Friday, January 28, 2011

A Confession, of sorts

It's Friday. Every week, I give myself one "rest day" and it's typically on Fridays. My rule is no intentional exercise on that day. This allows my muscles to repair themselves and my joints to get a much needed break from the insanity I put them through daily. So, here it is, my rest day... (Side note: I actually ended up at the gym this morning but this was due to the fact that I was going to support a friend who, at the last minute, decided that their warm bed was a lot more fun than sweating it out at 5am.)

In addition to it being a rest day, I am usually much more relaxed about my eating habits (a.k.a cheat day). Through experience, I've learned that having one higher calorie day during the week "resets" your body and puts it back into a losing mode. The body is very smart and when you give it less calories than it wants, it will think you are starving and will hold on to the fat, just in case you need it. Eating more calories on one of the days of the week tricks your body by saying "Hey now, body of mine, I am not starving you at all. Look at all this food you've got" so that when you eat less the next day, it will allow itself to lose some fat, knowing that you won't need it. 

When I have my rest/cheat day, I'll usually allow myself a "naughty" food like cookies or ice cream. As you probably know, I am ok with "anything in moderation" when it comes to sweets and treats but I don't moderate on my cheat day. If I want a whole bowl of ice cream or a slice of cookie cake then darn it, that's what I eat. That's always been my plan. But that ends today...

Let me explain. Today, I ate like I used to eat. I didn't look at a label. I gave no thought to calories, fat, protein, or carbs. This was intentional as I decided that I wanted to see how this would affect me. Would I have more energy for my workouts? Would I have a sugar crash later in the day? How much could my body handle? (And what better day to do this than the day before a planned 14 mile run, right?)  I gobbled up some of the Andes candies I keep in my candy dish for guests; I helped myself to one of my son's chocolate pop tarts (gag); I ate lasagna for breakfast. Yes, people, I said LASAGNA FOR BREAKFAST! I was Maria, three years ago.

And now, sitting here at 4pm, I am sick as a dog. My belly is aching and I am in a rotten mood. My body doesn't know what to do with all this excess sugar.  I am laying around like a lump and not doing my usual "Yo Gabba Gabba" dance routine with the kids. I am not myself.

In less than 8 hours, I have managed to transform from a happy-go-lucky motivational cheerleader-type flitting around the house, accomplishing her entire to-do list to a sluggish pile of poo curled up in the corner of the couch.

And I will never....mark my words...never do this to myself again.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

Meal Planning

It's 5:30pm. Your husband is on his way home from work. You spent the day running errands and watching your three kids. Ballet class for your daughter starts at 6:30. No one has eaten and there is still homework in the backpacks, waiting to be done. You peer into the fridge. Nothing is defrosted. Your pantry has a million snacks but no one thing that is suitable for a nice sit down meal with your family. Looks like it's going to be another fast food night, right?


IF you had planned ahead, you wouldn't be in this predicament. You'd have your meal in the oven and ready for your husband's arrival. If you work during the day, you could have put your dinner in the crockpot before you left for work and arrived home to the enticing smell of a home cooked meal. Life doesn't have to be as chaotic as we all make it out to be.

I started meal planning about 2 years ago and though it seemed like a daunting task at first, once I "got into my groove" it got easier and easier. Now, I am not sure how I managed to muddle through life without it. Meal planning has helped my family to eat healthier, cheaper, and with less stress than before.

For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to focus on the three main reasons why meal planning has worked for my family. After reading this, I hope that you will try it out and see if it works for yours as well.

We eat healthier when we plan our meals ahead of time.

Heading to McDonald's or ordering a pizza used to be a fairly regular thing in our house. When you look at the nutritional information for eating out vs eating at home, the difference is staggering. Most restaurant meals are loaded with fat, sugar, and calories. Butter is the cook’s best friend. When you make your own meal, YOU control what goes into it.

Meal planning saves us money.

