Parties, BBQs, and Food, OH MY!

Melissa's No Bull Tips for Partying Hard…But Smart

Okay, Heifers.  You guys know what’s around the corner, right? No, not the season finale of The Bachelorette (admit it: you watch)…..but the good ol’ American classic:  Fourth of July.

What does this mean? Aside from flag bunting, tube tops and lugging your lawn chairs around for fireworks….this means food. And drinks.

Lots and lots of both.

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

I don’t know about y'all, but I love to celebrate American independence with all sorts of unhealthy  options. Flag cake. Ice cream sandwiches. Potato salad. Open bags of Lay’s BBQ potato chips.

The list is as endless as the tables it’s piled onto.

Years ago, I didn’t think twice about a hot dog, baked beans, macaroni salad and a serving (or four) of Paula Dean pound cake topped with sugar-soaked berries and Cool Whip.

Today, though, times have changed. When I began eating healthier and getting serious about fitness, I first changed my daily habits. That was fairly easy because I had some control over my food and always had healthy options to choose from. But then, the inevitable holiday would roll around and healthy choices were harder to come by. I’d find myself face-to-face with a table full of crockpot mac & cheese, brownie bars and fancy cheese platters.  

If you’ve ever struggled to maintain a healthy diet during a holiday, you feel my pain. In the almost six years that I’ve been maintaining my weight loss, though, I’ve developed a few tips and insights into not just getting through holidays but enjoying them without binge eating and having to ride home with my pants unbuttoned.  I do that just to embarrass the kids.  

Here are my Top 5 Tips For Healthy Holiday Partying:

  1. Pick Your Poison - You have to choose how you splurge all the time, but especially on holidays. There are just too many options for going off the rails. There is alcohol. There are sweets. There is cheese. Endless options to go off plan. The thing is, pick one.  Just one. This serves two purposes: you have a clear idea of what it is you’re splurging on ahead of time, and you get the satisfaction of looking forward to that splurge. It’s so much more mindful than promising yourself you won’t touch a cookie or cocktail and knowing, deep in your soul, that you’ll do exactly that. When you pick your poison, you get to look forward to the treat, enjoy it and keep the other stuff in the corner, where it belongs.  I’m tempted to put in a Dirty Dancing joke here, but I’m going to refrain. Because that's how I roll. 

  2. Channel Your Inner Scarlett - If you know you’re heading to a BBQ or party where all those treats will be staring you in the eye, plan ahead! A good offense is the best defense, Heifers. Remember that scene in Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett is going to the BBQ and she’s instructed to eat beforehand so she won’t disgrace herself with unladylike public binging?  Yeah. Do that.  Have a high protein snack before you head out, and add some fat to that to keep you full. Then, when you hit the buffet line, you won’t be shaking and faint, grabbing for the first spoonful of pasta salad you can reach.  Drink some water, too. It fills you up and keeps you hydrated, which is important not just for good food choices but also so you don’t pass out after the beer bong.  I mean….so I’ve heard.  #afriendtoldmethat

  3. Know Your Weakness - We all have a weakness, that one thing that gets us every time. I have a friend who, after one cocktail, physically attaches herself to the food table and leaves claw marks when her husband finally pulls her away. Alcohol is her weakness. If she just sips lemonade, she can eat reasonably. If she swigs a Moscow Mule? Curtains.  I have a weakness for sweets, myself, so I have to be careful near the dessert table. One brownie turns into two and then three and then I talk myself into the cookie display because I’ve already trashed my diet so….why not really celebrate? Yeah, so I have to know ahead of time that I’m going to steer clear of the dessert table. My friend knows to have the lemonade or sparkling water. You might have to turn away from the cheese platter. Whatever your weakness, identify it ahead of time and steer clear. This way, you get to enjoy the other stuff without opening the proverbial floodgates.  

  4. Know When It’s Not About the Food - Social functions can be landmines of anxiety and awkwardness. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve felt out of place myself a time or two (read: often). When we don’t know anyone or we’re uncomfortable or we don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s just easier to eat. It soothes our nerves and fills a void when social anxiety hits, and I think it can hit for even the most social among us. If this might be a possibility, just think about it ahead of time. We’ve got options here. We can try to find someone we know to hang out with if it’s a new crowd. We can talk to our spouse or friend and ask not to be left hanging for an hour while they talk shop. We can think of a few topics for discussion to arm ourselves with, which sounds totally cheesy and like I got that tip from my therapist, but it works. Whatever we do, it’s good just to go into social functions aware of how we’re feeling and whether or not we’re tempted to use food to deal with those feelings. When we’re aware, we make better choices. It’s cheesy and it’s legit.

  5. Chew Gum - When all else fails, chew gum. I know: you think I’m weird. That may be true, but aside from that, chew the gum. It gives you that little bit of sweet you might be craving after a meal, and it keeps you from swiping another brownie bite on your way to the bounce house.  I do this at home, too, when I have to give my kids snacks or when they’re eating yet another meal outside of designated meal times.  I chew gum. It’s really hard to eat Cheezits and Trident together. Trust me on this one.

