Kicking Holiday Guilt to the Curb.

bad photo of snicker-doodle goodness

bad photo of snicker-doodle goodness

I have a confession to make.  I love December.  In fact, I am head over heals, completely in love with the festive holiday season this month ushers in.  These statements may come as a shock to anyone who has ever spent time with me during the cold winter months.   I am notorious for being an epically-grumpy cynic during  grey, frigid winter days.   Simply stated, it is an understatement for me to stay that I hate winter. But in December, just can’t help getting caught up in the holiday hoopla.

It may sound cliche, but the thing I love most about the holidays is getting the chance to spend time with friends and family.  As I have gotten older I have realized just how hard it is to see everyone with any semblance of regularity.   In the past few years since graduating form college (the first time around) I have gone from seeing seeing friends on a daily basis to patting myself on the back for finally finding time to see someone for lunch.  That’s why over the years I have come up with a set of holiday rules… maybe “guidelines” is more appropriate… to allow myself to enjoy the holidays – stress free.

1) Put the scale away.

Do it!  Do it now!  In my last post I talked about how I had a made myself a promise to stay away from the scale for one week after my Thanksgiving festivities were over.  I ended up making it 6 days before I stepped on the scale and had discovered that I gained two pounds.  Well,  now I have to tell you that if I had waited just one more day I would have found that I had only gained .5 lbs from thanksgiving (damn you water weight!).

But, this whole Thanksgiving-scale-avoidance-exercise reminds me of a story from college.  It was January of my junior year and I had just gotten back from winter break.  Over the fall semester I had put on about 10 lbs (two words – pizza addiction).  And, of course, my New Year’s resolution was to drop the weight I had gained.  I had even brought my parent’s scale from home to my dorm.  At first I would weigh myself occasionally but that quickly evolved into stress inducing daily weigh-ins.  After realizing that obsessing over the scale was probably not healthy (OK, definitely not healthy) I asked one of my (thin, healthy) friends to hold onto the scale for me until I could bring it back home.  Not one week later did my friend call me and say that since having my scale in her apartment, her and her roommate were obsessing over daily weigh-ins.  These two friends told me that neither of them had ever owned a scale.   After the semester was over and I had stopped obsessing over my weight loss and began focusing on a healthy diet and regular exercise,  I went home for the summer and stepped on the scale.  I had lost 20 lbs without weighing myself once.

It has been years since this incident and I have definitely learned to  balance (insert cleaver pun here) my weight loss routine with occasional weigh-ins, healthy eating, exercise and mindfulness.   But, I think the biggest thing I took away from this experience was to not place so much importance on one number.  My friend and her roommate who were by all accounts healthy individuals began to obsess about their weights’ despite previously not caring what they weighed.  I became happier and more focused on my health when the scale was out of my dorm and out of the picture. The idea of health is so intricate that as a society we regularly change it’s definition.  To me, that means it is too intricate an idea to be determined by one number. So please, at least for the holidays,  put the scale away and enjoy your family party.

2) Stop labeling foods as good or bad. 

A few years back I was studying French and decided to  I pick up the book, “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano .  Believe it or not I was not actively on a diet at the time; I had become engrossed in the topic of culinary anthropology.  The message I took away from this book is that other cultures don’t label foods as “good vs bad”, “healthy vs unhealthy”; this is diet industry fuel in the US.   Food is nourishing.   That is it, it’s not intrinsically good or bad.  But, our behaviors and obsessions regarding food can certainly be unhealthy.  There is no reason to cut food out of your diet unless you are doing so for legitimate heath reasons or ethical concerns.  When we cut food out of our diets to stay healthy it encourages our brain to obsess over that food.  I don’t know how many times in my life I have tried to completely forgo sugar.  In the past I was successful for moths, but time and time again I would fall off the sugar-free wagon.  And, when  I would fail at maintaining my sugar sobriety I would feel guilty .  But, I eventually learned.  I stopped labeling sugar as bad and started enjoying  a small sugary treat when the mood strikes.   So, when you are at your company holiday party and you see that plate of cookies allow your self to indulge and enjoy them for what they are – a treat.  This brings me to my next guideline.

3) Learn to schedule when, where, what you are going to eat.

You may want that tasty looking snicker-doodle  your sister brought to your family party, but that doesn’t mean you need to have it right now.  Recently, I have been reading, “The Thin Woman’s Brain” by  Dilia Suriel.  I love this book.  Dilia often talks about delaying food gratification.   You don’t need to eat something that your brain is craving just because it is telling you to eat.  If you are not hungry enough to eat it now, just schedule a later time that you can enjoy that tasty morsel.  Say for example, you are at your family Christmas party.  It is time to eat and you see about 10 different things that you want to try.  In the past you stuffed yourself on every last one of those ten things at dinner.  You left the party with a stomach ache thinking “I may never need to eat again”.  This year is going to be different.  Before you even grab your plate,  pick just a few things that you really want from that table and just eat those.  Maybe do a quick ranking in your mind of which ones you want the most. If your family is anything like mine leftovers will be “forced” on you before you leave.  At that time ask for the things that you decided to postpone for later enjoyment.

4) Enjoy yourself.

The holidays are just a small portion of your entire year.  Stop guilting* yourself over what you eat and not being able to maintain a perfect diet.  There is no such thing as perfect diet so treat yourself to what you want!

*Disclaimer: according to wordpress, “guilting” is not a word. 




