Saturday, December 26, 2009

neg nog

The plan for my simple after-dinner treat turned into a bit of a science experiment tonight. A while back, I had received an email from LA Weight Loss with a recipe for "Guilt-Free Egg Nog." I decided to try it on the second day of Christmas. Here's the recipe:
5 cups of skim milk
1 package of sugar free vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)

Blend for at least 2 minutes with wire whisk. Makes 5 servings. 1 serving (8 ounces) equals 1 Dairy
As I gathered the ingredients, I realized that the container of skim milk from Weigel's had less than the requisite five cups. It was time to call in the reinforcements. My son and daughter are both smarter than I could ever hope to be. It didn't take long for them to figure out that the 1¾ cups of milk I had left was 35% of what the recipe called for. All we had to do was use only 35% of all the other ingredients to make a smaller batch of diet egg nog.

My son measured the package of Jell-O Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding mix and found that it contained about 70 cubic centimeters of powder. 35% of that would be 24.5 cm³. A little bit of the leftover mix was lost during the transaction. We eyeballed the amount of cinnamon and vanilla extract by partially filling a half-teaspoon.

A good whisking created a frothy mixture that I poured into my Christmas in the City mug. Although it had a consistency similar to skim milk, the taste was a close approximation of the real thing.

I was reminded to look for the email in my inbox by a blurb in Friday's free News Sentinel. The weekly Web Watch column listed three sites. I remember one was and another was an egg nog page. I couldn't recall the exact URL so I turned to Google. It gave me the "Eggnog Recipe Collection," which didn't seem quite right. I found the Knoxville.Com section of yesterday's paper and saw that the site was actually "Eggnog World." My blog entry from last month has almost as many links as these relatively simple sites.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

shop around

There's a particular brand of fat-free salad dressing that I have been buying at Food City for the past few years. I have made a point of only shopping at the specific locations (Bearden and Morrell Road) that stock Henri's. The cost per ounce made it more affordable than smaller bottle's of Ken's fat-free dressings.

Food City recently raised the price of my favorite dressing to well over $4 a bottle, which gave me reason to try another brand. The honey mustard variety of Eating Right Salad Dressing looks watery but for the price, I'm willing to put up with it. The current sale price is $2.50 a bottle. It's flavor is more mustard than honey, whereas Henri's is more honey than mustard. Eating Right dressing has ten fewer calories and 135 fewer mg of sodium than Henri's.

It's a little odd to me that Food City carries products from Eating Right, which is a Safeway brand. Food City recently denied rumors that they might be sold to Publix.

I've also tried a cheaper barbecue sauce, hoping my family will like it. I had been paying over $3 a bottle for Sticky Fingers Memphis Original Barbecue Sauce. It tastes great but to save some money, I bought a one-gallon jug of Corky's Bar-B-Q sauce at Sam's Club. When we finally finished the jug, I went to Sam's to buy a new one. As is their habit, they had discontinued the item.

While at Food City, I started comparing labels and prices of the different BBQ sauces on the shelf. Some had too many calories. Others had too much sodium. Most cost too much. Sticky Fingers has only 35 calories and 240 mg of sodium but the price is high. Corky's had 40 calories and 310 mg of sodium. After considering the Jack Daniel's sauces, I finally picked up a bottle of a store brand and was surprised by what I saw. The Valu Time BBQ sauce has 45 calories per serving and only 190 mg of sodium. Best of all, it cost 96 cents. Although my wife and son still prefer the name brands, the taste of Valu Time is completely satisfactory to me. I should have tried buying it a lot sooner.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

file footage

Lloyd Bentsen will always be remembered for his famous put-down of Dan Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." See if you can guess why that quote came to mind while I was watching the 11:00 p.m. news on Monday night.

First of all, I was surprised to see a much heavier version of myself on WBIR. The report started with video from six years ago of the last Phil & Murphy Show on 100.3 The River. They were reporting on a radio station licensed to Oliver Springs that has started using the same name. The angle on the story was that The River is back. Not so fast.

The fault lies more with WBIR than with the new radio station. They wrote their news story to make it sound like my old station was back, even though the manager of the new station made it clear that their name is really just a coincidence. To me, their "'80s, '90s and Now" slogan sounds more like another defunct station, The Point, than the "World Class Rock" once offered by The River.

Here is the video of me trying to hide my weight under an untucked shirt. Don't blink, I'm on there a couple of times but only for a second or two each.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

fat Tuesday

Comedian Pat Godwin wrote a note on my wall Sunday that asked "who is that thin guy in your profile photo?" It was a callback to our conversation at the old Comedy Zone a year and a half ago. I wrote back that I might dare to post a "before" photo that he would recognize. The inspiration to do so came during lunch today when I chose a sauce for my chicken.

When my wife and I went to the fancy Kroger this weekend, I noticed that they carry the delicious Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce that I love. They sell the 15.75 ounce bottles for $7.49, which is more than the $6.87 I used to pay for a 40 ounce bottle at Sam's Club.

The word chipotle caught my eye on another label I knew. Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q has a new Spicy Chipotle B-B-Q Sauce that I wanted to try. I bought a 16 ounce bottle for $2.99. It's noticeably spicier than their regular sauce, which I've used in the past.

