowd, intervene. Explain why these friends are not going to help them to win in life. Stress the importance of not engaging in gossip, bullying other girls or allowing themselves to be bullied. This is a favorite pastime of girls—tearing down other girls. And it causes great damage for years to come.
5. Prepare them to guard their hearts—not gate them, but protect them so that they will love the right men, surround themselves with the right friends and honor their deepest desires for marriage and family later in life.
Sophia A. Nelson is an award-winning author and journalist. She is a noted TV personality and thought leader on all things women. Her new book, The Woman Code: 20 Powerful Keys to Unlock Your Life, is now in stores everywhere. You can tweet her @iamsophianelson.
Written on September 9, 2014 at 8:20 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
By Karmen Lizzul, Family Circle creative director
I was really excited to try Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet, as I had thought of doing it a couple of years ago when I first heard about it. Back then, I was moving and things got really hectic and I totally forgot about it.
The plan has so many of my favorite foods. I love vegetables and fruit and, as suggested, ate as much as I wanted during mealtimes. (Dr. Furhman recommends fasting between meals.) The six-week plan does not include meats or dairy. A salad and four fresh fruits are suggested daily. I loved eating all the fruit I wanted, but I did miss some stuff, like olive oil. I love my olive oil. And I am a creature of habit, so I missed my go-to dishes like poached eggs with whole wheat toast and grilled chicken. I did create a flexible new staple dish where switching up the vegetables let me change the flavor: a stir-fry with light coconut milk, Thai green curry and tofu. I would have it with a salad, and organic fruit for dessert. For a treat, I would bake an apple and sprinkle cinnamon on it.
It was hard at times, I won’t lie. One particularly tough day I was at the shore with friends and everyone was getting ice cream. I admit it: I caved. Dr. Fuhrman would not have been proud. But I still lost weight. I think that’s why this is a way to live more than a diet. It’s not as if I want to go back to eating processed foods, saturated fats and antibiotic-soaked meats. I like knowing that everything going into my body is clean. And even if I detour once in a while, it’s not as damaging as the way I ate before.
If you’re looking for a lifestyle change and a way to eat clean and healthy food, I highly recommend this diet. But I wouldn’t call it a diet. It’s really a new way to look at food and honor your body so it can take you on a long and happy journey.
Have you ever tried the Eat to Live diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.
Written on September 4, 2014 at 10:30 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
By Jill Feigelman, Family Circle assistant web editor
There’s nothing I love more in the summer than going to the beach and relaxing when I get home. But two Sundays last July were different. I had a new agenda: preparing my breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next day. Why? Because I was starting the Hungry Girl diet.
As a first-time dieter, I took to the Hungry Girl approach because it was about portion control and eating real food.
While I prepped the lunch—plus my separate snacks of kale chips, broccoli and nuts, and tilapia for dinner—one thing struck me. Some of the portions seemed so small! Was I going to be starving? How is 4 ounces of turkey—just one slice—going to sustain me?
I also wondered how long I would be able to keep this up. I went to bed that night thinking about all the food I’d had at the beach that day and how I wouldn’t be able to do that come tomorrow.
Fast-forward to the end of my two-week trial: I am 9 pounds slimmer and not afraid of what a portion size is or should be. The first week, I was actually stuffed during the day. Sometimes I really had to force myself to eat the three snacks and meals. But you have to eat them all.
Although I’m a pretty fit person, I’d started to slack off about a month or two ago. I wanted to do this diet to get back to eating healthy. And while the diet was easy, I have to say that if you’re a busy person it does involve a lot of planning and shopping. I love to cook, but the recipes in this book sometimes were a bit too easy and simple in flavor for me, so I added a bit more spice than what the recipes called for.
Even though I’m off the diet, I continue to Hungry-fy some meals. I love the Crunchy Beef Tacos (top photo), Girlfredo Broccoli Slaw Bowl (above), Tropical Yogurt and Carrot Fries. Still, it’s nice not to have to worry about being so strict when I dine out now. I also think this diet would make me feel even better if I were exercising too.
Some of the biggest surprises: 24 pistachios is a serving size, and drinking hot lemon water in the morning really does curb your hunger. It’s not a myth. A myth is that you have to be hungry when dieting—which is absolutely not true where Hungry Girl is concerned.
Have you ever tried the Hungry Girl diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.
