Archive for Holiday

Why I Don’t Make Resolutions

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Failure. 

The word echoed around in my head as if it had no canyon to fade away into.  I was a failure. 

Again.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was March 31st.  Day 90 was marked on my calendar in big, bright red letters.  It was the day I was supposed to have completed a 90 day challenge.  The day I should have been able to look at myself in the mirror and see the results of my New Year’s Resolution, a “new” me. Instead, all I saw was the old me…and then some.

I beat myself up mentally for weeks.  Then one day, while I was sitting in church, it hit me.  Yes, church.  In the middle of April.  The sermon had nothing to do with fitness or being healthier (though my pastor has discussed that on occasion because he’s kind of addicted to Bojangles fried chicken).  No, the epiphany came from these words: “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize.”  (It’s Philippians 3:13-14 – I won’t lie, I had to Google it because all I really remembered were the words.)  And whether you have any religious thoughts or not, these words ring true. 

After I had “failed” at achieving my objective, these words made me realize I hadn’t really taken a hold of what I wanted to accomplish in the first place.  It was time I forgot what was behind me, forgot about the things I hadn’t completed, and press forward.  I didn’t need a new year to set a goal and accomplish it. I simply needed to be truly committed to “win the prize.”

These resolutions that we promise to commit to every year are meant to make us feel better about ourselves and improve ourselves.  And yes, there’s something about a New Year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start. But is there really a difference between Dec 31st and Jan 1st?

Nothing magical happens at midnight on New Year’s Eve to make us miraculously change.  So many New Year’s resolutions are often just a wish list…something we’d like to change about our lives, but little more.  It’s awesome that we want to devote ourselves to improving something in our lives, but have you ever ask yourself why it’s so hard to keep resolutions?  Maybe it’s because our resolutions aren’t realistic, or maybe it’s because we don’t have a logical plan for reaching them.  We aren’t prepared to press forward.  What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, when you’re ready to make a change, you make a plan and you make it work.

Here are a few tips to help you make a plan that a year from now will have changed your life, instead of something you’ve forgotten by the end of January.

   Be realistic. It’s easy to make pipe dream resolutions.  We get carried away.  But look back at what you’ve been able to achieve in the past and use that as a guide.  Don't say "I'm going to run a marathon," when you’ve barely ran down your driveway to get the mail. If you do, you’re just going to quit once you realize how high you’ve set your goals.  Start your plan to reach goals at intervals and go from there.

Make change about you and not a number or event. Don’t target something like an event or X number of pounds as part of your plan; instead make the ultimate goal to change your behavior.  So if something happens (as life often shows us can) and you’re unable to participate in your event, you still have your goal in place…to change YOU, not just run in some race.  There will be plenty of events to participate in. 

Plan!!! Let’s face it, statistics can’t always be trusted…especially ones about New Year’s resolutions since they are very likely skewed by the likes of those last minute resolutionists (the ones who swear to quit drinking ten tequila shots into New Year’s Eve). Planning ahead allows you to make a plan based on what you know you’re capable of.

Allow some backsliding. No one is perfect.  It’s unrealistic to think you’re going make it through your entire plan without a single hitch.  A plan that doesn’t leave room for slip-ups is already designed to fail.  Mistakes are part of life.  When you slip, pick yourself up, dust off and get back at it.     

Change your mind set. The mind is a powerful thing.  Re-program yours to focus on the positive effects your plan will have on your life.  Instead of thinking of how much you miss that extra hour of sleep in the morning, focus on how getting some exercise is going to make you feel better and make you healthier.  

Achieving goals isn’t about what happened in the past, it’s not about the times you’ve fallen…it’s about the times you’ve gotten back up when you did.  Remember the ultimate goal.  It’s about moving forward, and it doesn’t matter if it’s January 1st or April 23rd.  Because what is failure anyway?  If you’re moving forward, you’re improving…just not as fast as you had planned, and that's not really a failure at all. Is it?

