Can preparing your own meals help you eat less?


 Why do sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them? 

QuoteWhen you make your own sandwich, you anticipate its taste as you’re working on it. And when you think of a particular food for a while, you become less hungry for it later. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, for example, found that imagining eating M&Ms makes you eat fewer of them. It’s a kind of specific satiation, just as most people find room for dessert when they couldn’t have another bite of their steak. The sandwich that someone else prepares is not “preconsumed” in the same way. — Daniel Kahneman

From page 38 of the New York Times Magazine, October 2, 2011 issue.

So now I’m thinking about all of those ginormous restaurant meals that we consume. You know the ones — an appetizer that’s a meal in and of itself; followed by plates that would be used as platters in any other setting holding about 4 pounds of food crammed in between your soup, salad, and bread troughs; all topped off with a 1500-calorie, molten-chocolate-covered cake that could fuel a marathoner for a week.

And, okay, maybe you don’t eat that amount of food every time you sit down at a restaurant, but even if you skip the appetizer and the dessert and stick with the main course, the majority of those choices are two to three times what most folks need to consume at one sitting.

But maybe this line of thinking — the idea that precontemplating your food, especially as you are preparing the meal — might be a support to healthier portion sizes. What a radical notion! So, if I make it myself, I’m likely to eat less of it? Cool.

There’s another piece of this that needs an underline — the ability to eat a different food even when we’re stuffed to the eyeballs with something else. So, if I keep it to a single food or foods eaten together (and not in sequence), I might eat less? Cool.

I’m thinking about this even a step further. What if there’s a spectrum of preconsumption? Maybe sitting down to an a-la-carte, all-you-can eat meal of 50 items (think potluck supper or a buffet) is on one end; ordering off a menu is closer to the middle; microwaving some frozen entrees is starting down the other side; and self-preparing a single, complicated dish from scratch is on the other?

Food Scale-o-Meter: Not to Scale

Clicking on this chart will make it bigger.

Well, then while it will still matter what I choose from my options in each scenario, it may be that by being more aware of my propensity to eat more (and why I would) at  the MegaBuffet Smorgasbord will help prevent me from going banana crackers and having a plate of everything offered. It could also help me make better choices about whether to eat something else after I’ve finished a meal at home. (I do love me some ice cream!)


So, what do y’all think? Can preparing your own meals help you eat less? How do we incorporate this idea into life of healthy eating?

Values: Passion meets Purpose

values dance intuition validation gratitude creative worth love respect success flourish happiness connection flow sing positive possible pointing forward play help love beauty balanced supportive authenticity respect fun generosity integrity open Collaborative growth self-determination rest purpose bliss rest warmth nature celebration love joy delight holistic balanced supportive learning inclusive diverse fun sing breathe I mentioned Jennifer Lee’s The Right-Brain Business Plan in a Happy Quote last week and promised you’d hear more about this book and Jennifer’s smart insights.

Well, here we go…

Just to get your toe wet, we’re starting with a simple concept.

What’s that, Gina?


Okay. Maybe not so simple. But it is a fundamental element of any business, project, faith, school, book, blog… well, it’s a foundational element of life.

As Jennifer points out, “When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized, and that is what people will resonate with the most.”

So, if you aren’t sure what you  — or what the folks you interact with — value, you’re leaving some pretty important stuff up to the prevailing winds. So, in interest of full disclosure, I’ve typed my value words into a cool little Wordle (thanks, Jonathan!) for all to see. And, while I have to admit that it’s a pretty graphic, it’s more than just words to me. These concepts bring up strong emotions when I read and think about them. That’s how I know they are my values — they are important to me and when I am not living according to my values — in my passion and purpose — I’m not happy.

But when I am in the flow — WHEW — get outta my way because nothing is gonna stop me from realizing my goals.