The message from Pat and the bottle of sauce combined to make me flashback to a trip my family took to Atlanta in May, 2005. We ate at the Williamson Bros. restaurant in nearby Marietta. It was still four months before I started the weight loss program that changed my life.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

bids and squids

The March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction has become one of my favorite events to attend. My wife and I got to experience it on Sunday night. As I wrote last year, it's up there with Feast With the Beasts as a great night of food and fun.

While all the other guests headed to the various serving stations around the room for roast beef, lamb and seared tuna, I went straight to the Sugarbuzz Bakers table and grabbed a slice of their Chocolate Toffee Cake. Why not have dessert first? The Caramel Apple Cake looked good but I waited too long to get some. There were only crumbs left when I returned to the Sugarbuzz table later in the evening.

The cakes from Sugarbuzz got third place overall from the judges. The Crown & Goose came in second with a duck cake (think crab cake) with pickled fall root vegetables. Sapphire rightfully took first place with an outstanding Ika salad -- ginger marinated squid with Asian vegetables and a sweet eel sauce -- and Caribbean tuna nigiri -- sashimi tuna served with pineapple calypso sauce and topped with toasted coconut.

Although they didn't make the top three, my wife and I agreed that the chicken Marsala and lobster ravioli from Carrabba's Italian Grill were excellent. We eat a lot of chicken and know a delicious chicken breast when we taste one.

Chef Walter was one of the judges. I was very impressed by his successful weight loss. He's been following a dietary program through the UT Medical Center. We caught up with him as he was leaving with some takeout containers for his wife, Miss Anne.

My wife and I also had nice conversations with Maestro Lucas Richman and Russell Biven. We especially enjoyed talking with former WBIR reporter Jim Ragonese and his wife Jaime. She said that I really need to read a book about cadavers called "Stiff." I recalled that the same author had written a book with a one-word title about sex and that it wasn't called "Stiff."

In addition to the live auction for big-ticket items like an emerald and diamonds ring from Lamon Jewelers, there was a silent auction in the lobby before dinner was served. My wife bid on a basket full of Thanksgiving items but was outbid. I was temped to place a bid for a custom website package until I saw that they offer "professioanl graphic design."

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

four out of five bullet points

Posting a blog entry about eating a cupcake yesterday helped me extend the experience long after the actual cupcake was gone. I like to write about the special treats, not about the vast majority of my meals, which are in keeping with the weight loss plan I started following over three years ago. I can afford a caloric splurge every now and again because of my normal vigilance.

That is the same word USA Today used to describe dietary success: "Food vigilance is key to keeping weight off," said the headline in Thursday's issue. I can follow all but one of the bullet points from the National Weight Control Registry. The people in the group lost an average 66 pounds and kept off at least 30. See if you can guess which of the following tips is the one that's too strict for me:
  • Limit their calories to 1,800 a day
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Weigh themselves at least once a week
  • Walk about an hour a day (11,000 steps) or burn the equivalent calories
  • Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

sorry Charlie

Doug McCaughan used to have a picture on his site of a t-shirt that said "Don't Make Me Blog You." That was exactly my thought today when I was buying a can of tuna fish at Food City.

The shopping trip had started out well. I saw the Tennessee Traveler vehicle parked out front of the supermarket and knew that Alan Williams must be inside. He was just getting in the checkout line and paused to say hi. He said it had been a while since he had seen me. I mentioned that I had recently seen him on stage at the Tennessee Theatre when WVLT did their local upfront presentation. On the way home, I thought about the time I invited Alan, Gene Patterson and Ted Hall to judge a turkey cooking contest. I was with a now-defunct oldies station at the time. Each anchorman judged a different day of the three-day competition leading up to Thanksgiving.

I had driven over to Bearden to patronize one of the few Food City stores that still carries my favorite fat-free salad dressing. During my weight loss, I also switched brands of chicken and tuna. I only buy cans of StarKist that are marked not just "Low Sodium" but "Very Low Sodium." Tuna was a good choice for me on days I felt especially hungry. My serving size for chicken is five ounces. For turkey and most types of fresh fish, it's four ounces. For beef, it's only three ounces. However, I am allowed to eat a whole six-ounce can of low sodium tuna. That's why I got so mad at StarKist today when I took a can off the shelf and realized it had been downsized to four-and-a-half ounces. Boo StarKist! Now I have to look for a store that carries the very low sodium variety of Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea in six-ounce cans.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

almost a chicken and waffle

It was only my third time inside a Waffle House yesterday. When I first moved here, I went to the Waffle House on Papermill Drive to record a segment about what belongs on top of grits. My radio partner thought it was sacrilege that I put sugar on my grits.

My first experience with the House was in Tulsa many years ago. Don & Mike had planned on doing a live broadcast in front of Oral Roberts University on the day that Oral had set as a fund raising deadline. If he didn't get the cash, the Lord was going to call him home. Back in those days we would rent a big satellite truck for remotes from other cities. We were going to set up the truck in the parking lot of our hotel, right across the street from ORU. Our permission was revoked when the hotel manager figured out what we were planning. We were told that Oral also owned the hotel's land and virtually the whole neighborhood. Without a place to put the truck, we ended up calling in to the studio from various pay phones (remember those?) around Tulsa. I used a phone at a Waffle House for my live report.