Written on September 2, 2014 at 8:30 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
By Lisa Kelsey, Family Circle art director
Let me start by saying I’m from an Italian family. In other words, pasta and bread were like a religion when I was growing up. Since my folks were from the north, in addition to olive oil, butter was used liberally and, of course, cheese was on most things we ate. My mother, from Florence, used to say people from her fair city were called “mangia-fagioli”—bean eaters, so those were on the menu a lot. And don’t even get me started on the vino!
To go on the Paleo Diet I would have to give up all that—grains, dairy, beans, alcohol—in addition to sugar and anything processed or pickled, like salami and peperoncini! You might say trying the Paleo Diet would be a form of foodie suicide. Me being on this diet would be pretty much like dropping a giraffe in the middle of the Antarctic to see how it fares.
So why did I choose it? I wanted to see if I really would feel different if I eliminated dairy and wheat from my diet. I wanted to lose a little weight, have more energy and try to lessen some stomach problems I’d being having on and off. Plus I just love a foodie challenge.
The first week, as prescribed by the book, was all about getting into the right mindset for the big change. I almost skipped this part, but since it was going to be so daunting I thought I’d better take the opportunity to psych myself up. As suggested, I started a Pinterest board and filled it with images that represented what I wanted in my life; photos of activities I look forward to, such as hiking and open-water swimming; and favorite inspirational quotes, like this one from Marcus Aurelius: “When you arise in the morning think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” I wanted to get a good night’s sleep and wake up in the morning refreshed.
The cover of Paleo for Beginners promises “117 Paleo foods you can eat.” Since I can probably name that many cheeses I like to eat, I knew I would feel limited and was going to want to eat as many of those foods as possible. In addition to more than the usual amount of seasonal (and organic) vegetables, my shopping list included some things I wasn’t used to, like quinoa, coconut oil, plantains and almond milk.
With no sugar allowed, I wanted to make sure I could satisfy my sweet tooth, so I stocked up on fruit. I went for snackable fruit, like cherries and berries. Knowing that I would be eating more meat on this diet, I was excited to try some of the game that’s mentioned in the book, including ostrich and alligator. Although a local grocery listed these items on their website, when I got to the store I found you had to special order them, so instead I went for grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, bison and lamb. Those meats were more expensive, but my grocery bill wasn’t higher than usual since I skipped all the chips, drinks and other packaged foods I would normally buy.
Taking a lead from the recipes in the book, I came up with my own versions. My first breakfast was something I’d never made before: plantains fried in coconut oil sprinkled with flaky sea salt. I had fun experimenting with almond milk, which I put in my coffee along with honey. I was slightly put off by the curdled look, but it tasted fine. I made a side dish of sautéed kale with walnuts and red onion, and had my husband grill marinated lamb. I made a cold salad of quinoa with toasted almonds and dried cranberries. I was so proud of myself that I started sharing my #paleo experiments on Instagram and Facebook, and it wasn’t long before friends were asking me if I was painting bison on the walls of my basement (inspired by Paleo’s other name, the Caveman Diet) or posting “What’s for dinner tonight, Wilma Flintstone?” on my Facebook wall.
As long as I planned ahead, I didn’t have that much trouble sticking to the diet. The challenge was being out and about, like when my daughter wanted to go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries and I had to eat my burger with no bun. No bun = no fun.
Afterward we stopped at Starbucks. I had a black iced coffee while my daughter slurped up her whipped-cream-topped cookie-infused Frappuccino. Also not fun. After working late one night, I was running through Grand Central and trying to grab dinner for the train. The only Paleo-friendly thing I could find was shrimp cocktail.
All in all, though, it went pretty well. I didn’t feel hungry all the time, my energy was up and I was starting to lose a little weight. Also—no stomach problems. Could I stick with this diet forever? No way. But I will incorporate elements of Paleo into my regular diet. And as much as I love ‘em, I’ll definitely cut down on the pasta and bread.
Have you ever tried the Paleo Diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.
Written on August 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm , by Family Circle Momster blog
By Danielle Hester, Family Circle web editor
I love diets. In fact, dieting is one of my many hobbies—something I proudly have in common with Mindy Kaling. From Dr. Ian’s 4 Day Diet to the Whole30 program to juice cleanses, I’m not one to stick to a set routine.
