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Great Weight Loss/Diet/Exercise Tools From You On A Diet

After a few weeks of letting my healthy eating habits slip a bit (I’m sure you all know the feeling), I’m firmly watching what I eat again! It’s a while since I’ve been counting calories or thinking about shedding a few pounds, and I’m delighted to recommend nifty free tools that might help you too.

These are a series of diet, exercise and weight-loss tools from Ernesto, who runs You on a Diet – a great site with a blog attached, which I write weekly for. These include:

Weight Loss Estimator: Pop in your weight and your daily calorie deficit (ie. how many calories you’re cutting from the daily recommended calories for your gender, age and weight). Warning: the tool will let you set a calorie deficit that (if you’re female and short like me) could be unsafe. Don’t go below 1,100 total calories per day (which for me is a deficit of about 460).

Body Mass Indicator (BMI) Calculator: Find out if you’re underweight, overweight or just right… this is what I currently get!

Activity Calculator: Cleverly, this lets you figure out either how many calories you burn in a set time of a particular activity – or vice versa: you can put in how many cals you want to burn and figure out how long it’ll take! I went skiing for the first time over the Easter break, and was rather pleased to find out that downhill skiing burns a whopping 176 cals in half an hour. (I’m not sure how many cals falling over burns, though, which was what I seemed to spend most of my time doing…)

Calorie Calculator: This handy dandy tool lets you know exactly how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight, or to lose weight.

There’s also a target heart rate calculator (very straighforward – just enter your age), as well as tools to figure out what percentage of your body weight you’ve lost since starting your diet.

If you’re a diet blogger, you’ll love these tools – ones like the BMI calculator give you nifty little graphics that you can post on your blog to show the world your progress (or to shame yourself into making some headway!) As an example, here’s my BMI…


MY BMI IS:
22.31

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Best of The Office Diet

Since I started The Office Diet over a year ago, the site has grown to encompass hundreds of posts, long articles, recipes and an ebook. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of the highlights:

Trying to live more healthily but not sure where to start?

Try the Dieting Basics series – a set of posts taking you through some of the basic principles of healthy eating and exercising, focusing on advice and tips that are practical for busy people working full-time. In a modified form, this also forms part of the content of my Dieting Basics ebook – a much more comprehensive look at weight loss, nutrition and exercise.

Looking for detailed information on diet and exercise?

Check out the Articles page. This is a set of longer articles – including the full versions of the “excuse busting” series (How to stop making excuses and start making changes) and the “healthy mind” series (Beat negative thoughts: keep a healthy mind).

Not sure what to cook for dinner?

My Recipes page has quick, easy and calorie-counted recipes for you to try out. These are all meals that I eat regularly and enjoy! They’re not fancy recipes, just good basic food made from simple, healthy ingredients.

Want bite-sized information?

The most popular posts on The Office Diet are, in order of popularity:

Looking for more?

The Office Diet has grown to a larger site than I originally planned, and I’m not going to be posting any new content for a while. If you’re missing your thrice-weekly fix, why not:

  • Use the search feature (on the top right) to look for posts on a particular topic
  • Browse through the categories on the left
  • Check out the archives
  • Read my blogging on Diet Blog and You On A Diet.

I’ll end by wishing you the very best of luck on your healthy living journey!

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Review of Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development for Smart People – how does it apply to dieters?

One of the bloggers who I’ve been reading for a long time (over two years now) is Steve Pavlina. In fact, it was his articles that first inspired me to start The Office Diet – so this blog’s very existance is probably owed to him!

As you can imagine, then, I was delighted (in an over-excited fan girl sort of way) when Steve announced that he had a book coming out. I duly snapped up a copy from Amazon as soon as it was available in the UK, and read it cover-to-cover in the space of a few days.

So, what’s Personal Development for Smart People (PDfSP) about, and why should dieters get themselves a copy?

Overview of Personal Development for Smart People

Perhaps the easiest way to start a review about PDfSP is to explain that it’s quite different from many other “self-help” style books. My frustration with these books in the past is that they seem to trot out a series of fairly common-sense ideas, along with the occasional trite maxim – there’s rarely anything in them which gives me a new flash of insight about any life problems I’m having.

PDfSP, though, is an extremely in-depth and well-thought-through take on personal development. It’s clear that Steve invested a huge amount of time in thinking about this book, rather than just writing it. The first part is quite abstract, dealing with seven principles for “growth” in all areas of your life. Steve presents this as a diagram, with three “core” principles (Truth, Love and Power) combining to form the secondary principles (Oneness, Authority and Courage), and all six of these forming “Intelligence”.

