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11:59 am - Posted by Gregg

Visiting the farmers market during summer months is always a delight because one of my favorite farmers picks out a watermelon for me to enjoy during the next week. When fresh, crisp and sweet, I find watermelon as enjoyable as a bowl of ice cream. And yes — I still enjoy naturally made ice cream or frozen yogurt from time to time. But I balance those treats out with fresh fruit. And during the summer, I do everything I can to enjoy watermelon for all it’s worth.

Studies have revealed that besides being delicious, watermelon delivers several health benefits, including being an excellent source of Vitamin C as well as a good source of Vitamins A and B6. It also contains the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene, which can help neutralize free radicals and help prevent prostate cancer. Watermelon has been shown to reduce the risk of other types of cancers as well. Plus, its high water content makes it great for hydration. What’s more, it’s a terrific dessert or snack for kids and can help them understand that not every “treat” has to come covered in fudge.

When given the option at the farmers market, I always go for seedless watermelon. I’m not a happy camper if I must interrupt my chewing with spitting seeds into a nearby napkin (even though I suppose it burns a few more calories).

According to produce specialists, Mid-June through mid-August is when watermelon is at its ripest (with July being the most prized month of all). So let’s go watermelon shopping, shall we?

When picking a whole watermelon, size matters since 80% of a watermelon is water. Pick one of the largest you can find, while making sure the exterior doesn’t have any visible cuts, bruising, dents or soft spots. Experts also suggest looking for a yellowish area on the melon’s exterior, which indicates its ripeness after sitting in the sun.

Next, do what you’ve likely seen other shoppers do — knock-knock on the exterior with your knuckle. You’re listening for a slight echo to your knock, which indicates that the fruit is ripe. A dull thud could indicate otherwise.

When preparing watermelon for guests, or myself, I make sure to make the eating experience as relaxed and “special” as possible — therefore I don’t usually serve it in wedges. Giving food a more delectable presentation is something I strive for almost every time I eat. This helps my brain, eyes and other senses know that I’m eating, which helps ‘up’ the enjoyment factor — and, therefore, the satisfaction and fullness factors.

I suggest slicing watermelon into quarters, length wise, then taking a quarter and carefully running a knife along the red center’s outer edge and the whiteness of the rind. Cut all the way around on both sides, so that the whole quarter of the red stuff could slip out. But don’t slip it out just yet. Next, cut the fruit from side to side, on both exposed sides of the quarter. Finally, cut across your long slices, from left to right, leaving about 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch between each slice.

Next, slide your perfectly prepared chunks into serving bowls. But before you serve the fruit, put the bowls into the freezer for 5-10 minutes to give the fruit an extra kick of crispiness.

When time to serve, pull the bowls from the freezer and serve with a napkin underneath (to keep the bowl from being too chilly to the touch). The watermelon chunks should have a minimal layer of frost that kicks up the flavor and the crunchy quotient, making for a texture-y, sweet and delicious eating experience. (Careful not to keep the chunks in the freezer too long or the pieces will freeze and require a little defrosting before being comfortably edible).

Saving the uneaten portion of the watermelon can be handled two ways — either by “chunking up” the remaining portion and putting it into airtight containers and storing in the fridge; or wrapping up the other half or quarters (rind and all) in cellophane wrap and then wrapping them in an additional plastic bag before putting into the fridge (to avoid having to clean up leaked watermelon juice at a later time). Plan on consuming the leftover fruit sooner rather than later to enjoy it at its freshest.

Watermelon. When enjoyed at its peak, it can kick ice cream’s butt anytime. Or, at the very least, tie it in deliciousness.

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8:35 pm - Posted by Gregg

finding-joy-juststopeatingsomuch-com

Admit it… As the Christmas holiday approaches, are you more “Oh, no!” than “Ho! Ho! Ho!?”

Even if you don’t have your car radio tuned into one of those Lite FM stations that play nothing but Christmas music during this time of year, you’re still likely to hear the carol “Joy to the World” at least a few times during the holiday season. It’s definitely a festive song with a happy message. But next time you hear it, I suggest changing the lyrics a little in your head. Instead of “Joy to the world,” think “Joy to yourself.”

Now, I realize this might seem like a selfish take on things. But when you find (and declare) joy within yourself, you’ll then actually be bringing joy to the world.

I don’t have to remind you that there seem to be so many challenges going on right now. Whether getting your news from the internet, from television or from a newspaper (whatever that is), we are all bombarded with reasons to not find any joy in the world — much less within ourselves. We then often use these happenings as reasons to live life without any joy. This kind of attitude can adversely affect our lives in so many ways — whether by having a shorter fuse with people we care about, cheating on our diets, slacking off when it comes to our to-do list or simply keeping the faith that life is innately good and there are real miracles happening around us (even despite some of the recent disturbing — and tragic — headlines). These are all reasons why now (today — this very moment) is an important time to declare ourselves vehicles of joy and then use that joy to help light up everyone else’s lives.

