Author Archives: Gretchen

About Gretchen

Naturally curious, you can often find Gretchen Wilcox reading an encyclopedia for fun. When not spending (the majority) of her time raising two young sons, she is also a 20+ year food/wine professional, and has been married to her husband Graham, a professional chef, for 16 years. As a former pageant contestant and sometimes model, Gretchen has spent a lifetime trying to figure out how to "have it all"; a lifestyle that includes gourmet food and wine, while still allowing her to fit into her wardrobe. After the birth of her first son, now age 14, Gretchen embarked on a career with the weight loss giant, Jenny Craig International. While helping thousands of men, women and teens lose millions of pounds, she learned first hand that weight loss happens not just in the body, but more importantly, in the mind. Now 40 years old, Gretchen is looking earnestly towards the second half of her life, and how to help people make the body/mind connection. Now studying psychology with a minor in criminal justice, she is looking forward to a career in working with juveniles at risk, and teaching them to focus their mind's eye on a life that is productive, rich and rewarding.

Upper division weight loss

If you follow this blog, you know I’m back in school.  Like alot of returnees, I realized that my successful career was going to eventually reach an endpoint, when I got too old to wear a bistro apron and manage people young enough to be my kids.Don’t get me wrong, I *totally* relate to the younger-than-me generation, as I refuse to grow up (fully).  So being back in school has me thinking; how can I use what I know now, and do it better than I did before?So this time, I’m taking advantage of a generous financial aid package, and am signing up for a unit of P.E. Yep, P.E.! Three days a week, I will drag my happy you-know-what down to my college gym, and grunt and groan through what the catalog description refers to as “Boot Camp.” I can  honestly say that I would never have considered going back to school to get back into shape.  But get back into shape is exactly what I intend to do.  This is one sure way to make sure those student loans pay-off for life.Stay tuned for updates.

Time to plant a garden

It’s spring, and everything in the Pacific Northwest is abloom. I’m thrilled, as I’m an avid gardener, and just last year, discovered the culinary pleasure of homegrown snow peas. Plump, sweet and crunchy, bugs could seem to care less about them, and my then seven-year old would make any excuse to go outside and devour his own body weight in green vegetables.

Yes, you read that right- a seven-year old eating green vegetables!

Gardening is not just a hobby. For those of you following the Peak Oil Crisis and the resulting Cuban diet, soon enough, gardening will be a means of survival. A very real scenario in the next forty years is that oil prices will make transportation of food economically unviable. Pressure on local farmers will outstrip supply, and only those who grow their own foods will have readily available access to fruits and vegetables. Meat will become scarce in urban areas, and dairy will become a luxury few can afford. We are already seeing nearly $5.00 for a gallon of milk, and the cost of gas, to transport that milk, is nearly the same.

In Italy, the term “risorgimento” refers to a re-birth or re-unification, now a way of life for most Italians. Roughly translated, they live on the same land with which they source the things they need to live. The first step is learning to live on less. Isn’t that what a diet is all about?

Slow Food in Schools

It’s finals week, and I’m up to my ears in research. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it is painful to absorb that much information in such a short period of time.

My research topic is very pertinent to this blog, so I’ll share a bit with you. I’m arguing for Slow Food in Schools. What is Slow Food? It is a movement spurned by activism, as a protest to the proliferation of fast food, in our towns, and even scarier, in our schools.

In the 2007 study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, only Oregon and Kentucky received an A- for their commitment to eliminate junk food in schools. As many as 20 states got Fs for failing to raise standards above the USDA minimums, which have been deemed as the leading cause of childhood obesity in this country.

Of course, any good argument has two sides, and the fast food industry likes to argue “don’t look at us, kids can’t drive themselves to Pizza Hut”. True, but why would they need to, when we are bringing Pizza Hut to their schools?

Lose the guilt and gain the consciousness and learn more about your local chapter of Slow Food in Schools.

Alternatives to Alcohol

The following question is one that I am asked often:

“How can I avoid alcohol when dining out, whether for business or pleasure?”

It is a good question to ask, because gram for gram, alcohol is as calorie dense as a fat gram. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig customers know that a glass of wine is endearingly referred to as “two fats”, or two fat exchanges. It can be tough to stick to that plan when dining out, as one glass inevitably leads to two, which can often lead to lack of good judgment in food choices.

Therefore, the most successful dieters avoid alcohol while they are focused on their goal, and it’s easier to do this than you think! We’ll show you how.

* For a lunch date or business lunch where everyone is expected to have a drink, order a virgin bloody mary, no salt. Count it as a veg serving!

* For a cocktail party or pre-dinner drink with friends, order a club soda, splash of cranberry, squeeze of lime. It looks like a popular drink, called a cape cod, and no one but you and the bartender will know it is alcohol free.

* For dinner itself, as a substitute for wine, ask your server for a new product called “dry soda”. This is a food-friendly soda with negligible calories, invented by a woman here in the Pacific Northwest. Faced with the problem of not being able to drink wine with dinner while pregnant, she designed a beverage that enhances food, like wine does, but without the alcohol or calories. With flavors like kumquat, rhubarb (my favorite!), lemongrass and lavender. Any cuisine can find a dry soda to compliment their wine list.

*Bring a bottle of non-alcoholic wine and pay a corkage fee. More and more, people are bringing in their own wine to restaurants, so don’t hesitate to do so. The corkage fee can range from zero to twenty-five dollars, but it’s worth it to sip decent wine in great crystal and not feel like you are being left out of the conviviality of the meal. A great non-alcoholic (n/a) wine to look for is Inglenook’s Cabernet Sauvignon. As well, many new flavored waters are packaging in wine-looking bottles. Bring what you want to drink, and enjoy!

