Another Annual Orphan Thanksgiving

This year I am upholding my own Thanksgiving tradition with what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. It is a cozy and enjoyable event for the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityWhat’s on the table this year? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole (a HUGE hit), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. I’m letting my guests bring dessert to ease the cooking and baking load, since I make these feasts by myself. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Orphan Thanksgiving…My Tradition

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving, and it has become a tradition in my home. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly, as do the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey and a spiral ham in the oven, make mashed potatoes, and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, pumpkin pie and other tasty treats. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any fitness-minded meal plan. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

This year I am throwing something new into the mix. I recently had a networking mixer/barbecue, and one of my guests brought Cards Against Humanity, which quickly turned the party into a rollicking good time. We all had a blast allowing ourselves to indulge in the game, which utterly and completely flies in the face of political correctness. I enjoyed the game so much that I bought ALL the expansion sets, along with the original game set, for Thanksgiving and beyond.

It is incredibly satisfying to know that my good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

Don’t Bust Your Diet This Holiday Season!

thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

Here is a repost of an article I wrote last November. It’s that time of the year again for holiday foods, so beware!

It seems that I will continue to uphold my yearly tradition of making my incredible (and incredibly UNclean) fudge for the holidays, as well as my signature turkey stuffing. Since the holidays come only once a year, it seems reasonable to indulge a bit, right? Well, if you’re a fitness fanatic and you have competitions coming up like several of my friends do, you can’t exactly throw caution to the wind and consume whatever you want. However, you CAN still indulge in small amounts of rich foods which are not considered clean as long as your other foods are healthy and clean. This means that your abs don’t have to hibernate during the holidays!

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink at least eight ounces of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.

A newer tactic which can often work wonders for some people is to practice an intermittent fast the day before in which you consume a small number of calories, say 400-500, then go to town on turkey day, consuming your maintenance calories then. This seems to work better if you ramp up the week before with a series of intermittent fasts in which you consume your food (maintenance calories +10-20% on training days, then drop to -20% of maintenance on rest days) within a 4 to 8 hour window, then fasting the rest of the time. If you do this, crank up your protein intake so that it is at least 1 gram per pound of body weight. I personally love this diet approach and my body responds well to it, plus I can enjoy all the goodies on Thanksgiving without remorse.
turkey leg
There are food choices which are cleaner than others during the holidays. Though common holiday foods are rather calorie dense, here are a few food items which are lower in calories and fat:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

I know some of you are assuming that my cats join in with holiday feasts, but I always put them in my bedroom and lock the door. There are several reasons why I keep my felines away from the holiday table:

1. People food can often be hazardous for animals
2. My cats will run underfoot and probably trip people
3. My cats will suddenly forget the rule about not jumping onto tables and will create an unsanitary environment for guests
4. My cats will turn into pesky little beggars
Holiday-treats

Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  16-18 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it, but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and sour cream
  • green bean casserole
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry sauce
  • turkey gravy
  • wine
  • store-bought pumpkin pie

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day. 

Happy holidays!

Staying Lean Through The Holidays – REPOST

thanksgiving-turkey-dinner

Here is a repost of an article I wrote last November. It’s that time of the year again for holiday foods, so beware!

It seems that I will continue to uphold my yearly tradition of making my incredible (and incredibly UNclean) fudge for the holidays, as well as my signature turkey stuffing. Since the holidays come only once a year, it seems reasonable to indulge a bit, right? Well, if you’re a fitness fanatic and you have competitions coming up like several of my friends do, you can’t exactly throw caution to the wind and consume whatever you want. However, you CAN still indulge in small amounts of rich foods which are not considered clean as long as your other foods are healthy and clean. This means that your abs don’t have to hibernate during the holidays!

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink at least eight ounces of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.

