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I know I’m about six months too late on the Spring Cleaning but I think that the concept of a deep cleaning should really be done every six months anyway. And the most important place to do a thorough cleaning, for me, is the contents of my closet. Do you remember that scene in the first Sex & the City movie where Carrie Bradshaw cleans out her closet, trying on every outfit she ever owned, while her friends watched and told her to toss it or take it? Well, that’s what went on in my bedroom recently. My mom was in town visiting and I decided to put her to good use and help me decide what to keep and what to throw out.

We put on a movie, she grabbed a glass of wine and I started trying on clothing. I mean, everything. First, I took out my large suitcase filled with my Fall/Winter clothes. Then, I took every one of my Spring/Summer things off of hangers and put it all in one huge pile on the bed. And I literally tried on every single item that was there.

It went anywhere from dresses that I haven’t worn in two years to things I just bought a month ago. My mom was brutal. Anything that looked remotely off or didn’t compliment my figure had to go. She made me toss things I had loved but worn to death and even one memorable dress that I bought at the beginning of the summer but never got a chance to wear. “But why?

” I whined, spinning in front of the mirror and looking myself over. “It’s not too bad, and it’s still brand new. ” “No,” she said firmly, looking at me. “It doesn’t look that great on you. ” And with that, she made me take it off and put it in a trash bag along with the other stuff I was getting rid of.

It was definitely hard to do, but absolutely for the best. The best part though? Not only did I clear out about half of my closet and am starting fresh with the things that look amazing on me, but this whole activity of trying-on-and-taking-off took approximately four hours. That’s no laughing matter! That’s actually some serious calorie burning.

In the end, I killed two birds with one stone. Not only did I clean out my closet but I also probably burned about 600 calories doing it! I know that “clean out my closet” is always on your To Do list and I’m here to tell you- JUST DO IT ALREADY! Trust me when I say that you’ll come away feeling refreshed and confident. Because, after all, doesn’t a girl deserve to only have the absolute best fitting clothes to wear?

Lunch can always be a huge calorie suck in your day. You’re just sitting there at work, not sure of sure of what you’ll be doing once it hits 1 o’clock. Your stomach is rumbling and the good intentions you had this morning to get a salad instead turn to daydreams of grabbing a quick slice of pizza on the corner instead. Or maybe you want to go for that fast food burger after all… But one of the easiest and best things you can do for yourself and your health is actually to start preparing your lunch ahead of time. This is one of my favorite things to do, as you can see by the picture above.

My basic strategy is to use the limited time I have to cook to also make myself both take care of my portion sizes as well as prepare a meal for another time. What I did was I bought tupperware that’s the perfect size for a lunch meal, about 1 1/2-2cups of food fit into these red topped containers. Then, whenever I have a dinner party or time to cook, I make sure to make a little bit of extra and store it in one of these containers. Sometimes I take the meal with me to lunch the next day. But more often than not, I save it for a few days from now.

Sometimes I even store it in my freezer to use at a later time (though this doesn’t work with everything). When I wake up the next day, I have a perfect meal ready to go. Whether it’s pasta with veggies, chicken with mashes potatoes, or even fish with a salad- it’s ready for me to take. I don’t have to spend time cooking in the morning (because, really, who wants to wake up extra-early for that? ) and I have a perfectly portioned meal for lunch instead of giving in to less healthy cravings.

The best part? I made it myself so I know that it’s delicious and, best of all, healthy for me! How to Make Your Own Ravioli 1. First, you’re going to have to make your own pasta dough. To do this, get 1 pound of flour and empty it on your counter.

Then, create a circle out of it and empty the middle so that your flour pile looks a bit like a doughnut. Crack open 4 eggs and pour them into your doughnut’s hole. Add in some salt as desired and use a fork to begin mixing the flour into the egg middle. Do this quickly until all of the eggs and flour are mixed together evenly. 2.

Next, knead your mixture until the dough is very smooth. This may take a while and if it dries out, add a little bit of water. Once your dough is ready, sprinkle flour on a counter surface and begin rolling out the dough (usually it’s easiest to cut it into 1/4 sections). Remember that the dough expands when cooked, so you must roll it out extremely thinly. Think about the thickness of a dime.

3. To make your dough into Ravioli shapes, take a glass or cup from your cupboard. This is an easy and cheap way to cut circles out of your dough without spending a lot of money on a special machine. Cut out as many circles as will fit and continue the process all over again with the remaining sections of your pasta dough. Set up a 2nd section on your counter to begin the ravioli.

