Archive | November, 2014

Cravings vs. Hunger: Thanksgiving Edition

26 Nov
Last year's dessert table after people had taken hold. Missing are the pies.

Last year’s dessert table after people had taken hold. Missing are the pies.

For the past three months, I’ve had tunnel vision while in beast mode. Sure, I’ve gone out to dinner and drinks a few times. But for the most part, I’ve been sticking to the plan. The 20 pounds I’d gained in the past year are almost gone (*praise hands*). And just in time for Thanksgiving.

I’ve mentioned before about how my family gets down at Thanksgiving. This holiday is not a game to my people. There will be (I believe, I haven’t gotten the menu email yet): three turkeys, two ducks, two hams, two trays of sweet potatoes, two trays of macaroni and cheese, oyster casserole, green bean casserole, corn casserole, greens, rolls and corn bread…at least. And I haven’t even gotten to the dessert table, which will have at least seven pies and four cakes.

I’ve been on my grind recently, preparing my own small meals, eating light and staying active. I’m now in Atlanta where I’m a guest who doesn’t want to crowd her aunt’s already stuffed refrigerators (yes, plural). I’m used to my home where the snacks are few. I’m in Atlanta where my large family keeps snacks in the house because you never know who’s coming by, especially during the holidays.

But most of all, I have to fight the cravings that will trick me into satiating my hunger. The food tomorrow will be plentiful. But I’m going to do my best to stay true the me that’s been kicking ass for the past few months.

1. Leave some white space on the plate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t have to clean your plate. We usually tell the young kids to make a “happy plate” to get them to eat what’s in front of them. It’s different for them because they get distracted by one another and won’t eat, which, of course, is something they must do. For us adults, there’s no need to cover every inch of your plate with food, pile it inches high and take your own advice of making  a happy plate. With all the food we’ll have, there will be plenty to go around if you want seconds.

2. Load up on the veggies. Despite all the casseroles, we’re really good about our veggies. My first stop will be the greens, because I love greens. Like…we have a thing. Add in a cornbread muffin and some hot sauce and I’ll be straight. The green beans, I’m sure, will also be on point. Then the sweet potatoes. If there’s still some room, I’ll take a few slices of dark meat and keep it moving. Keeping up some of the good habits I’ve developed over the past few months will keep me from going overboard.

3. Keep tabs on the bar tab. The wine and liquor will be flowing, I’m sure. Despite my old age of 34, my family still thinks of me as a 15. So my occasional glass of wine is often greeted with a side eye. But after everyone’s had a few, no one notices I’m on my way to killing a bottle. I’ve got to watch that. The fun and merriment tomorrow cannot be greeted by a hangover the following day.

4. Sweetie pie. I know I’ve said I have a thing with hummus, Goldfish crackers and greens. But nothing compares to my love for my grandmother’s peach pie. It is outstanding. The homemade crusts are to die for. The pie filling oozes off the sides. And heated up with some ice cream or whipped cream? You’ve never had perfection until you’ve had one of Beulah Lucille’s pies. I don’t get to Atlanta often, so I have to take advantage of the goodies while they’re available. But my old habit of hoarding the peach pie to myself will come to an end this year. I’ll have a slice or two, but I won’t go face first like it’s a pie-eating contest.

5. Relish the relish dish. We keep appetizers out because my family can’t do anything on time. I make it a habit of arriving hungry to family functions because there will always be an abundance of food. The problem is the food isn’t always ready at the designated time. And I don’t do hunger well. Lucky for me, my aunt keeps the relish dishes out so I can pop some carrots, olives or celery sticks when needed—which is always. Plus, bonus points for the low-cal relish dishes, so I’m not overindulging while waiting for my turkey.

Of course, the best thing about tomorrow will be getting to spend time with my family. I haven’t seen everyone since last Thanksgiving. Being around them will fill me up more than tryptophan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Stress: Not Something to Be Thankful For

24 Nov
Pro tip: Do it early!

Pro tip: Do it early!

