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WATERMELLEN's Recent Blog Entries

Brain Fitness: Building Happiness Neurons!!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A recent blog by PUDLECRAZY got me thinking about an article I'd read on new research in neuroplasticity: our brains have huge potential to to grow and change, even as adults.

If you are interested in reading the whole article, here's the link.

http://www.healthzone.ca/health/mindmood
/article/842511--the-brain-changing-th
e-adult-mind-through-the-power-of-plasticity

We worry about Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline as if it were inevitable. Well, maybe it's not.

The physicial fitness movement is important: almost all of us here at SP believe that to be true (even when it's tough to roll out of bed at 5 a.m. and head to the gym, we know it's a good thing!)

But: brain fitness is important too.

Brain fitness isn't just about sudoku or repetitive drills. Because it's not just memory (cognitive retrieval of facts and information) which can be protected as we age through brain fitnesss.

The new research indicates that well into middle age and even later, we can actually develop new neuron pathways. We can use brain fitness -- trying on new thought pathways -- to physically enlarge whole sections of our brain, selectively. Just like we can increase bicep muscle mass through bicep curls. And cardio capacity through running.

Amazing! Changing up our thinking is as effective for brain fitness as changing up our strength training or adding cardio intervals is for physical fitness.

(When I went back to school in my forties and pursued three quick degrees in a whole new discipline there were lots of days my head hurt: but yup, I probably did learn how to think in some weird new ways! My brain definitely felt "fitter" at the end than at the beginning!! No noticeable swelling of the head, either . . . )


Way more valuable than mere intellecual prowess, this new brain research even suggests that we can deliberately train our brains to become more compassionate. And we can actually use brain fitness to change and expand the structures of our brains in ways that make us experience greater happiness.

The release of endorphins through physical fitness often lifts mood: but neuroplasticity research indicates that brain training offers more than that temporary effect. The parts of the brain that signal happiness get bigger and stronger the more we use them.

For me this suggests that even though we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can often choose our attitudes in response to what happens to us. Wilfully choosing a positive attitude isn't only simple-minded Pollyannaism, then: not if choosing a positive attitude can change our very brains to offer such huge long term benefits.

Because deciding to be happy often enough, deliberately enough and stubbornly enough seems to actually increase the brain's very capacity to experience happiness.

Spanx might be a temporary fix for flabby abs when I decide at the last minute to slide into a too-tight cocktail dress for one festive evening-- but Spanx can't provide anything permanent. And Spanx are not the optimal choice if I also plan to walk, breathe and enjoy myself!! A whole whack of crunches and planks plus some nutrition tracking would have been a much better solution.

Real physical exercise, real physical fitness.

Ditto real happiness exercise, real happiness brain fitness?

What a happy thought!!


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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 8/24/2010 1:41PM

    WOW! Thanks Ellen -- I LOVE IT! And I can use all the help I can get!!!
xox
Maha

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FROSTIERACES 8/16/2010 4:36PM

    Mid forties back to school again! wow....I often want to go back. I haven't reached that point yet tho! Where did you find the will to do it?! oh it's in a motivation blog I just read. Yet it's so hard to do Ellen! I think I'm fearful to go back...and wondering if I could survive the pain. You're a great motivator in many ways yourself you know!

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SUCHAHOOT 8/15/2010 11:50AM

    I've been fascinated by this since I read about it some time back. You might enjoy the book, THE MIND AND THE BRAIN NEUROPLASTICITY AND THE POWER OF MENTAL FORCE. It is really interesting. The author was treating OCD patients and began documenting the ability of the mind to make changes to the brain. Thanks for the post! I'm off to read you linked article. ..and get back into this book. I can always use a new happy path!

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PUDLECRAZY 8/3/2010 9:16PM

    I love your blog! I can't agree with you more.

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TKADEEPBREATH 8/3/2010 8:30PM

    I love this idea. emoticon But it's much more than just an idea. It's so true. I just heard somewhere the other day how important it is to keep our mind busy with creative things for mental health. Studies with elderly people has shown that this kind of activity of the mind keeps away depression and negative emotions. I don't care how old you are, it works for everyone.

I have a French course I'm working on. Now I feel inspired to set some real goals with that. Talk about "straining the brain"! It's a good workout though.

Another great blog . . . thanks Ellen

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WALKINGANNIE 8/3/2010 8:59AM

    Thanks for another informative and thought provoking blog Ellen. It was an interesting article and I really believe that attitude is important. SP has helped me with this greatly.

One of my greatest physical luxuries these days is the freedom from Spanx-type fortifications!

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PENNYAN45 8/2/2010 9:56PM

    This is good news! Thanks for passing it along.

