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12:50 pm - Posted by Gregg

As the popular Christmas tune reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”—assuming that running around like a chicken (partridge?) with its head cut off equates to “Wonderful.”

Even with this seasonal mayhem, I confess that I’m the person who secretly plays Christmas music over my earbuds while working out in November. But I also admit that once Thanksgiving hits, life can feel like a rollercoaster racing toward December 25th at a record pace. It’s as if we’re suddenly contestants on a manic game show and must complete an inordinate amount of tasks in order to not be disqualified (and/or disappoint friends and family members who might be counting on us to make their season bright—no matter which winter-inspired holidays we observe).

As someone who extolls the virtues of being present and taking time for one’s self (something that was essential to my taking off 250 pounds of excess weight and keeping it off), I often need reminders to stay mentally present more than anyone during this time of year. This was recently proven yet again when recently attending a friend’s Christmas get together.

This wasn’t a work-related occasion. Nor was it a huge party that had the potential to leave one feeling lost or inconsequential. This truly was a simple gathering among close friends with the sole purpose of enjoying twinkling lights and good company. There was also amazing food and drink (count me in for that—even if it would require some extra time on the treadmill to offset the extra calories).

It was the following morning (while working out at the gym) that I started thinking about this small party that occurred the night before—realizing that I hadn’t actually been fully present (mentally) at the event. Sure, I was there. And I ate, drank and made merry. I talked to friends and even inquired sincerely as to what was currently going on in their lives. But I also remember going over my “December to-do lists” in my head while talking and listening.

Similarly, I was concerned about what time I would get to bed since I knew I had a busy schedule the following day. I was also thinking about the foster kitten I had at home. And a million other things that I had going on—even though it would have been perfectly fine to set all of that mental anguish aside for a few hours so that I could have been fully present at said get together. Instead, I was in a sort of “no man’s land”—neither fully in my head or fully enjoying the time with my friends.

Realizing this initially left me feeling sad. And then, remembering that shame is no one’s ally, I decided to use the realization to make me glad. Mainly because this realization could help me recognize that as much as I want to be present (“in the moment” as it were), that I can be as guilty as anyone else when it comes to getting distracted by an overfull agenda.

By not being fully present with friends (in a lovely setting with amazing food and drink), I wasn’t allowing myself to be in the moment and enjoy the respite from life’s busy-ness. Had I accomplished being there 100%, I might have even woken up with a clearer head the morning after—better able to handle all of the important tasks that needed to be taken care of.

These helpful reminders make this an appropriate moment to re-introduce the old adage that “Less (thinking) is more.” Sure, we all have a lot to do. And yes, there never seems to be enough time in our days (during the holiday rush or at other times of the year) to fully embrace all that’s going on. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be fully present during all aspects of life (yes, even when at the grocery store or dry cleaners—and especially when participating in what has the potential to be an enjoyable event). Living in the now is a gift we can give ourselves again and again (making it an acceptable re-gift).

Try inserting quiet moments into your day to help bring yourself back to the here and now. I attempt to make a habit of this when getting in and getting out of my car. For others, my car check-in might translate to checking in with yourself on a bus or while on the subway—or maybe when you sit down at or get up from your workstation. No matter where you decide to do it, take a quiet moment, just a few seconds really, and breathe in and out several times. Close your eyes if you can. And as you breathe in, think “In.” And as you breathe out, think “Out.”

Breathing in and out just 3 to 5 times sequentially can bring your mind and body back in sync—and, therefore, your entire self back to the here and now. This mental state is where we all want to be in order to achieve peace of mind—not to mention be our most productive and to get the most out of every aspect of life.

It’s when embodying presence in every aspect of our lives that the popular Christmas tune referenced earlier has the potential to become reality—truly making it the most wonderful time of the year (no matter what time of year the calendar says it is).

