Category Archives: planning
On Monday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I stopped to chat with our office manager (Hi, Ali!). As I somehow always do with other women, I got onto the topic of body image and weight. I find this happens so easily because most women I know have had some bad blood with their bodies in the past. But it’s so easy to talk about it now because so many smart women are getting wise to the fact that no, this isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy, and we want to talk about it. Because we want to resolve it, and just be OK with our bodies and use the time we spend worrying about our butt and abs to, I don’t know, fix the economy or reverse global warming. But I digress.
Anyway, we started talking about how, while we’d like to improve upon our figures now, it’s not the most important thing in our lives. Yes, we might want to lose a little weight or tighten up our rear ends, but these things aren’t our focus as they once were. We both have our stories of the times in our lives when focus turned to obsession, and examples of when our quests for health became the antithesis of health itself. But we’re realizing now that creating a good life doesn’t swirl around that one goal of ‘getting skinny.’ We’re understanding that this singular objective won’t make the other ones fall into place. Getting healthy, losing weight, toning up… all nice things, but not the key to happiness.
“I realized recently,” Ali told me, “that losing weight or getting the body I want is one little part of that circle that is my life. Whereas before, those things were the circle itself.” When she said this, I knew she had summed up how I had been feeling lately. In college, everything centered around sticking to my plan and staying small, meaning I let social events or enjoyable company with delicious food pass me by because it wasn’t what I had laid out for the day. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t go running yet, I can’t.’ Damn, I bet I’m going to hear all about how fun that was tomorrow. ‘Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.‘ Plus that doesn’t fit into my calorie count for the day.
That circle had me spinning around and around, but I never got anywhere in life outside of my body. I stayed the same, and my goal never changed. I never progressed beyond, ‘Stay small and fit into that dress.’ It was like my life was a wheel of calories and miles and pounds and jeans sizes, and occasionally, the other stuff –my life – would happen because it accidentally got trapped in the spokes, and I would roll with it until I would snap out of it and get back to the plan. Lately, though, the circle of my life has involved so much more. Instead of those life experiences getting stuck to my tires, they ARE the tires. And I’ve decided that I can go ahead and let losing weight be a part of those rolling circles, but I won’t let it steer.
“In the same sense, I used to think that losing weight was the key, was the piece of the puzzle I needed to find before all of the others would fall into place, ” Ali said. ”But now, I’m finding that I’ve got this beautiful puzzle, and there’s only one piece missing, but I’m working on it.” And again, it was as if she had read my mind, because this is truly the way I’m feeling about my life. Am I entirely happy with my body? No, but I’m working on accepting where it is and improving on it as best I can daily. But the puzzle pieces I thought would fall into place when I was skinny or toned enough? I have so many of them now that I never had when I was thinner.
Career? When I first moved to Chicago, I thought life would just be easier and I would like my 9to5 if only I could get skinny again. But then I decided that I needed to be happy before I could get healthy, and the desk job wasn’t going to do it for me. So I quit, became a personal trainer, and I’ve been calmer and more content with my life (not to mention healthier!) ever since, no matter that my size 4 jeans are a long way from fitting.
Love life? I had boyfriend and a few little crushes and flings in college, but you know what? Even at my smallest, I never felt like myself around them. I had been working so much on my ass that I let the work I had to do on my head pile up to the point where I didn’t even know who I was. Now I’m dating someone who makes me feel more comfortable and happier in my own skin than I have in a long time, with or without makeup, “bikini-ready” or not.
Friends? I seemed to have some friends in college who liked to hang out with me because I looked a certain way and because I was the ’how can I make this healthier aka lower-calorie’ guru. I was told that I was ‘inspiring’ more than once, and while this might sound flattering, it was also a lot of pressure, and it meant that they didn’t see the personality part of me. They liked hanging out with me because I made them want to go running or make a salad, not because I was quirky or a good writer or because I lived for awkward stories and always had one to tell. But my friends now are the friends I’ve chosen, because I’m confident in who I am as a whole, and I know that I can afford to be picky. I can choose the friends whom I love for their never-ending optimism or no-nonsense logic, and who love me for the things I always wanted people to notice when all they paid attention to was what I was putting on my plate at dinner in the sorority house.