The second part of the book deals with the nitty-gritty of applying each of these seven principles to different areas, such as “Career”, “Money” and “Health”:

Keep your fitness routine simple and direct. Don’t overcomplicate your life with fancy or expensive exercise equipment; and don’t mistake manufactured supplements, powders, and shakes for a healthy, natural diet. Here’s a simple rule of thumb that will save you a lot of money: if it comes in a can, bottle or canister, you don’t need it.
– from Health and Courage

I personally liked the abstract, almost quite academic approach, and felt that it gave the book a coherence and structure that many standard “self-help” books lack.

What I liked most about Personal Development for Smart People

A few things stood out for me about this book, that made it well worth the money:

  • Steve’s style is extremely motivating. He’s challenging at times, but in an inspiring way (not like an Army boot camp instructor or anything). Just reading PDfSP made me feel energised and encouraged in my health goals – and my other life goals.
  • The book is detailed, in depth and packed with material, not fluffed out with cute cartoons, quizzes, and so on.
  • Steve presents some genuinely new ideas and ways of thinking (new to me, at least!) My post a couple of weeks ago about Set goals which change your life NOW was sparked off by reading Steve’s words on goals.
  • This is a book that you could return to time and time again. I read it through quite fast (I tend to be greedy when it comes to books – and chocolate…) but I want to go back and work through the chapters slowly, taking some notes and doing the exercises along the way.

I also liked the way that Steve is looking for “principles” of growth, so that his advice can be applied to any area of life. So often, self-help books seem aimed at putting a sticking-plaster over the holes in one part of our life, whilst not providing any help with other problem areas. As part two of PDfSP demonstrates, Steve’s principles can be applied to a number of areas, from “Money” to “Health” to “Relationships”.

Steve is also very honest about his own experiences, particularly ones which might not be considered especially glowing! His Introduction opens with:

Do you remember the exact moment you first became interested in personal development? I certainly do. It happened in January 1991 while I was sitting in a jail cell. I’d just been arrested for felony grand theft. This wasn’t my first run-in with the law, so I knew I was in trouble. I was 19 years old.

What I didn’t like about Personal Development for Smart People

Enough with the good – what’s the bad stuff? On the whole, very little! There were just a few aspects of PDfSP that I found didn’t really work for me:

  • Steve places a lot of importance on fitting everything into a neat structure (here, the seven principles). I felt that in some cases, the principles weren’t sufficiently different (I kept getting muddled between “power” which is one of the primary three, and “authority” which is the expression of “power” plus “truth”), and sometimes the structure felt a little forced. Anyone with a strong maths or science background, though, might find this a refreshing approach to self-help.
  • I’m a committed Christian, and whilst I try to stay open minded (and certainly do my best to respect other people’s views and beliefs), I did find Steve’s chapter on “Spirituality” hard to agree with. Again, this is not exactly a criticism of the book, more just reflective of what I brought to it as a reader.

Should you buy Personal Development for Smart People?

Whether you’ve got a shelf-full of self help books, or whether the idea of self-help makes you grimace, I think this book could be very valuable. Why not at least download the free sample chapter from Steve’s site, to see if it might be for you?

If you do like it, you can buy it here:

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17 ingredients, 6 sandwiches, 10 days of fantastic, healthy, lunches

Are you getting bored of sandwiches? Taking the same thing into work every day can get boring, fast … but buying lunch out every day soon becomes expensive. I keep falling back on the default option of “pitta bread with ham, lettuce and pickle” which, whilst nice, can get a bit boring by Friday.

So last weekend, I sat down to figure out a shopping list and menu plan that is:

  • Good value
  • Healthy
  • Requires minimum preparation time
  • Allows a reasonable amount of variety

The prices and calorie values are from Sainsbury’s (a mid-range supermarket in the UK); they’ll vary a bit for our US readers, but this should give some idea of the relative cost of taking a packed lunch verses eating out.

Your packed lunch shopping list

You will need:

(For sandwiches)

  1. Six pitta breads (52p)
  2. Six harvest grain baps (49p)
  3. 200g wafer-thin ham (£1.29)
  4. 360g jar Branston Small Chunk pickle (89p)
  5. 312g jar Baxter’s Albert’s Victorian chutney (77p)
  6. 250g tub cottage cheese (58p)
  7. 200g light philadelphia (£1.34)
  8. Iceburg lettuce (85p)
  9. Cucumber portion (40p)
  10. 250g Cherry tomatoes (68p)
  11. One red onion (18p)
  12. One red pepper (78p)
  13. Small tin of pineapple rings (23p)

(Extras)

  1. 500g loose carrots (31p)
  2. Bag of Basics apples (99p)
  3. Bag of Basics pears (99p)
  4. Two boxes of multigrain cereal bars (£2 for 2)

Total cost: £13.29

Freeze the pitta breads and rolls as soon as you get home; they’ll defrost easily. Keep the vegetables and apples in the fridge. With lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, you may need to buy more the following weekend as they usually won’t keep past six or seven days.

