The 9 Foods I Removed From My Menus While Losing -115Lbs

Losing weight is hard! You have to work off more than you take in, and sometimes burning 3500 calories over your intake seems like a lot of work just to lose 1 pound.

In the beginning of my -115lb weight loss, I incorporated everything I used to eat into my new lifestyle. However, over time I have eliminated many of these food items to aid my weight loss. Check them out HERE and share the things you’ve limited or given up in the comments below! 

A Day in My Life: What I Ate to Lose -115Lbs

When you tell people you’ve lost -115lbs, their initial reaction is always “You had gastric bypass, right?” No offense to anyone who has had bariatric surgery, but my answer is “No, I used Weight Watchers, a Fitbit and lots of gym time!”
Sothe immediate followup question is “What do you EAT?”

So I chronicled a day in my life for my weekly column for Organize Yourself Skinny. It might be too much water or involve a food you don’t like, but it’s what works for me and hopefully it inspires you, too!
Check it out HERE

“Women Who Make a Difference” Awards Last Night!

Last night I was honored with the “Empowerment” Award at the SUNY Sullivan Foundation’s “Women Who Make a Difference” Awards. 

Holy cow! This was an absolutely incredible honor with six other truly amazing women, and I was SO nervous! It’s one thing to write a blog, or talk about something you’re passionate about, but to stand up and talk about yourself? YIKES!

My great friend, the Honorable Assemblywoman Aileen M. Gunther introduced me, which was in itself a terrific honor. As she said “I have had the great privilege of watching her grow – and then shrink!”

Here is my acceptance speech:

“Thank you! Let me start by saying, ‘How great is it that we live in a community that takes time to celebrate its women?'”

I want to thank the SUNY Sullivan Foundation for this honor. I started my higher education at SUNY Sullivan when I was 15 years old, taking one class each semester for three semesters and enrolling as a full-time student my Senior Year of high school. SUNY Sullivan is where I first read Dorothy Parker, took my first public speaking class and where I first started to get a sense of the big world outside of my hometown. I’m forever grateful for the education I received in and out of the classroom at SUNY Sullivan.

This night is all about women, but I’m an equal opportunity lover of people so I want to take a moment to acknowledge the two great men in my life. It takes strong men to raise and love and (at times) to live with strong women, and my father and Mr. Big share an innate ability. They’ve always known when to push me, when to encourage me to pause, and when to just back up and let me fly. Thank you both!

I grew up on a quiet street in the tiny little hamlet of Roscoe. One stoplight. One school, K-12. Not a whole lot doing unless you were fishing, and I wasn’t. Sorry Dad! Yet I grew up believing I could do anything I set my mind to anywhere in the world, because my mother would accept nothing less for herself OR for me. My mother believes hard work beats luck in the long run, and I’ve never seen her back down from a challenge because it might seem too hard or take too much time. I would not be the person I am or here today without her. Love you Momma Shelley!

Until 2015, I lived and worked and spent my free time in Sullivan County. From my teenage years at the Roscoe Diner to the Sullivan County Government Center and then Boys & Girls Clubs, my life has always been about service to others (in one way or another). Along the way I have been blessed with so many mentors, colleagues and friends, and certainly Mr. Big’s family, who have provided me with so much inspiration and guidance. And I have been blessed to take so many of those lessons with me to Montefiore Medical Center. I work with and for strong, fantastic women, serving our community. 

And Trading Cardio for Cosmos is the latest chapter in that theme of my life. It definitely started out as a way for me to chronicle my weight loss journey and share some helpful tips, but it’s grown into a full-blown exercise in how to live life to the fullest. So yes, it’s about healthy recipes and exercise and humor, but at its most powerful, it’s about building a community of support for those who need it. It’s about seeing someone who is struggling and saying “You are not alone. We can do this together.”

And when you think about it, that’s what Sullivan County is really all about, right? We might disagree about which river town is prettier, which Bethel Woods concert was our favorite or which of Bootlegger cocktail is our favorite. But when the chips are down, Sullivan County has always been about building communities of support, taking care of one another and saying to anyone who is struggling “You are not alone. We can do this together.”