So you know what? Between my job and my friends and my dating life and my family and everything I have to be thankful for, I’ve got so many puzzle pieces in place, that while I would love to be perfectly fit and trim again, I’m not obsessing over that tricky middle piece that finishes the puzzle but doesn’t necessarily hold it together. That one piece didn’t make the others fall into place — it actually did quite the opposite. I was missing so many wonderful pieces when I did have a death grip on that elusive piece, because I let all of the others fall away.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
But, as always, dear readers, I want to hear from you! Does body image or weight play (or has it in the past) a huge role in your happiness? Is it the puzzle or the circle itself, or is that something you’re working for, but not feeling incomplete without? Have you learned that, while it can be important, it didn’t make or break your life? Spill!
So after Wednesday’s post on getting past your excuses for not working out, my friend Kira asked yet another great question: ”Okay here’s another excuse … money. Say you get bored to death running (or get too many weird pains), but you can’t afford a gym membership or sports equipment. I personally would love to go to a climbing gym regularly but I can’t afford it. I would also love to hire a personal trainer, but clearly, same issue. Any thoughts on this one?”
For some reason, even though I’m a semi-broke twenty something myself, this excuse didn’t even occur to me. Maybe it’s because I work at gyms or the fact that I got an amazing deal on my own gym membership (I now pay $9 per month for the rest of my life!) or the fact that I just can’t imagine a life without exercise. Whatever the reason, I’m always fretting about money, so it’s crazy that I didn’t think of this one! But once it was brought to my attention, I couldn’t stop thinking of new ways to sweat for very little money! Here’s a somewhat abbreviated list for those of you who, like me, don’t have dollar bills falling out of your pockets:
1) Use what you have. Now let’s start with the basics. While Kira mentioned that she didn’t love running, some of you might. I’m guessing you already have a pair of shoes, and that’s all you need (besides yourself), so give it a try! Add in intervals by sprinting on the choruses of your workouts songs if you’re listening to music, or, if you’re not, decide on a certain number of blocks you’ll go all out for. And there’s no shame in doing a walk-run combo if that’s what gets you moving. If you’re still not a fan of pounding the pavement, try biking! I’m guessing that about half of you have an old mountain bike from Target in the garage or stuck in storage somewhere. And if you don’t have it, I bet your parents still do, so if you live close enough for you or them to drive, throw it in the trunk on the next visit and you’ll be good to go (at least until it starts snowing here in the Midwest)!
As far as strength training goes, use your own body weight! Pushups, squats, and situps are awesome moves that require nothing but your own fabulous self. Once you master these, add weight with household items (as silly as it sounds, fill up old milk jugs with sand, even!) or try standing on one leg to make them harder. If you really can’t afford a gym membership, you already have everything you need to cover all of the basics. Trust me.
2) Buy used. If you don’t have a bike or other exercise gear, and buying new is out of the question, try craigslist. Honestly, you can find anything on there, and some people are selling some pretty nice exercise equipment in the Beauty + Health section. A client of mine bought a never-been-used wetsuit for a Tri, and I’ve even seen someone selling their gym membership for cheaper, so be on the lookout for those bikes as well as things you wouldn’t expect! If you have a Play It Again Sports or other used sporting goods store in your area, check it out as well! Sure, some things might gross you out to buy used, but a soccer ball or basketball or set of dumbbells is still the same, even if it did have a previous owner.
3) Learn to share. The things we learned in kindergarten are still valuable today. Sharing or splitting the cost of things is a HUGE money saver. Really want to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions? Find a friend or two who does too, and halve your cost! Honestly, most personal trainers (especially newer ones at big gyms who need clients desperately!), are willing to work two people out for the cost of one (sometimes a little more, but your cost is still lower than hiring one on your own), because it’s not much extra work and they’re still making the same amount of money for an hour of work. Recruit a third friend and your individual cost will go down by a lot even if the overall price goes up a tiny bit. (Note: with this situation, don’t expect the same individual attention you might get if it were just one or two of you, though. When training three or four, it gets hard to focus entirely on every single person in the group.) There are even tons of places that offer cheaper group training (like Motiv in the Chicago area) or pre-set workout plans available to their members (check out TEAMiFIT, also in Chicago).