Except for one tiny truth: my proverbial cross to bear, the mixed blessing, my Achilles heal is that I am hardwired — trained from infancy — to put others first. So, nothing I ever do is completely about me and my goals. After years of therapy, we’ve pretty much decided that it isn’t going to be. Evidently, I’ve inherited a PhD in Empathy from my Grandmommy Wandi and, like the procrastination thing, I’ve decided to stop fighting it.

So, in short, the good news for everyone around me is that I am passionate about integrity, authenticity, inclusiveness, accessibility, self-determination, joy, and connection. My purpose is to nurture and guide folks safely and smoothly through change — transitions and transformations. I help people define and pursue their unique and authentic purposes.

Ahhhh. Feels so good to know who you are… feels even better to actually be who you are.

Which leads me to this: Where does your passion meet your purpose? What makes you sing? What makes you banana crackers when it doesn’t happen?

What do you value?

Workout 5 or Why I’d Procrastinate My Death If I Could…

The MegaChallenge 200 or 5 or... Well, it's a start!I love to work out. I love to write. I love to bake bread. I even love — truly — tidying our house.

But I procrastinate each and every one of them until my pants are so tight that I have to buy the next size, my blog goes un-updated for a year, we are forced to eat stale crackers, and the piles of clutter threaten to overtake the lawn.


Because I’m a professional procrastinator. That’s why. I work best for a deadline. Tell me it’s due at midnight and I’ll whip that assignment out and have it on your desk at 11:56. Sharp. And it will be gorgeous.

I used to believe that this was a character flaw. After reading about the first third of Martin Seligman’s latest book*, I’ve decided that it’s my preferred method of accomplishing goals. I am a precontemplator — I work on a task for as long as I’m given and then I finalize the whole thing just as it’s due. If I constantly missed deadlines or turned in shoddy work, I might feel the need to fix this methodology. Since it’s worked for me for decades, I’ve decided to stop fighting it.

So — the question becomes — how do I apply this same work-for-the-deadline mentality to my health goals?  At the risk of hearing the Universe moan, “Duh!” I’ll say it.

I must set a deadline.

The MegaChallenge 200 is about that deadline. It really doesn’t matter whether I work out 100 or 200 or 242 times a year. It matters that I feel some internal pressure to complete a task and mark it off. I’ve stopped pretending that I can be all Zen Master about this. I’m not going to manifest some universal peace and bliss about working out. I just have to put on my shoes and go play some music I love and run! I’m always glad that I did once I actually get on the machine.

So, I have gotten on the machine 5 times since May 22 and once — today for 46 minutes of glorious running to nowhere — in 2 weeks. I am not counting the 15-30 minute walks with Champ as workouts because my body could care less how far I walk. I don’t get any noticeable physical upticks unless I run. So I will. 195 more times before the next MegaConference.

Don’t anyone dare tell me I don’t have to.

*I pre-ordered Flourish and had it in my hands the day it was released. I’m reading it. Along with 18 other titles. I’ll finish it.  Eventually. And then I’ll write a great review. Right after I put out these other fires that I’ve been setting around here. Really.

And This Is Where We Begin… Again…

Workout GearWorkout 1 on the new elliptical trainer is on the books.

36:41 minutes — 4092 strides — 301.1 calories

I do love me some numbers.

But even more than that, I love me some progress. So it feels kind of strange to be starting back at 1 almost exactly 6 years after this MegaChallenge got started. But… here I am.

The good news is that I’m not doing a complete rewind. I haven’t regained all of the weight I lost 6 years ago (and kept off successfully for another 4 years). I’m starting out about 10 – 15 pounds lighter than last time. I’m also starting out much wiser and — um — 6 years older. This means I know what works for me and what doesn’t and what needs to change to get my body into decent shape — even if my 40 year old self knows that it isn’t ever going to be 20 again.

I also know that the scale and my jean size don’t measure my progress. My stamina and ability to say yes to the things I want to do are what actually matter.

Being happy. Feeling good.

Those are my ROI categories as I restart this quest to exercise on a regular basis.

