Category Archives: Holidays

First Comes Health & LadyFingers Holiday Party Contest!

In 2012 LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and I have hosted seven winners.  Seven lucky folks have followed our monthly cooking extravaganzas on Twitter and submitted a correct response to the questions we’ve asked about each meal.  They were diligent about following along and paying specific attention to ingredients, technique, and detail.  To celebrate these 7 lucky people Diane and I are hosting a holiday hors d’oeuvre party on December 4, 2012 and they (plus a guest!) are invited.  Yippee!

AND YOU ARE INVITED TOO!

Or at least you can be if you are one of the THREE winners we will choose!  Here are the details:

Including this month’s menu, Diane and I have prepared 38 different recipes.  To win one of three invitations for you and 1 guest to our holiday hors d’oeuvre party you must prepare 1 recipe (not one whole meal menu, just one recipe), photograph your steps as you go along, and email us your version of our recipes along with the photos. No Twitter or Facebook required! We will choose three winners from all the entries, and those lucky ducks will be invited to our holiday hors d’oeuvre gathering on December 4.

So, to recap:

1. Choose one recipe from the 38 we’ve prepared in the last year.
2. Cook this recipe and take photos of your progress throughout just like Diane and I do.
3. Email photos plus a description of what you did to Diane or me. (info@ladyfingersprivatechef.com  OR jill@firstcomeshealth.com) DEADLINE: November 21, 2012 at 11:59:59 PM
4. Wait with baited breath to see if you are one of the three lucky winners who will attend our holiday bash on December 4.

Fine print:
Only one entry per person.
If you are chosen as a winner, you will provide your own transportation to and from the party which will be in Pittsburgh, PA, USA on December 4, 2012.
Winner will be notified via e-mail.

Recipes:
You can see all the LadyFingers posts right here.
Or choose from one of these downloadable and printable PDF versions:
Wild Mushroom and Green Bean Salad with Goat Cheese
Tapenade Crusted Salmon with Roasted Red Onions
Southwestern Shrimp and Snapper Stew
Baby Greens Wrapped in Prosciutto with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Osso Bucco alla Milanese
Savory Squash Souffle
Avocado Gazpacho Salsa
Lemon-Seared Tuna and Rosemary Skewers
Scallop BLTs
Spinach, Orange, and Beet Salad
Grilled Lamb Loin Chops
Mint Pesto
Roasted Vegetable-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Chilled Ginger-Cantaloupe Soup
Spicy Salmon and Zucchini Patties
Orange-Glazed Carrot Ribbons
Romaine Wrapped Halibut
Watermelon Mint Gazpacho
Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon
Carrot and Zucchini Slaw
Spicy Paprika-Grilled Chicken Kebabs
Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Prosciutto
Crab-Encrusted Scallops with Green Pea Puree
Spicy Yam “Fries”
Garden Stuffed Peppers
Macadamia and Cashew-Crusted Chicken Bites
Mango Dipping Sauce
Asparagus Green Curry Soup
Grilled Filet Mignon with Balsamic-Roasted Tomatoes
Hard-Boiled Quail Egg with Tapenade Trio
Tomato and Spaghetti Squash Salad with Chive Oil
Poached Duck Breast Rolls
Raspberry Red Wine Puree
Maple Roasted Parsnip “Fries”
Asparagus Roasted Finocchinona
Zucchini-Caper Dip
Seared Sea Scallops with Garlic-Sherry Mushrooms
Grilled Flank Steak with Caramelized Onions

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

It's a brand new year!

Hello everyone!  Welcome to 2012!

I trust everyone had a great holiday season, hopefully with those you love most in life. I know I did.  It has been a great 10 days of family, friends, sleeping in, and (yikes!) eating a lot of food.  Mostly good-for-me foods, but I admit to overindulging a bit.  I’m glad to say, however, that today I was back to the gym and back to making food choices that are right for me.

