How to Not End the Year Fatter than You Are Now

Did you know that the average American consumes 4500 calories on Thanksgiving Day? And if you’re like me you gave two different Thanksgiving dinners to attend.  That reminds me – put Pepto-Bismol on the shopping list!

For many of us, the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day become one long excuse to eat and drink to our heart’s content  I’ve taken that to the Nth degree and have been on the 12 month plan.  Not my  best idea.  Time to make some changes.

Holiday parties and gatherings with family and friends can take a toll on our willpower and our waistlines which is why millions of us pledge to go on a diet come January 1st. Here are some tips to make the holidays less weighty, and perhaps start the new year with a few less pounds to lose.

  1. Exercise. Not only is exercise a great way to burn off a lot of those extra calories you’ll be consuming, but it’s also a great stress reliever. Have a houseload of guests? Too many obligations and not enough time to get it all done? Take a break and take a walk, each and every day.
  2. Eat before you go out. Lots of us think that by not eating before we go out, we’re saving calories that we can use up while we’re out. Makes sense but often, we eat more than we normally would because we’re starving. Have a healthy meal, or even an apple and a glass of water before you go out and you’ll likely eat less later.
  3. Adapt old traditions. Make the traditions you’ve always enjoyed healthier.  Here’s an idea: use those cookie cutters to make fun holiday shapes out of cheese instead of cookie dough.
  4. Start new traditions. How about a healthy recipe exchange amongst your friends and family?  Everyone can bring their favorite healthy dish and written copies of the recipe to taste and share.
  5. Listen to you. If you feel stressed out and want to leave a party or get away from your family and friends for a bit, do it. Don’t force yourself to be uncomfortable, neither you nor any-one around you will have any fun.
  6. Remember what’s important. We all wish we were thinner and that our houses were cleaner, but that’s not why we get together with family and friends and it shouldn’t diminish our enjoyment of these social events. If you’re going out, don’t obsess over how you look; no one else will notice that you’re less than perfect. If you’re having people over, don’t frantically clean if you don’t have the time (except the toilet – that must be done, especially of you have a four-year-old with less-than-perfect aim). The point is to spend time with the people you care about, celebrate life and have fun.

Adapted from an article in Husband’s company newsletter.   Some are theirs as I found them, some of theirs I changed, and  some are all mine.  Please don’t sue me.

Change Some Habits, Save Some Gas. And Some Money.

A few months ago I wrote a post that gave Tips on Pumping Gas. It gives some pretty good ideas for stretching your dollar at the pump.

Today I went shopping with Son, and was lucky enough to get a parking space close to the store right away, as it’s previous occupant was pulling away as I drove up. Normally I will wait for a space, and so I got to thinking about what a waste of gas that is.

And so, a post is born.

Here are some things you can do to reduce your gas usage, save money and get healthier all at the same time:

1. Take the first available parking spot you see. Instead of driving up and down the aisles of the supermarket parking lot looking for the spot nearest the door, or sitting idle while someone loads their groceries and the triplets, just park. On nice days you can save a little more by pulling into the first available spot near the lot entrance. I might even – gasp- get some exercise. Say it isn’t so!

2. Minimize idling. Idling gets you zero miles per gallon. If you are at the bank, the drive-thru or chatting with a friend and are going to idle for a minute or less, leave your car on. If it’s going to be much longer than a minute you should turn off your car.

3. Plan your route. On errand runs go to the furthest place first, then backtrack. I’ve done this for years for the most part, but I’m slacking less.

4. Try new merchants. If your current dry cleaner is six miles away and there’s one with comparable prices right next to the supermarket, why not give the closer guy a try? You never know…

5. Walk more. If you’re going to several locations in relatively close proximity park your car in the middle and walk. Today Son and I went to a different Target than our usual one, located in a shopping center which unfortunately had a Chuck E. Cheese. Instead of driving from one end of the center to the other we walked. Secondary tip: Never, ever go to Chuck E. Cheese during Spring Break.

6. Use your cruise control. This method has actually been proven to save a lot of gas, as it reduces heavy acceleration and heavy use of the brake (I’ve always been a hard braker Get it?). A steady driving speed will improve fuel economy.

7. Use your bicycle. Ride it to work, or the grocery store, or the gym. I can’t wait for Son to be steady enough on a bicycle for us to use bicycles as transportation.

And the biggie.

8. Stay home. You don’t need to get dressed to go to Starbucks for overpriced coffee. You can sit in the comfort of your own home in your jammies with some nice music on the stereo. Now that the weather is getting better you can have the kids can play in the yard with their friends instead of driving to Chuck E. Cheese. Join Netflix (as little as $4.99 a month!) and have your movies delivered. Have a family game night and whip up some homemade (or heat some frozen) pizza instead of an expensive (and noisy!) visit to Chuck E. Cheese.

My goodness, what would become of our society if families spent more time at home together?

Habit Forming

I’ve often read that it takes a month for something to become a habit. After thirty days it becomes ingrained; no longer unusual or requiring much effort. Whether it be dieting or exercising or prayer it becomes a normal, everyday part of your life.

I don’t think that’s true for all things – at least not for me. Eating well and exercising, for example, have never become ingrained and have always required much effort. I need to constantly re-commit, constantly re-direct my focus, constantly keep my eye on the prize (being svelte, being healthy). Sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes every fifteen minutes. At times I have the energy and/or resolve and/or willpower for it, other times I don’t. They may become part of a routine, but never become a habit.

Other things I seem to assimilate with little or no effort; almost too easily. I don’t even notice it’s happened, or if I do I have no recollection of having started it. Turning off the water while I brush my teeth or do dishes is a water-saving habit that I don’t even think about. Shutting the lights when I leave a room, or doing dishes in the ambient light from the living room are habits, too.

Shopping for good bargains is another big one for me. I read PaidTwice’s article Start Planning For Next Year’s Valentine’s Day Now about shopping the after-Valentine’s Day clearances to stock up for next year and my initial thought was, ” Well, yeah. Doesn’t everybody do that?” I’ve been doing that for years. In addition to buying trinkets to save for next year’s holidays, I also buy nondescript, non-perishable after-Christmas candy for Valentine’s Day, after-Valentine’s Day candy for Easter. After 4th of July candy for Halloween, After-Halloween candy for Christmas. Then the cycle starts over. I won’t buy unless the sale is at least 75% off, and more often ( like today at Target) 90% off.

After-Holiday isn’t the only time I look for clearance items. When I walk into a clothing store I walk directly to the clearance racks. I rarely look at anything that isn’t on them. It’s not important to me to be trendy – it just has to look decent and fit adequately (perhaps if I was svelte fashion would matter more…). I do the same when shopping for my husband, my son and anyone else for whom I’m buying a gift.

And Target. Sweet Target. I’ve already written that every week I walk their aisles looking for bargains. Now that’s a habit!

Craigslist. Garage Sales. Clipping coupons.

I’m not saying I always get the best deal possible. I don’t. I even (gasp!) waste money, on extravagances (hello pedicure!) or buying healthy food that never gets eaten (see above healthy eating comment). And it’s certainly easier to get those great deals since I’ve become a stay-at-home Mom.

But frugal shopping is such a habit for me that it’s uncomfortable not to do it.

Now if I could only get eating right and exercise to become that same kind of habit…

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