Ban the Pan

It may occur in your place of work. It could be at the park or anywhere outdoors. It may be held in the cultural hall at church. Perhaps, a popular local eatery will be the choice to host it. It might take place in your very own home. What is it, exactly? It is a celebration, of course! Regardless of our diverse backgrounds, lifestyles, nationalities, and ages, indeed, everyone loves a good party to commemorate significant dates, milestones, or holiday events. Anywhere a group of family members, old friends, new friends, neighbors, co-workers, casual acquaintances, or even strangers gather together there is much fun to be had by one and all. I don’t wish to crash your party and burst all your birthday balloons, however, I do want to help you take a sneak peek at something that I know is the source of your current personal struggle. Some of the celebratory traditions at these wonderful get-togethers are cause for concern. For the sole purpose of helping you attain your stated health and fitness goals, I wish to address one of them today. This particular issue is a sharp stumbling block for many on this wonderful journey into a new world of wellness. Painful as it may be, it is time that you came to grips with your role in this problem.

I am certain that this is of no surprise to you. The official diagnosis is an acute case of sweet tooth syndrome. Typically the signs of this disorder are exaggerated in a party atmosphere. However, they can occur anywhere at any time regardless of the size of the crowd. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: extreme salivation at the sight of any sweet treat, disorientation and confusion when multiple “goodies” are presented for possible consumption, severe sweating resulting from the strange attraction to anything with frosting, inability to make correct decisions due to chocolate on the brain, overblown displays of laughter and self-deprecating humor caused by rationalization, and total loss of control resulting in anti-social behavior such as plopping your chair in front of the dessert table.

It may sound harsh of me to suggest that you continue to contribute to the problem. But, I am absolutely correct. Other than your sugar addiction, you insist that you have a clean bill of health. Well, that doesn’t make much sense, does it? This is a serious addiction with devastating short and long term consequences.  The reality is that despite the marvelous progress you have been making in other areas, this is proving to be your Achilles heal. It can and will be your downfall if you do not “ban the pan”! Why do you insist on baking that which you understand you should not be partaking? So, yes, I’m saying that the cookie pans, the cupcake trays, the pie tins, and any other thing you use to make the tantalizing treats should be banished indefinitely. At this point, is there any other way? Personally, I don’t think so.

You would do well to cut out the sugar completely from your D.I.E.T. You desire to reach optimal health. You need to promote it to others as well. You do this by not participating in foolish traditions. No, I am not saying celebrations are silly and without purpose or merit. I am declaring that the obsession with the entire concept of dessert is problematic for you. Dessert has traditionally been a sweet concoction of some form which concludes a hearty meal. It is not an exaggeration to say that in some cases the dessert of choice far exceeds the caloric value of the initial meal itself. So, essentially, one is consuming another meal. If it is such an integral part of this tradition, why not just begin with the sweet meal? Of course, that would be breaking with conventional observance. We must not do that. There are many customary practices that are quite worthy of being passed down from generation to generation. This unwritten code involving the need to make a dessert every single time that people gather together is not one of them. So stop perpetuating this long-established ritual by saying “No!” Am I saying “Never”? That is for you, alone, to decide.

Why do you tempt yourself in this fashion? I clearly do not understand. I am keenly aware of the power that sugar has over people, and you know this as well. So, why do you tempt others with your sweet contributions to the party table? Let’s define the word tempt. As a verb, it means to purposefully entice or allure someone to acquire something (your fudge brownies) that they find very attractive but know to be wrong or not beneficial. Hmm, “not beneficial”, does that sound like dessert to you? Bingo! What are you to do?  You can start by avoiding it at all costs, because it will cost you that which you desire most. This journey you are on is too important. For you to continue the wonderful progress you’ve made and to be a good example, even a role model for others, you must get this obsession in check. The old you would devour everything in sight at any celebratory function. The new you has the motivation and the will-power to start a new, healthy tradition in your own home, in the workplace, at the picnic in the park, and in the restaurant. If you’ve had a slip-up and indulged in some sweet delights, please know that you are forgiven. You are capable of steering clear of that which offers nothing more than momentary pleasure followed by a taste of terrible guilt. The desire for instant gratification cannot exist in the heart which longs for lasting happiness. You are not yet, now, what you will someday become. I implore you not to delay another day in doing away with any traditions that are holding you back from reaching your full potential.


photo credit: High Fiber Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies via photopin (license)

I Told You So!

I don’t take any amount of pride in saying these words. You know me well enough to understand that the following is not intended to be judgmental. So, without further adieu, I am only going to say this one time. “I TOLD YOU SO!”  I am so glad that you felt sufficiently comfortable to approach me with your concerns.  “Things” have not been going as you had originally expected. Each morning as you gaze at your reflection, this pops into your head. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, will I ever see any difference at all?” My friend, please turn your frown upside down. That mirror doesn’t know all that you’ve been through of late. In truth, I don’t think that you have taken those unforeseen circumstances into account. It has been over a month since we initially sat down to chat. I remember the enthusiasm you displayed on that day. Given your recent remarks to me, it is apparent that you were listening to the counsel I imparted to you on our first meeting and subsequent follow-ups. The situation you find yourself in currently is not nearly so dire as you believe. Though I respect your desire to revise your entire approach, and I’m hearing some constructive ideas regarding your change of direction, I plead with you to be patient. I ask you to listen once again.

