Category Archives: Lifestyle

A Good Gym is Difficult to Find. Just Like a Good Man.

Please make sure to check out my staff writer post (it is going live this afternoon) at Beating Broke, Don’t Take Abuse. Know Your Rights.

I like to observe people in restaurants, movie theaters, malls and gyms. After some careful and, hopefully, not nosy staring at people at my gym, I figured that people go to work out for several reasons:

– some want to lose weight;
– some want to stay healthy and live longer;
– some want to find a date.

It seems to me that gyms are becoming a new hot spot. Maybe they already are, and I am just a little bit late with my conclusions. While pounding endless miles on a treadmill, I watch people work out and interact with each other. What else is there to do besides listening to music and hoping that time and miles fly away?

I would never dare to even attempt to hit on a guy at the gym because I don’t think that being sweaty is really a “now” moment to introduce yourself to someone. Have you ever noticed that there are women and guys who do not look sweaty at all? Because they like me don’t think that sweaty is a “now” moment too! The only difference is that I go to the gym to sweat. They… for a whole different reason.

I saw it all: men who pump iron and look at their muscles with adoration; women with full make up and made up hair strolling between treadmills and elliptical in hopes of being noticed by those men who pump iron and adore their muscles; guys slowly walking the  gym’s perimeter with a subtle romantic smile and not looking at anyone in particular.

Then there are tanned, buffed up guys checking out every single woman in the gym. I noticed him a while ago. In fact, I think all girls at the gym noticed him – buffed up, tanned, short work out shorts, huge muscles, strong thighs and with a constant smile on his face. He circled the machines, choosing to work out on those that were close to women.

He loved budgeting his time and form time to time he would ask a girl to switch off turns on the machine. I guess it was a conversation starter. Sometimes he picked up a dropped towel, offered his turn by the drinking fountain… you know… random acts of kindness that looked so thoughtful.

Then she came into the gym. I swear I saw her wearing a wedding ring the first time she was there. A few days later the ring was gone, and she was chatting away with him by the drinking fountain. I ran into them in a juice bar couple of times. After a while, they started to work out together. Later, I noticed they would come in together, leave together. Once I saw them kissing in the parking lot. (A disclaimer: I was not stalking them, I just observed.)

As a fiction writer I immediately made up a story of a married woman falling in love with someone very strong and attractive… and well… beautiful. That core of inner strength that she presumably always could locate before she met him was gone. She probably even thought he was created for her: tall, strong, powerfully muscled and charming. Maybe she even believed that he knew what she felt, thought, wanted. I also think she grew restless, expectant and maybe even demanding because, suddenly, they started coming to the gym separately.

It was sad to see that he started checking out other girls at the gym while still working out with her. It didn’t take too long for her to stop coming to the gym. He is still there, back to his old routine of smiling, switching off turns on the machine with someone else, picking up a dropped towel, offering his turn by the drinking fountain.

There is no morale to this story. At least, everyone should think for himself/herself and get out of this story whatever you think appropriate. The only thing I want to say, use your left or right brain and treat a gym as your office or your home. Don’t have love affairs at your office, your gym or with your neighbor. Otherwise… you might end up changing a lot in your life. good gym is difficult to find. Just like a good man.

Confessions Of A Bad Tipper

This post was featured in Totally Money Blog Carnival #2!


I am a horrible tipper. Also I should admit I can be a terrible customer. When I know that I am supposed to tip, my expectations as a consumer raise exponentially. If the service does not live up to my high expectations, I don’t tip.This drives Beaker crazy. He worked in the food service industry for ten years and he knows first hand those cheap and demanding customers like me. He dreaded them back then. He dreads me signing the bill at a restaurant now. So, I never get to sign a check when we go out.


Tips in the Soviet Union in general were ideologically incorrect. There were no official tipping practices. You took a cab ride, you paid what the meter showed. You got a haircut, you paid what the price of that haircut was. You ate in a restaurant, you paid what was on your bill (after you added up the bill yourself to make sure you were not overcharged – overcharging was a common practice.)

Waiters and waitresses in the Soviet Union were the best-off people with never ending supply of food because they had access to free provisions in the restaurant they worked for. Interestingly enough this profession was dominated by men.

