Tag Archives: food

Six Tips for Keeping Fit During the Holidays

Most of us don't need Mrs. Claus's encouragement to fatten up over the holidays.

Most of us don’t need Mrs. Claus’s encouragement to fatten up over the holidays.

I lost 40 pounds a couple years back and have been in maintenance mode ever since. It’s gone OK, but I’ve lost a bit of ground in recent months—anywhere from 5-7 pounds depending on the day. Since I’m training for the Disney marathon next month, some of that could be muscle: my clothes more or less fit the same. But I know that some of those pounds come from lack of vigilance. Weight maintenance is harder than loss. It’s so darn forever.

December is going to be a challenge. It always is, with its parties and potlucks and cookie exchanges and countless batches of pralines. And this year I have the “moral balance sheet” to contend with, which is the feeling of virtue in one area of your life that gives you mental license to cheat in another. In my case, I’ve got 18, 19 and 20-mile training runs coming up in the next few weeks. Shouldn’t I be able to eat what I want as a result?

It doesn’t seem fair that one should have to watch what one eats while running 30+ miles a week. But life ain’t fair (and let’s be honest, there are way more egregious examples of that in this world than MaryAnn not being able to stuff her face with gingerbread men without consequence).

Here’s the approach I’m going with this year. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you.

  1. I will enjoy the foods I love without guilt. I will be mindful of portions rather than abstaining from favorite goodies altogether.
  2. I will prioritize homemade foods over processed and store-bought items. Nothing against the Candy Cane Joe-Joes—we’ve already gone through a box in the Dana house. But a homemade cookie, in addition to being delicious, touches a deeper place. Depending on the recipe and the baker, it may represent family, or tradition, or simply care. Yes, food is connected to love. You’ve got to be careful how you live with that truth, but it’s true nonetheless.
  3. I will prioritize eating rather than drinking my calories. I love a good mulled wine, or a hot cocoa with a shot of Baileys and topped with marshmallows. But given December’s many delights, those treats will take a backseat to other things I enjoy.
  4. I will track what I eat every day. I’ve been intermittent with MyFitnessPal for the past year or so, and it shows in my gradual weight gain. My deal with myself this month is this: I have to record what I eat. I may go over my calorie allotment in a given day, and hey, that happens, but I’ve got to write it down. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  5. I will make exceptions to #4. I will take a break from tracking one day each week. I haven’t decided whether to set a specific day or be strategic about it based on what’s going on. Also, I won’t track on long run days.
  6. I will weigh once a week. I like to weigh myself several times a week, just to keep a bead on where I am. I’m going to relax that and just weigh once a week. After the marathon’s done on January 12 I will reassess that practice.

Got a great tip to share? Let me know!

Parenting Hack: Avoiding the Snack Wars

picDFPPez

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in hunger and were suddenly silenced.

Now that all three kids are in school (and there was much rejoicing!) I’m trying to find ways to simplify life. One of my sources of stress has been after-school snacks. I try to provide a number of decent options, but in the past it drove me crazy to have the girls come home and start jockeying for stuff. I’ve been torn between giving them the freedom to choose what they want and trying to teach them about balance and nutrition.

Can I have a granola bar after I eat this graham cracker with peanut butter? (No, those are both the same kind of food. Eat an apple.)

I also got put in the middle of some annoying altercations.

She ate the last of the fruit snacks! No fair! All that’s left are raisins and I hate those. (Tough. Eat an apple.)

Now with Sweet Baby James in the mix, I knew I had to head off these snack kerfuffles before they started sucking my will to live. So here’s my solution:

1. Each week I make or buy one snack, and that’s the snack for the week. These are generally grain-based snacks and may be granola bars or muffins or even frozen whole grain waffles.

2. If they do not want the snack of the week, or if they eat it and are still hungry, they are welcome to serve themselves anything from the fruit and vegetable drawer, a hard-boiled egg, or a piece of string cheese. (No Caroline and Margaret, I will not wash those grapes for you. Yes James, I will peel your carrot.)

I’d say it’s working pretty well in that I am not a ragey mess from all the negotiating and needling. But this week I made these pumpkin granola bars and Margaret said they “make her gag.” OK, I guess I’m still honing my repertoire. So if you have any suggestions of easy crowd-pleasing snacks that aren’t nutritionally terrible, please let me know and I’ll pin them to my “afterschool” board on Pinterest. Store-bought suggestions are also appreciated, because there ain’t no shame in that.

P.S. No cutesy snacks that require complicated assemblage. The above is about as crafty as I care to get with food.

Friday Five: Take Five!

Despite being one of the proud founding matriarchs of the RevGalBlogPals, and one of the Friday Five hosts for a long time, I haven’t done one of these in ages. But today’s spoke to me for some reason… so here we go:

Whoosh! My calendar is packed. And June is almost gone! There’s the old saying, “Bad luck comes in threes” but I’ve decided that “Busy-ness comes in fives!” So this week we’ll take things five-at-a-time. Tell me:

1. Five flowers you’d like in a bouquet or in your garden:

I’m a terrible gardener. With five people and an aging cat, we’re keeping everything alive that we possibly can. But if someone would tend them for me, I’d pick hydrangeas, any kind of orchid, roses, tulips and something carnivorous, because awesome.

