Written on December 12, 2014 at 11:51 am , by Mallory Creveling
Dessert trays, cocktail parties, big family meals—it’s the perfect combo for a happy holiday, but for a trim waistline? Not so much. Of course, occasional indulging is okay, but to stop you from overdoing it, we pinged Amanda Butler, a trainer at NYC’s BFX studio, a boutique gym that offers classes like barre, group cycling and circuit workouts. She gave her top exercising and eating tips for keeping the number on the scale steady throughout the season.
1. Take Four for Fitness
Making time to break a sweat will torch some of those calories from pie and cake. To quickly maximize the burn, try a Tabata routine—a type of high-intensity interval training that requires you to push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and repeat for eight rounds. That’s just four minutes of work!
The move Amanda says works best to sculpt from head to toe: burpees. To tackle this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, then jump your feet behind you so you’re in a push-up position. Perform one push-up. Next, jump your feet forward toward your arms, then stand and jump straight up, clapping your hands over your head. You’ll burn approximately 75 calories in just four minutes with this move—that’s about one chocolate chip cookie. For similar results without the full-on burpee, alternate jump squats and push-ups (you can put your knees on the floor to modify it) for your 20-second intervals.
2. Keep Moving
While you’re waiting to take the ham or casserole out of the oven, do a few quick moves, such as triceps dips or step-ups with the kitchen chair. It always helps to take the stairs and walk more too, so park farther from the mall entrance or grocery store to get more steps.
3. Grab and Go
At the dessert table, put the two treats you love the most on your plate and walk away. Enjoy each bite and then start a conversation with someone at a spot located away from the sweets so you’re not tempted to snag more.
4. Graze at a Slow Pace
When you’re having a group dinner, eat slowly and put your utensils down every now and then to help you do so. Savor the flavors and pay attention to how you feel. If you let out a big sigh from being so full, it’s definitely time to stop nibbling.
5. Plan for Celebrations
Don’t show up to your company’s or friend’s bash on an empty stomach. Have a snack, like an apple, before you go so you’re not feeling ravenous and ready to scarf down whatever you see first. Also, sip water between cocktails and swap the sugar- and fat-filled choices, such as eggnog or a flavored martini, for lighter beverages, like a vodka soda with lime or red wine.
6. Mentally (and Socially) Prepare
Give yourself a little pep talk before a full day of dining so you’re ready to turn down the second (or third) helping. And let others know you’re trying to watch your weight so they don’t peer pressure you into having more food and drinks.
Written on April 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm , by Jill Feigelman
Confession: The Easter Bunny terrified me as a kid. And to be honest, I’m still a little wary of rabbits bearing Easter treats. That’s not to say that I’m afraid of bunnies in general, or even giant bunnies in particular (Harvey is one of my favorite movies).
It all started with the Bunny Incident. The fear brought on by that one event extended throughout my Easter-Passover (Esterover, to me) activities, even the opening of the door for Elijah at our seders. (Raised in a family with a Jewish dad and a Catholic mom, I was celebrating multiple holidays before Chrismukkah was even a word.)
When I awoke on Easter morning at the age of 3, my eyes popped. Not from seeing a basket filled to the brim with chocolate and Peeps (you could have bribed me to do anything with those bits of marshmallow goodness) but because of the circle of stuffed bunnies from my toy collection that surrounded the basket. Bunnies of all shapes and colors had their button eyes focused on my basket of treats. How did they get there? I knew they couldn’t walk. That left only one suspect: the Easter Bunny himself. This was the moment I came up with the Bunny Ban.
According to my parents, I shakily stated that I didn’t want the Easter Bunny (a giant 8-foot-tall pink-fur-covered creature in my mind) coming into my room and rummaging through my mountain of toys ever again. When my dad joked that if I didn’t want the Bunny to visit anymore I just had to say something, I pondered. Even at that young age I knew not to bite the hand that fed me. Then I clarified: I still wanted the baskets, but the Bunny had to leave them outside my bedroom door.
Thus the Bunny Ban went into effect. And that would be the case for the next few years. Still, I always felt a little trepidation on Easter night, and that feeling spilled over into our seders. Other than reciting the Four Questions (questions 3 and 4 were always a family effort, since I never could remember them all), opening the door to let Elijah in was my favorite part of the service. But after the Bunny Incident, I started thinking about what might happen if Elijah actually did come in or if the wine disappeared from Elijah’s glass. Similarly, I always wondered what I would do if I caught the Easter Bunny breaking my ban.