It all made sense back then – why would servers need a tip when they were so much better off than some of those people who found themselves (mostly either attending birthday parties or weddings) at a restaurant? Most of the working class people could not afford to eat in restaurants anyway. Moreover it would never occur to them to tip a server.

Current Day

Correct me if I am wrong but in the US tips are paid because restaurants continue to underpay its staff. So, to compensate for this, we, customers, tip waiters/waitresses for their service to make sure they make a living.

Do we tip only because people don’t get paid enough? Would we tip if they’d get paid as much as, let’s say, $25/hour?

Whenever I get poor service in a restaurant I am inclined to skip on tipping. Beaker, however, taught me to tip at least a 15% of the bill if the service was bad. I don’t understand why I should tip for bad service quite yet. But I know that no tipping , even when the service did not live up to my expectations, is considered mean and rude. I’ve been told so by my friends and by my husband.

Trying to understand the practice of tipping for bad service, I asked people why they tip at restaurants when their experience was less than pleasant and enjoyable, and more annoying and frustrating. This is what I heard:

– “Because I don’t want to look cheap”;

– “Because I don’t want to feel guilty”;

– “Because I don’t want to upset the waiter, especially if I am planning to come back to the restaurant.” (I guess a “spitting into your food” factor plants fear into our minds)

Does it all mean that tipping for bad service has nothing to do with underpaid and overworked service workers? I think it all has to do with our human emotions and our image in the eyes of our family and friends. Don’t forget our reputation in the eyes of waiters and waitresses. Finally, and most importantly, it is all about how good we want to feel about ourselves.


Even though I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, this year I promised myself to accept and embrace tipping for bad services in restaurants.

Servers depend a lot on their customers to make a living. It is not their fault that they are underpaid, overworked and sometimes over abused by demanding, mean and rude customers like me.

Well, I am not too bad. According to Beaker there are worse.

2010 Year In Review

Somehow it is difficult to believe that today is the last day of 2010. Time seems to fly really fast lately. Even though I don’t set up goals, I still like to look back and see what I have achieved over the period of one year. Could I have achieved more if I’d set goals and specific measurements? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I don’t limit myself by goals. There is a certain feeling of freedom and of endless opportunities when there are no measurements set in stone.

More Writing, More Reading, Less TV Watching

I am very pleased with myself because this year I wrote so much more than usual. I wrote five chapters of the book and queried some agents (bad idea! exciting time!). The query of unfinished, unpolished, unwritten novel attracted the attention of a couple prominent agents. Nothing happened after that but I concluded that I can come up with some creative plots, ideas and characters, and, yes, I can write. Not very humble, I know, but hey, two agents wanted to see my chapters.

I wrote a short story and submitted it to more than twenty magazines. It never got published but it was great just to write a complete piece.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep writing (maybe an e-book this time) and reading!


In 2010 I started three blogs and closed them down. After a few blogging debacles, I finally found myself in my current blog. I joined the Yakezie challenge, met quite a few great bloggers and made some friends. My blogging direction emerged, and The Kitchen Sink became a lifestyle blog with emphasis on personal finance. I became a staff writer @Beating Broke. Do I consider all of this an accomplishment? Yes, I do.

The most popular posts of The Kitchen Sink in 2010 (according to the unique page views):

1. Five Reasons To Stop Being Frugal And Get A Life
2. Beware of Men Counting Pennies
3. How A Debtless Aloysa Became Buried in Debt
4. My Life Without Christmas
5. Seperate or Joint? Mine or Yours?

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep blogging, keep supporting my blogger friends and the Yakezie network.

Paying Off Debt

We were able to pay off $13,000 of our debt. This is a huge success because my spending habits are not the best, and we still love to take trips and go on vacation. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been worse? Sure. What matters in the end, we did the best we could and paid off a good chunk of debt.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Keep paying!

Healthy Food Choices

This year we improved our food shopping habits significantly. In the past we used to run to the store right after work and decide then and there what we were going to eat that night. Now, we do grocery shopping once a week and come prepared. We go to the store with a list of groceries based on a menu that we come up for a week instead of just having a vague idea of what we are going to eat.

We cook more at home, we reduced the number of out take outs from three times a week to once a week. Huge improvement.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: We do need to reduce our sugar intake, eat a little bit less red meat and a little bit more fish.

