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One of my biggest goals for the new year is to eat more vegetables.  I’m lucky, in that I really like most veggies, but in order to hit 5 servings a day you really have to plan and think about things.  This week, I have no plan (oops).  We got home from vacation on Sunday night and I had to hurry up and get some groceries for our bare cupboards.  I couldn’t handle the thought of one more meal out and I really wanted to cook something that wasn’t beige, the food color of choice in my holiday travels, so I ran to the store.  FYI, not having a plan is expensive.

So yesterday I knew I was going to have a salad for lunch.  That was my husband’s request and I am too lazy and uncreative to think of something else for myself, so that settled that.  But the rest of the day was a mystery.  I made up for it by throwing veggies at myself at every turn.

For breakfast I had a standard bowl of oatmeal with some canned pumpkin stirred in.  According to this website, pumpkin has a ton of nutrients and vitamin C.  Heading a cold off at the pass with breakfast that tastes like dessert?  Yes, please.

For dinner I made my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, from Rachel Wilkerson.  This uses skim milk and a smallish quantity of good cheese, so the calorie count is not out of control.  And it also uses a whole bag of spinach, so Popeye would be proud.  I love macaroni and cheese almost as much as I love my husband, and he loves this recipe too.  Win-win.

Before bed, I was still kind of hungry.  Because I brilliantly decided on our 6 hour road trip home that we were going to institute meatless Mondays, and because I forgot the key ingredient for the meatless meal I had intended to make, I wound up making the mac and cheese that I usually serve as a side dish and calling it dinner.  I needed something else to fill me up, so I pulled out the blender and made myself a green smoothie.  Check out www.greenmonstermovement.com if you have no idea what I’m talking about.  I combined coconut milk, frozen peaches and pineapples, a few ice cubes and a big handful of kale in the blender.  I would have used spinach, but we ate it all for dinner.  When you make one of these, as bizarre as they look, you can’t taste the greens that you throw in there.  I swear.  I tried to take a picture of me and my green monster, but after all of that traveling, I looked worse than my smoothie did.  This is one of the best ways to sneak some greens into your life.  Make it taste like fruit!  My husband always claims that if they could make broccoli taste like apples he would eat it; now I just made kale taste like peaches.  He still didn’t want it, but I didn’t want to share anyway.

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This is the third time I’ve tried to write this post because of my traveling ways.  The first time, I wrote on my phone on an airplane, but clicked somewhere wrong and lost it.  The second time, my mother-in-law’s computer decided to be tempramental and I lost it.  And now, I am crossing my fingers!

Writing is not the only difficult thing about traveling for the holidays.  Our whirlwind week has included a roadtrip from Boston to Pennsylvania to see my dad and my in-laws, a flight to Texas to ring in the New Year and celebrate my college roommate’s 30th birthday, and lots of trying to cram everything in between.  My eating and exercising has been totally off this week.  I am ready to get back to real life, for sure!  All of this travel has presented me with several obstacles: loss of control over what I’m eating when staying with friends and family; emotional eating coming from not having my mom with me for Christmas and mindless eating coming from sitting around and visiting with family; that whole it’s vacation, I deserve this treat feeling; let’s try to meet these friends we never see for lunch/drinks/coffee/dinner.  I can handle the car eating and the airplane eating, but what’s in between has been an issue.  I am trying my best to eat the clementines that my mother-in-law stocked up on instead of the cookies that everybody baked, and at this point it’s not too hard, but only because I think my body is exhausted from the excess it’s been having for the last week.  Somebody get me some kale.

I’ve also been trying to sneak in some exercise here and there, but that’s been tough with my recent injury (the doctor said to ease back into things, and told me I should be better after the New Year – which is now! Yay!).  I’ve been walking a lot as a tourist in Texas and doing laps in the airport while waiting to board, but I can’t wait to get my butt back to Healthworks asap.  Usually, my husband and I will go to gyms down here in PA while we’re visiting family – with the Healthworks membership to IHRSA I’ve been able to work out at gyms in different cities for a small fee, very easily.  (And once the guy at the gym near my dad’s house couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to do, so he gave us a week pass for free!)  This time, though, we let the hectic schedule be an excuse to skip working out and I regret it.  Funny how I never regret actually going to work out.  There’s something to think about during an internal debate.

I know that one week is not going to make me or break me, and I can’t wait to get a fresh start when we get back home tomorrow.  I have a hot date with my vegetable steamer and the cardio theater in my future.  Happy holidays, but even more, happy back to routine days!

I am writing this in the hopes that someday I will reread this and learn my lesson.