So I guess at my core, I’m just a hometown girl. I do what I can to empower others because I’ve had a lifetime of Sullivan County doing the same for me.”

My thanks to the SUNY Sullivan Foundation, Montefiore and my colleagues there, Boys & Girls Club and Board Chair Karen Fisher, Jay & Carol Anthony, Media Solstice Marketing & PR and principal Jessica Gardner, Charlie D, Dali & Steve, Todd, our families, everyone in attendance and (as always) Mr. Big for making the event so special! XOXO

7 Habits of Someone Ready to Quit “Dieting” & Make a True Lifestyle Change

There’s always a lot of debate amongst those trying to lose weight about the word “diet.”In the 1980s according to Slim Fast, “Deal a Meal” and the early Weight Watchers programs, a person was “on a diet” when they were trying to lose weight. I remember the infomercials, the shakes, the cabbage soup diets my mom would try. So I understand why so many people get upset or think the word “diet” means the extreme, very restrictive meal plan they remember.

As I’ve been blogging and on my own weight loss journey, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who are trying to lose weight. Some are dieting in the extreme, restrictive sense of losing weight, while some are changing their lifestyle. In my experience, there are some very telltale characteristics exhibited by those who are not just in it to drop 20 pounds by their class reunion, or 50 pounds before their friends’ wedding, but rather to make lasting, sustainable change in their eating habits and lifestyle. And to me, these characteristics are the difference between making your diet, your lifestyle change or your journey successful long-term. Check ‘em out in my weekly column for Organize Yourself Skinny HERE!

Twenty Questions with LISA!

Each Tuesday we feature a different success story from the Trading Cardio for Cosmos community in a segment called “Twenty Questions With…” Young, young at heart, marathon runners and those who can’t exercise at all, vegetarians, pescatarians, working mommas, work-from-home professionals and retirees. We’re going to showcase them all, because when you read about someone like you succeeding, I think it gives you the confidence that you too can succeed! This week I want to introduce you to Lisa!

Lisa is like a walking, talking example of exactly what a true lifestyle change is all about, and I LOVE all of the incredible advice about perseverance, handling cravings, staying the course and her final bits of advice at the bottom are words I need to live by – WOW! She inspired me SO much with her story! Check it out:

1. Give us the basics about you – your first name, age, region you live in, etc.

Hi! I’m Lisa and I live in north-central Pennsylvania, good ol’ USA. I’ll be 49 years old this coming fall. My husband and I will have been married 25 years later this summer and we have two great kids, Emily (who’s 20) and Ben (he’s 10). I homeschooled Emily from 1st thru 12th grade and am currently homeschooling Ben. I’m also active in our local community theater and choral society.

2. When did you start your weight-loss journey? What was the “tipping point” that made you start?


I began my weight loss journey the day I was born it seems, as I’ve always been overweight. I know there are psychological reasons why I’m overweight. I don’t understand all of them but I do know food has always just tasted so good to me. Since I was born in the late 60s, before the wisdom of teaching kids the importance of eating right for the sake of being healthy, what was always preached to me as the ultimate ideal was the importance of being “skinny”. Even at a very young age I realized how miserably I was failing at that and sadly it was pointed out to me by people all around me.
I don’t know that I had an actual tipping point. I mean, every day of my life, with regards to my feelings about my body and my addiction to food, I was highly aware that I needed to do something. And like so many, many people, it wasn’t that I wanted to be overweight–but I just felt so trapped by the mental inability to do anything about it.
In August of 2004 a sweet friend loaned me her Weight Watchers material. Without signing up with Weight Watchers, or attending a meeting (at that point), or with any lofty goals (although I knew what my dream weight was), or without giving it a lot of thought, I just started counting points. There wasn’t a lot of thought put into it, I didn’t set out with any goals in mind (although I knew what my dream weight was), I didn’t set out with grand expectations, I just started. And I began losing weight. There was no magical spell cast, there was nothing profound. Once I did, and began to lose, I was mentally on board. I wish I had some way to manufacture my experience because I’d give it away. All I know is that mentally I was there and that’s what worked. I lost 67 pounds by October 2005 and then had happen what every girl wants when she succeeds in losing a significant amount of weight–I got pregnant!

