Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen this picture of a recent lunch that I prepared. It’s pretty simple… A tunafish sandwich made with organic mayonnaise and a little pepper. I served it on reasonably-sized wholegrain bread with sliced organic tomato and avocado. I mention organic and whole grain because I do my best to stick to the tenants of clean eating.
A lot of people who’ve put themselves on strict diets at this time of year are often surprised at the use of mayonnaise or even bread for this lunch. But the fact is, you can take off excess weight while enjoying delicious foods in reasonable portions. Too often, those of us with diet mentalities are nibbling on rice cakes and baby carrots (neither of which is probably in their most natural states, freshness- or additive-wise) and complaining that we’re miserable while doing so.
But guess what? The less miserable we are when eating healthy and getting rid of excess weight, the more likely we are to stick to the plan and not only take the excess weight off, but keep it off. That’s the key, right? We’ve all started diets at this time of year. We’ve all even lost weight at this time of year. But at a certain point we have to ask ourselves, why has this become an annual occurrence?
Why not make this the last time you begin a weight loss plan and, instead, think of it as clean, healthy eating (AKA a food plan you’re never going to have to go off of). And you don’t have to want to go off of it when you allow yourself the simple pleasures of tasty, wholesome, nutritious food. Add exercise, sleeping well and enough water to the mix and you can even enjoy the occasional food-related treats (even the richer ones, just the way “people who don’t have to diet” do).
Balance. Moderation. Satisfaction. Sounds so crazy, it just might work.
Question of the (seasonal) day… Does he (meaning Santa) really know when we’ve been eating?
Whether he does or doesn’t, nothing fills us with holiday dread the way an announcement that ‘There are only a certain number of shopping days until Christmas’ does. Yet, while most folks worry about finding enough time to make their list and check it twice, those of us with a dieter’s mentality fear that the visions of sugarplumbs might lead to the kind of overindulgence that could result in our waistlines (as opposed to the Grinch’s heart) ‘growing three sizes that day.’
But fear not, Little Elves! The holidays do not have to be a recipe for disaster when it comes to staying healthy, keeping fit and looking divine all the way through new year’s eve and beyond. In fact, if you follow these simple tips (which I’ve been asked to share again) as a general rule throughout the next several weeks, you’ll be giving yourself a gift that keeps on giving.
Curb hunger before you dash out the door
Whether attending a holiday party, a special dinner or even a cookie exchange, have a snack before you go. I’m not saying not to eat at the event. But I am saying to arrive without feeling starved so that you’re not tempted to make like a Thanksgiving Turkey and stuff yourself. Healthy pre-event snacks can include 1/4 of a cup of raw cashews or almonds, a piece of fruit or even a few slices of lowfat cheese. Munch on those just before an event and you’ll arrive with socializing on your mind instead of filling up on the wrong foods.
Indulge like a supermodel would
Successfully navigating holiday eating doesn’t mean giving into avoidance or denying yourself your true desires. It means indulging in a healthy and sane fashion. Want it? Taste it. Enjoy it. But stop there. You don’t have to have more than one cookie, more than a few chips or more than one helping of each dish during dinner. Pretend you’re being followed by TMZ cameras (and why shouldn’t you be?) and that you’re showing the world that you can eat anything (in proper portions) and look and feel fabulous at the same time. And by not denying yourself, you’ll be less tempted to cheat when you get home from an event or outing.
Eat, drink and be wary
Don’t forget that those holiday cocktails can be loaded with more calories than the snackaroos. A good general rule for women is to limit themselves to one alcohol drink a day. Men can usually go for two drinks, depending on their individual weight. But drink sensibly — not just because you don’t want to be the one at the party wearing the lampshade, but because you don’t want to be the one in January wearing a moo-moo. (For a holiday cocktail calorie count, click here.)
Home, sweets, home
If you’re someone who’s more tempted to overindulge at home, when in private, then don’t feel like you have to do any holiday baking. Instead, stop by your local store (preferably one like Whole Foods, which is known for using healthier and more natural ingredients) and pick up any baked goods you want to give as a gift. And do so when on the way to an event. This way you not only don’t have to have the baked goods in your home tempting you, but you don’t have to deal with seeing your cabinets stocked with the tempting ingredients (bag o’ chocolate chips be gone!).
