Archive for the ‘Mood’ Category
Can Christmas movies be as addicting as holiday foods?
It turns out Red and Green might actually be the new Black. Over the past several years, watching TV Christmas movies has become less of a pastime and more of an obsession for many of us. Why else would television destinations like Hallmark Channel be producing over 40 new holiday-themed movies this year—even during the pandemic, which has made it much tougher to produce these movies (many of which began airing before Halloween)?
Even pre Covid-19, Christmas movies had become a soothing “visual white noise” to many. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies have become such a cottage industry that other cable channels including Lifetime and Freeform have followed suit. Lifetime will premier 30 new Christmas movies this year while Freeform will continue with its annual 25 Days of Christmas viewing schedule.
As the life-altering effects of quarantining due to the coronavirus became a reality in the early spring, many people began making social media posts about displaying their Christmas decorations early (or leaving them out all year). There is definitely a familiarity about the Christmas season (no matter what date the calendar says it is) that seems to tame the savage beast—even for those who aren’t necessarily religious. In fact, Hallmark Channel began airing Christmas movies weekly beginning in the spring as a way to appease the demand of its yuletide-loving audience in need of a salve for the realities of the “new (hopefully temporary) normal.” Not to mention holiday movies are more often than not a form of entertainment the entire family can watch together.
While some are quick to pass such holiday offerings off as “fluff” and a recent call for more diversity in the lead characters in these types of movies is rightfully being addressed by the networks, there is a reason so many of these television movies resonate with their viewers and are watched again and again (even during Hallmark Channel’s “Christmas in July” presentation, which lasts for several weeks during the summer). Amidst the now-familiar stories of two lead characters “meeting cute” and then “accidentally falling in love” as they join forces to take on various Christmas traditions like decorating trees, making cookies and attending, participating in or even saving Christmas pageants, there can be genuine heart to be found—along with subtle and not-so-subtle reminders that there is joy waiting to be rediscovered in the everyday (even if it’s every day during the month of December).
For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that as a screenwriter, I myself have helped to propel this seasonal phenomenon with a 2016 movie I wrote, the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of A Heavenly Christmas, which starred Kristin Davis, Eric McCormack and Shirley MacLaine. When pitching the initial concept of a newbie Christmas Angel who doesn’t know much about Christmas to the network, I hadn’t prepared much else beyond the logline. To my surprise they responded enthusiastically and soon I was constructing the story of a wayward angel who learns about herself and her own shortcomings while trying to help an earth-bound potential love interest discover his.
When writing A Heavenly Christmas, my mother-in-law, Becky, was waging a brave battle against bone cancer. So I decided that she would inspire the inciting incident in the movie’s proceedings and created a character named Becky that Max, the male lead, lost in an accident (thus upending his music career and lust for life even as he was saddled with raising his sister Becky’s daughter). Enter overworked Eve, an expert on pretty much everything—except matters of the heart. When Eve takes a spill on ice that lands her in heaven, she’s quickly re-routed to earth where she must help Max rediscover his love of music, recommit to living and save his relationship with his niece (whose grandparents wanted her to relocate with them).
It’s all pretty familiar, right? And happily so. But by weaving my real-life experience of losing my own Becky into the story, I was able to add a layer of heart that permeates all the surface-y goings on. And at the end of the movie (spoiler alert!), as Eve and Max have both healed themselves and even fallen in love (despite that having been against the rules for Christmas Angels), we find out that it was the now-angelic Becky who put all of this into play in order to ensure her brother’s and her daughter’s lasting happiness after her departure.
While most people watching A Heavenly Christmas, which I’m honored to report shattered ratings records on the channel, don’t know who the character of Becky is based on, the story still resonates. Many watching have their own “Becky story” in their lives. And for others, a reminder to rediscover the magic of falling snow or the memory of a first kiss can also be enough to help them get through another day.
So as we all face various battles, the unknown of the continuing pandemic and the ups and downs of life, we have Christmas movies to turn to for momentary respites amidst the chaos. Suffice it to say, our love of Christmas movies (whether year-round or simply seasonal) calls to mind the brilliant summation from the editors of New York’s Sun Times on September 21, 1897 when responding to an 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s heartfelt query, “No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.” And so it seems will be true of all the feels we get from Christmas movies as well.
