Trot Toward the Finish Line

Julie and me before the Turkey Trot

With all the build up to the Turkey Trot, I thought you’d like to know how it went for Team 40/10. This is my account of reaching for the next goal.

It’s 6:30 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. Alex has already hit the snooze button twice.  Gotta get up because it is TURKEY TROT DAY!!!!  Fanfrickintastic! The first snow of the season came today accompanied with rain and wind with a “feels like” temp of 30 degrees according to the pathetic weather man that has to work on Thanksgiving.  We put on our layers of clothes like we are getting ready for a trek through Antarctica.  Julie (Team captain of Team 40/10) and her husband Tom arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed on our front door step at 7:00.  My heart is racing and we are still standing in my kitchen. I’m so nervous because, up until that very moment, I had only run 5K’s on the treadmill with no hills, wind, or people to dodge.  I had previously run 2 miles outdoors and thought I saw my life flash before my eyes.  How the heck is this run going to go for me today?  My goal is to run the whole 5K and not kill myself or other people.  I would also like to avoid looking like I’m about to have a heart attack, asthma attack, stroke or other acute health emergency.  I manage to slug down a protein drink and ½ a Larabar and a glass of water.  My stomach is quivering so much I can’t muscle down the rest of the fruit bar. I’m freaked out over the possibility of not achieving this first goal. I want to do well because it will set the tone for the training I have to face the rest of the year with the Chicago Marathon as the ultimate goal.  If I’m this much of a wreck before my first real 5K, what kind of a disaster will I be standing at the starting line of the marathon? Too much to process….must trot like a Turkey….must avoid looking like a Turkey.

After parking the car several blocks from the starting line we start to see them.  We see those very serious runners that are doing a warm-up run back and forth along the street.  Julie and I exchange knowing glances that say “We are not doing that!” without having to utter a word.  I’m a bit concerned because I’m a tad winded from the walk up the slight hill and from adjusting to breathing in the cold air. I have visions of me walking after 2 miles of trotting. We finally arrive at the school and it is teeming with all kinds of participants. There are the afore mentioned serious trotters donning shorts and Chicago Triathlon shirts, gaggles of high school girls wearing matching neon tie-dyed knee socks, regular folk looking for justification to eat an entire pumpkin pie, little kids (this strikes fear into my heart –oh the agony of being shown up by an athletic 6 year old), parents with jogging strollers and everyone else in between.  The diversity is comforting as I don’t think I’ll stick out if I should feel the need to walk.

We all find our spot at the starting line and we are packed like sardines. I’m protected from the wind by the ring of people around me.  The announcer is announcing something and then just like that, the pack loosens up because it’s trotting time! I push the start button on my watch as I cross under the banner and Julie and I get going. Alex and Tom are long gone and that’s just fine with us.   The energy of fellow runners, the chatting I hear all around me, the relief that it’s all begun – it’s exhilarating.  Previously I told Julie that I wouldn’t be talking to her because I was sure I’d need to conserve my breathing or else I’d lose consciousness.  I’m feeling so good; I actually get a few comments out of my mouth without feeling like dying.  Julie calculates that we are on our usual pace as we pass the 1 mile marker. I take note of my heart rate (still beating, but not too fast – check), I take note of my breathing (still breathing , but not too hard – check) and we take on mile 2.  It’s around this time we spot Uncle Sam running alongside us.  Really…he’s got a costume on from head to toe. We get passed by a number of quick footed runners and we pass others.  Hopefully the “others” view Julie and me as “quick footed” too .  We make the first turn and we are both amazed at how strong we feel. We comment on the apparent turn in the weather.  All the wind and spitting rain has stopped.  It’s actually perfect running weather in our opinion, because if it was any warmer we’d be sweating our heads off.  I take off my gloves, tuck them into my shirt and unzip my hoodie. Instantly I feel more comfy.  All of a sudden we spot the 2 mile marker. It’s just about snuck up on us! Woo hoo! We can hardly believe it’s here already. Remember, the last 2 mile run outdoors was a huge struggle for me. Julie hadn’t even run outside because she’s been sick. We were conquering this thing!!  We continue to navigate through the throngs of runners, being passed and passing others again and again.  We pass a water station without taking water. I wish I could say it was because we didn’t want any, but I wasn’t so sure that it would be a good idea to mess with our pace. Slowing down might never turn into speeding up again. We make what I think is the last turn back toward the school.  I announce this to Julie and we keep chugging along.  It’s at this point we see those really, really excited runners coming back towards us on the sidewalk. Yup, these folks were not only finished with the trot, but they were running back home. They were shouting things like “You’re almost there! Good job!”.  I’m jealous that they are done and have energy /audacity to come running back voluntarily.  Well, the finish line has got to be coming soon.  And there it is… I see the beige bricks of the school at the very end of the road. Julie tells me that I should go faster if I feel like it. She tells me she feels her coughs coming on.  I see another turn that I’m absolutely convinced is the last turn and I get excited.  I really want to be done and my legs feel good so I pick up my speed.  I hear Julie say “Go Toni!” and then I go.  I start sprinting around the corner and I’m a bit annoyed because the finish line is not as close as I would like it to be, but I’ve already started sprinting.  About  ¼ mile from the finish line I really start regretting the decision to sprint so early.  I see the people lining the streets and the finish line ahead and I dig deep.  I…just…want…to …be…done…al…read…y!! And just like that I step over the finish line, under the banner that we trotted under just 33 minutes and 25 seconds earlier. I throw my hands up with no one in particular watching. I DID IT! I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I DID IT!  I find Alex, Tom and Julie at our predetermined meeting spot. We are all vertical and smiling.  Alex with his long legs finishes in 26 minutes. Tom, a previous marathon participant, finishes in 28 minutes. And despite Julie’s proclamation that I smoked her, she finishes just 10 seconds behind me.

