Friends forever important

Friends forever – important.


Fuzzy college memory


More fuzzy college memories.

OMG!!!!  Yesterday my dad handed me a bag of loose photos from my past.  I spent a good hour with my mouth hanging open as I flipped through them.  It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at a stack of photos because mine all live in my computer or on a bad day I have 500 in my camera.  As I look at baby faces staring back at me, I am struck by the slew of friends from my past.  These pics are from long nights that are a mere fuzzy memory today.  Most of them were from late high school and college.  Who had the genius idea to suggest that all girls have hair as high as sky scrapers and as curly as a brillo pad? And don’t get me started on the boys’ fashion sense.  We were all victims of following style trends like mindless lemmings.  That aside, what I saw was life before marriage and kids.  I had no worries beyond knowing which ATM dispensed $5 for my beer and pizza on a Friday night.  I guess I worried somewhat about class work, the out of control long distance bill and the boyfriend that was always a jillion miles away.  Do you remember your life before you grew up and became a responsible adult? I look back fondly on those days and recall all the joy my friends brought me.  Take a second and take a trip in the way back machine and see what you remember of your friends of the  past.

I bring this up not only because it gives me the giggles to think about the craziness of the past.  I bring this up because this bag of photos reminds me that friends are important in a way that is vastly different from the way your family is important.  Now don’t get all in a tizzy…I didn’t say more important, just important in a different way.  As my family grew- first by marriage, then the arrival of the twin boys followed by the delivery of pretty princess caboose- my life became very full.  Family first. Of course that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  All that free time I used to spend with friends became consumed by counting to 3 about 100 times a day to make sure I didn’t lose a kid somewhere.  I quickly became overwhelmed and frankly I felt a bit lost.  I lost myself in the care of everyone else.  Fortunately, my friends were relentless in pursuit of my sanity.  They made sure I made time for myself.  They made sure I saw them. They made sure I knew they were there take care of me as well.  Now, I’m not suggesting you trade your set of friends in for another if you aren’t as fortunate I am to have such thoughtful, determined friends.  What I’m saying is that as fantastic as your family is, your friends are an enormous part of your life that you need as part of your healthy lifestyle.  These are your peeps.  They talk you off the ledge when you are having a bad day. They are the ones who assure you that ” Yes! You are right to feel that way.” They are also the ones that remind you that you are more than a mother/father/worker/student etc. etc.  You need these peeps in your life. Your significant other can’t be your everything.  You are bigger than that.  It’s not fair to put all that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of one other person.  Realistically it’s probably not going to be easy to make time like you used to pre-family days.  As with anything, do what you can when you can.  It doesn’t have to be a girls’ weekend (although I highly recommend it if you can swing it) or an all day golf outing with the guys.  It can be quick FB exchange, a phone call, coffee talk, bunco ,  poker,  movie night or a potluck.  The point is that we are a sum of all our parts. Friends are a part that can easily be shoved aside as life gets crazy.   I recommend making some time for friends before you are completely crazy.  Alex has been a big supporter of my need for time with my friends. I am endlessly grateful for his understanding, even as he grimaces when I bring up a third event for the week that I forgot to mention.  Oops. I am blessed with a community of friends that is quite large which gets to be a problem when I try to squeeze it all in.  I’m also fortunate to have friends that understand the scope of my responsibility to my family and other friends.

I now have a computer and camera filled with faces that don’t look so “baby” (sorry friends-I’m including myself in that description too) that document some fabulous moments from the recent past.  I smile big. I know I am a better person having had all these friends in my life.  I know that my happiness also lies in the precious time that I spend with the people I love outside of my family.  Truthfully though, I realize that my friends are my family and are often my life line when I’m sure I’ve lost my mind.  To my friends out there…Thank you for your friendship yesterday , today and tomorrow. Make time for your friends and reach out to a friend that may need you to reach out.  Being heart healthy means more than having clean arteries.   Enjoy your friends and smile because you’ll surely end up in a pic in someone’s camera/computer and in their fond memories.



More recent memory.


Girls' weekend memory


Until next time … Live Well! –Toni Kuhel


Trick or treat, not Treat ‘n treat ‘n treat…..

Beloved Switch Witch

So the time is quickly approaching. You know it. You feel it.  It’s almost Halloween, AKA “All You Can Eat and Keep Down Candy Day”.  I see your eye twitching.  This is the kickoff to the 4 month long season of excuses/reasons for eating whatever you want.  We are going to face the ugly truth of those coming months, but let’s get a handle on the holiday on the horizon.

