Doesn’t it seem like Starbucks and other coffee houses come out with their Pumpkin Spice Lattes sooner and earlier each year? I guess I’m okay with this since I’ve always loved the season of fall most of all. 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 Pumpkin Spice Lattes contain calories we all should be aware of and factor into our daily totals. But when these 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?
Photo Source: Eater.com
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.
One of the reasons I love this quote by Oscar Wilde is that it reminds us to be present and live in the moment. Too often those of us with a dieter’s mentality “punish” ourselves by thinking we don’t deserve to live life to its fullest potential even before we reach our goal weight. And yes, living life out loud (AKA being happy, doing what you want to do and even eating what you want to eat) can actually bring us closer to our goal weight than denial can.
And yes, you read “eating what you want to eat” correctly. The trick is to not eat too much of it. And before you poo-poo this idea, why not try it out at least once or twice? Sometime this weekend, you can walk into your favorite ice cream shoppe and order one single scoop of your favorite flavor. Do it with a friend or two. Then eat it slowly, one scrumptious bite at a time. You can even lick the cup it comes in (I won’t tell). Then, don’t have ice cream for the rest of the weekend. See what you did there? You ate something decadent without hurting your psyche, without harming your body and without deterring your overall goals of reaching a lighter, healthier weight. You can have what you’re craving as long as you have it in smaller portion sizes.
Similarly, you can try online dating, you can take a class that might lead to a new career, you can audition for community theatre or even buy a new favorite outfit. So what if the outfit comes in a size that will require you to donate or sell it in the near future? This moment is all we (you!) have. So why not live it to its full potential?
You are perfect now. You are beautiful now. You are amazing and your life is full of possibilities now. This doesn’t have to mean you don’t eat healthfully, exercise often, drink plenty of water and get enough rest to help your body reach your goal weight. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t live life in the interim either.
So read the quote above as often as you need to. Download the meme and save it as your “lock screen wallpaper” on your phone. Remind yourself as often as you need to that you don’t deserve to be punished and don’t have to put off anything you’re dreaming of just because you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Live. Laugh. Love. And enjoy that single scoop of ice cream (or whatever) every now and then. You deserve it.
Photo Source: Pinterest
Instead of starting a diet, why not start listening to your body and eating fresh, clean foods in healthier portions? Life changes don’t have to be painful and don’t have to require saying “No” to some of your favorite foods. Remember, whatever you choose to do to benefit your health is a gift, not a curse. The less we think of ourselves as victims, the greater chances we have of reaching all of our goals. (I believe in you!)
Guess what? What happened yesterday, last week, last month or last year (or even a decade ago) is permanent history. That’s right – permanent. None of us own time machines (and believe me, I’ve looked for mine exhaustively). Similarly, none of us have magic wands. We can’t undo what’s already transpired. So what does that mean to you and me? We’re here now. At this starting point. So why not take the next step (in whatever direction that is – health, career, love life, family relations, etc.) with an attitude that embraces what’s new (without shaming ourselves for what’s in our past)?
The goals you reach may be your own. I believe in you (I really do). So take a deep breath and let the next minute, day, week, month or year unfold. You’re beautiful. You matter. And you’ve got it goin’ on. And if anyone doubts that, you can tell them I told you so!
P.S. If you do happen to have a time machine or magic wand, please contact me!
Photo Source: Instagram