Calorie Reduction: The Story of Luigi Cornaro

As I am reading the book The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone, I finally understand what needs to be done in order for me to get healthier and lose weight: Eat less. Much much less.

A story from the book: Luigi Cornaro, a wealthy Venetian nobleman, was born into a rich family sometime around 1460. Like his peers in Renaissance Italy, he lived extravagantly and ate whenever and whatever he wanted. An average day consisted of four or five massive meals per day.

As Cornaro approached his fortieth birthday (about ten years before an Italian aristocrat in the fifteenth century expected to die), he fell ill. His doctors told him that he has to moderate his diet if he wants to live.

There was no knowledge at the time about the connection between diet and health. So, Cornaro designed an experiment. He planned a new diet for himself cutting down drastically on the quantity of food that he ate. Each day he limited himself to twleve ounces of solid food and fourteen ounces of wine.

Luigi Cornaro

His plan worked almost immediately. His health improved dramatically. He continued with his plan until age 68, when his doctors who worried that he is not eating enough insisted that he eat more generously. He agreed but as soon as he did it, he got a slight fever and went back to his diet plan which he maintained for the rest of his life – until age 102.

Cornaro wrote a four volume book about this plan called Discourses on a Sober and Temperate Life, in which he described his philosophy that people should eat less as they grow older.  Cornaro remained healthy until his dying day.

Over the years, his book was forgotten and today there is a new trend of people “reinventing the wheel” claiming that calorie reduction is the way to longevity.

My conclusions:

1. I will have to teach my body to eat about 1/3 of the quantity I am consuming today.

2. Read up on the calorie reduction approach (See if you can find a copy o Cornaro’s book in the library).

3. Continue to document everything you eat.

4. Make a Calorie Reduction Plan and start implementing when you are ready to launch it.

Note to self: This is not a starvation diet. This is about re-teaching the body to make the most out of every calorie. Make sure every calorie you consume is of the highest quality possible and as natural as can be. This will be a long process.

Childhood memory: Grandma Busia and Grandpa Haim, both of Ukranian origins, sitting by the kitchen table eating very small meals of bread and vegetables. Both of them lived to be around 90 years old. Something to think about.

What do you think, readers? Anyone else feel that they could cut their calories in half and still function perfectly? Write us in the comments box or on our Facebook page.

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The Date of a Lifetime: NYC 5-Boro Bike Tour 2012

When people ask me and you, Marathon Dad, how the NYC 5-Boro Bike Tour (that we rode in last week) went – you say that it was an amazing date for two. Frankly, I couldn’t have predicted that riding for almost 40 miles on a bike along with 32,000 people – and you – would be this romantic.

We started our morning at 4AM after getting into bed at midnight. Ouch. Got on the ferry to Manhattan along with hundreds of other bikers who seemed more experienced and more in shape than you and me.

Remind me why I am up at 4AM on the ferry???

The other riders said its their sixth or seventh year doing this ride and I looked at you and thought: Uh-Oh. This will be a killer.

We arrive at the start line at 5AM and the ride starts at 7:45. Almost 3 hours to pass standing among thousands of other bikers. It’s freezing.

Did not drink coffee for 3 years until today. Nervous at the start line

The Tour photographer waves at us and 32,000 people wave back. Let’s get this party started!


I didn’t feel like I trained enough but nevertheless we decided that we will do our best and see how far we can pedal. And we’re off!

Downtown Manhattan

Central Park

Heading into the Bronx

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge into Queens

Updating the kids at home who are following along on the Bike Tour map. Astoria Park, Queens

Hello, Brooklyn!

13 miles to go. Brooklyn Queens Expressway

Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island

Finish Line

I learned a few important lessons during the bike tour:

1. Never ever give up: I was close to not showing up for the bike tour because I felt insecure about my training. I still showed up. I saw many people walking up the hills instead of riding. I rode. As a person who has quit way too soon in most projects in the first half of my life, I learned that people can change. I’ve changed. I am not a quitter anymore.

2. I often envy people who are truly fit. Real athletes. Today, I am starting to view myself as the athlete I’ve always dreamed of being. Yes, I am overweight. Yes, I am slow. Yes, I am an athlete.