That’s it.  I think the theme here is just being aware and, with that awareness, planning ahead. Holidays are fun. BBQs are a good time. I love a well-made brownie, or a slice of brie slathered on a Keebler cracker.  

I don’t love waking up the next morning with a hangover: alcohol or food induced.  So, I use these tips to ward that off but still enjoy myself and celebrate.  

Do you have any tips you use to get through holidays with your good intentions intact? Leave me comments, tips, suggestions and questions below.  I'll share them in our facebook group page


 

Exercise Myth: Why We Don't Lose Weight From Exercise Alone

Hey Heifers! Have you ever killed it at the gym or committed to a serious running program and, in a cruel twist of fate, not actually lost any weight?  We have been discussing this very thing in our Run, Heifer, Run Facebook Group Page recently.

Weeks pass, you’re gutting out an hour of cardio, and the scale reads the same number it read when you started. Or, worse, you’re putting in the time and energy for legit workouts and you actually weigh more?

You stand there, looking at the scale, and wonder: WTF?

You’re doing the stuff you’ve been told to do by your doctor, your friends and my most important friend: The Google. 

Move more to burn fat and torch calories.

People say it’s a basic math equation and a simple recipe for lowering our weight, our cholesterol and a whole bunch of other factors that our doctors hound us about: hypertension, diabetes, joint pain and more.  

So, we do what we’re told. We hit the gym, the pavement, or the cycling room and endure a long sweaty workout so that we can whittle our waists and keep our bodies in fighting shape.

The problem? Well, it turns out that some fitness experts are claiming that exercise may actually be hurting our weight loss goals instead of helping them!

Say what?

I know, Heifers, I know.  Put the protein bar down and listen.

It turns out that cardio makes us….well…hungry. (WHO KNEW?)

According to a 2009 Time magazine article, exercise can stimulate hunger and cause us to actually eat MORE than the calories we just burned. In fact, not only is exercise not helping us lose weight: it may in fact be hindering our efforts and making it actually harder to drop pounds.

I’ve seen it myself. There is a mental switch that flips when I finish a half-marathon or even just a seven-mile run through the mean streets of my Phoenix suburb. I feel pretty badass. I killed it. I logged the time and the miles, and I have all sorts of measurements to prove it. I ran SEVEN MILES, and when I get home, I feel pretty good about myself and my commitment to my health, fitness and keeping off the weight I lost way back when.

Then, at dinner later that night, still high from all those exercise endorphins, I decide the chips and salsa are totally justified because I ran SEVEN MILES. What could a few chips mean in the grand scheme of things? And I have to keep my body nourished and satisfied. Anyway, I’m famished and can’t wait for the entrée, which may in fact be a super healthy salad, dressing on the side. 

So, I dig in. I have a chip and then another. My hunger cues and hormones and all the rest of that fancy circuitry inside my body starts lighting up: bells and whistles. This is reward-central, and my body wants more. My brain says it’s just fine because of those SEVEN MILES.

You can all see where this is going. After a night of "calculated indulging," I wake up to a pound or two jump on the scale, which I tell myself is water weight and will drop off in no time.

But….if I keep it up, this kind of eating and the mentality behind it will ruin my weight loss goals and likely turn toward a downward spiral of shame.  That is NOT the same as a downward spiral of zucchini noodles, but I digress.  Those things  are gross. But whatevs. I'm not here to discuss zucchini spiral noodles today. Maybe that'll be my next blog post.  Anyway....

I beat myself up for not sticking to my diet, and I promise myself that I’ll run an extra few miles each day that week to compensate for the splurge.

And there, my heifer friends, is where the real problem comes in. Exercise is so often used as compensation for eating, when in reality, it takes a ton of sweat equity to equal a fairly small portion size of food. 

<Repeat after me: EXERCISE SHOULD NOT BE USED AS COMPENSATION OR PUNISHMENT FOR EATING EXTRA CALORIES.  Exercise should be fun! It's a way to keep your body healthy and your mind, too!>

In multiple studies by famous exercise researchers (people actually get paid to do this!), exercise has not been shown to significantly increase weight loss because it so often leads people to over-compensate with food.

In fact, in that Time article, the authors note, “Whether because exercise made them hungry or because they wanted to reward themselves (or both), most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment. Or they compensated in another way, by moving around a lot less than usual after they got home.”

Turns out the mental math we’re doing is kind of sketchy. In our minds, that run took a lot of time and covered a lot of dirt road, so we think it must have used up a ton of calories. Yeah. We’re wrong. Running seven miles does burn significant calories. On an average woman, we’ll burn about 105 calories per miles, which adds up to 735 calories over seven miles. Sounds pretty good, right?

Have you checked out how many calories are in a basket of chips and salsa from a Mexican restaurant? 

