Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Putting a Bow on 2012

This year wasn’t great for blogging, but it has been amazing for the tag-line (“Learning to Love and Cherish My Body From the Inside Out”).

And it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t a great year for the waistline, either; but that’s beside the point. Because I’m not caring about that as much as I did in, well, every year in my entire life up until now.

Last June, I was a wreck. I hated my job. I hated my body. I was tired and grumpy. I was not in a good place.

I started reading all kinds of books about people who had finally kicked their bad relationships with food – people who were in way worse shape than I was (or ever had been) who had learned to trust their bodies, to really tune in, and, eventually, with seemingly little effort, get down to their ideal weight by eating not whatever they wanted, but whatever their bodies wanted.

I had tried this before and I had never quite gotten out of my head.

This year has been more about inner game than counting calories.

I’ve spent way more time learning how to be present, how to actually listen to the inner wisdom of my body, to trust myself, to forgive myself…. To love myself.

It’s getting better, but it’s not perfect. I still have shitty days and, notably, those days are all more poignant because now I have something – something good, something calm, and something serene – with which to compare them. The discrepancies are more real, but the downward spirals are shorter. I still fall off the wagon, but the damage that I inflict on myself (my body) – what one of my coaches refers to as “self-torture” (she doesn’t pull any punches, does she?) – doesn’t last nearly as long. It’s progress.

Do I still look in the mirror and cringe?



Not all that often. Well, at least not anymore…..

However, when it does  happens, I look deep into my eyes and realize that there really is something more to me than the numbers on the scale (that I no longer look at), the size of my jeans (which still have the ability – at least for a few moments – to cause tears), or the shape of my now middle aged body.

I’ve also realized that age is just as insidious an opponent as weight. In fact, it’s the age I’m feeling more than the weight these days, even though I appreciate that they are close sisters (and twin topics for another post at a later date).

For the most part, I am grateful that I am alive. I am grateful that I live in this body that – with the exception of a faulty thyroid and an exhausted set of adrenals (but then again, whose fault is that?) – functions pretty darn well given the circumstances.

I’ve surrendered, finally. Mainly because I realized that surrendering is not the same as giving up. It’s not the same as giving in.

It’s about letting go.

It’s about learning to fall in love with the process of being skinny (or at my ideal healthy weight) without getting attached to the outcome.

It’s about putting a ham hock in the split pea soup if my body feels like it. It’s about finally appreciating the fact that my body really doesn’t like sugar. I thought she did, but that was my brain. Because after three weeks on sugar, followed by three days off, it is clear to me what people have always said, but that I didn’t want to believe: Sugar is a drug.

Perhaps my biggest insight of 2012: Sugar makes me crazy; it makes me paranoid; it makes me compulsive; it interferes with my ability to think, to write, and to function. Sugar, now, is in the same category as gluten (which gives me migraines) and alcohol (which can, in amounts of more than a glass or two [and I’m talking wine, not liquor]) leave me down for the count for a matter of days. Sugar won’t kill me – not like the gluten – but it is something not to be toyed with or taken lightly. It’s a drug; period.

It’s about dancing with my body instead of trying to beat her into submission. It’s about drawing her outline on a piece of butcher paper and seeing her, for the first time ever, as a work of art as opposed to a work in progress.

So here are the things that I’ve been working with and that will be kept moving forward in 2013:

  1. Get up every morning and have a cup of lemon water.
  2. Write a morning journal entry setting my intention for the day (and bookending that with a similar entry every night).
  3. Do some form of physical activity (including going for a walk outside for at least  15 minutes) everyday.
  4. Eat what my body wants to eat and feed my mind what it really wants – which are ideas and other forms of stimulation than food.
  5. Listen to my cravings; greet them, if you will, and understand that they (like my emotions) are trying to tell my something about myself.
  6. Experience my emotions; witness them and then let them go.
  7. Only eat things that I absolutely love.
  8. Slow down (this is still one that I struggle with, but there are signs of improvement).
  9. Be in touch with my body; when something’s no longer working (whether it’s food or exercise or pleasure), do something else.
  10. Quiet my mind at least once a day.
  11. Do yoga.
  12. Drink more water.
  13. Breathe – consciously and with intention.
  14. Acknowledge the things around me that can’t be seen.
  15. Pray.
  16. Learn to connect without food; even if that means reaching out to someone who I think may have better things to do than to keep me from feeling lonely.
  17. Mix things up – on all levels, as often as possible; experience the unexpected.
  18. Embody my own vision of love, which means being both expansive and forgiving.
  19. Practice gratitude.
  20. And, the most difficult and important obligation of all: to love myself, regardless.

These are not New Year’s resolutions – destined to be forgotten before Valentine’s Day. These are the steps that I’ve been incorporating into my life on a daily basis already. (So, you can see why I haven’t had all that much time for the blog.) These twenty – plus a few others that I have probably forgotten about – are the things that I’ve tried that are currently working for me. They may stop working at any moment – and if they do, it’s up to me to change that. But they also may not stop working – and if they don’t (stop, that is) it’s also up to me to keep doing them, for better or worse, in sickness and in health…. Even if I’m teaching and exhausted.