There is a lone Chorisia Speciosa Floss-Silk Tree in my neighborhood that blooms only once a year. This is a tree I regularly pass when walking my dog, Latte. While early autumn results in brilliant flowers on the tree, it remains dormant and bare throughout the rest of the year.
I remember this past winter, walking by the tree’s stark, empty branches just days after my husband had abruptly lost his job. We were crushed, scared, and unsure of how things would right themselves — and not yet knowing that the coronavirus pandemic was around the corner, which would add even more challenge to the job hunt we were already facing.
And so on that chilly January day, I stood before the tree and took note of its bare, lifeless branches—no blooms to behold. Since I was beset with upsetting news, I decided the tree looked too lifeless, too baron to ever blossom again. I then remembered thinking that every year around this time I’d decided the tree wouldn’t bloom again even though I’d walked past it enough autumns to see that its flowers always returned on the regular.
After a moment, while standing there with Latte on that cold winter day, I took a deep breath and assured myself, “When this tree flowers again, a lot will have changed and this current state of dread will be behind us.” In other words, I gently reminded myself that there was reason for hope. Time would go by. Life would go on. And (hopefully) positive changes would occur. The tree would bloom again. . . and so would our household, job-wise.
As this current autumn returns and the tree has once again brought forth brilliant flowers, change has occurred. My husband now has a job that he’s really enjoying, miraculously secured during the days of the pandemic. Of course, other changes have come our way as well, not all of them stellar or necessarily welcomed. But here these flowers are—reminding us that change is constant. And so is hope.
Too often we get caught up in the emotions and panic that come with sudden bad news or a switch in circumstances we weren’t expecting or flat out didn’t want. When people tell us that with time the change might prove to be for the best, we sometimes want to plug our ears and ignore them. The fear, pain, and unknowing are all too real. But time does march on, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Of course, time doesn’t always proceed at the pace we might desire, especially when in the throes of what seems like a dire situation. And we sometimes need to be careful to not react in a way that reveals more of our angst than it does our acceptance of the volatile situation at hand.
Sometimes the unknown can offer more stress and fear than a particular situation we have to face or tackle. During these days of quarantining and locking down, none of us can be sure where different aspects of society are headed.
Similarly, even good news or current states of joy can be fleeting. Another reminder to stay present, soak in “What is,” and know that everything is evolving and that change is not only constant but imminent.
This is where taking some deep breaths and encouraging our own mindfulness comes in. If you don’t have a meditation practice, this might be a helpful time to begin one. The less we deny what’s going on and the more acceptance we embody, the sooner we can allow life to go on, which can lead to new and, perhaps, unexpected options.
But we needn’t rely entirely on our own psyche. Challenging situations and times offer a chance to look for guidance from nature, which can include a very unique tree that we think might never bloom again.
The gorgeous, once-a-year flowers on the Chorisia Speciosa do return. They remind us that life is a cycle. And that if we stay present while remembering change is coming, we—even if currently dormant in our own way—will also surely bloom again. And brilliantly at that.
Like it or not, Thanksgiving (AKA the granddaddy of all eating holidays) is upon us. But 2019 is going to be different. Why? Because this year, you’re staying in control (you are stronger than Pumpkin Pie, after all). And you’re also going to exercise 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 becomesbingeing – 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!
Image Source: POPSUGAR.
The big question
When people learn that I used to weigh over 450 pounds and not only dropped the excess weight, but also have kept it off for almost two decades, they have questions. Lots and lots of questions.
These questions only increase when people find out that I had been overweight most of my childhood and young adult years before finally getting rid of the excess weight. And the questions multiply from there when they hear that I took the weight off without surgery, pills or fad dieting.
The trouble is, after many of these people ask their questions, they’re not very happy with my answers.
Despite wanting to lose weight in order to feel, look and be healthier, people often don’t want to hear the hard truths: To successfully lose weight you need to reduce you calorie intake, eat healthier (cleaner, less processed) foods, exercise more (burn more calories than you’re taking in), get plenty of sleep and drink enough water. When hearing these edicts, people usually become blank faced. Then, a few seconds later, most will ask, “But how can I lose weight really fast?”