Before you decided to bring a personal trainer into your world, you had never previously explored the inside of a gym. As you have recounted, I did implore you to usher in this new chapter of your life with a plan whose central focus is healthy eating. At the time, I was, nonetheless, thrilled that you wished to increase your level of physical activity. I am not disappointed that you chose to start in the fitness center instead of the kitchen.  I am not frustrated that you managed to find time for a total of only seven workouts in just over a month. Rather, I am still very much full of hope for you. This is precisely how you should feel as well. I think you see a vast mountain when there merely lies a tiny mole hill in your path to progress. You needed a little taste of the gym setting, and you got precisely that.  Now, you better understand the challenges involved in a commitment of this magnitude. Now, you know the basics of a good workout routine. Now, you know how good it feels to physically push yourself. These are your own words to me. Yet, you feel inclined to put the training element on the back burner for three to four months. I have to be honest. I do seriously question this particular backwards movement. Let me give you another reason why I know it is a mistake. I think that you are not giving yourself enough credit for what you did accomplish. Consider that the gym was a new frontier. You performed far better than you suppose. You suggest that you felt clumsy. Far from it, you were magnificent!  You are comparing yourself to others. Stop that! You are beating yourself up. Stop that as well. You are panicking over your self imposed “deadline” regarding your short-term goal. Cease and desist any such anxiety immediately! You aren’t seeing the real “you” when you gaze into the mirror. Start that process this very moment!

As we have discussed, some people will clearly recognize that this dual effort  is more than they can handle. Attempting to juggle a new exercise routine along with the implementation of a healthy eating program does not require a professional license, however, it can be a bit of a circus. Comparing it to a high wire act without the necessary safety net might not be too extreme. My personal assessment is that you are remarkably different than most. You are perfectly capable of finding your bearings on this delicate balancing act. Everything that I know about you points to that truth. I do not speak in the manner simply to flatter you. I have no ulterior motives. But, I repeat. I have seen you in action. So, I know what you are capable of, and I am very impressed. You can navigate the gym’s floor with the ease and grace of one who has been a frequent visitor. At the same time,  you can steer your way through the everyday obstacle course of healthy eating.  Dear friend, you have a plan. It has been placed before you. You trusted in it before. You felt strongly that you could follow it then. You can feel so now.  You can make this powerful combination work.  You will love this recipe. It is not full of ingredients that are foreign to you anymore. You may have only had a small bite thus far, but you know, as we all do, that it is really good. The exercise and meal programs are designed for you to taste the sweetness of success. Adherence to it cannot result in failure!

Think big, even grand. You want to drop twenty-five pounds by summer. That’s great. But, start small, as in “mini meals” throughout the day.  Similarly, spending even ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes in your gym is going to have an enormous impact on your journey. If you abandon the fitness element now in totality, picking it up again at some point may become a greater challenge than you think. We don’t know where you will be several months from now. Can you predict the future? I can’t. But, I can see the person you are capable of becoming. Procrastination, or delaying activity until some hoped for future event occurs, is not going to help your cause. Modification is one tool that is necessary when life changes. Elimination of bad habits or influences is required at times to move forward. Determination is a trait that you must exhibit in order to reach your personal goals. Perspiration is what you are going to have to continue to do for that reflection to smile back at you. Inspiration is what you are to me. Aspirations point to what you want to be. You can’t afford to turn your back on the ground you have gained. I ask you to see yourself as I do. You are amazing! Your spirit is as beautiful and talented as any I have ever encountered. Keep moving. Keep breathing. Keep dreaming. Keep trying. I’ll be waiting with great anticipation for that day when you say to me “I told you I could do it!”

Getting Away for the Weekend?


Are you taking a short weekend get-a-way to Chicago or New York City? Are you heading to an undisclosed location for an undetermined amount of time to escape the cold? Is your boss sending you to Houston and then to Indianapolis for various projects? Are you going to Las Vegas to visit Uncle John? Wherever your destination and whatever the reason for your leaving the comforts of home, don’t gamble with the progress that you have been making. Some of the greatest challenges that you may face as you change your lifestyle may await you as you travel. Some of you may love traveling and the potential excitement it offers.  Others may dread the notion due to some of the burdensome realities it presents. Like it or not, you are going somewhere. That somewhere likely means a potential break from your newly established daily routines regarding sleep, food, and physical activity. That somewhere is full of traps which might ensnare you while you are away.  I think that you need to know what to expect. I believe that you should be warned concerning the consequences of choosing poorly during your trip. I know that you will feel more confident if you are prepared. So, let us consider a game plan that will help you stick to the program, even though, your fear is that the program can’t travel with you. Let me assure you that there are no extra fees for carry-on health and wellness programs if you are flying.