A newer tactic which can often work wonders for some people is to practice an intermittent fast the day before in which you consume a small number of calories, say 400-500, then go to town on turkey day, consuming your maintenance calories then. This seems to work better if you ramp up the week before with a series of intermittent fasts in which you consume your food (maintenance calories +10-20% on training days, then drop to -20% of maintenance on rest days) within a 4 to 8 hour window, then fasting the rest of the time. If you do this, crank up your protein intake so that it is at least 1 gram per pound of body weight. I personally love this diet approach and my body responds well to it, plus I can enjoy all the goodies on Thanksgiving without remorse.
turkey leg
There are food choices which are cleaner than others during the holidays. Though common holiday foods are rather calorie dense, here are a few food items which are lower in calories and fat:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

I know some of you are assuming that my cats join in with holiday feasts, but I always put them in my bedroom and lock the door. There are several reasons why I keep my felines away from the holiday table:

1. People food can often be hazardous for animals
2. My cats will run underfoot and probably trip people
3. My cats will suddenly forget the rule about not jumping onto tables and will create an unsanitary environment for guests
4. My cats will turn into pesky little beggars
Holiday-treats

Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  16-18 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it, but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and sour cream
  • green bean casserole
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry sauce
  • turkey gravy
  • wine
  • store-bought pumpkin pie

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day. 

Happy holidays!

How To Stay Lean During The Holidays

holidays-holiday-foods-full
It seems that I will continue to uphold my yearly tradition of making my incredible (and incredibly UNclean) fudge for the holidays, as well as my signature turkey stuffing. Since the holidays come only once a year, it seems reasonable to indulge a bit, right? Well, if you’re a fitness fanatic and you have competitions coming up like I do, you can’t exactly throw caution to the wind and consume whatever you want. However, you CAN still indulge in small amounts of rich foods which are not considered clean as long as your other foods are healthy and clean. This means that your abs don’t have to hibernate during the holidays!

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink at least eight ounces of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.

A newer tactic which can often work wonders for some people is to practice an intermittent fast the day before in which you consume a small number of calories, say 400-500, then go to town on turkey day, consuming your maintenance calories then. This seems to work better if you ramp up the week before with a series of intermittent fasts in which you consume your food (maintenance calories +10-20% on training days, then drop to -20% of maintenance on rest days) within a 4 to 8 hour window, then fasting the rest of the time. If you do this, crank up your protein intake so that it is at least 1 gram per pound of body weight. I personally love this diet approach and my body responds well to it, plus I can enjoy all the goodies on Thanksgiving without remorse.

There are food choices which are cleaner than others during the holidays. Though common holiday foods are rather calorie dense, here are a few food items which are lower in calories and fat:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

I know some of you are assuming that my cats join in with holiday feasts, but I always put them in my bedroom and lock the door. There are several reasons why I keep my felines away from the holiday table:

1. People food can often be hazardous for animals
2. My cats will run underfoot and probably trip people
3. My cats will suddenly forget the rule about not jumping onto tables and will create an unsanitary environment for guests
4. My cats will turn into pesky little beggars
Holiday-treats

This Thanksgiving will be a bit different since I will wait until the Sunday following Thanksgiving to cook a feast. This is in honor of my friends who are competing at the NPC/IFBB Ferrigno Legacy this weekend. Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  20 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and sour cream
  • green bean casserole
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry sauce
  • turkey gravy
  • wine
  • store-bought pumpkin pie

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day. 

Happy holidays!

Evil Things In My Fridge

2464239-fudge-brownies-cookies-and-candy-layed-out-on-fancy-table
One of the casualties of hosting holiday events is that I always find myself saddled with a plethora of desserts which are difficult to resist. For example, I still have homemade fudge, vegan brownies, and vegan banana bread sitting in my fridge which I cannot throw in the trash, because I know all too well how delicious they are. The strange thing is that I have only a small quantity of savory leftovers from Thanksgiving, so I never ran the risk of getting tired of eating turkey and stuffing. Years ago, I would have indulged in whatever leftovers remained without much consequence, but now that I am firmly entrenched in the fitness world, there is no possible way that I would risk unraveling my efforts to remain shoot ready year-round. I hope this proves to people that it is possible to have decadent desserts around without feeling the need to indulge in them. I am not saying that there is no temptation, but I try to ignore the fact that they are in my house. I have a photo shoot in five days and keep reminding myself that it is right around the corner!

Orphan Thanksgiving

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away. Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home and did not cook. Her idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey in the oven, make mashed potatoes and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, coconut brownies and vegan banana bread. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any contest prep meal plan. I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation. I feel the greatest comfort knowing that good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

Being Grateful

family_laughingMost of us are bombarded with countless stressors and may grumble regularly in response to the onslaught. Though I wish I could brush off daily frustrations with grace, I frequently find myself grumbling when I have to navigate through a particularly rough day. Our society is running at a lightning pace, so rapidly that it is next to impossible to allow ourselves an opportunity to stop and enjoy the moment. We bitch and moan about traffic, spilled coffee, being late for appointments, our cell phones losing their charges, etc., and in the process stir up anxiety and discontent in our lives, when we should be grateful for the many gifts and blessings that surround us.

It is easy to think that if we stop for a moment, everything will come crashing down, when in reality that is usually NOT the case. I have taken a baby step in my incredibly busy life lately, and have spent the last few weeks making sure to spend a few minutes every morning petting and snuggling with my cats, enjoying their calm and loving energy, and remembering to breathe and pause before the craziness of day to day life hits. I also am keenly aware of the struggles of a couple of dear friends who are dealing with cancer right now, and cannot even imagine how tremendously difficult their lives must be now that circumstances have caused mundane annoyances to come to a screeching halt. When life is stressful but somehow comfortable in its frenetic rhythm, a catastrophic event or illness will obliterate that false comfort. Suddenly leaving the toilet seat up or getting the wrong food order at a restaurant doesn’t have the same impact or importance.

Now that Thanksgiving is approaching, those of us in the United States will get a yearly reminder to be grateful for all the wonderful things we have. However, I hope that people around the entire globe will embrace the approaching holidays with a renewed appreciation for life and the loved ones around them. It is a blessing to live with good health, surrounded by those we love. If you are fortunate enough to have both, allow things to slow down enough for you to take notice of your surroundings. Put the computer aside, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with your pets or children, visit your relatives, laugh with friends. You might not believe it, but you are allowed to put things aside briefly. The world won’t come crashing down if you do.

‘Tis The Season – How To Stay Lean During The Holidays

Last year I posted a little blurb about off-season maintenance which I think deserves a re-post.  This is especially appropriate since I recently made homemade (unclean) fudge and plan to make it again.  Keep in mind that you can still indulge in these little cheats as long as you keep the rest of your meals clean.  If you do this, you can absolutely maintain a good degree of leanness throughout the holiday season.

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink a glass of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.  One of the worst things you can do is skip meals beforehand in hopes that the caloric deficit will balance out the overindulgence later.  All this does is squash your metabolism and increase your chance of overeating.

As long as you eat clean the remainder of the time, you should be able to stay within a few pounds of your maintenance weight if you do not compete, or within a few pounds of competition weight if you do compete.  Case in point:  I have been eating clean the vast majority of the time, with rare cheats here and there.  Though I was not in contest prep mode for NPC Nationals on November 9th and 10th, I weighed in that week at 117 pounds which is one pound over my competition weight, and had a waist measurement of 22.75 inches.  Last week, I had pizza twice but kept all other meals clean, and was able to maintain my weight at 117 lbs. with a 23 inch waist measurement.  The last thing I want to do is to unravel the results of all the hard work I have invested and continue to invest into my physique.  I did not skip any meals when I had these fun foods but just continued on my usual clean food path.

Some of you may be wondering what the cleanest choices are when you are at the holiday banquet.  Though this reflects the common holiday foods which are rather calorie dense, here are some of the better choices out of the bunch:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  16 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and Greek yogurt
  • creamed spinach
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry-mandarin orange relish
  • turkey gravy
  • rolls
  • wine
  • store-bought chocolate pecan pie (which I probably won’t eat)

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, and since I am only cooking one holiday feast which will be served on one day, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day.  Happy holidays!

Off-Season Maintenance

I know it can be difficult to maintain clean eating during the holidays, especially with no upcoming bodybuilding shows to prep for.  I am a big believer in truly enjoying the holidays guilt-free, which means having a couple of pieces of fudge if you are so inclined, or having champagne to ring in the new year.  However, if the rest of your meals are kept clean, you should be able to survive this time of year without experiencing a catastrophic spread of the waistline.

One trick which helps is to consume a small amount of lean protein when you have a carb cheat, and eat it before the cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink a glass of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.  One of the worst things you can do is skip meals beforehand in hopes that the caloric deficit will balance out the overindulgence later.  All this does is squash your metabolism and increase your chance of overeating.

On the other side of the coin I have seen competitors rein it in so tightly that they make themselves miserable by avoiding holiday treats of any kind.  This can be psychologically very dangerous because they manage to punish themselves, thus solidifying an emotional relationship with food.  I have actually seen people cry after eating something because they felt so guilty about ingesting it.  This is fodder for eating disorders.  The holidays come but once a year, so it is far better to enjoy a few little holiday treats and balance it out with healthy eating.  Happy Holidays and Happy Eating!