Some people thrive off of change. I’m not one of those people. I’m a bit of a control freak who likes to have my ducks in a row and Plans B-Z at the ready should anything go awry.

That’s why the holiday season is both a blessing and a curse for someone like me. This time of year brings on a number of stressors and unforeseen obstacles that you can’t really plan for. Between travel, gifts, loved ones not being there, loved ones there who you wish weren’t and the break from your routine, it’s enough to make you scream. I’d like to be able to role with the punches, but I’d also like to know where they are coming from.

Stress is one of many factors that can derail your weight-loss journey, causing a negative effect on your health. It can cause you to overeat, get headaches and even depression. And no one wants that when there are babies to hold and pie to eat.

I’ll be travelling this year, as I always do for the Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll get to see a lot of family that I haven’t seen in a while and a new addition who I can’t wait to hold (hey, Harper!). The things I can prepare for are already taken care of. While I can’t control who makes the potato salad, here are a few things I’ve done (and you can, too) to alleviate some unwanted pressures.

1. Clean up. Because I’ll be gone for a few days, I cleaned up my apartment before I left. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a slob, especially when I’m in beast mode. But even still, no one wants to return to a messy  home. The stress of getting to and from the airport, rental cars, lugging luggage, etc., is enough to make you want to shoot yourself. Having a clear path from the door to your made-up bed will only make you smile on your return home.

2. Stay hydrated. One of the many benefits of water—besides keeping your internal system flowing—is what it does for you on the plane. Cabin pressure makes the air very dry. And if you’re a nervous  flier, you’ll be tempted to test out the mini bottles of alcohol. Resist temptation. Alcohol only causes further dehydration, which can make you even more uncomfortable on the plane. Drink some water or some hot tea to keep a cool head until the plane lands.

3. Preparation is key. Just like your weight-loss journey, your travel journey won’t take you far unless you’re prepared. Friends can attest that I have a horrible habit of packing my bags in the wee early hours the day of my departure. What can I say? I work best under pressure. But what they don’t know is I’ve already picked up my clothes from the cleaners and separated out what I’m going to take with me while I’m away. The next step is just folding and rolling into the suitcase. I’ll get eight hours of sleep if it kills me.

4. Set aside some me time. I’ll be with at least 30 family members over the course of five days. At some point, I’m going to need to sit in a quiet corner by myself. And that’s OK. I’m introverted; it’s what we introverts do. If the prospect of being in a crowd is too much for you, go for a walk. Take a book to a corner. Pop in your headphones for a few minutes. A little me time will make the “we” time much better.

5. Don’t forget who you were before you left. Beast mode has been really good for the past few months, but now I’ve got to set that aside for a week. That’s fine because we all need time off. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop taking care of myself. I’ll still be mentally check-listing the food that I eat and the activities I’ve done. I’ll set aside a couple of days to go for a run just so I don’t lose that part of myself. And maybe I’ll get a few people to come along with me.

This is the time of year to be thankful, and I’m ever so thankful for my family, friends, health and livelihood.

To Diet or Not to Diet?

21 Nov

…all about striking a balance.

 

To diet or not to diet? That is the question a lot of us on our weight-loss journeys will ask over time.

To get into the shape I’m in now, I have been using the “Extreme Fat Smash Diet” by Dr. Ian Smith. It entails a pretty strict diet. The meals are small, the condiments are few and the salad, beans and veggies are aplenty. There are four small meals a day, each one with a guideline for what you should eat. For example:

Meal 1—one egg, one piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of juice

Meal 2—1 cup of sliced fresh fruit

Meal 3—small salad with 3 tablespoons of low-fat or fat-free dressing

Meal 4—1/2 cup of beans, 2 servings of vegetables

That’s on top of the 55 minutes of cardio you have to do, and that’s only Day 1 of the first week of a three week program. The system I used is not easy and it is not for everyone. But what I’ve loved about it—and why I keep coming back when I feel I need to lose a few extra pounds—is that it taught me how to eat differently.