Next year, I come first. I am my number one priority. Come hell or high water I am putting my own mask on first. Selfish?

Maybe, but not really.

Because if I can take care of myself, I can take care of others. And spare those around me from the nightmare that was my emotional life last March and, let’s face it, every month between then and June. If I love myself first and foremost, I will be able to love others fully and without reservation.

A friend recently reminded me that Westerners like to cite the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, they/we/I rarely appreciate the flip side of that: Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.

As I let those words sink in, I realized (not for the first time) that I would never abuse or neglect someone else the way I have abused and neglected myself over the years. That – more than anything else – has been the hardest lesson to learn and the one, if truly embodied, will undoubtedly make the biggest difference not only to my body, but to my entire being.

So, that said, what are my New Year’s Resolutions (ones that hopefully will not be forgotten by Valentine’s Day)?

  1. Take better care of myself (and all that entails).
  2. Blog more.
  3. Write a book (I’m thinking a cookbook for starters).
  4. Be happier more of the time.
  5. Love.

Happy New Year.

Surviving the Holidays (for the most part, intact)

Every year I dread the holidays.

It’s not the busyness or the hassle of traveling. It’s not the weird family dynamics (I actually enjoy spending time with my family). It’s not the increasing credit card balance or the last minute wrapping. It’s not the panicked trips to the store searching frantically for tape or thyme (not to mention, t-i-m-e).

It’s really all about the food.

Christmas at my parents house is like a minefield. There is literally sugar in every room in the house (save the bathrooms).

Seriously, it’s everywhere. My father’s bark covered pretzels, Ritz crackers, saltines, and mixed nuts. Cookies and chocolate. And then once my relatives arrived, the pie parade: coconut cream (to die for), my Aunt Mary’s chocolate pie (should be illegal, especially since she uses corn starch in the filling for us gluten-free folk), my cousin Megan’s pumpkin pie, and my cousin Matthew’s pecan pie (which I am pretty sure is illegal in a few states). Then there’s the bourbon balls the neighbors brought….

Did I mention that we also had a 60th surprise birthday party on the 23rd? So that also meant we had an extra dark chocolate sheet cake floating around and a ton of Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato. Seriously, this stuff was insane and was worth the three hours of misery that followed (can any one say lactose intolerant?) A lesser ice cream wouldn’t have been, but this – most definitely.

Regardless, despite all of the potential minefields (including several bottles of wine and about three different batches of my sister’s world-famous margaritas), I actually made it through relatively unscathed – that one brutal stomach ache aside.

So, how did I do it?

1) I thanked the powers that be that I have a wicked gluten-intolerance, because that knocked out a whole lot of options. I remember Anthony Robbins saying something about, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels,” but I think a more personally motivating mantra is this: “Nothing – and I mean nothing – tastes as good as gluten-free feels.” (If only I could find something similar for sugar!)

2) I planned ahead. Knowing that we were going to be doing a party spread (in addition to the holidays), I ordered gluten-free options from what Jena la Flamme assures me is the best gluten-free bakery in the country (and I must say, I agree), where I ordered some awesome baguettes, some cupcakes, and a pumpkin bread (which, damn the bad luck, is still sitting uneaten in my mother’s fridge!)

3) I tried new things and substituted, substituted, substituted. My newest finds are Q Tonic Water (which I drank in place of wine and margaritas) and hemp tortilla chips, which have a lot more protein than corn chips and are, thus, more filling.

4) I pulled out my old favorites, meaning that I baked garnet yams, ate my normal sauteed kale, and even whipped up three – count them three – batches of my incredible guacamole (Notice the correspondence between the number of batches of guac and margaritas?)

5) I packed my yoga mat (and did yoga twice a day while I was there) and my hula hoop. Although my parents don’t have a great indoor space to hoop and their yard/driveway is slanted, I still got in a little hooping every day.

6) I set an intention going in – to wear the same skinny jeans going out that I wore going in (I should have specified comfort level, but there’s always next year).

7) I remembered that all things are transitory. I’ve realized that I have this belief that when I gain weight – in any amount – that it’s never going away. I tend to get really down on myself and start doing crazy restrictive things with my diet. This time I remembered that things change. My waist got bigger, that means that it can get smaller. It was only four days. (And sure enough, just after two days of being back at my home and doing my normal thing, my waist is looking a lot more familiar to me). What is that saying: change is the only constant? It’s a good thing to remember.

Now, that’s not to say that things went flawlessly or that things are completely back to where they were before I left for the holidays.

I’m just now beginning to pull myself out of the “sugar skid.”

Sugar is my crack; there’s no doubt about it.

Normally sugar doesn’t bother me, because I don’t eat it – like, ever. I don’t even eat fruit. Because as soon as I do, it’s like I’m an addict. In fact, I was speaking with a dear friend of mine who works with seriously addicted people and she asked me to describe – in great detail – what it feels like and what happens to me when I eat sugar. I was telling her and she was nodding.

Her response? “It seems like the sugar is triggering a dopamine response in you, much like drugs or alcohol do for many of my clients.”


I got home on Tuesday around 1:00 a.m., after having polished off the last of the Byerly’s dark chocolate salted sea caramels that my father had so lovingly packed in my bag.

