Holiday Eating


flag with fireworks

I was going to do a 4th of July blog on what to eat, what not to eat, good tips and tricks and well it appears, I’d done one already, which is still quite relevant (click link below). The only addition I have, which is what I plan to do this holiday is to stay focused. Focus on what I really want and not just what is in front of me. I want to spend time with friends, hang out by the pool and relax with a few choice beverages. Just because food is there doesn’t mean I should eat it. And if by chance I do munch a bit, I will take some laps in the pool. Hopefully my plan to stay focused on what I really want will keep me from what I don’t want… extra pounds on the scale. Happy 4th everyone as you Celebrate Your Independence.

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With Memorial Day being the official kickoff to summer, I thought I’d repost this blog. It’s one of my favorites and is in my top 10 of blogs with the most views. Enjoy and have a great Memorial Day weekend all!!!

Summertime! The time of year many people eagerly wait for and loudly cheer for once it is here. Various people find they exercise more in the summer as the weather lends itself to walking and running. It is a great time of year to be out, active, and enjoy the surroundings. It is also that time of year for backyard BBQs, family reunions, and potlucks. Let’s face it, even the increase in exercise doesn’t equal the possible increase in food available in the summer. 

I already gave a few points on the BBQ in my Independence Day post, but here are a few more to help guide you: 

When attending a BBQ:

  • Ask the host for the menu prior to attending.
  • Plot a “food course” based on that menu.
  • Plan to eat and drink every hour or so while there. For example, let’s say you plan to be there for 4 hours and want to have 2 ribs, 2 chicken wings, some baked beans, a small salad, and a piece of dessert. Once you arrive, get a drink and mingle for about 45 minutes, then grab a salad. About an hour later, get another drink and have the 2 ribs and a spoonful of baked beans. An hour after that, have the wings and one more spoon of beans. About 30 minutes prior to leaving, have some dessert.
  • Use a dessert plate to keep portions in check, or even use a napkin or just a fork (unused fork of course) if appropriate. (Last BBQ I went to I already ate before arriving, but my sister-in-law makes the world’s best macaroni and cheese. I had to have a bite so I got a fork, dipped it in the mac and cheese, and had one heavenly bite. Had I gotten a plate, I’d have gone hog-wild. The one bite really was all I wanted and needed.)
  • Never take anything home. If you go over calories, at least it is limited to one day. Don’t even take veggies (unless raw) home with you as you never know how much olive oil, butter or other high calorie flavoring was used.

 When hosting a BBQ:          

  • Cook some good for you, healthier food (i.e., grilled fish and chicken with no sauce, green beans, etc.), along with food your guests will expect. This gives you something flavorful and lower calorie to eat and food to store for later.
  • If you have food left that you don’t usually keep in your house, give it to your guests. Only leave food in your house that you’d normally eat. However, if you’re guests have read my blog, they will not take the food with them, in which case donating the food to a church or shelter is recommended.
  • Keep in mind that you’re at home. If you want to snack or nibble, choose your usual snacks and not the chips, dips, or desserts you set out to make your guests happy.
  • Be sure to use the timing pattern and small plates as mentioned when attending a BBQ.

 If attending a potluck: 

      • Don’t go hungry. Be sure to eat just prior to the event so you’re not tempted to scarf down everything.
      • Wait at least an hour prior to eating, as to wait for the arrival of all the food. No sense in figuring out what you want to eat, eat it, and something new arrives. Wait so you can “size up” the entire smorgasbord.
      • Determine the “must-have” dishes. This should only be a few foods. Those items you have a taste for or may never get a chance to sample again. Be honest about what you truly crave and “can’t live without.” Once you know what you want, plan your attack just as you would a BBQ. Save a bit of room/calories for a “must-have” late arrival.
      • Again, don’t take anything home, including the dish you arrived with, and use small plates. 

 (Note: never host a potluck as you want to be able to control the type of food at your gathering and you don’t want to be left with the remaining items people don’t eat or take with them)

I hope this helps in maneuvering through what can be a challenging season and allow you to enjoy the long-awaited summer.

happy easterWell, it’s almost Easter. On Sunday, I can fall off the wagon, as I gave up alcohol for Lent. I’ll admit, this wasn’t the hardest thing to do but it wasn’t easy. In the past, I’ve given up coffee, chocolate, and dessert, foods I consume every day. While I don’t drink every day and most times, not even every week, partaking in a sip of wine with dinner or a de-stressor bourbon after a hard day at work or a hot-toddy nightcap is something I’m able to do when I want. On those occasions, when I was unable to have my beverage of choice, I did manage to muddle through and as always, learned a few things about myself.