For most of my adult life, food was a crutch. It made things easier. I used to keep at least two pints of of cookie dough and strawberry ice cream in my freezer, along with chocolate sauce in my fridge. I had a steady rotation of brownie mix and cake mix in my cupboards. And the large box of Xtra Cheddar Goldfish Crackers knew they would have a place in my home.

It’s not so much that I grew up with bad eating habits. We didn’t order out a lot in my home growing up. Both of my parents cooked and taught my brother and me how to boil water and make burgers. It was moreso that I didn’t know there was another way.

Over the years, I’ve learned that my childhood habit of steaming a frozen bag of veggies can still be useful; melting a slice of American cheese over it…not so much. Fried chicken was and forever will be some of the best chicken you’ll ever have. But sauteeing some chicken breasts in onions, peppers and garlic with light salt and pepper will still fill a chicken craving.

Dieting serves a purpose. There are people, like myself, who had no concept of small meals and truly thought holding the fries was enough when ordering at Five Guys. There are others whose systems can’t break down complex carbohydrates as quickly as others and have to cut them out altogether. And still there are others who just don’t know what a healthy diet consists of.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, a diet is not a bad thing. But there is always a need to strike a balance. Sometimes you just want a cookie. Sometimes you’d like to have a burger. Other times you just want that slice of cheesecake after your meal. This isn’t cheating, it’s allowing yourself the freedom to have something else. There’s no rule that you have to have a burger or cheesecake. It is the exception. The rule is that you should be fueling your body with the nutrients you need. The cookies and cakes aren’t necessary, they’re a treat.

To diet or not to diet? I say there’s nothing wrong with it. The diet I’m using isn’t sustainable. It is, however, the perfect tool I need to know how to eat clean. It worked for me because I opened myself to the possibility that what I’d been doing before wouldn’t work with what I wanted to get done.

How do you feel about dieting? Have you learned anything about past eating habits that you eventually changed on your weight-loss journey?

The Outer Limits

19 Nov

Yesterday, all 50 states felt freezing temperatures. Even Hawaii. People in the Aloha State actually had to turn on the heat.

If ever you needed an excuse to stay inside with Winter Boo and make your bed your friend, the Polar Vortex is it. But we all know how I feel about excuses. They are the reasons people use to justify why not.

Why didn’t you go to the gym this morning? Polar Vortex.

Why didn’t you pack your lunch last night? Polar Vortex.

Why didn’t you go for a walk around your heated building to get a little exercise? Polar Vortex.

It can be so simple to while away the days in your home and hibernate. I’ve been tempted myself. But this season only lasts for a little while and before you know it you’re gonna want to put that bathing suit back on. I’ve already offered tips on how to get motivated while the weather is telling you to keep it indoors. But what if you want to take it outside?

I prefer running to any other exercise activity. It’s cheap, it’s quick and it’s ridiculously convenient. The only problem is I hate being cold. To get over that, I’ve challenged myself this winter to break my cold-weather-run rule. I usually refuse to set foot on the running path in temps below 40 degrees. The other day, I broke that rule.

Before I get into that, let me set this up for you: The New York City Marathon was held a few weeks ago. I’m not trained for a marathon, but I still ran that morning to show solidarity with my peeps. It was so damn windy that day. The gusts were so strong I thought for sure I’d be blown into the Hudson River (I have been blown into the side of buildings on gusty days, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility). The gusts actually made it hard for me to breathe, which besides blinking is the only bodily function I enjoy. Yet, I finished my run. I even did a personal best: 9 minutes, 28 seconds per mile. The less-than ideal running conditions gave me the motivation I needed to try my hand at other less-than ideal conditions.