3. The kids are watching. Everything we do. Everything we say. They watch and mimic.  Riding on this challenging bike tour today sent a stronger message about health, staying fit and persistence than any lecture I will ever give them on these topics. Actions most definitely speak louder than words in our family.

4. You, Marathon Dad, are an amazing friend. I knew you were a great husband but I forgot just how wonderful you are. You insisted on us doing this together at my slow pace even though you could have finished this ride by yourself much sooner.  Every time we reached an uphill section of a bridge or a road, I felt your hand on my back pushing me forward helping me get all the way to the top without getting off of the bike or walking. I don’t know how you stabilized yourself with only one hand on all of those hills with all these people around – and still pushed me forward with your hand. No words can describe the tremendous connection that we felt after spending 6 hours together on our bikes for the first time in 9 years. Indeed, the date of a lifetime.

I’m curious: Are there any readers out there that work out with their spouses? Do you do mutual sports events together? Write us in the comments box.

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Mindful Eating: Smaller Plate, Smaller Fork, Makeup Mirror and Chewing like Crazy

I love learning from other people.

I love people who experiment with their mind and body creatively and report about it.

Lately, I’ve been reading A.J. Jacobs book Drop Dead Healthy: One man’s humble quest towards bodily perfection and learning alot from it. A.J has made a long list (53 pages!) of things he’ll need to do to improve his health.

The first chapter deals with his stomach. He’s made a list of more than 100 diets and he wants to try them all.

After consulting with several behavioral scientists, he rearranges his place setting at the dinner table as such:

1. A.J uses his son’s dinosaur plate since its only 9 inches across (smaller plates equals fewer calories).

2. He uses a shrimp fork since it will make him eat slower than if he had a big fork (the slower we eat, the less food we stuff in. Takes the body 20 minutes for the “I’m full” message to go from the stomach to the brain).

3. He puts a make-up mirror propped up by his place mat because studies show that you eat less if you watch yourself doing it.

I know some of this sounds ridiculous but I am going to try it. In fact, I am going to explore many options that come up in the book and see for myself what works and what doesn’t.

Changes to implement starting in the next meal:

1. Eat off of a small plate.

2. Use a small fork.

3. Get a make-up mirror and set it up by my placemat (pictures to come soon!).

Chewers Anonymous

The subject of effective chewing of food is interesting and important in my view. A.J Jacobs talks about it in his book. I most certainly do not chew my food enough. I am always on the run. Eating while I drive. Snatching food while serving the kids their meals. Snacking in between activities. Who has time to chew??? Well, it turns out that there are people who are very passionate about the chewing of food. I think they say to chew each bite for 30 seconds or maybe 30 times. I have to check. In any case, they must be part of the Slow Planet Movement which encourages people to slow down the pace of their lives. I really like this idea of slowing down but its really challenging to implement. I think I will start with my food.

Slow down.

Count each bite till 20 or 30.

Savor each bite.

Appreciate it.

There’s no rush.


More wacky ideas for weight loss and portion control – in our next posts.

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Inspiration of the Week: Mom of 12 Running Marathons

Sometimes I read about women that make me say: WOW!

I received a link to Erin Henderson’s blog See Mom Run Far a few weeks ago from my friend Elana. Elana emailed a one-liner: I think you may like reading this. So I read it and since then its been in my thoughts.

Erin, who writes the See Mom Run Far blog is a 35-year-old Mom of 12 kids (both natural and adopted) who runs 70-85 miles per week and is trying to get into the Olympic Marathon Team Trials.  Did I mention she just started running in 2009 and lost 75 lbs. in the process?

I learned a few things from Erin:

1. Many moms, including myself, feel guilty when they run instead of being with their kids. Erin runs before the kids wake up. To be precise she wakes up at 4:45AM to go running at 5:30AM and is back by 6:30AM. Therefore, no guilty feelings because kiddies are asleep.

2. Make running a priority. Run almost daily.

3. Many years from now, Erin wants to be one of those old ladies with white hair who still run races.

A walk in the woods

Elana, who sent me this link, is a good friend of mine. We’ve done mutual projects together like taking part in a women’s mini-triathalon two years ago and a Veganism project about a year ago. On Fridays, we sometimes take the kids to the woods and while they bike/run, we get to talk.

