How do you lose weight and form an exercise habit?

I think I know the answer! As evidenced by my successful 50 pound weight loss and the fact that I still love all things fitness:)

Let’s see. You are a couch potato and hate to exercise. Or more likely, somebody who has given up on your appearances and have no idea where to start. You are tired of being sick and tired and hate shopping for clothes, especially, yeah, the bathing suit dilemma. If that was it, it is half-trouble as we say in Russia. Imagine health issues on top of your shopping frustration – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and those little chest pains you’ve been having for awhile, what are they? A donut induced indigestion? Or a heart attack waiting to happen? Scary stuff.

My story is pretty typical. Gained weight with pregnancy and delivery, gained some more after coming to America, lost 70 pounds on a concentration camp regimen, gained some during medical residency as post-call calories didn’t count, then lost 50 pounds after making myself a different person and successfully maintaining without even thinking about it. And I am a doctor for God’s sake, I should have known better than gaining and losing, gaining and losing again, right? Wrong! There is a difference between knowing and applying, a huge one.

So, here is a simple approach you can take to get out of vicious circle.

1. Become inspired. Fire your overweight friends for awhile, unless they want to join you! Marina, this one was for you :)! They won’t help or inspire you and actually might hurt you. It is your 230 lb friend who keeps talking about internal beauty, luscious curves, and crazy things in between. It is she who is not taking care of herself and wants everyone else be in the same BMI area so she feels better about her morbid obesity. No more. Be with healthy and fit, hang out with them, follow them on Facebook, go where they go, do what they do, it will rub off on you, I promise. In my case I kept reading annoying Facebook statuses about running, and gym, and Weight Watchers, and weight loss and one of these days my legs brought me to the gym and my hands downloaded a Couch to 5K app. And my mind finally bought into the idea of finally changing the way I do things around here. And after that a nuclear reaction of events happened, most of which I don’t even know how to explain.

2. Read fitness magazines and healthy living blogs. My window into the world of healthy living was stumbling upon Carrots and Cake and Healthy Tipping Point blogs. These girls are amazing. Young, educated and passionate about their health and well being they share every day of their life in their respective blogs and I couldn’t get enough of it and still can’t. I read what they ate and went ” impossible, how do they have all these meals and remain in shape?” Desserts, vino, cocktails, peanut butter, pasta, cheese – is it all bogus, or is it all real? And then I started buying Oxygen and noticed similarities in their approach to life. And here is the magic formula – eat real food, not too much, not too little, exercise to spend more calories than you put in, indulge 10% of the time and you will be fine! Make a goal to read a few healthy blogs and monthly fitness magazine, it will keep your motivation levels at all time high.

3. Show up. Do you show up for your appointments, work, other commitments without even thinking about it? Do the same with your exercise sessions. Plan on Sunday, put your gym time, or running, or home workouts on the calendar and JUST SHOW UP. If you start thinking about it,  eventually you will come up with a tempting thought of skipping. Tired, hungry, no energy, haven’t seen husband and kids since morning and you miss them, your 230 lb friend broke the line of defense and taking you to Applebees, whatever you do, don’t start rationalizing. Just Do it! Or simply show up. Put your workout clothes on, get out of the door, turn on DVD, give yourself 10 min and then stop if you hate it. I guarantee that once started, you will continue on and finish 97% of the time. And if you don’t feel like doing anything after 10 min, that’s a sign that your body needs some rest and you obey!

4. Do what you like. If you hate running and regret every second of it after you have given it a good honest try, quit it and do something else. You can’t hate the activity and successfully engage in it. Try elliptical, or Stairmaster, or bike trainer, or just walk! One of my coworkers walked herself to being 70 pounds lighter and she is a perfect example of busy – 4 kids, full time job, no time for anything. She made or created the time for herself, dirty dishes be damned! If you like to be fit and eat a lot – lift weights :)!

5. Tell everyone so they keep you accountable. Facebook, text messages, Twitter, family reunions, tell your spouse and kids about what you are going to do at the gym tomorrow morning or tonight after work. Give them an immediate feedback after you are done for encouraging comments and positive energy. Share, over share, make them hate you for being a fitness freak, don’t shut up about your success, how you ran further, lifted heavier, did more RPM or swam longer.