Wednesday, I found the bark covered pecans in my suitcase, which my father had made specifically for me (since I can’t – thank goodness – eat his other creations). I ate them slowly and savored each one.

Thursday, I found the contents of my stocking that my mother had so carefully packed up for me and stowed away in the pocket of my backpack. I had one Ghiradelli Square – Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt (which was but a pale comparison of the aforementioned Byerly’s caramel, by the way). I also had an apple.

Today (Friday), who knows? I don’t feel totally out of control when I think about sugar – but part of that’s because we don’t have any in the house. Well, Michael J has some raw honey, but that’s even too sweet for me.

When my dad taught my sister and I to drive, he’d take us out to snow covered parking lots, tell us to go really fast and hit the brakes. Lesson: learn to turn into the skid and stay in control of the wheel.

In some ways, this holiday season brought back a lot of those memories.

Was I out of control around sugar?


But because I headed into it with foresight, planning, and flexibility I feel like it was/is going to be a quick recovery. And who knows, I may be better in the long run for the slippage. Because next time it happens, I’ll know even better what to do.

Happy Holidays!!!

Post Easter Brunch Sugar Coma

Let me preface this by saying that I had the most delightful brunch today. I had a wonderful time catching up with friends and family in an environment which was definitely more people focused than food focused, which is such a wondrous change from most holiday gatherings I’ve attended.

Having said that, I also had an important insight that will serve me well as I start adding sugar back into my diet.

Here it goes: have you ever been in a situation where everyone around you – except you – is drunk?

That’s sort of what it felt like today, post-Easter brunch as I watched everyone around me slip into a sugar induced coma.

So, what is a sugar coma?

A sugar coma occurs because you eat too many calories – and too much sugar – in one setting. When this happens, an alarm literally goes off in your body, causing you to secrete insulin. Insulin is a hormone that pulls sugar out of your blood stream and stores it as fat. Insulin, unfortunately, is a rather efficient hormone. One could actually say that it’s too efficient, because insulin doesn’t just get rid of the excess sugar in your blood; it gets rid of all of the sugar in your blood. Then, when you don’t have enough sugar, you get tired, irritable, grumpy, and, let’s not forget hungry, which more often than not sets off another whole cycle of overeating.

Today, after brunch, I watched – like clockwork – as six reasonably healthy adults all pretty much dropped into a sugar coma within an hour (maybe two) of having finished eating. Without exception, every single adult (the kids, interestingly were unaffected; but then again, they’re still at the age where you have to convince them to eat!) started yawning and a couple of them even nodded off in their chairs.

Me, I felt completely energized. Moreover, I was relieved that I had foregone the regularly scheduled meal, despite the fact that it looked and smelled absolutely delicious! And based on the comments and expressions of rapturous delight around me, probably tasted just as good as it looked.

So, what constitutes a “normal” holiday brunch? I think this is a reasonable question, because I realize that my definition of normal is so far outside of the norm these days that it’s probably irrelevant.

This particular one consisted of mimosas, french toast, maple syrup, brioche eggs, spiralized ham, steamed asparagus, and green peas, followed up by a round of tea/coffee and an assortment of cookies and jam. (Actually, this brunch was pretty tame compared to those I remember from childhood, where there undoubtedly would have been some sort of “Easter Cake,” not to mention the infamous “Easter Baskets.”)

Me, I stuck to my aforementioned menu of Sunburst Salad, Black Sesame Bread, and Black Pepper Cheeze.

And though no one joined me in my offerings, as I didn’t choose to join them in theirs, I felt completely comfortable sitting down to break bread and catch up.

I think that the post-brunch-sugar-coma was so noticeable to me this time because I have spent the last month balancing my blood sugar and was therefore completely unperturbed by any rise or fall of blood sugar and, consequently, insulin following my meal. Also, there was nothing in the meal that would have caused my blood sugar to spike in the first place.

In addition to simply having had a wonderful visit with family and friends, today provided a really good reminder for me – as someone who is about to re-enter the world of sugar – to take it slowly (if at all).

As I noted previously, today is the last day of the 21 Day Sugar Detox, so as of tomorrow I can start adding sugar back into my diet. Judiciously.

Lesson from today: when I start adding certain foods back into my diet, I need to think not only about how good it’s going to taste going in, but also how it’s going to make me feel 2 hours, 2 days, and even – believe it or not – 2 years from now.

Does that mean that I won’t get any enjoyment out of my food for the rest of my life? No. But it does mean that I will continue to strive to eat the kind of food (that is, food that I actually do enjoy) that will allow me enjoy my life to its fullest.

The Sunburst Salad

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it and Happy Spring to those who don’t.

Today, which happens to be the last day of my 21Day Sugar Detox Cleanse, I am heading to MJ’s parents for holiday brunch.

Though their menu sounds absolutely scrumptious, there is not a single thing on the menu that wouldn’t put me into toxic shock having had nothing sweet in my system for a full three weeks!

Thank goodness they don’t care if you bring your own so to speak as long as you show up! It is after all – or at least should be – all about the people as opposed to all about the food.

