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Digital Running Club » Columns, Downsizing » Planning & Shopping & Cooking, Oh My!

Planning & Shopping & Cooking, Oh My!

... and we'd cook together every night...

If wishes can come true, my wish is a visit from Curtis Stone! Now, it’s not because he’s a hot Australian guy, but because he knows how to prepare healthy meals and has a desire to help others. After years of fast food and takeout, my cooking skills are rather scary! My grocery shopping skills are almost as bad. But a day with Curtis would certainly improve my shopping and cooking skills!

Although Coach Brian is mainly working with me regarding walking, he has given me a few guidelines regarding food.

My Food Rules

  • No items containing high fructose corn syrup
  • No items containing hydrogenated oil
  • No soda pop
  • Follow the 80/20 rule. At least 80% of my food needs to be made with fresh ingredients and 20% can be prepackaged.

Yikes! Brian doesn’t have a clue about my cooking skills!

At the start, I tentatively planned my meals for 2 weeks and even did a Google search to try to figure out healthy brands of bread, cereal, etc., but didn’t have much success. My first trip to the grocery store lasted longer than 2 hours! I was shocked at how many so called “health” foods, including the cereal that I had been eating for months, actually contained high fructose corn syrup. To this day, I still can’t find healthy bread that meets the criteria AND tastes good.

For breakfast now I have oatmeal with apples and raisins. I only burned the oatmeal a few times at the beginning, but now can successfully fix enough oatmeal for 3 days at a time. Whew! One meal down and two to go!

Mid-morning I usually have a banana and string cheese. Lunch is typically a salad with protein or a turkey sandwich along with fruit and carrots. Mid-afternoon I enjoy Greek yogurt.

Coming up with ideas for supper continues to be a challenge, especially since I have a hard time looking at raw fish or meat. I finally got brave and fixed tuna steaks a couple of times. The first one bent my fork, but the second one was delicious!

I’m certainly putting forth an effort to cook though. A few months ago I loaded my dishwasher once every couple of weeks. Now I run it at least every couple days!

Drive-Through and Take Outs

During a recent 1 1/2 mile walk, I decided to walk up and down a few side streets. On one particular street, I realized that McDonalds was across the road. There it was.  Big and bold with its golden arches. Like an old flickering black and white movie, my mind began to recall the numerous times I’ve driven through McDonalds drive-through. My favorite meal was an order of hotcakes, a cinnamon roll and a large coke. Yet, I also recalled several times when I purchased a burger or chicken nuggets, but wishing I had “real” food to eat instead.

The same was true for many of the takeouts that I used to do. At the time, I justified getting takeouts by telling myself that I hadn’t bought groceries yet or I was in a hurry. When, in reality, I was exhausted or physically hurting too much to even think about cooking. After a while, takeout seemed rather blah and once again I was wishing for “real” food.

Hillbilly Bread and Spaghettio’s

Getting advice from Father Joe

Thanks to “Father Joe”, my health coach, I have reflected a lot on my past health habits. I think it’s wonderful that a lot of emphasis is being placed nationally on helping kids to develop good health habits. I’m living proof that poor health habits as a kid is highly likely to lead to an unhealthy adult.

As a child, I was allergic to milk and several fruits. There weren’t as many lactose-free items available back then, so once my mother discovered that I liked Hillbilly Bread (yes, that really was the name) and Spaghettio’s, I was allowed to eat them for lunch or supper whenever I wanted. My parents felt sorry for me when I couldn’t eat ice cream and other milk products, so they tended to not insist that I try new foods. Eventually I could have milk products, but I grew up being an extremely picky eater and addicted to sugary items.

Every now and then I think back to Mrs. Post, our gym teacher. We were out on the field for softball and I was the catcher. Mrs. Post asked, “What are you doing after school today on this beautiful sunny day?”

“I’m gonna stop at Bootsie’s (small candy store) on my way home and get two Coca-Colas and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup!”, I replied.

With her eyes bulging out, Mrs. Post gasped, “Have you tried drinking water!”

To which I responded with a laugh, “Who needs water?”

Poor Mrs. Post. I really didn’t know at the time that water should be my beverage of choice!!!