Finding joy within ourselves (and being determined to do so no matter what the scale says we weigh, how our jeans fit, what’s going on around us or what’s happening in the world) really can help to make the world a better place. We can’t necessarily change other people around us or other people we read about. But we can lead by example.

One of my favorite motivational speakers, Byron Katie, often writes and speaks about “Saving yourself first.” In other words, if you’re not okay, how can anyone you care about be made okay by you? She likens this to being on an airplane, when the flight attendants are giving their safety speech. They remind us that should the oxygen masks drop down from above, we should put one on ourselves before helping a child or someone else in need put on theirs. In other words, if we don’t get the oxygen into our system, how can we help anyone else if we pass out due to lack of oxygen? Make sense? We really do have to save ourselves (and ensure our own lives are joyful) before we can effect change in anyone else — much less the world around us.

Declaring joy within ourselves doesn’t necessarily mean walking around wearing rose-colored glasses, oblivious to what’s going on around us or in the world. But it can mean looking for the good in every situation, counting our blessings and embracing an attitude of gratitude. Only then can we approach life (and any of its challenges) with an open heart. By strengthening our “joy muscle,” we can be better in any situation we’re facing. Whether one involving a high stakes challenge or even when seeing the scale go up a couple pounds (which, for many of us, is a high stakes challenge in itself).

So next time you hear the lyrics to “Joy to the world,” please remember that you are the world. You reflect the world. You create your world. And, most importantly, you affect your world.

By finding as much good (and joy) as we can in the everyday, our attitudes will start to shift, our goals will start to fall into place (not to mention be met) and we will finally begin to be the change in the world that we all want to see.

This holiday season, I wish you days, weeks, months and years that are all full of joy. The very joy that you deserve.

Photo Source: Eat Live Glow

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10:30 am - Posted by Gregg

Diets and Thanksgiving JustStopEatingSoMuch.com

Nothing strikes terror in the minds of those of us with dieting mentalities like Thanksgiving (the granddaddy of all eating holidays). But this can be the year we take back control and do away with the fear. How? By staying in control (you are stronger than Pumpkin Pie, after all). And also by exercising your newfound knowledge regarding the difference between a Splurge Meal and a Binge.

In the book Just Stop Eating So Much!, I write about Splurge Meal options when you get close to or reach your goal weight. Yes, at a Splurge Meal you can enjoy your favorite foods and beverages – but you’re encouraged to do it within reason (paying attention to portion sizes and pushing the plate away before the waistline of your jeans starts cutting off circulation to the upper half of your body).

The trick is to really enjoy a meal – not an entire day (or weekend, week, month or season) of splurging. Because when continuing to eat after the one meal, splurging becomes bingeing – and that leads to disaster for both your mental and physical health.

But here’s the good news! This Thanksgiving, whether you’re at, near – or far from – your goal weight, you have permission to enjoy a Splurge Meal. If you just enjoy the one Thanksgiving meal and eat and drink according to healthier food and portion guidelines for the rest of the holiday weekend, you won’t hurt your efforts to look and feel great.

And when it comes to splurging on Thanksgiving dinner, try and make sure you enjoy all aspects of it and don’t make it about eating as many sweet potatoes as you can, since you know you’re back to your commitment to eating healthier resumes right after the meal is over. Instead, really taste the food with each bite. Savor every morsel – and enjoy all of the different the flavor sensations – while also enjoying the people you’re dining with and listing the reasons you’re thankful in your head.

So this Turkey Day, eat, drink and be merry – all without guilt. But don’t be a glutton. Stop before you’re too full and don’t mourn not being able to have a turkey sandwich later. After all, your weight loss efforts are a choice. You are choosing to get healthy, to look better, to fit into your skinny jeans and to turn a few heads by Christmastime.

By successfully living through an “eating holiday,” you will prove once and for all that this time you’re really in control. And that’s definitely cause for celebration!

Photo Source: Pinterest

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10:11 am - Posted by Gregg

I love sharing my popular recipe for turkey chili at this time of year because it’s the perfect meal (lunch or dinner) to accompany winter weather. That being said, I usually make it during the summer months, too (it really is that good and that good for you). But let’s stick to one season at a time, shall we?

When people who meet me today find out I used to tip the scale at over 450 pounds, they want to know how I lost all the excess weight. Many are disappointed when I let them know I did it the old fashioned way (through diet and exercise) — as opposed to using a magic wand. But if I had to assign the ‘magic wand’ moniker to one of the tools I used to get healthy, it would be to this flavorful chunky turkey chili recipe, which is easy to make and freezes really well. This recipe also thaws and reheats (microwaves!) beautifully. So I always make a huge batch. Check it out:

Gregg’s Chunky Turkey Chili Recipe

Ingredients (in order of use)
5 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
3 White onions, peeled & chopped
2 (two) 7 oz. cans of diced green chilies (mild or hot – your choice)
3 tbsp. fresh garlic, chopped (can also used jarred, but without added oil)
4 tbsp. chili powder (more if you dare)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (more if you dare)
2+ lbs. lowfat ground turkey
1 (one) 6 lb., 6 oz. can (or several cans that equal the same) of ready cut diced tomatoes (in their own juice, no added sodium if available)
4 large bell peppers, chopped

Directions
In a large pot (the bigger the better), add the olive oil and chopped onions. Cover and cook over medium heat for several minutes (until the onions begin to soften).