So I am bringing some Black Sesame Seed Bread and Black Pepper Cashew Cheeze (courtesy of Ani Phyo) and my new favorite dinner option now that it’s warmed up: what I call “The Sunburst Salad.”


Several cups of spinach, mescalin, etc.

1 shredded golden beet
1 shredded zucchini
1 shredded red beet
1 shredded carrot (make sure to limit to 1/2 cup per serving if you’re on a sugar cleanse)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

And anything else you might have on hand as long as it’s suitably gorgeous!

Dress with juice of 1 lemon, 2 limes, extra virgin olive oil, and Braggs Liquid Aminos.

It’s seriously delicious!

Something tells me that I am going to love being raw in the spring and summer months and may be looking for work in warmer climates from here on out!

If you need an idea for Valentine’s Day….

…or just any old excuse to make chocolate, these may just be your answer!

I made these tonight and I must say that Michael J was particularly appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen.

If you don’t have heart shaped ice trays, they are available – as is everything else you could possibly ever imagine and then some – at Amazon.

Quick and Healthy Snack Options II – Crustless Pecan Pie Bites

Again, another super quick and easy snack option!

Raw Pecan Halves

Slice the dates open on one side, then insert the pecan!

If you’re craving pecan pie but you want to avoid all of the sugary, buttery, and glutenous goodness that goes with it, this might be just the thing you’re looking for.

I made these at Christmas and they practically flew off the platter!


The Christmas Pants (otherwise known as leverage)

Before heading home for the holidays, I took a long hard look at the closet. And instead of going for glamour, which would be lost on my folks anyway, I decided to pack for leverage. In other words, I did what peak performance guru Anthony Robbins recommends: I packed my tightest jeans – you know, the ones that make overeating a near impossibility?

In my case it’s the size four bootcut jeans from the Gap. Though I also brought the ridiculously tight DKNY sixes. I wore the latter on Christmas Day, just to give myself some slack.

I am happy to say that I am sitting here (and breathing) in the fours (and yes, they have been washed and dried since last Thursday)!

Would I have been more comfortable if I’d done something a little less radical?


Would I have been totally bummed out if I had gotten back home only to find that the jeans no longer fit had I left them in the drawer?

Most definitely.

All in all, the gain (or the relative lack thereof) was totally worth it!

Healthy Holidays!

Holidays – they’re really NOT about the food

This year everyone in my family has a food allergy of some sort.

Unfortunately, none of them (well, other than those of my sister and I) actually match.

She and I are gluten-free. I, however, tend to be particularly problematic, because I also make it a general rule to avoid most dairy, meat, refined sugar, and other forms of processed food.

Her husband, although not gluten-free, has his own issues. Namely, he’s deathly allergic to mushrooms, walnuts, strawberries, and a number of other random things. Notably, he also has come to realize that reducing (though not eliminating) wheat helps his arthritis. As does reducing pork. (Pork?! That must be about all of the chemicals with which most “meat” is processed. I use the quotations meaningfully, as if he’s talking about most processed name-brand sausage, it’s not meat. In fact, I have known vegans who still eat sausage on the basis that there’s practically nothing in there that even remotely resembles flesh. But I digress….)

My mother is on the “white diet.” Meaning that she can’t have anything with fiber. No whole grains, no fresh fruit or vegetables. No tomatoes. No chocolate. No spices. She, hands down, has it hardest and I know that the thing that she’s most hoping for this year from Santa is a fully healed esophagus at the end of two long (and too long) months of pale, texture free food.

And my poor father has been having severe indigestion – agonizing pain that my mother thinks may be related to his gall bladder.

So where does that leave us on a holiday that is typically centered around food? Rich, glutenous foods with lots of spices, grains, butter, sugar, and lightly steamed fresh vegetables?

Well, I brought my blender. And even though I missed having a green smoothie today (the first in a week and, yes, I am feeling it), I got up this morning and had my hemp shake per usual. I did this while my sister and mother enjoyed freshly baked gluten-free corn muffins with Craisins and my father and my sister’s husband went back to bed.

As you might imagine, there’s been a lot of discussion about food. What who can eat and what we’re going to make and when we’re going to make it. But interestingly, unlike other years, no one seems to really be making it and that which is getting made has gone largely uneaten.

There is also a lot of food-related resentment in the house right now. Particularly from my mother, whose diet was imposed on her by medical personnel, as opposed to my sister and I who chose gluten-free freely and with eyes wide open. Mother has also used language which suggests that she thinks that she is being punished. But my sister and I are feeling it too – especially when we offer to make things or do things, which are systematically refused.

My sister, for example, who had just spent the last three days cooking full out healthy meals for my parents asked:

“So what did you have for dinner?”

Mother turned away, looking more like a twelve year old than someone who is all too fast approaching 70.

“Your father had a sandwich and some onion and I had some oatmeal and a piece of toast.”

You could literally see the steam come out of my sister’s ears. But, bless her heart, she held her tongue and proceeded to make my mother some chocolate free pumpkin-butterscotch fudge.

I have no idea what the actual holiday meal will hold. My aunt and her family are bringing over a turkey, the stuffing, and numerous desserts, while my sister and I will make a lot of sides. I’m sure there will be yams, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts and I know that my sister is planning on making a gluten-free stuffing. I may or may not make my infamous almond and date basmati rice (which, is delicious, but, unfortunately for mother, probably has way too much cinnamon).