Miles and miles away, another Team 40/10 member is doing her self-made solo 5K with her girls and husband at her finish line. Unlike us, she had hills, ice, and traffic to face. Colleen is the watermark for our team.  She sets the bar high for all of us with longer distances and faster times.  She finishes in about 29 minutes even with all her obstacles.  A rock star as usual!

Goal 1 is done! Julie and I can’t stop saying “We did it!”.  We can’t stop smiling because it wasn’t so bad. It was fun and it felt great! We are looking for our next challenge. Of course Colleen has already started cooking up a 5 mile Team 40/10 training run.  What’s another 2 miles….

Part of Team 40/10...vertical and smiling post trot!

Until next time… Live Well! –Toni Kuhel


Happy Thanksgiving Day! (not weekend)

All I’m gonna say about Thanksgiving is ENJOY it!  I’m not going to tell you to make your mashed potatoes with chicken stock or to consider substituting a tofu turkey aka tofurkey for the real deal.  All that nonsense is unrealistic and takes the fun out of an awesome holiday.  What I will remind you is that Thanksgiving is a day, not a weekend.  Thanksgiving Thursday followed by left-over Friday can quickly turn into So Who Cares Saturday, and Heck It’s Sunday So I’ll Have Pie.  This all adds up to the first 5 of the 15 holiday pounds that we typically put on over the season’s festivities.   Have everything you want on Thursday. Taste it ALL!  You might not want to heap your plate high the first time. From what I know of Thanksgiving, multiple times of filling plates is a tradition.  Try putting a bit of everything you want on your plate and going back for seconds (or thirds) of whatever you thought was worth the return trip.  If you heap your plate high the first time, you might clean your plate just to make room for more of the stuff you really want.  I love mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. I won’t take much stuffing because I can take it or leave it. You should probably consider a morning walk and maybe one after the first round of eating. You know there are at least 2 rounds that day. Some of you may try to have a family football game. Alex and I will be doing the much anticipated Turkey Trot.  So enjoy your Thanksgiving with your family or friends, or if you are lucky like the Kuhels, with both.  Have a guilt-free meal that celebrates all that you makes you grateful.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and may  your holiday meal begin and end on Thursday.

Until next time…Live Well! -Toni Kuhel

Get a Goal

Goal setting.  It makes sense. I’ve heard this very thought provoking saying and I’m quite sure you’ve heard it too, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Sure you could go on a family road trip, but if you don’t know that your destination is Wally World (WAY fun), you might just end up at Walmart (not anyone’s idea of fun – good deals, but not fun).  I am not implying that spontaneity is something to frown upon.  I wait for the day I come home and Alex says “We are jetting off to _____ right now!”  I’ll be waiting quite a while, maybe forever, but I embrace Alex’s spontaneity should it take over all his reasonable thinking.  Where was I?…. Oh yeah, goals.

I know the concept of goal setting could apply to every aspect of your life, but my personal goal is to get you thinking about setting health and wellness goals.  If you’ve already set the goal of striving for health and wellness for yourself and/or your family, I applaud you!  If you are more specific in your goal setting, it will be much easier to figure out what steps to take toward the goal.  It will also be significantly easier to gauge if you are making progress.

