You Are Not Alone…

Image thanks to Dan4th

Image thanks to Dan4th

It’s a fresh new year.

This means that everywhere all around us is the idea of new chances, and clean slates, and starting from scratch.

I keep reading articles, again and again, about how to lose weight in the New Year. How to get in shape and stay in shape.

Heck, I have written them myself.

But after talking with a friend this weekend about her difficulty losing weight, and the sadness and frustration that comes with it…I really started thinking about what it takes to make changes that you can stick with forever.

In all of the fad diets, and new plans, and even in the programs that ship food to your door, there is something missing.

Here it is: weight loss is not just about the physical, it’s about the emotional.

Anyone can start a diet. Anyone can get some sort of exercise. Anyone can pop a pill and hope for the best.

The trouble is that somehow it’s just not working. In fact, in America and many other countries, we are getting fatter instead of healthier.

I believe that any weight loss journey can only be truly successful if we take our hearts and minds into account, not just calories we consume or the numbers on a scale.

We have a relationship with food, and it’s a complicated one.

Here are a few things that I think it is important to consider when trying to lose weight…

Know Your Motivation:

Are you trying to lose weight for someone else? Are you doing it because your significant other, or a family member, or a friend has suggested that you should? Have you let the media or Hollywood convince you that all of the beautiful people must be a size 2? This may seem like okay motivation to get you started, but it will not sustain you.

ALL changes that you create in your life need to come from you, not happen because of outside influences. I once tried to lose some weight to impress someone I was dating. It worked in the very short term, but then I gave up and felt worse than before. I had not only failed my diet, but also failed to live up to the ideal that I thought someone else wanted.

Real change will come when you finally decide to do it for you, not because you feel pressured by someone else.

You Are Not Alone:

No matter what plan you embark on, it is much more difficult to succeed if you feel like you are on your own. This is why diet plans with group involvement tend to be more successful.

However, you do not need to join a paid diet group to get the support that you need. Start by enlisting and family or friends that you know you can depend on. Let them know your goals, and your roadblocks. Find someone you can call at the end of a rough day who will support you and encourage you to keep going.

If nothing else, there are many (and I mean MANY) online communities of people just like you. Places like caloriecount.com where you can join groups, ask questions, get advice, or just vent when you need to.

Know that other people are going through the same struggles as you…and know that many others have succeeded.

Know Thyself

A big part of “knowing” how to lose weight is really getting to know yourself.

Each of us has a different relationship with food. Some of us were rewarded with it, and some were punished. For a lot of us food equates to love and to comfort.

Understanding your relationship and learning the triggers that cause you to overindulge can be a huge breakthrough in the weight loss process. If you realize that you turn to food in times of stress, or when you are feeling sad or lonely, then you can learn to address those feelings and begin to find other ways to handle your emotions rather than eating.

Most importantly…

Be fair with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Keep your expectations realistic.

Know that with time and investment, you can lose weight.

Also, never forget that it should be as much about how you feel as how you look.

 

Resolution Evolution

new year's resolution

It’s just a few days into the brand new year, and I have to ask, how are those New Year’s resolutions going?

It doesn’t matter if it’s weight loss, getting organized, cleaning up your credit score, or finishing that novel you’ve been trying to write. Whatever your goal might be, you deserve a fair chance to achieve it.

For those of you who are still on track, good job! For those of you who are finding it harder to stick with than you thought, allow for resolution evolution.

Let’s examine your options…

#1 Take It Easy, But Not Too Easy

Don’t think you need to scrap your whole goal because of one or two backslides. Some people have assigned New Year’s Day with magical properties. They think of it as the only fresh start they get each year.

Every day can be a clean slate. And unless you’re some kind of otherworldly prodigy, you won’t get everything right the first time. Forgive yourself when you falter, and get right back on that horse.

#2 Keep Track, However You Can

In an interview with Jerry Seinfeld, they asked him what made him such a good comedy writer. He said it was a matter of doing it every day. He would put those oversized calendars from the office supply stores on the wall. For each day that he wrote, he’d cross off a day. Soon, there’d be a line of red X’s, and to miss a day would mean breaking that line.

His motivation wasn’t just being a good writer. It was also something silly and trivial, but highly addictive, like his sitcom. Whatever works, right?  After all, results are results.

#3 Do Your Research

Don’t think you’re the first person to ever try losing weight, getting organized, starting a hobby, etc… Heck, even Christopher Columbus missed the mark on discovering the new world, since the Vikings beat him to it by at least a couple centuries.