However, if a gym membership and split personal training sessions are still a stretch, check out some do-it-yourself programs that you can split with friends. You buy the P90X or other workout program between four friends and have up to 3 months of workouts for next to nothing! Do it at a different pal’s house every week to be fair, and make copies of any written instructions. You’ll all reap the benefits! You could also host a workout video swap, and have your friends bring all of their used CoreFusion, step aerobics, and yoga DVDS that they aren’t using anymore. Everyone will be able to find something that they haven’t tried before, and no one loses any money! You can always get your DVD back after letting the other person try it.
4) Look for deals! Call your local gyms and see if they’re running any specials and if they offer any additional discounts for students or family members or people in a certain profession. If you really want to try a gym, this is key! I know that when I worked at Bally, they were always offering month-to-month memberships for 20 to 30 bucks! They might not be the fanciest gyms, but they have all of the basics and even some classes! Basic gym is better than no gym, my friends. Call up gyms in your area to see if they do anything similar.
Additionally, I have found a ton of really cool stuff online by signing up for email updates from Groupon, Tippr, and Living Social Deals. They’ve got them for all of the major cities and surrounding areas, so I bet you’ll be able to find something! I recently bought a month of hardcore bootcamp classes for only $20 from Tippr, and I’m eyeing today’s deal on Groupon for two months of unlimited Bikram for only $39. And for just new and cheap ideas, check out Vital Juice. I get an email update for all sorts of fun activities, and they even do an email blast on free healthy things to do in your city! Seriously, this one is just about being resourceful!
5) Take advantage. Are you sure there aren’t services available to you, for free, that you just haven’t been paying attention to? Does your office hold a before-work bootcamp or fitness class to all employees? If not, would they do something similar to lower their insurance premiums? (Ask them! And if you’re in the Chicago area, tell them you know of someone who can lead the class!) Is there a running group that meets nearby a few times per week? Most groups have a website or ad on craigslist, so get to Googling! You could even start your own by tweeting or Facebooking that you want to start a group for swimming or climbing or cross-training… whatever! I bet you’ll get a ton of feedback from people just like you!
Do you have a library card? Head over to the nearest library and check out a workout video or fitness book (FYI, books usually have longer check-out periods so make sure you turn those DVDs in on time to avoid fees!) Does your local high school have a rec center or pool that’s open to the public for a small fee per visit? Try it! It’s like a gym, but on a pay-very-little-per-visit basis. Does a local workout facility or yoga studio host free weekly classes that you can join in on? I know that even my local Lululemon store has free Sunday classes right in the store! Even if these free classes are being used to plug a business’ services or clothes, so what? It doesn’t mean you have to buy anything! Go and take advantage!
I’m sure there are a million other ways to sweat on the cheap (or for free!), but this is what I’ve got for now! Have you tried any of these tips? Would you be willing to? Got any other inspired tips for me? Like, I said, sharing is an awesome way to get fit for free –and that includes sharing information, so if you have any more ideas, spill!
No excuses. When it comes to exercise, that’s what I’m supposed to tell you, right?
Well, I would, but I know that we’re human and we’ve all got excuses when it comes to fitting in our workouts. However, the trick to getting past those excuses is to hear them and then beat them by using a little bit of strategy and planning. Here are a few of the most commonly heard excuses for not exercising (some of which I may have used myself) and how to get around them.
1) Not enough time. You work 10-hour days, you volunteer, you have a packed social life with a boyfriend, a great family, and tons of friends demanding your attention. Oh, and we can’t forget your standing appointment with your DVR that’s recorded all of your favorite shows. Sounds like you have a pretty full, pretty great life. But you know what’s missing? EXERCISE. You manage to fit all of these other things in, but you aren’t able to squeeze in a few sweat sessions? Grab your calendar and pencil in at least 30 to 45-minute workouts per week. Honestly, to improve your health, that’s all it takes. A little more if you’re trying to lose a few pounds, but if you’re already where you want to be, for less time that it takes to primp for work or happy hour, you can get your heart pumping. And please, please, PLEASE don’t let TV be your excuse. First of all, go ahead and say that one out loud. It just sounds silly. And second, if you must watch that show, why don’t you tune in while working out? Do an at-home strength program while watching or ask the gym if they’ll turn on your show when it’s on. You can’t be the only one obsessed with “Glee.”