This weekend, I made 6 kinds of cookies.  The cookie baking started when my then-fiance/now-husband and I just graduated from college.  He started working in the office where he still is today, and because he was working in an administrative role, helping out pretty much everybody in the office with clerical and computer-related tasks, he started getting a lot of Christmas presents as sort of thank you gifts toward the end of the year.  We quickly realized we could not possibly afford to buy presents for the 20 people in his office in return and still pay our (living way beyond our means/what were we thinking/oh boy did we get in debt in the beginning) rent, we made cookies for the office instead.  I would say that I make the cookies, but he is an excellent dish washer and errand runner, always willing to go get the one more stick of butter or dozen eggs that I need and underestimated.  You can’t take for granted the value of somebody willing to do that stuff while I do the fun stuff.

So anyway, 8 Christmases later, I kind of end up making a lot of cookies every year.  We also give them to the neighbors who put up with us and bring in our mail and recycling bins while we’re at work and the people who continue to hire me every summer at a fabulous program where I am lucky to work, so they hopefully won’t forget about me in the long stretch between August and June.  And a couple of other assorted people.

So why is it that 8 Christmases later, I haven’t learned to chill out with the rubber spatula licking and the quality control taste testing?  My sugar tolerance has significantly lowered over the years; as I always tell people when they give me funny looks when I’m waxing poetic about food, I used to be a lot fatter.  And not only did I lose almost 50 pounds along the way of those 8 cookie making years, but I also got a lot healthier.  Last year, I started learning about eating clean and, inspired by my friend Alyssa, who gave up white flour and sugar cold turkey (and told me to shut up and do it or stop talking about it already – thank you, I needed that) I changed my diet totally.  I went from watching my diet by means of finding all the ways I could eat junk and still lose weight (Fat Free Cool Whip and graham cracker sandwiches, anyone?  Diet Coke cake?  You know what I’m talking about.) to cutting out processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and other stuff and eating a many whole foods as possible.  (Oh, and some weeks, spending as much money at Whole Foods as possible.  But that’s a topic for another post.)  And I feel great.  Usually.  Except now, when I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck full of cookies, with a little trail of royal icing dripping from the corner of my mouth.  Next time, please remind me that I can’t eat like I used to.  It’s not worth it.

Oh, and just for the sake of comparison, here’s a little snapshot of Christmases past:

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2003

Christmas 2009

Today is my grandmother’s 80th birthday.  I feel so lucky to have not only gotten to know this woman not only as a grandmother and child, but also as an adult and a friend.  Throughout my life she has always lived far away from me – in Florida or California – but maybe that’s part of what has made our relationship so special.  We’ve talked on the phone and visited each other, and I am always struck by how much she makes sure not to take any time together for granted.  She’s been one of the biggest supports in my life, always listening and giving advice.  So on this special occasion, I want to share a few of the important things she has taught me.

  • Go after what you want.  My grandparents first met at a fraternity mixer in college.  All of the men had to take off

    Lulu and me, on my most recent trip to California

    one shoe and put it in the middle of the dancefloor, and all of the women then chose a shoe from the pile and had to dance with its owner.  The story goes that my grandmother watched carefully which shoe belonged to the handsome guy who caught her eye and made a beeline for that shoe in the pile.  It gets mildly less romantic when you hear that the first thing my Papa said to her was “Hurry up and give me my shoe back, I’ve got a hole in my sock,” but that was the start of a relationship that led to 52 years to happy marriage before my grandfather passed away.

  • Remember where you came from.  My Lulu, as we call her, always talks fondly about the days when she and my Papa “didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” but she always does it with such love and longing in her voice that you imagine she wants to be back there.  When my husband and I were first married, she reminded me often to take the time to enjoy our time together and learn from the struggles we would go through in order to become stronger together.
  • Give of yourself.  After my grandfather retired, Lulu and Papa went to Lithuania on a volunteer trip.  Papa, a career civil engineer, worked to teach engineers there to set up new systems; Lulu taught English.  At 80 years old, my grandmother even now makes the effort to volunteer with an organization that raises money for her community and does different service projects.  She has taught me the importance of being selfless.
  • Get over it.  One of Lulu’s favorite sayings is “offer it up,” which, as far as I can tell, means to get over yourself.  Whenever one of us is whining (or canowering, as she says) about something petty, Lulu comes back with that little gem.  Offer it up and get on with your life, already.  Lulu knows that life is too short to dwell on the negative.
  • Know who you are.  Lulu is confident in her beliefs and strong in her will.  She doesn’t let others tell her what to think, nor does she listen to hurtful comments that come from ignorance of not understanding her values.  She has taught me to have faith in who I am and who I can be.
  • Take pride in yourself.  When I was in third grade, I remember rushing through my homework to “sit and visit” with Lulu on one of her trips to see us.  A retired elementary school teacher, she looked at my sloppy work and told me very seriously that I should never put my name on something I was not proud of.  That has always stuck with me, and that work ethic has followed me through graduate school and into my professional career.  Other vestiges of schoolteacher remain; she grades herself on how well she does the crossword puzzle in the newspaper each morning, and deducts points for neatness if she has to scribble something out.