So, why the home version of the elliptical trainer — besides the fact that walking and dieting aren’t what keeps my butt fitting in my wardrobe? Because it means:

  • I don’t have to wait 20 minutes for a turn on the gym version
  • No one will tell me that I only get 30 minutes to do my 70-minute workout.
  • I get to sing out loud. (I love singing while I work out!)
  • I get to be in my home — which I love, love, love.
  • It eliminates the drive to the gym and back.
  • My kids get to do what they actually want to do while I work out rather than my being called 14 times to deal with an issue in the childcare area (only to re-start my wait for a machine.)
  • I get to sing out loud. (I love cranking up the stereo and singing!)
  • I get to enjoy my runs to nowhere without being forced to watch shows that gross me out on screens all over the room.
  • My own private shower — complete with my soaps, scrubs, shampoos, and soft towels — is only steps away.
  • I get to sing out loud. (I may even take up singing in the shower, too!)

Ahhhh. Happy and feeling good.

Bringing it Home

The MegaChallenge 200: The Exercise Blog that Became the Exorcise Blog

After 6 Years, I'm Moving The MegaChallenge 200 Here

Believe it or not, it has been months since I last ran to nowhere.

My life is a scrambled egg of kids and work and homeschooling and grad schooling and partnership with my hubby and, well, somehow the gym doesn’t get on my schedule much. At all. Ever. Unless, of course, it is to take some complement of this crew to the pool.

I don’t get on the machines.



Instead, I’m walking our 80-pound collie twice a day and eating pretty well and sleeping pretty well and managing to creep back up the scale. Because, as we learned in my initial post on ye ole MegaChallenge 200 blog, unless I’m doing something incredibly sweat-inducing, my metabolism will not budge.


I’ve had an elliptical trainer on my wishlist since about the time I last bought a swimsuit. It’s really the only reason (besides access to the pool) that I pay for a membership to the gym. Yes, I’ve done the math over the past 10 (15) years of working out at the gym and know I could have bought 4 elliptical machines with those membership fees. But I’ve watched folks turn treadmills into clothing racks and didn’t want to end up doing the same thing.



It’s time. So, I scoured the ads and picked what I wanted and called up a guy who will have to figure out what to do with his clothes now that I’m adopting his elliptical-trainer-cum-clothing-rack for my own home gym.

The machine arrives this weekend. Hopefully it marks the rekindling of my long-term-love affair with running to nowhere… and perhaps even — I know! — blogging.


Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. -- Helen KellerI’ve been “online” since sometime around 1992 when a tech savvy boyfriend gave me a 386 with a modem and BBS phone number. I chatted with folks about music and movies until I discovered a group that was dedicated to discussing interventions for a variety of health concerns. Nearly 20 years later, I’ve replaced about a dozen computers — the latest of which cost less than the 4 MB memory upgrade to that 386 did two decades ago — started several websites and blogs, watched service providers come and go, connected with folks on Twitter and reconnected with others on Facebook.

I’ve also gone through my share of changes. That boyfriend went on his way as did I. I married and divorced and married again. I’ve given birth to two kids — while losing three others — and earned two bonus daughters through my second marriage. I’ve moved more times that I’d like to count and have settled in my dream home with my soul mate just south of Nashville, TN.

I’ve gained weight and lost it and gained it back — sometimes because of those pregnancies and sometimes because of less specific causes.I blogged the largest of those losses on the MegaChallenge 200 about 5 years ago.

I’ve gone back to school … three times … taken courses in everything from coaching to statistics to history to leadership to rhetoric to psychology to training to management to marketing and back again. I discovered my passion — guiding folks through transitions using person-centered conversations and graphics — in 2001 at a PATH training offered by Dave and Faye Wetherow. I added some of the stuff from The Grove and Helen Sanderson and sundry other smart-thinking folks to my tool kit. I then found Christina Merkley’s SHIFT-IT Graphic Coaching process and fell in love. Several years later, she trained and certified me to walk folks through her tried and true process of creating positive change. I added other tools and ideas along the way… and then practiced and tweaked and practiced some more.

