“What a real-life home gym looks like”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 30th, 2012
What a Real Home Gym Looks Like

My home gym doubles as a playroom (hence my daughters' drawings on the walls!), which is the reality for most people!

You want to know what a real home gym looks like? Well, for one thing: it usually doubles as another space (some people have it in their basements, by the washer and dryer; others have it in their dens; and some—like me—have it in the kids’ playroom). But … here’s mine! Cardio Central. Pumba, ever faithful workout partner, is lurking in the corner too. He stares at my feet whether I am on the treadmill or the elliptical. I have to pick my way through a floor littered with toys to get to my equipment. (Note to self: my girls have too many toys!)

But it doesn’t matter what the room looks like; what matters is that you get your butt there to do your exercise. If it’s not motivating, then you won’t want to step foot on the equipment!

Do you have a home gym? Tell me how you get motivated (and stay motivated to work out there); write to me at melissa@valerielatona.com.

Our treadmill is a free hand-me-down. Actually, we are the 3rd to house it. I am grateful for it in ways I never thought possible. Husband has had to repair it and jerry-rig the top back on. Sometimes, it doesn’t smell right. Every step could be its last. I have my eyes on a new one. It’s over $1,000. To save and prepare, I have been charging myself $3 each time I step on it. As it nears its demise, I started charging myself $3 to get on the elliptical too. The girls even pay 25 cents to use the equipment! I have almost $250 saved so far. Today, the self-imposed usage fee goes up to $5 because I am afraid it is going to quit before I am ready!

I am still on my quest to be a contender in a 5K race in May. May is tomorrow! I need to step up my training schedule. It seems I need to do more “suffering”…but it definitely pays off!


“Finally…making progress!” Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Junk food in garbage

Sorry, the inside of my garbage can is not pretty! But my advice: just throw out the stuff that you can't stop eating. And then, don't buy it in the first place!

I’m avoiding the scale. Probably the pressure of this blog. Of everyone in the whole wide world knowing when I falter. Even so I’m feeling pretty good. Stronger even. Smaller. My eating has been encumbered by M&Ms. I used to call them “power pills” when I thought that turning to chocolate in times of stress was unavoidable. I now accept that it is avoidable. Why oh why do I buy them in the first place? Shouldn’t I just throw them out?

… Done! That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

Lauren from Foodtrainers advised stepping up my exercise. Last week I hit 200 minutes of cardio. I feel the difference. Yesterday was a full hour. 30 dreadful minutes on the treadmill followed by 30 on the elliptical.

picture of home treadmill

My home treadmill with my daughter's picture front and center.

My youngest daughter drew me a picture that I keep on the treadmill. It’s of flying horses and I continue to try to feel like one of them when I run. I don’t feel like a flying horse though. Not even a trotting donkey. But her drawing helps me focus on why I am on the thing to begin with.

When my girls exercise (activity is on their daily chore list) and decide to use the treadmill they call it “riding the treadmill.” As though it’s fun. As though it belongs in an amusement park. Does that mean I am doing something right with them? That they actually think exercise is fun? Or are my kids just a bit daft? I’m hanging on to the first. They think exercise is fun and I need to keep up the ruse. Time to go “ride” the treadmill.



“How I’m Ramping Up My Exercise”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Nobody is impressed by how good your excuses areI am feeling a little bit punchy today.  Yesterday I ran 55 minutes at an average pace of 12 minutes 32 seconds per mile for 4.40 miles. That was a workout. Remember I said I tried to avoid suffering? Well, it has become apparent to me that I will not move into the 100’s on the scale unless I do some suffering.

Lauren, my nutrition advisor from FOODTRAINERS, wants me to do more cardio. I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Today I did 45 minutes on the elliptical while watching this week’s episode of The Biggest Loser that I downloaded from iTunes onto my iPad. Technology can be just plain cool. I would have felt guilty if I wasn’t suffering while watching this show. I followed the elliptical with about 20 minutes of weight work with my medicine ball, hand weights, and weighted bar. There was an Usher marathon on Pandora and my energy level was high.

Very early this morning while at work, I ate not 1 but 2 bowls of some sort of shepherds-pie-like-casserole concoction that the nursing supervisor’s husband made.  I ate it with gusto and had to STOP myself from going for a 3rd because it was so darn tasty and I was STARVING.  I could only estimate the calories…somewhere in the neighborhood of 700. That means the rest of the day is going to require a bit more vigilence in the calorie department. But it was well worth it!



