How to Minimize Holiday Stress and Better Savor the Season

holidaystressThat’s the name of a great article in Huffington Post that features five tips to make the season merry.

My favorite tip? #1, Just Say No.

From the author, , “Sure, there are lights to hang, parties to attend and gifts to purchase, and if you love doing these things, great! Do it all and enjoy yourself. But if you don’t enjoy these things, you can just say no. You get to choose. The people around you want YOU. Your presence is the best gift you can give. If you say yes to things you think you should do but don’t really want to do, you are going to be less connected to the people around you. Trust yourself and give yourself a break.”

I’ve said no to some things so far this season. This year, we put up a small faux tree, not our usual two fresh ones. I skipped a holiday shopping event I attend every year. I did most of what little shopping I did online. And we only did a handful of Christmas cards. But saying no to a few of those things allowed more time to do things that were more meaningful to me. I wrapped my roof rack (and Sister’s, too) with Christmas lights. We adopted and shopped for a family in need. I surprised a few special people with some fun treats to help them get more Christmas spirit.

I encourage you to check out this article sooner, rather than later! The Christmas spirit you save may be your own!


12 Strategies to Avoid Weight Gain This Holiday Season

blog_Santa weighsWeight-wise, the holidays can pack a powerful punch. The amount may vary according to the study, but it’s a fact: the average American gains weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, as much as seven to ten pounds. This is horrible news to someone like me, who is not only trying to maintain a loss, but hoping to ring in 2014 a couple pounds lighter.

Following are twelve strategies that I’ve used – some more successfully than others, I might add – to lose weight the past few years. I’ve modified them a bit for the holiday season, and share them with you in hopes that you find one or two that help you during this scrumptious season.

  1. Plan and Prepare:  Plan around holiday socials and celebrations. If your office is doing a potluck for lunch, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and plan a lighter dinner.  It’s especially important to prepare and pack healthy snacks and meals when you can to counteract times when you can’t.
  2. Eat to Savor, Not to Stuff: Eat holiday favorites mindfully. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday foods you love, but eating them slowly while tasting and enjoying every bite. Practice the three-bite rule to keep your cravings in check. You’ll get that amazing first taste, a satisfying middle one, and then a lingering third bite.
  3. Relish the Experience: Food is such a big part of holiday celebrations, but it’s not the only thing. Enjoy your time with friends and family. Bring a board game. Start a new, non-food related holiday tradition.
  4. Think Before You Drink: Did you know that a 20-oz. eggnog latte has 620 calories? Punch, hot cider and eggnog can be high in calories, too. If these beverages are an important part of your celebration, enjoy them in moderation; make water your standard drink of choice.
  5. Back Off the Booze: Cocktails, beer and wine not only have a high calorie count, but having too many can loosen your resolve and lead to overeating. If you indulge, drink slowly and drink plenty of water before and after.
  6. Keep a Healthy Arsenal: During the holiday, our offices are full of food. It’s hard to say no. To avoid temptation, bring a small bag of almonds or a container of Greek yogurt to work.
  7. Move It: Increasing your physical activity level during the holidays is the most straightforward and effective weight control strategy, according to the Calorie Control Council. If you already exercise, turn it up a notch during the holidays. Don’t exercise? Start. Even daily walks will help.
  8. Eat Before You Go: Never go to a celebration or big meal hungry. Drink a couple of glasses of water and eat some fruit or raw veggies before heading out. If you aren’t ravenous when you arrive, chances are you won’t inflict as much damage when you hit the buffet table
  9. Bring Your Own Healthy:  You may not be able to control every menu, but you can bring a healthy dish to share. That way, you know there’s at least one thing you can enjoy guilt-free. Your hostess will always be grateful for another dish, and no one has to be any the wiser.
  10. Pace Yourself: It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is getting full. Set your fork down between bites, chew your food thoroughly and sip some water. Enjoy the company of the people around you at the party. Getting caught up in conversation is a great way to avoid overeating.
  11. Let It Go: If you do overindulge, let it go. Recent brain research shows that beating yourself up for a “slip” in healthy habit sets the stage for a full tumble off the wagon. Instead, focus on what you did right, and compliment yourself. Return to healthy eating habits the next meal instead of blowing the rest of the day with the “I’ll start tomorrow” excuse.
  12. Go to Bed on Time:  Sleep routines sometimes go haywire over the holidays. But recent research ties weight loss to keeping a regular sleep schedule, showing that those who go to sleep and wake up at regular hours have lower body fat than those who don’t.