*Reward yourself later, with a cup of your favorite hot tea or fat-free hot chocolate. Patting yourself on the back for a good decision is one of the best ways to make sure you continue to do so.

Happy Spring!

In case you needed another reason to lose weight

Motivation to lose weight is a fragile thing. In the diet industry, we call it “tension”. Also known as that precise moment when you say, “Ugghh, I can’t deal with this weight anymore”, and you decide to do something about it. Research shows us that tension doesn’t last very long; that’s the reason that when you call a weight loss program, they want you to come in “today” to get started, because tomorrow is another day.

Think of it like a rubber band, that when stretched tight, represents when you are most motivated.

Well, let’s just say I got my rubber band stretched when I read an article about insurance companies imposing higher insurance premiums on people considered obese according to BMI measurements. As someone who rides that line with the best of them, at 5’4″ and either 147 lbs (summer) or 160 lbs (winter), I did the math and realized that my annual post-holiday “padding” could be costing me in more ways than one.

I don’t know about you, but that is all the motivation I need to hit the pool today.

I’m not afraid…

…to admit that writing for this blog is self-motivating. I’ve always been one to practice what I preach, so a few weeks ago I made the personal decision to give vegetarianism a try. I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and can I share with you, it is a lot easier than I thought it would be!

I’m all about the well-stocked pantry, and one of the things I’ve discovered is “dry curd” cottage cheese, aka ‘farmer’s cheese’. At only 70 calories and almost no fat (per 1/2 cup), but with nearly 20 grams of protein, I have found my new favorite “super food“.

A little research showed me that the reason why the curds are “dry” is that no additional cream is added after fermentation. This also reduces the lactose, for those who are sensitive, and its crumbly texture is perfect for tossing with pasta (whole grain of course!); or, do like I did, and sprinkle over fresh baby spinach with chopped walnuts, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

My pants are already loosening up at the waist, my digestion has improved, and the recipe possibilities are endless. Check back often for more great pantry tips and recipe ideas.

Valerie Bertinelli goes from blogger to author

Now we have another reason to collectively adore Valerie Bertinelli. As revealed on “Oprah,” February 25th, 2008, Valerie has put out a book, detailing her life as well as her weight loss struggles. “Losing It: And How I Got My Life Back One Pound at a Time” is available for purchase, and is already getting rave reviews on Amazon.

Immensely likable, it was curious how she found love with a hard-edged rocker like Eddie Van Halen. Like her marriage, much about her personal life has remained a mystery, until now. Having lost more than 30 pounds with Jenny, and in a timeline that is realistic (you can read all about it on her blog), she does good friend, Kirstie Alley, proud with strong testimonial and certifiable results.

Valerie, you Rock!

You can read the full review of Valerie Bertinelli’s new book here at Diets In Review.

Is the Jenny Craig Centre a thing of the past?

Most of you already know that I used to work with and for Jenny Craig, on and off for a total of about three years. As a former client, I also subscribe to their emails, and found out today that they are in the process of completely re-vamping and updating their website.

This made me laugh, as when I worked for them in 1994 as a Center Director, I recommended to my management that they consider building a website; at that time a brand new avenue for weight loss information. They laughed in my face, and told me that it would never work for the “personal” approach to weight loss that Jenny Craig was famous for!

Flash forward 14 years, and not only is the website going strong, by the looks of it the free “sneak peek” I saw today, they are taking many of the tools that one usually only sees in the center, and putting those same tools on the web.

Seems to me it is just a matter of time before the new parent company of Jenny, Nestle Switzerland, does away with the one-on-one consultations conducted in their costly individual operational centers, and joins the rest of the diet industry on-line.

You heard it here first!

Jared and Subway celebrate 10 years of weight loss

Jared Fogel, the “Subway Guy”, is on a nationwide tour promoting 10 years of maintaining his nearly 245 pound weight loss on what is now known as The Subway Diet. Amazing. He’s currently on a nationwide tour supported by a national campaign from Subway to celebrate and promote the achievement. You can sign his pants as a testament to your own commitment to follow a healthy diet and enjoy other interactive activities on the Subway site.

I’m really proud of him, and equally proud that Subway is beginning to take a serious stand in promoting healthy dining options. The new kid’s meal is terrific: Mini sub, raisins, yogurt, and low-fat milk. Subway is a healthier option than the USDA-subsidized school lunch your child eats everyday, and that was before the beef recall.

Diets In Review congrats Jared on such a monumental achievement in health and weight loss- and wish you luck in your continued efforts and success.

I couldn’t believe it!

Being married to a Chef, I thought I knew a thing or two about cooking. Boy was I wrong!

To provide a bit of background, I was making risotto for the boys, and discovered I was out of butter. Just as a professional chef would, I usually add a tablespoon of butter at the finish to add a creamy sheen to the risotto, and bind the grains together. Without the butter, I thought to myself, this risotto is going to be inedible. My boys won’t eat it. My husband will laugh at me, etc.

Expectantly, I looked once more into the fridge, hoping a forlorn stick of butter would magically appear. Instead, what caught my eye was a container of low-fat yogurt, that I had purchased because I wanted to make yogurt cheese. For a moment, I wondered, could this work? Desperately, I added two large tablespoons of yogurt to the risotto, and stirred it in. I could not believe my eyes as the yogurt had exactly the same effect as butter, without the fat and cholesterol. I was thrilled, and hoped you would find this discovery equally wonderful.

For other great ways to use low fat yogurt, check out this awesome recipe for seafood salad dressing. With springtime fast approaching, this creamy dressing tossed with seafood, cucumber and celery is a great dinner idea for those lighter meals that we crave in warmer weather.