The challenges this Lenten season were an adult birthday party, St. Patrick’s Day and a happy hour for my husband’s new job. For the birthday party, I was fine in the beginning, as this wasn’t too long after we’d returned home from Mardi Gras. I did enough drinking on that trip to last a few weeks. However, as that evening progressed and everyone around me enjoyed a cocktail, I started wanting one. That’s when I spotted someone “drinking” that I knew didn’t drink. My husband asked her what she was drinking and she said, “A Shirley Temple,” made with Sprite, grenadine, and a squirt of lemon. I’d forgotten all about those things. Since I hardly ever drink soda pop, I figured this would be something drink with cherrydifferent and I could trick my body, at least for this event. Viola, success. I had two diet Shirley Temples with cherries and made it through the evening just fine, with calories to spare.

Then came St. Patrick’s Day, on a weekend no less. This is usually a day I go all out, with Pub Crawls, green beer, etc. (and keep in mind, I don’t even like beer). Wow, talk about struggling. I curled up on the couch the Saturday of that weekend and felt bewildered. Oh, I just wanted the pain to go away. My wonderful loving husband again came to the rescue. He Googled non-alcoholic drinks, went out to get some Vernor’s ginger ale and whipped up a virgin concoction of something that was wonderful. I have always enjoyed the soothing flavor of ginger. Ahhh, again I’d made it through tough times. There was an unconventional solution to keeping me on track and we found it. This reminded me of how I felt when I first started eating better and losing weight. There’s always a healthier alternative that will work. It’s just a matter of finding it.

The final test was last week at the happy hour to wish my husband luck at his new position. We celebrated with both old and new co-workers. The drinks were flowing and after a while, the sting from the dark roasted black coffee just didn’t work. Even the full strength Shirley Temple (as they didn’t have diet) didn’t work. I was miserable and before I knew it… the night was over. O-V-E-R!!! I’d made it. I knew if I could make it through a happy hour, 5 weeks after being stone-cold sober and just one week away from Easter’s arrival, I’d be fine and sure enough, now, I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m counting the hours until I drink my extra spicy bloody Mary at Easter brunch, but at least I bloody Maryknow I persevered. Oddly enough, the thing I noticed most is that I had no food cravings while on the wagon. I didn’t want to drown myself in pizza or cookies or eat half a cake. This is progress. On the down side, I wondered if the reason I didn’t crave these things is because I wasn’t consuming alcohol. Could it be that alcohol brings on these feelings? Maybe these foods wouldn’t taste as good to me without alcohol, thus I didn’t crave them. I suppose I’ll find out soon enough, but at least I’ve done the research and am now aware. I have found that knowing is half the battle and once I identify a problem, I can tackle it. I’ve already figured out my strategy for brunch and how to make it through Easter day without overdoing it. Additionally, I’ve planned the following days to carefully add my favorite beverages back to my diet, in slow rotation, so that I don’t swill everything in sight. As I frequently say to those that ask, moderation is key and I’ll be sure to intently exercise that over the next few weeks, as I raise my glass to toast you all – Happy Easter!

moonlit skyI realized today, it sure does seem like every month in the year provides eating challenges. My list includes:

  • January – it starts on the first as it’s rolled over from New Year’s Eve
  • February – Valentine’s Day, a holiday that should be called Chocolate Day
  • March – sometimes it could be Easter but it’s always March Madness
  • April – again, this could be Easter or maybe, just maybe a break on indulgent temptations
  • May – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, bar-be-que season starting… a myriad of things
  • June – If there wasn’t enough eating at Mother’s Day, now it’s Father’s Day and for me, my birthday
  • July – Independence Day… there are tons of desserts only made on this day as they look like the American flag, not to mention, more bar-B-cue
  • August – the State Fair
  • September – Labor Day and those final BBQ bites
  • October – two problems for me here: tailgating and my anniversary
  • November – Gobble gobble
  • December – Christmas, New Year’s Eve (and we circle back to the beginning)

Honestly, it really does seem so hard sometimes to not overdo it. There is temptation everywhere, at every corner, during every month. If I manage to make it successfully past one month without gaining a pound, well, it seems there’s always next month. Moreover, if I do gain a pound, I have to get it off before that next month arrives. Whew, it does seem like it never ends. If you feel this way also, have no fear as I’ve found something that works for me and it might work for you too.