Whatever you are trying to achieve for yourself, someone out there has probably taken a crack at it with their own degree of success. And they also made their own mistakes so you don’t have to.

I know for me, anytime I need the answer to a question, from a word definition to stain removers to what B vitamins really do to how to plan a wedding on a budget, I remember we live in the magical age of the internet. We can type our questions into a search engine and, poof, we get answers.

Do you have any ideas to share? How do you stick with your resolutions?

Big in Japan…and Other Life Lessons

end of year tips

Image thanks to heschong

Right now, I bet you’re thinking about how next year will be different from this one.

Let me offer this suggestion: Think about what went right this year, what you learned, and how you’ve grown. It’s a fine way to pat yourself on the back, and get psyched up for what challenges lie ahead.

Here are a few of the lessons that I learned this year.

Maybe they can help you too…

Not Just What, But When

You want a bad idea? My mom calls it “The sumo diet.”

Sumo wrestling is a highly revered sport in Japan. The athletes that compete in this sport don’t look like most people’s ideal of what athletes should look like. The point of sumo wrestling is to knock your opponent out of the ring, and it’s harder to get yourself knocked out if you weigh a lot. Thus, successful sumo wrestlers tend to be pretty darn big.

One way they bulk up is by eating late. They’ll have a big, hearty meal and go straight to bed afterwards. They’re sleeping on all those calories, which as we know will cause the body to just store them up as fat.

I’ve tried taking the opposite approach. I keep the majority of my caloric intake before noon, so my body will have time to burn it all off. I’ve only been consciously taking this route for a couple months, but after losing five pounds in that time, I think it might be working!

Difficult is Good

Recently, our offices moved. My morning commute used to be a simple fifteen minute bus ride. Now I have two options: take a forty-five minute bus ride crammed in with all the other 9-5ers, or take a forty-five minute walk with no one to talk to but myself. To some, this would be a question of choosing between the lesser of two evils. I chose the one that gives me my daily cardio and clears my head.  You should see my calves!

You’re Your Own Worst Enemy

We can all get held back by doubting ourselves. We see certain situations and think how we could never do that. Public speaking. Moving to a new place. Quitting a job that pays the bills but is miserable. We get trapped by our own bad head space.

Being brave is taking action despite being scared. That old saying about just having to believe? It’s true.

If you believe you can’t, then you can’t. But if you believe you could, then maybe, gosh darn it, you might…

Have Yourself A Merry Little…

happier holidays

Image thanks to krow10

Whatever holiday you celebrate this season, it may be sometimes feel like it’s overshadowed by stress.

There is shopping to get done, meals to plan, parties to attend, and family gatherings aplenty.

All of these things can be incredibly rewarding, but they can also leave you feeling run down and out-of-sorts.

But here are a few ideas to help keep you from cursing those sugar plum fairies or drowning your sorrows in too much eggnog.

You may even be able to relax and rejoice…

Play

Don’t forget to have some fun. The holidays are not just about food, gifts, and more food. Reclaim a little bit of joy by making time to play. When is the last time that you bundled up, put on some mittens and built a snow fort? Same goes for sledding, skating, or a good old-fashioned snowball fight. Of course, not all of us live in a winter wonderland, but you can still get out and play a family game of flag football, or hide-and-seek.

Also, parties and family gatherings are the perfect time to pull out everyone’s favorite board games, or to try brand new ones. Or gather everyone around to come up with a theme and decorate some gingerbread cookies. After all, what captures the holiday spirit more than a bunch of pirate snowmen?

Eat

Rather than slaving all day in the kitchen, why not get everyone in on the act. My favorite holiday meals are those in which everyone contributes one of their favorite dishes. This equals less stress, and more variety.

Also, there is absolutely no reason to give up on your healthy habits this time of year. It is easy to find healthy versions of old recipes, or to make sure that you load your plate with as much veggies as you do of everything else.  And hey, be sure that allow a little bit of room for indulgence without guilt.

Gift

It makes no sense to give a gift that you can’t afford, or one that you will resent later. Sure, giving gifts feels good, but only if you have the resources to do so. If you have a big family or group of friends, consider drawing names and doing a gift exchange rather than having to get something for everyone. It can be a great stress reliever for everyone involved. You can also opt to give a homemade gift, whether it is something crafty or just delicious baked goods.