Their horror continues when I tell them that even though I reached my weight loss goal years ago, I still must continually think about what I eat, how much I workout, etc. People want to believe the myth sometimes propagated by the billion dollar diet industry that once you lose weight, you never have to think about dieting again—and can even go back to previous habits of overeating and leading a sedentary lifestyle.
This is why I’m sometimes frustrated when people come to me for dieting and health advice. Not only do they not want to hear my honest answers, they also don’t want to apply these common sense tactics to their lives. And I’m sympathetic, I assure you. Change isn’t easy. Especially life changes that could affect your way of doing things in almost every way.
Peoples’ disappointment when hearing my advice isn’t their fault. Again, the diet industry is a big business that pumps out a lot of confusing rhetoric in order to get potential customers’ to fork over lots of money in exchange for an easy way to lose weight. There’s a reason that organizations like Weight Watchers offer methods for old members to rejoin. They know that people often fail at dieting and will have to start all over again.
And no, I’m not knocking Weight Watchers, since it’s one of the few diet programs that allows all foods and works to teach balance and moderation. Plus, when it comes to trying over and over again, what other choice do those of us with a dieter’s mentality have? I tried to start a diet a million or more times before it finally stuck. So there’s no shame in “Try, try again.” Own your efforts even if they’ve fallen short—and be proud of them. Barely anyone gets it right the first time. Especially us supermodels.
The good news is that you can (literally) have your cake and eat it, too. But that starts with changing the overall question about dieting. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking HOW to lose weight, but instead ask yourself WHY you want to lose weight.
That’s right. I suggest you change the narrative that surrounds your desire to drop excess pounds and fit into skinny jeans, lower your blood pressure and live a happier, healthier life. (It is, after all, really true what “they” say: Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.)
So instead of approaching a potential diet as a diet, approach it from another angle. Get out a journal. Or scrapbook. Or start a new Pinterest page and begin to articulate or visualize why you want to lose weight. Is it to feel better about dating someone? Is it to stop being breathless when climbing a flight of stairs? Is it to be able to keep up with your grandchildren on the playground? Is it to fit into a favorite outfit for an upcoming social occasion? Or is it to show a certain someone that you’ve got what it takes and then some? Hey, these are all great reasons to get healthier. And focusing on these reasons has to the potential to provide the motivation that might have been missing during previous attempts to lose weight.
While I was on my journey from over 450 pounds to around 175 pounds, I kept what I referred to as a “Me Book.” In it, I placed magazine articles about health and cutouts of whatever else that motivated me (even if just a certain picture or image). I also added photographs of clothes I wanted to wear and pictures from different kinds of media of “happy couples” that inspired me to visualize the kind of romantic relationship I wanted to find. I also included all sorts of health information, advice and even recipes that I would come across. I wasn’t into scrapbooking per se. But I was into reminding myself of why I wanted to take off the excess pounds.
Anytime I would be tempted to stray from my eating and exercise plans, I would pick up my “why I wanted to lose weight” book and thumb through it—reminding myself of all of the reasons I was committed to really achieving dieting success this time around. And guess what? It worked.
Again, not only did I take the excess weight off, but also I kept it off. All because I had an easy vehicle (my book) for reminding myself of my WHYs. And as mentioned before, these days you can even create a virtual “reasons” scrapbook on a site like Pinterest or something similar.
So if you’re contemplating a weight loss journey that can lead to many of your dreams coming true, start with putting the dreams into focus. Then the healthier eating, the healthy movement, the better sleep and even the 8 glasses of water (or however many) might become more routine a little more easily than they have in the past.
Whether virtual or otherwise, you might want to try creating a book that becomes the testament to WHY you want to lose weight and just let the HOW fall into place naturally. What have you got to lose?
Counting on change
Apparently I need more of an assurance that ‘change happens’ beyond night turning into day every 24 hours. In fact, there are many times when circumstances seem so bleak that I can’t imagine them eventually becoming history and being replaced by happier, more hope-filled times. Or even by some additional challenges. And yet, no matter what kind of changes are ahead of us, we can bank on them occurring. Even though many of us often fail to acknowledge change as a constant.
