Little Debbie – Friend or Foe?


Where it all started.

Pure and simple: sugar is evil. On December 5, I cracked. I bought a box (note: just one box) of Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. See my Facebook status for proof. A little background here – I’m a sugar fiend and have been for a very long time. I typically indulge (the most) right before going to bed (probably the worst time, I know). Through the years I’ve gone between double-stuff Oreos (four at a time, cracked open, filling sides eaten first, plus a cold glass of milk), pop tarts (toasted, two, plus milk, I was especially fond of pop tarts when I was pregnant), peanut M&M’s (I’ve been known to take the whole bag into bed with me, I eat at least 20 at a time) and the clincher—Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.

Now, I should provide more context when it comes to Little Debbie’s. Back in the day, Mum was the master of stretching the budget (thanks Mum!). I practically grew up on generic brands, except when it came to Little Debbie’s. Given these delectable treats are also pretty economical, they typically frequented our back hall closet (the special place reserved for board games, cereal, snacks of all sorts, oh and shoes and coats).

Through the years I recall the following Little Debbie’s as a mainstay: Swiss Cake Rolls (by far, my favorite), Fudge Brownies, Star Crunches, Pecan Spinwheels, Nutty Bars, as well as the myriad “holiday” cake-type options that would appear from time to time, including the now infamous (at least during this past month for me) Christmas Tree Cakes. It’s funny, in doing a little research for this piece, I didn’t quite realize the extent of Little Debbie offerings. The editors at HuffPost Taste found themselves exploring the lesser-known varieties in this humorous piece.

Suffice it to say Little Debbie’s have been a staple throughout my life. We all know that too many Little Debbie’s is not a good thing. But just how many is too many? Well, that depends upon the person. My husband Ken can easily chomp just a few M&M’s and be wholly satisfied. I mentioned my 20 minimum above, so it’s probably no surprise when I explain how it’s never just been “one Little Debbie” for me. At minimum, I’m a two-pack in one-sitting kinda gal. Since in most cases that means four actual Little Debbie’s – that can add up quick – especially at about 200 calories EACH a pop!

When it comes to the Christmas Tree Cakes – in either the red velvet or plain variety – I started (like most people do) with that first scrumptious bite. I’ve been off of my Little Debbie habit for some time (actually it’s been several years now) and so that first bite was especially grand. Too bad it quickly escalates and then goes down hill from there! So, there’s five in a box. I started with one box. And I started with one Christmas Tree Cake.

The next night I had two – because I couldn’t just have one. When I initially bought my “one box” at Meijer, I thought – one box won’t hurt. Well. The next week I was at Ric’s and noticed the Little Debbie’s on sale two for five bucks. A sweet deal (literally)! So I bought a couple more. Then Meijer had an even better sale (lucky for me?) – THREE for five bucks that following week. And it grew from there.

The week before our holiday break, I came home with what was probably ten or so boxes (assorted). Ken saw the stash and said, “Stocking up are you?” I guess that’s what you could call it. The kids knew that “my” Little Debbie’s were off limits (just let Mommy eat the BAD sugar), although I did share with them a red velvet tree or two between December 5 and December 30 – the day I squashed the rest. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

So for about a month straight, I would eat at least two Christmas Tree Cakes every night, sometimes more. You might find it especially amusing that while eating my xmas cakes, I was reading a book called, Spark, which is all about the benefits of exercise. Funny, I know. While I knew my growing habit is not good, in fact, it’s HORRIBLE – I justified it to myself by saying – oh, I’ll stop by Christmas day.

Christmas day came and went and I realized that my Little Debbie habit had really started to impact my life. All that extra sugar was causing me to feel fidgety, compulsive and my stomach pretty much doubled in size (typically my “problem” area). It was affecting my sleep too – I wasn’t sleeping well at night and then I would find myself falling into sugar-induced naps mid-afternoon during our break (that’s when I started eating them in the afternoon too). Something radical had to be done.

So I’m starting over with my love-hate relationship with those pesky Little Debbie’s that jump out and say “hello” each time I walk down the bread aisle at Meijer (they command a good third of the aisle mind you). While the kids watched in disbelief, I took out the remaining Little Debbie’s and STOMPED them flat. They were like – “Why did you do THAT, Mommy?” Actually, I felt pretty good about it – they see me donning some pretty questionable excessive sugar habits, but they also see me reeling things in, making a change, moving toward more of an “all in moderation” mindset.