Make time to exercise
There are no excuses when it comes to moving your body. It must be done — even if you are running all over town like a renegade reindeer. The trick is to actually do the running – or walking at the very least. If you’re spending an afternoon at the mall, make a few more rounds than you have to, take stairs instead of escalators and park far away (which you’ll probably have to do anyway) in order to enjoy the lengthy walk to and from the mall entrance. And when you can, get your butt to the gym. Or, if you’re truly pressed for time, around the block. Even when incorporating the tips above, you’re likely to still be consuming more calories than you normally would over the next several weeks. So walk like you mean it (suck in that tummy and pump those arms). For 9 ways to exercise at the mall, click here.
Become a track star
By track, I mean tracking! In other words, make sure you keep a food diary during the holidays. Write down everything you consume — even the handful of raw cashews recommended above. Studies show that dieters who keep a food diary are not only more aware of what they’re eating, they’re also more likely to take off and keep off the excess pounds. So when in doubt, write it out. For a handy food diary you can print out and use anytime, click here.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself
While the season at hand obviously introduces some added stress into all of our lives, that doesn’t mean we should make like Ebenezer Scrooge. So take a (mental) load off and be gentle with yourself. We’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to critiquing ourselves. The fact is, even for all the great reasons we have for losing weight, we are good enough and hot enough right in this very moment (you’re being followed by TMZ cameras after all, remember?). So add a little of your own joy to the world — and to yourself – while living through and hopefully enjoying the season at hand.
Photo Source: Pinterest
If you hear a blood curdling scream this week, rest assured that it’s not an extra from The Walking Dead or someone watching a scary movie marathon. That’s me walking near the candy aisle while at the grocery store during this time of year. And like me, many of us with a dieter’s mentality fear the Halloween season with the same kind of dread we do a visit to the dentist or (gulp!) getting on the scale after a weekend of gastronomical debauchery.
But fear not! All Hallows Eve actually has no power over us or our waistlines… Unless we give it said power. And for the record, this is the year we’re taking back Halloween and making it more treat than trick.
For starters, let’s remember we’re talking about a 24-hour period. And guess what? Even if you’re on a diet plan and committed to getting rid of your excess weight, a few pieces of candy eaten in moderation (key word!) is not going to harm you at all—especially if you combine the munching with an extra lap or two around the block (and/or shopping mall if the weather outside is frightful).
As dieters, it’s our denial of foods we love that often leads to excessive bingeing. So if you really want to indulge in some sugary goodness, then choose some well-made candy (meaning it’s full of all-natural ingredients as opposed to a list of additives that would make even a mummy unravel). When I took off over 250 pounds of excess weight over a decade ago, it was through moderation as opposed to starvation or denial. Too often we turn favorite foods into a forbidden fruit that we then become obsessed with eating.
Another tactic that makes Halloween more spook-tacular is focusing on non-food related enjoyment. This is easy given that most people enjoy dressing up. And no, you don’t need a costume party to do so. A lot of workplaces allow employees to dress up for work when Halloween hits on a weekday. Or just throw on a pair of vampire fangs when you’re running your errands to suck up a whole bunch of smiles (if not second glances).
If you need an actual party as an excuse to don a costume, then throw a last minute soirée yourself. Get inventive with the theme: ’80s TV shows? Favorite movie detectives? Inanimate objects? Make October 31st more about the fun than the food. And if you’re throwing the party, you can schedule nutritionally sound games like bobbing for apples or pin the tail on the werewolf.
And believe it or not, actual trick-or-treating can scare away fat itself. Volunteer to go along with a group of neighborhood kids. Or take your own kids to the mall and be willing to make several rounds with them. Kids’ energy is high on Halloween—and not just due to the potential sugar rush. It’s fun to dress up. It’s fun to say “Boo!” And it’s fun to walk and walk and walk. (Remember the rules for even healthier walking: suck that tummy in, pump those arms and maintain a healthy posture.)
Last but not least, go easy on yourself. Even those strange, mythical “I can eat anything I want and not gain weight” creatures (much more unexplainable than zombies if you ask me) will be complaining on November 1st that they overdid it on the candy. The difference between them and us (the ones with a dieter’s mentality) is that they don’t feel compelled to keep eating the candy on the day after Halloween. They did it. They enjoyed it. They regret the extra nibble or two and now they’re moving on, mentally—just like we can do, if we give ourselves that kind of freedom.
Besides, November 1st heralds a whole ‘nother eating holiday’s approach. So it’ll be time to stop thinking about the season of the witch and wondering how we are going to construct a healthy game plan for gobble-gobble day. Although I’m here to tell you that as is the case with Halloween, the only thing to fear is… Well, you know the rest (in peace).