My friend Sandy Weaver Carman and her husband were passing through town yesterday, so we arranged to meet for breakfast. Before heading out to our meeting, we tried to figure out how to make it sound like we were going to a fancy restaurant, similar to the way Target is often pronounced with a French accent. I asked my son how to say Waffle House in Spanish. He came up with "Casa de Indecisión."

It was great to see Sandy and her husband again. It's been a few years since we last visited her at a canine agility event near Atlanta. My wife and I were also happy to see her dog Billy who had come along for the ride. Once we were settled into the booth, we talked about Sandy's new voiceover business, my improv group, some former co-workers and radio in general. I would have liked to chat a lot longer but I stopped myself from bringing up new topics because I knew that they had to get on the road. Sandy's husband seemed very curious about improv. He has never seen "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" so I couldn't use that as a reference point. Maybe he can watch one of our YouTube videos.

For breakfast, I ordered one egg and split a waffle with my wife. I should have taken the extra calories and had the regular syrup. The sugar-free stuff tasted nasty to me. Sandy and her husband asked if I was sure I didn't want to eat anything more. After all, they said, it didn't look like I needed to lose any weight. I said that I was only trying to not gain it back. They must not remember how big I was three years ago, like in these before photos. Here's another one, taken while on a trip to Sandy's part of the world. That's me on the right, smart aleck.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

f-a-t-u-r-d-a-y night

This uplifting news came out just before the holiday weekend: dieters eat more on Saturdays. I thought about mentioning it last week but didn't want to ruin your (and my) celebration. If you've ever tried to lose weight, you probably won't be surprised that researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that their test subjects lost weight during the week but not on weekends. Fatty foods are the culprit. Participants ate about as much fat on the weekends as on the five weekdays combined. Hmm... were they allowed to visit Ted Drewes? The study results will be published in the journal Obesity.

For many of us, the pounds start to pile on during our college years. Last year, a Newsweek article spelled out the undergrad weight gain. A current Newsweek article points out the importance of keeping a food diary when trying to shed pounds.

I can relate. I kept a food diary during my weight loss in 2005 and 2006. To maintain my weight, I still weigh and measure my food portions when eating at home. This past Saturday I saved my starch allotment to have cake at a wedding reception. However I didn't plan for the mashed potato bar. It seems like every weekend lately there's been some cake or trifle or even a doughnut. At least it's swimming season and I can burn off some of those extra calories.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

could there be a connection?

There were two bottles of Henri's Fat-Free Honey Mustard Salad Dressing on the shelf at the Bearden Food City tonight. As my wife put them in our cart, I realized that they were the same bottles that remained after I bought all but those two last week. One still had their old-style label.

The Food City on Middlebrook Pike put Henri's on a close-out special last week. Does that mean it will be discontinued at all their locations or just that one? Chicken and salad dressing are the two main reasons we switched from Kroger to Food City. I may be looking to switch supermarkets again if I can't continue to get the fat-free Henri's.

Hometown Favorites charges the same price for Henri's as Food City. I have to decide if it's worth paying added cost of shipping and handling. I couldn't find a website for the Henri's brand, just for its parent company, ACH Food Companies in Memphis.

I wish I could buy Henri's dressing as cheaply as the two Chicago-area crooks who got it for only 3¢ a bottle. That wasn't their crime. It was relabeling the bottles to change the expiration date and reselling them to stores. Setting up a toll-free hotline to lie to customers didn't help them either. One of these creative criminal minds is was a movie director.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

show some restraint

Thanks to an email reminder from my friend Bean, my family and I went to Baskin-Robbins after dinner tonight. It was their annual 31 Cent Scoop Night. While blogrolling this afternoon, I had also read a posting on Reality Me about the promotion. Just like last year there was a line out the door. A sign on that door warned customers of the ten scoop limit. Another sign advertised that they needed help. I was tempted to hop behind the counter and pitch in.

Back in my scooping days, we had to wear hats when working at Baskin-Robbins. Tonight, an employee in a red shirt kept touching her long hair after bending over to scoop out some ice cream. The lower she had to reach for the ice cream, the closer her hair got to the tubs. My wife said that she didn't want this girl to serve us. When it was our turn, I told the girl that we needed another minute to decide. She moved on to the next customer and we were helped by a guy with short hair.

I saw several people with multiple scoops including a guy who showed me his five. I only got a single scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale, which was all I needed. As good as it was, I realized that I have lost my ice cream jones. When I first moved to Knoxville, I would eat ice cream almost every night. That's part of the reason I gained the weight that I lost a couple of years ago. I still love sweets but if I had to choose between ice cream and cake, I think I would take the cake. Or the cookie or the brownie or some candy.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007


The next time he comes to your town, go see comedian Pat Godwin. My wife and I just got home from The Comedy Zone where Pat has been headlining all week. He uses his guitar throughout the entire show, parodying famous rock stars, singing some original music and making up songs about audience members. His impression of Bono singing "Bingo" is especially funny.