Do you have a strategy to stay on a healthy track in the face of holiday temptation? Please share in the comments below so others can benefit.  Here’s wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!





“Too Good to be Healthy” Mac & Cheese Recipe

On Thanksgiving, one of the kids lamented over the lack of mac & cheese. I didn’t notice since I’ve pretty much given it up, but I’m adding back with the discovery of this recipe: Cauliflower Mac & Cheese. It has one entire head of cauliflower in it, and the taste is still great. Even Mom liked it, and she doesn’t like a lot of my clean recipes. Delish!

November 2013 Non-Scale Victories

  1. Listened to my body and slept this afternoon instead of buying groceries.
  2. Ate a little less clean and got a tummy ache. My body rebuked me!
  3. Let bygones be bygones.
  4. Great 35 minute “old school” workout on the elliptical this a.m.
  5. Workout pants a little looser in the tummy today.
  6. Able to get back on the treadmill without hip pain for the first time since that practice 5K mishap in May.
  7. Trainer said that Tuesday’s squats were the best I’d ever done. (And I’ve been doing them for going on three years!)
  8. Had a latte with regular milk – as a treat – and again my body rebuked me. Interesting to see how my body now reacts to things that used to be commonplace for me to eat, but now rarely do.
  9. Took my own coffee to a Starbucks gathering so I wouldn’t be tempted to get a holiday drink.
  10. Pushed beyond wanting to sleep in to train on a cold, rainy morning. And really glad that I did.
  11. I saw myself on a TV interview, and I’m not huge like I feel.
  12. Did two sets of walking lunges without losing my balance. (Lost it on the third set, though.)
  13. Noticed some new toning in my calves this week
  14. Made mac and cheese with a base of cauliflower! A new recipe to boot!
  15. Did not buy Christmas stocking candy because I didn’t want to tempt myself.
  16. Did a heavy conditioning strength training that I didn’t think I would be able to do.
  17. Threw away something in the house that tempted me instead of having it taunt me from the cupboard.
  18. Turned down a bag of Sun Chips, although I REALLY wanted to have a few. (But I knew better. A few ends up being the whole bag!)
  19. Upgraded my Fitbit to make it easier to track my activity.
  20. Did an evening workout that I really didn’t want to do, but did it anyway.
  21. I faced a fear head on today.
  22. Resisted buying Christmas candy.
  23. Someone told me that I was looking leaner.
  24. Trainer says that I am getting stronger.
  25. Made my own croutons.
  26. Took a nice long walk after Thanksgiving dinner.
  27. Had small bowl of veggie soup before heading over for Thanksgiving feast to fill me up a little before all of the temptations.
  28. Made two healthy casseroles today: one for now, one for the freezer.
  29. Went to the gym and did cardio today, even though every  molecule of my being wanted to stay in bed!
  30. After what seemed like a month without many non-scale victories, I was able to complete the month with 30 of them. May December be a little easier!

October 2013 Non-Scale Victories

  1. I saw a group picture taken a few weeks ago, and even though I’m up a little from my lowest weight, I still didn’t recognize myself at first. The way I see me and the way I look in photos are two different animals.
  2. Resisted fattening cocktail party food.
  3. Survived a very bad day without a splurge.
  4. Helped cook breakfast of hash browns, bacon, sausage, grits, pancakes and eggs for 500+ people and didn’t sneak even one nibble.
  5. 15,000+ steps.
  6. 15 days in a row of using MyFitnessPal, even on the days that aren’t quite perfect.
  7. Splurged a little, but recorded it all on MyFitnessPal. It really helps a small splurge from becoming a wipe out.
  8. Overslept, but didn’t use it as an excuse to miss strength training. Got up and went anyway; worked out with time left over to stretch.
  9. Looking at t-shirts at an event, the large looked very small, but I got it. And it fit.
  10. Noticed this a.m. that my workout pants are fitting a little better in the stomach.
  11. No fewer than four people have commented on my “weight loss” this week, although the scale has not moved. Something good is happening, though.
  12. Made a new soup recipe today and added chopped zucchini.
  13. When buying groceries this weekend, I didn’t even go down the ice cream aisle. I’m finding it easier to indulge any ice cream cravings by splurging on a single serve at Baskin Robbins rather than buy large container to keep at home.
  14. I had lunch plans for today, but took a lunch just in case. I figured I could always keep it for later in the week. My lunch meeting was canceled, but I didn’t have to scramble since I’d brought a healthy lunch.
  15. Yesterday, I felt stronger and better during and after my strength training that I have since I had to take some time out of the gym in early August. It was a great feeling.
  16. Semi-voluntarily added 15 lbs. to the sled this a.m.
  17. Carried a 10-lb. bar while “sledding” today; still using the heavier sled weight, too.
  18. Trainer increased weight on bench press today, and while I had to channel my “inner Rick Baldauf,” I did it!
  19. Resisted a McDonald’s vanilla ice cream cone in lieu of a frozen Banana Spice Smoothie I had back at the office. (And it was at least 10 times more filling, healthier and tastier!)
  20. This
  21. Someone who doesn’t know that DWC is a gym tweeted get well wishes to me since I’d checked in at the doctor’s office so much this week. That’s a great sign that my workouts are becoming more regular!
  22. After taking my pre-donation blood pressure, the Red Cross guy said,”80 over 60. That’s the lowest I’ve seen. Do you work out?”
  23. Resisted buying ice cream twice today.
  24. Resisted even a bite of a fried Oreo at the State Fair. My only purchase? A bottled water.
  25. Four weekdays in a row at 10,000+ steps!
  26. Did not treat myself to that ice cream cone that I thought about this afternoon.
  27. My battle ropes are looking a lot better.
  28. Worked out every weekday morning last week.
  29. More than a month after my birthday, I still have an unopened package of mini Special Dark candy bars that someone gave me.
  30. Have complete MyFitnessPal food and exercise diary every day for over 35 days now.
  31. My “sisters” ring keeps falling off.