So when I volunteered to test out a weight-loss book for an upcoming story and the health director gave me a list to choose from, it wasn’t surprising that I’d already tried four of the eight options. At random, I chose Lisa Lillien’s The Hungry Girl Diet. The title was appealing and the tagline even more so: “Big Portions. Big Results. Drop 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks.” Count me in!
For the first week, I was kind of a diet snob. I didn’t jump on the Hungry Girl bandwagon right away. I didn’t particularly care for her substitution options. Liquid egg whites? No, thanks! And there were a lot of behaviors required that I already exhibited, like drinking lemon water every morning and substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream. Aside from giving in to my dinosaur-sized sweet tooth, which requires I have at least one sugary treat a day, my eating habits are consistently healthy. I told everyone the recipes weren’t challenging enough, that my food intake was very similar and I wouldn’t lose much weight.
But Lillien slowly started to win me over. I found two recipes that I really enjoyed: the Mega Fruit ‘n Yogurt Bowl and the Crunchy Beef Tacos. (I substituted ground turkey for beef.) Many of the suggested snacks were store-bought, grab-and-go options. And the portion sizes were filling, so much so that I struggled to consume the required 1,200 to 1,300 calories per day. I was beginning to think maybe there really was something to this eat-more-weigh-less concept.
By the end of the challenge, I started to appreciate the Hungry Girl diet from a different perspective: Just because it wasn’t the right diet for me (I lost only 3 pounds), doesn’t mean it isn’t a great program to follow. My coworker lost 9 pounds on Hungry Girl.
Overall, I think this diet is best for people who want to change their eating habits and make better choices when it comes to food selection and portion control. I also think it’s best for people looking to lose a significant amount of weight. For someone like me, who has a consistent and balanced diet of fruits, veggies, protein and healthy fats, the Hungry Girl diet didn’t take me out of my comfort zone, like, maybe, the 10-Day Detox diet would have.
Hungry Girl also requires a lot of food preparation. It was hard for me to balance long days in the city with long nights in the kitchen preparing six meals to take with me in the morning. I think stay-at-home spouses or someone who works from home would love this diet.
The major plus: I was able to step away from my indulgences, cleanse my body and even lose a few inches off my waistline! Now on to my next diet. Any suggestions?
Have you ever tried the Hungry Girl diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.
Written on August 26, 2014 at 9:30 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
By Lisa Mandel, Family Circle digital director
I’ve found myself in dressing rooms all over the tri-state area vowing to start a diet this very second about a million times. Okay maybe two million. But I usually lose my mojo by lunchtime the next day. A good run would take me through the work week, but I’d never survive a weekend. So nobody was more surprised than me to find myself at the 14th day of a two-week commitment to road test The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy—and ready to stick with it for another 14 days!
It all started three weeks earlier, when my prep for the diet began. I read The Fast Metabolism Diet and started to visualize myself following the plan, losing weight and finally slipping easily into my cropped white jeans. All that mental exercise propelled me, a few days later, to Sunday evening, which I spent shopping and preparing several staple foods so I’d have them at the ready.
I wanted to do all I could to set myself up for success this time, so:
1. I told a bunch of people I was doing this diet. I wanted to be accountable to others. Layer on that I’d be dieting for a story in the magazine and alongside seven colleagues. We’d be able to support and encourage one another, and maybe even compete to stick to our respective plans.
2. I allowed myself some caffeine and alcohol. The diet requires you to completely avoid dairy, wheat, corn, refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I decided to take the low road and drink one cup of organic coffee each day with a splash of rice or almond milk. I do have to live among other people, so being a complete and total bear will not fly. Caffeine was reduced, not eliminated. And on gorgeous July evenings when the sun set well past 8 p.m., I would not “cheat” but rather “allow” myself to have a few glasses of wine (not all at once) and enjoy lean meats that might have been marinated in something other than lemon juice and organic broth.
3. I changed my definition of success, which can be measured in more than just pounds lost. An equally important goal for me is to just plain feel better. I want to wake up energized and refreshed. I’m hoping that taking a break from processed foods and empty carbs will result in some type of change.
Clearly, I was not a religious convert to the Fast Metabolism Diet, as many people are. For me there was a lot to remember: Cauliflower is okay, but only in phase 3. Yes to watermelon, but only if it’s a phase 1 or 2 day. But I did carve out a version of the diet that I could manage and that I was dedicated to sticking to. And I liked it. And I lost 4.8 pounds. And, here’s the best part, I felt great. Not because I looked less fat—although it feels pretty good to zip my jeans and not see the dreaded spillover.