I believe that our brains have much that is yet to be discovered.










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1BIGDREAM 8/2/2010 2:58PM

    I love this!!! Being back in school and really diving into science classes for the first time ever has been eye-opening for me. I always thought I was "bad" as science, but the truth is that I just never took on the challenge of working those muscles! Not only am I learning new things, I am also certain that I am learning how to learn new types of things!

Great blog!
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GEODAWG 8/1/2010 9:35PM

    Brain power! It is amazing what scientists are discovering about the human brain. Utterly fascinating. I shall read your link!

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MYOWNHERO 8/1/2010 9:12PM

    My brain muscles thank you!
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Coffee/Dog/Book or Tea/Cat/Movies?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A recent comment on WALKINGANNIE's Spark Page, following up on my "Ambrose the hero hound" blog:

"I often think to myself that there tend to be coffee people and tea people; dog people and cat people; book people and movie/TV people: and I'm primarily in the first category for each of these dichotomies!!"

What do you think?

And -- are there any more "great divides" you'd add in?

Clothes/Home Decor? (for me, it would be clothes quite definitely).

And yes: I DO have dear friends who are tea/cat/movies/home decor types: yes I do!!



  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LUNADRAGON 8/6/2010 11:24AM

    coffee/cats / books / creativity
interesting : )
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FROSTIERACES 8/4/2010 8:54PM

    definitely a tea person here...love chamomile. Thank you Ellen for the kindest words on my blog today. I've missed you. I've been trying to catch up and reconnect back to Spark. I find your blogs pretty darn deep :) so I need time to concentrate! while reading. You often write about many ideas and subjects that cross my mind and other things that I should give more thought to. I am a dog person...and I choose books over movies any day! I am not a decor person ...though I buy and read a lot of books about it! :) Thanks again....so much. emoticon

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MERALO 7/29/2010 8:59AM

    Hmmm...I'm the following:

Home decor/coffee/cat - but I love movies and books equally, can I have both?



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SUNFLOWERGRRL 7/29/2010 8:31AM

    What a fun blog! I like 'em all!

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TEENY_BIKINI 7/28/2010 9:46PM

    I love my cats but if I were home more - they'd have to learn to love my new doggie. I love doggies.

I tend to like TV and books more than movies... Hmm...

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BRIGHTSPARK7 7/27/2010 2:34PM

    Cat or dog? I'm in the "All creatures great and small" category. Do you watch James Herriot, the Yorkshire vet? I quit drinking coffee a few years ago. Are you aghast at this? It took some doing and I still LOVE the aroma, but the caffeine was affecting my bowels. More than you needed to know. :) My favorite teas at the moment are Rooibos and Tulsi pomegranate green tea. With a chocolate dipped biscotti to dunk. emoticon And as for clothing and decor, as long as it's color coordinated with Duke's fur, it's okay. LOL!

Comment edited on: 7/27/2010 2:38:41 PM

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WHOLY_FIT_48 7/26/2010 5:46AM

    Oh, I'm definitely coffee/dog/book/movie/clothes type of person. With three goldens who rule the roost, home decor focus is out of the question... LOL

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TKADEEPBREATH 7/25/2010 8:17PM

    My dear friend, I think we have so many things in common, I think we should plan a cruise together . . . how 'bout 2013? Let's work it . . .

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FRACTALMYTH 7/25/2010 6:52PM

    hmmmm tea/catdog/book lol

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REMEMBER2BME 7/25/2010 5:41PM

    How funny. I agree. Coffee (love the ice coffee)/dog (no doubt)/book (although I like movies too)/clothes
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I am also a huge breakfast person. I am happy eating breakfast 3 times a day. Funny, I used to not be a book person and now I always want one within reach if possible.

Ah, and what about runners versus... hum what else is there?
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WALKINGANNIE 7/25/2010 1:53PM

    Coffee / dogs / book / clothes! i don't mind the others, but these are definitely dominant.

Thanks for the book goodie and tip. I haven't read any of that series but I'm always open to recommendations.

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ONEKIDSMOM 7/25/2010 11:19AM

    Coffee / dog / book person here.

But I fuzz the line on all three... I also like tea on occasion, get on OK with cats, and enjoy a good film. Can't even begin to decide between clothing or home decor, as I'm not strong on either!

Funny how we choose to classify the world. emoticon

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DANCINGGARDENER 7/25/2010 11:09AM

    coffee/cat/ cartoons!

I love dividing hippies between vdubs / volvos (I like to count both in the parking lots of shows and then classify the bands by the cars their fans drive)

not sure about clothes/decor divide but I am on the knitting side of crochet/knit and on the purse side of purse/shoes.