Paul Simmons and I had a chance to talk with Pat before the show. I told him that I remembered meeting him seven and a half years ago at the inception of the Comedy World Radio Network. Pat was part of the ensemble on Craig Shoemaker's show. We agreed that Comedy World was several years ahead of the curve with its live audio and video streaming on the Internet. We started talking about some of the other staff members and Pat asked if I knew whatever happened to a guy who worked on one of the other shows but had filled in as producer on Shoemaker's show for a couple of weeks. Pat recalled that this guy had radio experience, unlike most of the other employees at the network. I told Pat that the guy he was thinking of was me. He couldn't believe it. He looked right at me and said, "you must have lost 50 pounds!" I explained that not only had I lost the weight but that I also had Lasik surgery and a makeover.

Now all I have to do is look to see if we still have any of the hand repair lotion that my wife used to be able to find at Bath & Body Works. The skin on my hands is cracked from applauding so hard at Pat Godwin's show.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

four course meal

The Taylor Farms bagged salad at Sam's Club is normally excellent. Our family goes through salad fast enough that I can buy two three-pound bags and a bag of the broccoli I like without any fear of it going bad before we use it. I was surprised and disappointed by the two bags of salad that I bought on Monday. As usual, I rifled through the packages looking for the ones with the most distant expiration date. I found several that expire on July 24, which was, at the time, over a week away. The label promises that the greens are "triple hydrowashed." Well, mine may have been hydrowashed but they were not "hydrodryed." The salad in both bags was soaking wet, which caused the lettuce to wilt. Being too cheap to throw it out, I ate the wilted salad after using a paper towel to soak up the excess water. For my next shopping trip, I went across the parking lot to buy a three-pound bag of Fresh Express salad at Wal-Mart. At that store the broccoli comes on the stalk instead of in a BreatheWay bag. When I got home, I cut a little bit off the end of the stalks and put them in a container of water like you would do with fresh flowers, except that I put the container in the fridge. Another time I used the same technique to revitalize some broccoli that had started to get rubbery. We slice up the stalk and add it to our salads.

Speaking of things at Sam's, I thought the original selling point of Pringles was that they wouldn't get broken in their cans. I wonder why they now put them in bags.

Can raw scallops really get cooked by sitting in lime juice? I saw Ingrid Hoffman make some ceviche on a talk show recently. I found the actual video clip of it on her website. Curious about the process she described, I looked it up. A Washington Post article explained that the acid in the lime juice has the same effect on the meat as cooking.

For dessert, I recommend a faux ice cream sandwich. It was a year ago when my daughter suggested we try making root beer floats with frozen fat free whipped topping. At the time, I found a website with the idea for placing frozen whipped topping between two graham crackers. I didn't get around to trying it until a couple of weeks ago. It was just okay until I figured out that I should use a chocolate graham cracker and that I should leave the sandwich in the freezer for a week. The graham cracker softens up and takes on the texture of a real ice cream sandwich. I grabbed a handful of Ziploc bags and made a batch to share with the family. I used one whole container of frozen fat free whipped topping and one of the three sleeves of graham crackers in the box.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

everybody had matching towels

Once a year my family likes to celebrate with a lobster dinner. For the past few years we've ordered our crustaceans from The Shrimp Dock in Bearden. A recent posting on a News Sentinel business blog (found via Michael Silence) mentioned that the store now has a 24 hour webcam. If you happened to be on the Shrimp Dock site around 3:30 this afternoon, you saw me, happily examining my live lobsters.

In years past, I ate a large lobster all by myself. Nowadays, my mantra is portion control. Last year and this year, my wife and I shared a two pound lobster, which yields about three ounces of meat for each of us. I don't know if the old me qualified as a true "foodie" but I did often take pictures of my favorite meals. Here's my lobster from three years ago:

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

anyone for NaCl?

The packages of chicken at Sam's Club look great. That is until you flip them over. The front of each package has the name of the American Heart Association prominently displayed on it along with a message to visit for information about heart-healthy grocery shopping.

When my wife and I joined LA Weight Loss, one of the first things we learned was to radically cut the amount of sodium we eat each day. It helps keep off water weight. A friend of ours has had to cut sodium after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The so-called heart healthy chicken at Sam's has 220 mg of sodium per serving. Salt is even listed as an ingredient. I don't know if salt and chicken broth are injected as preservatives or to add weight and volume to each piece of meat.

As much as we would like to save money by purchasing Sam's chicken, my wife and I now only buy Sanderson Farms chicken, which we get at Food City. It has only 75 mg of sodium per serving. There are no ingredients listed because the only thing in the package is chicken.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the long haul

Consumer Reports has eight weight loss tips on its website. It's been a year since I reached my weight loss goal. To keep the weight off, I continue to watch what I eat daily. If I ever go back to my old eating habits, I think the lost weight would be found again. I still weigh and measure my food, eat every three hours and drink lots and lots of water. While I can eat unlimited vegetables, I constantly need to resist the urge to eat unlimited desserts. Sweets will always be my weakness.

While looking for the Consumer Reports article, I landed on Newsweek's website. It has an excerpt from a book called "Rethinking Thin" that I hope to find soon at McKay's.