This first little tip may come to you too late, but it’s one worth hanging onto for next year.  When buying candy to pass out, make sure you have some left to pass out.  To increase the chances of this happening, I would suggest buying candy that no one in your house wants.  This did not go over well in my house so we compromised and just got candy that Alex and I don’t particularly like. I also hid it right after I saw the tell tale empty wrapper and torn open bag of Warheads.  Don’t pass out pennies or toothbrushes unless you like washing eggs off your house.  I would be answering the door licking my fingers saying  “ Sorry, we’re all out!” if we were passing out Kit Kats or Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  What will cause you to be answering the door in a similar fashion? Avoid that choice like the plague. Chances are your kiddo/kiddos will be bringing several pieces of candy that you will deem “unsafe” so that you can have at it yourself.  I’ve spotted an imaginary tear in a candy bar wrapper and put it my stash.  So have youuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

After the kids come home with the haul, after the requisite safety check, after the initial binge, and after the annual tummy aches- call it quits! My kids enjoy separating the candy into piles and announcing that their candy bag is their candy bag so “NOBODY TOUCH IT!!!”  Now’s the time to touch it.  We take all the hard candy and save it for decorating our gingerbread houses at Christmas time.  You know those darn kits never give you enough candy and it’s so cool to have all kinds of candy for that project.  We do some creative thinning of the candy bags over the week. No one notices. We’ll put a piece of candy in their lunchboxes for a while.   I know that our elementary school asks for leftover candy to be sent to school to be donated to underprivileged kids.   We put the bags out of sight and out of reach. That part is getting harder as they are getting bigger and catching on to our hiding spots.  Another trick I’ve heard of which might work with the littlest kiddos is the Switch Witch.  Take any excess candy and place it in a bag outside your door at night. In the morning the Switch Witch will have left you a small toy/trinket or one big candy in exchange for the bag of candy.

Enjoy your Halloween festivities! Thank goodness this one comes once a year. I cannot handle seeing the glassy eyes of my children suffering from candy coma more often than that. Be safe, and if you like Warheads come on over to the Kuhel house. We have lots!

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

“Mom…I don’t feel good”

“Mom…I don’t feel good”sick

Last night, my daughter Renee spiked a fever.  Da da daaaa. We are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is it a cold..a fever…swine flu – uh I mean Novel  H1N1…bird flu…plain old flu?  Will everyone get it?  Knock on wood.  Alex and I have not gotten really sick in the recent past.  I’m hoping I didn’t jinx it, but we’ve been very lucky.  So now our focus is getting Renee well and keeping the rest of us well.

We are doing all the things that all the talking heads on TV are telling us to do:

  • Washing hands often – especially when coming in the house from being at school, store, outside etc.  Reports from my seeing eyes at school say that my kids are very good at using hand sanitizer, perhaps a bit too good.  I guess it could be worse.
  • Coughing into elbows – we are forgoing the use of face masks because they are just creepy.
  • Keeping hands away from our  noses, mouths, eyes – faces in general
  • Lysol everything – especially door knobs, faucets, phones, remote controls

Alex and I are keeping active.  Alex hit the gym before work today and I will get my workout in later on- I swear!  We are pushing more water than usual and eating comfort food. I know that you can’t catch a cold from being cold, but we make sure we are cozy when we head out.  It might be an old wives’ tale and we probably won’t “catch your death of cold”, but it seems like a good idea not to tempt fate.  I am not sharing our decision on if we are or aren’t getting flu shots. That is something that every family should decide on their own, and I am not interested in getting into the whole debate with all of you J

Renee woke up with no fever so maybe we dodged a bullet this time.  Fingers crossed that we will be fortunate enough this season to have the sickness cloud pass quickly over our household.  I know many of you are suffering this flu season already. I wish a quick recovery for you and your families.  This living well thing sure is tough when you are busy being sick. As this long flu season continues, I hope you all continue with your healthy choices. Eating right, moving right, and thinking right might just be what shortens your sickness or keeps you from getting sick in the first place.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Have a fit Fall!

Leaves we saw while we were out and about.

Leaves we saw while we were out and about.

Have a fit Fall!
Looking at all the trees that are aglow with colors that are unique to this season, I’m inspired to jot down some tips also unique to autumn.

• Rake some giant leaf piles while jamming to tunes on your iPod.
• Jump in the leaves with your kids or go borrow some kids from your friends or neighbors (make sure you ask first – LOL!).
• Hike some new paths or go for a run. You’ll be able to go farther because it’s not so hot and not so cold…yet.
• Go for a bike ride and see all the colors at a slower pace than you saw them on the way to work.
• Rake the leaves again because they blew back on your lawn or it rained and knocked down some more.

• Roast some pumpkin seeds.
• Bake some apple crisp.
• Eat some pumpkin pie – it’s not as bad for you as some pies, especially if you don’t eat the crust. I don’t eat the crust. Well, I don’t eat it every time.
• Roasted squash and sweet potatoes are particularly scrumptious this time of year.
• Turkey chili is a winner.
• Hot tea is comforting when you are feeling a bit chilly.
• Caramel apples are a good alternative to baked goods as a sweet treat.