2) Not enough sleep. Uhh, why not? I understand that the above crazy busy life may limit your time spent snoozing, but getting enough sleep is so important! I didn’t realize how much better I felt with more sleep until I switched jobs and stopped working 13-hour days (which is ridic, btw). I started getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep almost every night, and my mood and my health both improved! It takes a whole lot more to get me stressed or upset now, and I even lost a few pounds just because my body was rested enough to repair itself and do its thing. Rachel had been telling me I needed to sleep more for the longest time, but it wasn’t until I experienced it myself that I became a true believer! But let’s just say that you’re still struggling in the sleep department, moderate exercise will actually do nothing but wake you up! That’s the great thing about it. And if you you’re missing out on Zzz’s because you just can’t fall asleep then exercise will help with that too! Regular activity = regular sleep schedule. Just make sure you get your sweat on at least 3 hours before bed so you can sleep soundly. Either way, get moving!
3) Not feeling like you can do enough in the time that you have. You think that that 20 minutes you have every weekday won’t do a thing, right? Not so! Bump up the intensity on most days, and you can really elevate your heart rate. Try intervals in your cardio, and limit or eliminate your rest between strength sets altogether. My favorite is treadmill intervals of 90 seconds at a steady pace with 30 second all-out sprints. For my resistance training, I like to do supersets between my back and chest or quads and hamstrings (biggest muscle groups burn the most calories!). You can still do a LOT in a little time. Trust me.
4) Not exactly loving the whole ’working out’ thing. You’ve tried running because it’s supposed to burn the most calories, but you ended up getting bored or a case of shin splints. You’ve tried swimming because it’s supposed to be a great full-body workout, but you ended up doing two laps and coming up gasping for air, making you feel like an athletic failure. You tried a cardio kick class, but the instructor was just a little too peppy for your liking, you couldn’t follow the moves fast enough, and the guy behind you really could have used some deodorant. Whatever you tried, you hated it, and you stopped working out altogether. But why? Why did you only try that one thing and give up on exercise entirely? There are so many options out there! Try a yoga-cardio fusion class if you need something a little more zen. Get a mountain bike or a pair of hiking boots and find a trail if being in the gym is just not your idea of a good time (you can even do a little resistance training outside! Squats and pushups, anyone?). Hire a personal trainer that fits your workout style and personality if you like being in the gym and need a push, but don’t like sharing with other people. Whatever gets you moving, do it! And don’t limit yourself to what you see your friends or family doing. Find what’s right for you and start sweating!
Alright, so those are the most common excuses I’ve come across, but what others have you heard (or used yourself!)? How do you combat those excuses or the ones I’ve mentioned? Spill!
A few weeks ago, a friend and former client of mine, Kate, emailed me about an event her aunt was doing to raise awareness for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). She thought I might be interested in her aunt’s story, and once she told me a little more, I definitely was. You see, Lil Battle Long and her long-time friend Nicky both decided years ago to take the diet drug fen-phen (when it was new and hot and legal). Little did they know the kinds of complications it would cause down the line. Both of them, later in life, were diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension (PH). Unfortunately, Lil lost her best friend Nicky two years ago to the illness, but she decided she would not take this loss lying down. She is swimming the dangerous Mississippi River on September 4th to raise funds and awareness for PH, and to remember Nicky in a powerful way. I had the chance to talk to Lil via email about her event, and here’s what she had to say:
HG: You’re holding an event to raise awareness and funds for Pulmonary Hypertension (PH). First things first, what exactly is PH and what causes it?
