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Winter Advisory Meal Plan

26 Jan

Winter is no longer coming. It’s here. And according to weather reports, we East Coasters should be on the lookout for White Walkers, direwolves and giants.

By this evening an insane amount of snow is expected to blanket New York City. I’m not happy about this. I hate the cold. I hate snow. They combine the two things I cannot stand: being cold and wet.

But since Mother Nature is a hater, I have to deal. I’ll go to work today, hopefully come home early (preferably by subway, MTA!) and prepare to hunker down in case I have to work from home tomorrow. But just because Mother Nature has unfriended me and unleashed this hellbeast upon this fair city, it doesn’t mean I’m allowed to slack off.

The first thing anyone should do in case this kind of nonsense threatens your town is ensure you have provisions. Not everyone is lucky enough to live across the street from the grocery store. But it’s going to be so cold that those cashiers won’t see me for days. Instead, I’ve put together a few food ideas for you to prepare as you (and possibly winter boo) prepare for Winter Storm Juno (the worst name ever).

Breakfast: It’s the most important meal of the day, you can’t deny it. But your usual cold cereal or cup of yogurt isn’t going to cut it this time around. You’re going to need something hearty to start you off. I suggest a nice bowl of oatmeal. It is, after all, national oatmeal month. Celebrate with a cup of warm goodness flavored with frozen berries and a little brown sugar. Or, if yogurt isn’t your thing, an egg-white omelette with veggies and a sprinkle of cheese will do the trick to get you started. And don’t forget your coffee (or tea), because it’s cold out there.

Lunch: If you weren’t a fan of them before, now’s the time to make leftovers your best friend. You’re going to need something that travels easily if you have to go to work, or something that’s not going to require a lot of your time if you have to work from home. I’m a fan of chili. I make mine with turkey burger and kidney beans. Be careful of the high amount of sodium, but the fiber and protein work wonders for your system. You’re going to want food that will warm you from the inside out. Also a good look: pasta. Whole wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce is always delicious. Soup is good, too, but it doesn’t travel well. There’s always the risk of spillage.

Dinner: Now’s the time to have some fun with your meal. If you’ve already prepared the night before with your soup, pasta or chili, tonight you can make another good, hot meal. For me, it’s all about comfort food in these situations. That’s when I bust out my mini-meatloaves and macaroni and cheese with sauteed or roasted veggies.

Snacks and desserts: Now that you’ve warmed yourself up with your regular meals, a few cold treats won’t hurt you. In preparation for the whiteout to come, I’ve sliced up some red, yellow and orange peppers for hummus dipping. I also picked up some Goldfish crackers and will do my best not to devour them in a day. As for my sweets, I’ve got some applesauce cups and bought some snack size Haagen Dazs ice-cream bars. I know how bad I am when it comes to my sweet treats, so hopefully Mother Nature will stop hating and melt this snow quickly.

What are you doing to prepare for winter wonderland? Whatever it is, be safe and drink wine.

The Workout Nanny

7 Jan
This'll be me and Willa...one day.

This’ll be me and Willa…one day.
photo courtesy of Tumblr

Not too long ago, I was scrolling through my TimeHop. For those of you out of the loop, TimeHop is an app that lets you know what you were doing in social media that day going back a few years. One of the posts that came up was from Facebook where I thanked a friend for dragging me to the gym even though I had a bad case of the “I-don’t-wannas.”

I get the “I-don’t-wannas” from time to time, but they really get aggravated around this time of year. In case you haven’t been paying attention: I HATE the cold. Right now it’s 20 degrees and the low tomorrow is expected to reach of sweltering 7. Seven!! Nothing turns me into a hermit more than single-digit temps.

That’s why I’m glad to have friends like Willa. We both get lazy about working out. Fortunately for us, it’s rarely at the same time. So when I don’t feel like it, she’ll make me go and vice versa.

After you’ve reached your goal weight, the hardest part will be to maintain. Ice cream sundaes don’t seem so intimidating anymore. The Five Guys ultimate of burger, fries and a soda tends to look like a good idea more and more. And huddling up near the heater during one of the coldest days of the year is way more inviting than going outside wet from sweating it out at the gym.

It’s times like this you need a workout nanny. The New York Times recently ran an article about SIN Workouts, which offers to be your workout concierge.

SIN employees can turn up at 5 a.m. with coffee and an organic banana to rouse clients and stand sentry while they get dressed ($100), provide car service ($25, plus the cost of the ride), arrange for freshly laundered clothes to be waiting at the Barry’s Bootcamp studio ($25), or courier over a favorite green juice ($25).

During the winter months, this isn’t such a bad idea. It’s so hard to find motivation to leave the house when it’s cold. But instead of paying hundreds of dollars to have someone convince me to go, I just look to Willa.

Until then, this is us.

Until then, this is us.

Having a workout concierge/nanny/buddy sometimes can be all the difference between maintaining your weight loss or not. Until the temperatures dropped, you were on a roll. Now it’s cold outside and all you eat are rolls. If cuffing season didn’t work out for you, your friendly motivator will have to do the trick.