I want to backtrack for a moment. I am prompted to address the underlying reason for my desire to share some thoughts on this particular subject matter with you. It is quite simply that I have seen far too many people lose the positive momentum which they have created when they leave town. That convention which takes you to a glamorous city, the family reunion which takes you back to your roots in your old hometown, or the work function which seems to be occurring more frequently of late, each present similar problems. So, my friends, students, and family members who have traveled to India, Croatia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Arizona, California, Florida, London, Scotland, Ireland, indeed virtually everywhere, have so very much in common. No matter the distance traveled or the length of one’s stay, these trips seem to “trip” people up. The born-again exerciser returns having lost that faith which prompted the baptism by sweat in the first place. The D.I.E.T. enthusiast returns feeling terribly guilty and has all but forgotten the steps to repentance. You do not want to be in this position. I’ve seen a couple of days turn into a couple of weeks and then months before that faith is rekindled and the guilt is washed away. Sadly, some are stopped dead in their tracks upon coming home. For any number of reasons, they are unable to climb back aboard the healthy wagon train. Yes, they have fallen upon hard times and cannot get up.

To all the planning and packing that accompanies any trip, you are going to have to add a little more. It really isn’t such a big deal. I know that you never thought that you’d be panicking about this. How can you possibly fit some exercise into your already busy schedule? Certainly, for the first time, you are forced to confront your food demons before you embark. As in all things, the more preparation you put into this, the greater your chances of sticking to your plan. You will be mentally prepared to face the temptations to be lazy, and, therefore, do nothing, as well as to let your guard down, and just eat everything in sight. But, you have grown stronger than you think. Your desire has swelled up inside of you. Therefore, this effort to include healthy activities in your agenda while away, need not cause you to stress out. When I talk of preparation, I’m suggesting that you keep things very simple. You want to have an enjoyable time, don’t you? Believe me, I will not insist that you only book a reservation at a hotel that has a well-stocked fitness center. I don’t think it is even necessary for you to pay for a daily guest pass at an out of town gym. Find something to do that you won’t think of as some mundane chore like fitness training can be. Plan to include a fun activity or two while you are away. What is your idea of fun? Could it be dancing? Maybe, it’s hiking? Perhaps, it’s playing golf? Whatever the case, as long as you are moving, you are much less likely to experience a regression in your current physical state by the end of your stay. Even if it means racing through the airport to catch a connecting flight. So, go for a nice, brisk stroll while site-seeing or take a walk along the beach. Hey, are you game for trying something new? I think that would be a great idea to maintain the mindset you’ve developed. Camping offers many opportunities. What about horseback riding?  Skiing, swimming, bicycling, roller blading, playing volleyball, kayaking…any one of these sound interesting? Tennis anyone? How about bowling? Do a little research. Find out ahead of time what indoor or outdoor activities are popular, inexpensive, and easily accessible at your destination.

Do not forget to bring appropriate clothing and footwear with you. This advice may sound silly, but it makes for a convenient excuse to avoid any activity if you neglect the essentials in your luggage. Along with packing the necessary “gear”, you are going to bring some of your favorite pre-packaged “mini-meals”. This makes your transition seamless. You will not miss a beat since you will not alter your eating schedule. When I have ventured away from my humble abode, there is one place which is typically my first stop. It is called the grocery store. Whether I’m staying with family or friends, or in a hotel, I always make certain that I have what I need to fuel my activity. You are taking a gigantic risk if you solely rely on others for providing your nutritional needs. You have been learning to take control of this area of your life. Do not relinquish it to anyone else, even for a short period of time. You certainly can eat out at a nice restaurant. But, don’t think that what you do out of town stays out of town. No, it returns with you! I plead with you not to give in to pressure from those you are around. You have been choosing wisely and eating sensibly when you eat out! Why should this change just because you are miles from home? These situations can be viewed by some as acceptable “cheating” times. Trips offer many temptations. However, this is not open season for binge eating. Your license to kill yourself with poor eating habits has been revoked, remember? You took care of that yourself. There is no going back. You need not overindulge with the rest in order to have a good time. This is another lesson you have learned. “The past is where you learned the lesson. The future is where you apply the lesson. Don’t give up in the middle.”-unknown  For “out-of-towners”, staying up late is an imminent threat to your way of life. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You know exactly what those late nights have led to previously. Let me remind you. A foggy brain in the morning equates to poor eating decisions. A sluggish, exhausted body prefers inactivity to putting its muscles in motion. Continue to focus on your well-being, and you’ll be one happy camper. Because, going out of town doesn’t have to bring you down!

photo credit: Southwest Arrival Board Airport Sign via photopin (license)