An “Ah Ha” Moment

Recently while enjoying a healthful meal, I began to feel guilty for savoring the food. For some reason, my mind was trying to tell me that if I’m attempting to lose weight, then I shouldn’t be enjoying food. Then it hit me.  For years I’d witnessed my mother’s attempts to lose weight. She would have very little food on her plate and often food that she could barely stomach. She would prepare a scrumptious meal for the rest of us and fight back the tears as she ate her meal.

In addition, a few years ago I tried one of the popular diets that provides the meals. I thought it was ideal for me since I don’t cook much. However, I found myself resenting eating boxed meals. Some of the meals were okay, but others were dreadful. Because I was receiving meals via auto-ship, I literally ended up with hundreds of dollars of food that eventually expired.

But, now I know eating healthful foods doesn’t mean hating what you eat! I’m learning that low-calorie meals can be full of taste and are filling. I’m looking forward to becoming a better cook and finding healthful foods that make my taste buds dance.

My Progress Thus Far

New York's Winter Wonderland

Accountability makes all the difference! Knowing that I have to report to Brian, I don’t let excuses get in my way. There have been several times if left to my own accord, I probably would’ve given up–sinus headache, red swollen toes, change in work schedule, forgetting to reset the alarm… but instead, I’m learning to view these as minor obstacles that I can easily work around. In the words of Samuel Johnson, “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

I am now walking 5 days a week: one mile on Mondays & Wednesdays,  a half mile on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and one and a half miles on Saturdays. Given that I live in the midst of winter wonderland, most of my walks tend to be indoors, which means cranking up the music and using pennies to keep track of my laps. My blood pressure is now 132/78. For half of my life it averaged 148/90. This past month I’ve lost 15 pounds, making a total loss of 27 pounds. I no longer need to take 4 ibuprofen in the morning and 4 at night. All of these things encourage me to stick with the program.

Let’s Get Real!

  • No more excuses. Set your alarm clock a half hour early, get up, and get moving.
  • If you’re a pop-aholic, make a commitment to switch from soda pop to water.
  • Try a new low-calorie recipe once a week. When you find one that you really like, share it with us!

What’s Your Story???
What are your fitness goals for 2011?  Have you started working on these goals?  If so, what keeps you motivated?  If not, what’s holding you back? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Written by

Barb Bergerson lives in Western New York. She has a passion for helping people and getting to know their life stories. She teaches part-time in a jail, is a church administrative assistant, and enjoys freelance writing. Barb loves spending time with her nieces, playing games and relaxing by her pond. She’s excited about focusing on her health and getting back into the game of life. Get updates on Barb's progress on Facebook.

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49 Responses to "Planning & Shopping & Cooking, Oh My!"

  1. Amanda says:

    I wonder if my rainbow chili would be in the “ok” list (not sure if it has the no, no ingredients or not). No meat but full of a variety of beans, including black, chili beans and dark kidney beans. It has a variety of veggies you can add to it. Corn, red and green peppers chopped, zuchinni and squash chopped, onion chopped and of course tomatoes (I have made this with fresh garden tomatoes before)
    I always thought chili had to be brown meat, beans and tomatoes but it’s so good with out the meat and a wide variety of veggies. Plus this recipe would be easy for you to throw in a crock pot and have waiting for you after a long day.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Amanda. I love chili so I’ll certainly try some healthy options. Coach Brian’s wife Raffi recently posted a chili recipe. Maybe she’ll post the link here.

  2. Barb says:

    Just so people know, the picture of me with Curtis Stone was a surprise!!! I still can’t stop laughing!!!

  3. Marsha says:

    You are a excellent writer. You tell it like it is and you are not afraid to show your weaknessess. Reading about your struggles and how you have overcome them with such an understanding, gives me new hope in my struggles. You are a blessing to all of us. And remember, my offer to walk with you still stands. But I do prefer safe sidewalks…

  4. Shawnee says:

    To answer your question about my health goals, I would just like to get up earlier in the morning…today I slept past the time that I had planned. It made me frustrated becasue if I don’t get up early, then I can’t workout. I think I need to have a new goal and that is to get to bed earlier so I won’t have a problem getting out of bed in the morning! I did workout last night and I promised myself I will work out tonight…so one day at a time!