Next, add the garlic, chili powder and cumin. Mix it up and then add both cans (liquid and all) of the diced green chilies to the diced onion. Cook covered, over medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Next, add the ground turkey — making sure to mix all of the meat into the mixture while keeping the turkey from “clumping” together (work to break it up into loose pieces/bits). Continue to cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (and de-clumping the turkey when necessary).

Once the turkey is cooked through, add the canned tomatoes and chopped bell peppers, mix thoroughly, then cover and cook on high heat until the contents reach a boil. As soon as you see that your mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to LOW and cook for about 20 minutes more so all the flavors mix together and blend to perfection.

Makes approximately 18 servings

Add a small green salad with carrot shavings and balsamic vinegar along with two to three multigrain crackers to create a complete meal.

After preparing this big batch of chili, I divide it into portion sizes (usually two per storage container) and then, after the containers cool off, stick them in the freezer. After a day or so of thawing (in the fridge) you can zap it in the microwave for a quick, delicious dinner anytime during the week. (You can even store single size portions and take the chili to work for an easy and delicious, microwavable lunch!)

It should be noted that this stuff is so good that you can even serve it to your friends who aren’t on a diet. (Trust me — they’ll never know they’re eating something super healthy.) I’ve even made a big batch of this recipe as a dip for parties and served it with multigrain chips along with light sour cream and cheese on the side.

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December 31, 2015

New year, new you

1:31 pm - Posted by Gregg

Here we are again… At the beginning of a brand new year. The dawn of the many promises we make to ourselves — the same promises we sometimes end up breaking.

If you’re like me, breaking promises you’ve made to yourself is a typical scenario for the month of January (not to mention sometimes for the first Monday of every week as well). After a number of years of making — and breaking – promises to myself (like the promise that I was finallygoing to lose my excess weight), I found that not only was I tipping the scales at more than 450 pounds, but I had also developed a very unhealthy self-loathing. This is when I realized that perhaps the fewer promises (or resolutions) I made for the new year, the better.

Back in the day, when I was wearing (out) a 60-inch belt, I would spend most of December telling everyone (even strangers) what I planned to accomplish in the new year. Not only was I going to achieve world peace, I was also going to get skinny, be a better person, stop slouching, always pause to pet small animals and help every old lady I encountered cross the street (whether she wanted to cross the street or not).

But come New Year’s Day (often as early as 12:01 a.m.), when I realized that all of these giant goals I set for myself weren’t instantly attainable, I would start to work against them with reckless abandon — carton of fried orange chicken in one hand, bowl of ice cream in the other (and a silly straw leading from my lips to a can of diet soda for added emphasis). I felt like everyone was watching and judging me — especially since I had just spent so much time trumpeting the positive changes I was going to instantly make. So I would subconsciously do everything I could to overtly break said promises (aka goals or resolutions) in order to give people something to judge (true story!).

Then, one year, I approached the concept of goal setting and making resolutions a little differently. Sure, some of my goals were still lofty, but others were smaller and more easily attainable. Instead of giving up ice cream for the rest of my life, I decided to give it up after just one single meal (and see how that felt). Instead of committing to never eating junk food again, I opted to have more salads to balance the junk food out. And when it came to transforming myself into a supermodel, I decided that could happen instantly.Poof! I was a supermodel. Granted, I was a plus-sized one, but still…

To my surprise, this smaller, quieter way of goal setting actually began to work — mainly because I’d broken the cycle of guilt that I’d always set into play by telling anyone who’d listen all the goals I was going to accomplish at the beginning of each year. By keeping quiet, I didn’t feel compelled to check in with people (or worse, explain to them why a goal hadn’t yet been met). Without this cycle of shame, I found my goals actually had a chance to gain more traction.

And no, accomplishing these latest sets of goals wasn’t instant. Nor did changes take place overnight. In fact, one year I set out to lose all of my excess weight and began the month of January with fierce determination. Turns out, that month wasn’t going to be the kick start that I’d hoped it would be. But because I hadn’t shouted this goal from the highest mountain top, I didn’t carry around as much shame when not attaining the goal right away. This goal was between me and my psyche. And, to my surprise, this goal did start to gain momentum in March of that same year. By the following March (a year later), I had dropped more than 250 pounds of excess weight (in a sane and healthy fashion). And this healthier weight was attained through smaller, quieter goals — all approached one step (not to mention one breath) at a time.

So as you design your vision of what 2016 will hold for you, your life and your health, remember to take it slow, keep it simple and (perhaps) keep it quiet (between you and the universe). Much like that carton of fried orange chicken and the bowl of ice cream I mentioned earlier, sometimes less really is more.

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