• Don’t watch the Bears – they are awful this season 😦
• Skip the news for a day or so. I’ll tell you that H1N1 is still a problem, there is still a war going on, the economy is in the pooper, and it may or may not rain all week. That’s all you will be missing.
• Try a yoga class or borrow a DVD from the library. It is time well spent and really feels like a luxury when you are done.
• Enjoy the sensation of wrapping your hands around a hot cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate. Close your eyes. I swear it melts stress.
• Hug the ones you love tight. Skip the fist bump. You risk much more if you skip the hug.
• Rake your neighbor’s leaves if they are elderly, have a house full of H1N1, or if their leaves are 2 feet deep and you know they need the help. You will feel better for being a good neighbor and for getting in 30 more minutes of activity.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Are we coming or going? -Part 3

10 minutesWhat are we trying to fit in?  Eating right, exercise/activity, and stress management are all going to make it into your life.  This is the part where I ask you to get out of your own way.  Try not to succumb to that little voice that says “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Thinking the way you’ve been thinking all these years has not gotten you on the path of living well thus far.  Change is good so embrace it!

Go and find that paper that you used to map out your week.   Take a good hard look at it and see what days are your “light” days.  Let’s face it.  Some days are better than others.  Take those better days and look at them as opportunities.  You don’t need to find huge chunks of time.  Remember, three 10 minute chunks of moderate activity, is as effective as 30 consecutive minutes. First try and see if you can find at least one 30 minute chunk.  If you can, use it!  Find an activity that you enjoy and fits your current fitness level.  If it’s fun you’ll be more likely to do it… see!

If you can’t find something you really love, just find something you don’t hate. Something I try to tell myself is “you only have to do it for 10 minutes”.  This is usually enough to get me started and of course I end up working out for more than that.  One thing that is inevitable is feeling better when your activity of choice is all said and done.  Keep a variety of choices for activity in your bag of tricks.  This will keep you from getting bored or injured.  Walk everywhere you can. Take the stairs whenever you can (even if it’s not a piano). Move quickly throughout your day. Carry things instead of pushing if you can.  Whatever it is that you are doing fitness-wise, make an effort to do a bit more every week.  Changes in your body and overall health depend on making progress.  Just a wee bit more time or effort can reward you many times over in the future.

Every day you should try and take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe.  Take a 7 second inhale, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 7 seconds.  It works like magic and you should try it now. This blog isn’t going anywhere, I’ll wait.  Also try and listen to music that moves you. It doesn’t need to be a song you want to dance to, but it could be. It could also be music that calms you or brings back a favorite memory of yours. Compile a “happy track” on your ipod/mp3 thing.  It will be your savior on a particularly stressful day.  Try some silence.  Instead of flipping on the TV or the radio every morning when you come into your kitchen, try nothing.  If you start out every morning in silence, try your “happy track”.  Change it up and see what feels good to you.  Simply changing what you hear can have an effect on your mindset for the day. This will also probably catch your family off guard and everyone knows how much fun that can be.  Often times we don’t know we are in a rut until we make a change. Make a change!

Until next time….Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Are we coming or going? -Part 2

eating on the run

Yesterday was all about finding time. Today is about eating well when we are struggling with time, which is EVERYDAY for most people. I’m thinking of you.

No time to eat right

If you are going to tell me that you and your family cannot eat well because you have no time, you are not alone.  Yes it’s easier to grab a drive-thru meal and toss it about the car than it is to go to the store at the last minute, think about what’s healthy, think about what everyone will eat, think about what’s on sale, go home, make it and sit down and eat it as a family.   I will agree with that.  But, if you plan ahead and make a bit extra when you do have time to cook and throw it in the fridge or freezer you are doing yourself a favor. It’s a whole lot easier to boil some whole wheat pasta and toss it with some good leftover protein, frozen veggies and your favorite sauce.  It’s markedly tastier, healthier and more conducive to family time.  You don’t have to be slaving over the stove for this and your family can be doing something a bit productive for the 10 minutes it’s going to take for you to make the meal.  You’ll be able to sit at the table and look each other in the eye while you eat instead of checking in the rearview mirror to see if the kids are sharing the fries fairly.

If you are going to have to compromise, throw a thin crust cheese pizza in the oven.  While you are at it put some broccoli florets on a cookie sheet with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Bake them all at the same time and you’ll have a yummy and healthier dinner option.  My family loves broccoli this way and I challenge you to eat the same amount of pizza you always do after eating one cup or so of this awesome side dish.  IMPOSSIBLE! You will be too full and completely satisfied.