I’ve discussed before about how the weight-loss journey is a solo one. It always will be because no one can live a healthy lifestyle for you. But everyone needs cheerleaders. Everyone needs someone who will not take your excuses for having a bad case of the “I-don’t-wannas” or “it’s too cold” or whatever else you came up with that morning. Encouragement from a close friend or family member is a necessary item in your toolkit for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

And that was always the goal, wasn’t it? Your weight-loss journey wasn’t some vacation from your regular life. It was a mission to move yourself into another way of living. When you’ve reached your goal, you become an inspiration to those around you. They want to see you continue to do well. So the next time the “I-don’t-wannas” threaten to derail you from your path, talk to your concierge/nanny/buddy. I’m sure they’ve got a few words to help get you moving.

Who do you talk to keep you motivated? Would you ever pay someone to take on the role?

Lil Something Extra

15 Dec
Yummers!

I never expected to like this stuff. Surprise!

Surprises are the spice of life. They’re what keep us looking forward to the next day. You expect to get to work and go through your routine. But isn’t it nice when someone surprises your group with cupcakes? You get to the store with list in hand. It’s an added bonus when you find out your eight-pack of toilet paper is buy one, get one free.

The same can be said for your weight-loss journey. You set a goal and a plan of action to accomplish it. But you’ll surprise yourself along the way with what you enjoy about the process or the changes to your body that you weren’t expecting.

Talk to any trainer and they’ll tell you the same story: A new client comes in and is asked what their goals are. Usually it’s to lose a couple pounds or to “boost their energy level.” A client who has never had a strict workout regimen rarely admits to wanting a six pack and quads of steel. A good trainer will stifle their laughter because they’ve heard it all before. As professionals, they know that in order to boost their client’s energy and help them lose weight, they’re going to build muscle—the cost benefit the client wasn’t expecting.

For me, it was my love of running. I began my weight-loss journey in much the same way. I had no idea how to shape my body, but I knew I wanted to lose weight. I started by walking, doing about three miles in an hour. Then my pace picked up, but I wanted to fill the hour. So I began running to fill out the time. In the beginning I hated running. I was an asthmatic as a child and it brought back memories of constricted airways. But I learned how to pace my breathing, how to slow down when things got to hard, but still how to keep challenging myself.

Now, running is my main form of exercise. It was, and still is, a surprise to me how much I love it. In the beginning running wasn’t even on the radar. Now I’m scoping out half-marathon opportunities.

I started out just wanting to fit into my clothes, pride keeping me from wanting to go up another dress size. Now my 10s are loose, my 12s are falling off of me and my 14s are hopefully on the body of someone who needs those clothes more than I do.

It wasn’t just the exercise that surprised me. I’m a decent cook, but pastries are my specialty. Anyone who’s seen “Top Chef” knows that pastry chefs tend not to do well when it comes to meals. But a few good cookbooks and some tweaks to family favorites have me itching to get into the kitchen.

Even the foods I don’t prepare myself are a shock. Once upon a time, you couldn’t pay me to eat Greek yogurt. And the non-fat variety? Psssh! Now I can’t get enough of that creamy goodness. Add in some granola and honey, and you’ve got a happy camper.

It’s the things that will surprise you about yourself that push you to see what else you can do. If you like running, experiment with different versions of it. You could run a hiking trail or try sprints. If you’ve just discovered kale, try kale chips or even a warm kale salad.

Use your journey to get to your destination, but also to learn even more about yourself.

What surprised you most about your weight-loss journey?

Enemies and Side Pieces

11 Dec
This is just a misunderstanding. The treadmill is not your enemy, despite this guy's unfortunate incidence. Courtesy of Tumblr

This is just a misunderstanding. The treadmill is not your enemy, despite this guy’s misfortune.
Courtesy of Tumblr

When you’re an able-bodied person who’s not exactly physically fit, one of the hardest mental hurdles you’ll have to jump is realizing that there are things you’re capable of doing. You’ll tell yourself over and over again that walking up stairs gets you out of breath. Parking the car further away seems like a waste of time. Baked chicken is OK, but the winner will always be fried yardbird.

You’ve essentially made exercise your enemy and fattening food your side piece.

It’s easy to see exercise as the enemy. You end up sweating, hurting, aching and, occasionally, smelling. You have to set aside time in the day to physically exert yourself. If exercise hasn’t been a part of your lifestyle in, like, ever, the idea of physical activity could turn you into a rage monster.

“Why do I have to work out in order to lose weight?” you might ask yourself.

The answer is: you don’t. Exercise is an added bonus to the weight-loss process. My homie Dr. Ian Smith said it best:

Imagine owning an expensive sports car that can top speeds of 100 mph and more in just a matter of seconds. Now imagine four flat tires on that shiny red sports car. How fast do you think that car will be able to go now? The engine is fine, the tank is full of gas, and all of the electrical components of the car are like new. But with four flat tires that sports car will move up the road slower than a 10-ton cement truck. This is exactly what it’s like to diet without exercise. You need to have both working together to get the best results.