 

A Taste of the Holiday Spirits

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I meandered past the table filled with peanut butter balls, pecan fudge, and a dozen other diabetic comas waiting to happen.  I was on a mission.  As I strolled across the room, my mind was calculating the lesser of the evils awaiting me.  Eggnog, spiced apple cider, hot chocolate, and of course my mother’s traditional holiday punch.  Yes, I had my sights set on the beverage table on the other side of the room.  Before I could get there, however, crazy Uncle Joe stepped in the way.  Every family has one – a crazy uncle.  He still dresses in a pleather suit (that’s right...pleather with a capital P) that wasn't even cool in 1981 when he bought it, and he’s convinced Foreigner will be having a reunion tour, soon.  He’s also determined to tell me all about his new girlfriend, Babs.   

By the time Uncle Joe was finally distracted from detaining me, I couldn't care less about the calories.  I was heading straight for the brandy that I knew was hidden in the cabinet above the refrigerator.  With two more hours of family time ahead of me, my spiced apple cider was going to need a little more spicing up.

Who doesn't enjoy a good cocktail during the holidays? Okay, spending two days straight with your extended family might have a little something to do with it, but aside from that, nearly everyone likes to let loose a bit at this time of year.  Between office holiday parties, various holiday festivities, and gathering with friends and family, there's no shortage of occasions to do so.

Unfortunately, most holiday cocktails are a double dose of cheer.  Too many calories and too much fat.  Eggnog itself, the (un)official cocktail of the holiday season, has 343 calories and 19 grams of fat in just one cup!  It doesn't take much to increase your waistline along with your holiday cheer.

So how can you enjoy the holiday spirits without having to hide beneath baggy shirts until summer? Here are a few drink ideas that are lower in fat, calories, and sugar than their originals.

Pumpkin Pie Martini.  Yes! It IS as good as it sounds. There are many pumpkin liqueurs on the market, which are convenient, but add a ton of calories. By using the actual squash, you get the flavor without the calories and, believe it or not, you even get a little fiber in your drink.

  • 6 oz. vanilla-flavored vodka
  • 6 oz. canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 4 oz. fat-free condensed milk
  • 4 oz. unsweetened almond milk (or fat-free milk)
  • 4 Tbsp. pumpkin pie seasoning
  • Ice cubes
  • 6 crushed reduced-fat vanilla wafers

Pour the vodka in a bowl with the pumpkin and stir until pumpkin has dissolved. Stir in condensed milk and almond milk. Add seasoning and stir well. Dip rims of glasses in crushed vanilla wafers. Pour liquid over ice into glass and enjoy. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories

Protein

Fiber

Carbs

Fat Total

Saturated Fat

105

1 g

2 g

6 g

< 1 g

< 1 g

 

Gingerbread Toddy. When it’s cold outside, a hot beverage can warm you up faster than a Snuggie®. This hot toddy will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and make you think you’re eating gingerbread cookies in the process.  Win win.

    • 1 oz. brandy
    • 1 oz. gingerbread liqueur
    • Juice from 1 lemon wedge
    • 8 oz. hot water
    • 1 cinnamon stick

Pour first four ingredients into a preheated mug in the order listed. Garnish with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer. Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories

Protein

Fiber

Carbs

Fat Total

Saturated Fat

155

< 1 g

< 1 g

11 g

< 1 g

< 1 g

 

Holiday Hot Chocolate.  Anybody can buy no-sugar-added hot chocolate in packages and do this the easy way. But why be a slacker?  Besides, your house will smell amazing and your friends will be impressed, shocked, but impressed.

    • 4 cups evaporated fat-free milk
    • 1 cup fat-free milk
    • 1/2 cup baking chocolate
    • 2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup sugar (or use 1/3 cup agave)
    • 6 oz. Frangelico® liqueur
    • 6 miniature candy canes

Combine evaporated milk, fat-free milk, chocolate, vanilla, and sugar in medium saucepan and heat on stove over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in Frangelico. Pour into mugs and garnish each with a small candy cane. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories

Protein

Fiber

Carbs

Fat Total

Saturated Fat

340

16 g

2 g

45 g

6 g

3 g

 

So, have your "cup o’ cheer" this holiday season, and enjoy it without having to spend all of January wearing that baggy sweater your Aunt Jane bought you because she’s convinced you’re three sizes bigger than you are.  Happy Holidays!