So this holiday season has really been about boundary setting and trying to make sure everyone (self included) gets their needs met. There has also been more empathy, such as realizing after buying 10 ripe avocados that I really couldn’t (or shouldn’t) make the chocolate pudding I had planned for because mother can’t eat chocolate. But since the avocados were bought, I decided that that was ridiculous. So, in recompense, I made another dessert for mother (crust-less pecan pie bites) that are not only way better for her, but are also right up her alley in terms of taste.

This season has also been about recognizing everyone’s limitations – not just about food, but their physical limitations. We’re getting older – if not just plain old!

The days of the totally magical holidays – resplendent with lights and trees and ridiculous amounts of foods that everyone could and actually would eat – are gone. One way to think about it is this year is about seeing who we are – who we really are – and, in the case of my sister and I – who we are likely to become.

Thankfully we’re still here – with all of our foibles and our dietary restrictions. And hopefully we’ll learn to appreciate one another more fully because of them, as opposed to in spite of them.

My gift to you: Take some time this holiday to focus on your own needs and the needs of those around you. Spend some time meeting the people in your life where they are and try not to cling too tightly to the way you think they should be or how they’ve always been. You’ll all be much happier that way.

Happy Holidays~

The Easiest, Healthiest (and some of the most delicious) Fudge You’ll Ever Make

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to add more raw food into my diet. In fact, I just made the pledge (on twitter @KJLively) that no baked desserts shall pass these lips over the holidays. Somehow, it seems like making a higher pledge (like no gluten, no baked goods) and sticking to it will be easier than making tons of decisions on a dessert-by-dessert basis.

But, not to be a dessert killjoy during the holidays, I have sat up the raw food lab in the kitchen. I have a ton of raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, as well as dates, raisins, bananas, raw cacao powder, cacao nibs, coconut oil, zucchini, and (don’t ask) avocado. For those of you who don’t do raw, you’ll be relieved to know that all this does not go into the same recipe. 🙂

I decided to start simple, with Mint Chocolate Fudge balls, recipe courtesy of the Raw Foods Witch, Nathalie Lussier. You can also download her free cookbook: “28 Desserts You Can Eat Everyday,” in exchange for your name and email. Not a bad deal, if you think about it.

I am definitely making these this year at my parents’ house!

Mint Chocolate Fudge Balls

• 1/2 cup raw nut butter of choice (almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, etc.)
• 1/2 cup soft dates
• 1/4 cup raw cacao powder or carob powder
• Drop of mint or peppermint oils

Blend the dates separately first, to ensure that they will be smooth in the final product.
Then add the remaining ingredients and blend until the entire mixture forms into a ball of

Take pieces of dough and roll in your hands to form balls.

Store in freezer or fridge.

Makes 16 small balls

Per 2: 127 calories, 7.8 g fat, 0.7 saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mg sodium, 12.3 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g sugar, 4.4 g protein

These are super easy – and rich enough that the two (or even one) just might do you!

Note: I put these in the freezer and it dried them out enough that they’re more like cookies – think Newman’s Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip!

Pretty good (and easy) advice for surviving the holidays without blowing your diet

I am heading home for the holidays, so I have been checking out the resources in my home town.

During the course of my research, I found this rather nice blog post from Whole Foods! Out of all the advice there, the one thing that I need to remember the most is to move away from the food. Like most families, or at least most families in my acquaintance, mine tends to hang out in the dining room – or even worse – the kitchen!

This year’s plan: try to stay focused on the people that I am ostensibly there to visit and the conversations.

How much more pleasant would all of our holiday interactions be if we focused on staying in the moment and really hearing what the other person had to say, instead of wondering – in the back of your mind – how many pieces of pecan pie are left?

And how much simpler would this be to accomplish in the living room (or outside, weather depending) than in the kitchen surrounded by the cloying smells of sugar, butter, and starch?

I am also going to do my best to not eat standing up or anything – anything at all – that’s not on a plate.

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday.

I, personally, had a fabulous Thanksgiving. It was probably one of two in my entire lifetime of eating solid food that I wasn’t completely stressed out about food and/or walked away from the table feeling like a bloated tub of lard.

As we head into the holiday season, it’s important to remember that even though most people just plan on gaining ten pounds over the holidays, because that’s what happens to everyone, you’re not everyone! Or at least you don’t have to be.

Keeping that in mind, let me tell you about my day:

I actually came in 47 calories below my daily calorie budget yesterday, which, believe you me, is another first! And I know that if I can make it through Thanksgiving – the most food focused of all the holidays – while meeting my goals and not feeling the least bit deprived, then I can make it through the rest of the season similarly unscathed.

So what was different this year?

I got up yesterday morning, while the house was still quiet. I made some decisions about what I was going to be taking to MJ’s parents’ for dinner, I made one of the salads that needed to chill (recipe will follow), I had my normal breakfast (a Berry Hemp Shake) and then I did an hour of yoga.

