Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays are upon us. A time of celebration, tradition, parties, big meals, disrupted schedules, sweets and treats sharing at the office, sweets and treats sharing at church, sweets and treats sharing with friends and neighbors, sweets and treats sharing with people you barely know...

For some, these festivities wreck havoc on health, food and fitness goals.  Is that the case for you?
Do you regularly meet January exhausted and fluffy with plans to kick it in for the new year?

The diet and fitness industry loves this.  I don't! I've lived this pattern of rejoining, restarting and recommitting  in January more times than I care to say. It is frustrating.

It doesn't have to be this way.

The past few years, adjustments to my attitude and actions allow me to not only maintain, but advance my food and fitness goals during the holidays.

Here are a few tips that help me.

1.  Adjust your mindset.
If your thoughts are along the lines of "What the heck!  It's the holiday. I'll turn it around in January", If your goal is to simply hang on and not loose ground. Change that thinking!
Why settle for surviving the holiday? Set your sights to thrive through the holidays - and enjoy it.
Weight management begins in our minds. Many focus on the reports of 5-7, even 10 pound weight gains during the holiday. This is a myth.  The average weight gain during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is 1-2 pounds - and his includes the hoards of folks who don't care or even think about activity or what goes in their mouth.

Don't focus on the worst case scenario. I did this for years and got what I expected. One year, I chose to think, plan and act higher.  I focused on honoring God with my body - specifically during this holiday season. We say this is a time of thanksgiving and celebrating the gift of Christ.  Good stewardship connects nicely with thanks and gratefulness.  Again, I got what I expected.

2.  Pray and mean what you say.
Do you pray or bless your food before you eat - each time you eat?
Do you mean what you say in that prayer?  Of like me, have you fallen into a pre-meal ritual without thought or meaning?

Before answering really think about it.  Consider the number of times we utter the standard grace, asking God to "bless this food we are about to receive to nourish our bodies..."  Then we proceed to feed on too much food we know has little-to-no nutrition.  Been there. Done that.  It's not beneficial.

Imagine the difference if instead of asking God to bless the food we choose, we asked God to bless our food choices. This simple prayer has been so powerful for me.  It slows me down and keeps me mindful.

Take an honest moment of thanks before eating.  Listen and obey the Holy Spirit as He guides your food selections or tells you simply - "that's enough".  The Holy Spirit will not guide to gluttony.

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3.  Move
I get it. Our regular schedule is off during the holidays. Departure from the norm is part of what makes it a holiday right?  Off schedule doesn't have to mean a fall off the wagon. The break of schedule allows me to step up my activity.

If the family sleeps in late, take advantage of this free morning time.  Sleep in as well if your body needs it. (Remember, sleep is integral for health and weight loss.)  If extra sleep is not needed, get up and hit some exercise before the holiday activities begin.  A few of my early am favorites:

  • A bike ride, walk or run.
  • A favorite stretching or weight training dvd or something new from You Tube.
  • When time is short, a Tabata or Stacked workout does the job every time.  These high intensity, interval workouts take just a few minutes to do with significant impact on your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

Later in the day, (after the eat-fest), take a walk with the family.  It extends conversation and sharing time, helps the food digest, and gets you away from the table for 3rds (cause we know we've already had 2nds...).  If walking is not your thing, before settling in to watch football, get out in the yard and throw the football around  a bit.  Sports not your thing either?  Turn on your favorite music and show em what you got.  What ever gets you going - get to it. Just move.

4. It's a holiday, enjoy it.
Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself.  Food is a gift, a wonderful gift meant for nourishment and enjoyment. The bible is full of examples where food is used for celebration and fellowship.  Enjoy this gift.  Just keep it as an enjoyment.

Truth be told, eating till you can't move well, breath well and/or have to unbuckle your pants is not fun or enjoyable. Slow down, enjoy each bite and stop when satisfied, not stuffed.

5. It's a holiday, enjoy it.
Notice the word is holiday.  It is not holiweek, holimonth or holiseason.

The holiday is a day.  Don't let the celebratory food indulgences drag on and on and on.  You've tasted and enjoyed Aunt Mae's sweet potato pie, Momma's dressing and macaroni and cheese, Uncle Bud's fried turkey, and Aunt Mary's pralines.  No need to keep hitting them every day till they are gone. The taste will pretty much be the same. Get back to regular eating with no fret, regret or worries. Another holiday is coming in just a few weeks.

I hope you found these tips helpful. They are relatively easy to adopt and work well for me.
Give em a try for a happy, healthy and truly thankful holiday.

Take care, God bless and be well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

BRICK What a Wonderful World

Do you remember the band, Brick?
"Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody",  "Push Push", "We Don't Wanna' Sit Down (We Wanna' Get Down)", "Sweat (Till You Get Wet)", and "Dazz". Dazz was my skating jam!

Brick brought their fusion of disco and jazz to the Southern University Gala on the Bluff Saturday and let me tell you - original member Jimmy Brown did that!  He danced, SANG, and played that trumpet, trombone, saxophone and flute all over the stage. At the age of 71 Mr Jimmy still has it. 


My favorite selection they performed that night was a rendition of "What a Wonderful World" made famous by Louis Armstrong 48 years ago. Here is a short piece.


I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, 
the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

Have a bright, blessed day in this wonderful world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Microgreens, Mustard Greens and One-Ball Squash

Red Stick Farmer's Market was on this weekend.

With gorgeous weather.

And gorgeous produce.