Curb Those Shopping Habits

My spending habits are not the best but I was able to keep them under control this year. Most of the time. J The results speak for themselves: paid off a good chunk of debt, saved up for vacation, stayed UNDER budget during Christmas consumerist frenzy. Could have done better but a certain long and simply gorgeous pair of boots threw me off balance. Oh well… we do live only once.

A Random Thought (Not A Resolution) for 2011: Shopping my own closet a little bit more can be very helpful in 2011.

Happy New Year Everyone! Let all you dreams, hopes and wishes come true. Let all your goals and resolutions be achieved. Salute!

Eat Drink Choose

The Holidays are here, and so is overindulging with food, drinks and desserts.  I did some research to make sure I don’t bust my waistline.  It appeared that some of my favorite Holiday extras might derail even the fittest and the healthiest of us.

DIPS.  It was appalling to realize that some dips in one scoop have more fat than 12 (!!!) strips of bacon. What kind of scoops are those, you might wonder. I am not talking about the size of a football field scoops but normal (whatever is normal for you) small size scoops.

Dips to avoid:

– Crab Dip. It is usually mixed with mayo. That said, make sure to keep portions small.

– Brie. I love, love cheese but apparently this cheese has more fat than two jelly donuts. I love jelly donuts, by the way.

– Spinach Artichoke Dip. This is my favorite dip and the worst evil of all dips. It is cheese based dip which makes it a calorie bomb.

If you are like me and have to try everything that is placed in front of you, keep your portions small.

DRINKS. You do know that drinks are usually very caloric? Ounce by ounce they add what I call wasted calories into our bodies. But for some of us the Holiday season without festive drinks doesn’t sound like a Holiday season.

Drinks to avoid:

– Eggnog. Unfortunately it is one of my favorite holiday drinks. Or so it was until I did this research and found out that (depending on the portion) it can contain up to 19 grams of fat. I still love it but in a very tiny glass. I might go with anapple cider this year. It is still festive and doesn’t have any fat.

– Chocolate martini. It tastes good, it looks clear but it packs a lot of calories.

– Mulled wine. When you add sugar, honey and whatever else you want to add, you end up with twice (if not more) amount of calories than traditional wine has. Do you like champagne? Pop the cork then because it only has 80 calories per 4-oz glass.

DESSERTS. If you are a dessert lover, read carefully. If you don’t like desserts, maybe you should reconsider because desserts make our lives so much better.

My research showed that pumpkin pie carries the fewest amounts of calories and fat. This was very disappointing because I don’t eat pumpkin. Apple pie is not a bad choice either if you make your one (emphasis on “one”) slice a very small size. Don’t even think to add ice cream to it unless you are planning to run five miles on the treadmill the next day.

You are probably thinking that there is no good news in the dessert department. Wrong! Lemon Meringue Pie is another good choice for dessert lovers. Its topping is made mostly of egg whites and that is what makes it somewhat light and affordable calorie wise.

Desserts to avoid:

– Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. It sounds good, tastes heavenly but has so many calories that I am afraid even to think about one little bite. Forget it.

– Pecan Pie. I used to love this pie. But it is pretty sweet and heavy. It is probably a better option than Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie but not by much. I might have a bite of it but no more.

– Sugar cookies. They are sweet. They are small. They look innocent. But don’t you succumb to their looks. Think about all the butter that was used to make them. I bet if you can visualize it, you will stay away from sugar cookies for the rest of your life.

It is not all that bad. I did not want to scare you away from dips, drinks and desserts. It is all about making a choice. So, choose wisely and have a great time!

Set Yourself Free, Get A Peace Of Mind And Have Fun

It seems to me that almost everyone I know – family members, co-workers, friends –  are talking about new year’s resolutions, setting goals for the next year, for the immediate future, for the next twenty months. Goals are important, essential tools that help us to structure our lives. That’s probably why almost everyone feels that they have to be setting up some concrete and achievable goals.

Almost everyone but me. I don’t set up goals. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like coming up with anything specific, achievable and meaningful. It simply means that I don’t like to be limited by pressure to perform.

Life takes over, and our plans get postponed. We get sidetracked. We all have our good days and our bad days. When I am having a bad day, I don’t want a feeling of guilt and discouragement to hang over my head because that day I did not stay focused on some particular goal.