People who follow me on Instagram know that one of my weekend rituals is getting up pre-dawn and taking a power walk through my neighborhood. It’s usually just me, a few feral cats, the occasional (and literal) early bird, the moon and a whole lot of trees. It was during the winter months that I took a picture of a favorite tree as the last of its autumn-y leaves clung to it (just before falling). I was able to capture its beauty lit by a nearby streetlight with my phone camera.
But on a recent morning, when passing said tree, I noticed that its branches were “suddenly” covered in thick greenery. It seemed like only yesterday this tree was sitting in the dark, practically naked. And yet here it was on this day, crying out to the world that summer was imminent. I was as astounded by this change as I was grateful for it. It seemed like such a short period between this tree’s two states of being. Change occurred. And it was beautiful. And this change courtesy of Mother Nature reminded me of other times in my life that I didn’t think change (real and lasting change) was even possible.
I remember weighing over 450 pounds during my college years. Despite going to school in sunny Florida, I lived life as if I were a vampire—venturing into daylight only when necessary (usually to attend classes at Florida State University), while relegating everything else to nighttime hours. I was terrified to let people see I was morbidly obese and had become convinced that doing most things at nighttime would cloak me in a way similar to a vampire who might otherwise combust should he or she move about during daylight hours.
These nighttime errands included grocery shopping, which (lucky for me) could be done 24 hours a day thanks to a nearby chain store. There were others who deemed it necessary to shop during late hours as well. So I was still forced to encounter the general public. My mission was clear. Get in, fill my grocery cart, pay and get out—without making any eye contact or letting anyone get a good look at the 450-pound man I’d become.
One such night I was in the breakfast cereal aisle, which was unfortunately very crowded despite the late hour. As I quickly scooted by other shoppers with my cart (grabbing the nearest high-fat, sugar-soaked cereal I could reach), a little girl (who was shopping with her mom) looked at me, pointed, and screamed out, “Mommy, mommy! Why does that man have boobs?”
Everyone in the aisle turned and stared—in what seemed like slow motion fashion. I could swear the muzak playing over the loud speakers even screeched to a halt. There I stood, facing the general public in the same way Quasimodo might have when coming down from the bell tower. The little girl wasn’t wrong. I was a man and I did, indeed, have “boobs.” They were what some might refer to as man boobs, but still…
To say I was mortified is an understatement. I felt so “less than” and would have scurried under the closest shelving unit like a cockroach had I been able to. I was so angry at the little girl for calling attention to me. And even angrier at her mom for not turning it into a teachable moment and helping the little girl understand that men with boobs have feelings, too.
I abandoned my grocery cart, fled for my car and hurried home as quickly as possible. I remember sitting in the dark of my apartment, barely able to catch my breath (being at that excess weight wasn’t any better for me physiologically than it was for me physically) and wishing for change. But as much as I wished for it, I couldn’t comprehend it. I just couldn’t visualize me weighing less than 450 pounds. Much less 300 pounds. Or anything below that number. This kind of change wasn’t fathomable. And, I was just as sure, wasn’t reachable.
Even though I vowed to stay in my college apartment for the rest of my life, I eventually left my self-imposed fortress of solitude. And guess what? Soon after I discovered that all the crash diets I’d been on didn’t hold the key to getting healthy. Soon after that revelation I was eating more natural foods in healthier portions. Shortly afterward, I added an exercise routine to my new way of eating—along with proper hydration (drinking enough water) and healthy amounts of sleep. It was a four-pronged approach (without any gimmicks, pills or surgery) that eventually led to… (Wait for it…) Change.
Even with my own dramatic change and this recent change demonstrated to me by my neighborhood tree, there are still times in my life that I feel trapped. That I feel like change can’t possibly occur. Even when I know in my heart of hearts it can. And will. This occurrence of change will be as true for hard times as it will be for joyful times. It’s constant. And there’s a real gift in knowing and remembering this if we’ll allow ourselves to.
So if you’re going through a happy period in your life at this moment, embrace it. Soak it in. Hold it in your heart so tightly that it will always be a part of you—even when circumstances change. And the same edict is true for anyone who’s in a dark moment at this time, convinced that there is no way things could get better. They can. We can’t see around the virtual corners ahead of us. But all sorts of possibility—and change—lie just beyond them. Of this, we can all be sure. Just look to your favorite tree for proof.