For my inaugural post for 2012 I wanted to share my thoughts on the most thrown around word this time of year – RESOLUTION.  Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  Are you resolution pro or con?  I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the issue – some saying that to make a bunch of heavy-handed rules only set one up to fail.  Others saying that it’s great to have something to work towards or a project to set your sights on.  Both valid points.  I, naturally, find my opinion falling squarely in the middle of the extremes.

I think that the start of a new year puts many of us in the mood to feel like we can start fresh.  It’s a blank page and we can write this year’s story any way we see fit.  It gives many of us an excuse to change things and take a look at where we are and where we want to go over the next 365.242199 days (I had to look that up. Ha!).  Should we have been eating and exercising and doing all these nice things all along?  Yes, of course.  But many of us didn’t and I don’t see anything wrong with using January 1 as an excuse to start.

On the other hand, I really do believe that there are too many people starting on a path with no direction, no concrete goals, or hopes that they’ll accomplish something that is either unreasonable or dangerous (I’m thinking weight loss here).  Often people burden themselves with lengthy, arbitrary, and oppressive lists of rules that even the most ardent dieter or fitness expert couldn’t (or shouldn’t) follow.  Sometimes people set themselves up for failure by making a really great resolution and then fail to make a plan for how to see it through.  All of these scenarios lead to disappointment and defeat, and I think this is why the very term “New Year’s Resolution” has a negative connotation. This is what gives resolution making a bad rap.

If you are the type to make resolutions, I say make them intelligently and deliberately.  Know yourself and what you need to succeed with your goal.  Are you the kind of person who tends to exercise more often when you have a friend to do it with?  Then maybe you and your friend ought to sign up for some fitness classes together.  Are you the kind of person who needs some accountability from someone about your eating habits?  Then maybe you need the services of a holistic health coach (ahem!). My point is that taking a long, hard look at the circumstances that help you succeed in anything and then applying them to your 2012 goals will carry you far in reaching them.

Ask yourself how you plan to reach this goal, and then write down an exact and detailed plan.  Don’t leave it to chance or whim that you’ll magically find the time to workout.  Schedule the time. Put it in your calendar.  Set aside specific dates and times and then stick to it.  You know when you’re getting your next haircut, so you ought to know when your next workout is.  Don’t think that some magical food elves will stock your fridge with healthy food.  Plan your meals and grocery shop on a scheduled date at a scheduled time.  PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!

Set your year-long goal, but set some intermediate goals that you want to have reached after a month’s time.  Want to run a marathon?  Why not set the goal to have a 5K under your belt by the end of January.  Parse your big goal into smaller mini goals to give yourself some victories early on in the year to keep yourself interested, motivated, and working towards your ultimate goal.

Don’t give up.  It’s almost become a trendy, funny thing to admit to in a group of people when talking about New Year’s resolutions, that last year you made a resolution to do XYZ and didn’t even make it to January 3 before you cheated/gave up/forgot/etc.  Hearing this doesn’t make me laugh or make me think the person saying it is clever.  It bums me out and makes me sad.  Sure, slip ups and out-and-out failures are going to happen, but giving up is a real shame.  It says that you don’t believe in yourself enough to keep trying.  DON’T GIVE UP!  There I go again with the all caps.  That’s how important this is.

So! I want to hear what your resolutions and goals are for this new year! Something that I find motivating is publicly announcing my goals and then using that motivation to reach them.  On Thursday I am going to share with you my fitness, food, professional, and personal goals and resolutions.  And then I’m going to check in with all of you in the first post of each month with how I’m doing.

Here’s the thing, though:  I don’t want to do this alone.  I want YOU to do it with me.  I would like you all to send me your goals/resolutions and I will share them here with the other readers – this can be anonymous or not.  Your choice.  I’ll email you at the end of each month and see how you’re doing and I’ll share each month’s progress here on the blog.

If you don’t want to be anonymous about it, tell me all about your 2012 goals in the comments or on my Facebook page.  If you do want to be anonymous, email me and I will hold your name in the strictest confidence.  We’ll come up with a saucy pseudonym for you and nobody will ever know your true identity when we do our monthly check in.