    I love your blog! Keep it coming because it is motivating me!

  5. Brian Darrow says:

    Getting to bed early definitely helps get you out of bed in the morning, Shawnee. It also helps to know that the day generally goes better when you’ve completed a workout in the morning and you can look forward to relaxing in the evening when you’re tired from your day. Another great motivation is some kind of event – whether it’s a 5K race a short triathalon or even a marathon, you’re more likely to get out of bed if you know you’ll be rewarded with the excitement of sharing your goal with hundreds or even thousands of other people.

  6. Sylvia Meyers says:

    I have enjoyed following your journey. Now if there were only a program for someone with damaged spinal nerves that make your legs go numb when you sit or walk!! :-( However, I will start with the nutrition thing, and that will help some!! Keep up the good work.

    • Barb says:

      I think of you often while I’m walking Sylvia. The frustrations that I feel with my partial numbness don’t begin to compare with your situation. Would you be able to do a statiionary bike for short amounts at a time?

  7. Jeremy Gorham says:

    The sacrifices have been well worth it! Erin and I are proud of you. Not only are you seeing results in weight loss, blood pressure and such but it sounds like from this article that you are learning a lot of about food and health… something of which I know nothing about :0) These are all great tips. Also, great job on the egg casserole on Sunday. Keep up the great work!

    • Barb says:

      I’m still looking forward to a cooking lesson or two from Erin. Shhhh…about the egg casserole…that’s a no no! However, I didn’t make it for me!

  8. I remember Mrs. Post! She was wonderful. Great article Barb.

  9. Beckie says:


    I love the picture too…

    You are such an inspiration…everytime I think about not getting on the treadmill I think of you and get on and just do it.

  10. Bill says:

    Teeeerrrrrrific….great progress.

  11. Francoise Merry says:

    Thanks Barb for being such an inspiration! Thanks for being so honest. Thanks for helping me to want to be back on track with eating more healthy…and not having excuses that snacking helps when I am tired. Thanks for posting ideas of what healthy snacks are….I also burnt by first meal for Bill, by the way, just after our wedding….because I was chatting with the neighbors….I am better so keep up the good work! Now as far as walking, I have Benji as a motivator to go out and walk even when the weather is not too good, because he just loves walking…and he is only 22 months….Way to go Benji! thanks Barb….I love you and am proud of you!

  12. April says:

    First of, the picture with you and Curtis is so funny! : ) Secondly, I love the picture of you cooking! It makes me want to eat healthy-apples do that to me.

    More importantly, Barb, you are such an inspiration to so many people!!! People all over struggle with healthy eating choices and self-control (including myself) and you give us the motivation and positive mindset we need. Everyone needs support and I hope you know you have many supporters and cheerleaders! Keep being positive and keep writing fuuny inspirational articles! I always look forward to reading them. And yes, warm weather will be here for you soon so you can walk outside. Yay!

  13. April says:

    First, the picture with you and Curtis is so funny! :) Also, I love the picture of you cooking. It makes me want to eat healthy-apples do that to me.

    More importantly, Barb, you are such an inspiration to so many people! People all over have poor eating choices and a lack of self-control (including myself) and you help to motivate them. Your motivation and positive energy are contagious! Really! I am sitting here drinking a Dr. Pepper and I feel guilty (this isn’t to make you feel bad though :). Keep staying positive and keep writing funny, inspiring articles! I look forward to reading them. Also, warm weather will melt the snow and ice for you soon so you can walk outside. :)

  14. April says:

    Well then, the first reply I typed DID go through (the comp. told me it didn’t). : ) Oh well…

  15. Regina says:

    Your great attitude shows through!! Thanks for sharing and being an inspiration!! Keep up the great work!

  16. Marilyn Edwards says:

    I was tempted to write “I don’t get it.”, but, since it’s a personal joke between us, I’ll leave all joking aside. I really have to say that during the years I’ve known you, you have taken many steps to enhance your life and been successful. You have an inner strength that I admire and am certain that you will make your goal in this most brave endeavor.
    I’m proud to know you.

  17. Doria says:

    I have enjoyed reading your story. I think it is wonderful that you have such self-control,you are an inspiration to all of us.If you want a walking partner sometime, give me a call. Best of luck. I look forward to more articles.