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

note to self: buy extra newspapers

The News Sentinel article about my makeover will appear in the Style section of tomorrow's paper. However the link to the accompanying slideshow is active as of tonight. My segment on today's "Style" show went well. Michele Silva and writer Kevin Cowan asked me about my haircut, beard trim and weight loss. Kevin was kind enough to snap a photo of me with Michele and Moira Kaye. It's quite a change from the 2005 photo of fat me with ultra-tan Michele.

Jimmy Kimmel asked to see some of my makeover pictures. I emailed him yesterday when I saw something on "Access Hollywood" that would definitely qualify as the "unintentional joke of the day"
on his show. See if you can spot the comedy I found in the video clip of Aretha Franklin on the "Access Hollywood" site. When Jimmy wrote back to say he might use the clip tonight, he also asked for my makeover link. When I reply I'll have to mention a joke I delivered on the air this morning about "Tranjaya" who by the way did not get eliminated from "American Idol" tonight.

Speaking of "Idol," I liked the different arrangements that Chris Sligh and Blake Lewis used on their Diana Ross songs last night. I've written before about my interest in cross-genre cover songs and the Coverville podcast. USA Today's Whitney Matheson posted a list of her favorite cover songs this morning. Her list includes the Gary Jules song I've told you about but she likes a different Britney Spears cover than me.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

little turn on the catwalk

Before my wife and I walked the runway at the Women Today Expo this afternoon, we each had our hair styled by the staff of Garde Bien Spa Salon. As predicted, my wife's natural curls returned in time for the fashion show.

We got dressed in the fancy outfits from Dillard's and walked on stage near the end of the show. Image consultant (and dry cleaning expert) Laurie Wilson asked us about our weight loss and our experiences at the salon and the department store.

News Sentinel Style reporter Kevin Cowan told me that his article about my makeover will appear in Thursday's paper. He also asked me to be on his segment of Wednesday's Style show on WBIR-TV. Kevin posed for a photo with Stacey Handel of Garde Bien, my wife and me. By the way, Kevin is the one who wrote the famous article that had all of East Tennessee talking last fall.

The most popular part of the Women Today Expo is the Food City Food Show. My wife and I said hi to Chef Walter as he was on his way to sign copies of his new cookbook. Later my wife introduced herself to Tina Wesson, who was also signing books at the Food Show. When I saw Tina a bit later, she was surprised by my appearance. The last time she saw me, I was a lot heavier. The good people at Food City tempted me to gain some of the weight back with a sheet cake decorated especially for me. Other than Dr. Bass himself, there can't be that many other people who would enjoy a Body Farm cake as much as me.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

where no man has gone before

In our current radio commercial for LA Weight Loss, my wife teases me about the Star Trek uniform I wore on TV this past Saturday. As you can hear in the spot, the co-hosts of the morning show went to a local TV station for another on-camera segment. The director, John Hudgens, thought it would be funny if one of us put on a costume he had saved from his award winning fan film, "Sith Apprentice." The size of the costume determined that I would be the lucky one.

Looking at that picture, is it any wonder that Terry Morrow of the News Sentinel nominated me for a mini-makeover? The newspaper will document the process as I get fitted for an outfit from Dillard's and a more contemporary haircut from Garde Bien Spa Salon. I hope I get to keep the clothes. The prospect of getting something for free is why I agreed to the makeover in the first place. The "reveal" is supposed to happen at the Women Today Expo. There's a slim chance that WBIR will send a camera to get some footage for their "Style" show, which would be interesting because "Style" co-host Michele Silva is in one of my heaviest "before" pictures from August, 2005.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007


A woman who did testimonial spots for another radio station sat next to us in the waiting room at LA Weight Loss this morning. She agreed that the report on last night's "20/20" was one sided. It focused on the price of membership and not on the fact that the program works. At least the "reporter's notebook" on the ABC website does mention that the plan is based on a balanced diet and smaller portions. Every so often, we are instructed to tag our radio spots with a price special. For example, the most recent special was "lose all the weight you can and pay for only 20 pounds." Any time we advertise a discounted price, we also say "based on the purchase of a full service program, setup and supplements extra." There is no bait-and-switch in our commercials.

As I wrote yesterday, my wife and I lost weight without the supplements by strictly adhering to the LA Weight Loss program. Early on we used a discount coupon to try a bottle of Essential Fatty Acids pills but later realized that we didn't need them, probably because we were eating enough fish regularly. Most of the foods we eat come from the grocery store, especially the produce section. We sometimes buy the LAWL prepackaged snacks not because we were pressured but because we wanted some conveniently packaged foods to eat while away from home. We like the biscotti and the caramel popcorn. Sometimes our son drinks an LA Weight Loss meal replacement shake before a swim meet. He's not on a diet, he just likes the way it tastes and the way it doesn't feel too heavy while he swims.

Our experience with the Knoxville franchise has been excellent. Obviously I didn't have any dealings with the franchisee in Washington state. Because each franchisee runs their own business, it is unfair to think that a problem in one part of the country exists elsewhere.