There are going to be those days when even this is too much to ask of yourself and your family.  Just aim to keep those days to a minimum. In the end you’ll see that when you get where ever you are rushing to, you will all feel better and do better with your tummies full of “real” good food instead of fake fast food.

Check out the blog “Eat this… “. It doesn’t take any more time to put whole wheat bread in the cart than it does to put in a loaf of white bread.   Shop differently and you’ll eat differently. This is truly an example of just shifting what you already do.  You are already going to the supermarket so take the time to be mindful of what is going in the cart.  The first few times might take a bit longer as you read labels and get familiar with produce and lean proteins.  No worries though.  You will find your family will have favorite foods, you’ll get faster at scanning labels, and you’ll be more confident in knowing how to combine foods into your most convenient and healthy meals and snacks.  Shop with meals and snacks in mind. Don’t just throw stuff in the cart and think it’s going to magically turn into something.  Plan and you will not be running out for that lemon you forgot.

Eating on the run is a daunting undertaking.  For those of you who are trapped in a vehicle or just out and about for a good part of the day with no time to eat well, I feel very bad for you.  Fortunately, along with pity, I have some ideas for you as well.  First of all, make sure you eat. Don’t just throw your hands up and say you don’t have time to eat. Pack, pack, pack.

  • Find a couple of small coolers to keep in the car.  Use one for keeping cold, reusable water bottles or low fat/skim milk bottles and snacks.  Use the other for meals.
  • Think ahead and make single portioned snack bags of nuts, dried fruit, and whole grain cereals/crackers/pretzels.  Try mixing them up to make your own trail mix.
  • Single serving bags of baby carrots, snap peas, sweet pepper strips, cucumber slices and other veggies are great when kept cold.
  • If you like to dip then be sure to have some hummus, peanut butter, or yogurt for your dipping pleasure.
  • Keep some apples, bananas, pears or oranges close by as well.
  • There are great options for single servings of cheese – string cheese, cheese sticks, and baby rounds of cheese.
  • On Sunday, boil a dozen eggs.  Pack one or two of these a day and you’ll be able to face the daily grind a bit easier.

  • Keep in mind that you are eating in a vehicle or over your lap at least so don’t make something that requires a plate, knife and a fork. Also, a sandwich that is falling all over your lap is an equally bad idea. Think portable and delicious.  Wraps, simple sandwiches made from your left over dinner, pasta salad, and a thermos of soup or stew are all good alternatives.

  • Plan to eat every three hours so you don’t find yourself weak and cranky and pulling into a drive-thru twitching for the fix to get you through the rest of the afternoon.
  • Do yourself a favor and pack a couple of small dark chocolate squares.  You deserve a bit of a treat every so often. Don’t over-do it and don’t deprive yourself.

Clearly you don’t have to pack ALL of this every day.  I’m just giving you loads of options.

  • To increase your chances of actually packing every day, do your portioning out of snack bags all at once.  Keep them all together so you can grab refrigerated items and pantry items quickly without having to root around to come up with something.

This strategy is something our family practices throughout our beloved wrestling season.  Every Sunday we spend hours on end in various gymnasiums for tournaments surrounded by foil wrapped hot dogs, licorice by the foot, and round chips with neon yellow “cheese”.  We come packed like we’re staying for a week, but this saves us money and our waistlines.  Our kids are not above asking for a donut or a candy bar.  They can have one.  They just can’t have one and another and another. They eat what we bring and we often share with other curious wrestlers who want to know if sugar snap peas indeed taste like sugar.  The answer was always “no”, but they sure kept eating them until they were gone.  If you bring it, they will eat it. You may not be trapped in a gymnasium.  It might be a delivery truck, an ice skating rink, a soccer field, an office building, a construction site, a school, a theater, the salon or …. Our lives don’t always allow for easy food choices throughout the day.  It is up to you to make it easy for yourself and your family.

Part 3 is coming soon with ideas for fitness/stress reduction.

Until next time…Live Well! –Toni Kuhel

Are we coming or going? – Part 1


Are we coming or going? – Part 1

It’s time for another series! Woo hoo!!! Translation – too much for one blog so I’m splitting it up so as not to add to your constant feeling of being overwhelmed. You’re welcome. Enjoy!