2. Five books you want to read (or re-read):

I have 125 books on my Goodreads to-read list, but here are five that jump out at me today:

Endurance, by Frank Arthur Worsley
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss
The Lifeboat: Charlotte Rogan
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
Lizz Free Or Die, Lizz Winstead

3. Five places you want to visit:

Iona, again. We’re going in August and I. Can’t. Wait.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Faroe Islands
Argentina
New Zealand, because Lord of the Rings.

4. Five people you’d invite for tea/coffee/beer and pizza:

Barack Obama
Parker Palmer
Louis CK
Cyndi Lauper
My dad

5. FIve chores or tasks you’d gladly give to someone else:

Bills/expenses/tracking tax stuff
Laundry
Dishes
Grocery shopping
Picking up socks and shoes. OMG, I am so sick of this.

BONUS: A five ingredient recipe! (This is harder than it sounds!)

I got this from O Magazine and haven’t had the nerve, nor the Nutella, to try this yet.

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

1 13 oz jar Nutella
2 eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 inch pan with foil.

In a large bowl, whisk together Nutella, eggs, and water. Stir in flour and salt and transfer to prepared pan. Bake until just set around the edges, 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Remove brownies using foil. Cut and serve, discarding foil. Makes 9.

Improv in the Oven

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Should’ve had a muffin.

I’ve been writing and thinking about the rules of improv as a way of life. You can read more here.

Improv doesn’t come naturally to me. I know a number of accomplished improvisers, and read this blog for a while, but it’s a struggle for me personally. I am a first-born Presbyterian Girl Scout (to use my friend Meg’s phrase) and an off-the-charts J on the Myers-Briggs. I live by Evernote and Things. Even my leisure is relatively structured—I do Sabbath.

And yet try as I might, the universe does not conform to my meticulous management. The nerve!

But improv is also fun. It’s good to get messy. It’s important to risk, and to step into a place where you don’t know what’s going to happen. Improv is joyful and generative.

As my Facebook friends know, I’m a muffin-maker. It’s kinda my thing: Automatic portion control. Good for breakfast or a snack. “Maximum impact, minimum effort,” as my father-in-law says about his cooking.

But I’d never improvised on my muffins until the other day, when I improvised some low-fat banana-blueberry muffins with streusel topping. They were awesome.

I suspect a few of my readers are first-born Presbyterian Girl Scout J’s. Here are a few things I learned that might help all of us be more improvisational leaders/parents/individuals:

1. You don’t have to start from scratch. I wouldn’t know where to start to make up a muffin recipe. But I know how to take an underlying structure and build on it—to yes-and it. In this case, I adapted a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook for my banana-berry beauties.

Maybe you’ve watched Whose Line Is It Anyway, or been to an improv show that starts with prompts from the audience. Then there’s TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi, who don’t take audience suggestions. Instead they walk out on stage and stand in silence for several moments. Eventually and without fail, they pluck a story out of thin air and improvise a two-man one-act play.

My point is, you don’t have to be TJ and Dave.

2. In fact, starting with some constraints helps. I recently quoted Leonard Bernstein, who said to achieve great things, you need a plan and not quite enough time. Creativity thrives on constraint: Pick a recipe, any recipe. What can I do with this recipe and the contents of my pantry?

My seven-year-old loves to make things with paper and tape. We’ve bought various glues and epoxies for her, and there’s all kinds of random glue-ables in bins in our blue room, from bottle caps to craft foam. But she always comes back to paper and tape.

2. It helps to have the skills. 

I had to throw in some flour at the end of mixing because my batter was too gloppy. After so many batches of muffins, I know what proper batter looks like. (BTW, the Food Substitutions Bible is a useful tool for food improv.)

We did a lot of experimentation with liturgy in seminary, with varying results. I’m not saying those novice efforts weren’t fruitful—they were. But there’s something very freeing about being a decade into this ministry thing. You get to know the order of worship so deeply—not to mention a congregation—that you know what can be pushed and pulled, folded and spindled.

3. Risk from a place of abundance. This is a big one for me. I’ve been tempted to play around with my muffins, but have hesitated up to now, because what if they don’t turn out? When I say “risk from a place of abundance,” I don’t mean to trust that something good will come of your experimentation… though it probably will, just not what you expected. I mean that improv becomes easier in a context of abundant creativity.

If I’m only making muffins every month or so, I don’t want to mess with the tried-and-true recipes because if they fail, then there’s no muffins for a long time, and I have a sad, and my kids have to resort to boring old Corn Chex. But if I’m making muffins once or twice a week, why not play around? If something turns out to be inedible, something new will quickly come to take its place.