Me: I have a proposal that you simply cannot say no to.

Elana: What is it?

Me: It has to do with the hour 4:45AM (I smile)

Elana (understanding where I am going with this): Forget about it. No way.

Me: Elana, think about it! This is our only chance to run before the kids get up. We can do it! Remember what that mom of 12 wrote in her blog about running marathons when she is an old woman?

Elana: Yeah, I want to be like that too when I am old. Hmm…we can try for one week and then we’ll see. Let’s try to get up at that crazy hour 3 times this week.

Me: Deal.

Making deals

I love cutting deals with Elana because she takes her commitments seriously like me. This morning I got up at 4:45AM as agreed, nursed the baby and headed out the door by 5:15. I sent Elana a text message and got a reply that she is on her treadmill already. Making deals with good friends is a great tool for improvement.

Now, let’s see how we stick to this new habit of waking up at this ungodly hour.

Any other parents out there up for a workout in the wee hours of the morning? Write us in the comments box.

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30 Day Food Journaling Project: Days 1-4 and reporting every bite I eat

Its been four days of writing down what I eat.

Four long food-filled days.

Twenty-six more days to go in my 30-day Food Journaling Project.

Today, I want to document thoughts and conclusions.

Day 1: I wrote down e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Day 2: Still enthusiastic and writing things down.

Day 3: Didn’t sleep all night. Too tired during the day. Didn’t write down anything and tried to compensate by writing it all in the evening. Not a good idea.

Day 4: Back to writing. The journey doesn’t stop if you have a fallout for one day. Getting right back on the horse.

Keep It Simple

My idea was to simply write down everything I eat for 30 days so that it will become a habit. A person like myself with unstable eating habits, lack of portion control, inability to control cravings, etc. – needs to write things down. Awareness is key.

In order to ensure that this time I do it, I decided to KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple). I prepared a simple journal from 30 sheets of paper, writing down the date on each page and the five main meals, and stapling it into a book. Voila!

So simple it’s almost primitive. A friend brought to my attention that there is an iPhone application called LoseIt to do similar functions, but I don’t have an iPhone and I am a big fan of simplicity (or a technophobe?).  In any case, it doesn’t matter what you use as long as you JUST WRITE IT DOWN.

Scale is Moving

My bathroom scale is showing signs of shifting. Looks like some weight is coming off simply by writing down. I didn’t change anything else. Just started writing down.  I am not bringing out the party hats yet because it is too soon to celebrate. I have lost and gained the same weight over and over again in the last few months so until I see a consistent weight loss over time, I am skeptical.

The people in the news

I have a confession. I enjoy reading about people who have lost a lot of weight. Every time I read such an article I get inspired. The thing is that they make it sound so easy when they are interviewed. I mean, just eat fruits and veggies and exercise and the pounds will just melt off. What’s the big deal?

Well, it is not easy. Not easy at all. It’s a process of re-learning from scratch how to eat in a balanced way. Teaching your body to crave natural, raw, vitamin and mineral-filled foods is not trivial. It’s so much easier to stop at the local grocery store and buy a pack of chocolate Yodels and iced tea.

Finding alternatives

I have reached a conclusion that I can create healthy alternatives to almost any junk food I crave. My first project was to supplement my daily store-bought iced tea. So, I went to our tea closet and picked random herbal tea and put it in a pitcher. Then I boiled water and poured hot water into the pitcher with the tea bags. I add raw honey as sweetener. Let it cool and add cool water and ice. That’s it! I have found my alternative.

Amazing, sweet homemade iced tea. I’ll miss you, Mr. Grocer at the Turkish grocery store a few blocks down the road. But, now I can sip cold iced tea all day without all of the sugar, chemicals and heaven knows what else is in it (note to self: create a food label reading project when you are done with this one!)

Friday night dinner

Friday night family dinners are a killer. Both me and Marathon Dad gain about 2-3 lbs. every Friday night. Tomorrow is Friday. I plan to document everything that I eat in the evening meal so that hopefully it will give me a sense of quantities and portion control.