  18. Patti says:

    Great to follow your progress, Barb! I particularly like the food rules. Mine are: nothing white and nothing sweet (meaning no refined starches or sugars, also no artificial sweeteners.) I also cut out eating between all planned meals (3 meals + 1 snack). Giving up snacking in the evening was a huge challenge until i discovered that a cup of hot herbal or flavored tea (decaf) is fairly satisfying most times.

  19. Heather Madison says:

    Wow, I did not know that much about you. This is great, you really are in inspiration to others, I know I am going to think twice before letting my boys eat whatever they want. I am so happy to see all of your success. I love to cook and I know what you mean about getting fast food and craving real food, I cook for a diabetic and my husband now is having some blood pressure issues as well. We should get together and exchange some recipes!
    For craving sweets, I have found that most of the time fresh fruit will help get rid of the craving.
    Keep with it and good luck!

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Heather. I’m very limited on recipes! But as I’m little by little trying healthful recipes and find something that I like, I’m keeping the recipe. I’d love to have you share some of yours.

  20. genene says:

    Way to go sis keep up the good work i know you have the will power to keep going i love you

  21. Sarah says:

    Dear Barb, It makes me so happy to hear you are feeling so good about the changes you are experiencing. I walk every day, if you ever want some company, let me know. It is a time for me to relax and reflect. My dog comes too, so there is always the chance he will do something to entertain me, or horrify me. Like get some groundhogs…Keep the faith, Barb.

  22. Barb says:

    Walking has really changed how I feel. I was in a lot of pain when I first started out and I’m not now. I also feel I smile more because I’m not feeling so worn out. Would love to take a walk together sometime.

  23. Erin Gorham says:

    Awesome article Barb! I LOVE the picture of you and Curtis! Looks so real! :o) Keep up the good work, and it was great “running in to you” on our walks down main street.

    • Barb says:

      Really do wish Curtis would cook with me!!! lol The Creative Arts Center would be an awesome place for him to teach me!

  24. Mary Lewis says:

    Barb, you are an awesome writer….what a gift. You are making such progress! The big smile on your face is the best part. Seeing you get the weight off and knowing you are eating healthier is all great, but the changes on the inside are the best. Your smile shows us all how much you are changing on the inside. It’s great to get past some of those ‘childhood’ sadnesses and poor choices. Keep going and keep smiling!!

  25. Barb says:

    Thanks a lot Mary.

  26. Indri says:

    Love the article and the pictures – what a hoot! Great progress, and it really shows inside-out. Good smile, positive outlook – truly inspiring. So proud of you Barb. I am also impressed that Brian actually chime in on this blog – Brian Darrow is the wiz behind the curtain and he is real … LOL.

    • Barb says:

      You’re too funny Indri! I sure hope Brian Darrow is real! I’m head to the Emerald City (well, FL) and I plan on meeting Brian and his family!

  27. Phil says:

    You’re doing fantastic! I’m proud to work with you.

  28. lindsay says:

    i just love reading your articles barb! of course, i’m enjoying your transformation and hearing the excitement in your voice (fingers?) as well.

    eating healthy takes ‘work’, but only because we are so used to grabbing convenient foods. a little effort will go a long way as you are already seeing! i try to prepare a good bit of food on the weekends so that i can just have leftovers during the week when i am too tired/not in the mood to spend time in the kitchen after a long day at work.

    keep up the good work!

  29. Connie says:

    Hi Barb———just wanted to let you know what an inspiration you have been to me.I have been tracking your SUCCESS STORY through the digitalrunning site and you are doing an AMAZING JOB!!!!!!!!!! I have also begun using PENNIES to help me keep track of my revolutions around the cemetery where I walk AND it works GREAT!!!One day at a time and one step at a time is what I tell myself in this life changing journey and it does work.Continue knowing YOU CAN DO IT. It may not be easy BUT OH SO VERY REWARDING!!!! Looking forward to more success posts AND pictures.

    • Barb says:

      Thanks Connie. I’m glad the pennies have been working for you! I have been amazed by what can be accomplished and you said a key thing–continue knowing you can do it. I think for the longest time I didn’t KNOW, or at least I didn’t think I knew, what I could do.

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