I’m looking for some interaction here, friends!  I want to provide as many people with a community of support as I can this year.  We can all meet our goals and have our resolutions last 12 months, and who DOESN’T want to be cheered for?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Happy holidays!

To my dear readers,

I wish you and yours the happiest and (of course!) healthiest of holidays!  I am so grateful to each and every one of you for your support, clicks, comments, and words of encouragement.

I have so much to share with you in 2012 and I know it’s going to be the healthiest year yet!

I’ll be back with regular posts in the new year on January 3.  I will still be posting little treats on Facebook and on Twitter during my week-long blog hiatus.  And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to keep up with all kinds of specials, treats, giveaways, information, and general awesomeness!  It comes out the first of each month.

Enjoy your time with family and friends.

XO,

Jill

 

Holiday gift guide - part 3

Well, in theory after this post you all ought to be prepared for a healthy holiday season. At the very least I hope to have shown you that even during these overindulgent few weeks health, fitness, and general well-being do not have to go out the window and giving gifts that support a healthy lifestyle can be fabulous.

My final installment focuses on something a bit more difficult to define than “in the kitchen” or “exercise and athleticism“.  These are things that will hopefully raise someone’s spirits or put your loved ones in a great state of mind.  Things that will feed the souls of those on your list this year.  Let’s call it improved state-of-being.  Because being healthy isn’t all about diet and exercise.  It’s also about loving yourself and others, respecting yourself and others, and not keeping these feelings to yourself.

  • Time – In my health coaching practice I often work with clients who, of course, benefit from the work we do together regarding food and movement, but very often they tell me that the time they get to spend focusing only on their own needs is even more valuable than the nutritional information I share.  To give the gift of your time to a friend or family member can be more cherished than any tangible item you can buy.  Set aside one Saturday morning a month to have tea with a friend.  Schedule a date with your partner.  Call someone you’ve been out of touch with.  Listen.  Receive whatever they have to say.  Be there.  Make it a 2012 habit to give more time to others.
  • A childhood memory gift – I think one of the neatest gifts to give someone is a tangible item that sparks a great memory. Vintage toy stores are rife with old toys at reasonable prices and giving something small as a gift can be a terrific way to bring a sunny childhood memory back to life.  Another idea is to have an important artifact from your loved one’s past framed to hang in their home or office.  For example, my Dude was very active in the Boy Scouts and also in the Order of the Arrow.  Hanging in our home is one of his uniform patches that we had framed.  Each time he sees it, he is reminded of his great experiences and accomplishments.  Prices for something like this can vary depending on how complicated you want to get, but it’s worth it to shop around and find that perfect thing from the past that will make someone’s day and bring back good thoughts.
  • Photos – Along the same lines as a childhood memory is a framed photo.  Whether a recent snap, or something from days past, a special place, vacation memory, or maybe even of someone you and your receiver find mutually special, a photo of someone or something special can evoke good feeling all year.  My house is full of photos of special people in my life and sometimes I’ll just take a minute to look a one and think about that person or recall the day the shot was taken.  A memento of a cherished memory is a wonderful gift and can be as simple and inexpensive as printing out a spontaneous, funny photo from your phone and getting a cute frame that goes with it.  A little cost and effort for a big return.
  • Something you wrote – In these days of emails, evites, evitations, voicemail, texting and Facebooking, a handwritten letter, card, poem or story can mean a lot to someone, plus it’s becoming quite rare these days so it’s a gift that will stand out as unique.  My Dude is an accomplished writer and poet with a few publications under his belt.  Each year for my birthday he gives me a poem he wrote about a meaningful or funny happening in our life over the previous year.  I have a whole collection and they are one of my most prized possessions.  If you’re not a gifted wordsmith, not to worry. Just put down your honest feelings in a card or letter.  Let someone know how dear they are to you because that can be the greatest gift they receive all year.  If it comes from the heart, it doesn’t matter if it’s Dante writing to Beatrice or a simple “I love you” in a card.
  • Something handmade – If you’re crafty in any way, break out your skills and get to work! A store-bought something is fine, but if you can give the gift of your time and skill, that’s worth more than any mall purchased anything.  Showing your loved one that you took the effort to handcraft something just for them can be extremely meaningful.  Knitting, painting, sewing, woodworking, anything.  The fact that you gave of your talent to give to someone else is what counts and can make someone feel treasured.
    (I hand knitted that sweater.  A labor of love for my love.  Tedious, but worth every hand cramp because Dude loves it.)
  • Commitment to health – If you know you could eat better, move more, and take better care of yourself perhaps the best gift you can give someone is the gift of YOUR health.  Telling your partner, friend, kids, or loved ones that you’re finally making the commitment to live a longer, healthier, fulfilled life can make someone’s heart swell to the point of bursting.  This life is about spending as much time as possible enjoying those around us, serving those around us, loving those around us.  To be perfectly blunt about it, you can’t do that if you’re not here.  Finally starting to be a good steward of your own health, especially if those around you have been wanting you to make the commitment, is more valuable than gold, frankincense, or myrrh.  Truly.   It tells everyone on your list that being alive, present, and active so you can spend more time with them is top priority.  And that’s my favorite gift of a lifetime.