I set myself free by deciding to not set any goals. I did not challenge any systems. I did not try to prove any points. I just simply looked for an alternative way to… succeed. While looking for this alternative, I liberated myself from a few things.

Liberation #1

Blogging. When I started blogging a while ago, I often would say to myself that in a month of blogging I need to have 10 RSS subscribers; in two months I wanted 20 subscribers; in three months I wanted 30.

I obsessively checked Feedburner almost every day and pulled my hair out when my RSS subscriber numbers were not just stagnant but appeared to be fluid.

One dark sleepless night I finally said to myself: “Aloysa, who cares if you increase your readership by 10 every month?” Honestly, no one cared but me. So why would I be putting so much pressure on myself?Instead of chasing numbers in the Feedburner, I decided to focus on my blog’s content.

This decision gave me peace of mind and helped me to create The Kitchen Sink. I finally could relax, get inspired and have fun.

Liberation #2

Staying Fit. A few years ago I told myself that I will be hitting a gym five times a week. When January came, I dragged myself to the gym twice a week. It was a total failure. I had a goal of working out five times a week. My twice a week workouts looked quite pathetic.

My motivation was disappearing slowly but steady. Every time I’d missed a day at the gym, I was full of guilt. I blamed myself for a lack of discipline, a lack of strong will, a lack of achievement.

During another dark sleepless night I realized that I needed to love myself a little bit more, and let myself to have some breathing room. After all, walking through the gym’s door should be considered as partial achievement.

Now, it doesn’t matter if I am at the gym once a week or five times a week. What matters is that I am there, enjoying myself and having a good time.

Liberation #3

Debt Payoff. This one was a tough one. My problem was shopping and spending more money than I actually should have. So… if only I could stop shopping. If only I could stop spending. If only I could stop breathing.

I did not have a lot of will power when it came to shopping. But I did want to pay off debt, and I knew that my shopping habits were slowing our debt reduction process. A lot of people can go months and months without shopping in order to cut unnecessary spending. I have huge respect and admire them for this. However,there was not a chance that I would be able to stay away from the mall for that long.

I let myself shop as much as I wanted with only one stipulation. I had to have cash. When the intensity of a shopping diet was gone, the need to shop and to spend was reduced as well. Probably, because I still was free to shop. Just in a more responsible way.

Having no goals doesn’t mean that you stop achieving things. It actually means that you will achieve more when you stop limiting yourself by setting goals, timeframes and deadlines.

Not having goals indeed feels liberating.

Twelve Days of Giving

First Gen American suggested a writing experiment – an embellishment on the 12 days of Christmas. So, here I am…writing away…

Remember the lines of 12 Days of Christmas? Of course you do. These are my favorite lines :

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me…

Isn’t it a great idea to give, send, bring a loved one, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger something every day like in the 12 days of Christmas?

To really embrace a selfless spirit of Christmas, try doing the following:

Day 1: I love shopping. But you already know it. It wouldn’t be me not to recommend shopping. So, go shopping! Just make sure to use and you will be helping charities around the world.

Day 2: If you are a blogger, a writer… just like me, you sometimes run out of ideas or words! Build your vocabularywith and for every word you get right, the World Food Programme donates 10 grains of rice to end hunger.

Day 3: Enough already of spending all this precious time on the Internet! Turn off your computer and renew your old friendship with someone you have not talked to for a long time.

Day 4: If you cannot live without the Internet, then do at least something different. Befriend your favorite charity on Facebook or follow it on Twitter.

Day 5: Think about great causes and donate to Yakezie Scholarship Fund.

Day 6: Are you an animal lover? Think about animals in your local animal shelter and donate something to it. You can give food, toys, money, your labor… anything!

Day 7: Don’t be too frugal (oh… me and frugality!). Tip generously this Holiday season. Tip extra to your barber, your paperboy, your limo driver…?

Day 8: Hair getting too long? Get a haircut and sign up to donate your hair at

Day 9: You don’t like homeless people because they scare you. You don’t trust them. You suspiciously watch them riding on a bike while talking on an I-Phone. I am with you! But we still can bring canned food to a local homeless shelter.

Day 10: Do you suspect that your gifts are usually being re-gifted? I hope not. But just in case, make a change this year and don’t buy them. How about handmade gifts? Give your chocolate crazed co-worker a homemade hot fudge! Give it to me, I wouldn’t re-gift it!