General goal: You or your family will eat more vegetables.

More specific goals:

  • I will add another serving of vegetables to lunch and dinner.
  • We will try a new vegetable or a new way to serve a vegetable at every family dinner.
  • I will have a vegetable as part of my afternoon snacks.
  • We will fill  ½ our dinner plates with veggies.
  • We will have one vegetarian dinner/meal a week.

General goal:  You or your family will be more active.

More specific goals:

  • The kids will be involved in one physical organized activity per season (dance, soccer, track etc.)
  • The family will take the stairs versus the elevator/escalator when the option is available.
  • I will walk 30 minutes a day 5 days a week.
  • I will run the Chicago Marathon in 2010 with Team 40/10! (Okay, that’s my goal but I LOVE it!)

No need to beat a dead horse with yet another set of examples.  I can’t write the goals for you.  You are your best goal setter.  Consider what you really want and what is truly reasonable for you.  Shoot for a goal that is as specific as you can make it.  A measurable goal is infinitely easier to track and judge if you need to adjust it.   If you are consistently missing the mark, perhaps the mark is way too high or not specific enough.    If you are meeting the goal, give yourself a high-five, pat on the back, and a gold star. Set another goal and go for it.

My ultimate activity goal is completing the marathon. To that end, I have approximately 7 thousand small goals to meet before that ultimate goal.  My first goal was to run 1 mile non-stop, then 2 miles, and then a 5K.  I started doing sprint intervals in an effort to reduce the time it’s taking me to complete these non-stop efforts.  These goals keep me focused and help to push me when I’m about ready to hit that “STOP” button on the treadmill.  Someday I may find enough enjoyment in running to feel the wind in my hair or letting my mind go. This is NOT how I feel about running currently, so I’ve got goals.  Knowing where you want to land is a powerful thing.  I’m all about health and wellness and hopefully you are somewhere toward the right side of the continuum.  I’ve got goals for myself and for my family.  What are your goals?  What’s your Wally World? Think hard and be specific because you may land at Walmart and all you’ll get is discounted toilet paper.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Have a great day

Today was total chaos in the Kuhel house.  Of course it’s always somewhat chaotic, but today was a wingdinger!  It is amazing how 3 kids can sound like 30 kids at 7:00 in the frick’n morning!!!!  Alex and I exchanged glances that expressed “Good God, when will this end!?!” and “I am ready to runaway and join the circus!” all in a fleeting moment.  It’s not just noise. I can handle happy noises on any given day.  Laughter, loud story telling complete with sound effects, shrieking with delight – these are all good, happy noises that are welcome and at least tolerable most days.  The kind of noise that rattled the house this morning was dramatic and continuous until the storm door slammed behind the last child leaving the house.  I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck and left for dead.  I feel my head pounding, my blood pressure peaking, and nerves hanging on by a thread that is unraveling.  To top it all off, outside my window in my neck of the woods (Al Roker says it-so can I) it is crappy with a capital C.

Now it’s time to regroup.   What’s the plan Stan? Perhaps ice cream for breakfast. Fortunately we have no ice cream in the house. That bullet dodged. Phew.  An entire row of Oreo cookies sounds like a plan. Again… no cookies in the house.  My waistline is thankful for that.  My weak mind is thinking otherwise.  I guess it’s going to be a cup of chamomile tea, Greek yogurt, berries, slivered almonds and a touch of honey.  These are things that will soothe my mind without punishing my body.  I’ll go over my list of things to do. I’ll do most of them and shove the rest to tomorrow’s list.  Squeezing in a workout at the gym with weights and the dreaded Stairmaster will release this stress that has built up like the bubbles in a pop bottle that fell out of the van and rolled down the driveway.  Sure I could choose to nothing but hide.  I could try to sleep and eat my way through the day that lies before me.  Well, I am a responsible adult.  If I didn’t do all the things I should be doing today, the repercussions would make tomorrow a day worse than today started out to be.

I choose to get on with the day. If nothing else, I have control over what I’m eating, doing and thinking.  I may not be able to control my daughter’s wild mood swings or my sons’ incessant poking of one another, but I can eat a salad and hot bowl of soup versus a greasy burger.  I can’t make my boys remember to check the lost and found for the 2nd lost hooded sweatshirt of the year, but I can make it a priority to fit in my workout.  I can’t make my husband listen to my entire sentence so that he comes home with all 3 things on the grocery list, but I can be thankful that he went and that he came home with the 2 most important things.