It seems as if each day is filled to the absolute brim.  The day is can sometimes resemble a rollercoaster ride.  You get on, it goes up and down, upside-down, twists, turns, and it goes around again.  Eventually you get off, but then you just have to get on again tomorrow.  If you are lucky, it will pause on occasion.  Your roller coaster ride might look like mine complete with kids (and all the stuff that comes with them), work, food preparation, and cleaning etc.  You might have a day that consists of a 12 hour work day, commuting, and classes.  Whatever the case may be, everyone seems to think there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things that need doing.  I came to this conclusion after completing my extensive research.  My very unscientific research consists of chatting with everyone:  the neighbors on my driveway, co-workers at the school, friends at lunch, parents at my children’s various activities, and the many strangers I feel the need to bond with while I’m out and about running errands.  Most likely, your life is some kind of crazy.  I’m constantly working to try and slow this rollercoaster down so that we can have the time to actually get around to living.  I’m not sure how it got this crazy but as I’ve always said…the Kuhels are a work in progress.  This craziness is an excuse that many of us are accustomed to using as the reason we can’t do the things we need to do to live well.  As a family we’ve come across some ways to surpass the chaos and make health a priority.  I have a few ideas on how to handle living well in the midst of living crazily.

Time – What time?

If you have extra time on your hands and you are not living well, go ahead and look over “Is today THE day?” blog. This blog is reserved for those with seemingly insurmountable time constraints.  I say “seemingly” because at first glance, maybe even after a few long hard stares, making time to live well can feel very unlikely.  Just thinking about how to wedge in ANYTHING else can be that hurdle that keeps you and your family from making changes.  The good news is that with a bit of creativity and compromise, you can just change how you do what you already do, without trying to carve out those non-existent extra hours in a day. You know that saying “work smarter not harder”?  I wish I was the genius that thought up that little nugget, but I’m okay with having credit for just trying to adopt the concept.  You are going to have to stop having your pity party and saying things like “Well if I had tons of time and money I could be in great shape with a personal trainer, nutritionist, and a personal chef.”  I have uttered that exact sentence myself over the years and that wishful thinking got me nowhere in a hurry.  For most of the general public, ideal time and monetary scenarios are not a reality.  After growing tired of waiting for the money tree to grow in the front yard, I realized that you have to do what you can with what you’ve got.

  • Get a handle – Take some time (make some time-this is your life we’re talking about) to put your typical week down on paper.  Make sure you plug in all your obligations.  Include commute time, prep time, wait time.  Put it all in a format that makes sense to you.  You can use your PDA, a day timer/planner, spreadsheet, paper and pencil, or a napkin and crayon (it’s some people’s reality – don’t judge).  Be as detailed as possible to help this problem solving process along. So…”work” for an 8-12 hour block is not going to help you very much.  Pay attention to your day and figure in any breaks,  traveling to meetings, typical number of trips away from your desk, hours at your desk/work area, study time, TV time, specific chores, car pooling etc.  You are probably going to have to blink several times when you look at all you are doing during those precious hours each day.  You may find yourself feeling something.  You are going to pat yourself on the back for being an overachiever, realize you have some time that could be better utilized,  see that you are chasing your tail because you are not too organized, come to the conclusion that you are simply overextended, or likely you will feel a little bit of all of these things.  So in the end, it’s all there in black and white (or purple crayon).  Your life and your family’s life in a nutshell for you to dissect.
  • Get real– Now it’s time to face the music and get comfy cozy with your reality.   Resist the urge to further fill your days if you see some dead space.  Resist the urge to poke your eyes out if you see no dead space.  Do embrace the idea of scanning your days with an eye toward efficiency.

If you find yourself trolling the aisles of the local drug-mart several times a week because you discover no more toilet paper on Monday, no more cat litter on Tuesday (garbage night) , index cards for a school project on Thursday, and a Sunday night dark chocolate bar emergency, take notice.

Try and keep a list of your most used items in your house and when you start getting low (don’t wait until you are staring at the last empty roll of toilet paper on the dispenser) make a check mark.   When you get enough check marks, go and get the stuff in one trip.  My kids are notorious for last minute “needs” for school and it is best not to have the economy pack of dark chocolate bars lying around, so some of this running around is unavoidable.  LOTS of running around is avoidable so plan, plan, plan. This kind of planning is applicable to your grocery shopping, picking  up dry-cleaning, shuttling your kids from place to place, getting yourself from place to place and so on and so on.

Plan your routes to hit several places in one shot.  Resist the urge to run out for just one thing. I KNOW you have more than only one thing you can take care of while you are out.  Take a second and you can save yourself lots of time and aggravation.   You will discover some time previously lost along with your mind that you lost last week racing to the store while someone was sitting patiently because they forgot to check the TP situation BEFORE sitting. We’ll talk more about what to do with your new found time in just a bit.

Okay, so a bit will be in the next blog.  Take some time and try to get your daily life sketched out and we’ll cover a bit more next time.  Come back and see what’s next.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Go on ahead – I’ll wait here.


Go on ahead – I’ll wait here.