6. Eat real food. Don’t eat anything out of the box, unless it is oatmeal or grains. Eat a pound of raw veggies and a pound of cooked veggies and then eat anything you little heart desires, if you poor stomach can take more food. Get your bases covered – good breakfast, healthy lunch, nutritious snack and hearty dinner. To me dinner sets my mood for tomorrow – if I did great at dinner the previous day, the next day is a piece of cake, literally. If dinner is a fiasco, then my motivation level suffers in the morning, big time. Cook, research new recipes, bake your own desserts, don’t eat out except one meal a week if you absolutely must do it.

7. Don’t weigh yourself more often than every 2-4 weeks. Stop being a slave of the scale. Little things like fluid fluctuation before or during your period, eating something salty the night before, or the scale being placed on uneven surface steered so many people off their healthy paths because they felt like failure and “fat pigs”. Drop the every day scale habit immediately and you will feel liberated to say the least. You are able to tell how things are by the way your clothes fit, right?

There are many other tricks I am sure, but these 7 helped me tremendously and I hope they will be useful for you as well.

What do you do to keep in shape?

My  2 readers, do share:)

Good night!


Let’s get it over with


Long time no see… Crappy “blogger” is baaack, for the moment I guess.

So about this run in Central park I wanted to write like a month ago. I did 2 in 2 days – 2 seven mile runs in 2 days in New York City.

Each time:

Woke up bright and early.

Banana to fuel.

Out in a crispy, ozone and oxygen filled morning.

Entered the park and was immediately taken by the energy of dozens of runners. Many of them seriously looked like Hollywood stars and professional athletes. But I knew they were regular people.

I felt like I belonged, finally. After many months of pounding the pavement here in Arkansas, I finally identified myself with the  army of people who love nothing more than to sweat the miles.

I felt I could run FOREVER.

I ran faster and harder than I normally would.

I ran for coffee and bagel with  tofu “cream cheese” served to me afterwards.

I ran for my mom who knew I wanted nothing more than to say: I did it!

I ran for my friend Allison who couldn’t wait to get the IPhone pic of me in my running clothes in Central Park.

I did cry after I was done… Intense, genuine, overwhelming feelings took over me.

To the point of NOT being able to run outside in Arkansas since my NYC trip.

Only treadmill runs since, except 1 very hot and humid run in Florida 3 days ago.

That’s another story that will be never told:)




NY City trip. Part 2

So, when you are planning to drop off your mom at JFK, you book your hotel close to JFK, right?


According to my friend and co-worker, Aimee, that is totally unheard of and outright silly. She says you stay in Manhattan and take a taxi cab or a limo to JFK. My God, it never crossed my mind!

I researched a little bit online and ended up with this beauty for a mere $135 a night after using my free night discount with!!! I couldn’t believe what just happened, but yes, I was staying 1 block from Central Park and 2 blocks from Times Square and it didn’t cost me a fortune.

My mom and I were leaving from Tulsa, which is roughly 2 hours from where we live. Early morning wake up on April 2 and my tire pressure indicator was on! We had to switch cars in a hurry with my generous husband. Normally he would throw a huge fit if I wanted his precious Jetta, but that early morning everything went smooth and fine. Right before I could safely reach the airport, hell broke loose at work and I had to urgently solve some very complicated issues.  Eventually we arrived, went through security check and boarded the airplane.

American Airlines safely brought us to New York City!!!

our room

The hotel location was right on! I could see Central Park and Times Square from the entrance and that was all I needed to be happy:). Accommodations were very basic, but Park Central Hotel was clean, comfortable and totally awesome for the price we paid. I very much recommend it if you can snag it cheap and quick!

A view from our window

Dinner was at Plaza Hotel Food Hall per Aimee’s recommendation. The girl lived in the City for years and years, dancing and bartending until she decided to become a PA and move to Little Rock, Arkansas where she met her awesome hubby and eventually settled in Fort Smith, Arkansas. No comments on that one:)

Food Hall was awesome. Ambient and very New York! My mom even liked it. We ordered a million dishes since we didn’t know exactly how everything would work. 2 salads, pan fried buttery and creamy potatoes, artichoke stuffed with crab, roasted chicken, flat bread with unbelievable toppings, 2 huge glasses of wine. It was one of the best evenings – great food, good conversation and a nice American memory for my mom to take to Ukraine and cherish during her vacation.