As the kids get older, the noise gets louder.  I know that this will not always be the case.  Soon enough I will turn around and it will be just Alex and me sitting at the breakfast table.  It’ll be quiet while Evan is off making the next scientific discovery.  It will be still in the house while Jared is documenting the flight pattern of a great number of raptors.  It will be silent as Renee is off being the boss of everyone.  It will all be different in a blink of an eye.  So the answer to those glances that Alex and I shot each other this morning that asked when it will all end – soon enough.  So I’m going to get on with my day making better choices so that Alex and I are healthy and able to travel the world to visit our children and our grandchildren after days like today are a distant memory. This too shall pass and all too quickly.  Have a great day, no matter how it started for you.  I will.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Season of Thanks

So there’s this recent trend on Face Book that I’m really enjoying.  No, it’s not Bejeweled Blitz addiction, although I am a HUGE fan of that.  The first week of November I started seeing status updates that indicated that people were going to state something they were thankful for, for the entire month. It was something that sounded like a good idea the first time I read it.  Then I started reading the status updates as the days wore on.  It does good things for the soul to read how very grateful people are.  It gave me pause.  I too am grateful for a great number of things, but seeing it in writing is very powerful.  It’s putting it out there in the universe.  It’s akin to yelling upon a mountain top to acknowledge all that is fabulous in your world.  Try this little FB trend.  If you are not on Face Book, then you and the one other person can do something else.  Joke only.  Taking the time to reflect on all our blessings is time worth spending.  Writing it down on FB, on paper, on a napkin, on the mirror, on anything takes more time that is worth spending.  It’s very easy to walk through life dwelling on all that could have been, would have been, and should have been.  Self pity, regret, envy and complaining that world isn’t fair make for a long walk.  That’s also a quick walk to a miserable life.  There is a mind- body – spirit connection that is undeniable.  Feed that mind and spirit with positive thoughts and your body will thank you for it and serve you well.  Make an effort to be thankful everyday and shout from the mountain tops all that you makes you grateful.  You’ll realize that list is long and peppered with things that you might have forgotten to notice in a very long time.

I’m shouting my abridged list – I am grateful for my family, friends, health, home, my parents living nearby, the possibility of a lung transplant for my father-in-law, my supportive husband, coffee, food on the table, colorful fall leaves, smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of children’s laughter, the smell of babies, living in a free country, hot shower, good books, mindless books, my kids that make me laugh and cry, all things that have happened in my life so far that have gotten me to this point so blessed I can hardly believe it.  This list is far from complete and gets added to everyday.

Do yourself a favor and shout your list. You’ll be surprised that you’ll run out of ink before you run out of things to be thankful for.

I am thankful for all of you that take the time to read this blog.  It feeds my soul to share with you and to hear from you.  During this season of thanks, let’s start a trend of being thankful always.  Sure, winter will come (really fast), followed by spring, and eventually summer will come.  The season of thankfulness should have no weather pattern attached to it.  Enjoy your never-ending season of thankfulness.

Thank you all!

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

Team 40/10


As many of you know (if you’ve been paying attention) I will be running the Turkey Trot with my husband Alex, my friend and her husband.  What I haven’t shared with you is the big picture…the big, giant, humungous picture.  Spurred on by my friend Julie (Turkey Trot partner), we have created Team 40/10 (we all turn 40 in 2010) to run the Chicago Marathon in October next year.  You can stop laughing now if you’ve been reading my Tweets that declare a personal best of 2 miles non-stop outside and a first 5K non-stop on the treadmill.

I am practicing the fine art of finding motivation to keep up my running workouts.  I won’t disclose the identities of my fellow team mates, but I will say we are a collection of 4 high school friends. We have all been to each other’s weddings, our kids have grown up playing together, and apparently we are all equally delusional. If I think long and hard about our end goal of surviving and making a good showing at the marathon, I get breathless.  If I think about how tough the first 5K on the treadmill was and multiply it by 9, I get panicked.  If I look at the faces of friends when I tell them of this ultimate goal, I feel embarrassed.

I am not a runner.  I will become a runner.  I don’t run because I enjoy it.  I didn’t run at all before this proposition.  There is a famous saying, “If you see Toni running you better run too because something/someone is chasing her.”  The point being that I don’t run for the sake of running.   I am now running toward a goal.  I cannot express fully what a huge difference this has made in my workout mind.  My focus is different.  I’m always looking to improve something about my run.  I’m looking to improve my speed, distance, heart rate, endurance, strength, and injury prevention.  I understand I am very early in the process and a whole slew of obstacles could and probably will pop up over this training year.  But…hold on to your hats….I am ENJOYING running!!! I don’t think I’ve experienced the rumored “runner’s high” just yet. I think you have to run longer, but I’m really looking forward to making small improvements every week so that I can feel that “high”.