—Extreme Fat Smash Diet, 2007

Seeing exercise as the enemy can only hold you back. It is a good companion to take with you on your journey. Exercise likes to do the things you like to do. Sure, you enjoy Netflix marathons and naps, but maybe you also enjoy nature. Walking (exercise) can give you a better glimpse of it. Maybe you like lounging on the beach. Swimming (exercise) loves the beach. Or maybe you just really enjoy peace and serenity. Have you met my good friend yoga (exercise)?

Before labeling exercise your enemy, get to know it. Try to understand the activities that work best with your lifestyle and personality. Your enemy can become your best friend when you’re trying to lose the pounds.

Not as good a friend as your current side piece: fattening food. While you and exercise may have a relationship based on misunderstanding, you and and your dietary companion may need to think about a trial separation.

We’ve all taken health class. We’ve all heard our doctors tell us that the pizza, McDonald’s and Popeye’s aren’t doing us any good. But just like Pookie and his crack, it just keeps calling us.

Let me be your sponsor and tell you to let the bad food go. Make dishes like brown rice and sauteed fish your main boo. It’s hard to remain monogamous to the food that’s doing you right when the food that does you wrong is so tempting. But remember that the bad food is a side piece. It knows its place.

It knows that soon you’ll get tired of the runaround and have to choose. And after turning exercise from an enemy into a friend, you won’t want to cheat on your main boo. You’ll want to do right because it feels good to you. There will always be another fast-food restaurant or cream-covered casseroles to tempt you away. It will be on you to make your good-food main boo stick around.

How have you contended with exercise as your enemy? What’s your favorite side piece (mine is Popeye’s)?

Holiday Food Lag

1 Dec
All this and more over the next few weeks...

All this and more over the next few weeks…

Courtesy of Tumblr

Like many people, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving holiday. I ate dinner with my 91-year-old grandfather and 84-year-old grandmother, I baked seven pies and a cobbler (plus a caramel cake), I put away at least a half-pound of the 39 pounds of turkey (three birds) and I got to hang out with my family, most of whom I haven’t seen in a year.

For many, Thanksgiving is just pre-gaming for the Big Show: Christmas. That’s when the real gluttonous activity happens. For me, Christmas is much quieter. For one thing: I have to work that day. For another: I usually spend that evening having dinner at my cousin’s house. It’s all very low-key, especially without the dozens of desserts, so there’s less temptation to shirk my dietary responsibilities.

I like to call it the Holiday Food Lag. It starts with the sugar-and-salt fest of Thanksgiving and ends with the sugar-and-salt fest: part 2 of Christmas. In the middle, there will be end-of-year office parties, friends’ holiday parties, extra cookies, lots of liquor and many a chicken satay coming your way. You’ll be tempted to give up the exercise and dietary plans because what’s the point? Someone’s going to be shoving more sugar-and-salt in your face in a couple days.

It’s easy to see the Holiday Food Lag as a way to just take a month off. There’s so much to do in those four weeks, it can be burdensome to add one more thing to the to-do list. Still, you have to make yourself your No. 1 priority.

Before I began my weight-loss journey, I was still living in Atlanta, where the Chick-fil-As and Waffle Houses were aplenty. Barbecue as far as the eye can see. Publix sandwiches at the ready. And, my personal favorite, a Wendy’s around the corner. Plus, my grandmother cooked big dinners every Sunday. It wasn’t unhealthy, but when Gram makes your favorite of cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese, you don’t say no to second helpings (sounds gross, but that’s because you’ve never had Gram’s cabbage with a side of macaroni and cheese). I would cook occasionally, but most of the time I just didn’t feel like it.

Then the holidays would come (all holidays: Easter, Mother’s Day, Fourth of July, etc.), plus the dozen birthdays throughout the year, and you’ve got plenty of excuses to “get back on track come Monday.” As I’ve said before, there’s no time like the present. These few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are no exception.

Well, this is the time to test your resistance. Can you forgo the third round of champagne? Can you say no the the eighth batch of Christmas cookies brought into the office? Can you get up early to work out to counter all the sliders that will be wafted in front of you that evening? Of course you can. You’re a strong-willed person who knows what’s good for them. And you can even start your resistance training early.

All those desserts from last Thursday are going to go bad if they’re not eaten soon, so take them to work. Freeze some of that turkey to use in a soup for later. If you’re celebrating Christmas, burn some calories by setting up your Christmas decorations. If you plan on spending New Year’s at the beach, now’s the time to make sure your bathing suit still fits. And if you told yourself “I’ll get back on track come Monday,” guess what? It’s Monday.

You’ll be doing the most this season, from shoveling out of blockades of snow to elbowing someone in the face for the latest toy craze. Just don’t neglect yourself and your health in the process.