Day 11: If you do need to buy a gift card, buy it at and whoever gets it will be able to redeem this gift card for a great cause at almost any charity around the world.

Day 12: Have something to share, to teach, to pass on to the next generation? Go to and become a mentor to a child age 6 to 18 in your area.

And please remember The Grinch:

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

Selfish Menace or Why We Don’t Have Kids

We live in Utah that is famous (or infamous) for its Mormon culture. If you are not Mormon, it might not be easy to make friends, people might not understand your religious views or your political opinion. They might interrogate you why you and your husband do not have children.

From time to time I have this re-occurring conversation:

“Do you have children?” A kind, encouraging smile.


“Not, yet, huh? When are you planning to have kids?” A determined look into my face. Still smiling, though.

“We are not planning on having children.”

“Not planning to have children?”

“No, we are not planning to have children.”

A blank stare into my face.

“Why? Difficulties conceiving? I have a good doctor to recommend.”

“Thank you but no. We don’t want children.”

Usually after these words I get a dirty look that implies that admitting we don’t want children is some kind of a taboo. Something you don’t talk about, or think about. Apparently in Utah voluntary childlessness is a subject that is frowned upon.

When I honestly answer questions about why we don’t have children, I merely express my opinion. There is no intention to shock, to offend or to deceive.

No one ever asks parents why they have children. I cannot imagine a conversation that would go like this:

“Do you have children?”

“Yes. We have five!”

“Five? Why do you have five children? Trouble using birth control? I have a good doctor to recommend.”

“Thank you but no. We are trying to conceive our sixth one.”

Once a man tried to persuade me to reconsider my position and have as many children as possible. He is a parent of three and had a fourth one on its way. He told me that I should seriously think about having children and used tax credits as a basis for his argument. Really?

Somehow, it feels like my husband and I are constantly being asked to justify our childless life. So, here is my very public justification of our decision not to have children.

Reason 1: Lifestyle.

We work a lot, we love our careers and we like our life the way it is.

Reason 2: Potential.

Potential is a powerful word carrying enormous possibilities for us to travel, sleep in, go out, stay in, watch TV, read, write, blog, shop, move and so on. You get the idea.

Reason 3: Future.

Future doesn’t scare me. It excites me. We don’t have to worry about saving up for college, a new car or a wedding. We don’t have to worry about what school to choose. We don’t have to spend sleepless nights waiting for a daughter to come back from her first date. We also don’t worry about who will take care of us when we will be old and sick. Somehow, I am sure we will figure it out.

Reason 4: Absence of Fascination.

We don’t share endless fascination with tiny bundles of joy, their coughs, sneezes, smiles, farts, tiny hands and plump fingers. There is nothing wrong with it. Not everyone was born to be a parent.

“Whatever Can Be On Your Mind?”

Spoiler Alert: This post includes Mad Men finale spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

Let’s talk about business and relationships. Let’s talk about Mad Men. Last week’s season finale got me so hot and bothered that I had to put it in writing. Does falling in love at work bring out the worst or the best in us?

I like Don Draper. I like him not only because he is intelligent, sophisticated, sexy and the charismatic Hamlet of the 20s century, but also because he is a talented and creative businessman. The whole season has been closely following Don’s personal life and his professional life. It was intriguing, it kept me guessing and wondering what was next for Don Draper. The very last episode made me question my assumptions about the main character of Mad Men.

Career and personal relationships are two very important aspects in our lives. Our life is intertwined with business decisions, job relationships and family life. When either bad or good events take place in our personal life, we bring them into our work environment because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to leave our personal lives outside the office doors.

During the whole season I watched Don Draper fall into dark, self-destructive places and emerge back on the surface without losing his edge on the job. I respected him a lot for that. His job has always been his salvation, giving him creative powers. He has managed to bring an edge to the office in spite of his self-damaging, emotional debacles. Then, in the seasons finale, Don Draper, the driving, creative power of the agency, crumbles. Because he thinks he is falling in love (or is he really?). Don loses his edge, he melts, he forgets his work and this sophisticated man becomes … a smiling teenage boy.