Team 40/10 is a thing of beauty.  We share our workout logs, our triumphs and challenges.  We encourage one another and share tips and info that we find on-line or from experience.  There is something to be said for community.  Our little community has kept us honest with our workouts and kept us belly laughing at our dilemmas.  I am not suggesting to anyone to take on this challenge.  This is my challenge to you- Figure out what will give structure and focus to your workouts.  What will light the fire under your feet to get you up and out of bed on those dark mornings? What’s going to make it worth it for you to get off the couch and move with a purpose?  Will it be emails to a workout confession friend, a personal trainer, Weight Watchers, a workout journal, or your version of Team 40/10? Whatever it takes, figure it out and do it.

Now what you all have to look forward to is updates on the trials and tribulations of Team 40/10 in addition to the follies of the Kuhel family.  Wrestling season has just started for my Evan and Jared, Renee has returned to her Jazz dance class and Alex has a renewed spark to begin running. The stories are about to get very good, or at the very least, very entertaining.  I’d love to hear about any goals you are setting.  You can do anything. My immediate goal is to complete the Turkey Trot non-stop with Julie – vertical and smiling at the end. I’m off to add another 5K onto my running shoes – gotta report to the team later and I’m not prepared to fess up to missing a run.

Until next time…Live Well! – Team 40/10 ROCKS!!! – Toni Kuhel  

Confession time


Come on! Fit already!!!

EEK! I kind of saw it coming. It was coming like a freight train but I turned a blind eye.  I heard that whistle blowing loud and clear but I ignored it. This moment had arrived and now it was time to face it.  My pants are TIGHT! Crap!!!!!   Apparently I was talking the talk of “moderation” and walking the walk of “no one is looking so who cares?”.  So now I am putting it out there so all of you are now officially “looking” and I can no longer hide. Crap!!!!

Confession time.  Risking losing all credibility, I’m going to be honest with all of you.  I am only human. It happened as all backslides do. One more large diet soda dangled in front of me that I couldn’t turn down. One Oberweis turtle sundae that would make a down day all better.  One unavoidable trip through the drive-thru because I didn’t plan well.  One skipped workout because I didn’t feel like it. One missed meal followed by a meal the size of 3 meals because I was falling down hungry.  To be totally honest, it was several instances of these moments that got me to my uncomfortable wardrobe experience.  So now what?  Should I just say “Why bother?”.  Nope.  I will pull myself up by the boot straps (whatever those are) and get back on track.

I’ve got a ton of excuses for this backslide. All of them are valid in my mind.  Some of them are quite original in an effort to help me sleep at night.  I’m amazed what I can come up with when faced with a want that becomes a need that really should be a “heck no!”.  Today is Saturday.  Instead of saying that Monday will be the day of reckoning, I choose today.  I walked past my scale in my bathroom a countless number of times.  Tight pants are not something I could ignore.  My admittedly vain goal is to have my pants glide over my thighs and button over my belly effortlessly.  My health and wellness goal is to keep my waist measurement (circumference at your belly button) well below 35” (risk factor for a number of preventable diseases- it’s 40” for men).  Those goals are my answer to the “why bother?” question and I don’t need any other reason to get back on track. 

The point of this post is to let you know that this is life.  Sometimes life hands you a steaming bag of poop which, in your/my mind, gives a perfect opportunity to be creative with excuses or reasons to make less than stellar choices for your health and wellness.  I’m clearly guilty of this as evidenced by my tight pants.  Now is the time to get real and honest with the concept of moderation.  I’ll do what I know is right and try harder to set myself up for success.  We are coming up on Turkey day and I refuse to head into that day thinking that pajama pants are a dinner wardrobe option. 

It is true that doing something is better than doing nothing.  What is also true is that if your goal is different (maintenance versus weight loss), your steps toward that goal should reflect that.  Thirty minutes a day of moderate (not overdoing it and not a cake walk) exercise a day is not going to cut it. It’s actually going to take 60 minutes a day.  I’m going to have to make sure that I treat myself only once a day, reasonably.  I’ll choose water instead of just about any other drink for a while.  Well, except for coffee.  I wouldn’t want to thrust an uncaffeinated Toni on the world.   I also got lazy about planning out my meals and activities.  I’m done with that nonsense.  I’m going back to what I know. I’m going to forgive myself for falling short and thanking myself for deciding to walk the walk once again.  Raise your hand if you’re guilty of falling short. Go ahead. Lucky for you no one is looking. Stand on that scale and pay attention to the way your pants fit.  These things don’t lie.  It’s best to catch yourself falling short before you are in a full blown free fall.   