The basket of chips alone is 570 calories! I repeat:  570 calories, and that's a conservative estimate. If you add a side of guac (and who doesn’t), we’re now at about 770 calories.

We just ate more than we burned on a SEVEN MILE run.

That, my trusty HeiferHood, is how we don’t lose weight even though we’re exercising more and more.

Add to that the fact that we may move less during the day to compensate for all those miles we ran and the fact that our bodies are actually hungrier from all that exercise, and we’re in trouble.

So, that’s the bad news.  And like all good parents, I prefer to give the bad news first.

Ready for the good news?

Exercise, like running seven miles in the Arizona sunshine, makes our hearts and lungs stronger, increases bone density, reduces stress, reduces the risk of some types of cancer, decreases the risk of heart disease, may provide relief from anxiety and depression and helps us sleep better. On top of all of this, exercise has been shown to improve mental functioning. 

As a 40-something mom with four kids, I need all the cognitive hustle I can get.

All of these are some pretty awesome reasons to exercise, some seriously legit reasons to exercise. But weight loss, dropping pounds on the scale, torching calories….those may not be the best reasons to put in the time and energy required to commit to an exercise program.

Instead of finding this information depressing, I like to think of myself as just better informed. We now know that exercise has a ton of perks and benefits but that dropping weight likely won’t be one of them.

The key to dropping the weight is good sleep, a healthy diet and consistency in both, with a huge focus on that healthy diet part..... Losing weight is 80% what we're eating. 

Once we understand what exercise does (and doesn’t) do for us, we can plan accordingly and get the most out of our workouts without being disappointed when we don’t see results that may in fact be impossible to see.

Exercise alone isn’t going to whittle the waistline. After I understood what exercise did for me and the fact that it wasn’t a magic pill that would turn me into a Barbie doll, I took it for what it was: a way to help my body be overall healthier, stronger and fitter.

I don’t figure exercise into my eating choices anymore. I eat when I’m hungry, and I eat healthy food overall. I splurge sometimes but not because I ran an extra mile or am training for another half-marathon. I know those numbers don’t add up.

I keep my exercise at a level I can maintain reasonably comfortably and that doesn’t leave me famished and reaching for a Little Caesar's Large Pepperoni and Crazy Bread after a run. Because now I know…those 532,987,234 calories would make my five-mile run a total wash.

The Enemy....A Guest Blog Post

Once again, another amazing blog contribution by one of our fellow Heifers.  

Eating disorders are very personal.  Very private. And very unique.  You can't put a face to an eating disorder.  The girl next door might have one.  The soccer coach may have one, too.  Your own sister might have fallen victim.  Men have them. Women have them. Children have them.  Several of our very own Heifers suffer from different types of eating disorders.

My dear friend wanted to share a little bit of insight into the mind of someone with an eating disorder.  He's not only courageous, but he's kind, funny, and an all around great guy.  Please take a minute to read a day in the life of a boy with an eating disorder.  I'll share more from him soon.

THE ENEMY

It's about 07.45 in the morning when I open my eyes and see the sun shining through the curtains, it fills me with complete fear. Another day of battling with my enemy, it's a battle that I know I would loose again. I have been fighting this battle for so long, I'm exhausted mentally and so tired physically. 

Can you imagine doing that for at least 24 years of your adult life. I know I couldn't, but I did. 

My enemy for all that time and still is in a lesser degree, is food and the consumption of it. 

There are more good days now than bad days which is a blessing.

It's now about 08.10am I'm down stairs in the kitchen trying to find something that I might eat but will also look like I have eaten sufficient to placate my mother. That was not easy, she was consistently trying to ram food down me. In those moments I remember as a very young child having lovely food memories, favourite family meals and treats that would be so exciting. To be now in this different world of choosing food purely to sustain me for survival with no pleasure attached at all. In my worse times I probably was only consuming about 400 - 750 calories a day. 

I have managed to survive breakfast without too much hassle and eaten the minimum, the next hurdle will be in about 3 -4 hours which is lunch time and the terrifying process starts all over again !!

When I think about all the time I spent over analysing everything I consumed or didn't consume it is frightening.  All it achieved was severe anxiety, depression, lack of confidence, body repulsion, constant thoughts of suicide, and extreme weight loss. 

Lunch time is fast approaching my anxiety is rising off the scale, need to find out what we got so I can work out a consumption plan. This day is just getting worse we going out for lunch, that basically means no control at all. 

Spending ages looking at a menu that only fills me with utter dread. 

The only way I can really deal with this situation too stop me freaking is out is by thinking tomorrow I can eat less...

This is the sad reality of food disorders.  It took a lot of courage for my fellow Heifer to share his story.  Show him some love if you like, by leaving a comment, and be aware that some around you may be silently suffering.

If someone you love may have an eating disorder, here are a few resources you may find helpful:

10 Symptoms of Anorexia

Bulimia Symptoms

Eating Disorders Anonymous

How to Talk To Someone If You Suspect An Eating Disorder