Of course they know that lots of sugar isn’t good for them and as far as we can tell, at least one kid (Milah) isn’t going to be a sugar fiend like her Mommy (thank goodness). Still, I think it’s important to be straight up with the kids and let them know that this is something that Mommy struggles with. It’s a bad habit period. I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it. Our informer, Maeve, told Daddy the second he woke up, “Mommy stepped on all the xmas trees!”

I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it.


My Little Debbie saga.

Hallelujah, I did! And I’m already feeling better – it’s been three days since my “last” xmas cake. Amazing just how much a bad sugar habit affects your sleep! I hit up the gym yesterday and I’m thinking about my EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge for the New Year. Making small changes in each of these categories – means moving toward a stronger whole overall! One of my scholars, Andy Derry, recently started a blog called Whole Life Living and writes about this very topic. His tips include: finding an “accountability partner,” setting modest goals (aka making small changes), getting right back into it (without judgement) if you falter and taking things one day at a time. Great advice!


Hitting up the Lunch Crunch at Seung-Ni Fit Club – great camaraderie and great energy!

Do you happen to have a “Little Debbie” habit – or a habit just like it? If so, consider signing on to the EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge with me! Click HERE for the details – it’s a great way to kickstart the New Year. Here’s to less Little Debbie’s and more choices (aka small changes) that will lead to feeling good and strong in 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Getting Stronger

Funny thing happened while taking on the 30-day Yoga Challenge with Debbie Williamson this past month – you know that when you’re consistent and work on improving something everyday – you get stronger. I say this in a “sorta” joking way since that’s a pretty obvious thing. BUT, at least for me, I rarely get myself into that mindset where I’m (really, really) committed to doing “a little something” everyday so that I can grow my skills, my knowledge, my writing, my whatever. So doing this challenge really nailed this concept down for me firsthand. It’s also pretty damn cool connecting with fellow yogis across the country (granted, a good portion of Debbie’s tribe are Wisconsinites, of which, I am also one!) – sharing our goals, our challenges, our small steps being made, the funny things that might happen along the way, perhaps even our deeper observations of self and how this journey might really be striking a cord at the moment. A breath of fresh air.

yoga challenge

30-Day Yoga Challenge

I didn’t do “my challenge” EVERY SINGLE DAY but of the 30 days, I probably hit it for 25. That’s pretty damn good in my book and for those days I didn’t, I decided not to beat myself up about it. Maybe my arms really needed a rest or maybe I just needed not to be accountable that day. The point is that – overall – I really rocked it! Since I’ve been wanting to jump back into chaturanga from crow (see pic below) for a while now, I decided that my daily goal would be to hold crow 2x for a minute each time. Since I really don’t enjoy L-shaped handstand (thus the real challenge) but know it really builds strength, I also held L-shaped handstand 2x daily for a minute each time. I “threw in” holding a forearm plank and high plank too just for kicks and giggles. Now believe me – while holding these poses did get easier, I would still be squirming, losing focus, stopping my breath and itching for the final 30 seconds to GET DONE pretty much every time I held L-shaped. A great practice in patience, perseverance and “breathing through” any real challenge that might arise – on the mat or in life.


This was my goal – which I have now achieved – jumping back from crow into chaturanga. Now I’ve got to work on having enough arm strength to float into up dog.

I’m inspired to continue with my “daily challenge” and I’m thinking about expanding and getting a little crazy creative – maybe even starting to hold my full handstand (still against the wall, of course). I tried it out the other day and did a 30-second hold 2x. I even brought my feet from against the wall and challenged my balance, holding in mid-air for like 3 seconds. As my yoga teacher, Heather, always says — milliseconds count! So, I’ll have to keep you updated on my progress. In the meantime, I challenge you to think about stepping up and exploring with something like this – especially if you are already a yogi or even if you aren’t and are interested in seeing what yoga can possibly bring to your life. Start with a simple down dog. Holding and breathing deeply in down dog, even for 20 seconds or so, can help release tension and get the blood moving, just like that. Simple simple! It’s a start that can open the door to a life-changing practice.

Perils of Perfectionism

I’ve always classified myself as a perfectionist, Type-A, detailed oriented, just a tad overly anal, if you will. In recent years, I’ve noticed myself loosening some of these tendencies – perhaps out of pure necessity from having kids and being surrounded by chaos. No matter how hard I try to keep the corners clean from crumbs, school clothes prepped for the next day and permission slips signed and returned on time, these details can easily slip away.

Of course there are certain non-negotiables when it comes to my being a perfectionist.

