Playful and Fun

birthday cake

In  just a few short hours, I will be 42. I find myself wondering over the past week or so, what does that meant is 42 supposed to look like? Do I embody it? Do I even care if I’m the typical 42-year-old woman? I’ll share with you what I came up with. 

I don’t think I’m the average 42-year-old, although again, I’m not sure I even know what that is. I am me and I feel pretty good at this age. While I’m far from perfect, I have certainly matured over the years. I’ve made sure to put my health front and center. I’m even calmer when in uncomfortable situations, as opposed to arguing, yelling, or just bolting. I’m understanding in the differences of others without losing my point of view or myself. I am patient, caring, kind and open-minded. At the same time, I refuse to deal with a bunch of BS. I accept the fact that people are flawed and would rather they be upfront about things, just as I am to everyone. All of these traits came with growing up, or as I like to say, are reflective of Grown Folks and yup, I’m Grown!

At 42, I am happy. I have many more goals I’d like to accomplish and things I seem to continually fail at but overall, I can’t really complain. I can wake up on my birthday and do yoga, or cardio, or weightlifting, or bike riding and be with people I love throughout the day. My mind, body and spirit might be getting older, but intelligence, confidence and strength came with being older, so it’s not a bad trade-off.

So, what does 42 mean? To me, celebrating this birthday means I’m still here doing what I do, learning what I enjoy and being the best me I can. I’ve taken HUJ strides in changing who I am and sculpting the best version of me possible. Maybe it’s in bad form to say this, but “Happy Birthday to Me.” Or rather, as I say it with no shame and shout for the world to hear, “Happy 42nd Birthday to Me.”


(I realized, after I wrote this, there’s no weight-loss or maintenance information here, just me basically patting myself on the back. Shameful, maybe, but sometimes, kudos and thoughts to oneself is exactly what is needed to keep on keeping on.)

Last year I absolutely embraced 40. This year, tomorrow actually, I’ll be 41, which feels a bit different. I will officially be in my 40s, as opposed to exactly 40. Crazy, I know, but that’s how I think of it. While I’m not embracing 41 as I did 40 (no huge party this year), I am quite accepting of it. Below are just some random thoughts I have in regards to being in my 40s, which is less than 24 hours away:

I’m not the average person for my age. I exercise regularly and I’m merely pounds from a healthy BMI, thus from a weight standpoint, so far so good.

I fear the middle age spread. I finally got my body in shape, looking a bit like an hourglass and now, who knows what horrid thing will happen next.

I can’t wait to do my 2-hour workout tomorrow. There is something liberating about “pumping iron” the morning of another year older. It makes me feel like I haven’t lost anything, which is silly really. If I lose something it’ll likely happen over time, not overnight (but I’ll take the delight it brings me, no matter how misguided).

I am highly looking forward to celebrating with friends and family this weekend. And, while healthy or not (I know it’s not), I’m going to have a great time partying it up. Though at my age, I had better be careful about how much partying I do, especially if I plan to complete that aforementioned workout.

I still feel young but I also feel accomplished. If I were a man, that would make me distinguished (like Sean Connery at 40-something). Not sure what that makes me as a woman. I hear ma’am and shutter as I think that’s a sign I’m old to others. I’m not that old but I suppose I’m getting there.

Most importantly, I am not only healthy but I am happy. It took time to get here. I can’t say it took the entire 41 years but it certainly wasn’t overnight or quick. It is nice to feel settled, relaxed and ready for what comes now that I’m officially “over the hill.” I smile slyly as I say, “Happy Birthday to Me… You Go Girl!”

Outside of the spiritually obvious, today makes me think of one thing… be good, this Friday and throughout this weekend. For many, this weekend will be spent with family members around tables crowded with food, buffets fit for a king, all kinds of ooey-gooey-chewy candy, and other unbelievable scrumptious treats. Some people will finally be able to eat foods they’d given up weeks ago, while others will be greeted with foods they only see once a year. Whatever the reason these temptations abound, don’t give in. Don’t wake up Monday morning disappointed by the weekend’s calorie intake. Don’t take that step backwards after the many strides made forward. Don’t act a fool… or at least, these are all the things I keep saying to myself.