Comment edited on: 7/25/2010 11:16:32 AM

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NORAB52GOOD 7/25/2010 10:55AM

    I am definitely a cat person but I like coffee and tea equally and I prefer books and home decor. So I guess I am coffeetea/cat/books/home decor. emoticon Fun blog!

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TERRIPHILL 7/25/2010 10:24AM

    OK....I'm coffee/cat/movies/home decor seems I can't make up my mind! Loved your post. Cute!!

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GEODAWG 7/25/2010 10:18AM

    I am too lazy to actually have a dog even tho I love them. I have a cat who is as lovable as any dog I ever had, so he fills the void. I'm with you on the coffee/book thingy!

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Can I Nominate My Official Best Dog Ever?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Really love ANNASBF's "Official Best Dog Ever" blog: here is the link, the wonderful story of her giant schnauzer rescue dog who rescued her and her two little girls from some pretty bad guys:

http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public
_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=3449304

I love dogs, have had dogs pretty much my whole life, and have to say that Charlie my current golden retriever is the very most loved of all my very loved dogs.

But in the "hero hound" category, there was Ambrose, my basset: a lovely boy, but not a very bright boy. Except on one memorable occasion.

My daughter was brand new, amost six weeks premature, very tiny, and had us up around the clock, me post Caesarean-section. It was a pretty tough time.

My husband groggily ironed a golf shirt and was heading out to play his first post-baby game, pretty much sleep walking.

Baby daughter was finally napping and I crawled back into bed myself. But Ambrose would not let me sleep. He kept scratching at my bedroom door, howling insistently, and refused to be silenced. Finally I rolled out of bed, and Ambrose beckoned my very clearly to follow him down to the basement laundry room.

Yes, the iron had been left plugged in -- there were flames shooting out of the ironing board cover -- and the ironing board itself had melted right through.

I was there just in the nick of time.

Ambrose, the hero hound.

About a year later, our house was badly damaged in a tornado, with our baby daughter's bedroom window exploding in giant glass shards over her bed. I rescued her just in time, took her down to the basement. And then, yes, I returned upstairs and risked my life again to rescue Ambrose without a second thought. He had earned it after all.

Ambrose was five when we had our first child but he had been advocating babies for all of those five years. When we were out for a walk and he spotted a toddler, he would drag us strenuously across the street with his white-tipped tail wagging joyously. And turn around to gaze up at us meaningfully with his mournful wrunkled face as if to ask , "When?"

And he really did love both our children, and was infinitely patient with them. He tolerated our baby son trying to ride on his back. One memorable day, I found Ambrose sleeping peacefully on the back door mat wearing four tiny rainboots on his four freckled basset paws. On him, they were pretty much hip-waders.

Bassets are photogenic dogs: it's their dramatic long ears (which bassets can fling about most expressively). But unlike golden retrievers, who are infinitely companionable and affectionate, bassets are dogs whose brains are mostly devoted to processing stimuli from their noses: they are absolutely obsessive about smells of all descriptions.

Nevertheless, Ambrose was an exceptionally sweet basset who probably saved the lives of my daughter and myself that long-ago day. And all of us do remember him with the greatest affection.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

FROSTIERACES 8/4/2010 8:56PM

    amazing story and blog...... :)

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BRIGHTSPARK7 7/27/2010 2:20PM

    Ambrose, what an amazing dog! I love his name also ... purrfect for a basset. A joy to read your blogs ... on so many levels. Thanks!

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STLRZGRRL 7/26/2010 9:46PM

    Awwwwww... whoozagooboy, Ambrose, huh? Whooza gooboy? Ahhh, YOU are....

Ah, Ellen... we'll see them all again one day... if I didn't believe it, I would refuse to ever go...

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*iz the dog angel*

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MYGOLDENBOYS3 7/26/2010 6:59AM

    What an incredible story of an amazing dog. Not all dogs would have possessed that special quality of being smart enough to sense the danger. My dogs are my special friends. They always want to be with me no matter what. They motivate me to walk every morning because they need to get out for their exercise too. Goldens, too, have incredible noses for hunting smells...hope that they would be able to do what Ambrose did!

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WHOLY_FIT_48 7/26/2010 5:53AM

    Ah, I love this story Ellen - Ambrose sounded very special and he was indeed a hero. Always amazes me the loyalty our four-leggeds have to their two-leggeds. My brother has always had Bassets so I've had some exposure to them. And there is a business here in town that I frequent quite often as part of my work responsibilities and they have a basset named Cinnamon in the office. She always gets some good "pet time" from me...I mean, who can resist those droopy eyes and ears?

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DANCINGGARDENER 7/25/2010 7:16AM

    Good dog. Such a good boy. Yes you are, Ambrose. Good, good dog.
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(thanks for the happy tear or two before breakfast)


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GEODAWG 7/24/2010 9:43PM

    Bassett hounds are so sweet. I had one years ago and loved him better than ticks love blood. I had to give him away and it broke my heart! Thanks for sharing your dog story.

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WALKINGANNIE 7/24/2010 4:27PM

    What a fabulous story Ellen - and you write so beautifully.

I love the idea of the 4 little boots but top marks go to Ambrose and to you for saving precious lives. Love gives such courage.

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JUSTBIRDY 7/24/2010 3:35PM

    What a great story! What a great dog!

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In Recovery from a Specially Busy Time

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

After a wonderful week of holidays (an outstanding creative writing course) my work has been particularly demanding in the last short while. All-consuming, actually: much much time plus much much emotional energy. I've worked right through several weekends -- and it's been worth it, I got the results necessary in a crucial situation.

Now . . . ahhhhhh . . . . must slow down and recover a bit. Also devote some time and energy to the stuff that's waiting its turn!!

And: all of that's meant less time on SparkPeople, less time for exercise too.

But I have kept right on tracking the nutrition and controlling the weight.

The cardio has been affected because (in addition to the busy busy) it appears that my darn toe problems have NOT been resolved -- I was back to the surgeon today who says it's likely further and more radical treatment will be indicated. This too has prevented me getting back into the running consistently. I'd resumed the 8 km program - really loving it -- but the toe would not stop bleeding, unfortunately. So will have to back off a bit, and if another round of surgery is inevitable, then the backing off could be for a fairly lengthy period. Will be trying a more moderate laser approach first before more surgery.

Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter; ya gotta fall back in order to leap forward. Might not be doing any really really BIG leaps for awhile but that's OK. Big leaps will come!!

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRIGHTSPARK7 7/27/2010 2:26PM

    Great catching up with you, Ellen! I've been on Spark less myself recently. So great that your hard work paid off! I am in awe that you kept tracking throughout your busy period. Well done!
Glad you have some time to kick back, give your toe the time and rest it needs. Wishing you all the best for treatment and healing. emoticon

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TEENY_BIKINI 7/23/2010 6:56PM

    Oh, I am so sorry about your toe. Maybe this down time will do it some good. There is nothing like kicking back and unwinding and just addressing little things that get put on the backburner.

It sounds like you accomplished a lot though. And that is awesomesauce.

Yeah you!!!!

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TKADEEPBREATH 7/22/2010 11:05PM

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one with the "busy" problem. The writing course sounds great. And the business stuff, as long as we get through it and all the time invested pays off, it's worth it.

Sorry you are suffering with your toe. It's so easy to take foot health for granted. Our feet work so hard for us. I hope your next procedure takes care of it.

Hope you have something fun planned for the weekend. Talk to you soon, dear friend. Jan emoticon emoticon emoticon

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WALKINGANNIE 7/22/2010 5:32PM

    It's great to see you back again Ellen. I have been wondering about you. Glad that you enjoyed the creative writing course.

I'm really sorry about your toe and hope that you can get the problem resolved successfully as soon as possible.

Take care.

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DANCINGGARDENER 7/22/2010 4:22PM

    I promise not to panic next time I notice you missing.

It is reassuring to know that you are willing and able to pull back when you have to. That way I don't have to worry.


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(Sending Loving Toe-d thoughts your way!!!)

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GEODAWG 7/22/2010 6:03AM

    Missed seeing you here. So sorry about your injured toe. I do hope you get it resolved soon. Nice to have you back!

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WHOLY_FIT_48 7/22/2010 5:51AM

    So glad to see you back on the boards here at SP. You had to prioritize your time according to your life situation and I applaud you for doing so intelligently...although I know many of us were freaking out and asking "Where's Watermellen?". LOL Hope you know that's because you are greatly appreciated for the encouragement you give to so many of us. Creative writing course - hhhmm, that sounds fun, interesting and challenging. It's always nice when the extra work we do pays off in terms of results...doesn't always but glad for you in this case it did. And, I am so sorry to hear about your toe. Will be praying for a good healthy resolution and proper healing. And frogs don't always move with great leaps...sometimes they just scoot forward a bit at a time. But they still get to where they want to be as you will as well. Blessings.

PS Tell Charlie that my 3 goldens said he is to be especially attentive to you and must be careful he doesn't step on your toes...not the place for big golden paws. LOL

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MELAPHANTN 7/21/2010 10:32PM

    Little by little, bit by bit, ups and downs but the graph chart says your always moving towards your goals and that is success no matter how you look at it.

Sorry about the toe, sounds painful. Hopefully the surgery will go well and you will be able to do whatever you want with no problems soon.

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PENNYAN45 7/21/2010 9:47PM

    It's good to hear that all your hard work and busyness over the past few weeks led to the desired outcomes!

Hmm, it's too bad how something as small as a toe can mess up major plans.

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I'm picturing those doggy devices that put wheels in place of a dog's injured hind legs.

A skate board or roller skates, maybe? emoticon

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JOPAPGH 7/21/2010 9:42PM

    Nice to see you around. Hope the toes are resolved soon and you can get back to what you want to do.

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Dessert in a Cup

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The number of calories -- and the quantity of fat and sugar -- in a number of popular cold summer beverages is pretty shocking, at least according to a recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Gotta admit, I don't have these things often but the numbers really suprised me.

Here's the link if you're interested in getting all of the gruesome details:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/heal
th/craving-a-cool-drink-watch-it-or-yo
ull-get-dessert-in-a-cup/article1623519/

Who would have thought that a McDonald’s Triple Thick Vanilla Milkshake has 1100 calories: as much saturated fat as three McDonald’s cheeseburgers and 140 grams (35 teaspoons worth) of sugar!!

The Cold Stone Creamery Oh Fudge Milkshake (“Gotta Have It” size, 24 oz. would not be a better choice: 1920 calories, 69 grams saturated fat, 750 milligrams sodium, 200 grams sugar. That's more than a day's worth of calories for most of us plus 3.5 days' worth of fat and the sugar equivalent of 40 Fudgee-O cookies. Yikes!!

The article goes on to list a number of other options including Canada's fave Tim Horton's items and various smoothies that clearly won't do much to smooth my hips and thighs . . . but as for me, it looks like I'm gonna be sticking with my usual hot coffee. Yup, that would be my "only remaining sin": black coffee -- way too many cups a day, probably, but still.

And maybe an occasional skim milk latte with Splenda! Sigh. Not glamorous, not summery but -- about what I can handle.

Can do either of these over icecubes if it gets really really hot, I suppose.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BRIGHTSPARK7 7/5/2010 2:58PM

    Boy, am I glad for home made smoothies even more, now that I've read your blog! And one of my favorite desserts is in season here in California: a fresh fig. Yummmm.

Enjoy your holiday, Ellen! Coffee over ice cubes ... very cool. LOL!

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TEENY_BIKINI 7/1/2010 9:18PM

    Love my coffee and I am never giving it up. Woot!!

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I can't believe how many calories some foods have in them. Amazing.

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DANCINGGARDENER 7/1/2010 6:15PM

    Coffee is my favorite diet drink... hot, iced, or maybe with a little frothed skim milk. Tastes amazing, makes any workout better, next to no calories!
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WALKINGANNIE 7/1/2010 4:08PM

    Yikes ! A milkshake at 1100 calories!!

Back to the frozen blueberries I think!

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DSHONEYC 7/1/2010 2:23PM

    Thanks, Ellen, for putting "The Big Chill" on our summer favorites.
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Seriously, we can probably make lots of "lower cal/fat/sugar" options at home. Perhaps someone will start a franchise (is this a good idea or what?) that features nothing but healthy options, including good for you milkshakes and light lattes.

Personally when I drink, if it ain't wine then its water. Or tea or coffee or V8. Coffee is not a sin...in some research cycles is is branded good for you. But like anything, too much of a good thing ... whatever.
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SLIMMERJESSE 7/1/2010 10:56AM

    Yes, it is shocking. And the biggest shock for me, since I'm truly addicted to watermelon, was to find how many calories SP lists for it. Especially since I have been known to eat one a day for days and days!

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IMAGINE_IT 7/1/2010 10:09AM

    Crazy..crazy amount of calories..that is why i stay far away from those 'Shakes' thank goodness that is one item on the food/drink list i do not crave..however i did have a small shake from Wendy's the other night and when i tracked it the next day i was shocked to see that it had 330cal... emoticon and i mean it was the smallest of the smallest they had!!! Live and learn..that's all i can say for myself..lol

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MARYMAC45 6/30/2010 9:57PM

    I would have never guessed that a milkshake was so high in cals & fats. Thanks for the info.

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SLENDERELLA61 6/30/2010 9:38PM

    I knew milkshakes were a lot, but that's more than I would have suspected. Thanks for the warning. Yep. Sticking to the water and maybe a little tea, coffee, or Crystal Light. -Marsha

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