LBL: Pulmonary Hypertension is the constricting and narrowing of the blood vessels around your lungs. This makes it really hard for blood to get in the lungs to collect oxygen, making the right heart work overtime, enlarging it, and eventually leading to heart failure. It is a rare, incurable, life-threatening disease. Anyone can have it; men, women, children, any ethnic background, any age. People who have it normally don’t look sick, just like people with high blood pressure. It causes chronic fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness and makes even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. The chronic fatigue hit me first. I was contracting building my house and I blamed it on that.
HG: What caused it in your case and in Nicky’s?
LBL: Four friends got together one Saturday afternoon and had lunch in 1992. In the course of conversation, we started talking about our weight and how they had come out with this new drug, fen-phen. I’ve buried two of those friends and one is now on oxygen 24/7. Mine was probably caused by fen-phen, but I also inherited leaking valves. My father had a leaking mitral and tricuspid valve. I have a leaking mitral, tricuspid, and just recently found out my aortic valve is leaking too. One more to go!!! Therefore the fen-phen lawyer has dropped my case because we’ll never know whether it was inherited or self induced.
HG: How did you get the idea to swim the Mississippi River instead of hosting some other fundraising event?
LBL: I’m very limited on what type of exercise I can do. I had a horrible accident several years ago that badly injured my left ankle and it never healed right. Then in February of this year I found out I had to have total knee replacement surgery on my right knee, probably due to the way I walked because of my ankle. During my recovery, my blood pressure dropped drastically and I had to have two blood transfusions. By February, I had already been in training eight months! I had to start over.
But to answer your questions, after losing my father and my best friend within months of each other (I was holding each one’s hand when they died) I was feeling terrible myself. I contracted Lyme disease and went undiagnosed for years. By the time I found out what was wrong (72 claims later) my brain had swelled so badly, I had blood coming out of my ears and Bells Palsy. A doctor in Mobile, AL, diagnosed me and got me in remission. I also had Lyme induced fibromyalgia, so I hurt all other. I sat in a chair and gained 100 pounds and went into congestive heart failure. It was time to see a cardiologist. She did an echocardiogram and a heart catheterization and diagnosed me with Pulmonary Hypertension.
Then one night, two years after her death, I dreamed about Nicky for the first time. As dreams go, it was weird. She was jumping up and down on a pogo stick, repeatedly saying, “Do something, do something, do something”. I literally woke up the next morning and told my husband I was going to build a pool. I did and went on a diet and lost 21 pounds in the first month (Mostly fluid). I have now lost 52 pounds.
I installed a Badu jet in my pool and the first time I tried to swim, I lasted three pitiful minutes. Now I swim sixty minutes, non-stop. I was swimming with my best friend one day and just popped up out of the water and said I was going to swim across the Mississippi River in honor of Nicky. Nicky and I both were event planners and always trying to out do each other, so I thought this would be the best way to honor her memory. Something huge!!! I did host another benefit, the gala. We had a live and silent auction, cash bar, great band, great food, and raised $41,844.00
HG: I’m a swimmer myself, so I thought it was great that you chose swimming for your fundraiser since so many people have done bike rides, runs, and walks for their causes. How did you and are you preparing for the big swim?
LBL: For eleven months, I read everything I could get my hands on about long distance swimming. I dieted, but found out I was dieting the wrong way. I got my hands on a book by Nancy Clark called, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and started following it to the letter. I have built a lot of muscle mass but I’m still losing weight slowly. I was always good at the breast stroke, so that was my chosen stroke. I wore goggles, nose clip, breast stroke snorkel and breast stroke fins. Then, after my trial run, I wrote this:
Swimming the Mighty Mississippi River
It broke my goggles; it tore my snorkel away from my mouth. My nose clip nearly drowned me because I couldn’t get enough air. In other words everything I thought had prepared me for over a year was useless. My heart was pounding I guess as hard a heart can pound. I swam in circles for fifteen minutes from being so disoriented I didn’t know up from down. That current is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
When I finally figured out what all I was doing wrong, I grabbed the boat (I was swimming with no life jacket or tether) and had to rethink everything I had learned.