When I came to the realization that the 8-foot pink-fur creature was actually my parents, a sense of relief washed over me. Now when I recall the Bunny Incident, I break into a smile. I understand it was actually a very cute sign of how much my parents loved me. Not that I really needed a bunny circle to prove it. They tried to make everything special for me, even letting me open the door for Elijah all by myself as a young kid at Passover.
I also learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes doing something nice for a child backfires in ways you could never imagine. But even when parents make mistakes, most of the time they make them out of love.
Written on April 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm , by Family Circle
By JM Randolph, the Accidental Stepmom
It’s time to break the silence on one of the more problematic issues facing blended families today: what to do about the Easter Bunny.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, my stepkids adjusted far more easily to all holiday celebrations other than Easter in our new family situation. I place the blame squarely on that nebulous bunny.
When I was a kid, the Easter Bunny brought the baskets and hid the eggs that my sister and I then found, but even then I knew it didn’t happen the same way at everyone’s house.
The Easter Bunny has no standards. He has neither sidekicks nor clearly delineated responsibilities. In the realm of mythical childhood mascots, every other one of them has a well-defined job description. At least with Santa, you can connect the goodness and giving part of his gig to the deeper spiritual nature of the holiday. The validity of connecting a bunny to an empty tomb is a stretch. Even if we connect him to the prolific…proliferation…of bunnies in order to symbolize the rebirth and fertility of spring, in no tradition anywhere does a rabbit lay chicken eggs.
Trying to understand the Easter Bunny is like reading a technical manual that has been badly translated from Arabic to French to Chinese to English. Some words are there on the page, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.
My husband wasn’t terribly helpful when it came to sharing Easter traditions. “That was their mom’s holiday,” he said. “I did Christmas.” So that first year, we guessed. The Easter baskets were ready when they woke up in the morning. They contained bubbles, chalk, Frisbees, balsa airplanes, two Hula Hoops and enough candy to send a small village into a stupor.
13-year-old girl: What’s all this?
Me: Easter baskets. From the Easter Bunny.
13-y-o: Why did the “Easter Bunny” come so early? He usually doesn’t come until after church and he only brings candy. [Insert sarcastic teen voice.] Mom would get us all in the car to go to church waaay early, and suddenly remember that she forgot something in the house. She’d go back inside for like fifteen minutes, and then when we got home from church the “Easter Bunny” would have miraculously delivered the Easter baskets.
Me: Easter is all about the miracles.
Where things really broke down was the egg hunt. If you’re not raised with the belief that the Easter Bunny hides the eggs, nothing will convince you otherwise. Not even the 4-year-old was buying it.
The only egg hunts they had done were at churches or parks in large groups. These kids are super competitive to begin with, so we hid some easy, some hard, and let them stagger the start youngest to oldest. That only made the oldest notice all her siblings occupied in the back and immediately move to the front yard to find every single egg there in about ninety seconds.
They were sorely disappointed that only real eggs were hidden. Apparently there were supposed to be plastic eggs filled with candy and money.
Easter remains the holiday that I never get right. I’ve stopped trying, and instead look for ways to amuse myself.
I have to give the Easter Bunny due credit: He saved me one time by stepping in for the Tooth Fairy. After the Tooth Fairy forgot to show up several nights in a row, the Easter Bunny covered the duties and wrote a note of apology, which was unquestioningly and gleefully accepted by the loser of the tooth (the Easter Bunny being more generous than the Tooth Fairy).
I was interrupted during story time the other day by the 18-year-old barging into her brother’s room to ask me to pass along to the Easter Bunny the fact that she doesn’t like the large robin’s eggs candy, only the small ones.
I decided it’s time for the Tooth Fairy to repay the debt to the Easter Bunny by taking over duties this Easter.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.
Written on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm , by familycircle
By Janet Taylor, M.D., M.P.H
As we approach the holiday season, it’s absolutely crucial that moms practice using one word: No. It doesn’t make you an obstinate toddler or the queen of mean when you turn down an invitation to a holiday party or skip some items on your kid’s Christmas list. But it does free you from jam-packed days and help you become more discerning about how you spend your time. It makes you really think about what’s important and assures your pass on what’s not. Saying “No” to one person enables you say “Yes” to another: your husband, your child, even yourself.
This month, I’m challenging you to say yes to what’s a true priority and turn down everything else. And it starts right here. Even if it’s just one thing, post a comment below and tell me what you’ll say no to this holiday season.
A mother of four, Dr. Janet is a psychiatrist in New York City and director of guest support for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Follow her on Twitter @drjanet.