4. For your ravioli filling, you can create whatever mixture you like. I wanted cheese ravioli and so I combined 1 cup of Ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of dried basil, 1 egg and 4 minced garlic cloves. You can add other cheeses, herbs per your liking or even create a meat ravioli. Once you have your filling, simply use a tablespoon to put a dab in the middle of one circle.

To seal them, dip your fingertip in a glass of water and wet the edges of the ravioli around the filling, cover the circle with another circle of dough, pinch them together with your fingers and then squeeze the edges shut with the end of a fork. 5. Voila! You now have your ravioli ready. Wasn’t that easy?

It’s a pretty simple process that I was completely afraid of before I did it. But, really, it simple yet time consuming. Once your ravioli is ready, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook them. They’re fresh and ready to be devoured. 6.

Keep in mind that fresh pasta takes very little time to cook, so make sure you are very vigilant of the ravioli in the water. If you begin to overcook them, some of them may break open and leak the filling into the water. Don’t worry, simply take them out and strain them. They’re ready to be served! 7.

While your ravioli is cooking, you can also add to your meal up by making some garlic bread in the oven. Simply slice up some Italian or French bread. Then, in a small bowl combine about 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 garlic clove, a pinch of lemon juice and whatever herbs you like. Here, I added a ton of the same basil that was found in the ravioli’s filling. Mix it all together, spread it on your bread, and pop it into the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degree heat.

Once your ravioli and garlic bread are all done, serve them up with some sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top. And enjoy! Recipes adapted from How to Make Pasta the Easy and Fun Way and Make Ravioli from Scratch. One of the things I found most helpful when I went to my Nutritionist session with Jennifer Kass was that she encouraged me to create a list of Priorities in my life. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so the first thing I did was think of the main goal in my life right now.

The goal I thought was most important to me was to: become strong in body, mind and spirit. What I meant by this was that I wanted to improve my body by getting into good shape with regular exercise, I wanted to improve my mind by expanding my knowledge base for my career, and I wanted to improve my spirit by finishing a project (my novel) which is near and dear to my heart. When I got to actually writing out my Priorities list, I jotted down anything that came to mind. It ended up being a huge list of the things I like to do and what I prefer to devote my time to. Other things on the list were travel to Greece (a long-time dream of mine), have dinner parties with friends (I love hosting people and cooking) and building up my savings.

In total, the list ended up being about 25 things. This is definitely WAY too big of a number for a list such as this! Slowly, I started crossing out things that just weren’t as important. I crossed out one website that I was working on because I didn’ absolutely t love it. I crossed out going to Madrid and Brazil next year because Greece was more important to me.

Anything that wasn’t a “I really must do this in the next year” was crossed off or saved for a future Priorities list. I was left with about 15 things on my list. I read them over to make sure that they were balanced and matched up with my overall goal. Everything on the list had to satisfy me either mentally, physically or emotionally in order to reach my goal of becoming a stronger person. After that, I decided to prioritize.

What was the #1 thing I knew I had to finish by the end of the year? What could wait until next year? What was my #2 thing? Sometimes, I found it easier to go from the bottom up (starting with my smallest priority and working my way up). I played around with the numbers on a sheet of paper until, finally, I was satisfied with the list I came up with.

The most important thing then was to write out my priorities in the form of SMART goals. That is, a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and has a set Time or deadline. When writing out my actual priorities, I made sure that all of them stuck to this rule. And hat’s how I formatted my Priorities list, which came out to a total of 10 things that I hoped to accomplish by the end of the year. It has really helped to clear my mind of clutter and the things I know I don’t necessarily have to do, even if I want to do them.

Since finishing my novel is my #1 priority, whereas hosting dinner parties is #6, I know that when push comes to shove, I need to make time for finishing my novel instead of having friends over on some days. And it helps to remind myself of this. So, what’s your Priorities List look like? Confession: I’m afraid to try new foods I know this is probably going to sound really bizarre, but I have a confession to make. I’m afraid of trying new foods.

Actually, I’m terrified of it. I don’t know when I developed this quasi-phobia, but I noticed at the beginning of this year that it’s really starting to affect my life. In High School, I called myself a really picky eater. And I stuck to it: I would only eat certain things. Most of my life I could count the amount of fruits and vegetables I like on two hands.

The number is very limited. Basically, ever since I can remember, I like green apples, bananas, strawberries, carrots, potatoes, peas, pickles, and tomatoes. Not much else has been added to that list over the years because I always refuse to try things. In college, I started to experiment with more foods. I incorporated more exotic cuisines into my diet, but even then it was very limiting, typical stuff.