First of all, you CANNOT keep your head under water and swim the river, thus the disorientation. Second, you have to spend money on a very good pair of goggles. You cannot do completely without them because my left eye where my goggles broke is almost swollen shut with sand! Third, keep your eyes on the prize, the other side! Fourth, if you ever get a little over halfway across, the current starts to help you instead of hinder you. It will begin to push toward the other side. And, most of all, fifth, stay calm! It’s hard to breathe when your heart in beating 90 miles an hour!
When I figured all of this out, I finally started getting somewhere. If I hadn’t spent that time going in circles, I probably could have made it three fourths across a very swollen river.
Next time I’ll be calmer. It didn’t help any that right before I went in the water the Cap’m and a media guest saw a four foot alligator! I really did NOT want to hear that.
When I got to the middle, I paused to look around. I absolutely could not believe that I was in the middle of that great river of ours. It gave me hope and I felt Nicky all around me. I was completely awestruck.
So now, at the eleventh hour, I am learning an entirely new technique! I have new flutter kick fins that have given me blisters on all my toes and hurt my stainless steel knee. I’m having to learn a new way of breathing, which is MOST important! It’s like starting all over again and I have only 15 days to learn it!
HG: Other than the health benefits, have you noticed any changes in yourself since committing to swim the Mighty Mississippi? That’s quite a feat!
LBL: I’ve learned when people in the past have called me hard headed, it was really true. I’ve learned that determination will get you anywhere you want to be. I’ve learned who my friends are. I’ve learned a LOT about family.
HG: How did you come up with the very catchy and clever title, ‘The Long Battle for Nicky’?
LBL: My name is Elizabeth Battle Long. I just used a play on words. After all, it is my gift to Nicky.
HG: It seems like the fundraising is going pretty well! Have you gotten a lot of support from the community and local media?
LBL: Oh my Lord!!! I live in a VERY rural area. The nearest “town” is 32 miles away, but The Delta is like no other place on earth. They take care of their own. People came from every community within 100 miles in support of this. I’ve been on TV four times. I even did a PSA. I’ve lost count of all the articles that have been written in newspapers and magazines. It’s been incredible!!! We beat the NATIONAL record for most money raised for PHA at one benefit. My original goal was $50,000 a year ago and I thought, yeah, right. But we are only $8000 away and we still haven’t had the event yet, where we’re selling t-shirts and catfish plates, while a gospel choir fills the air with music!
HG: Besides Nicky, who has been your biggest inspiration for the event? Who’s given you the most support?
LBL: The two other people sitting at the lunch table that day; Robert Chapman, who died in June of this year and Linda Oxley who is on oxygen 24/7. All of the heroes that painfully make their way to the PH meetings to see if there is any new hope for them have been a great inspiration. As for support, my Daddy Long (father in law), who is 92 years old, my sweet husband that I was only married to a year when I became ill, my friends who never doubted I would pull this off and my best friend, Alice, who was swimming with me the day I popped up in the pool and said I was going to swim the river. She never hesitated. She said,”OK, when and where?” I like that about her. I usually get asked if I’m crazy or wanting to commit suicide.
HG: Obviously your swim is in honor of Nicky, and is being held in order to inform more people about PH, but is there any other message you would like your event to convey?
LBL: I would like everyone who has a best friend to hug them on the 11th. However you can, be it by computer, telephone, or Western Union! I promise you, you never know when they won’t be there. And you’ll never understand how badly you will miss them unless you’ve been there.
HG: Can you recommend any resources for those diagnosed with PH and their families?
LBL: Yes, the best of the best, the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. When I found out I had PH and decided to do an event, I Googled, just to see if there was such a thing. They gave me support in every way. They will answer any question you have about PH. They are yet cheering me on. They also helped me get sponsorship and sent me materials to put out at the gala.
HG: Anything else you’d like to tell us about the event or about your cause?
LBL: Just that although this has been a VERY publicized fundraiser, it is VERY personal for me. After losing both my father and best friend within months of each other I went through a terrible depression. My father meant the world to me and all of a sudden I didn’t have my best friend to talk to about it. This swim started because I was mad at Nicky for leaving me. I was there for her when she was sick, but she isn’t here for me. This swim is to say goodbye and to let her know it’s all right and I’m all right to move on.
HG: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about this, Lil! Best of luck in your swim, and I can’t wait to hear how it goes!