3. What is one piece of advice you wish you had known when you started out?

It’s a life long battle that truly does require a complete overhaul of how you eat and live your life, that it won’t always be easy, but it’s worth every hurdle.
When I started I sort of had this vague notion that if I could only get to my dream weight then TA DA! I’d sail through life, having won it all. Well, I did get to my goal. And I have indeed won and I’ve won a whole gift bag! But the prizes inside are different than what I thought they’d be. Included are things like being healthier than I’ve ever been in my life, getting fit, and the priceless confidence I have in my victory. But everyday I still wage the battle against my desires to consume every eatable morsel I can lay my hands on and that’s what I hadn’t grasped back then. I thought once I was at a good weight I’d never struggle again. However, even though the conquered battle wasn’t one of my gifts, the weapons to face the battle every day, are!

4. How much weight have you lost? If you are done losing, and are on to maintaining? How long have you been maintaining your loss?

I have lost about 150 pounds from my heaviest weight which was around 2000 and am done losing so I’m on maintenance.

Prior to ever starting Weight Watchers in 2004 I did manage to lose about 10-20 pounds on my own just by giving up my beloved Mountain Dew (that was hard!). Then I lost the 67 pounds before getting pregnant. After I had our son in 2006 I struggled to mentally get back onto Weight Watchers. Every morning I’d vow that I’d stick to my points but usually blew it. So in January of 2012 (yes, 6 years later) I officially joined. My goal upon joining was to lose about 70 pounds. I met my goal in September of 2013 and have been maintaining since then–but even that has had its ups and downs.

5. How do you keep your motivation up?

Every ounce I lost was a victory. It all added up. Why would I want to give that up?? Never, ever, ever do I want to slip and end up back where I was. I refuse to sacrifice what I’ve become, what I’ve “gained by losing.” I feel amazing. The excitement, pride, sense of satisfaction keeps me on this new lifestyle path.
It’s also a fantastic feeling to help others who come to me for tips and advice. It’s so fun to see them winning at this, too. Knowing that I have other people seeing my success reminds me all the time that I have eyes on me and I want to do right by them. I can’t fulfill that if I give up.

6. How do you handle cravings?

First, I’ve learned that sometimes cravings can be temporary and if I can distract myself (usually it requires doing something physical and changing my locale, even if it’s just taking a walk, or running my vacuum) the craving almost always goes away and I’m so relieved that I didn’t give in.
Second, I mentally picture myself, in a hour, having given in and having not given in. The food will only be there for a few seconds; my decision, however, will live on. Bottom line? Think past the moment, think past the moment, think past the moment.
To help me decide if I should give into the craving I use a three part process: is it special? is it worth it? Then savor it! Is it special? Why am I considering this food? Do I really want it or do I want it only because it’s there, or I’m bored, or it’s easy, or I’m obsessing about it, etc? If it’s not special, I walk away. Is it worth it?
I have to decide if what I want is worth the points it’s going to cost me. Is this food truly that good or am I putting something in my mouth just because? If it’s not worth it, walk away.
But if I decide I absolutely must have it, and I’ve deemed it special and worthy… then savor it!

I don’t just scarf this down like our Australian kelpie does, I make it an event! If it’s worth eating then it’s worth savoring. Enjoy it, take your time. Even if it’s just a single Hershey’s kiss, take small bits, let it melt, and really taste it. The other day I was offered some double chocolate Chips Ahoy! at 3 points each. I stepped back for a few seconds to go through my check list. When I decided to have them I savored them like they were manna from Heaven. And you know what? I loved them, they tasted like the best things I’ve had in a long time–and they were just some packaged cookies!