I hope that I live a life half as rich as Lulu has already enjoyed, although I must say she shows no sign of stopping now.  And I hope that someday somebody can say about me what I feel about her.  She has taught me so much, in her own sweet, funny, sharp as a tack, kind way.  She doesn’t take herself  or life too seriously – except Jeopardy, the Green Bay Packers and the morning crossword puzzle.  Those are the important things, after all.

In my house, there is no mention of Christmas before Thanksgiving.  My husband’s obsessive love for his favorite, often overlooked holiday makes him turn into kind of a grinch when he hears the oldies station start their 24 hour holiday music at the beginning of November, and when that aisle in Target gets decked with lights while the Halloween costumes are still out he all but breaks out in hives.  But now that Thanksgiving has been properly celebrated (twice – and with the use of this hat) we can start the Christmas season!

I love Christmas, but even before that starts – I love Black Friday.  I love giving presents.  I love shopping and I love thinking about what each person on my list will look like when opening the wrapping paper on Christmas morning.  And don’t even get me started on how much I love wrapping.  Last summer I clean out and organized my closet and came to the scary realization that I may have some sort of specific hoarding disorder focused on holiday-themed giftwrap.  But I am usually too excited to wait until after Thanksgiving to do my Christmas shopping and on Black Friday I’m usually done.  I hardly ever actually buy things for other people on this day, and I end up shopping for myself.  Give a little, get a little.  So in honor of Black Friday and my admittedly sort of messed up tradition, here is a list of some health and fitness related Christmas gifts that I would like this year – maybe it will inspire you to give healthy gifts to the people you love, or to put some on your wishlist.  (Does your family make you do this?  I have to make a list of things I’d like and then email it to my dad.  He threatens me for weeks that if I don’t send him a list, I will get a Star Trek t-shirt for Christmas.  This is the exact same threat I’ve been hearing for 10 years.)

  • iTunes gift cards.  I need a new workout mix, badly.  I have been listening to Ashlee Simpson and Miley Cyrus.  Please help.
  • Pants from Lululemon.  According to everybody I know, these pants are made with magic and make your butt look amazing.  And they are supposed to last forever and not look like you wear them to sweat.  Actually, I’d take anything from that store.  Please give me the bag that it comes in, too, because it’s so cute. 
  • Healthy cookbooks.  Clean Start by Terry Walters, The Best of Clean Eating, and The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Mollie Katzen.
  • While we’re at it, a knife that cuts things like vegetables without having to saw through them.  I realized that I don’t even have a non-serrated knife in my kitchen.  This may be a problem.
  • Massage gift certificate.  I need to relax.
  • Cold weather running gear.  I would love another Nike hat with a ponytail hole, some running gloves, and a couple long sleeved shirts that will keep the wind out.
  • Sweaty bands.  These are supposed to actually stay on your head and not pop off in the middle of a workout.  The impossible dream.
  • Gift certificate to Healthworks.  I’d like to try Gravity and BURN.  And hopefully live to tell the tale.

Well, I guess that’s quite a list.  I have been pretty good this year.  Happy shopping, everybody!

So, I’ve kind of been feeling sorry for myself over here.  Since my foot injury, I have been taking a break from exercising and trying to let myself heal.  But, this has really meant that a large part of my normal routine has gone by the wayside.  I haven’t been to the gym and I haven’t been running.  The doctor told me to not walk more than I have to so I’ve resorted to taking an elevator here or there when I would usually take the stairs.  I’ve been a little down.  I have that paranoid feeling thatI’ve immediately gained 10 pounds (delusional, I know), my energy levels are nowhere near what they usually are, I am pretty sure I won’t be able to run the race I signed up for on Thanksgiving morning and I miss the ladies I see at my usual gym times, who always have such nice and supportive things to say.  All in all, I spent a couple days this week having a personal little pity party on my couch.