Truth be told, this will not be the last time I will fall short in this lifetime.  I’m striving for fewer diversions from my goal of a healthy lifestyle. So come walk the walk with me again. We’re only human and we are going to make mistakes and circumstances will become challenges.  So let’s face the world and the big bags of steaming poop that it sometimes hands you.  I’m ready for proper fitting pants. Are you?

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel


You are what you eat.  Those words ring true with every bite you and your family consumes.  So, what do you want to be made of?  Some days I’m made of an Oberwiess Turtle sundae.  Most days I’m not.  Some days my kids are made of hotdogs or burgers. Most days they are not.  More often than not, we make choices that point us in the direction of living well.  We didn’t get here overnight, but it certainly didn’t take a million years either.  It wasn’t torturous, but we did have to become more conscious and take control.  We had to be done with being passive receptacles of junk, junk and more junk which is EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME.  Below I’ll list some easy swaps that the Kuhel family made pretty painlessly.  You may have the same experience.  Some of you may have a tougher time of it.  The point, as usual, is not to make all the changes all at once. It also doesn’t mean you have to make all the changes to make it worth your while. Every change you make, no matter how small you may think it is, is totally worth making.  We chose to adopt these changes to increase our fiber, vitamins, minerals and “good fat” intake, decrease our saturated fat, sugar and salt intake…to get more nutritional bang for every bite. You’ll take a detour to avoid construction traffic. What detour will you take to avoid an unhealthy future?


White carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal,rice etc) – swap whole wheat/ whole grain bread , pasta(check for “whole” wheat, oats, grain etc and at least 3 grams of fiber per serving).  Try quinoa, barley, oatmeal, couscous and brown rice. Also add oatmeal or ground flax seed to baking recipes.

Baked/roasted potato – baked/roasted sweet potatoes

French fries – baked sweet potato fries

Mashed potatoes – pureed cauliflower (boil cauliflower in skim milk  and a dash of salt and white pepper until soft- put softened cauliflower in blender with a ladle full of the milk you boiled it in- give it a whirl -add more of the milk until it’s the consistency you like – make sure it’s smooth) My kids ask for this dish often.  They swear there is cheese in it!  It’s very filling because of all the fiber.

Chips- whole grain pretzels, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pop corn made at home

Iceberg lettuce – spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce

Beef – skinless chicken, turkey, fish.

Ground meat – we use ½ the recommended amount of ground beef/turkey and bulk up recipes using black beans, kidney beans, corn, or other veggies.

Whole milk – 2% or skim

Sour cream – low fat sour cream, yogurt, salsa

Chocolate chip cookies – fewer chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies

Butter – we just use much less or use Smart Balance

Vegetable oil – olive oil, swap applesauce for oil in baking recipes

Juice, pop – water, skim milk

Milk chocolate – dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)

Sugar –agave syrup

The Kuhel family LOVES food desperately. These are just a few swaps we make. What successful swaps have you made? I’m sure you’ve heard of some of these. I hope you have some that I haven’t heard of.  We are always open to new ideas especially in regards to health and wellness so bring it on!

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel

I Don’t Feeeeel Like It! (part III – the end)


We are on a roll!  This is part III of the 3 part series on motivation and I am motivated to get this one in the books.  Getting motivated to live a healthy lifestyle  is clearly no easy task so let’s work on making it easy for us.

Set yourself up for success. Make it a no-brainer for you to make good choices.  When you can’t find your gym shoes, the moment of self-motivation may pass you by.  When faced with the 3 boxes of cookies that your friend’s daughter sold you, that container of yogurt in the back of the fridge doesn’t look so great.  Strive to make it easier, not harder for yourself and your loved ones to do the right things.