Cool Cat Culture: A Black Cat Quiz

Photo Apr 13, 10 26 03 PMEvery cat I’ve had as an adult has been black. You know, you don’t pick cats; they pick you. And for some reason, black cats pick me! After losing a second black cat to cancer last year, I went to the Columbia Animal Shelter to adopt a new cat, and my only requirement was that it not be black. What happened as soon as I walked into the “Cat Room?” A black cat picked me. And so it is, Baghera is my third black cat!

It’s especially fun having a black cat at Halloween. I love answering the door for trick-or-treaters with a black cat in my arms. It’s also neat to see “your cat” on virtually all Halloween cards and decorations. In the spirit of Halloween, The State newspaper addressed black cats today, and they also featured a black cat quiz, which I promptly failed. Try your hand at it and see if you do any better!

National Celebrities Step Up to the Plate for Slim Down the South Celebrity Softball Challenge

Slim Down the South PosterThe event, which will be held on Saturday, November 9 at Joe Riley Park, raises funds for Louie’s Kids, the only not-for-profit organization in the United States helping identify treatment programs for overweight and obese children.

This amazing ‘Field of Dreams’ day at the ballpark wouldn’t be possible without the participation and support of the following celebrities who  have committed to fighting childhood obesity one run at a time:

  • Bill Murray, Comedian/Actor
  • Mark Bryan, Hootie & the Blowfish
  • Dean Felber, Hootie & the Blowfish
  • Eric Bass, Shinedown
  • Zach Myers, Shinedown
  • Gary Valentine, Comedian/Actor, Chelsea Lately, King of Queens
  • Terry Serpico, Actor, Army Wives
  • Bubba Bryant, Actor, Army Wives
  • Paula Trickey, Actress, Crimes of the Mind, The OC, Pacific Blue
  • Sylvia Jefferies, Actress, Nashville, Eastbound and Down
  • Elise Testone, Singer, American Idol
  • Corey Miller, NFL, NY Giants, USC
  • Langston Moore, NFL, Bengals, USC
  • Gettys Glaze, Citadel Hall of Fame
  • Michael Kohn, MLB, LA Angels
  •  Kevin Elster, MLB, NY Yankees, LA Dodgers
  • Hannah Curlee – Winner, Biggest Loser  
  • Steve Azar, Singer/Songwriter
  • Patrick Davis, Singer/Songwriter

Other celebrities include personalities from Charleston television and radio stations.

“We’re so grateful for the support of these celebrities,” said Louis Yuhasz, founder of Louie’s Kids. “The entire Louie’s Kids organization appreciates their willingness to take time out of their busy schedules to help raise awareness of childhood obesity. This one softball game will help children all over the south combat obesity and improve their future, families and communities.”

For more information on Louie’s Kids or Slim Down the South, visit or

About Louie’s Kids
Founded in 2001 in Alexandria, Va., and operated today out of Charleston, SC, Louie’s Kids is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises funds to empower children to make changes, both physically and mentally, for a healthier and more productive life. The mission of Louie’s Kids is to strengthen the future of the communities they serve by making children healthier and improved citizens, while also providing excellent stewardship to those funders who invest their time and treasure in the children served. For information and updates follow Louie’s Kids on Facebook and Twitter.