Ever since I was a li’l pumpkin myself, I’ve loved autumn more than any other season. Perhaps because while living in New England as a child, the changing leaves offered a range of beautiful colors. Or maybe it was the crisp Northeast sweater weather (that demanded clothing that hid some of my figure flaws — which I was admittedly concerned about as an extremely overweight kid). Or it could have been that autumn acted as an annual sign that Christmas was on its way. Whichever. Suffice it to say, I consider autumn to be a golden time of year.
Today, living in Los Angeles, there’s not a lot of autumn to be had. Sure, there are a few maple trees (with changing leaves) in Beverly Hills. And every now and then we get a cooler day that requires a sweatshirt in the morning hours (before the temperature gives out to LA’s warm sunshine by noontime). Thus, one must be creative when it comes to feeling like it’s autumn. Some of you may be familiar with warm-weather-autumn drill: plastic fall-leaf wreath hanging on the door, a mini Styrofoam pumpkin or two lying around the house, an autumn-scented candle burning in the evening (even as the air conditioner blows), etc.
Those who know me won’t be surprised that one of my go-to items for a “hit” of autumn is an edible (well, drinkable) one. For years now, I’ve been addicted (potential 12-step-group-addicted) to Pumpkin Spice Lattes (AKA PSL or, as I refer to them, “fall in a cup”). And as someone who once weighed over 450 pounds, I was risking the encouragement of my past food addiction by ordering an extra large size and drinking down every last autumn-y (read: sugary) drop.
I was not only committed to downing this drink throughout the fall season, but virtually every day of the fall season. Needless to say that even before Thanksgiving, the results of this annual endeavor would start to show themselves in the form of tighter jeans and more pronounced love handles. In other words, my love of fall was adding up (calorie-wise) fast.
Thus, one sad day, I decided I had to abandon my love of “fall in a cup” and simply make do with the plastic wreath. But as usual, the denial of something led to the over-consumption of it. It did not matter that I’d lost over 250 pounds of excess weight over a decade before and had kept it off ever since. When it came to “fall in a cup,” I was going down. Or my weight was going up as it were. As usual, denial led to obsession and obsession led to… Well, let’s just say I feel like I have personally funded many of the more recent coffee places that have opened up in my area.
Then I hit upon an amazing, original, highly innovative idea… To treat these magical and seductive Pumpkin Spice Lattes as a treat (yeah, that’s right — categorize them in an appropriate way). I decided I was going to indulge — but was going to do so in a fashion that wouldn’t harm my psyche or extend my waistline.
So I blew out my autumn-scented candle, hopped over the Styrofoam pumpkins, trotted past my plastic wreath, and marched into my nearest coffee joint, where I ordered up a small Pumpkin Spice Latte.
As I pressed the smaller sippy cup-like lid to my lips, I wondered if I’d get the same autumnal rush that I did from lifting the larger size to my mouth. And, to my surprise, I did. The smallest Pumpkin Spice Latte was just as delicious, just as tasty, just as soothing — and offered just as much “fall in a cup” as its giant predecessor had before it. In fact, I didn’t even suck out the last sip like I usually did with the larger size (as if I were Sandra Bullock’s astronaut character in Gravity, trying to get a last gasp of oxygen in space). Instead, I enjoyed most of the drink, decided I was finished and tossed it.
Of course, the next day, I wanted another one. And here’s where I tried out another innovative tactic. “Sure, Gregg… You can have another one… Next week.” Yeah, that’s right. I acknowledged I wanted it, let myself know when I could have it, and then gave myself several days to anticipate it. And when that “lucky day” rolled around, I got another small one and enjoyed every reasonable ounce.
It turns out what I’d always heard was true: Less is more. And I marvel at this fact as much today (at around 175 pounds) as I did when I weighed over 450 pounds. I guess there will always be lessons we can learn and new adaptations we can make (to the way we consume treats) no matter what end of the scale we find ourselves at. And this is good news. Because it means we can treat ourselves, when appropriate — as long as it’s with portions that are equally appropriate.
Now, one should keep in mind that even the small Pumpkin Spice Latte has a bunch of calories in it (even when made with 2 percent low-fat milk, as I have mine made with). But when these approximately 200-300 calories are consumed just once a week (or even less often), they’re not going to hurt your weight loss or weight maintenance plan one bit. Again, it’s all about moderation. This means not denying one’s self as much as it does not overdoing it. (Win-win for “moderation,” y’all.)
At long last, my love of autumn (and devotion to “fall in a cup”) can be celebrated without worry — even here in hot n’ sunny Los Angeles. And this means whatever food or treat obsessions you have can be handled in the same way. Less is more. But not too much less. Get it?
(Feel free to insert your own seasonal “horn of plenty” reference here.)
Photo Source: People Food