A typical month of groceries for my family a couple of years ago was a little less than $1000. And so much of that food was wasted. I would stick raw chicken in the fridge, intending to eat it in the next couple of days but I'd forget about it and end up having to throw it away.  Fruits and veggies would go bad. We were such a wasteful family. Now, with the use of pre-planning and coupons, we are down to about $500 a month. No wonder I never want to go back to our old ways, huh?

We are less stressed.

Knowing what is on the meal plan for each day creates a more organized atmosphere in the home. Because the meal is planned ahead of time, we can make sure that each person who is eating that night enjoys that particular food. For example, my oldest doesn't care for beans so we put chili on the schedule for nights when he is with his Dad. This avoids the "I don't want to eat that:" fight.


There are so many ways to meal plan and there are even sites like E-mealz that do all the work for you. The idea is to figure out BEFORE you go to the grocery store what meals you will be serving over the next few weeks. A lot of that depends on how much storage space you have in your home. I do my plans 2 weeks ahead of time and that works well for me. Then, when you have your meal list made, you shop for all the items you will need.

A great money saving idea is to look at your coupons and weekly specials as you are planning. For instance, last week when I was doing my planning, I saw that my favorite kind of pasta was on sale for 10 for $10 and I had a coupon for $1 off 2 boxes. I was sure to throw a couple of pasta nights into my mix and took advantage of that sale.

I write my meal plan on my fridge calendar and then I list reminders to myself for things like "prep lasagna" or "defrost ground turkey" on the appropriate days. If I know we are going to have a busy day, I will do all my prep work the night before and  pop it in the crock pot in the morning,

My meal plan, for this 2 week time period, is as follows:

Monday - Pork chops, no salt added canned corn
Tuesday - Whole wheat penne with marinara sauce, mixed veggies
Wednesday - Whole wheat Lasagna with ground beef, salad, applesauce (wrote down lasagna as Thursday's lunch as well)
Thursday - On own (I have a meeting that night so we are "on our own". My hubby and kiddos will probably have Subway and I will eat at the meeting)
Friday - Grilled chicken breast, brown rice, mixed veggies
Saturday - Breakfast for Dinner (Egg white omelets and 3 pancakes each)
Sunday - Homemade Mac and Cheese (will also be lunch on Monday)

Monday - Roasted Chicken with red potatoes, no salt added canned peas
Tuesday - Ground turkey tacos, no salt added canned corn
Wednesday - Whole wheat rotini with marinara sauce, mixed veggies
Thursday - Grilled chicken, brown rice, mixed veggies 
Friday - Turkey burgers, green beans, applesauce
Saturday -  Chicken Parmesan, mixed veggies
Sunday - ????? (Super Bowl so it will depend on where we go to watch it)

***I just realized how much we LOVE mixed veggies. During the winter, I buy the Giant Eagle frozen ones and use my Pampered Chef micro cooker to steam them. Ohhhhhhh, so yummy! When fresh produce is in season here, I am a little more creative, purchasing items at the Farmer's Market or getting them from friends with gardens.

I have also written out my breakfast and lunch plans for each day but those are always in pencil and subject to change, depending on whether we have leftovers from the night before or if a friend invites us to go out or to their house for a lunch play date. 
Since I also have my workout plans on the same calendar, I can figure out which days I can "splurge" on higher calorie foods and which days I need to be a bit more conservative with my intake. It's a win/win!

Here are some more great resources for you as you learn more about how to meal plan:

Menus for Moms

5 Dollar Dinners


365 Days of Crockpotting

Make ahead/Freezer Recipes

Good luck and be sure to check in and let me know how meal planning is working for you and your family. And I'd love to hear any ideas or tips you have as well. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Feeling healthy and feeling good about yourself is not a luxury - it's an absolute necessity."  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday's Tip of the Day


I have kept numerous food/exercise journals throughout the years and have always found them to be helpful. You can buy one like this one from GNC or make your own. You can jot things down on your calendar, on a sheet of paper or notebook in the kitchen, on a site like DailyPlate or on a paper towel. It's completely up to you. The point is to recognize how many calories you are putting into your body vs how many are going out. Depending on what else you are recording, you might even discover how much protein/carb/fat you are ingesting on a daily basis and can make adjustments as needed.

