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Binge Watching Without Binging

10 Jun
Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this weekend for what seems like forever. “Orange Is the New Black” comes back on Friday. For the past two years, I hole myself up in my apartment with a several bags of popcorn, a bottle (or three) of wine and my Apple TV remote to catch up with the ladies of Litchfield.

No more, I say. Oh, I’ll be holed up in my apartment. But this time I plan to not overindulge myself.

Netflix has been a beast with its programming. From “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to “Grace and Frankie,” I’ve watched wonderful women do extraordinary things on television, all while watching my waistline expand over a couple of days.

I’ve only recently figured out the trick. Here’s how to get through your binge-watching weekend without becoming a gluttonous mass.

1. Prepare your snacks early. You’ve known OINTB was coming back for months now. You’ve got a day to prepare. Go to the store and slice up your fruit, get your lightly salted popcorn ready, and have plenty of water. You’re going to need to stay hydrated for this.

Don't stay cooped up in the house. Courtesy of Tumblr

Don’t stay cooped up in the house.
Courtesy of Tumblr

2. You will need to get some air. Around episode 4 is when the “Oh, shit!” moment happens. I promise you’ll be OK. But you’re going to need a breather to prepare for the remaining nine hours of television that await you. Go for a walk. Get the blood pumping. If the blood is pumping, that means you’ll be more alert for the next “Oh shit!” moment.

3. Do a check up. By episode 7 or 8, another emotionally draining event has occurred. You know you’re not the only one watching the show, so call and check up on a friend or family member who has also dedicated their weekend to Netflix. Walk around your home while you chat. Again: blood flow increases awareness. You’re doing yourself and Netflix a world of good.

4. Prepare an actual meal. While apple slices, popcorn and veggies and hummus are great, they will not fulfill all of your nutritional needs. You’re going to need to check some items off of the food pyramid before you finish the season. On your shopping trip for item 1, make sure you grab some things for later (items for a salad, some grilled chicken, some roasted veggies). Take a break from the show to prepare something delicious. It will take your mind off of tampon sandwiches.

5. Take another walk. By now, you’ve finished the season. Good for you. I hope you enjoyed it. Celebrate with some more fresh air. Take a couple of laps around your block and enjoy the freedom that many of your favorite characters will never see.

How do you stay on track during a binge-watching session? What are your go-to binge-watching snacks?

But Did you Die?

27 Mar

People are different. They respond differently to various forms of stimuli. What tickles one person could just annoy another. Some people love cilantro and others would rather eat a bar of soap that eat something that tastes like a bar of soap. Still there are those who need gentle words of encouragement while others need a good swift kick to the butt.

I’m the latter. I respond better to harsh truths than beating around the bush. Which is why a text from my friend a few weeks ago helped put things into perspective.

The Climb to the Top was not easy. I didn’t train for it (my fault), and I didn’t  research it (my fault again). I was dreading that day. But I’d signed up and paid my registration (plus plopped down quite a bit of cash for the donation requirement), so I had to do it. Once I got to the top and was able to breathe non-recirculated air, I started to feel more like myself. I posted finish photos to FB and the ‘gram and got quite a few likes (thanks peeps).

Later that day, I texted my friend who is a marathoner. She congratulated me, but I tried to shrug off the achievement with how bad I was feeling. This was her response.


“But did you die?”

Well, no. I guess I didn’t. I was able to breathe properly again after the race was over. I was able to do more activities, like Cycle for Survival and a solidarity run for the NYC half. I’ve been working out consistently for the past few weeks as well as making my own meals.

So as hard as the task seemed at the time, and even afterward when I couldn’t believe that I’d climbed 66 flights of stairs, it was over. I lived another day to try something else new.

Fear is a constant on your weight-loss journey. You’ll second-guess yourself a lot, especially when trying something new. Going vegetarian for a while, hitting up the pool or even signing up for a race will all give you a bad case of the dreads.

“What was I thinking?”

“Will I be able to finish?”

“Am I strong enough to commit to this?”

Once the newness wears off and you get to the other side of it, it’s not uncommon to short-change your achievement. You can become complacent with what you’ve done. The shock has worn off. The worst part is over, but all you can do is focus on the worst part.