14 Questions That Could Save Your Life and the Planet

BLOG_Food Day 2013Happy Food Day, a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food.

Celebrate by taking “14 Questions that Could Save Your Life and the Planet,” a quiz that analyzes your typical weekly diet to see how it impacts your health, the environment and animal welfare.  The online quiz asks how many servings of various foods you eat, whether you choose organic and how much alcohol you consume. You’re are given a number and letter grade, which you can share via social media.

For the record, I took the quiz and scored a 68, which translates into a B.

“The typical American diet is heavy on salty packaged foods, high-fat meat and dairy products, and sugary drinks, and deficient in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” said Food Day founder and Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Besides promoting heart disease, our meat intake also exacts a considerable toll on the environment and all too often on the animals themselves. The answers to these 14 questions point the way to a longer life and a healthier planet.”

Food Day aims to help people Eat Real. That means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein. Food Day envisions shorter lines at fast-food drive-throughs—and bigger crowds at farmers markets.

This annual event involves some of the country’s most prominent food activists, united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.


Join Me in Being Snark Free Tomorrow!

I recently saw this Lifehacker article – The Snarky Voice in Your Head is Killing Your Productivity – and it really hit home with me. At first, I doubted I was snarky, but realized better when I recalled two snarky thoughts that I had just minutes earlier on my way to work.

  • The first was when I saw a very large teenage girl walking to school in an extremely tight and inappropriate outfit. While I don’t remember the exact thought, it was definitely snarky.
  • The second was when a driver glared at me, thinking I might pull out in front of him. I uttered something I often utter in such situations, “I’m not gonna hit  your piece of sh** car!”

From those thoughts we hear inside our heads to those snappy one-liners on Twitter, it seems like snark has become a way of life. Wouldn’t it be great to have one day when people go out of their way to be polite, kind  and considerate instead of rude, sarcastic and snarky? A group of public relations professionals aims to make a single day, October 22, “Snark Free Day,” and I’m taking the challenge!

The nationwide affiliates of PRConsultants Group (PRCG) are committing to a kinder way of communication and encouraging others to get on board. To promote participation in Snark Free Day, the group has developed a sketch video featuring a ‘World Class Jerk’ named Jonathan Snark. More information about Snark Free Day can also be found on

Blog_Snark Free

“Instead of taking the cheap shot, take the high road,” said Toni Antonetti, a director of PRCG. “People have been emboldened by the anonymity and immediacy of online commenting. On October 22, we’re asking others to commit to taking just a moment before speaking, hitting send or posting to think about the effect our words have on those who receive them. Be snark free for one day.”

One PRCG affiliate summed it up simply: “It goes back to one of the earliest lessons we learn in life: ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ If that snappy, snarky comment is right on the tip of your tongue, keep it there,”said Melissa Libby, one of the developers of “Snark Free Day.”

Added Libby, “It’s a little thing, but if everyone does it, maybe people will find that being nice has more lasting, deeper rewards.

Great idea! Let’s give it a shot, folks. Join me in going snark free tomorrow!

Not the Odd Girl Out, But the Smart, Healthy One


Today, I had a lunch meeting at a new restaurant, which has been open two months. Since I haven’t been yet, I went online last night to peruse the menu so I could make the best choice. No menu. This morning, I called the restaurant. I was told to “look on Facebook, the menu is there.” Nope, not there either. He offered to read the menu to me, which was great, but he was on a cell phone and I could only hear about every 15th word. Sigh.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am far from perfect, and I’ve been known to stray for a good meal. When I do, though, I am generally able to plan around it. I had a strenuous training session with Daniel early this morning, and there was no way I was going to chance it for a “meeting meal.” I also knew better than to go hungry, not find something I wanted and settle on something less than desirable.

So what did I do? Before the meeting, I ate one of the reserve meals I’d stocked in the kitchen at work. I went a little late to lunch, and during the meeting, just sipped water. I didn’t make a big deal about it, nor did anyone at the table ask about it. (And that was nice; usually people make a fuss when you don’t eat or you eat differently…)

I’m giving myself a little pat on the back for the way I handled it, but what I really want to say? It’s 2013, people. Get a website and add your menu!

How do you deal with eating clean while eating out? Have you ever compromised when eating out and regretted it? Any tips or tricks to share?