These include:

  • The bed must be made (even if it means making it right before I am going to lie down and go to sleep in it)
  • The bathroom mirror needs to be free from smears (I’m not sure what the kids are doing besides actually flicking their brushes towards the mirror on purpose)
  • The kitchen table has to be clear from crap (except for my “pretty” Real Simple magazine awaiting my next moment for a quick glimpse)

When it comes to things like work I still lean toward wanting things to flow effortlessly, look good, come across professionally, be of value for our students. This often means taking the time to craft that “perfect” email or being a bit down on myself if a scholar workshop doesn’t go exactly as planned. I am getting better at being gentler with myself, and letting go of things that I can’t control – like the occasional typo, a planned event that yields less of turnout of folks than we had hoped for, etc.

Just the other day I came across a description of perfectionism that stopped me in my tracks. In her book on “time investment strategies,” Elizabeth Saunders talks about two types of perfectionists. Upon reading it the first time, I thought, oh, I’m definitely the “frustrated perfectionist” to which she is referring. However, upon a closer look, I realize that I am BOTH TYPES! Yikers.

Elizabeth writes,

The first type of perfectionism “leads to some sort of pandemonium where you attempt to do everything all at once not only for yourself but for those around you. You live in a constant state of attention, scrutinizing yourself and others for any sign of a crack in the façade. Every time you spot one, you scurry to quickly cover up the evidence that you can’t truly meet your impossible standards.”

“The second form leads to PARALYSIS. Frustrated perfectionists may seem lazy on the surface, but their minds work on overdrive. They imagine and reimagine and rethink and recontemplate how they might do something in the most ideal fashion and achieve the most superior result. Given the grandiosity of their vision, though, they feel like they’re doomed to fail prior to beginning. Such people usually do not start anything at all or wait until the last minute. This delays them from having to face up to the raw truth that they can’t meet their own unrealistic ideals and allows them to blame their lack of time for lack of results.”


This insightful description put a whole new spin on this dilemma of being a perfectionist. Now I’m all for not beating myself up for certain innate qualities such as “being a detailed oriented person.” However, I want to live my life NOT in a constant state of trying to control my environment and those around me, nor do I wish to keep myself “stuck in my own head” and unable to move forward with my desire to be a writer and create stuff of value. I’ve simply been stuck for too long of a period of time.

Since often the mere point of recognizing the problem or issue for what it is can lead to a shift in the situation, I’m noting this as a major victory for me. In yoga, we work on dissolving samskaras (innate behaviors, thoughts patterns or tendencies) that are no longer serving us through our physical practice, our breath work and focus. We replace them with new ways of being that propel our growth and arrival at the truest form of our selves.

So I’m noticing my perfectionist tendencies more – when I’m being overly controlling with the kids, when I’m killing myself to get though every item on my to do list and when I’m stopping myself from simply letting my thoughts, feelings and beliefs flow onto the page. I’m guessing that if I loosen my grip on life, life might just surprise me with a whole new understanding of just what’s possible.


The other day in yoga class, my teacher Heather, brought up this notion of samskara. It’s something I hadn’t heard of, but as I’m exploring, I’m finding that it’s something that I’m thinking about all of the time. And pretty much have for most of my life.

Samskara is a Sanskrit term that refers to our natural tendencies to be, act and feel in certain ways. Whether it stems from our conditioning, experiences or deeply rooted ideas about life, samskaras are grooves that we fall into on a regular basis. They can be positive or negative.

One example for me is feeling overwhelmed when I have too much stimuli coming at me or too many details/items to organize and take care of (both of these usually relate to our kiddos). I’m not sure if it’s because I tend to be overly anal, controlling, or thrive on peace, order and calm, but that’s likely it.

I’ve always been that way. I’m guessing it’s partly genetic as my mom and grandma both exhibit these tendencies, although one might argue to an even greater extent. It’s probably related to being the oldest child and being an “only child” until the age of five when my sister Patty was born. Any way you slice it, I’ve always needed to feel in control of my environment.

So what does yoga have to do with this and why is Heather bringing it up this concept of samskara in class? Because yoga has the power to dissolve our samskaras that might not be in our best interests. We use our experience of intense heat and focus (which happens during our asanas) to train ourselves to not attach and instead be open to new pathways and possibilities. Modes of being. Through the practice we turn inward and begin to drill down through some of these blockages, these tendencies that no longer serve us. By setting our intention we begin to create new tendencies that take root and grow.

This week I’m paying special attention to samskaras I wish to create in my life. I can already feel a spark happening on several fronts. I’m developing “less tight and constrained” ways of being. I’m developing healthier habits when it comes to nourishing my body. I’m starting to cut a groove in “upping” my game when it comes to creating and writing and moving onward and upward.