Another blogger had a similar reaction to the "20/20" piece. Rebecca in Pennsylvania writes that she's never been pressured to buy anything at LA Weight Loss. The people posting on a KFAN discussion thread in Minnesota seem to understand that weight loss is about eating right and not about vitamin supplements. As you would expect, a blog affiliated with LA Weight Loss takes issue with the "20/20" hatchet job too.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

just say no

Tonight's "20/20" is scheduled to include a segment that is critical of LA Weight Loss. In a version of the report that is already online, a dissatisfied customer complains that she was coerced into buying vitamin supplements. The woman says she was unable to resist the sales pitch. To make matters worse, she says that instead of losing weight, she gained 12 pounds.

Readers of my blog probably know that my wife and I both followed the LA Weight Loss plan successfully. She lost 70 pounds and I lost 60. We lost the weight without buying the optional vitamin supplements. We were offered the opportunity to join the program in exchange for writing and producing a new radio commercial each week. Last night we recorded our 70th spot for them. Instead of being paid the standard talent fee for commercials, we would visit the LA Weight Loss center three times a week to weigh in and to have our food diaries reviewed by the counselors. Now that we are in the maintenance phase, we only have to go once a week. As part of the trade agreement, we also receive a supply of delicious "LA Lite" nutrition bars, which retail for about $2 each.

We found most of the counselors at the West Knoxville location to be helpful and genuinely interested in our progress. They would occasionally suggest that we buy their supplements. We would decline because we wanted the power to keep the weight off by controlling our portions and by making healthy food choices. If we had the self control to follow the program and to stop eating so much, we certainly had enough will power to turn down a sales pitch for vitamins.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007


What is currently the most popular breakfast cereal? Rice Krispies? Cap'n Crunch? I have a theory that it might actually be Kashi 7 Whole Grain Flakes. Huh, you say? My wife and I began eating Kashi Flakes regularly while losing weight. We want to continue eating it now that we are in the maintenance phase of the LA Weight Loss program. We would get the cereal at Kroger or Food City but the lowest price was usually at at Wal-Mart. Lately we haven't been able to find it at either Wal-Mart or Food City. Kroger has it in the health food section for $4 a box and sometimes even they are sold out. Out of frustration, I checked the Kashi website for store locations near me. Only the local Kroger stores and the Super Target at Turkey Creek were listed. Today I drove out there with the hope of stocking up. The gaping hole on the shelf told me everything I needed to know. Priced under $3 a box, Target customers can't get enough of the Flakes either. A sales clerk confirmed my suspicion. The Flakes sell out as fast as they can restock the shelves.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

more broccoli please

Portion control. That's one of the most important lessons I learned while losing 60 pounds. I've mentioned before that the key to weight loss is 80 percent diet and only 20 percent exercise and that you'd have to walk a whole mile to burn off only 100 calories. Just after Thanksgiving, Connecticut news anchor Heather Kovar posted a bunch of helpful calorie counters to help you calculate how to burn off holiday foods. Today a friend sent me the link to a great site with pictures that show you exactly what 200 calories of various foods looks like on your plate. 200 calories worth of M&Ms looks to be about the same amount that I had determined on my own. The photo of butter shocked me a little. I don't have to try too hard to remember when I used to smear that much butter on a piece of bread and think nothing of it.

Tomorrow I plan to tell you why I was nosing around Heather Kovar's blog in the first place. Don't let me forget.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

cost per ounce

The exercise equipment and diet pills were on display near the entrance of Sam's Club today. They must know that many people are thinking about weight loss at the beginning of the new year. I go to Sam's often to buy salad and broccoli but I can never find any fat-free salad dressing. If they had some, I would buy a lot of it, especially if it came in economy size packages. Even at the regular supermarket it's tough to find any bargains on fat-free products. Our local stores stock only puny 8 ounce glass bottles of two brands of fat-free dressings. If they're on sale, we might buy a little bottle of Maple Grove Farms dressing or a little bottle of Ken's Steak House dressing. Fortunately some (but not all) of the Food City stores near us also carry slightly larger, 16 ounce bottles of Henri's Fat Free Honey Mustard Dressing. If you have trouble finding it, you might have gotten there just after we did. We usually find only a few bottles on the shelf, so we buy them all.

We have a similar problem with reduced-fat peanut butter spread. I have to say "spread" because it's not 100% peanut butter. We can only find Reduced Fat Jif Crunchy in miniature 18 ounce jars. Their creamy variety can sometimes be found in 40 ounce jars. I tried a small jar of reduced fat Peter Pan crunchy and liked the slightly sweeter taste, so my wife bought me a medium sized 28 ounce jar of creamy to try. It seems unfair that the more economical packages of food are usually the least healthful.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

hear now the news

Three recent news stories resonated with me. They each provide an interesting follow up to a topic previously discussed on the blog. I try to do this every once in a while.

As a fan of turtles and tortoises, I was interested in a story that says turtles don't die of old age. The internal organs of 100 year old turtles are virtually indistinguishable from those of teenage turtles. If they don't get crushed by a car or succumb to a disease, they could theoretically live forever.