For Indian, I would always have the chicken tikka masala with white rice. For Thai, I would have the chicken pad thai. For Japanese, it ended up being plain salmon or tuna sushi. It all kind of revolved around this- a protein I recognized and some kind of noodles, rice, or potatoes. I’d always known this wasn’t the best way to go through life, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that it was almost a real phobia.

I was talking to a friend and I described to her how, often, when I think about trying new foods I am struck with a literal fear in my chest. Sometimes I find it hard to breathe and always I find myself mentally freaking out and not being able to even deal with the concept of trying that new thing. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? As I was telling my friend about my irrational fear, she said: “it sounds like a phobia. ” And that’s when I realized that she was right.

And so, I’ve made a real commitment to battle this weird fear of mine. For the past month I have slowly started to try the things I am afraid of. For the most part it is fruits and vegetables. The biggest one I’ve conquered so far is trying broccoli- and liking it! My friend came over one evening for dinner, and I had her bring some veggies for me to try.

Broccoli was definitely the scariest but we grilled it and I ended up liking it. The next day, I made it again- this time I sauteed it with butter and garlic. At the end, after getting it just a little bit cooked, I added some mediterranean white sauce and ate it with leftover fish from a few nights ago. Let me tell you- it was DELICIOUS! I am now a complete broccoli convert.

Granted, I’m still kind of afraid of trying new foods. But I’m trying to get over it. Often I have to psych myself up all day. It’s best when I know what’s coming. And I’ve had some hiccups (it took me until the late afternoon to finally try some blueberries, which I had bought that morning) but all in all it’s going well.

It’s a crazy adventure and a weird thing to deal with, I admit, but I think it’s especially important to my health journey to expand my list of what I eat. After all, it’s so much easier to portion control when I can add fruits and veggies along with my proteins and carbs. It’s all about balance. For every accepted mention or acknowledgment of “Lose For Good” made on September 14th through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and check-ins via foursquare, Weight Watchers will donate $1 – up to $60,000* – to Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger. I’m a huge fan of Weight Watchers and have been going on and off to meetings since 2005.

I’ve recently hit my goal weight and am now working on the Maintenance portion. As you know, I’m really dedicated to keeping this weight off. And so, I am a huge supporter of their Lose for Good campaign. Today and today ONLY they are hosting a Lose-a-Palooza where you can spread the word through any variety of media outlets and Weight Watchers will donate $1 to Share Our Strength and Action Against Hunger to fight hunger in our world. Join today!

Comment on this blog, Tweet about it with the tag #LoseForGood, post the above on your Facebook, check into a meeting with foursquare- anything! Just get out there and do it! How Healthy Snacks Can Become Dinner I recently found myself with a ton of snack foods on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I had eaten a decently-sized brunch that morning and didn’t feel like having dinner. However, I knew that I needed to eat a little something so that I wouldn’t wake up starving later.

Rifling through my fridge, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to snack on. So, instead, I choose everything and mixed it all together. I decided to have some garlic hummus with carrots and a whole-wheat cracker. I also used up what was left of my delicious homemade guacamole, some left-over pico de gallo from Whole Foods and a little container of white sauce from my favorite Halal cart on 53rd St & 6th Ave in NYC. I ended up eating this all as my dinner and, let me tell you, it was really delicious.

It made for a perfect light dinner and I think the only questionable potentially not-so-healthy thing was the white sauce, since I can’t exactly pinpoint how many calories it had. However, I used it sparingly and mostly concentrated on my hummus and pico with a little bit of the guacamole, which was also excellent. I think the most refreshing thing about this meal was its simplicity. It was a great reminder to myself that I don’t always have to have dinner if I don’t feel like it. Sometimes it’s nice to just have something light.

And this dinner consisting of my “healthy snacks” was absolutely perfect. I recently met up with a friend of mine for lunch, who suggested we go to Qdoba Mexican Grill. I was a bit hesitant, mostly due to the fact that portion control is very important to me and I didn’t want to be stuck with a half-eaten burrito to heat up later in the week. However, all that turned around when she introduced me to their wonderful Kid’s Meals. After looking up the easy-to-use nutrition calculator on their website, I decided to get the Lil’ Naked Burrito.

This is basically their standard burrito in a bowl, except kid-sized for easy portion control. They gave me the cilantro rice with black beans, grilled chicken, and pico de gallo salsa. I also added some lettuce and sour cream on top (no, the above picture with the cheese isn’t mine). This meal came out to a total of 7 ounces with only 260 calories, 7g of fat, 7g of fiber, and 14g of protein. The meal also comes with a drink and a side, and I chose a 2% milk and an apple sauce but decided to leave them both for another day.