But, last night my husband and I had our second annual Friend Thanksgiving dinner.  We had invited over a bunch of friends, both old and new, made a menu, cooked a turkey, and had a blast.  We were so lucky to have 16 of the people who are the most important in our lives (including a college friend who came all the way up from Virginia to join us) in our house, and it really put life into a little perspective to me.  It inspired me to really think about and appreciate the blessings in our life.

We are lucky to have a place to live, even if we still haven’t found the perfect house to buy and we’re still renting in a less than ideal location.  Our rental apartment has enough room that we were able to gather together all of these people, however  awkward the seating arrangements were, and at a time when so many have so little, I am reminded that we have a roof over our heads and a warm place to sleep.  We are lucky to have the luxury to have not only enough to eat, but to be able to provide a dinner.  Not to mention to have a friend’s boyfriend who makes and shares excellent pumpkin cheesecake.  We are lucky to be able to have the good health to enjoy our time together, and the good fortune to laugh about shared times we’ve had in the past.  I am blessed to have an amazing husband, whose love of Thanksgiving inspired our new tradition and who was brave enough to pull out the turkey neck and giblets before he followed his Food Network recipes to an OCD-level of accuracy.

 

I’m thankful for the reminder to look around and be grateful for what I have, even before the holiday itself reminds us all.  I am going to have a week of giving thanks, not just a day, and hopefully I will remember to carry this gratitude with me throughout the year.  Because even though I am frustrated about not being able to work out for a little while longer, I am lucky to have an amazing gym like Healthworks to miss, and the prospect of many future sweat sessions when I am healed up.  Not everybody is as lucky as I am.

So, after all of my excitement last week about running outside with my new hat and not letting the winter get the best of me… I hurt my foot.  I don’t know how exactly, but I am pretty sure that it had something to do with the cold weather forcing me to wear socks with my cute pointy flats, the shoes slipping off my feet all day, and curling my toes weird in response to keep said cute pointy shoes on my feet.  And I had a 13 hour day.

By 6 pm, I was getting a weird pain in my toe.  By the time I got to leave school to go home at 8, I was just plain hurting.  And then – here is the brilliant part – on Thursday, I went for my planned run with my friend anyway.  We had the day off, we had a plan, I was in a good mental place about running and keeping up my schedule, and I decided to just do it.  Remember how I like to pretend I am a badass?  Not. So. Smart.

Thursday during the run I was ok.  During the walk back I was in a little pain, but no biggie.  That afternoon, shopping with my husband for new work clothes (because, by the way, he just keeps losing weight and losing weight – but that’s another frustrating story) I was ready to cry in the mall.  I couldn’t fight the tears by the time we got in the car.  I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but my stupid toe pushed me over the edge.

So, after some WebMD research, some ice and some Advil, I have decided that I have to rest for a little while.  I went to the doctor on Monday and she confirmed what I suspected.  I strained a tendon somehow.  I think it was the stupid shoes.  And really, I managed to train for and run a half marathon with no injury at all, but wearing every day shoes to work led me to this?  Ugh.  She told me no running for awhile and no more walking than necessary.  Not much of anything for awhile.  Just rest, ice and Advil.

The ironic thing is that sometimes I would think to myself, I would love a reason to just take a break from all of this exercise for awhile.  Wouldn’t that be nice, if somebody would tell me I couldn’t work out and I could just stop, just for a few days?  Well, now that I was told that, it’s driving me crazy.  I want to exercise.  But pretty much every step that I take is at least a little painful, so I am waiting like I was told and trying to just get better.  At least I don’t have to use crutches.  I guess the moral of the story is, be careful what you wish for?  Or wear more comfortable shoes.

Last weekend, I had brunch with my husband at Cafeteria in Boston.  This is not the uncharacteristic part of the story.  Brunch is my favorite.  Here’s the strange thing – after we walked around a bit, we left Newbury Street and I had only bought one thing.  I bought a hat.  For running.  In the cold.

I think that I have already mentioned that I am a wimp.  I don’t really like cold weather and I kind of tend to whine a lot.  I am usually quite the fair weather runner; my last time venturing out last year was on Thanksgiving morning, and that was only because I had registered and paid for a race that day.  (BTW, the Wild Turkey 5 Mile Run in Salem is super fun and the profits go to the Boys & Girls Club of Salem.  The course goes through different parts of Salem, including some residential neighborhoods, where last year there were groups of people cheering from their driveways, and one family even giving out Dixie cups of Bloody Marys as we ran by.  I highly recommend it.)  But for some reason, I was inspired to buy this cold weather running gear, maybe as a promise to myself to keep it moving more than I did last year.