Last year at the NEXT Church national gathering, we heard a leader from the Ecclesia Project in Kentucky talk about starting new worshiping communities. The old model is to spend a few hundred thousand dollars trying to get a new church development started. But instead of spending $100,000 on one community, they give 20 grants of $5,000 each to small, diverse projects. The assumption is that many new initiatives fail, whether it’s a business or a church. So we should sow our seeds as widely as possible. Our denomination currently has the 1,001 Worshiping Communities initiative. But instead of 1,001, we were told at NEXT, we should be starting 10,000 worshiping communities!

That’s risk from a place of abundance. I like it.

Now the trick for me is to keep improvising low-fat muffins, so that I do not gain abundant weight.

Friday Link Love: Online Slacktivism, Be a Poet, and Everest Gear Then and Now

Hello friends!

It’s Thursday evening and I am just back from Birmingham, where I had a book event and also preached at the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley. I’ll post that sermon to the NEXT Church website early next week and link to it here. It was a fun trip—got to hang out with Elizabeth, one of my favorite seminary peeps and a dear friend. So I’m happy, but tired.

But… the Link Love must go on! 

Climbing Everest, Then and Now — National Geographic

A comparison of the tools used to climb the world’s tallest peak. Boots and oxygen systems, then and now.

Let’s be honest: P90X or no, I’m pretty sure our forebears could take us.

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Does Online “Slacktivism” Reduce Charitable Giving? — New Scientist

Looks like it’s a hybrid effect. Click the link for a study relating to attitudes about gun control.

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Collected Wisdom of Great Writers — Brain Pickings

Maria Popova has compiled advice from several writers she’s highlighted on her blog, so it’s all accessible in one place. Vonnegut, King, Allende, Sontag and more.

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Cook Dinner, Save the World — Dinner, a Love Story

Love this quote from Michael Pollan:

To cook or not to cook thus becomes a consequential question. Though I realize that is putting the matter a bit too bluntly. Cooking means different things at different times to different people; seldom is it an all-or-nothing proposition. Yet even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to make a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy — even these modest acts will constitute a kind of vote. A vote for what exactly? Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against specialization — against the total rationalization of life. Against the infiltration of commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, devote a portion of our leisure to it, is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. (Come to think of it, our non waking moments as well: Ambien anyone?) It is to reject the debilitation notion that, at least while we’re at home, production is work done by someone else, and the only legitimate form of leisure is consumption. This dependence marketers call “freedom.”

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Antonia Larroux — Obituary

Not since Hugh Gallagher’s infamous college essay for NYU (the laws of physics do not apply to me) have we have such an exuberant accounting of a life! This part really clinched it though:

The funeral will be led by Rev. Curt Moore of Orlando, Florida, a questionable choice for any spiritual event, but one the family felt would be appropriate due to the fact that every time Toni heard Curt preach she prayed for Jesus to return at that very moment.

On a last but serious note, the woman who loved life and taught her children to ‘laugh at the days to come’ is now safely in the arms of Jesus and dancing at the wedding feast of the Lamb. She will be missed as a mother, friend and grandmother. Anyone wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. She is not dead. She is alive.

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Smart Cities: Sustainable Solutions for Urban Living — BBC

H/t The Dish, which highlighted this piece that I found astounding:

How a group of 12-year-olds in a Calcutta slum improved their community:

Like so many slum neighborhoods, the notorious Nehru Colony doesn’t officially exist, meaning it has no access to government services such as sanitation and electricity. The youngsters set out to literally put themselves on the map. They went door to door, taking photos with their mobile phones, registering residents and detailing each child born in the colony. Information is then sent by SMS text to a database that links the data to a map hand-drawn by the kids, which is overlaid to GPS coordinates. By registering their existence on Google Maps the group has doubled the rate of polio vaccination from 40% to 80%, decreased diarrhea and malaria rates in the slum, and is lobbying for electricity.

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This Ad Has a Secret Anti-Abuse Message That Only Kids Can See — Gizmodo

This made the rounds, and rightly so. The billboard displays a different message depending on how tall you are:

The secret behind the ad’s wizardry is a lenticular top layer, which shows different images at varying angles. So when an adult—or anyone taller than four feet, five inches—looks at it they only see the image of a sad child and the message: “sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” But when a child looks at the ad, they see bruises on the boy’s face and a different message: “if somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you” alongside the foundation’s phone number.

The ad is designed to empower kids, particularly if their abuser happens to be standing right next to them.

What the kids see:

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How Can You Become a Poet — David Lose

Or a theologian:

Eve Mirriam, a native of Philadelphia, captures something of the beauty of not just poetry but also, I think, creativity itself.

She invites us to consider making two moves: the first is attentiveness. Trace it’s shape, pay attention to its movement, follow its life, chew and smell and see and feel all you can about that thing that fascinates you.

The second move is courage, fearlessness…

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