 

Mall Mayhem – Fighting the Food Court

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As if it wasn’t enough that I was already having to flip stations on the radio to avoid Jingle Bell Rock for the third time in two hours, I was circling the parking lot looking for a space that wasn't located somewhere in Siberia. Not that after the inevitable mall lunch I wouldn't likely need to walk to Siberia to work off the calories. This was both one of my favorite and one of my least favorite holiday activities – the family shopping day.

Every year I meet my mom, aunt and cousins for a day of Christmas shopping. It’s a testament to my love of family, because going to the mall in November and December and fighting the crowds isn't high on my “to do” list. Family time, yes. Crazy holiday shoppers, not so much.

This year, however, I was more concerned with what I was going to eat for lunch and snacks than crowd warfare and the likelihood of draining my bank account. You see, this year, I've battled a weight issue brought on by an accident I had. So, I've been very aware of everything I've put into my body. Today, the size 4 mannequin, wearing the cute dress I wish I could look as good in, wasn't enemy #1 (though she was still in a close second). No, today, the Food Court was the enemy, and I needed a plan of attack.

I was ready for war. Between the aroma of Cinnabon playing a siren song for your taste buds and the allure of the Pumpkin Spice Latte calling your name from Starbucks, you can down 2,000 calories faster than my Aunt Phyllis can max out her Macy’s credit card. So, I had prepared the following attack plan.

Eat breakfast – at home. I made sure my morning meal contained both protein and fiber. Good options would be a bowl of oatmeal with some dried fruit or nuts, or whole-grain toast with eggs.

Think hydration. Like you didn’t see this one coming. Water. Water. Water. It's easy to forget about hydration when you're busy shopping. But fluid keep muscles performing well, and trust me, you are going to be getting in a workout if you’re trekking the mall all day long and engaging in combat for that last sweater in your size.

Make smart choices. Don’t say “screw it” and just order those 2 slices of Italian pepperoni goodness. Instead, go for reduced fat or light options if you can. For example, getting the reduced-fat blueberry muffin at Dunkin’ Donuts will spare you 50 calories and 5 grams of fat that would be sure to find its way onto your waistline with the regular version.

Be aware of the extras. Yes, chocolate chips and nuts are nice, but adding fruit to frozen yogurt will cut down on the calories and fat. Nix the butter and salt on your pretzel to cut 30 calories and 590 mg of sodium and save yourself 150 calories by passing on the melted cheese dip. Yes, having to say no to the cheese dip is a dark day for us all. Sigh.

Check nutrition guides online. Put that smart phone to good use. Just because something has fruit or veggies in it doesn't mean it’s definitely the healthiest. That fruit smoothie you have your eye on can cause a calorie landslide and Starbucks’ zucchini walnut muffin comes with 490 calories of regret.

I realize that the holidays are often a time when we throw caution to the wind and worry about the extra pounds when January 1st hits, but if you are trying to save those extra calories to be spent on Grandma Alice’s extra scrumptious, made-from-scratch apple nut pound cake...you might want to take it easy at the Food Court. Enjoy your time with your family without worrying so much about the calories...besides, you can always speed walk the mall a few extra times, right?

Holidays Got You Scared? Me Too. Its Okay to Be Scared.

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They are coming. You can't run. You can't hide. It is just inevitable. No, I'm not talking about the In-laws (although they kind of come with it like a package deal). I'm talking about the holidays. The most beautiful, happy time of the year, right?

Excuse me while I go scream into my pillow. How about filling out all those Christmas cards or standing in line until my feet swell up like balloons waiting to ring out that one toy my kid must have. People fighting over parking spaces! Snow and ice covering the roads! The same carols playing on the radio over and over and over. Dogs and cats living together! It's mass hysteria I say!