I am envious of people who can naturally control their portions. I mean, it seems completely unreal for me that people can actually eat and then stop as soon as they are full – without overeating. I guess I have been in the overeating business for too long.

My goal for the next 5 years: become one of those people who can control portions and stop right when they are full.  What a challenge!

I would love to hear from other readers who are facing similar challenges. What have you found that works for you?

My next report: In four days.

Until then – Happy Eating.

Truly happy, healthy eating to us all.

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30 Day Journaling Project: How I started writing down obsessively everything that dares to enter my mouth

For those of you reading our other blogs, you may have noticed that I am big on projects. I have found that creating a project plan and following it through helps me create the change that I need in my life – on many different levels.

Since we’ve started The Mom and Dad Marathon blog about three months ago, I have lost the same 6-7 lbs. and gained them back – over and over again. This pattern keeps repeating itself . I must figure out how to break this cycle.

I will start by listing what has worked and what hasn’t in my journey to lose weight:

1. writing down everything I eat works.

2. eating mainly fruits and veggies, lentils and nuts works.

3. exercising without changing my diet – doesn’t work.

4. Cutting down on white sugar and white flour – works.

5. eating when i want and what i want and letting my body lead me “naturally” – doesn’t work.

6. stopping all food intake at 6pm – works.

The problem: I can’t create all of these new habits at once. Need to tackle them one at a time.

My conclusion: I will start an organized and thorough food journal where I write down every single food that I eat and drink. I’ve tried to do it before but didn’t stick to it.

So, why hasn’t journaling worked for me? Often, I read that it takes 21 days to ingrain a new habit or behaviour but some people claim that it takes 60 days. Either way, 30 days seems like a good start to get me used to this writing down business. I plan to write short daily updates about this habit for the benefit of – myself – and others who may be inspired to start a similar process.

The following is how the journaling process will take place in the 30 day project:

Week 1 Journaling 3 main meals, snacks and anything else
Week 2 Journaling all food + weighing food on scale
Week 3 Journal all food + weighing food+ calculating calories
Week 4 Journal + weighing food + count caloriesBegin to eliminate white sugar from diet completely.

This will be a challenge.

Another assignment is the last thing I need.

Since we’ve started The Mom and Dad Marathon, we’ve been gradually increasing our workout sessions to a point where I currently bike 15 miles times four times a week and Dad runs 4-5 miles  or bikes 10 miles several times a week. Obviously, we are working. But the weight is not coming off. Conclusion: workouts won’t get us to lose weight without careful, almost obsessive, observation of what enters our mouth.

This is why I will journal and write about it. Frankly, it may be embarrassing. I won’t say that I am not concerned about that. But, I can keep this overeating “secret” to myself and not change anything or I can open up about it, share it with the world, get readers feedback and be inspired to make a real significant change.  I choose option B.  No more hiding and sneaking food. You can eat whatever you want – JUST WRITE IT DOWN.

The subject of eating in secret is very interesting for me. Evidently, the more moms I talk to about this, the more I hear that they eat sweets and “forbidden” foods:

1. After the kids go to sleep.

2. When the kids and hubby aren’t looking.

3. When they are alone running errands.

4. When they are clearing the table after meals and no one is looking.

So, I am not alone in this, am I?

Well, it sure feels lonely eating-wise some days.

So, I will start to journal. I wonder if there are other parents out there who feel that they’d like to take control of what they eat, make wiser food choices, stop sneaking food, and are willing to take a simple pen and paper and JUST WRITE. everything.

I guess I will find out very soon 🙂

The 30 Day Journal Project begins on Monday April 9th and will last through Tuesday May 8th. I will try to send updates every couple of days with thoughts and conclusions as I go through the process of ingraining this new habit into my life.

Please join me.

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Month #2: Fitness and how it affects my relationships

It is the middle of February – Month #2 in my 12-Months Marathon Training Program – and I want to talk about how fitness is affecting my relationships with those close to me: my husband, my mom and my kids.

Romance in the Gym

Me and you, my dear husband, have been partnering up and working as a team when it comes to our workouts (hence the name of the blog: the Mom and Dad Marathon).  With four little kids under our noses all day, we have no choice but to split up shifts in the evenings and on weekends in order to free each other to go to the gym and do our runs.