So go forth and gift wisely! Christmas is 22 days away and Hanukkah starts in 17 days! Please do let me know if you used my guides and what your loved ones’ reactions were.  I hope this holiday season is happy, healthy, and full of special times with those you love most in life!

Holiday gift guide - part 2

Did you see part one of my holiday gift guide?  Have you done some shopping yet?  Gone out and purchased a few cooking goodies for yourself?  Well, I hope you haven’t spent your whole holiday budget yet because here is chapter 2!

Today’s focus is on exercise and athleticism.  Whether the folks on your list are regulars at the gym or just contemplating getting started with an exercise regimen, you’ll find some great ideas here.

    • Clothes — Unless your loved one is an ancient Greek, chances are he/she doesn’t want to work out in the nude.  There are all kinds of sources for good workout clothes and prices range from bargain basement to uber-spendy.  Going the less expensive route is perfectly fine, but as with many things, you get what you pay for with workout clothes.  They’re going to be drenched in sweat, stretched all over the place, out in the elements, washed frequently, and generally abused.  It’s my experience that investing a little bit will pay off in the long run when they won’t need to be replaced as often.
      Target has a line of Champion athletic wear that is pretty good and not very expensive.  Old Navy also has a somewhat trendy line of activewear at a low price point.

      Moving up the price scale are online retailers like Athleta, Title Nine, Gaiam, and prAna.  All of these offer fashionable, higher quality gear in a medium price range.
      On the upper end are lines by lululemon, Nike, Reebok, and Lucy.  The quality will be great, and the clothes really stylish, but you’re going to shell out more than a few pretty pennies.  I’ll let you decide if it’s worth it.