Feelin’ Footloose

Since I can remember I have hated working-out.   Spending 30 minutes on the treadmill feels like  I am living in a science experiment.   Back in high school and college I didn’t mind going to the gym.   I actually went there religiously. But, I never really liked being there.   I went to the gym because I thought that was what adults did to stay healthy.  As I got older I stopped going to the gym as frequently (what a surprise!).  Then, one day a switch flipped in my brain;  I can’t stand the gym anymore! The smell of sweat makes me nauseous and the thought of sitting on a machine and staring at CNN for an hour makes me want to run in the other direction (well at least it motivates some sort of movement?).  My saving grace is that I love exercising outdoors when it’s sunny and warm.   I could hike, swim or play volleyball for hours during the summer.  The problem is that during the winter I am a grade A couch potato.

Recently, I have been trying to find ways to increase my exercise.  I  have bought an entire library of workout DVD’s, some of which are great (I would highly recommend anything with Jillian Michaels).  But, still the thought of dedicating myself to a 45 minute long workout to the same DVD’s over and over again just seems unnatural and unfulfilling… which definitely goes against my new balanced life mantra.   In the past few weeks however, I have been trying to incorporate spurts of exercise throughout my day.  Sometimes I stretch while watching TV, I take my dog on long walks, pop on a Do You Yoga video, or I do a few crunches between various daily activities.   All of these have really been helping me to feel better and I definitely have noticed a difference in my overall strength.  But, my absolute favorite new addition to my workout routine has been dancing.  Just starting a playlist on my computer or phone for about ten minutes while I dance around the apartment has completely overhauled my outlook on exercise.

At first, just the thought of dancing around my apartment made me feel silly.  I’m here to tell you something.  It is one of the most fun and liberating ways to sneak in a workout.  Honestly,  it is so much fun it doesn’t even feel like a workout until you turn off the music and realize that you  are out of breath.  The first time I tried this I threw on a friend’s spotify mix and jumped around my apartment (most certainly looking like somebody managing to stand up while having a seizure.)   My pets looked entirely confused and came over to investigate this apparent medical emergency, and sitting by my feet (I can only assume they were hoping to set up a barricade between me and their beloved food bowl).  I have since had to block off an area of the room so that I don’t accidentally end up kicking them, tripping over them, or falling on top of them… but that isn’t going to stop me.  This is the best workout discovery I have ever made.   Everyday that I have incorporated my ten minute dance sessions into routine I have felt healthier, brighter, and less stressed.  Dancing is definitely in my life to stay.

In my last post I said that I would update this blog with more specific health goals. Well…

Goal #1:  Dance like nobody’s watching (cats and dogs not included).

~ Abby

Back to the Basics

Spring has finally arrived! Yes, I know that the first official day of spring was almost two weeks ago; but Honey, if it doesn’t feel like spring then it ain’t spring.  I can’t help but feel excited at the first warm day of the year.  It’s a day that I look forward to all winter long.   I’ve  even been known to ditch my winter clothes way too early in the year, only to have to grumpily dig them back out of my closet a week later, all out of sheer excitement for warm weather.  I am pretty certain you would have to be an epic curmudgeon to not even feel a hint of excitement over the first enjoyably warm day after this disgusting excuse of a winter long winter season.

I think that the thing that I love most about this time of the year, however, is my renewed sense of motivation.   I know that I am not the only one who suddenly has the desire to just do more once springtime hits.  No, spring cleaning, spring diets, and spring vacations are all definite signs that most of us experience the impetus to become more active during this wonderful season.

This year does feel different, though.  I don’t just want to do more… I have the overwhelming urge to overhaul my life.  A good part of it has to do with the fact that I have been dieting for 6 months. That is 6 months of constantly thinking about food, dieting, health, and my weight.  Even writing that makes me want to change! Since October I have managed to lose 20 lbs.  Which sounds great, and is great.  However,  I have also managed to start and stop more dieting schemes than I can count, put on and lose weight,  and essentially resume a way of thinking that most likely led to my initial weight gain of over 40 lbs 2 years ago.  I have lost touch with my sense of balance and if I don’t learn to regain my composure I know that I will continue to fall down the rabbit-hole into my old and unhealthy lifestyle.

As I write this, I have been at a standstill with my weight loss for almost 3 months.   I haven’t completely resumed old habits, however.  I have relearned portion sizes, kicked my processed food habit, and have become slightly more active.  I feel like I am balancing on a fine point in my life; I could either easily, and comfortably, slide back into old habits… or I could challenge myself to work hard to find the solid ground that  will give me the foundation for overall wellness in my life (weight loss included).

To live a happy and healthy life I plan to overhaul my lifestyle in a sustainable, realistic way.  I want to embody balance.  I don’t believe in an all or nothing attitude when it comes to wellness, diet, and health.   So, with that in mind I have decided on some rather lofty goal for my life (and this blog) and they include:

1) Find Balance:  Sometimes it is good for you to eat that slice of pizza, damn-it!  But, still other times it is better to choose the salad instead.   It is fine to have a lazy Sunday as long as you don’t decide that every Sunday is lazy Sunday.  If you don’t find balance in your life, it is impossible to sustain and maintain your health.

2) Sustainable Changes: I truly believe that incorporating sustainable lifestyle changes into your diet (life?) is what leads to success in health and fitness.  I want to find natural and fulfilling ways to better my health.  For example,  I don’t think that I could ever completely give up sugar (I even considered naming this blog “Donuts and Dumbbells”… for about 1 second) and giving up the things you love can lead to a total lifestyle relapse later on.   Instead, I think it is better to limit things like sugar, wheat, meat, and processed foods.

3) Share My Progress: My goal is to share all the lessons I learn along my path to balance and wellness, while discarding the unscientific rubbish that is advertised and promoted by some of the leading experts (?) in the healthcare field (I’m looking at you Dr. Oz).   I know that sharing my goals, triumphs, and failures will help to stay motivated to keep doing more!

TL;DR: Time to start living a more balanced life.

Thanks for reading!  I plan to update this blog with my specific health, life, and fitness goals in my next post… stay tuned!