By the time I was done, the household was awake. I put away the yoga mat, made some tea and touched base with Michael J and our new housemate. When Michael J went downstairs to his man cave, I continued to talk to Sarah (the new HM) – for a couple of hours really. It was nice. Around 11:30, I made second breakfast (egg white omelet with veggies) and while Sarah took a shower and got ready to go to her holiday celebration, I did a 30 minute workout tape (K-Bells: Total Body Blast). As soon as I was done, Michael J came up and said, “Want to go for a walk?”

Sure, why not?

By the time we got back, we both needed showers and I still had two dishes to make (Spicy Yams and Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Dates), so as you might imagine, things got a little crazy. One of the reasons I was bringing three dishes was that I had volunteered to make some gluten-free options because Michael J and I are both gluten-free, as is Michael J’s brother, who was driving up that day and was, thus, at the mercy of his family for healthy options (which, as it turned out, there were several)!

Although we were rushed (it was already 2:30 and we were slated to eat at 4:00), Michael J and I both sat down and had lunch. Yes, you heard me. We had lunch at 2:30, when we were going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner at 4:00! Because this year, instead of saving calories for the meal itself, I decided to actively spend them before the meal.

Now, granted, I only had a huge bowl of kale and garlic sauteed in coconut oil and a handful of roasted almonds (which amounted to about 300 or so calories), but it was enough to take the edge off. Especially because kale and almonds are both superfoods, meaning that they are nutrient-rich and extremely satisfying.

It was an interesting feeling to show up for Thanksgiving dinner and not be the slightest bit hungry. Not that that stopped me of course, when it actually came time to eat, but it did slow me down.

As it was, I cheerfully skipped the appetizers and when it was time for dinner (served closer to 5:00 than the slated 4:00), I ended up following Michael Pollen’s advice and “treated meat as a condiment.” I think I may have had three ounces of turkey (which was scrumptious by the way), quinoa salad, a spoonful (or two) of the rice pilaf, a spoonful of yams, some broccoli, and some green beans. It was a beautiful plate. I wish that I had taken a picture of it.

Full of crisp harvest colors and surprisingly free of anything mashed or looking even remotely like gravy or butter, it really was a culinary work of art. And it tasted even better than it looked!

Now, dessert was a little tricky. Mainly because Michael J’s sister-in-law sat an individual sized bowl of chocolate pie filling in front of me topped with homemade whipped cream that had been made especially for those of us following gluten-free diets. And, being a total sucker for homemade chocolate pie, I went for it. And, God, it was good! As were the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies!

But let me tell you, after being relatively sugar free now for over two months, I could literally feel the sugar leeching into my blood stream. And I have had worse cravings today than I’ve since I went gluten-free. I have a friend who says with increasing regularity that “sugar is the devil.” I’m beginning to believe her!

Overall, it was a very nice holiday. I had a great time exercising and even a better time getting to connect with friends and family. Even though my own parents and sister are far away, I also made sure to talk to them a couple of times throughout the day. And while it is true that I spent a good part of the afternoon cooking, the day really was more people-focused than food-focused, which is nice (and, I realize, a lot easier if you’re going to dinner instead of hosting it). Thanks, Mrs. Y doing all of the heavy lifting!

So based on the wonderful day I had yesterday, I will do my level best to make this season more about health and people and less about stress and food.

I am definitely going to make it less about sugar!

There are other things that I am going to publicly commit to that will – hopefully – make me more accountable to myself over the next six weeks (and beyond). But for now, I will leave it as this: Happy Holidays, everyone!

Pulling out the “skinny” jeans

Like most women, I have several sizes in my closet.

Three years ago, those sizes ranged from 10 to 14.

Now they range from 2 to 6.

Granted, the 2s are totally aspirational. I bought them at a consignment store and I pull them out on occasion and try them on. They do fit (much like a sausage casing fits around 8 ounces of pork), but I would NEVER wear them out of the house. But still, there’s something thrilling – for me – to owning and fitting into a pair of size 2s.

Besides, recent research shows that women who aspire to wear 2s – even though they look like something a 12 year old girl would wear – are more likely to keep their weight off than women who have more reasonable goals! Go figure!

Last summer, I wore the one pair of 4s quite a bit, but then following my disastrous vacation to San Francisco and the reintroduction of red wine back into the diet on a regular basis (and by regular, I mean a few glasses a couple of times a week with dinner), I sort of put the 4s away and got comfortable in the 6s.

Well, last night I pulled out the trusty 4s and lo and behold, they didn’t look as good – or feel as good – as they used to. And they certainly didn’t look or feel as good as the 6s did. Sad.

But is it? Really?

On one hand, yes it is. Because I really got a kick out of wearing size 4s.

On the other hand, when I was in the 4s regularly, I was much more restrictive with myself.

I was also much more judgmental.

I was also more likely to beat myself up at the gym.

And I also more likely to be counting calories in a punitive way.

In the 6s, I am pretty much eating what I want (assuming, that is, that it’s wheat-, dairy-, and sugar-free!), I am much more balanced in my approach to exercise, and I am having the occasional glass (or two [or three]) of wine with dinner.

Not such a bad trade-off, now that I stop and really think about it.

But just to make sure that things don’t get out of hand – remember, I threw the scale away and I have no desire to repurchase my old clothes back! – I’m going to keep the 4s in rotation. As a reminder. As a motivator.

In fact, it might not be a bad idea to plan on wearing them to as many upcoming holiday functions as I can get by with…and when the dress code is a little nicer than jeans? Who knows? I may just stick the 2s in my purse so that I can carry them with me!

All joking aside, what are your best plans for surviving the holidays with your figure in tact?

P.S. The photo is of the jeans I own, but – unfortunately – that’s not me wearing them! At least not yet! 😉

Introducing superfoods into your holiday meals!

Check out these gorgeous and healthy recipes featuring the beautiful antioxidant-rich superfood pomegranates! Just think how lovely any one of these dishes would be decorating your holiday tables! And what a welcome relief they would be from the artery clogging and calorie packing “joy” of the stuffing and candied yams (but see my healthy version of the latter here)!

Special thanks go to my friend, Wadeane, for drawing my attention to this. I’m particularly stoked about trying the guacamole!

Question: What’s your favorite, yet healthy, holiday food? Conversely, what is the one thing that you simply “have to have,” no matter how bad it is for you? And, more to the point, what substitutions have you tried? What’s worked? What hasn’t?

Diet Survival Tips for Halloween from Beachbody

Not surprisingly, I subscribe to a number of fitness and exercise newsletters. I thought that this one from (from Beachbody) was particularly timely because I heard on the radio last night that 60% (give or take) of all parents actually sneak Halloween candy from their kid’s Jack-O-Lanterns! For shame!

(Now if you’re sneaking it out and binning it – as kids don’t need all that crap either – that’s another thing entirely. But somehow I didn’t get the impression that’s what’s happening)!

Even though I don’t have that particular temptation at hand, some “nice” person at our office has placed a full bucket of Halloween candy on the Administrative Assistant’s desk directly opposite my door (darn them)!

Note that I’m working from home today! And if my colleagues – or at least some of them – are true to form, it will be empty by tomorrow!


Traveling Tip: Fresh Veggies in a Bag!

Before MJ and I left for our trip, I decided to clean out the refrigerator! As it turned out, we had a lot of fresh veggies: zucchini, carrots, broccoli, some spinach, red peppers, etc.

Instead of just binning all of it, I cut it up and threw it in a ziplock bag (no dressing). Instant snack mix! It was great. I also fixed up some healthy pita breads with a teaspoon or so of hummus (three loaves cut into six halves).

It was wonderful, as well as wonderfully economical, to have a huge bag of fresh veggies to snack on all day and to make sandwiches with using high quality ingredients.

I commonly pack fruit when I travel, but from now on, it’s me and a gallon ziplock bag of veggies. Personally, I would recommend sticking to less “wet veggies” and avoid things that are likely to squish or make things too wet. For instance, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers (given their super high water content) would be more likely to get messy and to also make your other veggies to go bad more quickly. As it was, my less wet veggies made the trip no problem. Cauliflower would also be a natural win in this regard!

If you’re going to take tomatoes or fruits such as grapes or cherries, just fill up an old quart yogurt container. They’re nice enough that they will product your precious cargo, but not so nice that you’d feel bad about ditching them as the trip progresses.

The hidden plus in all this is that by the end of your trip you’ll have more room in your luggage (as you’ve eaten your way through your “stuff” ) and you’ll have saved lots of money.

More space and more money doesn’t have to mean more space and resources for guilt-free shopping, but it certainly could do! I am writing this from the Apple Store by the way (and trust me, I’m not talking produce)!

Stay tuned for more travel trips!

I’m leaving on a jet plane….

Sorry about the lag between posts; it’s been crazy albeit with a minimal amount of nervous eating! That’s something to celebrate.

MJ and I are heading off for twelve days! Part of that is business, while the other part is pleasure.

In terms of maintaining my regular eating habits: impossible.

In order to not completely get off track, I am not only packing clothes (including fast drying exercise clothes and good sturdy cross trainers; it’s very hilly where we’re going!), but also food.

‘You’re going on vacation!’ you might be thinking. ‘Why the heck are you packing food?’

I am packing food precisely because I am going on vacation!

One reason is that I am cheap; there is nothing worse than spending $15.00 a day on a hotel breakfast when all I’m likely to eat is a bowl of oatmeal, some fruit, and maybe some tea.

A second reason is that I like what I like for breakfast: protein shakes made with bananas and soy milk. When I have this breakfast, I can predict (at least in terms of food) what my morning is going to be like. Don’t you hate it when you eat about 500 calories worth of pancakes only to be hungry 30 minutes later? I know I do! So, by packing a blender and all my stuff (purchasing the bananas and soy milk when I arrive) I’m in better control of my day. I also save a lot of money.

A third reason is that I like to snack during the day, whether I am at home or out and about. By taking my favorite snacks with me (that is, apples, green stuff, baby carrots, pita and hummus), especially on flying days, I can assure that I have healthy options readily available. This doesn’t mean that I won’t stop at Cinnabon and scarf down close to 750 calories in four bites, but it does mean that I won’t be able to use the excuse that there was nothing else to eat!

So, with all of the issues with flying and carry-ons, how do you go about packing your own in an economical and healthy way?

If at all possible, fly Southwest! They let you take on two bags for free, whereas most of the other airlines charge you for one! I have one bag that is dedicated solely to food – natural peanut butter, Ezekial bread, Chai Latte Spirutein, cashews, Lara Bars (my favorite is pistachio, but MJ likes Apple Pie, Cinnamon Roll, and Ginger Snap!), Emerald Balance travel packets, vitamins, etc.

If you are planning on mixing anything in water – like the Emerald Green stuff – then pack an empty bottle and fill it up between flights at the water fountain. I use a Sigg bottle and it’s wonderful.

Also, if you like tea, most Starbucks will give you a venti cup of hot water for free! Carrying your own tea if a great way to save $4.00 between flights! Or every morning if you find yourself near a Starbucks!

Depending on the hotel where you’re staying, request a refrigerator in your room. It may cost you $50 for the stay, but it will save you money in the long run (especially if there’s two of you), not to mention calories.

When I am traveling, either for business or pleasure, I usually say okay to one “serious” meal a day. I try to keep it as close to normal as I can at breakfast and snack times, have a light lunch (usually a salad or something that is vegetable based) and then go out to dinner, where I usually start with a salad, go for the lightest entree I can (all sauces, etc. on the side) and skip or share a dessert.

I also try to exercise every day, even if it’s just 30 minutes. Luckily, during the business portion of the trip, there is a gym and I am committed (and committing, here, in writing) to go every day. The other days, I will do yoga or go for a walk. I also bought Jillian Michael’s Hot Bod in a Box, which I’m sure if I actually did would kick my butt! I’ll let you know!

What’s your best tip for staying healthy while traveling?

Fourth of July with MJ’s parents

Another holiday, another family cookout.

This time, however, when I saw MJ’s dad, the first words out of this mouth were, “I got you some Boca Burgers and some other type of veggie burger. I also bought organic wheat rolls.”

I was absolutely floored. Touched, but floored.

So, armed with my signature tabouli and MJ’s parents veggie burgers (and some very tasty pickles and olives), I was good to go for completely angst free family cookout.

Thanks, Mr. Y! The burgers were delicious!

Memorial Day with MJ’s Parents

As noted before, I have struggled with how to deal with my eating preferences and other people — especially when I’ve been invited to their homes.

This holiday weekend, we were invited over for the typical family Bar-b-Que, with steak, chicken, elk, potato salad, baked beans, and beer.

I packed up a huge bowl of tabouli (or, tabbouleh, which is the proper spelling), some veggie burgers, and some Arnold’s Multi-grain Sandwich Thins. I tossed my burgers on the grill and no one said a thing, other than I’d waited too long and therefore didn’t get to start eating when everyone else did! But that’s okay; they were still at it when I got there and there was still plenty to go around.

I even tasted the elk and the steak — both were delicious. But more to the point, everyone loved the tabouli and I got to eat exactly what I wanted!

For dessert, I passed on the Ben & Jerry’s, the Key Lime Pie, and the Strawberries and Angel Food Cake. I fixed a really strong cup of Raspberry Zinger tea and curled up on the couch for some quiet conversation. I’ll write more about my new relationship with tea later!

The first couple of times I approached family meals this way, I felt awkward. However, now that I’ve been consistent, people don’t seem to find it strange. Instead, it’s “just the way KJ eats.”

So, give it a try. It may be awkward at first (or it might not be). But as you stick to it, it simply becomes the way things are…just like the person who doesn’t like fruity fruit or, god forbid, beets.

Easter Brunch

I typically hate family holidays. Not because I hate families or holidays, but because of the food. The endless, gluttonous parade of food. And people are funny about food–probably because of all the symbolism that gets packed into it. There has recently been a ton of sociological research on the social meaning of food and the types of emotion work that goes into feeding a family. Marjorie DeVault’s excellent book, Feeding the Family, is but just one example.

So when Michael’s family invited us for brunch, I was torn. Go? Not go?

Then I started thinking about it; the last time we ordered pizza at their house, Michael’s step-mom made herself a salad. And, in fact, I took a couple of serving of Lentil Soup, which his sister-in-law also enjoyed in lieu of a second slice of pizza! So why not take my own breakfast? The idea seemed shocking, on a couple of levels. First, it was breakfast that they had prepared, not takeout pizza from the Cornish General Store. Second, I didn’t have enough to share. Third, it was Easter!

Then it came down to go and not eat (which, in some ways, seemed worse), go and take my own food, or go and break my commitment to myself regarding my health and fitness goals. I packed up two Fiber One Whole Wheat English Muffins, 3 tablespoons of hommus, and some baby carrots. I washed all that down with a little ginger tea. Yum! It was tasty, I got to spend time with people I care about, and there was more monkey bread, french toast, bacon, and roasted vegetable quiche for them! It was a win-win for everyone.

But more importantly, I got to eat what I wanted, I wasn’t worried about my calorie intake for the day, and I enjoyed myself all the way around while still keeping my commitment to myself and my body.

The only weird moment was when someone started to razz me about not eating the quiche, but before I could utter a word, Michael’s step-mom stepped up and said: X, you do not get to make comments about anyone’s choices about food.

Right on, sister!