Peace

Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that you forget to take care of yourself. Breathe, exercise, get enough sleep, and make sure that you find a little bit of time just for you.

Wishing you happier holidays!

Crave: Healthy Holiday Cookies!

healthy holiday cookies

Image thanks to chlsgraphy

Ah, the holidays are upon us.

The time of year for lights, festivities, and (most importantly) cookies.

Cookies!

They will be handed off by your neighbors, hanging out around the office, and decorating dishes at just about any holiday party.

They are simply an institution this time of year.

With that in mind, I decided to round up a few cookie recipes that will tickle your tastebuds and tempt your tummy, without derailing your diet.

So, enjoy a little sweetness…

Mini Date-Nut Snowballs:

These little wonders aren’t exactly cookies, as they don’t require baking (but doesn’t that make them even better?). They are however sweet and delicious and 6 pieces are only 100 calories. Courtesy of Ellie Krieger from the Food Network .

Ingredients:
1 ½  tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
3 ½  ounces pitted dried dates (about 14)
15 small raw almonds
¼  teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Spread the coconut on a plate. Put the dates, almonds, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and process until finely chopped.

Form rounded ½ teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls with your fingers, then roll in the coconut, pressing to coat.

Gingerbread Cookies:

No cookie (in my opinion) is as representative of the holiday season as a good old-fashioned gingerbread cookie. Delicious and spiced, and oh-so-fun to decorate. Recipe thanks to everydayhealth.com.

Ingredients:


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
⅓ cup dark molasses
1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1½ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, honey, and applesauce until smooth.

Add the egg and molasses, mixing well.

In another large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, and spices. Add to sugar and molasses mixture, stirring well.

Divide the dough into two flat balls; cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Generously dust the surface of your working area with flour before rolling out the dough. Work with one ball of dough at a time, keeping the other portion refrigerated. Roll out the dough to ¼- to ⅛-inch thickness; sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough if it’s sticky. Cut the gingerbread with cookie cutters of your choice.

Place the cookies 1 to 2 inches apart on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Lighter Chocolate Chip Cookies:

You can never go wrong with simple chocolate chip cookies. This recipe from the Food Network ups the health factor by adding rolled oats, wheat flour, and cutting back on the fat.

Ingredients

1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a food processor and pulse until the oats are finely ground. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and agave nectar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth and glossy. Reduce mixer speed to the lowest setting and gradually add the flour mixture until just incorporated; stir in the chocolate.

Drop level tablespoons of the dough onto foil lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (12 cookies per sheet). Transfer the sheets to the refrigerator and chill the cookies until solid, about 30 minutes. Bake until lightly golden around edges, about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let cool on the sheets for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Do you have any favorite healthy holiday cookies? Let us know…

Oops, I Did It Again: Accepting Mistakes

accepting mistakes

Image thanks to Cocayhi

We can be hard on ourselves.

All those times we think about what we should have done instead of what we did. We kick ourselves in the mental butt for being such idiots. If only we could get a redo.

Well, we can’t go back in time and change things, but we can appreciate that awful scarring moment. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t beat yourself up. Believe it or not, those moments are gifts.

Here are a some reasons for accepting mistakes…

Accept That You Don’t Know

I am bad at math. I don’t know if it’s just how genetic, or if I missed that day of school when they covered all the shortcuts, or if it’s some government conspiracy that keeps me using my fingers to count to twelve. Yes, twelve. And it hurts my brain. Some people “get it.” I am not of their ilk.

Mind you, I wouldn’t know I was bad at math if I never had to take math in school. Knowing that, I keep a calculator handy for those necessary times. I know my skill level, and I work with it, or around it.

Now, before I get grief from any mathophiles out there, consider this: As an artist myself, I’ve had to sit next to people in art classes who couldn’t quite get the concepts of negative space, line quality, form, or composition. They took the class as a requirement, and once the credits were earned, never drew an arrangement of fruit again. And they lived reasonably happy, for the rest of their days.

It’s okay to not be good at everything you do. But you do need to give things a try.

Mistakes Are How You Learn

If everything you ever did was right the first time, you’d sorely miss out.

There’s something special about learning, that moment of discovery. And if you got it right the first time, it might just be luck. Things could go terribly wrong on your second attempt, but you wouldn’t know the way to fix it. Any spelling bee second place winner can tell you what word was their Waterloo, and spell it correctly forever after, too.