All in all, this was a perfectly delicious, well-portioned, cheap meal. It came out to less than $5 and I was very satisfied to be having my naked burrito without having to deal with unsatisfying leftovers the next day. Yum! I absolutely love shopping. In fact, it’s probably one of my favorite things to do.

Mind you, it never used to be this way. I remember how in High School my mom would have to drag me to stores to find new clothes. I always enjoyed it, but I got tired easily. My tiredness turned to frustration which turned to “can we go now? ”.

It was always the same- I could hardly ever find clothes that I liked and fit me well. It wasn’t really until college that I developed a true sense of style and what I felt comfortable in. But my road to fashions self-discovery would have been a lot easier had I met someone like my friend Sammy D before. She is the owner/founder of Sammy D Vintage, and she loves inspiring women through an interest in vintage fashion, sustainable style and living life as a positive, driven person. She’s my role model when it comes to living life to the fullest, never giving up and keeping an optimistic attitude.

So when she invited me to her showroom for a personal shopping trip last week, I jumped at the chance. I’d only done it once before (as well as attended a couple of her sales) but this was a really extraordinary experience. She got a taste of what I was looking for beforehand and made sure to keep an eye out for those items. When I got there, she made me comfortable as we chatted and caught up- and then we got down to business! She pulled a ton of things for me to try on.

And I did, for over two hours. This was the first thing I tried on. It’s a gorgeous tweed baby pink skirt that I absolutely fell in love with. It reminded me of the Mad Men era and I just had to have it. Plus, luckily for me, I had worn this white top today and I think it really went well together.

Pairing the skirt with something that I already owned made me feel great. I also fell in love with this black on white dress (or, as Sammy called it- “black and white, in reverse! ”). I think the picture here actually doesn’t even do the dress justice. In person, it’s absolutely fabulous and I loved it.

Plus, I think it’s a great dress for this Fall. I’ve never really been much of a “fashion rules” girl, so I have no problem wearing this mostly-white dress after Labor Day. It works with my figure and the sleeves will keep me warm in the office. I tried on this black velvet top with an absolutely amazing skirt. I don’t know what it is about this skirt, but I completely fell in love.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I love bold patterns, I love color and I love flowers. And this skirt has it all! It totally reminded me of Madrid- which at that point I was planning to visit over Thanksgiving (though, sadly, my plans fell through). But no matter, I think I will easily be able to wear the skirt this Autumn and remind myself of Spain. It’s just such a fun look that I might even try to wear it in the Winter with super-warm leggings.

But I think the absolute crowning glory of my shopping trip was this sweetheart-neckline velvet dress. Sammy said that she actually picked this adorable black dress up with me in mind- and boy was she right! It absolutely fit me perfectly, and I do think I wore it very well. Although originally I decided not to get it because I just couldn’t picture where I would wear it, in the end I came back and made the splurge. After all, how many times in life do you find a truly unique and beautiful Little Black Dress?

I know that even if I don’t wear it tomorrow or in a month or in a year, one day I will pull it out of my closet and be so very happy that I have it. Although I tried on plenty more looks, these are the ones that I really think fit me best. But what I really loved about this experience was the careful attention that only a personal shopper can give you. You don’t really get this kind of service in Forever 21 (which I do very much love as well, FYI). If you can, find a small boutique or personal shopper in your area- and take some time to indulge.

He or she can pick out what looks best on you, and tell you when something isn’t quite right. I’ll admit that I spent a bit more money than I had intended to, but it was definitely all worth it. Did you have a good weekend? I certainly did. This is me laying out on the beach at Long Beach Island, NJ, on Saturday.

It was a beautiful day and I had a great time all weekend. One thing I made sure to keep up was portion control. And I also rediscovered my love for swimming. I had frequently thought about swimming laps in my gym’s pool or taking a water aerobics class, but I tend to always put it on the back burner. I always think it’s a great idea, but never end up going.

But this weekend at the beach- I had a ton of fun splashing around in the ocean’s waves. I never really thought about it, but doing this for almost an hour definitely burned some major calories. I could feel it in my legs and arms the next day. I’ve always heard that the advantages of exercise in water were great, but I think I’m now really to really try this. So, I’m committing myself to start swimming at my gym on the weekends.

Whether I take a water class or just swim a few laps, this is great exercise. But if you don’t have a gym, head out to the beach for as long as you still can. Summer’s almost over, but the weather will still be warm for a little bit. And definitely remember this for next year- fun at the beach can be great for your waistline. So next time you’re there, embrace your inner child and just play, play, play!