Pat yourself on the back! You have had your moment of enlightenment (ahhh haaa-cue beams of sunlight) and you get IT.  You have wrapped your head around the importance of health and wellness and it is on the top of your list of priorities.  Are you standing there all alone?  Go ahead-look around.  Chances are you might very well be standing in that sunlight all by your lonesome.  You really can’t expect everyone to catch on as quickly as you have.  You can wish it, hope it, pray it, imagine it, but don’t go expecting it.

If I know anything, it’s that you can’t make anyone believe anything they don’t want to/aren’t ready to believe.  I also know that making significant behavioral changes is difficult if your environment doesn’t support the changes.  Blah, blah, blah.  (Translation – You can’t do this stuff when the rest of your world is doing the EXACT opposite of what you are trying to do.) By environment I mean your physical environment and the people within it.  My physical environment on most days is my house that is bursting at the seams. My people are my husband and my kids.  They make for a fun, active, and occasionally challenging environment.  I have started and stopped and started and stopped this journey towards weight loss more times than I care to count.  It’s only this time that I’ve changed it to a journey towards health and wellness. Go figure but a great little bonus has been significant weight loss. Yipee!!  You’ve heard me refer to Alex as a “naturally thin” person.  Yeah, so obviously he was not equally inclined to journey down the path of sacrifice for the glory of weight loss.  He’s one of “those” people who gives up pop (or soda depending on your neck of the woods) and loses 7 pounds.  He can also shovel gobs of cheese and chips with no visible ramifications whatsoever. I, conversely, think about cheese and chips and they magically end up on my hips.  I give up diet pop and…tah dah…nothin’.  My kids-they were blissfully unaware, thank goodness, to their mommy’s ongoing frustration with weight.  My peeps did not make my journey easy.  It wasn’t their journey.  The Kuhel family is happy to report that we are now on the same journey (cue beams of sunlight and throw in a choir of angels while we’re at it).  Come along with me as I share how this miraculous happening came about.

  • Get on the right track already!

I will say that my stops and starts were, in part, a result of being on this road all alone.  I also did not have an internal GPS at the time so I was COMPLETELY on the wrong road.  Weight loss was the destination when health and wellness should have been the X on the map.  In reality that X is perpetually hovering in front of us.  It’s something that we have to work at and strive for daily.  Weight loss was never and shouldn’t have ever been the focus for my family.  It turns out it that it shouldn’t have been my focus either.  Now let’s be real. I wasn’t exactly dismissing the fact that my pants were falling off. I am a woman after all.  For me, it was a reframing that was totally necessary.  Once the goal was to “live well”, everything started to make sense.  Funny thing is, when you do things that are good for you, you become healthy.  Your body does not want to be overweight.  Your heart does not want to pound outside of your chest after walking a flight of stairs.  Your muscles don’t want to cramp up following a lap around the track.  Your body does not want to fail you at the age of 40 (that’s the next big number for me-insert your next big number).

I love my family.  Some days I don’t like everyone so much- you know those days- but I LOVE my family every day.  Once I realized the importance of health and wellness, I knew it was something that I had to have for my family.  I really had to have a heart to heart talk with my husband.  It wasn’t a long talk, but it was one of the most important ones we’ve had.  It wasn’t a long talk because it made so much sense to want what’s best for all of us.  It really was just a decision away for us.  It is only a decision away for your family as well. Now your significant other may be a harder nut to crack.  You need only to open those stubborn eyes to the fact that a healthy life is so much happier than an unhealthy one.  Changes made now will pay you back many times over in the years to come.  You are not asking to go where no one else has gone before.  It’s not scary. It’s just an initial choice to live better, followed by daily choices to support a healthy life.  What is scary is a life that is lived based on a series of unhealthy choices. Kids are easy.  It’s no big mystery that they have big eyes and ears.  Who hasn’t heard a little one say “Oh @#$!” in an eerily familiar tone at an inopportune time?  Big and little kids alike will internalize what they hear and see.  It’s up to you to fill them up with the right stuff.  Talk the talk and walk the walk.  My children will be the first to tell you that they DO NOT want a lecture on the virtues of anything…at all. It’s amusing and frustrating that they seem to tune out the stuff that you make a point of making sure they hear.  Equally amusing and frustrating is that they hear and see things that you go out of your way to keep from them (see above mentioned example).  So save your breath and fistfuls of hair and go the indirect route.  You’ll have to adjust these suggestions to fit the ages and maturity of your kids/partner/roommate etc. Give them small bits at a time.  Try to give them the same bits as many times as you can.  “What bits?” So instead of a monologue about the evils of trans fats, corn syrup, or some unpronounceable ingredient, show them that a short list of ingredients on a package is best.  If they don’t recognize the ingredient as food, it probably is not whole or “real” food. Tell them real people eat real food.  Most of the kids will get that point.  Always take the stairs when possible.  They’ll ask why you are walking up the stairs instead of riding the escalator or elevator. Tell them that you will always walk because you can. My 3 kids would routinely race toward an elevator to vie for the honor of being the one to push the button.  This would always be followed by the other 2 howling “IIIIII wanted to push the button”.  THAT is enough to make a mortal want to take the stairs.  Renee is the last of the converts to walking the stairs, but she wouldn’t dare ride the elevator without us – yet.  I am full of helpful “bits” so read and take away what makes sense for your situation.   Add a few new bits every so often.  Be consistent.  Your message must be clear.  This is not a means to an end.  This is a lifestyle and it’s just the way it’s going to be from now on.