Food Hall. Plaza Hotel

We walked back to the hotel, it took 7-10 minutes total. We were passing by martini bars, little restaurants, fancy hotels with bell men and sophisticated patrons, it seemed like a movie to me, but I was in it:)

Finally, we ended up in some fancy drugstore on 5th Avenue that had no price stickers on their merchandise. I realize when you live that kind of lifestyle, who cares how much the tube of toothpaste costs, right?!

Surprisingly, some nice Italian or French lady checked us out and my total bill was just as much as I would have paid in Walgreens or CVS. To my delight I was able to buy this deodorant!!! I used it in Russia right before I left for America and it was so nice to reunite with the scent and feel of it:).

Then my mom suggested we walk to Times Square and check it out. It greeted us with crowds of people, crazy food smell in the air, a concoction of sounds and cigarette smoke everywhere. God, do I love a good cigarette smoke:) Consider me insane, but in Russia and Ukraine where everyone still smokes it is such as relief to get to a place with clean air and no smokers around. Yet once I found myself surrounded with cigarette smoke in New York, I was not disgusted or grossed out, not at all. It smelled like HOME:)

Human beings are weird…

Once we reached the hotel, we showered and chatted about our crazy good evening in the City. I don’t remember how we settled for the night. The day kind of ended as magically as it started.

To be continued…

New York City trip. Part 1. Not really about New York!

My mom is afraid to travel alone. Alone in America that is. Her English is not very strong and she is uncomfortable with the possibility of getting lost in the middle of nowhere. And Nowhere being some major international airport, of course:)

She is very independent in places where people speak Russian and Ukrainian.

We ‘ve been planning a trip to Ukraine and Russia to see the rest of the family for the longest time. What really finalized our plans was my grandmother’s gallbladder surgery at the age of 87. Of course, in Ukrainian villages it is difficult to get anything done, starting from the right diagnosis. Nobody goes to the doctor and when an 87 year old starts hurting in her abdomen and looks yellow, people start preparing for a funeral without even trying to take care of it otherwise.

It took my super abilities to diagnose the whole thing clinically over the phone with somebody actually pushing on her stomach for me:) and my mom’s screaming on the top of her lungs urging her sister in Ukraine to take their mom to the nearest hospital. And it worked! With the right amount of money upfront and promises to pay more later if the outcome is good (forget about health insurance, everything is cash) some not so bad surgeon agreed to take the case.

They did an ultrasound, endoscopy and some blood work and confirmed my glorious diagnosis:). I was super proud!!! And then she had surgery. And then she got better. And then she got to go home in about 3 weeks. Here in US we send people home or to the rehab in 3-5 days, but there as long as you pay cash for your hospital expenses and doctor’s fees, you can stay a year if you wanted to.

My poor mother suffered through the whole thing being far away from her family. I offered to send her there as soon as we found out about the surgery and all, but she said her stress levels were so high she was afraid to get sick herself and be of no help. And I did believe her!

So why did I call this post New York City trip. Part 1?  I think it is because we chose JFK as a launching pad for my mom’s historical trip to Ukraine. She refused to be launched from Dallas, or Memphis, or Oklahoma City, or Little Rock – places close to us with international airports. She wanted a direct flight New York -Kiev and what she wants she gets! We bought our tickets and were all set for April 3.

I am out of breath from writing! Will finish later:)





Dallas Half Marathon

I would like to admit it – I am not a blogger, nor will I ever be! I don’t have enough creativity or patience, or time for that matter.  But… I love writing and more importantly reading about my life’s important events and for that sake I am going to write every once in a while.

Just recently I traveled to Dallas and New York City and would like to be able to read about my trips later. Let’s begin!