  • Watch what you bring into your kitchen. Be sure that the majority of your food is “real food’.  Treats are fine, but try to limit the quantity.  Do not buy the family size bag/box of ANY treat. The chances of making a good choice goes from slim to none if you have one bruised apple going up against 4 rows of chocolate sandwich cookies.  Make your good food convenient and keep it fresh.  Keep your treats out of sight.  Most of the time “out of sight out of mind” will be a helpful strategy.  Good food can be a treat in itself.  A bowl full of fresh berries topped with vanilla yogurt is a delicious option.  Air popped popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese can hold its own against a bag of chips or a sleeve of buttery crackers.
  • Start off on the right foot. Keep your gym shoes by the front door. If your are trying to get a walk in before work, keep your gym shoes at your bedroom door so you can slip them on and hit the door right away.  Make sure your mp3 player is charged and loaded with your favorite tunes.  If going to the gym involves a gym bag, keep it packed and throw it into your car on the front seat.  Remember “out of sight, out of mind” can work against you as well. If the bag is in the trunk of your car you won’t hear it calling your name.  Know what kind of person you are. I’m a people person.  I’m much more likely to make an effort to get somewhere if someone is expecting me.  If you can swing it, a few sessions with a personal trainer can get you in the habit of working out regularly.  An exercise class is more fun if you can get to know someone in the class.  They are there for the same reason you are.  They will notice if you skip a class.  Getting a friend to be your walking or running partner will get you off your duff.  Even if you can’t work out together, checking in with each other via email or phone can help keep you accountable.  You can encourage each other and take turns talking one another off the ledge.  This is the technique of choice for me in order to get running for the Turkey Trot and beyond.  I have 3 other friends that are getting on track with running and exercise and we’ve been slinging emails to and fro.  The emails are training updates and they have been doing wonders for me.  We encourage each other and share our frustrations.  I reckon this is way cheaper than seeing a therapist when I’m boo- hooing over a training session gone wrong.  Misery does indeed love company, but it  really loves a good laugh and an encouraging pat on the back as well.If going it alone is more your style, then make the commitment to yourself.  Set your personal goals in terms of time/distance/ frequency of your workout.  Schedule it in and stick to it!

  • Get your head right. I find it helpful to keep health and wellness related books or magazines on my nightstand. It keeps health and wellness a part of my daily thinking.  Life is so busy and I have lots of things on my mind every day.  I’m sure this is the case for you as well.  Making the small effort to have these reading materials at my finger tips is totally worth it and was a change worth making. 

When you do make a good choice that supports your healthy lifestyle, pat yourself on the back and remember why it’s a good choice.  Recall the children with the all- hearing ears and all-seeing eyes?  They are highly affected by the things you say and do.  During and after a family bike ride, be sure to notice and comment on all the things you enjoyed about it.  The air smelled good.  The bunnies and birds were everywhere.  You all feel more relaxed.  They’ll surely come up with things if you lead off the discussion.  Do this kind of recapping as often as you can. When you eat right, return from being active, or choose to handle a stressful situation properly, it’s your opportunity to feel good.  Even if your children’s eyes are glazed over when you are talking about it, it’s seeping in, bit by bit.  They are little parrots.  Think hard about what you want to hear flying out of those mouths.

Over time, the way you feel after consistently making healthy choices will be reward enough for you.  True, those days will come along when you won’t feel like making those choices.  Do what you can to get yourself moving in the right direction.  Allow yourself to experience some setbacks, but do what you can to side step them as well.  Try some of the things that worked for us.  Tweak the strategies so that they can apply to the way you live.  You can make it through a day healthfully, even when you don’t feeeel like it.  What’s going to work for you  and  your family? What’s going to give you that little nudge?

Until next time…. Live Well! -Toni Kuhel

I Don’t Feeeeeeel Like It! (part II)

Continuing on our journey of seeking health and wellness, digging deep to find motivation, we take on the task of “everything in moderation”. Note, this is part II of the series so scroll down if you missed part I.


How do you eat an elephant? The answer is…one bite at a time.  Making a move toward living well can be a daunting prospect.  I think the quickest way to derail your effort is to think it’s an “all or nothing” deal.  You don’t have to make every change on the first day that you decide to live well.  I find that it’s easier to make small changes over time, and before you know it, you’ll have made lots of changes.

  • One example is your eating.  If you’ve been a group of cheese worshipers and vegetable novices, you might benefit from easing into a new way of eating.  Instead of trying to choke down a wide variety of food that is foreign to you and your loved ones, start small.  Instead of macaroni and cheese, try steamed broccoli or cauliflower and cheese sauce.  It’s yummy!  Each vegetable can be introduced this way if you need to convert even the pickiest eaters from age 2 to 82.  Each time you have it, try backing off on the sauce a little at a time.  Turkey bacon can make string beans a tasty side dish as well.  Your ultimate goal will be to eventually appreciate a vegetable for tasting like a vegetable, but you have to start somewhere.  Even if you do like veggies on their own, there is nothing wrong with changing it up once in a while. Life is too short to eat something the same way every time.