  • Get your whole act together.

My initial point was that your healthy lifestyle has a much better chance of sticking if the life around you supports it.  One of my most frustrating past struggles had to do with food preparation.  While I was trying to eat like a rabbit, the “others” were gorging themselves on bags of chocolate chip cookies and greasy burgers.  Neither of these choices was good for anyone.  The “others” were going to be sick and I was going to be, just as soon as they were out of sight long enough for me to grab those greasy bags myself. The key for me now is to cook whole food for EVERYONE.  No one is going to eat garbage and no one is going to starve themselves eating 3 carrots, a wedge of iceberg lettuce, and piece of cheese for dinner.  We are successful at eating well on most days.  The Kuhel kids know that we eat balanced meals.  I’ll even make a plate and keep one component off.  They can tell you if the lean meat, good carbohydrate, or vegetable/fruit is missing.  It’s what they are used to now.  As I am writing, I am looking at an empty plate that used to have piece of cheese pizza on it.  It is now in my belly.  My sons, daughter, and husband have matching pieces of pizza in their bellies as well.  Guess what…it’s okay.  We have it once in a while. Remarkably, we used to be able to eat a whole lot more of this cheesy pie only it also had pepperoni or sausage on it too.  None of us can tolerate much of it anymore.  Isn’t that a kick in the pants!  Our bodies don’t want gobs of pizza either!!  Who woulda thunk it? Everybody eating healthy food makes it easier for everybody to eat healthy food. Soon your bodies will reward you by serving you well.

We don’t walk this earth alone.  We don’t function in a vacuum.  We need each other.  You ALL deserve this healthy lifestyle.  It is not that you need to trudge along in misery together.  Change, even if it is good for you, is one of the hardest things to do in life.  Give yourself a fighting chance to get what you deserve by surrounding your family with the right mind set.  Change a little at a time.  A lot of little changes add up over time to one very important change…a change of lifetime.

Till next time…live well! Toni Kuhel

Snacks! The good, the bad, and the ugly.

apples and pb


Snack Attacks are Good!

Everybody recalls a parent saying “Don’t eat that! It’ll spoil your dinner!!”  (Maybe you grew up in house where people didn’t talk with so many exclamation points. You people can end those 2 sentences with periods.)  As grown-ups, this warning is sound advice that works in your favor.  This is a weapon in your arsenal in the ever present battle against over indulging every chance you get.   Snacks are good- not evil. True, not all snacks are created equal so let’s sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I try very hard to make sure we eat every three hours. Four hours is pushing it and five is out of the question.  Bad things happen when the Kuhel family goes without feeding for hours on end.  I become intolerant, unreasonable, and unstable and, now that I think of it, so does everyone else in my house.  Clearly we aren’t always able to time our snacks and meals this way, but we give it a good old college try.

What is a snack? It’s a mini-meal.  Contrary to what you might believe, an apple does not make a snack.  What seems to do the best job of keeping the troops happy is a combination of a protein, carb, and fat. So an apple becomes a snack when you pair it with piece of cheese or a couple of TBS of peanut butter.

Good snack combos that we like –

  • Almonds and dry whole grain cereal
  • Banana and string cheese
  • Hummus and whole grain pita chips
  • Apple and cheddar cheese
  • Yogurt and granola
  • Whole grain crackers and Laughing Cow cheese
  • Bell peppers and hummus
  • Milk and granola bar
  • Banana with peanut butter and honey
  • ½  peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Walnuts and a pear

* Get ahead of the game by keeping a snack bag as an emergency stash in your car.  Keep non-perishable snack combinations in snack size portions.  This will keep you from careening into a drive through lane or stopping for gas and “a little something”.  This will also save you from hearing the whining and crying from the backseat that is brought on by sudden hunger pangs also referred to as children that are “starving”. At home you should have fruit bowls out on the table with filled with hand sized fruit. Keep healthy snacks in the front of your pantry.  Washed and cut veggies, baby carrots, sugar snap peas in the fridge make great grab – n- go snacks.