My #OOTD...the other day

My #OOTD…the other day

So this past Sunday, under cloudy skies and 37 degrees, I strapped on my running tee, running jacket, capris and beanie and hit the path for a good four miles. As soon as I started, I hated it (because I hate the effing cold). My tee and jacket both have thumb holes, but my fingers were so cold. I had to constantly flex them to get the blood pumping. The wind wasn’t as strong as on Marathon day, but it was still pretty chilly. After mile 1, though, I started getting in a groove. I had to keep telling myself that this was a short run and it would be over soon. Before I knew it, it was.

It wasn’t as bad as I’d always thought it would be. The air wasn’t as thin as I’d remembered. The cooler temps kept lots of runners away, making the path clear for me and a few others. My main concern was the wind. I didn’t want a repeat of Marathon day when I was gasping for air. What I got was a light breeze that kept me from overheating from too many layers. I really only needed the running jacket. The cold-weather T-shirt just added extra heat that wasn’t necessary.

Most of all, though, I learned that my fear was all in my head. The girl who would never set foot on a path in less-than 40-degree temps was also a girl who had never hit 6.3 miles per hour on a run. She was someone who placed limits on what she could do just because she didn’t want to try much harder. That girl is still the devil on my shoulder, but her voice is getting weaker as time goes on.

I’m glad I accepted my personal challenge to brave the cold. I’m not going to be overly adventurous with the Polar Vortex. That sucker is actually trapping people in their homes. But I will, bit by bit, continue to press myself to expand my limits.

What have you challenged yourself to do just to see if you could?

No Time Like the Present

17 Nov
wine

courtesy of Tumblr


When embarking on your weight-loss journey, there are a multitude of reasons to delay your departure. You need to plan out a schedule; you need to figure out what foods to cook; you need to wait for the Saturn’s fourth moon to align with Jupiter.

Waiting to start is just an excuse, and a flimsy one at that. The second you decide it’s time to take better care of your health, then take better care of your health. At that moment you can make several small adjustments before taking on a serious weight-loss regimen.

1. Pack your own lunch. There is so much sodium and fat in the foods you buy at McDonald’s, Subway or even Chipotle. And we all love Chipotle. But why not just make a salad and take it with you to work? Steam that pack of frozen veggies that have been sitting in your freezer. Dust off that cookbook your mom got you a few years ago and find something quick and light to eat.

2. Go for a walk. Walking is exercise. Depending on how much you do, it can be intense. Take a walking lunch at work. Park your car further away from the entrance so you can take more steps. Take the stairs. You’ll be challenging yourself to do something different. People regret the steps they didn’t take, not the ones they did.

3. Clean out your cabinets. When you’ve decided to take an active role in your health, you should get rid of the temptation to do bad things. Most of those bad things reside in your cabinets. There you will find all the cookies, chips, sodas, juices and all-around unhealthy snacks that have been doing you harm. They’ve got to go. No one likes wasted food, so donate the unopened packages to a food bank. Take the open ones to work. If your co-workers are anything like mine, the cookies and chips will be gone by lunchtime.

4. Don’t order that fourth glass of wine. I’ve often been out with friends when they’ve decided they’ll get back on track come Monday. In the meantime, “Another Long Island Ice Tea, please!” That’s not doing you any good. If you plan to “get back on track come Monday” (whatever that means), why would you set yourself back even further than where you are now? You can order a lighter dish at a restaurant. You can cut back on the alcohol you consume. Come Monday, it won’t be as hard to make the effort.

bugeyes

courtesy of Tumblr

5. Know that your eyes are always bigger than your stomach. As I said before, you don’t have to clear your plate. A lot of restaurants give you way too much food. The stomach isn’t that big. And if you go to a restaurant hungry—or my personal favorite, your grandmother’s house—you’re setting yourself up to overeat. Divide the items on your plate, putting half in a to-go container. Drink some water. If you’re still hungry 15 minutes later, by all means keep eating. But don’t feel obligated to eat everything that’s placed before you. That’s why we have refrigerators and Tupperware.

Now’s as good a time as any to take action on your health. Waiting until Monday just gives you more time to come up with excuses to delay your plan. These little steps will help you move forward while you figure out a plan of action.

What small steps do you take to take control of your health?