I felt great because I was proud of myself for sticking to the goals I’d set. I slept more soundly, I felt more clearheaded and I had noticeably more energy. I was suddenly game to clean out the linen closet. On a weeknight. After work. (Who does that?)
After I’d survived a friend’s backyard party and managed to eat 4 ounces of boiled shrimp, salad and crudités, eschewing absolutely every other extremely delicious thing served except two glasses of Chardonnay, I noticed I felt satisfied and victorious. I knew from that moment on I could do it again, at the next dinner or the next time there were cupcakes on the free table at work. (You try working at a magazine where the fabulous desserts you see in our pages are tested and tested again and then given to staffers at right about 3:30 p.m.— just when your sweet tooth is sweet-talking you.)
Bonus outcome: I made some changes in food choices for the diet that I’m guessing will be lifelong changes for me–and for my kids. We all loved quinoa and wild rice just as much as white rice and couscous. Turns out roasted sweet potatoes are delicious (and much sweeter) than less-nutritious white potatoes. But nothing is sweeter than success!
Have you ever tried the Fast Metabolism Diet? Post a comment and tell us about it.
Written on July 30, 2014 at 11:31 am , by Family Circle Momster blog
Downsizing can lead to some tough questions. Like, how do you throw out a lifetime of memories?
By Sandra Bornstein
It took me a few seconds before I summoned the strength to open the first box on my cluttered basement shelf. Labeled “treasures,” it was filled with my children’s old drawings and art projects, each one wrapped in white tissue paper. As I started to unpack, memories from my four sons’ early school years raced through my head. Each item made me hopscotch back and forth through time.
There was one—a piece of paper marked with a few colored scribbles—that I couldn’t place. But it brought me back to my eldest son’s preschool years. He rarely sat still and had almost no interest in art.
I found colorful handiworks in another box; an elaborate mask and an assortment of ceramic pieces made me pause. These were done by my other sons—they definitely had more artistic talent than their older brother.
Each one was indeed a treasure. But were they all worth saving?
Early on, I had chosen to hang on to most of my children’s artistic endeavors. I wanted my kids to know that I valued their efforts and was proud of their accomplishments. I knew what it felt like to have one’s creativity shunned. My mother always threw away my art projects the same day I brought them home. I didn’t want to repeat that behavior. Instead, I showcased my children’s artwork for at least several weeks. Some noteworthy pieces stayed on display indefinitely.
Weeks before, my husband and I had decided to downsize. We simply couldn’t take everything with us. Every item in my house had to undergo a new level of scrutiny. I shed a few tears as bits and pieces of my children’s childhood were smashed into black plastic bags.
So much about our decision to move was difficult. My family had relocated to Colorado to be closer to the fresh mountain air of the Rockies. This was my dream house, filled with fond recollections. The home itself was amazing, each room designed for a large family. We spent movie nights gathered around a large screen with a professionally wired sound system. We exercised together in the basement, which was outfitted with fitness equipment. It wasn’t possible to envision that the house would become hollow and lifeless when our kids became adults.
Maintaining a big home once my children were gone was hard enough, but after my husband was in a near-fatal ski accident, it no longer made sense. We had new priorities. We wanted to travel and enjoy the nearby Rocky Mountains.
It took a couple of months to sort through all our things. I discarded the notion that I needed to save an item simply because it might be needed at some unknown future date. I was overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff I had voluntarily chosen to keep. Each week, we filled our two large trash receptacles and the oversize recycling bin.
Now that the tedious and sentimental process of downsizing is behind me—and my husband and I are happily settled into our new, smaller home—I am relieved and content with my decision, as overwhelming as it was at the time.
I am thrilled that I have two less bathrooms to clean and that my vacuuming routine is considerably less onerous. Moreover, I am now enjoying a less-expensive life that includes lower taxes, utility bills and mortgage payments. But most important is the fact that my husband and I have more time and money to enjoy life’s adventures—and to make some new memories in the process.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of the award-winning book May This Be the Best Year of Your Life. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. Sandra currently writes a blog that focuses on life as an empty nester, book reviews, author interviews and travel. For more information visit sandrabornstein.com.