So I bundled up before I went outside on Sunday.  I dug out the “windstopper” running pants I bought in a delusional moment three summers ago, when I found them for $14 at Filene’s Basement.  They still had the tags attached.  I thought for a moment, there is a lesson here.  Stop buying things thinking you are going to do something and then giving up on yourself.  I’ve always been a bargain shopper and I’m sure the lure of originally marked $95 anything marked down to $14 was thrilling enough for me to snap up those pants.  This may or may not have been on the same shopping trip when I decided, yes, I am sure I will wear those red patent leather shoes.  They will go with everything!

So I have worn my cold weather running hat once.  It’s excellent.  Its soft, fleecyness covers my ears to keep them protected from the wind, and the ponytail hole in the back lets me keep my hair tied up and not stuffed on top of my head.  There is even a little bit of sweat-wicking material under the ponytail spot to keep the back of your neck from getting sweaty and then freezing.  I’m heading out again this morning, even though I can hear the wind whistling in my windows.  I am going to endeavor to keep up my promises to myself this time, and not give up. I am going to remain consistent and stop pretending I am going to do things and then not do them.  I know, this is only a hat.  But it’s also a continuation of my goals.  And now a public declaration that you guys can hold over my head in the future if I need to be reminded.

I don’t know why it’s been months since I’ve gone to a spinning class.  I used to go every Sunday morning, but since I’ve been working on Saturdays, I have instituted a strict no alarm clock one day a week policy.  It’s necessary, really.  But this week, in my continued effort to shake things up, I decided to go back to my old friend – I didn’t realize how much I was missing it!

Spinning is one of my favorite workouts.  It’s fast-paced and sweaty (and I think we’ve established that I like to pretend that I am a badass when I workout) and usually has really good music.  I have to admit, I also like the tough love encouragement of the spin instructors.  I need somebody to yell at me a little bit to get my legs moving and my heart beating.  Left to my own devices, I sometimes end up reading US Weekly on the elliptical, and I think we can tell how many calories that’s going to burn off.  [But while we’re on the topic of spin instructors, can I just mention that I’m not buying it when I’m told to feel the wind in my hair or look at the beautiful path to the top of the mountain?  Really, we’re inside and I’m ok with that.  You can’t fool me.]

I think my only downfall with Spinning is my inability to stop myself from singing sometimes.  I apologize to the people who wind up next to me.  I try to contain it.  Maybe Healthworks should consider making a Spin and Sing class for dorky people like me who get caught up in the music.  To be fair, I often want to sing in any class I take (or when listening to my ipod and doing cardio) but when I have to coordinate moving I am usually too focused on not tripping to have time to sing.  The beautiful thing about Spinning is that it requires no coordination, because you stay on your bike the whole time.  The trickiest part is at the end when I have to try to not fall on my face while putting my foot on the bike seat so I can stretch my hamstring.

I might be the last person in the Boston area to admit that it’s Fall.  Just last week, the temps were gorgeous and I was going for a run on the beach after school.  I was wearing flip flops.  But this weekend I couldn’t handle sitting on the porch to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and yesterday I had to run my car for a little while before I could go anywhere to get the the frost off of the windshields.  I am also making the sad transition to wearing socks with my cute flats for work.  Sigh.

So now that the nice, outside-time weather is officially gone and our brief peak at Indian summer is over, I am reminded to keep active and healthy while keeping warm.  My first instinct when I get cold (um, after whining about it) is to get inside and stay inside.  This can lead to far too much hibernation mode and a serious drop off in my fitness goals; I want to put on my Slanket, read a book, and eat cream-based soups and macaroni and cheese.  Cold weather and comfort food just go together in my head and I have to consciously remind myself to get off of the freaking couch.

Yesterday could have been the beginning of a downward spiral for me.  I came home from school after freezing all day (our public schools at work – heat is either on or off.  No temp control.) and all I wanted to do was make hot cocoa and watch TV.  But after an hour and starting to doze off in the middle of the day, a thought occurred to me.  Maybe I shouldn’t snuggle under the duvet to watch the Tivoed finale of Project Runway at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Maybe I shouldn’t waste the opportunity of an afternoon free to make a good choice.

I’m glad I dragged myself up and changed into gym clothes and made it to Healthworks.  A little ellipticaling, a quick, sweaty treadmill run and a Body Pump class with Toni, and I felt back to normal.  My sluggish, whiny self took a backseat.  Now this is mildy dramatic, I’ll grant you.  Yesterday was 40 degrees.  I have a long, cold winter coming up that I have to put my big girl workout capris on and deal with.  But I feel like I avoided the first step in what could have been a winter of not caring.  Now I have to work on finding comfort food recipes that won’t break my calorie bank.