Savoring also offers the benefit of satisfying us more thoroughly thus meaning we can often do with only a few bites as opposed to many more unnecessary bites.
One more thing, if you start to eat something and if it’s not amazing, stop eating it. Stop, spit it out, whatever, but you deserve only foods that make your eyes sparkle and your heart sing.

7. What are your top three tips for success?

1. Have a plan. Like I mentioned, I plan almost every meal and point in advance. I keep track of my plan in a spiral notebook. I divide the front and back of a page into 7 days, see what I have on the menu for my family’s dinner for the week, deciding if I need to substitute or adapt something to make it more points friendly, then plan my breakfasts, lunches, and treats (yes–plan to treat yourself!) around that. Please don’t think this takes a lot of time. Usually I can pull that all together in 20 minutes. Obviously there are times when it changes and we need spontaneity but again, I’m much more comfortable with a routine.
2. Have supportive people. This is easier said than done, I know. Sometimes the people we love the most aren’t on the same page with us to have a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been super blessed that my husband has been a good sport about my weight loss. We don’t always see eye to eye on how I choose to function (he’s spontaneous and fun; I’m a stickler for details and habits!) but doing this without him would have been hard. However, even if those you’re closest to don’t share your desire or, even worse, want to sabotage you, find people who will help. None of us are alone in this.
3. DON’T YOU GIVE UP! One of the biggest hurdles we face is, “What have I done–I ate that slice of cake! I blew it! Darn! Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, right? Since I ate the slice and ruined my day I might was well eat the whole cake.” No! So you fell in a puddle, it’s not a big deal. Unless you get a shovel and start digging! Don’t dig, just move on.
Another hurdle is, “But I have so much to lose. It’ll take so long. Years, maybe.” So? It took me almost 9 years to reach my goal. Even though it took me a long time, you can bet I’m sitting here today so glad that I at least went for it. Imagine if I were here now, having not tried, and someone told me, “Lisa, by now you’d have lost half your body weight. But you thought it would take too long so you didn’t even try.” I’d be crazed with regret.

8. Do you exercise? If so, how often, for how long and what type of exercises do you do?

I do and I wholly endorse it. When I first set out it was impossible for me to do much physical activity due to needing both of my hips replaced. This greatly slowed my weight loss journey and made maintenance more of a struggle. To be truthful, that I had a legitimate reason to not exercise made me relieved because, well, I just wasn’t a fan of all the jumping jacks, squats, and crawling around on the floor.
But about two years ago, having had my necessary surgeries, I started exercising just to see if I couldn’t find something I liked. It began much like my beginning with Weight Watchers–I just started. I began with walking, did some cardio, and some kickboxing (all online videos). Since then I’ve also discovered HIIT, which I like. Mainly though I do a lot of walking. I get up about 6-7 mornings a week and do a mandatory 3-mile before I eat breakfast and I average over 15,000 steps a day. I try to get outside when weather permits but I also love Leslie Sansone and Jessica Smith who both have walking programs which can be bought on DVD or (my favorite way) free on YouTube. I’m still not a fan of floor exercises or ones that declare, “We’ll make you work until you dry heave!” No thanks. Some folks enjoy that sort of thing but I’ve learned that you can get thorough, effective workouts through less intense avenues, too. My dream exercise regimen is good, old-fashioned hard work like farming, or construction, or landscaping. If I could be productive while getting fit, it’d be perfect!
Learning to enjoy exercise has been a process for me, but enjoy it now I do. Recently I read the statement, “Exercise should be viewed as a celebration of what your body can do, not as punishment for something you ate.” This resonated deeply with me since I was barely able to walk at one point. Today I am becoming more and more fit, I’m slimmer, so I’ve determined to yes, celebrate what this 48-year-old body can accomplish.
Speaking of eating and exercising, I do use a lot (if not all) of my earned Fit Points. Since I’m on maintenance this doesn’t hinder me as it might for you if you’re working on losing weight. But I do love food and the exercise has both the benefits of making me strong, but also affording me some extra points.