Bad snacks – things that are not as good as we believe them to be – Listen up people. The fact that a product has the word “fruit” in its name or has fruit pictured on the box, doesn’t make it healthy. Fruit snacks, yogurt covered raisins, fruit roll ups, fruit drink all fall in this category in my humble opinion.  Check the amount of sugar (more than 8 grams) and how little fiber (<1 gram) it has and you’ll be flabbergasted, dumbfounded and a host of other things that mean disappointed and surprised.  A good rule in general is to eat food that most resembles how it came to be on this earth.  The less you do to a food the better.

Ugly snacks that we like but shouldn’t have too often – I don’t know that I really have to go over this with you.  Put it this way. If somewhere in the recesses of your mind you hear “You shouldn’t be eating that.” ….well, then you shouldn’t be eating that.   Let’s see what that list consists of -donuts, cookies, chips, cake, candy, anything with an ingredient list that has 10 unpronounceable items on it, etc. etc. Quit ignoring that little voice inside your head. It’s there for a reason.

So go ahead and snack smart. You will feel better for it. Think breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. You will probably eat more healthy calories and fewer unhealthy ones. You’ll have a better chance of increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grain, nuts and dairy.  You won’t eat dinner like you’ve been away at sea for weeks.  By now you know we are not a family of absolutes.  We like our “ugly “ snacks but we have them pretty infrequently.  Believe it or not, after a while you stop craving those kinds of snacks.  Have them every so often so it doesn’t feel forbidden. Remember moderation is your friend.  The words  “always” and “never “ in the world of health and wellness don’t end in lasting change for the most part.  So do what you can, when you can and know you did your very best.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Maaaaaaaaa! What’s to eat?

I'm Hungry!

We have all done it. Some of us are still doing it. I did it this weekend.  I loaded my plate with a not so keen eye for balance.  I’m not going to spend time loathing myself because I did it. It was delicious. I didn’t go bananas every meal, every day this weekend. It was just a lapse in judgment as I was busy living life. I’m thinking you are familiar with that concept as well.  Most days I shoot for every meal to be balanced.

1/2 of  your plate loaded with produce – fruits/veggies – think lots of colors

1/4 of  your plate whole grain – bread with at least 3 grams fiber per serving, brown rice, couscous, whole grain pasta again with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving

1/4 of your plate with a lean protein – baked, grilled, roasted,poached/skinless chicken/ fish/lean pork/lean beef/turkey/beans.

Use a “good fat” like olive oil to prepare your dish 0r dress your veggies. Don’t drown it – just douse it. I like to add a reasonable amount of cheese when it’s called for. I’ll use some low-fat cheese if I need to use more (mozzarella,cheddar) . I’ll use regular cheese when I can use just a smidge because it’s so flavorful (blue cheese, romano, parmesan, sharp cheddar and feta).

Since I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s heard the eternal question of  “Maaaaa! What’s to eat?”  I’m going to describe a couple of ideas I have for each meal. You’ll see that balanced is delicious, satisfying, and something to look forward to.

Breakfast – with coffee and water

1)build this in a bowl in this order -1/3 cup high protein/ high fiber cereal, ½ low fat Greek yogurt,  1 cup fresh fruit (berries, pineapple),  2TBS sliced almonds/walnut pieces, squirt of honey on top.fruit and yogurt

2)1 hard boiled egg / 1 slice whole wheat toast with a bit of Smart Balance/,banana or apples with natural peanut butter /glass of skim milk


Lunch – with water

1)      ½ sandwich – whole grain bread, roasted chicken/turkey breast, spinach, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, spicy mustard/1 cup of broth based soup loaded with veggies/ an orange or an apple.

2)      Whole grain pita stuffed with grilled chicken breast, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts/ Sun Chips/ pear or banana.

hummus pita sandwich

Dinner – with water

1)      BBQ Turkey meatloaf/ sweet potato fries/ spinach salad

meat loaf

2)      Marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted broccoli, whole grain pasta with Smart Balance and parmesan cheese for sprinkling.

roasted broccoli

These are just a couple of Kuhel family meals. From time to time I’ll post some other menu ideas. I’d love to hear yours.  Check back every so often as I will add recipes for the BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, roasted broccoli and others soon.

Most days we are successful in partaking in a balanced diet. Some days are smattered with hot dogs, pizza and enough dessert to put one in sugar induced coma.  We are glad to say that those indulgent days are few and far between.   On days like that I know that we feel a touch.. how do I say this delicately?….a bit… gurgley .  We’ll just leave it at that. This is NOT a good feeling for anyone so we avoid this as much as we can. There are occasions when you just can’t dodge those kinds of meals.  We take comfort knowing that most days we are healthy eaters and that perfection is over rated.  Strive for balance, forgive yourself for unbalanced days, have a more balanced day tomorrow.

Until next time…Live Well!  – Toni Kuhel.