Do you have things you are telling yourself? Do you have a plan? If not, come up with a good one. Don’t just eat those jellybeans or peeps and not think about it. Those calories can add up. They may be cute and tasteful now but come weigh-in time, they can lead to some distasteful, ugly numbers. Show that candy who’s boss and give it a smack-down instead of a chow-down. Resist the urge at the buffet to eat all the decadent food offered and only choose those diamond-in-the-rough dishes, as you’re more than worth it. I can tell I’ve grown in the past year, as I didn’t have this mentality a year ago and now plan to go in strong.

Last year, I acted a fool but this year, I am going to do better. This year, I am going to follow all my rules. I am going to eat in small quantity only. I have mapped out my plan, the foods I want to eat, my must haves and I visualize success. I will carefully walk the buffet, only eat one plate of food and lightly fill it with lean food like fish, roasted vegetables, unique salads and a small piece of ham. I am even going to try to avoid a waffle, eggs, bacon, sausage or other traditional breakfast fare, as I can get those items whenever. I want to focus on small bites of unique foods for which I don’t eat often. I will continue to chant this to myself until my head rests on my pillow Sunday night at which time I will no longer be fraught with Easter temptation. I want to wake up Monday morning able to write about my successes, how I beat enticing food down with a stick (instead of my fork), and the unwavering number on the scale. Tune in on Monday for results to this year’s Easter, fiasco or triumph…

Today I had a “good for me” moment. I went to a breakfast lecture for some professional development on how to create effective and high performing teams. The breakfast portion started at 7:15, with the lecture to follow at 7:45. Since I had plans for later in the day, I worked out this morning as well. I had my normal protein bar prior to the workout and got my Grande, skinny, sugar-free caramel latte on the way to the lecture. I told myself before going that I wasn’t there for breakfast. I was there for the lecture. I try to keep my eating on a regimen, especially during the weekdays. I have coffee by 7:45, breakfast at 9ish, a mid-morning snack about 11:30, lunch at 1:30, a mid-afternoon snack at 3:30, and dinner by 6pm. If I’m hunger I might add another snack or have to move an eating time up, but that is only if I’m hunger. Therefore, a 7ish breakfast lecture does not fit into my eating schedule. 

As you’ve likely guessed, the “good for me” moment was when I walked out of there not having eaten a thing. Moreover, I didn’t feel awkward at any moment while there. I purposely arrived within 10 minutes of the lecture to give myself time to check-in to the event, find a seat, meet and greet the people at my table, pour some water, and prepare myself for the lecture. This time frame also meant that most people who had arrived with the intention of consuming breakfast were almost done, so it didn’t seem odd that I didn’t have a plate. I had my coffee and water to keep me company and gnaw on, so I was happy with that. 

In hindsight, I sat with a table full of women. I didn’t purposely pick this table for that reason but I realize the advantage this added. The women at my table were all fairly young, approximately 30-50 in age, professional, in good shape, not overly overweight but not skinny either, and they didn’t stack food on their plate. Of the ladies that ate at my table, a couple had plates of fruit, one had yogurt with some granola, another couple were done when I got there and two others, just like me, only drank coffee or water. As I said, I realized this in hindsight, but in the future, I’m likely to look for the table of people that aren’t piling on the food from the free buffet, as it likely keeps me from temptation. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention earlier that the buffet and this lecture were free. Sure, you had to register and they only do a first-come-first served up to 250 people to attend, but free is free. 

The buffet had all things breakfast, like eggs, bacon, sausage, muffins, Danishes, fruit, and surprisingly yogurt and granola, something I actually eat for breakfast on occasion. They also had all sorts of juices, milk, coffee, and tea for beverages. The reason I had a “good for me” moment is because the old me would have chowwed down on that breakfast. I would have arrived precisely at 7:10 to allow enough time for check-in, eating breakfast, maybe even getting seconds and then preparing for the lecture. Free food used to be hard to pass up, especially good free food and since I’ve eaten there before, I’m sure the food was good. After all, I did do a hard workout this morning, it was breakfast time and I did walk there from my office, so I deserved it, right? At least that’s what I would have been telling myself. 

I am elated that I could go with a plan, successfully execute, and stick to my eating routine for the day. Instead of stuffing myself with free food, I decided to remain free of those calories. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend last week about the free donuts, bagels, and snacks that are in her staff lounge/kitchen every Friday morning. She said she used to eat those items without thought and now that she is paying more attention to what she is eating, she passes them up every week. She is amazed at how easy it was to eat food, loading on the calories, even when not hungry or if the food isn’t really something you crave. On the flip side, that same ease makes it easy to give up those bad habits when you only eat what you really want; you just have to be cognizant of everything you put in your mouth and decide, do I really want that? Am I really hungry? Many times the answer is likely no and those calories for the day can be saved for something better. Now, I am hungry and it is outside of my usual eating time, so I think I’ll celebrate my moment with a 100-calorie bag of popcorn. After all, I am a bit hungry, I really would love some popcorn, and I did walk an extra mile today to attend this lecture. Woot-woot!

I just got back from vacation in Vegas and for this trip I had a major plan in place. In order to head-off the weight gain, I always do extra workouts one week prior to leaving (2 miles of walking and 30 minutes on my exercise bike, in addition to my usual regimen) and extra workouts for one week upon my return, as I always expect to gain 8-10 pounds from vacation. This time, I still prepared with the exercise but wanted to focus on reducing the weight gain by eating less while on vacation. Sure, it’s Vegas, there are tons of opportunities to eat and drink, two things I enjoy immensely, but I truly believe I can enjoy myself and only gain about 4-6 pounds. I was adamant before I left that to succeed I needed to keep all my rules in place like no appetizers, only eat half or less of what is on the plate, and share dessert. Only eat when hungry or just a few bites to soak up the alcohol when needed. At a buffet, only eat the foods you normally would not have at home or those foods unique to this buffet, this town, this experience (for example, I can get ham carved anywhere, so no ham; I eat eggs, bacon, and other breakfast foods frequently, so no usual food items). Think half, one bite, sampling, tasting, etc. 

Another thing I did this time was review the menus of all the places we knew we were going to dine before we even left home. This allowed me to get acquire a taste for only the food I selected I would eat, thus not indulge in something else on the menu. Additionally, I was able to wrap my brain around how much to eat, what would be an acceptable serving, etc. My thoughts were it is harder to overeat when you know where you should stop. I figured at every restaurant I would ask for a small plate, put the portion or serving I should eat on that plate and eat no more. Mapping it out and visualizing how much I would eat, where I would stop, how I would succeed at each restaurant made me feel confident. I was ready to take on Vegas, it’s endless buffets, it’s tantalizing restaurants fit for foodies, those famous chefs, the specialty drinks, and  everything those bright lights had to offer. So, how’d I do? 

Well, that saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is simply not true, because those 7 pounds of weight I gained did not stay in Vegas. However, the last time I went on vacation I gained about 9 pounds, so I guess this is an improvement. I’m not too bummed, as I planned for the weight gain and will lose it within the next couple of weeks; two pounds are off already. I can honestly say, it could have been worse. I didn’t have appetizers and I did cut my portions in half and only ate when hungry, or to soak up alcohol. From an eating standpoint, I did pretty well. 

The major problem area was the lovely drinks served in Vegas. Many places serve drinks by the feet and yard, with 1 ½-yard maximum (4.5 feet) or they have fancy, original drinks, like the cotton candy martini (actually made with cotton candy), or the frozen hot chocolate with 20 kinds of chocolate in it. On Friday, it dawned on me, while strolling down Vegas Blvd, drinking my conservative 2-feet long cocktail, that this frozen drink with 3 extra rum shots, had likely a million calories. Sure, I was walking while drinking it, went dancing later that night, and still felt the pains of my hour-long highly intense elliptical workout from the morning, but no level of activity would account for all those calories. I decided at that moment, I didn’t care about those calories as I was on vacation and enjoying myself. From a drinking standpoint, that’s pretty much how the entire Vegas vacation went… but as I said, I was good with my eating. 

Bottom line, at least I’m getting better. It was 7 pounds instead of 10 and I drank a bunch of calories while watching my eating, instead of both eating and drinking getting out of hand. Rome wasn’t built in a day and changing my habits aren’t going to happen during one vacation. I had a plan, I succeeded in not gaining as much weight as usual and I’m happy with that. I feel vacated enough to continue back to normal life, so much so that in the same 30 minutes on the exercise bike, I appear to ride faster as my last couple of rides resulted in burning 30 more calories for .2 more miles. Physically and mentally, I feel rejuvenated and I know I’ll lose the weight gained, so I’ll consider this victory. I will say, from the new tattoo, to hearing last call in a Vegas club (which I’ve found out is at 4am, something I’ve never stayed long enough to hear), to zip lining on Fremont street and staying up all night Sunday into Monday at the Peppermill/ Fireside Lounge until time to go to the airport, it was a Vegas Vacation worth every pound.

Oh how I do wish that were true. I wish on those occasions my clothes felt a bit tight it were simply that I washed them incorrectly, or the material shrank, or even, as scary as it sounds, some little critters were in my closet wreaking havoc on my wardrobe. Unfortunately, I can’t ever blame my waistline on any of those things. As much as my mind knows everything comes to calories in and calories out, it is sometimes hard to get that message to my stomach, or is that really my taste buds? For those occasions where I really should not be hungry and I do not want to increase the number on the scale, I have a few tried and true methods (on many occasions) that keep me in my clothes. 

Take a nap – I don’t think anyone gets enough sleep and I know I don’t. If I’m home mid-afternoon, with nothing to do and I have the munchies, I opt for a siesta. One quick hour of sleep and I usually wake up refreshed and the feeling to chew on something is gone. 

Brush my teeth – that wonderful clean mouth feeling is something I enjoy, so I don’t want to mess that up by eating something and have particles floating around my mouth. Plus, whatever I eat will end up tasting like toothpaste or mouthwash… yuck! 

Go upstairs – I do not eat upstairs, so if I’m not around food or in a place where “no food is allowed” then I’m safe. I’m safe from the refrigerator catcalls and tempting smells. 

Chewing gum – this keeps my mouth busy for at least 1 hour or so. I chew Extra sugarless gum, with only 5 calories. Heck, if I get a different piece or flavor every hour, that is still fewer calories than anything else I’d put in my mouth. 

Hot Cocoa with a Vitatop or VitaCake (or 100-calorie dessert) – this is a maximum of 125 calories. Since the hot chocolate is hot, I can’t sip or eat too fast. Again, keeping my mouth busy and if I eat something chocolaty, I usually don’t want to spoil that with another flavor afterwards. You know what they say about idle hands, well sometimes I think they were talking about my mouth. 

Get busy, stay busy – This is my last recourse, as honestly, I’d rather do anything but clean. However, once I get started on a project, I don’t stop, not even for food. I’ve even been so wrapped up in spring-cleaning that once finished, I realized I hadn’t eaten in hours and thought I might pass out. There is always some drawer, closet or other thing in the house that could be cleaned, de-cluttered, straightened out, etc. 

These usually come in handy those couple of hours between dinner and bedtime or during some of my weekend afternoons when I’m at home. If you are one of those lucky people who only eats when hungry, doesn’t go over calories, and never gets the munchies, good for you. How I do which I could say the same. If you are like me and find yourself just wanting to eat, even though you know you’re not hungry and you don’t have the calories for it, what are your tried and true methods? If you don’t have any, try to find some, as they will save you from yourself on many occasions. These don’t always work for me, but on those times they do, I love that scale the next morning and am extremely proud of myself. It’s the small victories over time that will add up, as opposed to those unneeded calories.

This blog was my husband’s idea (can you hear the hum-bug in my voice). I have minimal artistic ability (minimal being a kind word because I really have none), but he suggested I come up with my own 12 Days of Christmas or at least 12 tips for Christmas. Not being one to turn down a challenge, I decided to go for it. Therefore, I bring you HUJ’s 12 Tips for Christmas:

12 – Appetizer veggie sticks (think carrots and celery) 

11 – Chews of each bite before swallowing

10 – Food items maximum on dinner plate (HUJ readers already know only one plate)

9 – Snack chips, grab one or two at a time

8 – Glasses of water

7 – Minutes per hour of activity (play Wii, snowball fight, clean kitchen, etc.)

6 – Minimum kinds of veggies on your plate

5 – Mini/small/bite-size portions of dessert to taste

4 – Maximum types of meat

3 – At the most caloric drinks

2 – Miles walking

1 – Day only of this type of eating

Drumroll please…  

Now, for your singing pleasure, brought to you by HUJ, are the lyrics to the above tips, sung to the same tune as The 12 Days of Christmas:

12 – Veggie sticks

11 – Chews per bite

10 – Foods, one plate

9 – Chips for snacking

8 – Water glasses

7 – Minutes dancing

6 – Kinds of veggies

5 – Mini desserts

4 – Types of meat

3 – Caloric drinks

2 – Mile walk

            And only do this for Christmas Day!

I hope you enjoyed this world premiere release by HUJ. Everyone have a happy, safe, and Merry Christmas!

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