Lil added this after answering my questions: Just found out ten minutes ago that a film crew from California is coming to do a documentary on my swim! It will also be a PSA on national television!
Are you or is someone you know suffering from PH? Had you ever heard of PH before now? To donate to Lil’s cause and support her in this incredible feat, head on over to http://www.firstgiving.com/lillong.
Ah summer, a time of relaxation and fun in the sun. Right? Sure, but a lot of that fun involves food and booze, and when you’re trying to get in or stay in shape, that can be more than a little stressful. On top of that, May through September is a time notorious for being (the sometimes dreaded) wedding season. This means lots of champagne toasts, wedding cake, and sugary wedding favors – along with potential difficulty zipping up that bridesmaid’s dress. So what do you do when faced with all of these challenges? Avoid parties and BBQs altogether? Vow not to touch the spread at any family picnics? With a few tweaks to how you approach events, you can have your burger and eat it too.
Tip 1: Decide on what you reeeeeallly love
Is potato salad your all-time fave, or are you more of a strawberry shortcake kind of girl? Does the five-tier wedding cake look a-maz-ing, or are you drooling over the entrée being served? What do you love – and what could you do without? Think about how you normally operate, and stick with that. If you don’t normally love sweets, and the chocolate chip cookies or wedding cake appear cheap and store-bought, then go for the savory appetizers you do love! After all, if it’s wedding cake you’re missing out on this time, you’ll likely have the chance to indulge in it once a month for the next five months anyway.
Tip 2: Socialize first
Do not, I repeat, do not head straight for the food. First of all, most of us aren’t usually so starving when we arrive at these events that we must eat immediately (this is why every health article you’ve ever read says that it’s a good idea to have a healthy snack before!). At least I know I’m not. When I do want to eat right away, it’s less because my stomach is rumbling, and more because I’ve spotted my cousin’s amazing Texas salsa. So to avoid monopolizing the whole bowl, I need to catch up with family I haven’t seen in a while first. At weddings, go congratulate the family before you hit up the cheese plate (ahem, or the open bar). The truth is, many of us will go back for seconds of a few things, and maybe even thirds, so we can keep from grazing for the entire duration of the event if we don’t start immediately. Plus, isn’t chatting with friends and family what these summer celebrations are all about?
Tip 3: Make smart swaps
This one can be a little trickier when you are only presented with what your host provides. Eat whole wheat if it’s available, and go for the less caloric spreads when it comes to picnic sandwiches and burgers. Mix some more fresh veggies in with that potato or pasta salad. At weddings, chose lower-cal mixers for those drinks (again, watch that open bar!), and choose the healthier salad dressing if more than one is offered. And hey, if your date isn’t the world’s biggest green fan (a lot of guys I know aren’t), see if he’ll swap his veggies for your potatoes.
Tip 4: Get moving before the event
You know the drill – calories in shouldn’t exceed calories out. So make sure you burn some extra before you indulge that day. Plus, I can almost guarantee you won’t want to exercise after you find yourself in a food coma or after you’ve had that third vodka tonic (actually, I recommend staying away from the treadmill after this one).
Tip 5: Pick one vice and stick to it.
Ok, this one goes along with Tip #1 to a certain extent. At these events, it can be almost impossible to be a perfect angel when it comes to your choices. But the thing is, you don’t have to be. You are likely to indulge a little (which is more than fine every once in a while!), so try to just indulge in one area. Don’t have three burgers, four desserts, and ten beers. Pick one of those celebratory vices and stick with it. I’m not saying three burgers is OK (unless they’re teeny?), but I’m saying that you’ll feel a whole lot less guilty about it if that’s the only thing you splurged on. Same with weddings. If you want to get hammered because you’re back with all of your high school friends, then, well, I’m not going to stop you (mostly because I suppose that would be a bit hypocritical to say the least), but just don’t eat your wedding favor cookie along with everyone else’s at the table. Your hangover will be enough without you feeling chock full of white sugar and flour.
Has summer party and wedding season begun for you yet? How are you dealing with it? Do you have any other tips to making surviving these (fun!) events easier?