Green and yellow beans

Fall corn
Green onion
Lately my busy has been busy and I have not been to the market in 3-4 weeks. I allowed junky foods into my eating and consequently I felt sluggish, and my sinuses started cutting up.  Food is medicine and eating well helps me feel well. Getting back to the farmer's market felt like pressing a reset button.


Radishes and eggplant

Gorgeous right!

Everything looked good, but I controlled myself and picked up just a few things - including two new to me items - a savory microgreens mix and one-ball squash.

(One-ball squash - the name makes the 9-year old in me giggle.)

I've enjoyed microgreens in restaurants but wasn't quite sure what they were. Microgreens are the itty bitty teeny weeny baby vegetables harvested shortly after the seeds sprout. They are flavor rich and nutrient dense. Research shows the antioxidant level in microgreens is much higher than the full-grown versions.

One of my favorite aspects of farmer's markets is the ability to talk with and learn from farmers. Amy from Westdome Nursery introduced me to microgreens.  Here is a bit of her sharing.


As soon as I got home, I made a delicious microgreens salad. This particular savory mix contains broccoli, garnet mustard, kohlarbi, rainbow radish, kale, upland cress, arugula, pacchoi, and flax. The flavor is bright, sharp and spicy.  For balance, I added cucumber and a homemade avocado lime dressing.


 To make it more substantial, I topped with quinoa.


It was soooo good.

Check out Westdome Nursery on Facebook or at Indie Plate

The next day, I prepared down home greens. (Semi down home.)


Check out my green cleaning song. 
Kale n Mustard Greeeeens! 
You know you want it. Uh!
You know you want it.
Sing it over and over to the Blurred Lines tune.  Or not.

I mixed mustard greens picked up at the farmer's market with some kale on hand.

Kale n mustard greens! 

Beautiful right!

I grew up on mustard greens and adore them.  These greens differ from the greens of my childhood in that they contain no pig parts.  

I washed the greens mix, removed the hard stems from the kale, and roughly chopped the mixture.  
In a big pot, I sauteed 1/3 chopped sweet onion in a bit of canola oil.  
When the onions turned translucent, I added the greens and wilted them down- similar to smothering cabbage.  
When soft and reduced to almost nothing, (don't you hate that about greens), I seasoned with kosher salt, red pepper flakes and a poured in good quality vegetable broth to barely cover. 
The greens simmered for about 5 minutes; then I stirred in a touch of sugar to cut the bitterness. 
That's it. No fuss, no hours of stewing, and the flavor of the greens shine. My husband ate them with cornbread and said it was fantastic.

Tuesday, I hit the one-ball squash.  

This variety was new to me.  One-ball squash is sweeter than typical yellow squash. Looking it up on Pinterest, stuffed is a common preparation. Cooking Light had a recipe with a tomato, spinach and cheese based stuffing with bread crumbs that looked amazing. I'm eating vegan this week, and opted for a simple herbed saute.


The mixture of zucchini and one-ball squash was quickly cooked with olive oil, red onion, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. 

It was wonderful with quinoa and a side of steamed broccoli with lemon.

At three days into this new week, I'm starting to feel like new. My energy is back; sinuses are clear, and my appetite has reset to fresh and fulfilling.

Food is a powerful tool for health, energy, mood and weight management.  

What new nutritious foods have you tried lately?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

3 Reasons to Fall Garden

NJ Fall Garden

Fall gardening is wonderful. 

1. Humane Temperatures.
Unlike summer gardening, it is not hell hot. Here in South Louisiana, temperatures in September/October/November go from bearable to exquisite.  Time tending to fall plantings is enjoyable.

2. Chill Weeds.
In the fall, weeds are not as vigorous. 
Summer weeds are my nemesis.

The end of summer weed situation in my herb bed.
I don’t use herbicides, so my two hands do all weed controlDuring bed prep in early September, I pulled and hauled off half a dozen wheel barrels of weeds.   (Note: 5 hours of back breaking, sweat popping, weed pulling  gave about 832 steps on my Fitbit. That's a shame.)  

NJ Weeds

Thankfully, since that episode of toil and labor, the weed situation has been manageable.

3. Fall vegetables rock.
Cruciferous vegetables adore the cool weather. This family of veggies includes broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and bok choy…

NJ Bok Choy

 …mustards, turnips, collard greens, arugula, and kale. Pass the napkins, hot sauce, and corn bread, please. 

NJ Kale

Cruciferous vegetables are some good eating.

They are also good for you, packed with fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins that lower cancer risk.  In her article, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD statesa review of research published in the October 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that 70% or more of the studies found a link between cruciferous vegetables and protection against cancer.” 

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports cruciferous vegetable consumption is also associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Time tested delicious help to protect and improve your health can be as close as the patch in your yard.

So, here's what's happening in our yard:

Thus far our fall garden has the beginnings of romaine lettuce, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, lemon thyme, sweet mint, and cilantro. 

There are also a few rosemary and basil plants still producing from the summer. 

If I can get one more raised bed constructed in the next week or two, mustards and chard will go in as well. 

This year I'm trying a bit of everything - starting plants from seed, bulbs and seedlings; planting in the ground, raised beds and pots. I hope all take, but it will be interesting to see what works best.  

What do you have growing? 

Depending on your region, there is still time to get your fall garden planted.

Don’t have a yard, (or any desire to dig up your yard), no problem. Many plants will do well in pots on your porch or patio. Check out the Old Time Almanac for details on what to plant and when for your area.

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