Making a big production out of trying a new food tends to backfire on me.  I tend to just tell the family what’s for dinner and why it’s good for them (it’s a Super food, new lean meat, different kind of grain). We don’t bribe them to try it.  That just makes them think it must be awful.  I try very hard to make it tasty so that first “chew and swallow” is a successful one.  I don’t heap a huge amount on the plate.  I start off with just a spoonful and encourage them to start with that.  Some things have been huge hits and others have been duds.  They won’t like everything, but they will at least try everything.

Remember to have something that is “forbidden”.  The reality is that nothing is forbidden. You can have whatever you want…just watch how much and how often you have it.  It never fails.  All you have to do is tell me that I am not allowed to eat something and I crumble.  Instantly I will have a craving and obsess about it.  Maybe you are not as weak as I am- that makes you lucky! I now know that I won’t implode if I have 3 potato chips.  The old me would say “another potato chip will never cross my lips!”  I could keep this charade up for a time, but a bowl of chips would materialize at a party and I became very unsure of the term “never”.  I’d position myself near the snack table and have a few, feel guilty, have a few more and then I was licking chip crumbs off my fingers and looking at the empty bowl.  If I just had let myself have a couple of chips at some point, I probably would’ve been able to resist the pull of the bowl.  I was thinking that I would never see a chip again so I just threw in the towel.  You can eat just 1…or 5.  This is life.  Bowls of potato chips will not fall off the face of the earth.  You will see them so make sure you snack mindfully and that it is something that you really want at the moment. Put a few on your napkin and walk away.  Of course, this is what works for my family.  I let my kids have a sweets or treats from time to time.  We don’t make a big deal about it.  They can fully enjoy something without stuffing their cheeks like chipmunks. Only you know what works for your life.  What will keep you from stuffing your cheeks like a chipmunk?

If you can’t bring yourself to make your entire meal healthy, something is always better than nothing.  Be sure to visit the posts on healthy food choices.  If you haven’t been able to make the change to whole grain pasta, wait until you are used to the grilled chicken vs. chicken fingers and the carrots vs. fries.  Perfection is highly over-rated in my book. This helps me sleep at night.  This is my truth only because I can never achieve perfection and I’m good with that.  Remember that your goal is to live well so try to make choices that get you there.  It’s a journey worth taking.  You are trying to make changes that last a lifetime so it should take some time.

  • Another issue is exercise and activity.  Again, we know that being active on most days of the week is ideal.  If you have been a couch jockey for a good number of years, it may not be realistic to think you’re going to be hitting the gym 6 days a week to start.  Set small goals to be more active than you have been.  Start with 10 minutes a day.  Make it 15 minutes the next week.  If that was easy, go for your three 10 minute chunks a day.  Even if you’ve been somewhat active recently, it wouldn’t be such a good idea to go bananas with your workouts right away.  Wherever you are in terms of fitness…bump it up a bit!  A sure fire way to kill a workout regimen is to over-do it.  I have been known to return to a kickboxing class that I have abandoned for a while.  I thought I would just do the class without doing any of the suggested low-impact modifications (options that require no jumping), using the heaviest hand-weights (we could use them if we wanted a challenge), and paying no attention to letting my heart rate recover at any time (you aren’t supposed to feel like you are going to die for all 60 minutes).  The next two days were pathetic or highly entertaining depending on if you were me or if you were observing me.  Bending ANYTHING was not an option.  I had a permanent grimace on my face.  I was not in a hurry to return to that class or to the gym. That was the end of that start towards fitness.  You are supposed to feel good after you exercise.  “No pain, no gain” is very old school in my opinion.  A little tightness in your muscles can be expected.  You are supposed to be able to walk the next day.  My goal is to do a little more or something a little different every week.  This keeps my body moving in the right direction and keeps me out of a rut.  Now I’m at a point in my fitness where I like to challenge myself a bit more.  I’m willing to push a touch past my comfort zone for the sake of improving.  I do know that pushing too hard could result in unnecessary pain or injury.  I will not risk that.  Know your limits and push yourself a bit, but don’t sabotage your efforts.

That’s it for part II.  I’m hoping that you are starting to see a pattern to my message. Please share tips that have worked for you too. No fair keeping that knowledge to yourself.  Someone out in the blogosphere is waiting to hear your ideas.  It may be the thing they need to read to get them moving in the right direction.  You may be the one to help someone eat their elephant one bite at a time.  See you soon with part III.

Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel