Finding Balance after a Thanksgiving Binge….

I would love to be able to tell you that I am so extraordinarily grounded and convicted that I am one of those people we only hear about in lore who hold fast and true to their healthy choices over the holiday.  This would simply be a lie – and I would never want to lie to you, dear reader.  So, it is with a full belly and well rested body that I return from my lovely grandparent’s home, admitting to have fallen blissfully off the wagon.

I am not alone in this post-thanksgiving fog, however.  I know many of you out there share my simultaneous joy and pain regarding the holiday weekend, which I do find reassuring.  We are all, after all, imperfect, yes?

Holidays are a remarkable roller coaster for most of us.  They’re emotionally charged – seeing and spending time with family (or not), reminiscing on holidays past (be they good or bad), looking forward to the glorious bounty of deliciousness while being mindful of our health/fitness goals….just to name a few.  Even for those of us finding ourselves emotionally cool as a cranberry sauce during these gatherings often feel sluggish and bloaty after a few meals (or days!) of eating differently then we might at our own dinner tables.

JuicingPictureI, for one, can relate to all of the above.  And so, after a long week of sitting around and eating — and treasuring every delicious moment of it — I return home ready for some re-balancing.

Here are some tips to get back on track, from my post-Thanksgiving to yours:

1)  Get your body moving!  I highly recommend yoga (shocker!).  Yoga will help relieve stiffness and tightness, support digestion, and sooth your busy mind.   After sitting on the couch, at the table, in the car, we all feel heavy and tight.  Even better, try hot yoga.  A.maz.ing.  Reap the benefits of yoga while sweating out toxins.  Not into yoga?  Take a walk with a friend, check out all of the holiday decorations that popped up while everyone was off work last week.  Whatever you do, get moving!  Wash, rinse, and repeat all week for this gal.

2) Make some time for yourself!  Traveling/cooking/being with family can be wonderful, but it can also be stressful.  Take time to meditate, take a warm salt bath, rub your dog’s belly for an hour, order dinner in.  Or…. all of the above (i.e. my Saturday night).  Quiet or solitary activities like these help to reduce stress hormones and re-balance our mental and emotional energy.

3) Drink water.  Lots of it.  (Especially after hot yoga!!)  You’re body is likely to be dehydrated – the average Thanksgiving dinner has upwards of 2,000 milligrams of sodium.  That’s more than your recommended daily allotment!  Hydrating is a quick and easy way to increase energy and reduce that puffy feeling.

4) Consider a cleanse, or purposefully plan the week’s meals.  Even if you didn’t over eat, chances are that you ate differently, and perhaps more unhealthy, than you normally do.  Plan for meals that are clean and healthy – packed with vitamins and antioxidants to help refuel your physical body.  Avoid carbs, red meats, dairy, or other foods that you know to cause you sluggishness or digestive stress – if only for the week!

The hubby and I are doing just that!  We’ll be following a mostly raw diet this week (the exception being some irresistible butternut squash), flushed with fresh and cleansing juices.   An extended (and cold!) trip to the Baltimore Farmers Market made it all possible.  Breakfast and lunch will be primarily juice based, while dinners will be a smorgasbord of veges, nuts, beans, fruits, etc.  Day one has been going exceptionally well – here’s one of the juices we made last night!

Beet Ginger Juice
(Adapted from Eatingwell – Makes approximately 10oz)
1 Orange
1 Carrot
2-3 Beets
1/2 – 1 Bunch Kale
1 Apple
1 Romain Heart
1.5-2″ Fresh Ginger

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The Food Stamp Challenge – A Challenge Indeed!

GreenBeanFarmersMarketLet me begin my saying that my husband and myself are certainly not the target participant for this kind of challenge.  Both of us being social workers (a profession well known for being grossly overpaid) we regularly strive for a grocery bill of about $75/week.  This already requires the cutting open of empty toothpaste tubes when our fingers have become too weak from squeezing out that last little bit, and the careful monitoring of each others tissue and paper towel use so as to not become glutinous and end up dusting with toilet paper by Sunday.  This cold war depression era attitude is simply rooted in the tongue lashings we imagine to receive from our future house, babies, and savings account, with every dollar spent.  In reality, our thrift is certainly not all out of necessity, as we are blessed to have what we need rather than wanting for it.  Upon contemplating this challenge, we both agreed that it would be a good reminder of just how appreciative we are for what we have, and give us another way to understand and appreciate the reality of the challenge so many face without their choosing.  And I have to admit, my dear husband and I also thought, “Finally!  A socially and professionally appropriate reason to further crush our non-existent spending habits!”  With that, we set forth.

First, we sat down to create a meal plan.  Already we tend to prepare meals similar in ingredients in order to capitalize on purchases and minimize risk of anything going bad/unused.  This absolutely requires, then, a return trip to the store exactly one week later, as our fridge becomes a barren wasteland, colored only by ketchup, soy sauce, and dressings.  (Authors note:  This is not recommended in the event of a pending zombie apocalypse).  We cut out some of the more indulgent recipe’s that float through our rotation in lieu of recipes with shorter ingredient lists and that packed more for the punch (cost value vs. nutrients).  Thinking we had it made, we went with a coup de grace of breakfast for dinner, thereby substituting another meal with the cheapest protein out there – the mighty egg.

In all honesty, I thought we were prepared.   “I’ll run by the store on Monday, price our list, and give you a call if we are over,” I said matter-of-fact-ly to my husband.  It was an excellent plan.  List in hand & phone set to calculator, I set off.

Walking in, I was immediately overwhelmed.  Green beans were the first on our list – simple enough, right?  Well, there’s fresh for $1.99/lb, frozen $.99/16oz, canned $.49/14.5oz, pre-packaged fresh $2.99/12oz – in fact, there are exactly 54 different ways to buy green beans in my grocery store.  And of course there isn’t a “green bean aisle,” which means multiple trips around the store pricing and debating my green bean purchase – then wash, rinse, and repeat for every other item on my list.  If this wasn’t enough to drive a person to run out of the store screaming, I can’t count the number of times I inadvertently hit “C” on my calculator while tossing an item into the basket, thereby setting be back another 15 minutes re-counting expenses.

An hour and a half later I could be found curled in a tight ball of anxiety, hiding in the bread aisle, crying on the phone to my husband.  Ok, I may be exaggerating.  But, if we hadn’t been on a food stamp budget this week I definitely would have needed a trip to the neighborhood watering hole.

In reflection, it was not only the shopping that was stressful.  Planning meals on a tiny budget was difficult.  Is it possible to cut costs elsewhere to allow for purchase of fresh foods?  Can we justify the $1.49 increase for whole grain bread?  Certainly most organic, natural, or “clean” foods would be out of reach for us – which are most negotiable?  Was peanut butter ($3.49) a better investment than milk ($2.75)?  These decisions took considerable time and delegation.  And heaven forbid we run out of shampoo ($5.99) or detergent ($4.99) that week – we’d need a whole week of breakfast for dinner (secretly sounds awesome – how much for pancakes)?

Most of us are fortunate enough to find grocery shopping stressful because of all those damn people who stop their carts in the middle of the aisle, or the little humans running around screaming for candy (or is that just me?).  In doing this project, we learned to further appreciate the luxury of being able to set our own food budge and the flexibility to absorb unusual costs or purchases that arise along the way.

So, next time you go shopping with a big cart and open wallet, pause for a moment in that stress and feel thankful for your good fortune that today you are able to afford those items in your cart…and that you don’t have to thoroughly investigate 54 types of green beans just to make one casserole.

Learn more about the Food Stamp Challenge Here.