I work hard on visualizing success. For example, the next enticing food holiday is Easter. For me, that will be the first day that I go back to enjoying alcoholic beverages, as I gave up all alcohol for Lent (and believe me, I’m counting these bloody Marydays down). We’re going to Easter brunch per usual and I already know that my brunch will include an extra spicy bloody Mary. This will be my calorie focal point, that bloody Mary for brunch and the bourbon I’ll have as a nightcap that evening (I really do miss my bourbon). Nothing else should matter to me but of course, I’ll see the food and forget these sentiments. So, I’m planning now. Now I’m envisioning myself sipping my intoxicating beverage and having a simple, small plate of food, only food that will complement the flavors of tomato and spice. I imagine myself walking away from food that looks good but isn’t what I want that day. I picture myself happy with just my one beverage, sampling of food and a taste of dessert. For dinner, I’ll just have a salad or some vegetables before leisurely sipping my glass of 2-ounce bourbon, one rock. The more I envision this, the more I know it will happen, as I want to succeed and I am the only person that can make this dream come true. And really, isn’t that what we all want in life, for our dreams to come true?

I frequently try this when I see my challenges ahead and it does help me succeed. If nothing else, it makes me quite mindful of the foods I eat and how much I drink. If I drink another glass of wine at a happy hour than I intended in my calorie count, I make the adjustment by not having dessert, or leaving more food on my plate. The point for me is to make my vision a reality. I want to finish the night proud of myself and know that I accomplished my goal. I have HUJ dreams and I plan to make as many of them as possible come true. I hope this technique works for you as well.

I wasn’t able to write or post a blog last Friday, but I do have a good reason. I was just getting back from New Orleans for ABP at Mardi Gras, 2013Mardi Gras. We had a wonderful time there. I’m not sure I’ve ever in life, ate, drank or walked so much for so many days. My body ached for all of these reasons, but in a good way. I was smart enough to ensure I had 5 days to recuperate from our trip before going back to work and I really needed it. I can say, for the first time in my working history that I can remember, I was ready to go back to work once the vacation was over. I felt like someone hit the reset button and that everything was functioning again, even better than before I left. 

I’d always wondered how many days of vacation I would have to take to be ready to go back to work. I’ve had up to 2 ½ weeks off before and still wasn’t ready to go back. The night before returning to work I would normally say, “I wish I had just a couple more days.” This time, one day before going back, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m actually ready to go back and we still have one more day.” He concurred. Seems this trip and time-off did marvels for us both. We were off for 12 days. This made me realize, it might not be the number of days that is the factor, but what I do while off. 

As I said, we ate, drank, and were quite merry. When we got to Nawlins, we hit the ground running (and keep in mind, I got up at 2:30am to workout before we left). We worked out on this vacation and still walked miles and miles a day. We’d laugh about how tired we were or how much our body hurt from walking the French Market or strolling on Bourbon Street or the hours spent watching the parades go by but we didn’t care. We didn’t want to miss any of it so we pushed through any pain, tiredness, or common sense. 

fish bowl drinkFor me, I think it was good to eat and drink what we wanted. I had beignets, praline cookies, alligator bites, and so many rich indulgences. I drank bourbon I’d never heard of, along with some ridiculously caloric offerings like a fish bowl filled with 64 ounces of hurricane, a Voodoo punch and a hand grenade. I never ate anything I could have gotten here. I only ate Creole, Cajun, French or other cuisine authentic to Crescent City. Therefore, I had no guilt on what I ate or drank. 

When we got back, we were extremely sore. I can’t even explain what body parts hurt. We got a hot stone massage, which helped, but what really helped, was doing just about nothing for the next 4-5 days. I worked out for two hours on two of those days and then my body told me to stop, so I did. I felt a bit bad about not working out, but I realized I really needed to heal, as my body had truly taken a beating from our 6 days spent in the Big Easy. 