Six different sandwich ideas from thirteen items

Mix and match your lunch items however you choose – here’s some of the sandwich ideas I came up with, followed by how to put it all together for a healthy lunch…

(Note: I recommend using one and a half bread rolls if you’re having a roll rather than a pitta, as they’re a bit on the small side otherwise!)

Pitta with ham, cream cheese, lettuce and pickle

Defrost one pitta bread (I zap for 30 seconds on full in the microwave), then split down the long edge. Spread with cream cheese, then fill with about five slices of wafer-thin ham. Add a teaspoon of pickle, and a handful of shredded lettuce leaves. Slice in half and wrap tightly in clingfilm or a sandwich bag (these tend to disintegrate otherwise!)

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
217 12.7g 33.3g 3.5g 3.7g

Bread roll with ham and chutney

Defrost a bread roll. Slice in half, spread each side with cream cheese then add two-three slices of ham to each half. Dollop a generous teaspoon of Victorian chutney in the middle. NOTE: I like my rolls open topped, and this way of putting the sandwich together means it can easily be “split” again at lunchtime (the chutney can get a bit messy though…)

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
207 16.5g 25.8g 4.5g 1.3g

Pitta with cottage cheese and salad

Defrost a pitta bread. Split and fill with cottage cheese, lettuce, sliced cucumber, a couple halved cherry tomatoes and a few rings of red onion (if liked.) Add a sprinkling of black pepper or mixed herbs from the store-cupboard, to taste.

This is a great way to sneak one of your five-a-day into your sandwich.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
208 12.7g 31.9g 3.2g 3.9g

Bread roll with cottage cheese and pineapple

Defrost a bread roll. Chop or crush one pineapple ring and mix with a tablespoon of cottage cheese. Split the roll and fill with the cottage cheese and pineapple mix.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
190 9.7g 29.6g 3.7g 1.4g

Pitta with cream cheese and roasted vegetables

Grill or roast 1/3rd red pepper and 1/3rd red onion. (A George Foreman grill is ideal for this.) Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, defrost your pitta bread, split, spread the inside (top and bottom) with cream cheese, and stuff with the roasted vegetables. Wrap tightly in clingfilm – the roasted vegetables have a habit of sliding out otherwise!

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
206 8.8g 33.8g 4.0g 4.4g

Bread roll with cream cheese and cucumber

Defrost and slice a bread roll, spread with cream cheese, add thinly sliced cucumber and pickle if liked. What could be simpler? If you prefer an open sandwich, spread both halves with cream cheese and put the sliced cucumber in the middle – you can de-assemble it at lunch time.

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fibre
179 7.3g 25.1g 5.5g 1.4g

Creating a delicious, healthy, lunch … in under five minutes

Take one sandwich idea from above, and add:

Veggies: Your choice of carrot sticks (20 cals) (wash, top and tail, and slice a carrot; no need to peel), a handful of cherry tomatoes (15 cals), or a small box of mixed salad (lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, red pepper) (30 cals).

Fruit: An apple and/or pear (50 cals each)

Cereal bar: (75 – 120 cals depending on brand)

Simple! A nutritious, healthy, easy lunch for a fraction of the price it would cost to buy in the supermarket… just £1.33/day if you use the above shopping list. Compare this to…

(From your local sandwich shop)
Ham salad sandwich ( £2+)
One apple (50p)
One pear (50p)
Cereal bar (45p)

At least £3.45 total.

And of course, if you regularly go to a local restaurant – even if it’s just a fast food place – the price, and the calorie count, will be even higher. Try shopping ahead this weekend and taking packed lunches for just a couple of weeks: it’s one of the easiest, and best, changes you can make to ensure you have a healthy diet while at work.

(Terrified sandwich photo by Sakurako Kitasa)

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How to calorie-count a recipe – free spreadsheet to download

It’s great to cook from scratch – fun, healthy, and the meals you produce are likely to be much more nutrient-packed than ready meals or takeaways. Unless you’ve got a recipe book with calorie counts, though, you may have no idea how many calories or grams of fat are in your meal.

I’m a member of Weight Loss Resources, which has a great tool where you can enter your ingredients (from their vast database) and easily make a recipe. It is a paid-membership site, though, so I’ve created a free downloadable spreadsheet to let you calculate the calories in your favourite recipes.

It works for up to ten ingredients. You need to know the nutritional information for 100g of each ingredient – just look on the packet, or find the ingredient in a database such as Calorie Database (make sure you get the results for 100g).

Download the Calorie Counting Spreadsheet
Fill in the ingredients, and the number of portions the recipe makes, and the spreadsheet give you the calorie, fat, carb, protein and fibre count per portion. I’ve put in a couple of examples (potatoes and mince) to demonstrate how it works, so just delete those and replace with your own ingredients. Easy!

(You might also want to find out your recommended daily calorie intake.)