As I mentioned before I was training for a full marathon to be able to run it either in March (New Orleans) or in April (Nashville). Let’s just say my work schedule isn’t very travel friendly , unless the event I need to attend falls on my week off. Surely, I had to miss March 4th New Orleans marathon because of work related scheduling conundrums still hoping for April 27th. No such luck! So instead of being upset and annoyed I took it philosophically. There will be other opportunities and I would still love and continue running. Marathon or not:)

Then we had Spring Break. Initially there was a plan to travel to Houston, TX or somewhere where there is ocean. Eventually we learned there will be bad weather and tornadoes all the way to the beach. We decided to stop being ambitious and spend a week at home. Anastasiya attended to her social activities and did a fair amount of studying and Slavik and I caught up on household tasks.

On Friday, March 23rd, we woke up completely stir crazy. The rain stopped and the sun was shining brightly and all the possibilities were going through my mind! Tulsa, Little Rock, Oklahoma City – 1.5-3 hour drive, we could spend 2 nights in a hotel, explore a little bit and be back on Sunday. And then I had an idea that struck me with its simplicity and elegance. What if we go to Dallas where we could do all these things and on the top I will get to run a frikken half marathon?!!! The problem was I hadn’t registered and would only be able to get a bib number at the Expo if there is still room. But Who Cares.

We were packed and ready to go in 2 hours. I was so excited, got on and scored a great deal on Hotel Adolphus ! It was located 2 blocks from the start line and kind of far from the finish, but who cares?!!

Adolphus Hotel

Our first night in Dallas was outstanding. We checked in, loved our room, lobby, service, location, hotel bar – all of it! Dinner was at Dakotas. My husband loves a good steak and I am a vegetarian, most of the time anyway:) Who says vegetarians can’t have a good time and good eats at a steakhouse? We ordered some appetizers:

Warm Baked Tart: Warm Portobello, Texas Goat Cheese, Heirloom Tomatoes

Deviled Eggs: Smoked Salmon “Bacon,” Fresh Dill, Onion Chips

DH ordered some sort of steak and loaded baked potato. I ordered 2 sides:  cauliflower gratin and roasted wild mushrooms. Grey Goose Martini prior and a glass of red during. OUTSTANDING!!! Cauliflower was a little too creamy and required lots of freshly baked bread dipping, but I could handle that. Shared quite a bit with the husband, too.

Walked back to the hotel hoping to wake up on time and go to the expo to register and get the race plans finalized. I know, I know – drinking vodka based drinks 36 hours prior to the half marathon in the heat, not a good idea, but I felt like it and in fact had another martini, this time lemon drop at the hotel bar. Shame, shame on me!!!

Lemon Drop time

Woke up bright and early, room service, great coffee, got dressed and to the Expo we went. Registered without a single problem, bought a few unnecessary “necessities” and sadly had to leave being rushed by my hubby to go shopping to the outlets. I love hanging out with crowds of runners, anticipating the race, looking at stuff , just totally saturating with the spirit of the event, but I have to respect other people’s feelings, especially if it is about your husband, right?

First order of business –  lunch a Whole Foods. We love going to WF for lunch while traveling. It keeps us on track and gives us an opportunity to pick up some healthy breakfast staples not to utilize room service more than we need to. Plus the food is fantastic and there is lots of it!

The shopping part sounds more exciting than it really was. I bought one thing – a moisture wicking T shirt made from recycled plastic bottles to run in tomorrow. Of course, I violated yet another rule of racing: never ever change anything right before the race! I packed my perfectly good T shirt I trained in, very familiar and requiring no getting used to… Exactly! I was a bit adventurous and couldn’t pass on the recycled plastic bottles shirt! May be it was still my martini talking:) Don’t know!

It was getting late and we finally left the outlets. Back to Downtown. Every Italian place was jam packed. We waited 45 minutes in one and had to leave because the line was moving very slowly. Eventually ended up somewhere and had a very uneventful and boring dinner. I had a bowl of pasta and requested to cook it with garlic and olives. It wasn’t on the menu, but every decent place should accommodate your request for such simple thing. DH had some sort of sour pork with potatoes. He said it was OK.

Back to the hotel, quick shower, gear check, get everything ready and gear check again. Garmin and phone plugged into a charger. Zzzz time. I fell asleep quickly and slept like a rock!