On ABC's "Primetime" last night, two groups were challenged to lose weight. One group relied on teamwork and positive reinforcement. The other group faced a credible threat. If they didn't lose 15 pounds in two months, their photo would be shown on the scoreboard of a baseball stadium. Oh yeah, they were photographed at their heaviest while wearing only a skimpy bathing suit. The results were close. Both methods helped the subjects lose weight. My wife and I are proof of that. We had each other for support and we also had the public pressure of announcing our weight loss progress in a new radio commercial each week. In case you hadn't heard, my wife lost over 70 pounds and I lost over 60 pounds on LA Weight Loss.

Laughter is contagious. A study of facial muscles shows that people start to smile when they hear laughter. This explains why lame sitcoms have to add a laugh track to trick you into thinking the show is funny. Does it also explain why my favorite comedies do not have a laugh track?

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Monday, December 04, 2006

you've got me wanting you

Coke and Pepsi are the big dogs in the supermarket soda aisle. Usually one or the other is on sale each week. Unfortunately for my wallet, my favorite soda is Diet A&W Root Beer. It is rarely discounted as deeply as Coke and Pepsi products. I drink it with some frozen fat free whipped topping to make a terrific root beer float that satisfies my sweet tooth without adding too many calories.

Pepsi makes Mug Root Beer but I've never seen the diet version of it in my local stores. Coke makes Barq's Root Beer but I've avoided it because it contains caffeine. We were running low on A&W last week but it was the Coke products that were on sale again. Out of curiosity I checked the label on both Barq's and diet Barq's. I was surprised that regular Barq's has caffeine but diet Barq's does not. I bought a twelve pack and tried some today with a scoop of frozen fat free whipped topping. The topping made it palatable but Barq's will always remain a distant second to A&W. The next time A&W is deeply discounted, my wife and I should buy more than the four twelve-packs we bought last time. Because it goes on sale more often, I might try making a Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper float someday.

Diet candies have also helped me along the way. Although I've learned that too many at once can cause stomach rumblings or even cramps. I like the Jelly Belly Sugar-Free Fruit Slices and the Sugar Free Life Savers Sorbets. My wife loves both flavors of Mentos Sugarfree.

There was only a little bit left in my bottle of Walden Farms calorie free chocolate syrup. It wasn't enough for a glass of chocolate milk. Instead, I drizzled the remaining sauce over some fresh raspberries. It barely covered a couple of berries. I wanted more but the rest of the syrup was stuck to the sides of the bottle. The obvious move was to take some of the berries and drop them in. I gently shook the bottle and rolled it around some. The raspberries came out choco-coated and delicious. I will be trying that again.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

not exactly heroin chic

The theme restaurant in Pigeon Forge was mostly filled with tourists. It's one of those places where everybody is served the same thing. Dinner consisted of only protein and starches. The servers brought each of us a small chicken, a potato, corn on the cob and a biscuit. Vegetables had to be special ordered. My wife got the vegetarian plate, which had steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots alongside the potato, corn and biscuit. The portion sizes were large enough that I could share my chicken with her and she could share her vegetables with me.

Before we started our weight loss plan, my wife and I would have eaten whatever they put in front of us. Looking around the room, we were reminded of our heavier selves. Most of the other people there had also helped themselves to a bucket of popcorn as an appetizer. There's nothing wrong with an occasional treat but I got the feeling that many of these people make unhealthy food choices all the time. This particular establishment must know their clientele fairly well. In the men's rest room they had something I had never seen in a restaurant before. It was a disposal box for used syringes. I half expected Wilford Brimley to walk in at any moment.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

waiting for the parade to start

The day before Thanksgiving is a big day for traveling and for grocery shopping. While watching the news coverage of people going through airport security today, I realized that hardly anyone says "Baggie" anymore. We mostly say "Ziploc bags." I remember when we called every sandwich bag a "Baggie." They were popular enough to be almost parodied by Wacky Packages back in 1973. The 2006 series of Wacky Packages includes a parody of Ziploc.

I braved the crowd at Sam's Club to buy some fresh salad and broccoli for my lunch today. The brand of broccoli I prefer comes in a bag with a "BreatheWay" panel near the top. When we would open the bag at the top, it only took a few salads before the level of florets dropped below the BreatheWay panel, rendering it useless. By opening the bag at the bottom, we found that the broccoli stays fresh longer thanks to the special membrane.

Tomorrow will be the second Thanksgiving since my wife and I began doing endorsement spots for LA Weight Loss. Because of my work schedule, we're staying home this year. We're not having any guests either so there's no need to make any stuffing with our turkey breast. At this point, I would rather eat the right way to maintain my weight than splurge on a plate full of Mrs. Cubbison's. One thing I'll miss is the rice stuffed pumpkin that our friends Anja & Charlie used to serve every Thanksgiving. On yeah, instead of pie, we'll have baked apples with some Splenda on top.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

supermarket finds

Chocolate milk made a rare appearance as part of my midafternoon snack today. I'll probably have it more often now that I've bought a bottle of calorie free chocolate flavored syrup from Walden Farms. It doesn't taste exactly the same as good old Hershey's but it's been so long since I've had any of the real stuff that it didn't matter. The Walden Farms syrup did taste a lot better than lite Hershey's syrup. Today I was surprised to see the calorie free syrup floating in my milk, rather than sinking to the bottom like the regular stuff. Does that prove it's healthier? I'm looking forward to using it as a topping the next time I have some no sugar added fat free ice cream.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