This brings back some memories … I met my husband at work. He was working in the wholesale department. I was in accounting. We were both single and available. However, the company’s policy stated that if an employee desired to date another employee, they had to ask for permission. It sounded so crazy that we just chose to ignore it. We tried not to advertise our relationship and kept it on the low: no phone calls at work, no lunches, no whispering in the hallways, no smoke breaks together. Surprisingly, everyone knew about us but no one ever said a word until the day when I came to work with a ring on my finger, and my boss said “So he finally proposed?”

As far as the work performance goes, mine suffered only on those days when we had disagreements. My mind was somewhere else, and it was difficult to focus on the numbers and to balance debits and credits. What the hell, it was difficult to be at work! Love affects our work life one way or the other. Love can play tricks on the best of us.

Don Draper is another good example of what falling in love can do to a man. Forget the work, forget losing the clients, forget the agency that is falling apart. Don Draper is settling down. He is becoming a domesticated bohemian. Really? What a delightful, happy ending to the season. He proposes to his caring, sweet, sympathetic secretary (what a cliché). Is she really the one? Or is this marriage proposal an unlikely conjunction of events that reminded Don of the importance of family life, home, warm dinners? Or does he just like the beginning of things? The ending of the season leaves this door into Don’s future wide open. At least, I hope so.

Do our personal relationships affect our work, our performance? Clearly, yes. When our office manager has marital problems, I can see it on her face. She doesn’t even need to tell me anything. Her performance that day might not be flawless but so what? Everything overlaps: our office life, our personal and family life, the relationships with our friends and our co-workers. Just please try not to forget about business at hand!

How I (Barely) Survived 3 days of the Weight Watchers

I injured my shoulder a while ago playing ping-pong. You are probably thinking “How in the world can you injure your shoulder playing a harmless game of a ping-pong?” If you have a couple of cocktails and swing too hard, that’s how. I finally dragged myself to the doctor and found out that I cannot lift weights for about 6-8 months after I am finished with physical therapy.

Not being able to lift weights was the worst news I could possibly expect. I got so upset about it that I stopped going to the gym. If you remember from my previous post, I hate cardio. So, pounding endless miles on the treadmill was not really an option for me. In a couple of weeks of not working out, I started gaining weight at a fast and steady rate. I went back to the gym and worked out like crazy on elliptical without reducing any body fat I accumulated over the weeks of self-pity. A cold realization hit me – my dietary habits required a very thorough and close re-evaluation.

So what is a girl to do if she doesn’t want to work out but wants to shed some pounds? Diet! I don’t believe in diets because they limit consumption of certain nutrients (protein, carbs) or food groups. Diets seems to fight against what your body needs to function most efficiently. Also, I believe that diets cause a loss of lean muscle and ultimately reduce our metabolism. Did you notice how fast people put their weight back after they are done dieting?

I contemplated all of this and decided that I need to have a better accountability of what I eat and what portions I consume. So, I signed up with Weight Watchers. I liked the idea of Weight Watchers because the program lets you eat anything you want, it makes you think about your food quality, portion size, and it teaches you to prioritize your food choices. Immediately I learned that I am used to overeating, especially if I eat something delicious. You know how difficult it is to stop eating when something tastes so good, and it seems that you can eat, and eat, and eat … until your belly almost bursts.

We shop for food responsibly and selectively, trying to buy nutritious, quality food. As it appeared after one day of starvation trying to follow the Weight Watchers prescribed 22 points a day, our refrigerator at home did not contain any filling foods such as almonds, carrots, grapes, whole-grain crackers, hummus and low fat cheese. I ran to the store and got carrots instead of my usual Luna snack bar.

On day 3 of my Weight Watchers ordeal I ate a cup of cereal and a toast of wheat bread with a sprinkle of peanut butter for breakfast. On the way to work I was craving a latte and since I am not a very strong person when it comes to food cravings, I gave in to my desire. The latte kept me going for a couple of hours but by ten o’clock I was starving and feeling weak. I ate a bunch of carrots that were supposed to be a satisfying food. Unfortunately for me the carrots did not fill me up. I was still feeling weak. So, I ate six crackers that my co-worker generously gave me after seeing my desperate and hungry eyes.

By lunch time I was dreaming about a rib-eye, French fries and a slice of chocolate cake. Just before I got a chicken pot pie and a piece of apple pie from the cafeteria at work, I cancelled my Weight Watchers membership.