Like I mentioned, there are many ways of journaling. For the purpose of this blog post, I will share with you the way that I count my calories. It might seem too detailed for some of you, but it has worked for me. Insanity, as I am sure you've heard is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Well, on the contrast, if you find something that works, you should stick with it.

On my fridge, I have this calendar:
On Sunday night, I write out the dinners for the coming week (more on Meal planning coming in another post soon, I promise!) and then I pencil in what I plan to eat each day. Once I eat, I copy it over in pen and then log it on Daily Plate. I record what my percentage of carbs, protein, and fat are each day and then I can look back and see how I did each day.

Once you have done this for awhile, you may be able to stop journaling and keep track mentally, but I have found that if *I* steer from this method, I gain weight almost instantly. Everyone is different though. I would suggest committing yourself to just one week of journaling to see how it works for you. Don't let insanity keep you from your dream...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Instead of giving myself reasons why I can't, I give myself reasons why I can." ~Unknown

Friday, January 14, 2011

As it turns out....

Only about half of a Chicken McNugget is actually chicken.... Read more about it here. And...I am DONE letting my kids have these, as a special treat. Disgusting!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday's Tip of the Day

Dealing with Snowmageddon

Here in Western PA, we are hearing about this "Winter event" that is about to hit our area. It happens every year. 13 snowflakes fall from the sky and everyone rushes to "Gian' Iggle" to buy the 36 roll mega pack of toilet paper in case they are trapped in the house until Spring. Milk and bread are gone from the shelves and people's Facebook statuses are in constant update mode. "I heard the kids will be off school all week ... Is this ever going to stop?... I love snow! (OMG! You swore!) ... Did you get your milk, bread, and toilet paper?
Since this was in the forefront of my mind, I decided today would be an appropriate day to discuss how you don't have to miss a workout just because it's too cold to go outside and the roads are too bad to risk a trip to the gym.

First of all, it's important to recognize that, as with anything in life, the more planning you do, the higher your success rate will be but there are times when the best laid plans get sidelined by something like a snow storm, sick child, or electricity outage. Lucky me - I have had the pleasure of experiencing all three of those this week alone.

When you realize that you have to workout at home, the possibilities are endless...

1. Put on the music and DANCE!

This is the easiest one and requires no equipment except something in which to play music. Whether it's your favorite playlist or the latest CD from Elmo, just move your body and get your heart pumping. You will burn some calories and you have the added bonus of some fun, quality time with your kids or pets, if they join you.  

2. Do an Exercise video, DVD, or On Demand workout.

If given an hour I could give you a litany of workout DVD's and even some old VHS videos (yes, including Sweatin' to the Oldies - don't judge!) that I own. Though they do take up space, I find them to be quite helpful on those days when I can't get outside to run or to the gym for my usual routine. Now, it's not even necessary to own a bunch of workout videos because the On Demand feature of FiOS has such a huge selection of (Free!) workouts as well. Only have 10 minutes? Believe me, there will be a list of workouts for you to do!

3. Dust off your exercise equipment and use it.

I know some of you are using a treadmill or bike as an extra coat hanger. It's time to use that equipment for a better, healthier use. Even if you just spend 30 minutes or so walking on the treadmill, you are better off than you would be sitting on your rump, watching tv.

4. Invest in some workout gear.

There are a lot of home gym products on the market right now and many are very low cost. Try some hand weights, a medicine ball, resistance bands, or even a Shake weight (See SNL skit here - not for kids eyes).

5. Use your own body weight.

When you don't own any fancy equipment, you can still get in a workout using your own body weight with Yoga or Pilates moves. Not sure where to begin? Try the ABC's of Yoga or Pilates for Beginners.

As I have been writing, the snow hasn't stopped so I am off to take my own advice and get in a solid workout right in the comfort of my own home. Now, if I could just find my exercise ball....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quote for the Week

Quick! Go grab a piece of paper!