platypus man

Eddie George was in town last week. I heard him interviewed about the GetFitTN program. The governor appointed Eddie as spokesperson in the fight against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Eddie said something in the interview that I have found to be true from personal experience: the key to successful weight loss is 80 percent diet and only 20 percent exercise. I might have even said 90/10. It is so easy to eat 100 calories but so hard to burn them off. For example, I could eat a medium sized banana in a minute but I would have to walk a mile to work it off. I never did enough exercise to burn all the calories in the Halloween candy I was so fond of eating. Lately I've learned to not reach into the candy bowl in the first place. It's like comedian Richard Jeni used to say, "stop eating, you fat b*****d!" Although I've got to admit, it's easier said than done.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

advice for life

Can you possibly stand another post about the Final Four's George Mason University? Thursday morning's USA Today had a great article about my alma mater's basketball team as they prepare for Friday night's Midnight Madness, which will be televised on ESPNU. Three of Mason's regular season games will be on TV.

Coach Jim Larranaga is ready for another season. He recently spoke to a group of students at the Catholic Campus Ministry during one of their Thursday Night Suppers. Coach L talked about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels of the game. Larranaga has a philosophy that can be condensed to three words: attitude, commitment and class. It's worth downloading the podcast of the speech (right click here) and spending some time with it.

There was a non-basketball story worth sharing in
Wednesday's USA Today. The article has some easy tips to trim a couple hundred calories a day from your meals and snacks.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

just dessert

Wal-Mart had three shelves stocked full of Mallomars when I resisted the urge to buy some. On my next trip to Wal-Mart six days later, there was only one shelf left. Obviously I needed to buy a box before it was too late. The key to my successful weight loss has been portion control. Tonight I opened my box of Mallomars and ate only two cookies, just like it says in the Nutrition Facts panel on the label. In the old days I would have eaten half the cookies in the box. The package has an interesting bit of trivia printed on it. It says that 70% of Mallomars are sold in the New York area, which reminds me: Lets go Mets!!

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Monday, October 02, 2006

fluffy puffy time

Do a Google search for the word "marshmallowaholic" and it will lead you to my website. It's probably because the word is one that I made up, but that's beside the point right now. Thanks to my recent weight loss, I guess you could say that I'm a marshmallowaholic in recovery. It's been tough these past few days.

On Friday I told you about the Marshmallow Fluff festival in Somerville, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald both had articles about it yesterday. I also found a blog with some good photos of the festival. The same blogger photographs a tub of Fluff in front of landmarks around the world. What a great idea! Other bloggers posted video of the Fluff Volcano Cake, photos of the Flufferettes, the Fluff Science Fair trophy and more photos of the Flufferettes.

As I was looking for all the online Fluff stuff, I found a site called Candy Blog that has a marshmallow category. While visiting the Mast General Store over the weekend,
I saw many of the candies featured on the website including Goo Goo Clusters, MalloCups and something called Valomilk. I resisted the urge to buy any of them. I don't know that I would have been able to keep from buying either of the limited edition products I read about. According to Candy Blog, two appealing products were spotted at a 7-Eleven in Hollywood. Has anybody seen Marshmallow Take 5 or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with Marshmallow in Tennessee?

Before walking across the street to the Mast General Store, my son and I went to the Hola! Knoxville Hispanic Heritage Festival at Market Square. At a booth selling Bimbo and Marinela products I saw some Sponch! marshmallow cookies.

Sponch! wasn't as tempting as something I had seen a day earlier. I went to Wal-Mart to buy some double fiber wheat bread and other healthy foods. As I walked through the store, I was drawn as if by a magnetic force to a display of bright yellow boxes that I remembered from childhood. I immediately reached for the phone and called my sponsor (and by sponsor I mean my wife). She barely had time to say hello before I started repeating, "They have Mallomars! They have Mallomars!" My wife talked me down and kept me from buying any but not before I snapped some pictures with my camera phone.

The Mallomars sighting means that Fall is in the air. I may still go back to Wal-Mart to buy a box but tonight I ate a S'mores bar from LA Weight Loss instead.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the stay-puft marshmallow man

What were you doing one year ago today? I was at Patrick Sullivan's, posing for a group photo with the other members of Einstein Simplified. It also was the day my wife and I started following the LA Weight Loss plan.

In August of last year, I posted what is still one of my favorite blog entries. It included a photo of me in front of the "Coldest Beer in USA" sign. I had cropped the picture in an effort to hide my waist. Here, for the first time anywhere, is the original, uncropped shot:

While I'm unburdening myself, I may as well share a couple more photos from 2005. In May, I saw Marg Helgenberger at the "American Idol" finale after-party in Hollywood. In July, I went backstage before Kelly Clarkson's Knoxville concert. It looks like I wore the same shirt both times. Is it any wonder why these pictures stayed hidden?

I can't leave you with these images of me looking like a big ol' tick about to pop. Now that I've lost 60 pounds, I finally have photos I'm not ashamed of. Here are some recent ones that you may remember from my trip to Foamhenge and from my visit with the reptiles.

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