I wanted a place where I could share what I know and hope to learn with folks. The “online” complement to my really real existence. A launching spot for my other projects and connections that aren’t limited by a catchy URL. What defines my online presence? Well, hopefully it’s my offline reality.

And that brings us to now.

With the help of Robert Owen — someone who has known me even longer than I’ve been online, amazing as that may seem, and who entered my life about the time I bought my first issue of Byte magazine (so… 1982ish) — I’m finally overcoming the “it’s conceited to have a website with your name on it” Golf Whispers and launching I’m me. This site is mine. It’ll contain things that I like or feel are important or can do. Whatever that happens to include.

So, what’s next?

Hopefully more growth, additional connections, and new insights — all while standing firmly on this foundation of purpose and joy that I’ve built across the first 40 years of my life.


If you’ve known me for most of those 40 years, you know that I’m all afire about positive and possible and pointing forward. If you’re just coming into my milieu now, you’ll find I’m a warm-hearted idealist who tends to get folks moving even if they didn’t mean to.

Let’s go!

A Blast from the Past…

Polly Anna Club Button

I bought myself a Polly Anna Club Badge to prove my membership.

Several years ago (approximately three posts in Gina’s Blog Time) I mentioned that I had reconnected with my paternal clan after a couple of decades without contact. It was kind of a strange feeling that. I’ve known and been connected to these folks my entire life and knew a little more than nothing about them.

Remember those reunion episodes that every talk show hosted about once a month through the 80s and 90s? Well, I watched those with special interest because my magical thinking brain kept telling me, “Someday you may have to break down and call Donahue/Jerry/Oprah to get your family back. You need to know how this works.”

Well, I didn’t have to invite the entire planet to my family reunion, but that doesn’t mean that the magical thinking stopped there. What you typically saw on those shows was a tearful reunion with lots of hugging and crying and some sense that everyone would leave the set and be the Brady Bunch and live Happily Ever After. The End.

Um. I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. And, as much as I love to read, I haven’t found a manual that explains how it is supposed to work. What I have found is that regardless of your best intentions and your desire to find common ground, this whole rebuilding-a-family-from-scratch thing is hard work.

As part of that process, I sent one of my sisters a link to this blog. I thought it might give her some insight into the person I am, what I care about, and how I got to this point in my life. It was pretty terrifying to open up in this way. Yes, this is a public blog, but there seems to be a difference between writing for strangers and having someone you actually (sort of) know and (truly) love reading your rants about strangers hogging the gym machines.

So, after I sent the link, I came back and read through my posts… if only to know what I’d just newly shared with my sister.

And then I got kind of nostalgic about this space.

As I’ve posted before, I haven’t deleted this blog for several reasons — most of them based in my desire to have a record of the weight-loss-turned-life-change process I detailed here. But I still feel the pull to chronicle the shifts in my life in a more expansive way than my daily facebook status updates.


And then I think, do I want to be open in this way, again… still?

When did I become so afraid?

Why am I hesitating?

There is resistance here and desire, too, and that tension has me thinking that I need to spend some time thinking about . . .


And then just like that, it hits me…

I’m turning 40 in a couple of months. This year has been another transition year — new house, new school, new certifications, new contracts — but it’s also been incredibly redundant.

I’m afraid that I’m still stuck in that same space I was in when I started down this road. Yes, I am still a PollyAnna (and have the badge to prove it). Yes, I believe in balance and dreams and love and hope.

But here recently, there has been a sour voice talking back. “Life is hard.” “People don’t change.” “You’re lost.”

Where did that come from?

Oh. NO! The balloon poppers are winning!!!

This has to stop.