Photo Credit: Obesity Goodbye

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12:35 pm - Posted by Gregg

No matter what the scale reflected (number-wise) this morning or how tight your clothes might feel today, you are kicking butt when it comes to reaching your goals. No need to beat yourself up if you recently experienced a slip, eating-wise. Or if you didn’t make it to the gym as often as you intended to last week. Today is a new day. And a new chance to reignite your momentum toward your goals.

Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, what hasn’t worked or why you feel “less than,” turn your thoughts to reasons you want to feel better, look better and be better. Imagine putting on a pair of jeans without worrying you’re going to cut off your circulation when you fasten them. Imagine enjoying a reasonable amount of food at a party without obsessing about eating before, during or after the occasion. Imagine walking past a mirror and not listing “10 things I hate about you.” Or imagine your doctor giving you news that your health is improving.

The more positive your mindset, the more reachable your goals become. Who cares if you’re on a bit of a slow boat? You’re on the boat. That’s what matters. Life is about the journey (as opposed to the destination) after all. So why not live life on the happy side today — reminding yourself that you’re well on your way to improving what’s already fantastic even in this moment: Amazing, beautiful, incredible YOU!

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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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9:34 am - Posted by Gregg

Every year when Independence Day rolls around, I’m reminded as much of my own individual independence as I am of the country’s. And both are worth celebrating.

It was years (and years!) ago when a friend of mine was having a July 4th picnic and barbecue at her lake house. There were lots of people there and everyone was encouraged to bring a food dish of some kind. I probably don’t have to tell you that virtually every dish there was not diet friendly. Even the fruit salad had been “goosed” with marshmallows, whipped cream and other sugary additives. This was to say nothing of all the other foods that were available.

After topping out at over 450 pounds and finally realizing I had to just stop eating so much, I had been on my new, healthier eating plan since March of that same year. So here I was at this July 4th picnic — roughly 4 months later. And while I’d had great success so far, I still wasn’t secure enough to go off my diet for a day — or even for a meal. Thus, along with the healthy salad dish I’d brought to share, I had also brought my own picnic lunch to the get together. But once there — and once surrounded by all the tempting smells and visuals — I felt overwhelmed.

I mentioned something about my eating insecurities to the party’s host, who admittedly had her hands full. Although a very good friend (and therefore very familiar with my years-long plight to lose weight), she dismissed my insecurities in a very curt fashion. And hey, she had every right to do so. But I had every right to do what I did next.

I found the friend I came with and asked her if she would mind leaving the party (even though we’d just arrived 15 minutes earlier). She was game. Thus, we “snuck out” as to not disturb any other guests and ended up going to a movie. My friend ate popcorn. I ate my little lunch I’d brought. And guess what? It was one of the best “4th of July Picnics” I’ve ever been on. And it was also a real turning point in regard to my feeling more and more confidant that this time I was finally going to take off all the excess weight once and for all. I had put myself and my needs (in regard to health) first.

Now, loyal readers of this blog know that I’m always reminding you (and myself) that we didn’t get fat from one cookie — or even one meal. And I suggest never cutting out every single treat from our lives (mainly because it’s the on/off cycle that teaches us to cheat). So I’m not saying it’s not okay to enjoy a 4th of July picnic (or other special meal) in a balanced and moderate fashion. But sometimes we know that a taste of a certain something just might trigger a binge — and therefore we decide to go without… And there are times that will mean taking ourselves out of (potential) harm’s way. Had I not left the 4th of July picnic, I might have eaten something I didn’t want to and that might have wrecked all of my efforts (and success) I’d attained during the previous 4 months.

I will admit that my friend (the party’s host) was miffed that I left the party. And I understand her feelings. But I also understand mine. And yes, me and that friend are fine to this day, friendship-wise.

