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12:10 pm - Posted by Gregg

Craving something sweet that won’t wreck your dieting and overall health-related efforts? Thankfully, nature has some goodies that can rival even the sweetest cakes or frozen treats. And one of these bounties is good ol’ watermelon. When fresh, crisp and sweet, I find it 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 selecting watermelon, I always go for seedless. 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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June 18, 2012

Kiss My Car Dent

9:10 am - Posted by Gregg

A few weeks ago, life was a bit of a whirlwind. I had just flown back from my quick trip to New York to appear with my friend Joy Bauer on The Today Show and had landed back in LA with a million things going on (including taping an appearance on the Extra TV show). I was definitely on Cloud 9. And although super crazed, schedule-wise, I was determined to live life to the fullest. So on one sunny Friday afternoon, I decided to put everything on hold for an hour and take my little Latte (my 6 1/4-pound Morkie puppy) to the nearby off-leash small dog park.

When approaching the park, I was excited to see two cars parked there (belonging to two good friends – both of whom have dogs that Latte loves to play with). Life couldn’t have been better at that moment. Thus, imagine my surprise when, as I backed into our parallel parking spot, I heard a “Slight crunch.” I immediately pulled forward, shifted into park and looked around. Had I actually just dinged my car and (possibly) the car behind me? ‘How could this be?’, I thought to myself. This time frame had been, after all, shaping up to be the perfect week. I had no room in my world for a car dent.

I jumped out of the car to survey the crunch-zone. I was relieved at first – seeing that the “Monster Truck” behind me showed no signs of damage at all. Upon checking the rear of my car I was initially relieved as well – until I spotted some slight damage (not on my car’s bumper, but on the car itself, near the opening to the trunk).

All at once my spirits sank, my shoulders drooped and I felt the pangs of an achy breaky heart. There it was, a small dent in an otherwise perfect automobile – not to mention week. Was this how the week was to end? Had the universe conspired against me in order to bring me back from the “Feel good high” I’d been riding during the past several days.

After grabbing Latte and entering the small dog park, I realized that I’d created a virtual storm cloud that was now traveling right over my head. Even though I’d had such a great week and even though I had so much good news to share with my friends who were waiting for me on the other side of the dog park, I felt myself turning into a complainer. Not only was the car “crushed,” but so were my spirits.

It’s at that moment that I realized all the good in even the car dent situation. First of all, there was no damage to the other vehicle involved. Secondly, the damage to my own car was fairly minor (it had taken me a moment to discover it, after all). Add to this: Both Latte and I were safe. To say nothing of the fact that everything else “good” going on my week wasn’t negated by what just happened. Although it all could have been had I decided to shift into ‘Victim Mode’ and let myself be horrifically upset by what had happened (all of which surely could have “attracted” even more negativity into my life).

Right then, right there, I decided I wasn’t going to let this minor incident turn into anything more than it was – an everyday facet of real life. That’s right – I reminded myself that “These things happen.” In fact, these things will always happen (at least from time to time). So it’s really not about trying to keep challenging things from coming into our lives. Instead, it’s about choosing how we are going to react to these things.

In the past, I would have mourned the car’s damage for days and told everyone how “Unfair” life was (even though I was the one who did the backing up into the other vehicle). Instead, I greeted my friends at the dog park, watched Latte play with his canine friends, and shared all the good news of my week – all without “sharing” the angst I’d just experienced in the parking area.

At the risk of bragging, I must admit I was very proud of myself for shortcircuiting the ‘Complainer’ in me and, instead, reaffirming how good life was (and is) and counting the blessings that arose even from the car dent incident itself.

Although I still plan on getting a repair estimate for the car, I haven’t had a chance to do so just yet. And I can honestly say that when I notice the dent, I’m not depressed, but elated. Why? Because it reminds me that I reacted in a positive way to something that could have really brought about an intensely negative downward spiral, mood-wise. I reacted with joy, gratitude, gusto and (perhaps most important) a sense of humor.

After all, it’s not the life situations that matter most. It’s how we react to said situations.

Have you ever had a challenging life situation rear its ugly head in the midst of an otherwise good day or week? If so, did you give into the grief and the agony and jump on board the pity train? Or did you shake it off and move forward with a positive spirit, determined not to let one of life’s everyday anoyances get in your way? Either way, I’d love to hear from you on this topic.

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9:25 am - Posted by Gregg

Does anyone know if there’s a 12-step program for breakfast cereal addicts? If so, I’ll have to consider attending a meeting. Although I’m not sure I’d ever achieve even a 1-day chip. Because when it comes to breakfast cereal, I’ve got a problem.

Back in the day, when I was tipping the scales at 450+-pounds, I would go through a box of cereal in 2-3 days. My “trick” for accomplishing such a feat was to nibble as much cereal as I was pouring into the bowl. Had I bothered to check the suggested serving size, I would have seen that I was eating for 4. Of course, my 60-inch waist sort of made that clear already. Needless to say, I wasn’t paying attention.

To this day, I crave and love breakfast cereal. To the point of obsession. Because of this, there have been times that I’ve considered cutting it out of my diet altogether. But with a bunch of healthy cereal options available today along with the fact that cereal is a fast, convenient and delicious way to have breakfast (one of the most important meals of the day – whether on or off a diet), cereal is something I wanted to learn to live with.

But even when preparing cereal today (at 175-pounds), I still feel the urge to pour cereal into the bowl while also having a ‘cereal appetizer’ while standing at the counter. If I didn’t regulate myself, I could easily go through a third of a box of cereal or more. That’s why I never trust myself to pour cereal freely. Instead, I pour it into a measuring cup before I pour it into my breakfast bowl and add my sliced banana. And for what it’s worth, I measure the 2% milk I use, as well.

This might come as a surprise to some of you reading this. Most people assume that because I’ve kept my 250 pounds of excess weight off for over a decade, that I’ve got this weight thing beat. That’s true in some respects. But part of what keeps the excess weight off is knowing that I’ll never really have it beat and that I can never let my guard down. My daily food intake is something I’m always thinking about, planning for and paying attention to. Not in a mentally unhealthy way, but in a efficient way. Or weigh, as the case may be.

Whenever I reveal to fellow dieters that I must still pay attention to and even sometimes measure my food portions, they often register disappointment – as if they thought that once you take the weight off, you magically never have to think about dieting again. But in truth, this ‘food and health consciousness’ must become a part of ourselves that we never leave behind (even during those times when we decide it’s okay to have ice cream – or whatever – as a treat).

This need to ‘stay on top of what and how much I eat’ is reiterated almost daily for me – usually when I’m preparing breakfast and pouring breakfast cereal. I know that I can’t be trusted. So even though I’ve been “thin” for years and happily fit into my skinny jeans, I still get the measuring cup out and measure the exact amount of cereal necessary for a healthy and low calorie breakfast. It could be argued that, by now, I should know what a ‘cup’ holds. But when it comes to cereal and other ‘tempting foods,’ I know that my mind’s version of a cup full and real life’s version of a cup full are two very different things.

In other words: When it comes to cereal, the measuring cup is my friend.

But none of this has to be bad news. No matter what your most tempting foods are, you can still have them – in moderation and in healthy portions. And with tools like measuring cups, we can ‘eat like a thin person’ and not overdo it to the point of triggering a binge, stuffing ourselves to the point of discomfort or making our skinny clothes feel too tight.

What are your tempting foods? Do you still allow yourself to have them even if on some sort of weight loss program? Or do you try and avoid the foods for the time being? I’d love to hear from you on this topic. We can even discuss over a bowl of cereal. Assuming you’ve got a measuring cup I can borrow.

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October 10, 2011

Where’s your joy?

9:37 am - Posted by Gregg

The other evening I was quickly walking through my home office when I was suddenly startled by a loud squeak. I looked down to see that I’d just stepped on one of what seems like hundreds of toys that are strewn throughout my home. I try to keep these toys picked up so they remain contained in one of two toy baskets, but most are constantly in use and, therefore, often waiting to surprise me with a squeak attack when I’m hurrying from one room to another.

Looking at the toys, you might conclude that I had a toddler (or two). I do have a wee one that plays with all the toys. And he is two years old. But he’s covered in fur, weighs 7 pounds and is named Latte – an adorable little Morkie (if I do say so myself). And he is truly one of the biggest joys of my life.

To say Latte is spoiled rotten would be an understatement, although he really is one of the sweetest, happiest little guys you could ever hope to meet. And boy, does he love to play with toys. So despite my mimicking the evil Berger-Meister-Meister-Berger and often proclaiming “There will be no more toys!,” there inevitably are more toys – whether received as gifts or bought by this “Daddy” who can’t resist his “Kid.” Thus, there are toys all over my home – usually in various states of play.

So the other evening, when I stepped on a toy and realized I was standing in a virtual minefield of toys, I didn’t get irritated. Instead, I realized that all of these toys that were seemingly making my otherwise well organized home look messy were symbols of joy for me. Representing joy embodied in a 7-pound pooch full of unconditional love… Joy embodied in toys that the said pooch plays joyfully with… Joy embodied in a squeaky toy reminding me to slow down for a second and smell the roses – or count the toys, in any case.

Here’s where I must confess that I didn’t always find joy in everyday objects. Back in the day, when I weighed in excess of 450 pounds, I was constantly looking to food to provide my joy in life. And at the time, I was sure that food was providing just that – joy.

Looking back, I can see now that the massive amount of unhealthy food I was eating was actually doing just the opposite of providing joy. I’d be so miserable after a binge and in such mental and physical pain, that as soon as I had room in my stomach, I would once again seek comfort from food.

This “Food for Joy Syndrome” continued for years and years – until I finally broke the cycle by realizing I had to find other sources of joy to use in place of the food. Imagine my surprise when I realized that food had never really been providing comfort or joy in the first place but, instead, had been keeping me from it.

Living in California, I’m surrounded by self-help gurus who constantly remind us that there is joy in every minute. I used to guffaw at such “nutty-crunchy” theories. But these days, surrounded by toys and other “small” blessings, I realize that there really is joy to be found in whichever direction you look – as long as you’re not looking in the direction of the refrigerator.

I’m not saying food can’t bring us joy on occasion. But food really is more delicious (and potentially more full of joy) when eaten in balance, in moderation and in the right portions. Otherwise, the food isn’t providing joy as much as it’s providing a numbing effect. And that can cut us off from many of life’s other – and very real – joys (including smaller sized clothes, a healthier heart, more self confidence and a less stressful social life).

By breaking ourselves free from the cycle of equating our only joy with food, we free ourselves – not only to meet our weight loss or health-oriented goals, but also to really appreciate everything around us. Whether it’s a lick on the face from a puppy, a favorite TV show, a call from an old friend or a beautiful sunrise, there can be joy in every minute if we set out to acknowledge said joys.

And in times that we’re rushing around, too busy to count our blessings, we can hope for a squeaky dog toy or some kind of other reminder to bring us back into the moment and help us realign ourselves with what’s really important in our lives.

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9:29 am - Posted by Gregg

Some days are tougher than others.

Sure, I’m committed to healthy eating – and for two main reasons. First, to stay, well, healthy. Second, to keep the 250 pounds of excess weight (that I got rid of) from ever creeping back on. Because I was overweight for a large part of my life, eating healthy foods in healthy portions is something I find I always must think about. I liken it to riding a bicycle. The minute I stop peddling, I fall down, skin my knees and potentially gain 250 pounds.

This all amounts to a whole heck of a lot of self-regulation. And there are many rewards for doing so: Wearing a pair of jeans without being in total misery until I disrobe… Not accidentally realizing that I’m using my stomach as a makeshift shelf to rest my hands or other objects on (yes, I’ve done it)… Not being out of breath just from talking on the phone… And more.

But even with all of these great rewards, there are days I resent what’s required of me to stay fit and healthy. And on certain days, the targets of this resentment are green beans.

Yes. You read that right. Green beans.

I target green beans in particular because they have become a staple of my healthy eating regimen. A typical dinner for me consists of a medium-sized chicken thigh, sliced cherry or grape tomatoes and steamed green beans. And most times when I have this meal, I enjoy it greatly. Afterwards I’m satisfied and full – but never stuffed or in pain from eating too much. And I know it’s these ‘stricter meals’ that allow for ‘treat meals’ when special occasions or big time cravings call for it. It’s all about balance after all.

Still, there are times that green beans really piss me off. I resent having to clean them, steam them and having to sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar over them before sitting down to my typical Gregg dinner. I wonder to myself, ‘Why can’t I be having pizza instead? Or maybe a pile of mashed potatoes smothered in butter?’

There are occasions during which I’m convinced that green beans are out to get me. I see them, all bunched together (a gang, if you will) – smugly mocking me from the safety of the plate, as if they’re saying, “You have no choice but to eat us.”

Of course, the joke is on them – mainly because I remind myself that I do have a choice. It’s absolutely my choice to have the green beans. Or mashed potatoes. Or an ice cream sundae or a… Well, you get the idea. I can eat anything I want for dinner.

It’s at this point that I must think about what I really want. ‘Really’ being the key word.

Sure, I could forego green beans all together. I could replace them with another healthy vegetable that I can steam and enjoy (on most days) without added salt, butter or other substances that would make the vegetables less healthy. The fact is, green beans provide an affordable and healthy meal staple for me. And by eating them, I get all the benefits of looking good and feeling great. Isn’t that worth a little resentment from time to time?

As dieters, we often think we’re being denied certain things in life. And for most of us, those ‘things’ are food related. But here’s where we can all benefit from a shift in thinking. It’s not about what we’re being denied, but what we get in return for the choices we make: Smaller waistlines. Healthier heart rates. Clothes that fit. And knowing we look good when we walk into a room. Isn’t that worth the occasional harassment from a gang of spiteful green beans? I think so. And I’ll bet you do, too.

So next time you feel mocked by your healthy food choices, put a fork in them and chew them up gleefully. In other words, remind ‘em whose boss. After all, it’s the healthy choices we make today that benefit us tomorrow.

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