9. What is your favorite breakfast?

Again, I’m such a creature of habit. I enjoy a huge breakfast, smaller lunch, and decent dinner. Breakfast is usually two over-easy eggs, two slices of 35-calorie toast with orange marmalade, a low fat yogurt, a banana, and coffee. I also insist on my 64 ounces of water every day and I start my day with a glass or two.

10. What is your go-to lunch?

As I said, my lunch is a little lighter. Usually it’s chicken salad (made with canned chicken, or some cooked breasts with lite mayo), tuna salad, egg salad on my 35-calorie per slice bread, and some Progresso soup (I am all about the tomato with basil). Something else I love is to lightly spray both sides of an Arnold’s whole wheat or multi-grain bun with olive oil, add a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese, and brown in a skillet. I have also discovered Mott’s Healthy Recipe flavored applesauce for zero points so I’ll have two of those.

11. What does a typical week night dinner look like? What about a weekend dinner?

dinner.jpgRegardless of week night or weekend my dinners are pretty much the same. I have a protein, such as a burger (I love burgers and use 93/7) or chicken. This is when I get in my vegetables, too. I eat a lot of salads with lite dressing or, what’s become my favorite given the summer, a baked and shredded spaghetti squash sauteed with a variety of other vegetables like zuchinni, yellow squash, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli–I mix the variety every week. I saute it all in in a few tablespoons of olive oil with some crushed garlic. I even eat it cold like a salad. Often I’ll slice a potato, spray with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, toss them on a baking sheet and cook till they’re brown and tender.

12. What kind of snacks do you like?

I’m not much of a snacker but when I do want something I try to stick to apples, bananas, other fruits.

13. What kind of desserts do you eat?


I love desserts but they’re usually reserved as a rare treat. I’ve found if I have them in the house I’m prone to eating more than I should. However the one thing I can’t resist is ice cream! I have a deep love of ice cream but to keep it more lifestyle friendly I usually have frozen yogurt. Usually though I get only a serving at a time and don’t typically keep it in the house.

14. What kind of adult beverages do you enjoy?

I have adult beverages so seldom that I can’t really address this. If I am going to have something it’s usually while out to eat and I check with my server as to what they have in the way of lighter options.

15. What is your favorite meal to eat in a restaurant?

Almost anything. I adore going out to eat but have found I have trouble with self-control when I do so I try to make it an only-so-often experience. When I do go out what I have depends on how many points I want to use. In general, I check out the lighter fare options and get a baked potato and salad as sides.

16. Do you have a favorite fast food/casual dining meal?

Yes! Living in PA we have a convenience store called Sheetz which is very popular. When I’m running errands or such I’ll often stop there for a grilled chicken sandwich, Special K chips, and a drink.

17. Do you have a favorite weight loss blog/website/FB group that you visit for inspiration?

Yes, on Facebook I’m a member of Weight Watchers-We Can Do It!

18. Do you have a favorite website for healthy recipes?

All the usual suspects here: SkinnyMs, Skinnytaste, etc.

19. Do you have a favorite quote, meme, or thought that keeps you motivated?


“Persistence + motivation + determination = success.”
“Wake up with determination, go to bed with satisfaction.”
“That poor food choice will taste good for only moments but the regret will live much longer.”

20. What’s one final thought you can share with someone who’s interested in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight?

There’s no magic, there’s no secret. It’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Try to not think too far ahead if it feels overwhelming. Live in this minute only. You don’t have to conquer this mountain today but you can do the right thing in this moment, taking it step by step: plan your day, eat breakfast, eat lunch, eat your dinner, have your snacks, get some activity, go to bed, get up the next day, make a plan, eat breakfast, eat lunch, repeat, repeat, repeat.

When you feel yourself tempted, think past the moment. Picture how you’ll feel on the other side of the temptation, especially imagining that you beat that temptation.

Treat your body as a friend–it’s worthy of the right foods, activity, and feeling good. Your body is your friend, not a garbage bin.

One last thing, and I know it’s cliche but really, if I did this, you can too.