Saturday nights after 8pm are our date nights. This is our night to be young and free and its a new tradition that we’ve started in the past few months. It has done wonders to our relationship. Last Saturday, we decided to experiment by going to the gym first and then heading to our date.

The negative voices in my head were working overtime. It was so hard to get all the kids to sleep and by 8pm I was ready to drop on my own bed. “You are too tired” – the voices said. “It will be a nightmare” – they went on in my head. “Now you have to pack all of your clothes for the date – too much work”. And on and on they went. I was just about ready to cancel.

Thank god that you, my husband, are such a trooper. Even though you were tired too, there was no way that you were going to miss out on two of your favorite things: working out and going out on a date together.

We had the workout of our lives. The gym was almost completely empty. Who knew that the gym can be so romantic on a Saturday night. I watch you from across the room. You see me running too. We are young teenagers again.

Now, here is something tremendous that I found out lately: a run is better than a nap. I felt so energized that going out on a date at 9:30pm seemed a must.

The energized version of me ready to go out after the workout

Finally, our gift to ourselves this Valentine’s Day: We were accepted into the lottery for the 5-Boro NYC Bike Tour coming up in May.

Evening Workouts with Mom

We have been living with my mom in NYC for the past two years. One can only imagine how complicated a relationship can get when a family of six moves back in with Grandma.

You signed up for the gym along with us, Mom. You’ve started waking up at 4:3o AM and working out in the mornings with my husband while I watch the kids.  Our schedules differ and sometimes we prefer it that way. In the past week, we have been driving to the gym after the kids go to sleep to walk, run and swim.

I want to share with you that although we are each busy doing our workouts, I feel a sense of warmth and security to have my mom there. When I swim in the pool and see you swimming a few lanes away from me, I am happy.

You know, Mom, may staying fit and getting in shape bring me and you closer together – slowly but surely.

Mimicking Mom and Dad

From a house where there is little talk about sports, we have become a house where topics of sports are talked about daily. You, little ones, see me and dad and Grandma go to do our runs and you learn. We lay on  the carpet to do our sit-ups and surely one or two or three of you join us in the exercise session.

Doing sit-ups with Dad in the living room

Our relationship with you kids has become lots of fun since we’ve started training for the marathon.  You play “pretend marathon” games running to cross “pretend finish lines”.  Exercising at home is not as lonely for me since you guys have been joining me. I can’t wait until spring comes back to NYC so that we can start doing our group runs on the beach all together.

My little runners, may you never ever stop running as far as you can and please make sure to let no one stop you.

Weight Update

Weight goal this month: 170lbs.

Weight this morning: 170.5lbs

Since I have almost reached my target goal this month, I will be a bit ambitious and strive for losing two more pounds by the end of February.

New weight goal for February: 168lbs.

Back from a jog on the boardwalk

Note to self: I know you can do it!

Food Update

This is the food diary template that I am starting to use. The big benefit of this template is that it allows you to document things like the food you eat as well as your mood, your energy level, your digestion and water intake on a particular day and see the connection between all of these factors. I am curious to see how it all comes together.

A few days ago, while changing in the gym locker room I had a conversation with an older woman who looks great. When I asked her what her secret was she said: Don’t eat after 6pm. Okay, lady, not sure who you are and what your name is but I am willing to experiment with this new tip. I am starting today and will report the results of course.

One last tip that I have received from a reader: drink two cups of water before each meal to “fill up” the stomach. I will be trying this out this week as well. Stay tuned for updates on this one.

Take Home Message for Myself and for the Readers

Don’t allow the negative voices in your head to prevent you from accomplishing your goals.    Do whatever you need to neutralize them. Meditate and befriend them and let them know you are very serious about becoming fit so they better go back to their tiny irrelevant size. If that doesn’t work, kick them out of your head with no holds barred and don’t let them sway you from putting on your exercise clothes and getting out the door. You are stronger than they are. Don’t ever forget that.

In our next post: I am declaring war on two problematic phenomena that prevent me from losing weight: stress and fatigue. Sign up to have our next post delivered straight to your inbox and read all about it.

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