Another great thing about mistakes is the chance for something completely new. I don’t mean new for you, but new for the whole world. Plenty of major discoveries were the result of what would otherwise be considered major boo boos. Teflon, potato chips, popsicles, penicillin, Coca-cola, vulcanized rubber, plastic, and Slinkies are just some things that weren’t invented on purpose. Lucky for us, those things weren’t just tossed aside.

As that late great PBS painter Bob Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

Breakfast of Champions II: Building a Better Breakfast

better breakfast food

Image thanks to shallowend

A little while back we sent you an article about the many benefits of eating a healthy breakfast (and there are MANY).

Breakfast is good for your energy, your metabolism, good for your waistline, and, well…it’s just good.

In that spirit, I thought I would offer you up a list of some of the healthiest breakfast foods around, and delicious ways to use them.

So go ahead, get up, get moving, and enjoy the most important meal of the day.

Here are some perfect foods to build your better breakfast…

Berries

Berries are little antioxidant powerhouses, and delicious to boot. A handful of them can make just about any healthy breakfast a little sweeter. Add a handful of frozen berries to a Greek yogurt smoothie, or drop a few into your (healthy) cereal to give it a little love.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal can be a perfect breakfast food. It’s whole grain, high in fiber, and low in calories. The key here is to avoid those tempting little flavored packets with all of the added sugar and artificial flavorings. If you are looking for an easy breakfast try making one big batch of steel cuts oats at the beginning of the week, and enjoying it throughout. Oatmeal is also a perfect canvas for delicious flavors: try a bit of cinnamon and stevia to sweeten it up, or (my favorite) some chopped walnuts and a drizzle of real maple syrup.

Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious wonder and great for breakfast because it has lots of protein to keep you feeling full. There isn’t anything much more simple or sweet than a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with berries and either nuts or a sprinkle of low-fat granola.

Eggs

For too long eggs have gotten a bad rap. They do indeed have some cholesterol, but in moderation, this is not a problem for most people. One egg has 13 essential nutrients, high-quality protein, and comes in at only 70 calories. You can boil them or poach them with no added fat, or turn them into a scramble with spinach or other veggies. So, go ahead and enjoy an egg or two with whole grain bread or fruit for a satisfying breakfast.

Peanut Butter

Natural peanut butter is another delicious and satiating treat that many of us have forgone in our quest to be healthy. Sure, it has fat, but it’s the good for you kind of fat. And it is another pantry staple that is chock full of protein to help you feel fuller, longer. Slather some on a piece whole grain toast in the morning and it juts may have you feeling like a kid again.

Cereal

It really doesn’t get much easier than this; have a bowl of cereal with low fat milk or soymilk. The key is to be sure that you choose a healthy cereal that you actually enjoy eating. Ideally look for one that is low in sugar and high in fiber. You can also increase the health factor by adding in sliced banana, strawberries, or a handful of blueberries.

Three Wise Men-u Items

healthy holiday foods

Image thanks to Half Chinese

Oh tradition.

I hate when foods are in lyrics, which is why I feel Jimmy Buffet should just stay on his island and stop singing menus at Americans. But somehow, when foods are in a holiday song, they are more than tolerable. They are encouraged. You might even forget some foods exist if it weren’t for the Christmas carols.

They’ve become traditional. But are they good for you?

Let’s take a look at some culinary favorites that made it into the carols…

That Old Chestnut

This time of year is the traditional season for roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Not only are they good on Nat King Cole’s voice, but they are also healthy, containing no cholesterol and no gluten. Unlike other “nuts,” they have vitamin C and are low in calories. They are also a great source of dietary fiber.

What a Pear

If your true love gives you a pear tree, you can enjoy the fruit, once you’ve beaten the partridge over the territory. (Unless it’s Danny Bonaduce, then good luck on that.) They have vitamin C and K in heavy doses, and count as 9.5 percent of your daily copper intake. Did you even know you had a daily copper intake? Pears are good fiber, which can lower cholesterol, and are considered to be hypoallergenic by most doctors. So eat up!

Ain’t Nothing But a Cranberry

So I was listening to the Waitresses’ holiday classic “Christmas Wrapping,” where she sings about forgetting the cranberries. I wish I could forget that song. It’s not good for you.

The cranberries in question, however, are.

At only 45 calories a cup, they are full of fiber and vitamin C. They beat almost every fruit and vegetable in antioxidants, too, which is great for fixing what’s ails you on a cellular level. Cranberry juice can fight certain bacteria, and helps keep your urinary tract healthy.