“Nonfat is nonsense…and other great weight-loss nutrition tips!”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 19th, 2012

My first question is where did April go? I had such plans, so many goals. April got swallowed up by a series of unfortunate events in my life, but I have the reins on my weight-loss program again.

I have been eagerly awaiting my first bit of advice and direction from Lauren, my personal nutrition advisor, of FOODTRAINERS and it is here!

fresh whole strawberries in a cup

Moderation is key when eating anything, including fruit!

1. Fruit but don’t Overfruit. Fruit is low in calories and a part of any healthy regime. However, fruit is sugar and it’s possible to overdo it. I would stick to 2, max 3 1-cup portions of fruit a day. Additionally try to choose lower glycemic fruits such as berries, citrus, cantaloupe, apples, and pears. Also important given family history (and by that she means the diabetes on my father’s side).

I will struggle the most with limiting my fruit. It is just so handy, portable, and satisfying. Clearly, I “overfruit” now. 

2. Nonfat is often nonsense. I would switch nonfat yogurt to low fat. Nonfat to our bodies is higher in sugar. You also aren’t satiated with nonfat in the same way. Same for fat free half and half.

This is surprising, but not shocking. I always believed this but switched to non-fat to shave off precious calories. Fat back in my yogurt and half and half will be delightful and delectable!

3. Try a 3/4 day for portions. I told Lauren that portion sizes were difficult for me, so she recommended I pick 1 day (a non-work day) and do what she calls a “3/4 day”: Eat slowly, chew well and stop yourself 3/4 through your regular portion. Wait 3 to 5 minutes. If you can, stop the meal there. If you cannot, keep going. The goal is to stop and assess, that’s the first skill.

This piece of advice will also be tough but I am trying to model the eating behavior of my daughters who gloriously and unconsciously walk away when done —whether it is scrambled eggs or chocolate cake. I never want them to learn to clean the plate or finish it off just because it tastes  good. Somehow, I never learned to recognize or acknowledge being full enough and satisfied, but it is never too late!

how many grains you should be eating a day

This is how big your daily serving of grains should be...no more!

4. Trade off grains. Keep carbs/grains, cereal, bread, potatoes, rice, etc to 1 meal a day “fist” size (makes me wish I had a bigger hand!)

Prior to a number of stints with the Atkins Diet, I was a card-carrying carb loader. Thankfully, even though that was an impossible lifestyle to maintain, I did take a way a (nearly) firm control over grains, especially cereal. I should have no problem limiting my grains. They are more like treats to me anyway.

5. Drink plenty of water! Get 48 to 64 ounces per day plus 1 to 2 cups green tea (I will need a catheter!)

Water. Well, I guess I will just have to do it even it I don’t like it. I like unsweetened ice tea and make it by the gallons. Even my girls drink it. I will have to ask Lauren if that would be an acceptable substitute. I could always make iced green tea. Of course I don’t want to start out my nutrition tutoring with complaints!

4. Exercise. Work out 150 to 180 minutes a week (total as you go) with one day “longer” 50 to 60 min.

I have come a long, long way in terms of what I can accomplish physically and how often.  Lauren is advising I ramp it up for weight loss.  There are some days that will be very difficult to achieve but One Hour Workout on ValerieLatona.com



“Coping with Easter Candy…and a Whole Lot More”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Thursday, April 12th, 2012

I’m off track. The truth is, I haven’t even been able to find the track to get back on it.

I haven’t exercised.

I haven’t kept my food journal.

What I have done: sought solace in Easter Candy.

This is a time of tremendous stress and uncertainty in my life. Despite all I have learned about how to get healthy and well, I went right back to old behaviors as coping mechanisms. Never mind that eating poorly and not exercising do not actually help me cope with anything. Never mind that these behaviors are self-destructive and contribute to more stress on my emotional well-being and physical body. Never mind that I know this, I mean really KNOW this.

Old patterns die hard.

All I can do is move forward. And that applies to work, home, relationships, my wellness plan (never say diet!)…the whole kit and kaboodle. I’ve been on a ledge in more ways than one (why I haven’t posted any blogs yet this week). Today it was time to talk myself back. The inspiration that helped me do that included these two things:

Desire to Change quoteThe 3 C's of LIfe

My sense of personal strength has been mighty limited lately. Today I chose to flex the muscles I know I have and was pleasantly reassured that I still remember how to use them. Some tough decisions were made at home and work. An old daily devotional book seemed to beckon me from amongst a pile of paperbacks and has become welcome nourishment for my soul. I logged into My Fitness Pal and tracked every last jelly bean. I finally got my food journal into an email to send Lauren at Foodtrainers.

Now I am just eagerly awaiting some guidance. I see the track just up ahead. It’s right on the other side of my treadmill.

A letter to my son…about respect

Written by: on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Boy on Beach

I wrote this letter to my older son when he was younger—after one too many questions from him about the newspaper headlines featuring all the killings that are happening in our crazy, messed-up world. That, and I start crying whenever I read about violence to children and babies (particularly newborn babies being thrown in dumpsters—when so many people would give so much just to welcome them into their own homes). What’s happening to immigrant babies and children—having been taken away from their parents and put in detention centers probably never to see them again—makes me cry and lose sleep at night. What has happened to our country and our world? Now my son is older and my youngest son keeps asking questions about the polar bears and the arctic: “When is the ice going to be all gone, Mom?” He told me that he can’t wait until he’s 32 and can be president to help “save the earth.” No matter what your political leaning or religious affiliation, these words and lessons hold true for everyone.

Dear A.C.,

It’s becoming harder and harder to explain to you why someone has just been killed.

Most recently, it was Trayvon Martin, a boy not too much older than you. “Why did that guy have to kill him, mom?” you asked after reading the newspaper headlines. I didn’t know how to respond, but the truth is: I don’t know why. I don’t know if anyone really knows why.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about it—and I realize there is a reason why killing and violence against babies, kids, and people of all ages is happening so much more these days.

We live in a disposable society, where many people believe that just about everything (including people) can be tossed away…like the stuff you throw in the garbage. I know it will make you cry (it makes me cry), but sometimes people even throw babies in the garbage. Kind of hard to believe that someone could do that, right?

But the reason why people do these things is they’ve lost something called respect—for life, for people, for things. I’m not sure where or when this happened exactly, but I want to teach you about respect so you can think and act differently as you get older.

That’s why I put together these 9 simple ways to learn respect. By following these, you—in turn—will get other people to respect you, which is the ultimate gift.

1) Treat yourself with respect. You can’t respect someone else and their life if you don’t love yourself and your body. Celebrate who you are and what makes you unique, even if people say mean things about you. That time when the kid in the lunchroom laughed and told you that you had really weird curly hair? Forget him. You’ve got great hair! You should never feel bad about your hair…or yourself. Treating yourself with respect also means wearing clothes that you love (like that homemade tie-dye shirt you insisted on wearing on your school picture day), eating foods that are good for you (yes, even those lentils that I make), and saying no to those things we talked about called drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. They’ll make your body sick.

2) Always clean up after yourself. Remember when we went hiking and you asked why someone had thrown his soda can by the trail? Litter is just one example of how people don’t clean up after themselves anymore; they expect others to clean up their messes. When they get bigger, these same people run companies that litter in even bigger ways—leaking bad stuff into oceans that kill the fish and into the air making it difficult for some people to breathe. So the next time I ask you to clean up your plate after dinner, remember why this is so important. And maybe one day, you’ll even run your own company—one that shows respect for the world around it by cleaning up after itself.

3) Treat animals with kindness. I know you love your puppies and your beetles and your pet frog. Never lose this love for animals. Always show respect for them: it’s been said that someone who treats animals well will show respect for people, too.

4) Don’t forget the truffula trees. One of your favorite stories has always been The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (long before it became a movie). Taking care of the world around you—like those truffula trees—is about taking care of the trees and grass and forests and oceans. This is why we recycle our newspapers and bottles and plastic containers. We’re doing it so that stuff doesn’t end up in the landfill (which is essentially a giant pile of garbage with some dirt thrown on top to hide it). Treat the environment around you with respect and you’ll be able to hike in it, kayak on it, swim in it, and enjoy it for many years to come.

5) Recognize that everyone is different. You’ve got your curly blonde hair, your sister has brown hair, and your dad has no hair (like your baby brother). In just one family, we’re all different: that’s the way it is in your school, our town, our country, and our world. And just because someone is different—in the way they look, they way they dress, the way they speak, the people they hang out with, or the religion they believe in—doesn’t mean they’re weird or bad or even worse, need to be killed as some people think. Accept them for who they are, let them do what they do (and you continue to do what you do). And that will make me proud.

6) Respect those who are older than you. You know your great grandma and grandpa, who are 95 and 96? They’ve been around a long time and they deserve a lot of respect—as do moms and dads. But many people don’t respect those who are older than them anymore; in fact, sometimes, as we read in the news, they call them bad names, forget about them, beat them up, take money from them, and do bad things to them. Kind of hard to believe that anyone could do that to a grandma or grandpa, right? But they do. That’s just an example of how completely crazy our world has become. Please always do what you can to protect the grandmas and grandpas of this world.

7) Always work hard. There is no way to “earn” easy money. You work hard now cleaning up your dishes, being nice to your sister, and helping around the house—and you should continue to work hard throughout life. Respect the value of hard work; so many people don’t today. They think they can do nothing and earn lots and lots of money (sometimes in ways that are not honest or nice). The end goal shouldn’t be about getting more and more money, but about doing what you love and always doing the right thing. You’ll never regret that.

8) Take care of your stuff. We toss our things away so quickly today that we barely have time to enjoy them anymore. People like your great grandma and grandpa used to take care of their belongings and, as a result, they kept them for a really long time. But now, things break easily or people get bored with them—and then most are just tossed in the trash…just like we watched in The Story of Stuff (http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/). Taking care of your (and other people’s) stuff—being careful with it so it doesn’t break, putting it away after you use it and, if it’s someone else’s, asking them to use it (instead of just taking it)—is how to show respect for things.

9) Finally, always, always respect life. You have one beautiful, awe-inspiring life ahead of you—live it to its fullest. And respect that everyone else has a right to live a long life, too. You can never get it back once it’s gone.

Those are my lessons. If you—and everyone—could learn these lessons early on, and put them into practice every day, the world would be a much safer, healthier, and happier place.

Love you lots and lots,


“Real life is definitely NOT like The Biggest Loser”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Saturday, April 7th, 2012

Stop wishing, start doingWould it solve anything if I cried, screamed, ate?  I avoided the scale last week because I was so afraid to see my success become a gain. But I couldn’t do that for 2 weeks in a row because I have to stay on top of this! So I stepped on it.


I gained 3 pounds.

I want my life to be like The Biggest Loser where they shed pounds every week in double digits. But I am not in a controlled environment with a refrigerator stocked with the right foods and Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser making me work harder than I think I can. All I have is me and a very uncontrolled environment. But that isn’t making me feel better.

Truthfully, today’s setback comes on the heels of feeling much failure. Home has become a place of tremendous uncertainty as my husband embarks on a new adventure and challenge that takes him away from us for much of the week. I have been negotiating for weeks for a day job. And even though it looks like that is going to happen, it has come at the expense of others. I wrestle with guilt.

Even the weight-loss success of my friends is making me feel like a failure.

Women I love, respect and am blessed with as friends are achieving new health and wellness through much hard work. And I struggle by comparison. They seem to move in leaps where I crawl. I can only look at myself for what I accomplish or don’t but I can’t help but compare and feel like I am not trying hard enough. I know they are making it happen through careful eating and difficult exercise and not through some sort of magic that I just haven’t stumbled on yet.

But I can’t help but feel that I don’t measure up.

I was feeling defeated, but then I realized: this is time to reach out for help. I need to assess where I am—and where I’m going.

First up: a nutritionist to help me assess what I’m doing right—and wrong. The woman that got recommended to me: Lauren Slayton, MD, RD, from FoodTrainers—and I just had a consultation with her. She said things like, “I am impressed,” and “You are doing a good job.” That was music to my ears! And soul. Lauren was easy to talk to, like an old friend. I am going to LOVE working with her!  But more about that later.

Next up: despite my initial hesitation about working with a trainer  (I do know how to do a lot of workouts), I’m going to talk to one to assess how I can be shaking up my workouts a little more. I’m going to get my own Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser!

My attitude: never be above asking for help. Isn’t that what The Biggest Loser is all about anyway? And right, now, I need help.

Now for my green goddess shake and a 50-minute run….


“Easy home exercises with a weighted exercise bar”: Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Exercises with Weighted Exercise Bar on valerielatona.comAfter workouts with my weighted Reactor Bar, I decided I was pleased with my purchase. I searched around the web for some exercises specific to my new bar and found this You Tube video work out: Ask In Your Face 10 Minute Workout. The editing is not the best, but the instructor has awe-inspiring muscle definition and a pleasant voice for leading the “class.”  The weighted body bar was the star player. Mine is a reasonable 15 pounds. I brought my iPad up to my home “studio” and got down to sweating. The lunges are tough and nearly continuous and mine definitely need work. I powered through the 10-minute workout and then….did it again. I liked the combination of upper and lower body moves. Those get the heart rate up and going. Because the Reactor Bar doesn’t have loose weights attached to the ends like a barbell, it is very stable. On a day when I only have 10 minutes, this will be great. But on a day set aside for muscle work, I need more.