Alarm goes off and I jump out of bed EXCITED!!! The convenience of staying less than 5 min walking from the race start allowed me to sleep in. Shower, coffee, neutral pastry for some carbs and a little Facebook time. My friends Shani and Buck ran the race and I read their excited statuses from earlier in the morning. They were shuttled over to the start and had to arrive super early.

Arrived to my corral about 30 min prior to start time. Visited with Buck and Shani, laughed, took some pictures and forgot the mandatory “safety pee”. Needless to say my bladder was super full as I was walking to the start line and finally I AM RUNNING THIS THING.

Mile 2 I am in line to pee. After that things were just awesome! Crowds of runners and crowds of spectators give such a burst of energy and emotional charge! It was super hot, but I developed a rhythm of things that I did at each water stop. 1 cup to drink, 2 cups to pour all over me, some ice in my sports bra, keep going! Not a single time was I hot or even close to being hot. To tell you the truth a few times I thought I overdid it with ice, was shivering in 85 degree weather. My little T shirt made from recycled plastic bottles, remember?, held pretty darn good:) I loved it dearly – no chaffing, very soft and comfortable.

Running was super easy. In my case it always is – I run to finish each and every time I race, and I run easy, especially when the weather is hot. PR’s and actual “racing” is not why I am there. I am there to soak it all in, to be comfortable, to have fun, to meet people.

Pay off for staying in decent running shape: when plans don’t work out in Tulsa you can go to Dallas on a whim and run with your friends. Then you forget to do a “safety pee” because you were chatting too much and end up in line at mile 2 (!!) because you couldn’t hold it any more. Then you proceed to have all kinds of fun during the race, like taking pictures of mile markers, self-portraits, post stuff on facebook, text your husband so he knows by the time he woke up you were almost done with half marathon!!! Then you get to know so many amazing people – they run in a full military gear, they run pushing a wheel chair with their wife in it, they run on prosthetic legs, they run after having lost 180 pounds, they run after surviving cancer. This is so much more than logging X number of miles every week. It is LIFE:)

Mile markers

I loved the race a lot. Very well organized and supported with volunteers, food, drinks, gels. Chocolate milk, bananas, cookies, Jimmy Johns sandwiches at the finish line. I couldn’t stay to enjoy the post race show. I had to walk almost 3 miles back to the hotel, take a quick shower and drive 4.5 hours back to Fort Smith.

A proud finisher

Whole Foods for post race feast, a little shopping there for some staples and this lady at the register who has lost 100 lbs herself and was handing out free candy to the runners:) It was very cute.

We had a pleasant drive back home. For a change I enjoyed sitting in the car as opposed to walking and running simply because I had 13.1 plus 3 miles under my belt that day.

The End.

Apparently, I inspire people!

Greetings from Liza M!

English: Portland Marathon.

Image via Wikipedia

I am still alive and kicking, just not blogging. Not much changed around here. A little bit of work, a little bit of play, a whole lot of running and some pitiful Crossfit attempts. Oh, and yes, I’ve inspired a whole bunch of people at work to start running or do something about their miserable, unfit, chubby selves:). A Local neurosurgeon, a few RN case managers, my own husband, a few physicians in my own practice, my office staff,  5-6 Facebook friends, 1 childhood friend who lives in California. These people are the reason why I am back here writing. Only 3 of my friends know about this blog, but I am very active on Facebook posting annoyingly cheerful stuff that obviously motivates people.


Race goals: Nashville RnR marathon on April 28th!!! I will punch that thing in a facehole. My experience should be fun to read for just about everyone. I am a new runner – not even a year into it, used to hate moving my body, my pace is slow 12-12:30 min per mile, currently I can run MUCH faster, but this is going to be my marathon pace. I peaked with a 20 miler last month to get ready for March 4th race in New Orleans, which never happened due to my family being all busy and not being able to attend. I just had to skip it since there is absolutely no fun in this for me to finish a marathon and not have anybody to share the joy with! So I dropped y mileage for a bit and just started building it back up again. This week I ran a surprisingly easy 16 miler. This outstanding run was born from 5 miles I was going to do, but the stars and stoplights alligned just right and I kept on running until I decided to stop after the most gorgeous, delicious 16 miles.

World Athletics Championships 2007 in Osaka - ...