When I neared goal weight, I got a lot of compliments and pats on the back for what I’d done. But it seemed off to me because I wasn’t doing this for anyone’s approval but my own. I’d stress over and over how hard it was, how there were so many times I wanted to give up and with a pack of donuts and a glass of wine.

That’s all true, but I didn’t die. I did your best, came out the other side having accomplished your goals, and now it’s on to the next challenge. The same goes for you, too.

Don’t let the agony of the activity cloud the joy you should feel for finishing it. You did it. And you didn’t die.

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

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.


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?

Competitive Nature

27 Oct
Hey Royals, more of this please (Giants must lose)...

Hey Royals, more of this please (Giants must lose)…

It’s October again, which would usually mean my hometown team, the St. Louis Cardinals, are in the playoffs. While I prefer repping my red hat, hoodie and T-shirt this time of year, I’m going to cheer for the cross-state Royals in hopes they demolish the Giants (I’m not bitter).

The Giants played good baseball and knocked the Red Birds out of World Series contention…again. San Francisco did this to us before in 2012. Not since 1985 has the buzz in Kansas City been this loud about the chances of the Royals taking another championship. Honestly, I’ve never cared one way or the other about the Royals (sorry, K.C. peeps) because I grew up with a winning team (still not bitter). However, I just really don’t want the Giants to win.

October—and the World Series—brings with it the thrill of competition, which can be a great motivator. A year ago, baseball fans would have laughed you down the street if you’d mentioned the “Kansas City Royals” and “World Series” in the same sentence. But that team competed with some of the best in the league, making it to the big dance as a wild card pick (so did the Giants, but I need them to lose). They had to compete with the city’s memory of failed teams and then with a baseball fanbase who couldn’t find Kansas City on a map. But they made it because they have consistently challenged themselves to do better.

I never really considered myself that competitive. I didn’t play sports as a kid, which was how I always associated competition. I was, however, a good student. I wanted to get good grades, so in retrospect I was in competition with myself. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized it’s not so much winning that I want, I just don’t want to lose. For me, failure really is not an option.

That’s why when I tipped the scales at 200-plus pounds a few years ago, I knew something had to change. I was losing a battle with my health. Just like in school when I had to work hard to get my desired grade, I would have to work hard to get my desired weight.

Competition comes from challenging yourself to do better than the last time. Working out with friends and family can help you achieve that. Having someone hold you accountable to your goals and your past behavior will keep you on the right track. No one likes to hear about the many ways they’ve failed to do what they’ve set out to do.

Whether they knew it or not, my friends and family held me accountable to my own goals. When I was living in Atlanta, all I wanted was to move to New York. Every time I’d settled into complacency, I’d get a phone call from a loved one (particularly my dad) asking how my plans were going to get to New York. It was just the reminder I needed that I was still competing for my goals.

When I started on my weight-loss journey, I didn’t tell many people what I was doing. I didn’t want to be held accountable to something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish. But others notice the change before you do. When friends and family would comment on my progress, I began to see it myself. I started to wonder how far I could go. I began to compete with my past self. Two-hundred-pound Cicely wasn’t able to run three miles in 45 minutes, but 175-pound Cicely could. If a smaller Cicely could do that much, how much could an even smaller Cicely do?

Challenging myself to do more became not only important, but thrilling. I wanted to shape and mold myself into someone who could do more than she did before. It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve fallen into the pit of self-sabotage once or 12 times. I’ve gotten defeated by not being able to do something I thought I was capable of doing. For that, I allowed myself a few moments of self pity. Then I began to find ways to achieve my goal.

The Kansas City Royals are now down 3-2 in a tough seven-game series. Last night’s loss had to sting. But the Royals are not out. They’ve got another chance to tie up the series tomorrow at home. It’s intense competition, but they will #BeRoyal as long as they challenge themselves to do better.

How do you compete with yourself to do better? Who are you rooting for in the World Series (not the Giants)?

UPDATE: Also, sadly, the St. Louis Cardinals lost outfielder Oscar Tavares in a car accident over the weekend. He was a great player and condolences to both his family and the family of his girlfriend, who also died in the crash.

Gif courtesy of Tumblr