I never was obsessed with food until I signed up with Weight Watchers. Constant point counting and thinking about food made me feel awkward and hungry. The Weight Watchers helped me realized that sometimes we eat too much and not the healthiest foods. But I also realized that if you reduce your food intake, count carrots, crackers and grapes, sooner or later you will start obsessing about food.

The obsession that you will develop will not be about good, nutritious, healthy food. You will start noticing pastries, donuts, bagels everywhere. You will stare at happy people eating juicy hamburgers on benches in the park. You will inhale the delicious smell of your co-worker’s lunch and wish it would be yours.

I know people who love Weight Watchers. The program worked for them in the best possible way: they lost weight, they learned all the right eating habits, and they figured out how to prioritize their food choices. However, I have yet to meet a Weight Watcher who didn’t gain any weight back after finishing the program. If you are depriving yourself from things that you like, sooner than later you will attempt to catch up with all the lost opportunities and voilà – you will be back to the Weight Watchers losing weight. Again.

As far as my life goes, I am back to the gym.

How To Get Stronger, Smarter and Better All At Once

I always thought that making and keeping a commitment to fitness takes years. Not a day, not a week, not even three months – years! I could not be any more wrong. It took two weeks! But let me start from the very beginning…

In high school I hated physical education class and barely attended it. It was a really bad idea because I failed a running test. Instead of running, I walked most of the track and botched the test miserably. My PE teacher called my mother and told her that if I don’t shape up and run or at least attempt to run, I won’t be allowed to take graduation exams (the school system in my country is different from the school system in the US).

At sixteen I was not fit to run. I smoked like a chimney! What running are you talking about? But I had to buckle down and attempt to run. It was imperative to pass the running test and take the graduation exams. A great future laid in front of me and the only obstacle in achieving this future was passing the running test. The physical part of the test, the track, the PE teacher and his stop watch was a nightmare that is impossible to forget. I’ll leave it at that. Lesson One – quit smoking.

Years later, I was in the US attending college. By then I quit smoking and attempted a few work out sessions at the gym with my friends. My best friend used to run on a treadmill, watch TV and tell me about her love life. All at the same time. She was a multitasker. I barely could breath while briskly walking on the treadmill next to her. The whole experience was pretty overwhelming: her fit body, iron lungs and constant talking. I stopped working out. Lesson Two – choose carefully with whom you exercise.

Six years and twenty extra pounds later I started thinking about signing up for a gym. But I made a big mistake. I overestimated cardio, hoping to shred twenty pounds in ten days, and pounded endless miles on the treadmill. Don’t misunderstand me. Cardio is a good exercise that makes your heart stronger. My misconception was that cardio was supposed to burn all the extra fat I acquired during my years in college fast and efficiently. When it didn’t happen, I gave up, accusing genetics of all my weight problems. Lesson Three– cardio is not a solution to your problems.

Then the unexpected happened. My husband started to work out three times a week. He was lifting weights and doing a very little cardio. I suspiciously watched him lose weight, build some substantial muscle and change his body in a surprising way. His transformation inspired me, and I signed up for the gym again. Yes, third time! This time I started lifting weights and since then I never looked back. It took exactly two weeks to see changes in my weight and my body. I finally made a long-term commitment that I was afraid to make for years. Lesson Four – find the right exercise and stick to it.

As a result, I became stronger, smarter and indeed I live better.

Stronger: it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, old or young, don’t be afraid of weights. You simply need to adjust weights, lunges, squats, repetitions to your level and capabilities. You will notice your body getting stronger, leaner, healthier. You will not need to spend long boring hours laboriously pumping away on some treadmill or elliptical. Weight training builds muscle mass and increases your metabolism. What else do you need?

Smarter: my food choices improved significantly and I am eating much healthier. Once I started eating healthy, I found that I no longer crave junk food (oh well… I still do but very rarely). I believe that healthy diet starts with choices we make at the grocery store. Try not to shop hungry to avoid impulse purchases. Try to plan meals for the entire week, so you know what you are shopping for. Please don’t over eat. American portions (I blame my extra 20 lbs on it) are much bigger than European portions. Portion control is essential.

Better: exercise will improve your life. You will make healthier and smarter choices, reduce stress, get adequate sleep and build a stronger immune system. Oh, and don’t forget – you will look better too!