Looking back, declaring a little independence was something I needed to do to prove to myself that this time I was really serious about not only taking the weight off, but keeping it off. By March of the following year, I’d shed almost all of the excess 250+ pounds that I needed to lose. And after some yo-yo-ing, as I got used to eating “normal” (whatever that is), I have kept those excess 250+ pounds off for over a decade. And if that isn’t worth waving a flag over, I don’t know what is.

Have you ever had a situation where you had to choose your sanity (or your diet) over a social occasion or (even more challenging) a friendship? Do tell!

Photo Source: Time and Date

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9:23 am - Posted by Gregg

No need to resort to water torture. I admit it. This past weekend I co-hosted a birthday party and, well, over the course of the evening I just didn’t stop eating so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I had every intention of partaking in a nibble here, a taste there and enjoying the company more than the edibles. I was, after all, in charge of the menu and had planned a bevy of delicious mini bites to accompany the usual chips, dips and veggie tray.

Oh, and for the record, I never ventured near the veggie tray. But the fried food? The dips? The sauces? The chips? Color me over-the-top.

Granted, during the first part of the evening I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off – trying desperately to make sure everyone had a cocktail or a beverage of some sort, that hot food was coming out of the oven on time and that the jazz-infused music mix I created was playing at an appropriate volume.

But when all is said and done, these cannot be used as excuses for going overboard, eating-wise. And go overboard I did – starting with a mouthful of California roll and ending with a couple of large chocolate chip cookies (even though I was very full by that point). I won’t go into detail about what was eaten in between, but suffice it to say, I overindulged. And then some. It was mindless eating at its best (or, perhaps, worst).

So what happens now? Do I get my 60-inch belt out of the keepsake box and prepare to wear it again? Do I turn in my blogging license? Do I request that my book stop being published? Or perhaps I should go on a guilt trip and make myself so mentally miserable that I start to feel the “need” for some indulgent food to tame my nerves.

Whoop! There it is – a hint of the former cycle that I repeated daily during the time period that I weighed in excess of 450 pounds and all the years I was overweight.

Fact is, feeling guilty and beating ourselves up (mentally) after a binge can be as much a part of our bingeing habits as the actual eating itself. The mood is followed by food. The food is followed by mental punishment. And so on and so on…

Okay… So I overate… It was a party, damnit. A party I co-hosted. Something I don’t do too often. It was also Saturday night. I was hungry. I ate. Then I overate. And as a result I ended up going to bed with that “Oh, so full” feeling.

But the difference with this weekend’s overindulgence compared to past ones in my life is that I did not wake up full of remorse or angst. Oh, and for the record, even though I got to bed around 1am, I was still up at 4:30am and at my gym by 5am. Was it pleasant when the alarm rang? No, it was not. But I was determined to not break my exercise schedule and knew that I would feel better afterwards (especially after overdoing it, food-wise, the night before). And post workout? Feel better I did. Or, well, do.

So what’s in all this for you? A reminder that we’re all dieters at some level – and that we all have “on” and “off” days (sometimes even after most of our excess weight is lost and even after we’re not officially on a diet anymore).

You might be surprised to know that even so-called “Thin People” (you know the odd group of folks who never really have to diet?) also have moments when they exceed their body’s “full limit” and feel a bit stuffed. Sure, they might complain about it for a minute. But then they move on. So that’s exactly what I did after this weekend’s party binge. I overindulged (mini binged) like a thin person. Then I recovered. Immediately. And you can do the same the next time you fall off the wagon.

When push comes to shove (or when mouth comes to fried food), it’s not one overindulgence that makes us fat (or keeps us fat). Its repeated overindulgences – on a daily basis or even at every meal. A “once in a while” goof makes us human. There are going to be times that despite best intentions, we don’t just stop eating so much. And that’s when, instead of falling into a vicious and destructive bingeing cycle, we laugh it off (while hopefully exercising it off) and hit the ‘reset’ key.

So when was the last time you overindulged? And how did you handle it? I really want to know. Because together we will grow. (And yes, I use the word ‘grow’ figuratively and not literally!)

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