Well, it doesn't have to be. Stress is just about the most awful thing for your body. We can all agree on that. Let's fight back, or should I say here's a few tips on how to stop the “fighting” during the holidays and bring some merry back into that time of year.

  • Slow down – Rome wasn't built in a day. Multitasking only leads to pulling your hair out and nothing feeling done. One thing at a time. Its hard to start living that way but once you make the change, everything will be done and the actual holidays will be a time to enjoy some family and friends. So plan ahead, one step at a time.
  • Being S.A.D doesn't help – Seasonal Affective Disorder is a major culprit during this time of year. So find ways to get yourself more light. If its sunny out, take a few minutes and bask in the glory of the clear sky. Get a “light box” or full spectrum lamp to help with the winter blues.
  • Thirty-one days in December, Eat right and exercise for 25 of them – You are going to have some of Mom's awesome apple pie. You are going to have one too many slices of ham or an extra holiday cookie. Lose the guilt. Double down on the gym and smart food choices for most of the month so you can smile “guilt-free” when you enjoy the festivities.
  • Stick to your budget – If you think December sucks, wait until January rolls around and you get that first statement from the credit card company. Figure out NOW what you'd like to spend during the holidays and do not detour from it. Nothing makes me feel better then still having money to put gas in the car after New Years is over. Trust me.

Remember how those special days felt when you were a kid? Follow some tips like these and you just might feel that way again. I'm going to say it. Stop being a Grinch and and go enjoy what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Black Friday Tailgating

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As we sat there in our camp chairs, bundled up in blankets, thermoses of hot chocolate on standby, I still couldn’t believe it was that time of year again.  We looked on in awe and wonder.  We pointed.  Laughed.  Remarked.  Watched as people stood in line, waiting.  Some tried to sneakily move ahead while those in front of them talked with friends or family.  We were just biding our time until the clock hit midnight and the real fun began.  It was our third year of Black Friday tailgating.  That’s right.  We don’t actually shop on Black Friday...we tailgate.  It only lasts for about an hour or so.  When it’s done, we get to go home with fun memories and climb into our warm beds while others are fighting off swarms of shoppers who would just as soon pull a Walking Dead move and bite your arm to get you to drop that holiday Barbie as they would look at you.  We’ve yet to see anyone get arrested, but there’s always this year.

Black Friday tailgating is one of the little things my friends and I do to make our holiday season special.  Some of our family has even started joining in.  It may not be the most traditional way to kick off the season, but it works for us.  It brings us a little cheer in what can often be a very stressful time.    I think sometimes we lose sight of what this time of year should be about.  Joy.  We get lost in the commercialization of it and allow stress to take over.  This year, get out of your own way.  As much as we hate to admit it – I know I do – our stress is sometimes directly related to our ability to deal with the situations we face.  During the holidays, those situations are often self-induced.  Here are some ways to help you make it through the season with a smile instead of a migraine.

First...know your limits.  Decide to do only the things you know you can finish without reverting to less than 5 hours of sleep per night.  Saying “no” isn’t the end of the world.  You’ll feel more successful.

Next...make time to do some things that cheer you up and that will create special memories for you and those you care about.  Here are a few ideas for doing just that:

  • Give yourself a gift.  You’re always trying to do for everyone else, this year do something for you.  Take a cooking or photography class (or whatever you’re into).  Go on a day trip or give yourself a spa day right in the middle of the chaos of the season.  Just do something for you.
  • Volunteer.  There’s nothing more gratifying than helping someone else and expecting nothing in return.  Open your heart to the true spirit of the season. 
  • Set up a new tradition.  Get everyone together for something fun and unexpected.  It doesn’t have to be the typical holiday get together.  I mean, how much more unexpected can you get than Black Friday tailgating?