I finished with another 10 minutes of:

  1. Bench presses with the bar on stability ball
  2. Wall push ups
  3. Front loaded squats with 10 pound kettle bell
  4. Dead Lifts with reactor bar
  5. Over head triceps extension with 8 pound hand weights while on stability ball
  6. Upright rows with the bar
  7. Shoulder Raises to front with 5 pound hand weight
  8. Shoulder Raises to side with 5 pound hand weight
  9. Jump rope for 30 seconds (without the rope)
  10. Repeat

Rodney Yee Yoga Video on valerielatona.comAnd a final 20 minutes of back bends with Rodney Yee. I find back bends really work the abdominals to the point of quivering.  Yoga is a fine end to a workout for a much-needed stretch of warm muscles and centering your mind for what the day has left.


A few thoughts on why change is good…

Written by: on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Winds of Change quote for valerielatona.comWe all fear change: we get so used to the path we’re plugging away on (sometimes mindlessly)…that sometimes we get scared when we’re forced to divert to a different path or do something different. My advice: don’t fear it. It’s life’s way of gently guiding you to what you should be doing. And chances are: you may just be happier in the long run. A few bits of advice on change in your life.

1) Listen to your body, to your gut, as you go through life. That nagging feeling that sometimes causes you to lose sleep or get a “pit” in your stomach? That’s your gut telling you about what you’re doing or where you should be going. Listen to it: it’s your body’s built-in compass.

2) Things happen for a reason. It’s so hard to understand this when you’re in thick of things, but—like it or not—life has a plan for us. And sometimes we need a good shake up to get to where we’re supposed to be going in life. That could be a health scare that lands us in the hospital (because we need to be living healthier) or a job upheaval that puts you on the unemployment line. (How many stories do we hear about people who were fired from a job…and then went on, as a result, to start a successful business following their life’s passion?)

3) You have nothing to fear. The worst that can happen with change is “failure”, but “failure” can be defined in each person’s mind differently. Success isn’t necessarily defined as a big ol pot of money at the end of the road. In my mind, as long as you’ve learned something along the way, you’ve succeeded!

Amazing Success Story: How This Doctor Lost 120 Pounds!

Written by: on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Brenda Wahler before shot for valerielatona.comBrenda Wahlers is an internal medicine doctor with four kids (including a set of triplets!). The fact that she juggles a busy career as a doctor with not only four kids…but triplets!…is amazing to me. But when I found out that she lost 120 pounds after having her kids—and took up running races—I’m even more impressed!
Brenda Wahlers Before Picture for valerielatona.com

BEFORE: Brenda at 280 pounds

Brenda Wahlers after picture for valerielatona.com

AFTER: Brenda at 160 pounds

Here, her super-inspiring tips on how to take charge of your life—and drop weight too!
1. Surround yourself with active, healthy people. “I never came close to achieving my goals until I stopped spending my time with people who drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and had a deep love for processed, fried, sugary foods. Now I spend time with people who inspire me by their hard work and self discipline to remain strong, active and healthy. It makes all the difference in the world.”
2. Keep it simple…..”To take off extra weight, the calories that you take in have to be less than the calories you expend throughout your day. What that means: Eat less and exercise more. I know that sounds like a big “duh” statement but it is THE concept behind all weight loss. It’s pure science – embrace it.”
3. Wake up! “Wake yourself up to the fact that you have one shot at this life. It took me until I was 35 to have that realization. If you want to be healthy only you can make it happen. No program, pill or doctor can do it for you. Educate yourself and DO IT. If you can really embrace the idea of changing your life you WILL make it happen.”
4. Stop obsessing about weight loss. “Eat right, be active, and the weight will take care of itself.”
5. Be committed to yourself and to your goals. “When I gained a pound I would be so mad and disappointed. The difference comes in how you handle that disappointment. Instead of giving up, use that energy to work harder. I had a three-month plateau that about drove me crazy. I just pushed through, stayed on track, and knew that if I could stay committed I could not fail. Patience is not a strong suit of any person who wants to lose weight (at least sure not one of mine!), but this process needs to become less about weight loss and more about taking control of your life.”