There is this place tucked way back in the farthest, dustiest corners of my brain where I put the icky stuff. The real reasons I stopped being a part of my paternal clad hide back there along with being teased in the 3rd grade, the taste of black licorice, images of horror films, and everything I ever learned about life insurance. I dealt with — and healed from — those events through years of therapy, journaling, ice cream cones, and forgiveness.

As I work to reconnect with my sister, there is some sense that I’m supposed to explain all of this. Why I believe what I believe. How I got to be this person. What I was thinking over that 21 year absence.

And I don’t want to.

Not because I have anything to hide but because I’m tired of retreading that ground. I want to be here. Now. In this moment. Not rehashing 40 years of decisions, events, and transitions.

When you share pieces of your life history with someone who wasn’t there, it is typically done as a “getting to know you” exercise. It is done in the context of shared interests or some other common connection. So, when someone asks me about my kids in the context of their diagnoses because they have a kid with a diagnosis, there is probably some interest in learning what I’ve learned so that they can apply those hard lessons in their own life. Or maybe we’re just commiserating or even celebrating.

The point is that there is an exchange of finite information that makes sense in the context, and that whether or not this person agrees with my choices, they aren’t likely to get under my skin either way. There isn’t an urge to justify myself.

I’m learning that it isn’t this way with “family” regardless of how long you’ve been gone. There is some emotional pull there. An expectation. An ability to hurt without intention because it isn’t a clean slate regardless of how guileless you are trying to keep the interactions.

I think I’ve allowed myself to start believing the rumors about me. The mumble cussing about my intentions has gotten loud enough for me to hear but is not blatant enough for me to address directly. So the sour voice has worked it’s way into my brain without my awareness. It’s time to kick it out.

Here’s what I know to be true (to borrow a line from Oprah): I don’t play games. I don’t do politics. I tell the truth. I avoid peril. I laugh lots. If I say, “I love you,” I mean it. If a relationship gets damaged I’ll do just about anything to reconcile it. At some point, when I’ve exhausted every idea I have to make it right, or I feel rejected or unwanted, I’ll walk away. I’m learning to balance being open with protecting myself. I used to give my all, but I’m learning to hold some aside for me. I am always surprised when someone is upset with me because I spend about 99% of my energy trying to make others happy. I don’t have an agenda. I’m striving to be my authentic self everywhere I go.

It only took me 39 years, 10 months and a couple of days to get here. Thank goodness I’m a quick study, huh?

So, back to pointing forward. I feel another transition year coming…

But aren’t they all?

Setting The Big Goals…

The Lifelong Project by Joseph PhillipsAfter years of seeing the “coincidences” of my life come together to form gorgeous synergies, it should be old hat by now.

It isn’t.

A little background first: over the past couple of years, I have managed to gradually add 15 – 20 pounds back to my frame. There are lots of causes… the world’s most stressful job, several life-altering emergencies, a happy marriage, and lack of focus on my health as I moved through all of these events.

After months of thinking about it, I managed to get past the precontemplation stage and made it to the gym. ::taking bow:: My hope is to get back into the habit of paying attention to my body… exercising, relaxing, eating what nourishes me.

This stage of thinking and planning over the past several months wasn’t simply about my health. It involved gestating several other crossroads initiatives. And the entire time I am working out all of these details, I am feeling a pull to something bigger.

So where’s the synergy?

As I sit on my gorgeous sun porch and work on a variety of projects — all while watching the birds and deer and turkeys wander by — the realization that I am connected to this beautiful planet through more than my laptop keeps poking at me. But how? What project? Where do I put my energies?

I go to my facebook account to check on my pokes and farms and see an invitation from my high school chum, Joseph Phillips. He’s been all giddy for weeks about an project launch of his, and rightfully so.

10 Goals 2010

Joseph’s new project is all about the little ways we contribute to the bigger stuff. He has way more information over at 10 Goals 2010 at the Lifelong Project but the gist is this:

Be kind.

Do good work.

Help others.

Make friends.


Give your time.

Give love.

Achieve goals.