      If you’re a bargain hunter (like me!), it is often worth it to shop sales, go to stores like Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx, and to hit outlet stores. If you are patient and don’t mind searching through racks of clothes, you can find top-quality workout clothes at great prices.  Also, mine is not an exhaustive list.  It seems that nearly every store is offering a line of activewear, so shop around to find what you like and what fits your budget.
      Obviously getting gear that fits the activity is important.  A loose, flowy yoga top is going to be useless when training for a triathlon.  If you’re unsure what to purchase, ask a salesperson for advice, or many of the websites I mentioned above have their online stores organized by activity.
    • Personal training sessions — This can be an especially thoughtful gift for the person who is just starting out because it gives him/her a starting point and guided help right from the beginning.  It can be intimidating to walk into a gym as a newcomer and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  A personal trainer can give a gym orientation so that it’s not foreign territory, help establish workout routines, and that’s one person you’ll know when you arrive everyday.  A few one-on-one training sessions can also be helpful for the experienced gym-goer to gain insight into improved technique and form, help shake up established habits and plateaus, and offer additional challenges.  The cost of one-on-one training sessions varies by facility and by trainer.  Some trainers do in-home training for additional costs, so it’s worth it to carefully consider what your recipient would want.
      If individual training sessions are too expensive maybe the gift of a gym membership for a month or two would be better suited to your budget.
    • Jump rope and resistance band — Between these two pieces of equipment and one’s own body weight, you can craft a difficult workout to do on the go.  This is especially helpful for your loved ones who are travelers or find it hard to make it to the gym.  They are both inexpensive items and easy to find at any big box or sporting goods store.
    • Foam roller — This seems like a goofy piece of equipment because it’s only a firm, cylindrical piece of foam.  But if you have ever had sore muscles this little baby is pain and pleasure wrapped up in one package.  Rolling out your sore and stiff muscles hurts like the dickens, but offers sweet relief at the same time, and if your loved one is just starting out with exercise, there are going to be some sore days.   Foam rolling can help head DOMS off at the pass and make the inevitable soreness less severe, or eliminate it all together.  Retailers must know how awesome a foam roller is because they’re a bit more expensive than you’d think they’d be at $20 to $30 or more.
    • Yoga mat — For more more than yoga, although that’s a great use for it.  They’re available everywhere, they’re inexpensive and they can be used for any kind of floor exercises from Pilates to sit-ups to just stretching it out on a soft surface.
    • Emergency ID wristband — It’s unpleasant to think about but accidents do happen.  If your gift recipient walks, runs, or bikes outside alone, then it’s a smart idea that he/she carry some kind of identification and emergency contact information.  These wrist, shoe, or ankle bands usually have a person’s name, address, phone and the contact info for a loved one on it in case the unthinkable happens.  They’re relatively inexpensive, ranging from $15 to $30, but can be invaluable should something happen.  I have a Road ID, but there are other brands and styles out there.
    • Music — I don’t know about you, but I seem to move my fanny faster when I have some sweet tunes to rock out to.  Music can be very motivating and can make the difference between skipping a workout to chill out on the couch and getting up and out to get a sweat on.  Why not treat those on your holiday list to an iPod Shuffle or Nano or any other kind of MP3 player?  They’re small enough to clip on a waistband and be out of the way, but powerful enough to hold thousands of jams.  If those on your list don’t need the player, an iTunes gift card can bring those inspiring workout songs home!

How is that list shaping up now?  Inspired to outfit the fitness guru in your family?  We’ve got the food taken care of, we’ve got the exercise taken care of, how about a little TLC for your spirit?  The final installment in my gift guide series will be on Saturday and focuses on making sure everyone on your holiday list gets the new year started in the right state of mind.

Holiday gift guide - part 1

I am not one of those people who starts celebrating Christmas in October.  In fact, I think that’s an abomination.  I am steadfastly loyal to Thanksgiving!  Seeing as how my birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, and it’s my favorite holiday of the year, I cannot just skip over it and move on to the jingle bells and all that.

But!  Thanksgiving has now passed and it is officially the Christmas season.  It’s also coming up on Hanukkah too. My point is, no matter what you celebrate ’tis the season for gift buying and in light of that I thought this week I’d offer up a little gift buying guide, First Comes Health style.  Because health is a gift that keeps on giving, am I right?

In the Kitchen – It’s no secret that I think cooking for yourself is a key to improved health.  Here are a few things that I think would make the perfect gift for someone who is a cooking novice or a culinary pro.

    • A slow cooker – This is by far the best tool to have in your kitchen if you’re just learning to cook and are uncomfortable in the kitchen.  Heck, I think it’s an ideal gift if you’re a skilled culinarian too.  There are almost a zillion (that’s an official count) slow cooker recipes out there and a delicious and healthy home cooked meal can be just a workday away.  I have not yet seen a slow cooker recipe that is more complicated than throwing a bunch of food into it, turning it on, eating the food 8 hours later.  Plus, they come in so many different sizes and shapes with a ton of features or none.  You can spend as little as $30 or up to a few hundred dollars depending on how complicated you want to get.
    • A great knife – Having quality tools to use makes food preparation so much more enjoyable.  For many years I used some second-rate knife to do all my chopping, and I was just making my life more difficult than it had to be.  Lo and behold my Dude bought me a really good Santoku knife and it was like I woke up from a nightmare. Cutting an onion was a breeze! A good quality, SHARP knife made all the difference.  Now, my personal preference is a Santoku knife, but what’s important to know when buying a knife is that the person using it has to be comfortable with it so whether it’s a chef’s knife, or a cleaver, or whatever, the user has to feel confident with it in his/her hand.  This can be an expensive gift, but worth every cent if the receiver is serious about cooking.
    • A food processor – I don’t know how people survive without having one.  I have a very basic processor that chops, but also has a slicing and grating blade too and I use it several times a week.  Most frequently, I use it to make dips or my own mayonnaise or if I have a ton of vegetables to cut up or grate, I just let the ole machine whizz it up for me. It’s fast and efficient and saves time.  Like the slow cooker, this gift can be as expensive as you want it to be.  I’ve seen processors range from $30 to over $250.  It’s my opinion that you’ll want one that is sturdy, high quality and will stand up to all the whirring you’re going to put it through, but all the fancy blades and features are unnecessary.
    • A cooking class – You can find them at your local grocery store, a kitchen supply store, through a culinary school or community college, or from a local chef.  There are classes being offered on all kinds of cooking techniques these days. Remember that kraut and kimchi class I attended?  Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.  If there is someone on your holiday list that is just learning his/her way around the kitchen a basic technique class is perfect – I’m thinking knife skills or one called “How to Turn Your Oven On”.  If your recipient  is a bit more advanced, find a class that specializes in a specific technique or cuisine like sausage making or cooking Thai food.  Prices vary for this kind of thing, so explore your options and find something that suits your budget and interest.

(photo courtesy of Crate – a fantastic Pittsburgh source for cooking classes!)

    • A great cookbook – This is also a great gift for the experienced and inexperienced alike.  You know my feelings on Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (hint: I love it).  It might not be exclusively a health food book, but the emphasis on technique is fantastic.  My friends, Hayley and Bill are cookbook authors and have written an absolutely GORGEOUS cookbook that is not only healthy but about as thorough as you can get.  Looking for a menu for a special occasion?  It’s in there.  How about the difference between two different cuts of meat?  It’s in there.  There are complex recipes and ones you could do in your sleep.  Highly recommended for any skill level.
    • High quality ingredients – Check out local purveyors and get your loved one some top quality food that he/she might not otherwise buy.  Perhaps some locally roasted organic coffee, or some artisan charcuterie products. Maybe a pastured turkey or local honey.  Even a CSA share that they can enjoy throughout the growing and harvest season.  Every town has its own food artists that produce absolutely fabulous products.  Cooking with the finest ingredients makes the finest food.  Plus you’ll be supporting a local business to boot.  If you cannot find a local source, try finding a food of the month club to give as a gift.  Foodzie and other sites sell monthly gift subscriptions of artisanal products that any food lover would enjoy (although, be careful of overdoing it on the chocolates and candy!)
      Speaking of food of the month clubs, this might be a bit of a digression, but this is one of my favorite scenes from Everybody Loves Raymond.  I can’t talk, there’s too much fruit in the house!!!

Did I miss anything?  What are you essential gifts for the foodie or budding foodie on your holiday list?  What are your kitchen essentials that make cooking easier and more enjoyable?  Share your good ideas in the comments and I’ll make sure my Dude reads them before he goes out to shop for me this year!

Stay tuned for Thursday’s gift list that focuses on the active and the athletic!

Be grateful

Dear Readers,

I am so very thankful to each of you for your support and kindness.  Getting my health coaching practice off the ground has been a labor of love and I’m loving every second of it.  I am so grateful for all of your kind words, comments, emails, and support.

I truly hope you enjoy the day with those who matter most in your life.

Eat well, be well, and have a happy Thanksgiving.

With sincere gratitude,

Jill

Just a few things I’m grateful for:

Giving Thanks: A Survival Guide

I’m sure you can probably guess by now that I’m a food person and it’s a natural conclusion to draw that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  It’s not only the food, but the family, and taking pause to recognize what makes us fortunate people.  Add to that the absence of the obligation of gift buying and you’ve got the perfect holiday in my book.

I recognize, however, that for many “The Holidays” can be a stressful time.  Whether you struggle with food choices, portions, feel family stress, hate to travel, are feeling financial burden, or some combo of all of that, there can be many hazards over the course of these last few weeks of the year.  I’m going to keep it positive here and hopefully give you some hints, tricks, or things to think about to hopefully navigate these potentially choppy waters.

    • Remember the reason for the season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus. Whatever you’re celebrating it can be helpful to keep in mind the bigger reason for the celebration.  This week, we here in the USA are whipped into a food prep frenzy in anticipation of Thursday, but don’t forget to stop and recall what is good in your life.  If the turkey doesn’t make it to the table looking Martha Stewart perfect or the house isn’t as clean as you wanted it to be, don’t worry.  The fact that you’re gathered together with those you love most is far more important. When situations get tense, it can be helpful to take a deep breath and recall why you’re celebrating.
    • Before the meal starts, resolve to make good choices – If you’re struggling with any kind of food issue or weight loss, be mindful before you even take your seat at the table.  Plan out what foods are going to help you meet your goals, and what will hinder your progress.  Stick to this. Write it down if you have to.  It’s very easy to sit down in front of the smorgasbord and go into some kind of food fugue state only to come out the other side full of three helpings of everything plus a pumpkin pie.  Eat slowly and deliberately.  Don’t deviate from your pre-meal plan.
    • Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to get out of good exercise habits – I am a routine person.  I thrive on having a schedule and I find it necessary in my life because I’m also forgetful and easily derailed.  During a non-holiday week I have my workouts scheduled into my calendar and I’ve mentally bookmarked the time to go to the gym.  It’s much more difficult do keep to your schedule during the crazy holiday season simply because there is more to accomplish and think about in a short amount of time.  Between holiday parties, family gatherings, traveling, cooking, shopping, and colluding with Santa, don’t let your workout be the first thing to fall off the schedule.
    • Find support – Because this is a stressful time of year it is more important now than ever to have someone on your team.  Whether this is a spouse, friend, coach, co-worker, or whomever, make sure you have someone who will be on your side and understands.  Meet for tea, go for a walk, chat on the phone, take a yoga class together, tell this person when you’re feeling overwhelmed and when you need support.  Feeling isolated and overwhelmed can lead to poor eating and stress-filled days and the way to avoid that might just be time with a trusted friend.
    • Know how to handle a slip-up – I’m not naive enough to think that everyone’s food choices during the holidays are going to be the healthiest, most stellar examples of clean eating.  I know that you are ALL going to be mindful and do your best, but sweet treats and giant portions do happen.  The most important thing to do if you’ve overindulged is to not beat yourself up over it.  Will one gravy soaked meal be the end of your good habits?  The answer should be a resounding NOWhat really makes a person healthy is a lifelong pattern of good choices.  One cut of pie or one meal isn’t enough to wreck progress IF (and if I could make that IF any bigger, I would!) you take that one overindulgence in stride and get back to good habits immediately.  Do not use it as an excuse to fall even farther off the wagon, but rather, accept that it happened and move on.
    • Be careful – This is my inner Italian grandmother coming out.  Travel safely, take care of yourself, take care of each other. What’s the point of trying to achieve health and wellness if you’re burning yourself in the kitchen?  Take the advice of William Shatner here in this little clip:

 

The take-home message here is to be mindful of everything this time of year.  It is so easy to get caught up in the maelstrom and forget why you’re working hard, but if you stay focused on your goals, you can survive.  Share with me your tips and tricks for getting through the most stressful time of the year.  How do you handle all that comes your way during this time?

 

Lay your hands on me

 (source)

Today is my birthday.  I’m one of those annoying people who loves everyone around me to know it’s my birthday even if you’re a total stranger.  I can’t help myself.

So, like every other day of the year, I try to keep it as healthy and as positive as possible even on my birthday.  I don’t like cake, and I’m not a big fan of pie, ice cream doesn’t mean a thing to me.  I do like cookies, and there are some really great cookies out there.  Plus it’s easy to control portions with cookies.  I’m one and done, or maybe two and done if it’s a special occasion.  My point is, my birthday isn’t a dessert bonanza for me. Instead, I like treating myself in other ways.

Yesterday I had a massage.  Now THAT is how I celebrate a birthday.

Aside from just feeling really really great, there are tons of benefits one can get from a massage.  The relaxation and focused “you” time alone is worth the cost.  But if you’re stressed, have high blood pressure, sore muscles, or are just feeling low, massage is a great natural treatment option.

My point is, there is always a healthy way to celebrate.   There are always ways to put your health first even when it’s your birthday.  And for my money, getting a massage is not only a terrific treat, but one with healthy side effects too.

How do you celebrate your birthday?  Who is into getting regular massages?  What are your experiences with the healthy benefits of massage?

p.s. I mentioned that I don’t like cake, but if I did, I would want my birthday cake to look like this:

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So much sugar, it is scary

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Halloween can be a terrifying time for anyone who is trying to eat healthier.  Candy, chocolate, sugar, AHHH!  And it’s everywhere.  There are literal piles and piles and piles of bags of candy in grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores.  To me, this is the real terror of Halloween.

So, if you’re trying to eat healthier and have weight loss goals to achieve, how can you safely navigate the Halloween season?  Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you to stay on track.

1. Don’t buy it.  If your neighborhood participates in Trick-or-Treat, consider handing out something other than candy.  Little apples from your local orchard, small toys like spider rings or novelty erasers or temporary tattoos, even stickers or pencils are a great and useful alternative to candy.  If it’s not in your house then you won’t eat it.  Also, by not buying or handing out candy, you’re doing your part to cut down on the unhealthy sugar tsumani that overtakes us this time of year.

2. Buy only as much as you need.  If you absolutely MUST have candy in the house to give away, only buy a small amount.  When you’ve given it all away, it’s gone and you’re done.  Sometimes it can be hard to guess how many Trick-or-Treaters you’ll receive at your door, so underestimate. Do what you can to ensure that at the end of the night, the candy is gone from your possession.

3. Flex your willpower muscle.  If you cannot avoid having any candy around, this is an opportunity for you to strengthen that muscle we all have – the one that helps us make healthy choices.  Studies have shown that willpower is something we all have, and it can be strengthened and developed just like a muscle.  Resist the urge to indulge and you’ll be stronger for it, and the next time you’re tempted it will be even easier to say no.

4. If you’re having trouble resisting, eat one small morsel.  If you simply have to have a few kernels of candy corn on Halloween, or if a Bit-O-Honey is an October tradition, allow yourself a tiny bit to avoid feeling deprived.  I am NOT advocating a full-scale candy gorge!  I’m saying have only five candy corn kernels or one square of a candy bar to satisfy a one time a year candy itch, but only if you can be satisfied with a small taste.  If you know that one nibble will send you down a sugary rabbit hole of overeating, DO NOT DO IT AT ALL.

5. Find a candy buy back program.  They are popping up everywhere!  Dentists are offering to buy back candy and giving out money, toothbrushes and other items in exchange for teeth rotting, insulin spiking candy.  Usually done per pound, kids and adults alike can turn in their Halloween hauls for good stuff.

So, as we roll into Halloween weekend, please know that none of us is under an unbreakable candy spell.  Halloween can be about costumes, friends, fun, and fright and not about wrecking your healthy habits.

Speaking of costumes, what are you dressing as this year?