Image via Wikipedia

Crossfit. 2 weeks ago I walked into a Crossfit413, our only box in town. A very fit trainer greeted me at the door and kindly explained what Crossfit is all about and invited me to attend a session that very same afternoon to “try”. I thought it would be a good idea to bring my husband along since I was scared to death. We were put through a reduced Tabata protocol, 20 sec effort, 10 sec rest – 4 rounds of jumping pull ups, push ups, squats, sit ups. Let me tell you something here. This was the worst nightmare of my life, but I loved it So Much! Somehow I was able to finish strong, especially since the last exercise was easy for me to do – I do have strong abs, they are just covered with FAT, but they are there:). A few times during the ordeal I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and it comes from a person who doesn’t lose her breath after 20 miles of running. A few times I felt slightly lightheaded, but overall I did pretty good. My poor hubby had a much harder time keeping up and recognized he’s got quite a bit of work to do in order to be able to tolerate this kind of workout. Our trainer said to come back for 3 Elements classes and then start with a regular class schedule. I wasn’t able to attend elements classes due to my work schedule the first week, the second week they were full, the third week starts tomorrow and I am all set to attend those classes if I ever get out of work on time (problematic) and next week is Spring break and we will be out of town. Now sure when and how, but I am planning to get it done and get started with Crossfit. I love the fact of such short workout kicking my butt so much!!!

Crossfit Basel

Cooking. I have mastered pizza dough and vegan brownies, Indian flatbread and cupcakes or all sorts. Cheese sticks!!!

Above you can see my very own creation and my very own IPhone picture of what appears to be the most delicious cheese sticks recipe ever.

Anyway, happy Sunday!

Enjoy your longer evenings, courtesy of a time change:)



Action plan

I’ve got it covered!

With all the free time this week I exercise a lot and also read quite a bit. It just happened so that I found exactly what I was looking for here. Theodora’s post neatly summarized bits and pieces of information I needed to have a successful work week without letting my fitness routine go bye-bye. “Somebody who is busier that you is running right now”. And there ARE people much busier than me who successfully combine their professional responsibilities, families and exercise.

So, here is what I am going to do.

1. Relax. I will acknowledge the fact that my lifestyle is different during my ON and OFF weeks. I may or may not be able to keep up with my marathon training plan on the fridge. I won’t be a slave to my marathon training plan on the fridge:)

2. I will become a morning exerciser. It does make sense to work out first thing in the morning and devote yourself to patients, administrative responsibilities and family for the rest of the day, being free of internal conflicts. “How can I fit in my 1 hr cardio tonight if this meeting is taking forever!” I will use the strategy of placing my alarm clock where I can’t reach it and it will require some serious walking to turn it off. I am also going to pick the most annoying and loud sound to be totally startled and disgusted first thing upon awakening. No more serene melodies. They don’t work!!!!

3. I will alter my marathon training plan as necessary. It means if I don’t have time to run 10 miles in one setting, I will run 5 today and 5 tomorrow. Or do double days – some in am, some in pm. Or not do any miles and move on with it and try to catch up later when  don’t have as much on my plate. Running is my hobby, not my full-time job. I already have a full-time job, thankyouverymuch!!!

4. I will eat as healthy and clean as possible, especially if my activity level drops. I am very successful in a healthy eating department. Don’t hate! Not sure why, but these days it doesn’ matter what you put in front of me, if I consider it garbage food, it’s not going into my mouth. I don’t work my body as hard as I do and after that put crap in it. Not happening. I will be very conscious of portion sizes and nutrient value of my food at all times. P.S. I love my wine:)

5. I will do at least one hour of yoga every week. Health benefits of yoga are numerous. It improves mental and physical balance, flexibility, strength. My body and mind responds very well to yoga. I will take a class during my off weeks and will use at home DVD’s or free online resources during my work weeks.

6. I will take my workout clothes with me and use the hospital gym more. There is no excuse not to use my work gym. It is awesome, fully equipped with the pool, sauna, hot tub, all kinds of exercise machines and plenty of group classes to choose from. Consider it done!

7. I am going to shoot for 30 min of any cardio activity a day if everything else fails. Feast or famine, war or peace , no matter what, I will be out there sweating. Watch me do it:)

Have a great day!!!