So, Joseph, old pal, I love this idea. I’ll spend some time contemplating how these goals get integrated into my daily routine. Perhaps this is the next phase of the MegaChallenge 200. My impulse is to say I’ll attempt to integrate each of these goals into my yearly 200-times-gets-me-there mentality. I don’t know how that would look yet.

My first goal is to figure that out.

Silence Doesn’t Indicate Inertia…

Cheese Plate

Everything in Balance

I love this blog. I know it is hard to tell that from the long absences–okay, complete neglect–over the past couple of years, but I do!

When I started the MegaChallenge, I was some 39 (50) pounds overweight, living in a marriage that threatened my life, working on my degree, homeschooling my kids, and in need of a place where I could “talk” without being edited. It was an act of courage–actually several, since it took multiple tries to get logged on to blog spot–that started this blog. When I wrote that very first entry I honestly had no idea whether anyone would read it.

Then something amazing happened. People did read it, but that wasn’t the real magic. The real magic was finding other people who were in the same boat. No, not identical boats–just similar ones. There were these other bloggers who were also losing weight, but the pounds weren’t actually the point. Life was the point. They were exploring that question that seems to manifest itself from some common place in us all–“Why are we here?”

Of course, the answers varied widely. They had to. How could Allan–an admitted foodie and a food broker from NYC–maintain his sanity as he made his attempt to lose weight while handling the most decadent of foods all day every day? How could Renee drop the pounds while carrying around her self-doubts? How would Trish bounce back from a post-tummy-tuck weight gain while she juggled her responsibilities and the ones she took on for her family? How would Shawna hold up under media scrutiny when her weight-loss blog and book made her famous?

Sure, we were all talking about weight and diet and exercise and scales, but they weren’t the only common themes. Other A-Has emerged as we blogged.

Balance — Maintenance — Relationships — Goals –Celebration 

Those are the topics of larger conversations. Yeah, I lost weight and worked out and wrote about it on this blog. But I also transformed my life, found balance, improved my relationships, set brand new goals, and celebrated successes of all sorts! 

I thought about deleting the MegaChallenge when I co-created Blissification with my long-time, off-line friend, Christine. Blissification is all about what I am up to now: helping folks find their bliss. But I paused on the delete link. Maybe the MegaChallenge still has its purpose. If I am telling someone that they can be happy and all they see is the current Gina–the one who lives on 6 acres in a gorgeous part of the world, with a wonderfully supportive husband, a job she loves, and kids all around, and who is regularly called, “PollyAnna”–will they believe I have any idea what they are going through?

So, the MegaChallenge stays so that if at some point someone wants to know how I got from where I was to where I am, I can point them here.

And, who knows? At some point this 10 extra pounds that I have been carrying around for the past year might become something I want to eliminate. When I get past the precontemplation stage, this is exactly where I want to record that journey.

The Wonders of Walking…

ParkThe workout thing keeps not happening. Well, not the kind that occurs indoors on a piece of equipment.

However, upon review of the original MegaChallenge Regulations, I am reminded that it wasn’t about working out on a piece of gym equipment–it was about moving. So, in spite of the fact that the stationary bike in the basement is doing a superlative job of the stationary part of its title, I managed to get in a workout. We walked 5 miles (14/200) on a gorgeous trail this morning.

I have to give kudos to municipalities that take the time/money/effort to design and build green spaces into their plans. Our new hometown has gone to incredible lengths to put in all sorts of walking/jogging/bike paths. They run along rivers and through shady areas and near parks and by the library. Truly lovely.

I am not counting the very long stroll we took through an art festival this evening. Yes, it was movement and technically counts. However, I got more of a workout laughing out loud at the amazing hula hooping going on at one of the booths than I did from the walk.

Food? I was stellar. We packed a bag of water and healthy snacks for both excursions. We ate our meals at home. I didn’t even glance at the funnel cakes and other fried fair fare.

All in all it was a wonderful day.

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