BP at Mardi Gras, 2013Honestly, I think I really needed everything. My husband agrees that this gave us both the stress relief desired from any vacation. I needed to eat without counting calories. I needed to drink new and fascinating flavor combinations. I had to run my body ragged so I would not be tempted to workout, thus allowing myself to spring back into shape. Here we are about one week back from New Orleans, and I’ve already lost half the weight gained during this intoxicating pleasure. To me, this shows that my body and metabolism are not holding a grudge. I even feel my workouts, if possible, are more productive than they used to be. Going back to my normal eating and working out patterns were easy, I feel recharged and have new energy. Saturday I’m starting P90X again for the third round and have given up alcohol for Lent, two things I ‘m not sure I’d be eager to do without this total mind and body vacation. What turned out making me healthier, making me feel better, making me appreciate exercise, making me eat good-for-me food, and putting some bounce back in my step was going outside my norm for a few days, pushing myself as hard as I could in the opposite direction and then reeling myself back in. Not saying it would work for everyone, but it did work for me. I feel like a new person, with more oomph and drive. Ready, Reset, and now I’m good to Go!

happy holidays, smallerThis is always such a joyous time of year. Well, let me honestly rephrase that- joyous and stressful. I love being around family and friends, taking some time off, and the general beauty of the season (i.e., decorations, music, smell of cinnamon, etc.). Moreover, I can’t forget the food. On the other hand, the many holiday parties, the traffic jams, and long lines in the store can be quite stressful. Adding the two together, the joy of the season plus the stress, could equal unwanted pounds. Below is my quick guide to survival so that you don’t find yourself with an item you can’t return the day of Christmas… excess weight. 

carrot and celery sticksIf you’re going to a holiday gathering, eat first and stay away from the calorie laden food that awaits. If you must eat something while there, stick to healthy appetizers like fruit, veggie sticks, and a few pieces of shrimp. For a sit down meal, stay away from the appetizers and eat only small portions of the food provided. 

winebullet, smallerDecide before you arrive how many glasses of wine or other beverage will fit into your calorie count for that day and stick to it. Go back and further between that beverage and water, sipping slowly. 

Do not eat because you are stressed or because the food is there. Eat because you’re hungry and stop once you are swingssatisfied (note: not full, but satisfied as full means you’ve overeaten). If you are stressed, find something productive to keep you busy like putting together the swing set purchased for your kids (or the neighbors kids, or some other needs to be assembled gift), or wrap more gifts, or take a walk to see the lights in the neighborhood; anything that will keep your hands off food. 

chesspiece bulletFor those days that involve hopping from one event to another, plan your day accordingly. Know which houses you will eat at and what you intend to eat. Go into that day with a strategy. Map  out what to eat where and who has what favorite dishes. Know what time you might need a snack and who would have that snack. Sticking to your plan will help ensure the day ends in success. 

In general, be smart and eat smart. Maybe you see something you must have a bite of that you hadn’t intended to eat. Or santas belly, no tmmaybe you are so stressed that you had to have one more glass of red wine. Or maybe you’re just human and Christmas comes but once a year, so on Christmas day, you completely blow your calorie budget (just that one day). These things might happen, however, if you keep your wits about you for the most part and plan ahead, no one will mistake you for Santa Claus later. Wishing everyone a Happy, Safe and HUJ Holiday!

I went to a buffet brunch Sunday and broke most of my own rules. I was winding down my birthday weekend, which was a load of fun. Luckily, I did extra workouts to combat any overeating for the weekend, thus didn’t gain any weight. As a matter of fact, Sunday was the only day I blew it. It did remind me though that I do have rules that should be followed for a buffet or BBQ and since we’re in the perfect season for both, I figured I’d jot down a few and share.

  • Peruse the eats first. Check to see what is worthy for you to spend your calories on. Don’t put one thing on the plate and then realize you’d wish you’d known about something else, and now you have two things on the plate. Carefully select, making sure the food on your plate is what you truly desire and not something you’re eating just because it was there.
  • Always, always, always use a smaller plate. I just went in for the kill Sunday and didn’t even think about plate size, even though I could have chosen a smaller plate.
  • Only get the item once. Sure, they call it a smorgasbord, but it doesn’t mean you have to treat it like one. Don’t keep going back for more, then some more, then some more. Get it, enjoy it, and be done with it.
  • Plan your day around this meal, thus only eating one large meal that day. I went to brunch and only had cottage cheese with a Fiber One brownie for dinner, as that’s all I really needed. Be honest with yourself, if you’re not hunger, don’t eat just because the clock said it was dinnertime.
  • Leave food on the plate. This will certainly save you a few calories. If you have a smaller plate, you’ve already eaten fewer calories and by leaving a bit of something on the plate, you’re saving your waistline even more. There’s that saying, “always leave them wanting more,” and that applies to food quite well. Don’t overdo it, just come back another time.

I’m going to a Pig Roast Friday, so reading over these rules and keeping them in mind when I arrive will help me immensely. It’s always good to remember certain guidelines, as they will keep me from diving in fork first. Hopefully these will help others during the season of summer picnics and 4th of July BBQs.

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