But Wait, There’s More!

This one is a cheat, but it’s almost mandatory for the holidays: gingerbread. If you can’t beat them, join them, but feel free to give it a healthier twist. Here’s a recipe I found that lessens the caloric naughtiness and lets you be nice.

http://news.health.com/2011/12/07/better-than-classic-gingerbread/

How to Make the Most of NOW

living in the moment

Image thanks to Frank S. Malawski

Really, what good is nostalgia?

The word itself is from the Greek, meaning essentially “the ache of homecoming.” We like to remember how good it was “way back when,” and then get all sad about it because it will never be that good again. It’s a bit on the masochistic side, if you ask me.

Dwelling on the past won’t give you much room to appreciate the present. Getting hung up on yesteryear is an obstacle to living life in the moment. It’s like trying to drive while only looking at the rearview mirror. You’re only going to see the bumps after you hit them.

So, what are some ways to keep yourself in the here and now, instead of lingering on times gone by?

Minimalize

We all have stuff we need to get rid of. Closets full of boxes, boxes full of envelopes, envelopes full of memories… memories we forgot about until we open that closet door. Why are we holding on to stuff that we’ll surely forget about when we turn our backs? What kind of favor is it doing us? We end up bogged down with who we were instead of being who we are now. Who we are now might be a bit of a hoarder.

Reduce your clutter, and clear the way to a fresh outlook. Sell it, recycle it, or just trash it. Holding on to who you were won’t let you be who you are.

Express yourself

Artists always have someone looking over their shoulders saying, “I wish I could draw.”  Those artists are thinking, “Then draw!”

It doesn’t hurt to get some new skills under your belt. So many people want to take up a new hobby, but squelch that dream before it starts. “I could never do that,” never did much for anybody.

Wishing isn’t going to do as much for you as doing will. Take a class, go to the library and get a book, ask someone to show you how, or use the internet to find some instruction. It’s never too late to learn.

Teach

You probably have some mad skills, secret recipes, or some quirky something you do better than anyone you know. There may even be people you know that want to know how you do that super-secret special something. You have a gift that the powers that be gave you. That also means you have a gift to give.

Showing someone how to do something special is a great way to not just share knowledge, but to share a moment. That’s what life is all about: a series of moments. So make the most of the one you have, right now, by being present for it.

Skin Deeper: How to Keep Your Skin Snappy

how to keep your skin snappy

Image thanks to SuperFantastic

There’s a big drawback to losing weight quickly, and it’s all over you, right now.

It’s skin.

People love the idea of dropping a bunch of pounds in a short time, but they don’t consider the way it will affect their largest organ. Skin has a certain amount of elasticity, like a balloon, and if you’ve ever deflated a balloon, you know what happens. It needs time to snap back into place or it will sag in places you didn’t even consider. Losing weight too fast will swap one disappointment with another.

Sad, but true.

It can take at least a couple months for it to resume its proper place on its own, but there are ways to nip that issue in the bud, without having to nip it in a plastic surgeon’s office.

Slow and Steady

If you’re smart from the get go, the skin issue won’t be so daunting. Pace your weight loss to a healthy rate of no more than two and a half pounds a week, and your skin will have a chance to stick to you the right way. It’s healthier for you, anyway.

What’s in Your Skin

Soy is a funny thing, isn’t it? They turn it into tofu, and tofu helps your body make collagen. Collagen helps your skin stay healthy and tight, just like you want it.

Another good idea is to up your daily amount of vitamins A and E, zinc, and magnesium to improve the spring in your surface layer.

Water seems to always come up when talking about health. There’s a reason. Your body needs it. Your skin needs it, and more than you think. You can moisturize from the inside, too.

Work It Out

Building your muscles will do more than make you pretty; it will help you burn the fat you’re trying to lose, and give you a better foundation for the stuff on top of it.

Think of it like trying to put sheets on a waterbed, as opposed to a firm mattress. You can get the sheets good and tight on the firm mattress, but the waterbed is always going to wiggle and jiggle.

Pamper It

Give yourself a nice hot bath with Epson salts. Cover yourself in lotion, cocoa butter, and aloe. Skin is constantly replacing itself with new cells, while old cells die and wait to flake off. Help the new batch shine through by eliminating the old ones. You deserve a spa day, after all.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary.