Stop Obsessing & Eat the Christmas Cookie: Why Not To Diet This Holiday

  Image from Bon Appetit

Image from Bon Appetit

 

Every year around this time I get a little unnerved that the holidays are somehow going to wreak havoc on my health. And each New Year’s, regardless of what real harm the holidays have done, I arrive with a resolution of nixing this or that in pursuit of perfecting my diet; lofty pursuits that manage to cut you off from the rest of the world if you endeavor to maintain them 7 days a week, which inevitably will drive one to a mental frenzy over how to eat and look perfect this season . They may not have always been outspoken plans or obvious labels such as being a “vegan” or “gluten-intolerant,” but they were my own tactics to acheiving this ideal.  It’s sounds lame and shallow (because it is) but it is a concern I’ve allowed to suck the life out of one too many Holidays Seasons.

Last January, after such a season, I came upon a Huffington Post one month too late. Contributor Margaret Wheeler Johnson had written an honest list that hits home with just about any and every woman, Holiday Eating: 17 Things to Consider When Your Obsessing About Food and Weight. (Margaret - I wish you could have told me to consider these things when I was 17!) Each and every point Johnson brings up stings like a dagger, because they’re everything I’ve thought, every thing I’ve struggled with, and likely everything any female struggles with at some point. 

My ideas of healthy living have been more of an ideal than anything else. While I’ve never had a clinical eating disorder, I’ve gone through my seasons when my ways among food were and have often been disorderly. Not disorderly as in I binge and purge, but disorderly as in I mentally calculate how many carbs are on my plate. I strategically order my “special” Starbucks drink to be under so many grams of sugar. Most ashamedly, I’ve been that girl who has, at times, tried to find ways of nixing butter and sugar and sneaking in more whole grains into the Christmas cookies. Looking back at all these crazy Holidays I’ve tried insanely hard to achieve and  “maintain” some perfect diet, to get some perfect body, to one day somehow feel perfectly secure and happy, while attempting to bake “good-for-you” gluten-free cookies (I know, I should’ve gotten coal for Christmas that year) they were always the more miserable holidays. My mind was wrapped around an ideal that I had been fixated on forming my body to and therefore completely wrapped up around me, during a time it should be the least focused on me.

“Maintaining one’s health” can be quite the self-consuming task. Our concept of health has evolved greatly through the years, for better and for worse. Health: the state of being free from illness or injury. Today we tend to rate a clean bill of health on whether a trace of gluten is in our system or a teaspoon of sugar has passed our lips in the past week. When “maintaining one’s health” become miserable why do we think it’s good for us? I know we all know this (heck, I've known it for years) but do we really know it? As in, eat with some sense and sensibility?

The search for the perfect diet, the ideal body or some self-sufficient plan that will make us skinny (and therefore forever-happy) just does not exist. The perfect body does not exists. Cindy Crawford even says, "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford." Again, these are thinks we know (hear, read, say) but don’t really live like we know it.  A healthy diet is so much more sensible and reasonable than we can wrap our heads around in our culture of bizarre extremities and immediate gratification. So learn earlier than I did and don’t let this crazy search for perfection by means of some indoctrinated diet ruin your holiday, or any day for that matter.

2 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence by Noon

Transient

Truth be told, it’s common for most any female to be found in one of two frames of mind: “I’m ugly.” or... “I’m fat.” Some days we wake up in it, other days we’re just dandy until the slightest thing sets us off into a self-loathing, mirror-avoiding, Victoria Secret Model-envying oblivion. Habitual self-doubt and insecurity is the gray, stormy cloud that we live under, walking around with our heads down, like Linus from Charlie Brown. We often accept “it’s just a part of life”, this idea that we will always feel and look average and that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It’s a norm we reside in and assume the only girls who don’t are those we envy (though likely they deal with it just as much as the next).

While we girls ride on such degrading thoughts and emotions most guys are mentally and vocally buffering their egos. Really, it wouldn’t hurt us to learn a thing or two from the boys on this one. 

As females we can spend years trying to look like someone else, wishing away every trait we posses. The more we accept we are “less than,” (less than the girls in the magazine, less than our hot friends Instagram selfies, less than our ex-boyfriend’s next girlfriend) the less we make of what our lives could fully be. We whittle down our happiness to consist of a night with a jar of Nutella, a spoon and an old fashioned rom-com (that’s a romantic comedy, a.k.a 90% of the films made in the 90’s for you youngn’s) and begin presenting and referring to ourselves as less than, less than all we could be. 

If there were two things I could tell my college/high-school-self (who then, quite a few jean sizes larger I might add, did look forward to such nights with Nutella more weeks than not) it would be these two ways of thinking that have come to change my self-worth and outlook on life as a whole, no matter how crazy my life may look these day. 

For all the ways we hate and analyze ourselves, here are two simple ways you girls could boost your confidence today! “Because you’re worth it.” (I know - completely cheesy, but completely necessary for you to hear.)

  1. Stop complicating food & eat like a sensible human being.

As women, we like to complicate things. (I know, ground-breaking news for you all.) One way we screw ourselves over most often is in our relationship with food.

At some age it seems we become programmed, in our American society as women, to think that food is either a dietary sentence or a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. We don’t know how to function outside of all or nothing. Maybe I was just the most odd young girl, but even my determined search for a balance way of eating was many times unbalanced. But it shouldn’t be.  

A few things to consider before stuffing your face or are reaching for a toilet to purge in (and I am not making light of this, because I know it’s a common resolve we seek): Real food is a necessity to life, is made in a variety and abundance for us to enjoy without guilt and will no doubt benefit you with a lean body and sharp mind. So eat woman!

Our psyche and stomach are connected in more ways than one, and the moment you start feeding your body sensibly is not only the moment your brain will function better, but your state of mind will be renewed, and you will begin to detach yourself from this frivolous notion that you have to eat perfectly to feel confident and beautiful.

Eating daily should be equally enjoyable and enriching. It shouldn’t feel like a prescription or a restriction. While I could talk on this subject for days, simply put, learning to eat like a sensible human being will change you from inside and out. 

2. Every now and then, indulge in your girly-self...

It was for long the joke among my mom and sisters that I would spent more money on Vogue magazines than I did on the clothes I wanted. I gawked over styles I would never wear because I didn’t feel I could pull it off, or I kept waiting to look perfect to feel worthy of wearing these great outfits. Many of us do this, with clothes, hairstyles and makeup. We have just how many boards on Pinterest, how many magazines of things we love but think we could “just never pull off”? Well it’s time you feel like a little girl playing dress up. Try something new. Wear that outfit that you keep gawking over but don’t feel you could pull off, go to a beauty counter you can’t afford like Bobbi Brown and learn how to do groom your eyebrows. After all it’s free and that’s what they’re there for, not just the Jane Does sporting their Jimmy Choo’s.

Being the confident you doesn’t mean you have disregard being feminine, pretty or primped every now and then. It means it’s ok to play dress up and try new things

While we should be confident as the girls and women we are today, putting the slightest intention towards the areas of fueling and presenting one’s self has a massive impact on our value and self-worth. Stop punishing yourself for not being as perfect as you wish you were and start treating yourself as if you were as great a woman as you desire to be. My Dad repeats it to this day, and though it’s a slightly corny note to end, some Disney quotes are just as fitting for us as adults as they were when we were kids. So girls, women... “You are more than what you have become.” 

How a Little Detoxing Can Boost Your Brain Function & Mood (A bonus to a Tighter Tummy)

It’s a very rare occasion that I decide to endure a detox, which means a week without cheese, chocolate and (yes, shocker) without a drop of coffee. (Though honestly, the “no coffee” is more like Monday - Friday, if I’m lucky.) While some extreme detoxes and cleanses, like those entirely plant-based, dairy-free or Paleo-focused (no dairy, no beans, no grains - I’d go crazy), can be very beneficial. But I’ve discovered such drastic approaches aren’t always necessary. After all, what is life without cheese and coffee, right? But doing without processed foods for a set period of time, can drastically improve your mental and emotional state of health.

Cleaning house every now and then, in terms of your diet, is a great way to reset your body and mind. And it turns out a little detoxing may give you that mental sharpness and emotional clarity you've been looking for.

Such a mood-boosting detox would entail going without sugar, refined grains and processed foods for a week or so. While I know many are opposed to any idea of detoxing, because of the poor body-image or eating habits it may encourage, I want to clarify that I’m suggesting a detox here where you actually eat food. There are also those who hate the school of thought that says you should not deny yourself what you feel you need, but sometimes it is just good for us to do without.  A little detoxing, or, better described as learning to fuel yourself with what is essential for your health (vegetables, fruit, nuts, lean proteins and whole grains) and avoiding what is unnecessary (sugar, processed foods and caffeine) has a way of resetting your body, brain and overall mood. 

A little cleanse doesn’t have to mean consuming nothing but green juices all week (though don’t underestimate a good green juice). Still such a commitment can be a little scary. The thought of a week without chips and Diet Coke, or finding replacements to your usual Pinkberry fix is just too much for some and keep many from ever discovering dependancies that may be altering your mood or train of thought.  

There is a twofold here to our strong connection to food: eating processed foods not only affects our weight, but has a direct affect on our gut, which in turn affects our brain and mental state. These foods we’ve become fixated on are foreign to our bodies and we are excessively reaping their affects. Studies show that our brain responds to sugar the same way it does to cocaine and heroine, excessive caffeine can increase anxiety and high-blood pressure and salty foods can be the cause of our cognitive decline. It’s difficult to deny the direct implications our diet has on our brain function and emotional wellbeing.

While we manage to find ways to adjust to the changes that life throws our way, making simple adjustments to our diets in order to improve our overall health seems impossible for many of us. True, you only live once. And certainly, life is meant to be enjoyed - my point exactly. So... you could keep eating Oreo’s and telling your-sad-moody-self just that or you could make small, attainable adjustments to incorporate more foods that are nutrient-dense, full of antioxidants into your daily diet. You may be surprised how much more you will enjoy life eating this way and your brain just might thank you.

Did I mention coffee is chock full of antioxidants and is great for your skins? (I could write a whole post on it, but I don’t want to bore you.) 

 

Yoga Myths Debunked: #1 Yoga Can't Make You Stronger

Transient

On the rare occasion I find myself at a coffee shop (oh, so rare), I’ll hear (overhear, listen in, eavesdrop, what have you) the most interesting conversations; interesting as in so intriguing, entertaining or bizarre that I’ve been tempted to start a series simply on these discussions I overhear. I think I would call it “Starbucks Snooping,” or maybe “Chronicles of a Cafe Pryer.”

Typically it’s a pet peeve of mine to be working on something and wind up overhearing the world problems of those around me. But every now and then someone says something that grabs my attention (and yes, I think, “That would be a fantastic topic to write on!”). Excuse my dorky self.

Well just the other week I sat down in a cafe at one of those inviting lengthy wooden study tables, that are either the most wonderful invention for the solo studier at coffee shops or the most annoying concept, because essentially you're sitting at a wide-open invitation for anyone to join you. (Now I’m sure I sound like a community-avoiding loner, but I guess thats what earbuds are for.) Soon I was joined by a 60-something southern belle who was sharing just how “famished and parched” she was and before I knew it, the conversation led to a series of questions (she was doing all the asking) that wound up revealing a rundown of my resume. After I mentioned I was a yoga instructor, this lithe, elderly Scarlett O’Hara responded “Oh, yoga! I hear that’s relaxing and good for you. But it doesn’t really strengthen you, so it’s not really like... a workout.” Au contraire!, I wanted to reply, but I held my tongue like the good reserved northern girl my southern dad raised me to be. In conversation one does not always have to have the last word and in the presence of the elderly (aka - anyone older than you), one never takes the last word. 

What I did want to tell this little lady (side note, but too hilarious not to note: my Mac proofreader just suggested I avoid using “little lady” because it is sexist)... Rephrase: What I did want to tell this sweet, capable wise woman was, Yoga* will undoubtedly make you stronger, and you don’t have to be doing a P90X routine to discover it.

This is a misconception I had for some time that held me back from giving yoga a go. How can focusing on balance, breathing and flexibility actually lead to a stronger physique? But Iet me be honest here: at the time I was more concerned it would not melt calories away like my spin class or Tracey Anderson dvds. If I couldn’t burn 400 some-calories, why would it even be worth 20 minutes?

When I did make the dive, and exchange my high-impact runs and spins for some soft, varied and restorative routines, I found my strength was challenged like nothing I had ever tried. Granted, I’ve never entered a Crossfit (and likely, never will) so this is not a claim that yoga will make you a body builder or the show-stopper in your Crossfit clique, but if you’re looking to challenge your body in a new way and strengthen skills you rarely tap into, you may want to give yoga a chance.

So how can this odd form of “working out” make you stronger?

1. Yoga will strengthen you’re coordination.

Learning to allow your body to release (opposed to forced stretches) and still hold poses for lengths of time, is both a mental and physical challenge. You’re constantly battling the “I can do this”, “No, no I can’t do this.” “I can hold this a few breathes more.” “Nope, there’s no way. I’m going to fall!” thoughts. 

Yoga challenges your strength on a whole new level.

I recall being in classes in NYC with firefighters and gym owners, who would sweat and pant, attempting to hold poses instructors would lead us through. 

2. Yoga will strengthen your focus.

In one study it was found that after a yoga practice, individuals “were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly,” and were overall more productive. (The Journal of Physical Activity and Health)

3. Yoga will strengthen your breathing.

Yoga will make you focus on your breathing.

 The benefits are endless for better breathing: Stimulated brain growth, improve heart rate variability, lower stress levels, alleviate anxiety and negativity, lower blood pressure, the list goes on. (Huffington Post)

4. Yoga will strengthen your emotions (or self-control).

Studies suggest yoga may have a similar affect as antidepressants and psychotherapy on the body. Of recent, it has become a form of therapy used for many struggling with PTSD and even Psychiatric disorders. (Time)

5. Inevitably yoga will make you stronger. 

Simply put, by an aspiring neuroscientist, “Yoga is a scientific technology that harnesses the innate capability of the body as a vehicle for transformation.” (US News)

Male aspiring neuroscientist, I might add. 

Yes, yoga can and will make you stronger. Even you, men.

*Though many programs are incredibly restorative and invigorating, Yoga can be a very loose term. Some programs, such as P90X, can be counterproductive. You should feel a sense of recovery and energy. If you feel like you’ve been run over by a mack truck you may want to look elsewhere.

Free and approachable yoga routines by Tara Stiles are always a sure thing.

 

How Female Insecurity Adds to our Weight Woes

“Do I look fat in this?”

We women tend to ask questions we already know the answers to. And often we're not necessarily asking for  answers we don’t know but for the ones we want to hear.

The feminine species can be tricky sort.

Sometimes we play games. Sometimes we ask the right questions (and probably in just the right way, in just the worst scenarios) to get the right answers. And sometimes we like to nurture a little thing called insecurity.

A women’s level of self-confidence and esteem has an impact in just about every aspect of her life; her choice of clothing, her facial expressions, her job performance, her interaction with other women, her interactions with men, her sense of drive behind the wheel, her eating habits and possibly even her tweets. Yes, we women can gear a lot in life simply by how we view ourselves. The power of insecurity can be paralyzing, affecting the way we communicate, conduct ourselves and even may have a domino affect our progress in attaining a healthy weight.

If we haven’t been that girl asking those question, (which whohasn’t at some point) we’ve all known someone who’s questions and conversations are directed in such a way to edify themselves on a regular basis. Truly it’s a common mind game we like to throw on one another (and it’s exactly the kind of behavior women in my family have no problem calling each other out on) but it is also often the rooted insecurities we culture in our minds that wind up complicating so much more in life than is necessary, even possibly our weight.

It’s no shock to most of us that we are our worst critics, but we also are our worst enemies. Functioning in such thought patterns of self-doubt disables our ability to move forward, accomplish and achieve much of anything. Really spending the time we do analyzing, sorting and making a science out the simple task of “eating well” derails us into more emotional frustrations than our mind can contain, so tasks as simple as changing eating habits or being more active become like science formulas to us that we can’t unlock. (And instead we buy into the health industry, who’s books, diets and programs feed most everyone the same crap in just different forms. ) Women can also allow such a self-image to discourage them, feeling that they aren’t good enough or of a certain status to be worthy of a healthy and happy life. This creates a sort of cynicism to the idea of being happy and healthy for some females, as if it’s unattainable and far-fetched, as if it’s a joke. If we were to view ourselves as deserving and capable of a healthy weight, of a healthy and happy life, the steps to getting there would probably look entirely different, as would our view of physical fitness and emotional well-being.

More than likely, nothing and no one effects our weight loss efforts more than our level of self-confidence. Insecurity keeps us from doing what we love, dreaming of to reach for next and essentially living life. So with all these trickling effects of insecurity, could a healthy image of self play a key role in obtaining healthier habits, weight loss goals and overall holistic health? Now, why would I ask a question I already know the answer to?

Could Cooking More Lead to a Healthier & Happier Life?

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image from Soustyle.com

I love reading anything Michael Pollan writes. And I think I love reading Michael Pollan because he makes me feel less high maintenance; high maintenance, because I could be content cooking nearly every meal at home. I prefer a majority of my meals to consist of real, fresh, whole foods cooked in the comfort of home. But this simple practice is now considered a a luxury of sorts. It’s time we don’t want to spend and something we’d rather pay three times the price for someone else to do for us when it could likely be made better at home.

Focusing on the health, economic and emotional benefits of the home-cooked meal, Pollan’s latest book, “Cooked” is an effort to bring us back to this neglected ritual.

Michael Pollan thinks we should all cook more.

“Cooked” presents the idea that a diet consisting mainly of homemade foods could be the missing link to reclaiming our health and ending our National struggle with obesity. He explores, as only Pollan could, the transformation of food with four basic elements: fire, water, air and earth. Experimenting with all four approaches to cooking, making everything from cheese, kimchi, bread and beer (yes, making beer), Pollan reveals truths that may be too obvious and accessible for many to accept as a key to better health; cooking could be the means to a healthier and happier life.

These days home cooked meals are considered rare commodity or simply not worth exerting the extra effort. Granted we have more options than ever, ranging from fast foods (which will seem to never die) to restaurants specializing in local, organic meals. So it’s not that there aren’t health options, it’s just that spending $12 on a breakfast for cage-free, local scrambled eggs isn’t always feasible. Though eating more whole foods is. It just require a bit more time and for some, a few skills to develop. (But we’re talking skills in cooking here, not in Chemistry.)

Eating out has become a national norm that has replaced the family dinner and aided in our health decline. The Atlantic Journal’s latest cover suggests “Engineering Healthier Junk Food” could be “The Cure for Obesity”, such as wholesome Egg McMuffins and slipping healthier ingredients into “foods that light up precisely the same pleasure centers as a 3 Musketeers bar.” While I will never complain about chocolate, it's hardly the answer to our health. Jamy Ard, a preventative medicine researcher and co-director of the Weight Management Center would differ. He believes, “Processed foods is a key part of our environment, and needs to be a key part of our answer.” While I’m sure more processed weight loss foods wouldn’t hurt Mr. Ard’s business, an increase of more enriched and genetically modified foods (GMO’s) is hardly the answer. (And why The Atlantic Journal found such a feature, suggesting just that, worthy of some 13 pages is beyond me.) No matter which way you word it (and no matter which way you modify it) food itself will never be the cure.

Every GMO and Hot Pocket that replaces more meals is like dumbing down a natural process of sorts, similar to our excessive use of texting and Facebook. Just like these social platforms inevitably change the depth and dynamics of relationships, relying on the engineered, convenient foods alters, not only our state of health, but our mental connection and social dynamics of what a real meal is.

Most people looking for a magic weight-loss pill aren’t necessarily going to pick up Michael Pollans books, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, “In the Defense of Food” or the recent “Cooked”. Though since first reading “In the Defense of Food” I’ve found Pollan knows more about weight loss and well-being than most diet books. While they may not have overnight slimming powers to your waistline, I will say reading and developing such an approach to food as Pollans would enrich most lives beyond a nutritional stand point. Cooking is more than just making a meal. It’s an experience. It’s no accident that we were born with a need for food, and real food comes with the need for preparation, that causes us to slow down, allowing us to savor and enjoy the process as well as a more nutritious, and delicious meal. If all that doesn’t sounds like an effortless, economical and enriching means to health, I’m not sure what does.

Cooking is a process not everyone loves naturally but, like many other things in life, it is a process one can learn to love. Rediscovering the rituals of home cooked meals is somewhat magical. And the magic will likely have many more benefits than just losing a few pounds. As Pollan would say, “Cooking is alchemy.”

How the Latest "Feminist Wedding " Trend Could Save You Money

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Last year barn weddings were all the hype. As my sister was planning her’s just last spring, I can remember (because how could I forget that process) Kara’s “ooo”-ing and whining every time we’d drive through Polk Parkway in Central Florida, of all the places, because of how perfect it would be just to have her dream barn-hipster wedding off the side of the highway. Right there, just off the side of the road. Every barn she visited to potentially rent was a bit out of her price range and she eventually let go of the dreamy cow fields, outdoor venue and settled for a quaint ( and affordable) chapel.

Barn weddings were a very big deal last year. 

Well, what’s all the hype this year? It’s a new thing called “Feminist Weddings”. According to The Daily Mail, which is currently tracking this growing trend through a Wedding Days.co.uk survey of 200 brides to be, there is recent increase in shunning the common ceremonial traditions for a so-called more “Feminist Wedding”. The study shows that nearly a quarter plan to keep their last name, 1 out of 10 plan on wearing a color other than white and 19% agree that traditional weddings are generally ‘anti-feminist’.

Of course a traditional wedding has nothing to do with what a woman wants. It has absolutely nothing to do with what location, invitations, center pieces, wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, place-settings, h’or duerves, cake flavor, or white horse-carriage send off a female may want for her so traditional-anti-feminist wedding day. Really, when do you hear of bride getting her way on her wedding day? Hm, they must not air Bridezilla in the UK, because this feminist-fashioned wedding trend seems to be the cake topper for a bride to remind everyone “Hey everyone, this day is all about me.”

Though when it’s said and done, as these feminist brides claim, a “Feminist Wedding” just might be an economical one at that. Come to find out, this whole trend might save you (or the father and mother, and even groom, of the bride) a pretty penny to beat. That and a slew of mouths you won’t have to feed, when certain family members see “Feminist” and “wedding ceremony” on the same invitation.

So, just how much exactly could one save if she were to choose to go with a Feminist Wedding

      1. Keeping your last name = $100 - 500 saved

Believe it or not, some studies show that  maiden-name woman are seen as more intelligent and competent”

      2. Forgoing the traditional veil = $10 - 200 saved

“Some believe it plays into the idea that a woman is ‘revealed’ to her husband as the virgin bride (though actually the use of a veil is steeped in history and has very different significance across multiple cultures).”According to The Daily Mail

      3. Wearing a color other than white = hmm…

Well, with recently debuted non-white wedding dress collections from Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang, who’s to say.  A dress is a dress, so really it all depends on just how high-maintenance your feminist bride is.

      4. Refusing an engagement ring (because apparently we aren’t property to be purchased.) = $5,000 -20,000 saved 

Crazy, but true, some guys can go by themselves a Nissan Maxima now with not having to buy that Tiffany ring anymore.

      5. Choosing not to be walked down the aisle by a Father or Father figure = Priceless 

Because what feminist wouldn’t regret that.

Turns out 76% of these feminist brides to be would like to hold to that tradition. Not that a feminist would think she’s anyone’s to be “given away” or “given to” these days, but it appears that sentiment isn’t one brides will be doing away with anytime soon.

So, this summer while you gripe over renting that $200 tux or paying $75 for a pair of heels you’ll never where again for your best friends big day, you may want to keep in mind what you are taking part in may soon be remembered as a nostalgic (anti-feminist) event.

The Stress-Eating Effect

At various points in life I’ve definitely been a stress eater, a closet-stress eater if you will. Sometimes I almost planned and strategized my stress eating for very specific days, in specific setting with very specific foods (surprise, surprise for those who know me.). I’ve gone in and out of these seasons like a singer with a bad smoking addiction.

But life can be stressful. Food can be momentarily comforting. We can’t eat perfect all the time, right? These are things I'd always tell myself, especially after any stress-induced noshing. Somehow this reasoning had a way  to make such indulgences completely justifiable.

Speaking of stress, let’s just say I wanted this post up, like, last Tuesday, the very morning my week was hit (once again) with just that. sTreSs! Ironically, of all the things I had planned to next post on was the  effects of stress-eating. It was just that kind of week.  The one that would make a great movie. Who knows. Maybe one day it will ...

Sidenote: Life gets a lot easier when you just learn to laugh at these crazy moments/seasons.

There have been days lately that would've turned the Kristin of 4 or 5 years ago, into reasoning a Oreo-peanut-butter-dipping, chocolate stashed bowl, cookie evening frenzy. You can just ask a certain former college roommate just how these evenings went. Sometimes I feel I've been bad influence with my bizarre eating habits.

Uncertain patterns of life collide with our eating habits, creating less than healthy attachmenst and daily rituals with our food, no matter what it is your polishing off. Stress eating is more than just simply sulking after a breakup with a can of Redi Whip and Ben & Jerry's while viewing a rerun of Jerry MacGuire. It's running out the door scarfing down toast for breakfast when your late for work, scarfing chips while waiting on dinner to arrive because you haven't eaten since noon or stuffing your face with chocolate chip cookies on fridays nights because the week has finally come to an end and no one is around tell you you can’t! Been there. Done that.

Our society lives in a perpetual state of stress we’ve become dumb to. Yet when stress isn't dealt with it’s effects are  going to to show up regardless. And if it’s not your crappy attitude, it’s likely going to be your waistline.

The past few months, when life has hit me blindside, I’ve tried to make a more conscious effort of my settings and moods when I eat.  Few in our Americanized culture truly know how to live in the moment let alone enjoy meals at a pace our bodies can  keep up with what’s being shoveled in. When stress isn’t dealt with and we continue to feed such emotions (literally), we’re just propelling a vicious cycle.

Last month Psychology Today titled This Is Why We’re Fat & Sick: Stress in America:

Americans are more stressed and more unhappy than our counterparts in other countries. According to Columbia University's First World Happiness Report, the United States does not even make the top 10 in happiness rankings, logging in at number 11, behind Denmark, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. And our level of happiness has remained about the same for decades. As Paul Rosch, a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College and president of the non-profit American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y., succinctly puts it, "We have more or less accepted it as a way of life..."

And, accept, I’d rather not.

The more we are aware of these tiny inhibits on our healthy, hopefully, the more we can make a conscious effort to change our currents state of stress. And it sounds like there may be more to change than just our level of stress...

Females, Food, our Freak'n Crazy Minds (& why bv is back)

“If I took all the time I’ve spent thinking about calories I could’ve learned Japanese!”

Through my healthy, mindful seasons and my not so healthy, not so mindful season it was sickening when I read that sentence and realized how much French I could’ve learned by now. Just how much time we women can waste worrying food, how much we ate, what to eat, when to eat, how to eat to fix how we ate earlier - it is mentally exhausting.

One study shows women think about dieting more than relationships and sex (if that gives you guys any ideas just how much we obsess over it). After trying nearly every cleanse, elimination diet and every quirky personal tactic I could to tackle discontent with my body, I discovered at the root, food was really not the problem. Organic, gluten-free, local or not, there were deeper issues with my frustrations than just eating right. Linked to all my pitfalls, and weight gain were my warped emotions, mind-set and outlook on life.

It’s no news now, but “dieting” isn’t the permanent solution. Still I constantly found myself in a cycle of “needing a good cleanse” or “detox.” Call it what you will, but ultimately it was making life more difficult than it needed to be. Why do we feel it necessary to restrict so much just to wind up overindulging and again return to this “need to cleanse myself”? It (and I) was becoming nonsensical. In the past I had embraced a healthy way of eating and living, yet somehow stumbled back into this bottomless pit of trying to perfect the way I eat. It was time to explore  these innate wrestling matches with my body that I couldn't seem to shake off and simply stop dieting, detoxing, cleansing... you get the picture.

We think about food and our weight way too much. We’ve allowed an obsession with perfection to either make us legalistic in our diets or just throw in the towel altogether. But there is something much more rewarding than perfection. Truth is your ideal body will never be perfect, because NO. ONE. IS.

While you can’t be perfect (and do not need to be) there is something more enriching and freeing. It is about “living,” not perfectly, but better. We have to start somewhere.

Enjoy Holiday Feasting without Letting Yourself Go

Tonight you might be scarfing down swedish meatballs and several helpings of Auntie Mae’s special brownies, but come January 1st you’re getting a membership and losing 10 pounds. Afterall “Tomorrow is another day.”

So yes, at every party you’re going to help yourself to another glass of eggnog with an extra helping of sugar cookies. Already you’ve committed to a gym membership, a carb-free diet and a guaranteed horrible time working out to strip the extra holiday weight from your body. Isn’t that how every American starts their new year?

Maybe most of us succumb to gaining weight every Christmas more than we have to.  ‘Tis the season. But before facing the holidays feeling totally powerless to maintain some kind of restraint, or healthy mindset rather, when faced with a never-ending Christmas smorgasbord, here are a few suggestions to approaching Christmas and New Years celebrations without completely losing yourself.... (or gaining another self, rather.)

1.Eat when you’re hungry -

I know - groundbreaking. While it sounds like a obvious idea, those who actually eat 3 meals a day or more (snacks don’t hurt) are probably the minority. By eating before you’re famished you’re more likely to savor, choose wisely and actually enjoy your meals.

Some of us girls like to micro-manage the way we eat and for most guys it’s just convenient to skip a meal if you know there’s going to be free food in 3 hours. Overall there’s this idea that by skimping on breakfast or keeping lunch to a minimum of a bowl of salad, we’re somehow leaving room for a third helping of pecan pie later tonight. Trouble there is, you can’t really outsmart your gut. So try listening to it. Eat when you’re hungry, which is probably more often than not. Stop when you’re satisfied. Simple.

2. Don’t save the gym for Jan. 1st.

An effective workout doesn’t have to be a P90x sweat session with Tony Horton everyday (thank God!)You don’t need a trainer or gym membership to stay active through the next week. In 20 minutes you can get a decent workout at home on days when you’re crunched for time, though 30 - 60 is always ideal. Recently I’ve enjoyed short cardio circuit sessions by James Duigan. Wait til you get to the “burpee” on the link below and 20 minutes will be more than enough.

Here are some ideas for simple & quick workouts -

3. Forget about deprivation & diets

I can’t count the number of holidays I’ve faced thinking, “Ok, after vacation I’ll nix this and that and feel better.” I’ve done the whole no sugar, dairy, processed foods cleanse thing a handful of times and while there are endless benefits to this, the aftermath of supressing every urge for chocolate or cookies can get you in more of a mess than where you first began. You don’t have to be a certified nutritionist to grasp the idea of  healthy eating. Just keep it simple. Plenty of greens, lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, nuts and learn to moderate sweets and processed foods. Enjoy a variety. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be.

Why is it that Americans revel in the extremes of holiday weight gain? The reason most of us continually fail or backtrack during these weeks is more connected with our train of thought than anything else. You can enjoy the holidays, those special brownies and a healthy lifestyle. Give yourself a Merry Christmas and don't give yourself up so easily this year.

The Many Shapes and Forms of "Thinspo"

While many Pinterst and Rumblr trends come and go others seem to be contagious on the web like the plague.  And while most of us carry and update these sites, like our digital wish list we maintain on our smart phones and ipads, one I have in mind comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s called “thinspiration.”

So what does thinspiration mean exactly? Well, exactly how it sounds.  Combine the words “thin” and “inspiration” and there you have it - “thinspiration.”

An image to inspire health, conscious eating, fitness and ultimately “thiness.”  Any girl (or guy for that matter) who may want to shed those last 5 lbs has no doubt come upon such images wondering if there’s magic that lies beyond the link. Thinspirations seems to come in two different forms. The first is often the image of this doe-eyed, duck face  17 year old girl, dressed down to her underwear, looking at the reflection in a full length mirror, of her exposed mid-drift, as if to say to all viewers “look how hot I am!.” This is an extreme form of “thinspiration.” Though the web caters to such cases of glorified obsessions, providing a way to obessess over and cheer each other on in such dysfunctional ways, as of late Pinterest and Tumblr seems to have made way for a new kind of Thinspo, as the cool kids would call it, a more acceptable approach to inspire.

Now this “Thinspo” is what some would consider a more well-rounded, fitness and overall physical health pursuits. It may often look like the All-American, athletic yet groomed feminine hottie we all want to be. The kind of girl we girls assume the guys love. The kind of girl most girls hate. She’s typically in a deep lunge, covered in sweat, her face radiant and smiling as if someone just informed her she’s been nominated for an Academy Award. The image may even say “ Sweat is your fat crying.” You’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve repinned it before and there’s no shame in that. Heck, if you know me, you I believe there is no shame in living a healthy lifestyle. But what exactly are we doing by collecting all this “thinspiration” - is it really inspiring us to live thinner and healthier or it’s just feel like we’re healthier? Thinspo may have all the best intentions but what is all this collecting of images, healthy or unhealthy, adding up to?


**Note to readers: After only 11 months my comments are finally up and running! So comment away!**

Mental Detox

There are few things in life that have the power to captivate, invigorate and set the mind at utter ease simutaneously? That’s legal, at least.  One of the few sources is the unwavering effects of music on our minds. Music helps me unplug from life. But not just any music. Unlike some people, the radio is the last place I find I this kind of respite, I need at the time - more currently than ever. Sorry, but listening to “Call Me Maybe” or Foster the People just doesn’t do it for me lately. Infact, some music makes me, as my Dad would say, “want to gently rip someones face off” more than actually unwind.  There are times when my brain needs a clean slate from all the nonsensical, love-stricken whining that seems to always be in demand. I need something more than to unplug, something maybe with a little more life-force. My mind needs to go on a detox.

While I love a variety of music, I do tend to be a bit picky about what I listen to. (Then again I tend to be a bit picky about a few other things like movies, clothes, food, coffee… we’ll just stop there.) Like many of my interests, I find myself caught in seasons of particularly enjoying or finding comfort in certain things. For some reason when Fall arrive an increase of jazz music is all I want. Harry Connick Jr, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, and the dynamic duo, Ella and Louise Armstrong do it for me when the leaves start falling (or should be at least.) Certain jazz albums not only mark the season for me, but mark moments of mental escapes, a mental “vacation from my problems,” if you will. But it wasn’t until I pulled up a piece on Spotify recently, and began listening to just the first moments that I remembered the power of particular of this genre.

I had forgotten the power of Classical music. The rejuvenating life it can carry. Instrumental music often gets the wrap for being boring, bland or tight-laced, but if that’s all you hear I think you’re a little deaf to whats really going on. Then again, I am the odd ball whose been in love with instrumental (aka - songs without words) ever since the my Dad bought me my first soundtrack: James Horner’s “Glory,” a score theme I had incesantly plucking out on the piano after first watching the epic war film. Since then it’s been a twenty-something love affair with instrumental music (more often in the form of scores.) So maybe I’m just a bias Music Major geek who will always relish the opportunity to listen to a Cello soloist in a large, empty room. That, or something truly transcendent takes place in certain instrumental pieces that doesn’t occur in other forms of music. 

It was Yo-Yo Ma’s version of Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 that has been my recent rediscovery. I’m not sure if it’s the timeless quality of the piece or the tones and pitches that seem to arrest my mind. Whatever it is, it’s something I can’t really find words for. Classical music, while often hailed for it’s power of helping one experience a more successful time of study, improving one’s memory and focus, I would say also carries the ability to bring new life. Very much in the way a detox rids the body of toxins and restores, even heals the body in the process, classical and instrumental music have the capacity, for me at least, to detox the mind. But why do most of us not take the time to listen to it? Is it that a piece carries you without any words or lyrics is boring or unnerving? Is the often untraceable route of a suite unpleasant to our formulated-inclined ears or does following a lengthy unresolved bars of music feel like too many questions to handle in one song? Many struggle to listen to classical music, that or many struggle to surrender to it. Instrumental music isn’t in high demand these days, but after recalling a taste of Bach, my body is already craving more.

Female Food Fixation

   

This one’s for the girls ( and no I have not been listening to Martina McBride), because for females, food can be so confusing. All women want to be able to actually enjoy half the delicious things we posted on Pinterest while being able to wear the outfits we equally drool over, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting this. But most of us girls can be preoccupied with how to have our cake and eat it too - which, in this case, is more attainable than we often make it.

If you're like me, you anticipate that by the time you hit adulthood, say late 20’s or early 30’s (if you can call that adulthood these days) you've learned how eat in order to reach a desired weight, and maintain a balanced diet without raiding the chocolate stash every night. But, being the women that we are, we complicate things.

Some seasons have been easier for me than others when it comes to my “food philosophy”; eating in a way that keeps me where I want to be, both mentally and physically. At times I’ve been very regiment about it. I’ve had my list of do’s and don’t and felt the need to abide by it rigorously and I’ve had my not-so-angelic seasons, staying up late, raiding that chocolate stash, often due to times of being too "angelic" throughout my day to begin with.

Things get confusing when food becomes a fixation. Some of us formulate, sometimes manipulate our diet, with foods we think will effect either our a) comfort or b) physique. By comfort, I’m referring to foods we believe will make us happy, viewing them as awards, while the latter are those we think are ideal, healthy foods. In layman’s terms, a) is “bad” and b) is “good.” Now, maybe I’m the only female who has spent her fair share of time in both modes, but I find many women’s eating habits are driven by a desire to look good or feel good.

Food is just food. While the word “food” is used so loosely, as to now define, what Michael Pollan calls, “edible food-like substances,” please take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. But - food is just food. Food is meant for nourishment, as it is meant for pleasure, kinship, creativity, tradition and some sense of consistency and stability in our lives. I’m not saying we should throw caution to the wind and eat whatever (if you read my blog, you’d know that is not my philosophy whatsoever) we could benefit ourselves to learn about our bodies, by being mindful and sensible, rather than obsessing about every morsel.

While there's always new diet trends or some life-changing celebrity cleanse, as promising as they may seem, none of them have the answer we want. Sometimes we try to transform our habits to a list of do's and don’t’s, in hopes of a dramatic physical transformation. Most women, nowadays, understand “eating healthy” to mean a gluten-free, dairy-free, non-processed virgin-like approach to life. Not that these aren’t good ways of eating, but perfecting it and not allowing some kind give in your diet is not only unattainable, it sucks the life out of food. It sucks the joy out of eating with others and sucks the possibility of reaching a state of health that you will ever feel confident in - because forcing food plans makes us forever fixated on what we should and shouldn’t have, making us rather imprisoned to these ideals. If you are constantly relying on Health newsfeeds or some calorie counting App to navigate how to eat, instead of learning how to understand what you need and crave, you will likely face endless cycles of frustration and obsession.

If there’s one thing I’ve found, the harder I work at it, the less I’m able to maintain it. In other words, the more I try to tame my taste buds or I force rigid plans, the more unlikely I am to be at a weight I’m happy with, or maintain a peace of mind for that matter. A constantly hungry girl is not a happy girl and a unhappy girl isn't always a pretty girl.

 

Slice of Better Vita: Female Food Fixation

Image via My New Roots

This one’s for the girls ( and no I have not been listening to Martina McBride), because for females, food can be so confusing. All women want to be able to actually enjoy half the delicious things we posted on Pinterest while being able to wear the outfits we equally drool over, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting this. But most of us girls can be preoccupied with how to have our cake and eat it too - which, in this case, is more attainable than we often make it. 

If you’re like me, you anticipate that by the time you hit adulthood, say late 20’s or early 30’s (if you can call that adulthood these days) you’ve learned how eat in order to reach a desired weight, and maintain a balanced diet without raiding the chocolate stash every night. But, being the women that we are, we complicate things.

Some seasons have been easier for me than others when it comes to my “food philosophy”; eating in a way that keeps me where I want to be, both mentally and physically. At times I’ve been very regiment about it. I’ve had my list of do’s and don’t and felt the need to abide by it rigorously and I’ve had my not-so-angelic seasons, staying up late, raiding that chocolate stash, often due to times of being too “angelic” throughout my day to begin with. 

Things get confusing when food becomes a fixation. Some of us formulate, sometimes manipulate our diet, with foods we think will effect either our a) comfort or b) physique. By comfort, I’m referring to foods we believe will make us happy, viewing them as awards, while the latter are those we think are ideal, healthy foods. In layman’s terms, a) is “bad” and b) is “good.” Now, maybe I’m the only female who has spent her fair share of time in both modes, but I find many women’s eating habits are driven by a desire to look good or feel good.

Food is just food. While the word “food” is used so loosely, as to now define, what Michael Pollan calls, “edible food-like substances,” please take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. But - food is just food. Food is meant for nourishment, as it is meant for pleasure, kinship, creativity, tradition and some sense of consistency and stability in our lives. I’m not saying we should throw caution to the wind and eat whatever (if you read my blog, you’d know that is not my philosophy whatsoever) we could benefit ourselves to learn about our bodies, by being mindful and sensible, rather than obsessing about every morsel. 

While there’s always new diet trends or some life-changing celebrity cleanse, as promising as they may seem, none of them have the answer we want. Sometimes we try to transform our habits to a list of do’s and don’t’s, in hopes of a dramatic physical transformation. Most women, nowadays, understand “eating healthy” to mean a gluten-free, dairy-free, non-processed virgin-like approach to life. Not that these aren’t good ways of eating, but perfecting it and not allowing some kind give in your diet is not only unattainable, it sucks the life out of food. It sucks the joy out of eating with others and sucks the possibility of reaching a state of health that you will ever feel confident in - because forcing food plans makes us forever fixated on what we should and shouldn’t have, making us rather imprisoned to these ideals. If you are constantly relying on Health newsfeeds or some calorie counting App to navigate how to eat, instead of learning how to understand what you need and crave, you will likely face endless cycles of frustration and obsession.

If there’s one thing I’ve found, the harder I work at it, the less I’m able to maintain it. In other words, the more I try to tame my taste buds or I force rigid plans, the more unlikely I am to be at a weight I’m happy with, or maintain a peace of mind for that matter. A constantly hungry girl is not a happy girl and a unhappy girl isn’t always a pretty girl. 

America, The Beautiful ( & The Unhealthiest)

Image Via Bloomberg.com

Recently I mentioned I was “Still Swallowing” the NYC’s rules and Big Gulp ban. However, reading more studies on the current health of our Nation - I’m sure this will come as a real shocker to you - we are in a rather poor state, no pun intended. Our culture’s obesity epidemic is about as apparent as our fiscal deficit. I have to say Mayor Bloomberg made a wise choice, because the facts of our Nations health are a little hard to swallow. Though other states will likely follow suit with NYC’s new laws, America may need to look beyond our bright-eyed, red, white and blue ways to bring real change the health of this culture.

Recently CNN posted a blog “We’re Still Too Fat To Fight.” Most of us probably didn’t even consider that we already were “too fat to fight.” But it turns out Americans ages 17-24, nearly 26 million young people, are too fat to fight. While CNN reports that average children are consuming “130 empty calories a day from candies, cookies and chips” ( though I can just about guarentee it’s a few more “empty calories” than that) you could say we are currently a bit of a mess - but I’m not trying to blame anyone in particular (hence I have no political slant here.) We can’t ignore the obvious facts, that may at times seem so religiously rehearsed in the news that we’ve become mute to it, that we are deeply in debt to the future of America’s health. I don’t mean to sound so extreme but how does it feel to know that 27% of young potential recruits are clinically obese. As CNN so lightly states, our high rate of obesity isn’t only a health crisis, but a crisis of national security as well.

Rates of obesity are escalating so quickly that it’s predicted by 2020 more than 40% of the US will be obese. That’s nearly half of America. Already 60% of Americans are both overweight and obese. And what are we doing to try to change that? Plenty. Maybe too much. We are spending 160 billion dollars a year on obesity in America. Could there be any correlation to why we’re in debt? Of course we continue to dig for answers, trying new diet after diet or somehow finding ways to remain content unhealthy - also adding to costs, extra food, transportation, health care, medications… the list goes on.

It seems in America we take pride in conquering all our own issues, on fixing all our problems, expect of course, where our debt is concerned. (Money is always the exception to the rule it seems.) Could it be we don’t have the answer for this one? It may be time to begin looking to other countries for potential answers, guidance or even coaching, if you will, for possible resolutions to this increasing issue. Or our issues, rather.

I say “our” because as a United Nation we’ve catered to our lazy habits, our toxic preferences and our culture of convenience - which in turn may be creating a culture of incompetence. Excuse me for sounding harsh, but the present facts and inevitable future isn’t really a warm and fuzzy comfort to behold. America is still a baby and as we are surrounded by countries who have a much better grasp on this thing called “personal well-being”, it may be to our best interest to kill a little American pride and try to emulate several neighboring countries who have a much better handle on their health. Because whatever we’re doing now doesn’t seem to be working.

In August 2012 Bloomberg reported the World’s Healthiest Countries. It comes as no surprise that the US didn’t quite make the cut.

Still Swallowing: Big Gulps Banned In NYC

Image via The Atlantic Wire
                                        Image via The Atlantic Wire


Not that I planned on ordering a Big Gulp any time soon, but as of yesterday they are officially outlawed in New York City. All sugary, non-diet and calorie-laden beverages over 16 oz have been banned from NYC restaurants, delis and theaters. While I can’t remember the last time I even considered buying a Big Gulp, and do consider it a poor investment (while I sit here drinking my $3 Americano - a rather wise investment, I would say) who am I to make that decision for anyone? What is being regulated in hopes that we become a more thriving and healthy nation, seems contrary to the dietary havoc that is still allowed. Besides the health effects of this new law (and that if it wouldn’ve taken off years back we would’ve have missed such gleeful moments) it seems a elementary policy to place on us as Americans adults. Am I still attending private elementary school? I’m confused. So let me get this straight: I can abort my own baby, but I can’t buy a Big Gulp?

NBC news reported that this ban passed with 8 members on board and only one opposing. Immediately after the vote Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley, said “This is a historic step to address a major health problem of our time…” But what exactly is it “historic” for? Being a tab absurd? “…shrinking only one sugary drink per person every two weeks from 20 ounces to 16 ounces, New Yorkers could collectively prevent 2.3 million pounds gained per year. This would slow the obesity epidemic and prevent much needless illness.” That is of course, if people don’t decide to go back for refills after their lunch of Big Mac and fries. In order to prevent further weight gain and lower our Nation’s rate of obesity, we’re going to need to cut out a lot more than just Big Gulps. For all the varieties of sugary, fried and enriched substances that majority of America’s consume, how is regulating the portion size of my drink significantly going to change my current state of health?

Being the health advocate that I am, who doesn’t ever touch soda or much less care to, I see this decision as being made with the right motives, but arriving at an ineffective motion that may have more of a “historic impact” on our choice than our health. Our current state of health is no doubt a crisis. With one third of Americans obese, and that rate rising, we are certainly in need of some major changes in our diets to turn this deathly epidemic around. Banning Big Gulps may not be the best choice, by assuming it to encourage healthier lifestyles. Why not start at our inhumane chicken and meat farm corporation and ban the hormones injected in chickens and living conditions of these animals, that are the food supply for all the major franchises that feed many of us daily? Why not enforce more healthy options, making organic and whole foods more affordable?

I wonder if one day our kids will reminisce of this “historic step”, the way we do to of the Prohibition-Era: “Yeah, back in the day, my folks said big gulps were outlawed in NYC ….” Crazy, no? If we are trusted to be responsible to regulate our alcohol intake, can’t we handle our size of Dr. Pepper? My guess is, banning Big Gulps will likely just make soda sweeter to the US palette.