Now, write down this quote and stick to somewhere that you will see it every morning. Take a moment when you see it, read it three times in your head and say it out loud at least once. Believe it because it is one of the most true statements I have heard in my entire life.

"No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you absolutely, positively do have the power to change." ~Bill Phillips

Friday, January 7, 2011


I am really excited about the Fitness Challenge. We officially started on January 1st and today is the first week weigh in. Stats are coming in steadily and I am looking forward to announcing our top 3 for each category sometime this weekend. So, at the beginning, I promised some prizes but couldn't say what they would be until I knew how many participants we secured. Here is the prize breakdown:


The person who loses the highest percentage of weight during the contest will win a $50 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. Even if you don't have one in your area, they have an online site as well.


The person who loses the largest number of total inches from their body will win a $50 gift card to Kohl's. Again, they have an online site so no worries if you don't live near one.


The person who logs the most miles during the contest period will win a $25 gift card to


If you report your stats to me every week on time (prior to 9am on the Saturday after the Friday weigh in), you will be entered in a drawing to have your entry fee returned to you. This will be completely random and will be drawn by my 4 year old daughter (who is unbiased and no fair bribing her with treats...)

The small print items: You can only win one category. I will start with Weight Loss and if that person also wins the Inches category, I will move to the second highest inches lost etc until I get to the last prize. This gives everyone a fair shot at winning *something*. Please send any questions to me directly at

The prizes will be mailed out via USPS.  Receipt of prize is the sole responsibility of the winner. Motivational Mom (a.k.a. Maria Fruscello) assumes no responsibility or liability for any damages, losses, or injury resulting from the acceptance or use of any prize. All prizes are mailed out within 2 weeks of announcement of winner. Any prizes lost in transit or stolen are not the responsibility of the Motivational Mom (Maria Fruscello) and the winner assumes all liability and financial cost. I am in no way responsible for replacement of that prize.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quote to Consider

"Nobody trips over mountains.  It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.  Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find you have crossed the mountain."  ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip of the Day

Read labels!

My husband and I have been using a program called Daily Plate on to track our calories in and out as well as see the percentage of protein, carbs, and fat we consume each day.  I am usually quite conscious when I do the grocery shopping to scan the labels. I don't want to eat a bunch of ingredients that I can't even pronounce (well, besides quinoa but who can remember how to say that one anyway...?)  I typically shop the perimeter of the store and spend the majority of my time and money in the produce and meat sections.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Giant Eagle and saw that frozen Honeysuckle turkey burgers were on sale. I didn't check the label because hey, it's a turkey burger...what could be bad about that, right? In my defense, I was also shopping with the 2 smallest kids and was in a bit of a hurry.  Last night, we ate those turkey burgers. About an hour after dinner, while tracking his dinner on the computer, my husband commented that his fat percentage was higher than normal.We checked it out and the Honeysuckle turkey burgers had 17 grams of fat each (and he had 2 because he is trying to gain and get some extra protein to build muscle). That's 34 grams of fat from his main dish alone! Yikes!

I knew we had eaten turkey burgers in the past, so we quickly looked through our meals to see why we had never noticed this before. AHA! Last time, we had gotten Jennie O brand. *LOL* For those of you who watch "Biggest Loser" you probably saw all the product placement they do for this brand. It made me giggle when I realized that they were right - what a stark difference when it comes to their nutrition labels.

Honeysuckle brand
  • 240 calories
  • 17 g fat
  • 210 mg sodium
  • 20 g protein
Jennie O brand
  • 160 calories
  • 8 g fat
  • 80 mg sodium
  • 22 g protein

I don't intend for this post to be an ad for Jennie O (because you know they certainly aren't paying me...) but it is an "ad" for the importance of reading labels. When you go to the store next time, take a look at what you are putting into your body. And, try tracking for a bit to see if that helps you to target some problem areas. I didn't realize how much extra water weight I was carrying around until I started tracking and saw that my sodium was nearly double the recommended amount each day.

Good luck to all of you and have a healthy happy day!