Finally...be prepared.  There are going to be moments (and probably people) that test your sanity.  Maybe there’s that one cousin who always criticizes your wardrobe or choice in a significant other.  Make the decision in advance not to take anything she says too personally and have a few topics ready that you can both agree on...steer the conversation in that direction.  It’s better than mentally envisioning pushing her face into the banana pudding the entire time you’re talking to her.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be as stressful as it was last year.  Just take some time to breathe and make it what you want it to be.

What are some atypical traditions you enjoy most?

Tips for Healthy Holiday Season

That couldn't be right!  Jackie jumped off the scale like she’d seen a spider.  She hates spiders.  The nurse glared at her for a moment, confused, until Jackie stepped back on slowly and waited until the nurse wrote down the number taunting her from the teetering bar.  A number much higher than Jackie had seen before, ever.  The holidays and all that came with them were right around the corner  – Thanksgiving, Christmas, the food, the weight gain.  More weight gain.  She always tried to compensate for by losing weight before the parties and dinners began. 

This year, she was already beyond that. 

This year, she needed a plan.

The truth is, we all need a plan.  The holidays are synonymous with awesome food and an inability to see the inside of a gym until after January 1st.  If you've come to a point that you kind of expect and accept you’re possibly going to gain up to 10 pounds between November and December, you’re not alone.  While the holidays are a time for celebration, that doesn't mean you have to pack on the pounds.  Like Jackie, it’s time for a plan.

Here are some ways you can enjoy the treats you love while maintaining your waistline... and hopefully your sanity.

Hydrate – I know, you’ve heard it 1,000 times.  Drink your water.  (Make that 1,001)  Eight, 8-oz glasses of water daily.  Seriously, you should know this by now.  A handy trick is fill a 64 ounce water jug, daily (or the night before if you prefer it cold) and know finish it by the end of the day.  It’s really kind of simple.

Stock your pantry – Yes.  Yes I am telling you to eat during the holidays.  It’s important to stock your kitchen with healthy foods at this time of year.  You’re going to get your share of peanut butter fudge and sugar cookies at Aunt Peggy’s house (and everywhere else).  So have healthy snacks handy when you can. The more convenient they are, the more likely you are to eat them, and not those chocolate covered pretzels you want to justify to yourself.  But don’t stress yourself about it when you do, just make yourself a deal to eat 3 to 5 servings of veggies each day.  It’s about balance.

Exercise – Sprinting for that last half price iPod while fighting the crowds at the mall probably should count as some form of cardio, but unless you’re going to do it for 30 minutes 3 times a week, it doesn’t.  Your schedule will be very hectic during the holidays, schedule your workouts just as you would any other appointment. It's ok if you can't make it to the gym every day, but make sure that you get some activity in at least three times a week.  iPod sprints optional.

Make, don’t bake – If you’re one of those people who gives goodies you bake to friends and neighbors, first of all...I don’t like you.  I’m kidding, I just can’t cook so I’m jealous.  However, chances are you eat way more of what you bake than you realize.  Who wouldn't?  But instead of spending that time amongst the temptation, make non-food gifts or prepare ingredients for baked goods and put them in those pretty little jars with ribbons and let the recipient do the baking.  That way, less work in the kitchen for you, they can have it when they want it and you don't have to be the official taste-tester.

Just say no – I really want to make an addiction reference here, but I will digress before I begin.  Reality is, you probably don’t have a clue how much extra food you eat just from people offering it to you during the holidays.  A Santa cookie at an office party here, an extra glass of eggnog there and before you can say Ho-Ho-Ho it all adds up...on your waistline.  I’m not telling you to say no to every treat, just think twice before you snag that cookie.  Make sure you really want it...and that the calories that come with it are totally worth it.

Granted, this time of year might not be the time to start a weight loss plan, but it doesn’t have to be a downward spiral for your health either.  It’s okay to have a few treats and enjoy the holiday season, just do so by making conscious decisions and not mindlessly navigating through two months of nibbling only to find yourself jumping off the scales at the end of December like Freddie Krueger just leaped from the linen closet at you.