Tagged: holidays

Happy or Bah Humbug?

This post first ran last December, but I believe it bears constant repeating, so I gave it a little update and serve it up again.  Please read and remember – life can be stressful and intrusive to your goals, so don’t beat yourself up about unrealized dreams – but DON’T GIVE UP either.

As the year winds down and the holidays rear their busy, caloric, stressful heads I want to take a moment to remind you to be accepting and compassionate – OF YOURSELF! Clearly all of us should be accepting and compassionate of others, but I find that so many people can give love and compassion to others but NOT to themselves. Those types are even tougher on themselves this time of year, which leads to more stress and less enjoyment of what should be a wonderful time. Is that you?


The most typical issues that you might beat yourself up about are:

  • I didn’t reach my goals
  • I didn’t get in shape
  • I’m still at the same dead-end job or relationship
  • Once again I don’t have enough money to enjoy the holidays

So listen what I am yelling at you right now: STOP IT!


If you didn’t reach your goals because you didn’t try, okay, so know you must see that inactivity and/or indecisiveness clearly doesn’t work. So find stronger motivation and perhaps an easier goal to reach (i.e., the first step towards the total end goal) and come January, get off your ass and start moving towards that goal!


If you didn’t get in shape because you didn’t stick with healthier nutrition and an exercise regiment, again, nothing will change until you do. But you are human and not alone in this – so stop beating yourself up about it. Just follow this blog, join a gym, find a trainer, or whatever it is that will MOVE you (pun intended) toward your fitness goals in the new year.


If your job still sucks the life out of you, and/or a relationship has run itself into the ground with no hope of improvement, then decide if you’d rather be exactly where you are NOW one year from now, or somewhere else. If you can’t bear the thought of still being STUCK this time next year, then again, get off your ass and do something about it. There’s ALWAYS a choice that can be made and implemented.


Lastly, as for the dreaded cost and stress of holiday shopping – I know for a fact that most of us would really rather spend quality time with our friends just sitting around being together, drinking wine, playing cards, watching a movie, having a meal, etc. Same goes for fun or funny homemade or gag gifts that break no one’s bank. A token present or little joke gift to remind someone that they’ve got a friend who cares is really the best gift of all. No one wants a gift when the giver has stressed themselves out over it or incurred debt. The only person who truly demands a certain amount of money spent or certain high quality of gift is usually YOU, the giver. Otherwise, they’re not a person you should be hanging with anyway.


I’ve actually implemented a White Elephant gift exchange with a large group of my friends. Everyone spends a maximum of $25 and then after an hour or so of drinking and laughing over the constant stealing of gifts (look up white elephant parties if you don’t understand) everyone leaves with one nice gift and no one went broke.

African elephant with santa's cap delivering christmas gifts.

So do what you can to be happy and not bah-humbug this holiday season, and get your ducks in a row to hit the ground running come January. Then let the rest of your worries go and just enjoy life as it is. (And remember you’ve got me in your corner – I’m always happy to help keep you motivated too!)


Enough With Political Correctness

I find myself laughing and simultaneously grinding my teeth over all the hubbub about holiday political correctness. Was it right or wrong for Starbucks to change their cups during the year-end holidays? Is it right or wrong that I just called it “holidays” instead of Christmas? Who the bleep cares?


Seriously we are spending too much time worrying about hurting people’s feelings. I’m not saying let’s go back to the blatant racism and sexism of the 60’s, but I don’t really think that most reasonable adults, whether Jewish or Atheist, care if we call it Christmas. Likewise, I think stewardess is NOT an offensive title, and I really think it’s down right silly to label any Americans by a country-first title (i.e., African-American, Japanese-American). With this line of thinking would I be a Persian-American AND a Russian-American? After all, my Father was born in Iran, and I am first generation American born, while my Mother’s parents were all born in Russia, making me second generation American.


I know my soapbox issue today has nothing to do with fitness, except to say that if any of your day is spent worrying about how to address someone or if you said Merry Christmas when you should have said Happy Holidays, then it does add to your stress and you know I’m always addressing stress. Stress is the worst assaulter of your health and fitness.


Christmas is for most of us (even those who are Christian) a holiday that celebrates family, gift giving, feast partaking and song. It has little to do these days with Christ for most of the United States. I say that not to offend anyone of you who closely tie Christmas to the birth of Jesus. I simply say it because like it or not, America is a capitalistic society and Christmas (Easter too) has been transformed into a commercial vehicle. Fortunately many of us still hold firm to the warmth and universal love of the season and therefore it remains a generally positive holiday.


I see no reason to not call it Christmas. Conversely I think Fox News should lay off the “war on Christmas” accusations because Starbucks chose to not “offend” its Jewish, Muslim, and Atheist customers. Even if the cups wouldn’t have offended anyone, it’s their right to make that call, and they’re not pooping on Christmas!


I rant today knowing full well that on my Christmas Cards for the last several years I’ve chosen to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas (or as I like to say Happy Kringle – paying homage to early Christmas Beatles recordings). However, I do so not because I’m trying to be politically correct, but because I’m attempting to encompass all the December holidays: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and New Years.


So from now on, don’t think twice to say Merry Christmas if that’s what you like to say, and don’t worry if you describe someone as White, Black or Asian. Better to focus on being polite and considerate to everyone you meet rather than fretting that you’ve offended a group using a long-standing non-offensive term.



What’s In A Gift?

Now that we’re full swing into the year-end gift-giving holidays I find more and more of my friends and clients are stressed about the one aspect of these holidays that is supposed to make us feel good – the giving of gifts. People worry that they’re spending too much over-all, while simultaneously fretting that each individual gift is too little (either in cost or significance). This constant battle of the wallet vs. “what statement a gift makes” is seriously tainting these “happy holidays.”


I fondly cite one of my many favorite Friends episodes where Joey challenges Phoebe to find a truly selfless act. While she prides herself on being a “giving” person because it makes others feel good, Joey is quick to point out that she ultimately enjoys giving because it makes HER feel good – which in essence is a selfish act.


I too like being selfish in this arena. I love giving gifts to my loved ones because it DOES make me feel good, especially when I know that the gift is something they will likely use, enjoy, and appreciate AND because I don’t stress myself out over the gift. I understand that what makes a good gift is not how much it costs, but how well-chosen it is for the person receiving it. Even the smallest of gifts, if thoughtful, are usually more cherished than an expensive item. I have earrings that cost $1 that a best friend gave me 25 years ago that I still wear and love to this day – because they are very “me” (my style) and because they remind me of our time spent together when we young and broke.

a present for you

The other important aspect of stress-free gift-giving is to remember that for most of us we are not giving just to receive something back, and most likely neither are our friends. “I do not give to get.” (In fact I have to admit that I get more joy from giving than I do from receiving.)  Also, just because someone can afford to buy a gift doesn’t mean that a homemade gift or a “voucher” to do something together at another time has any less value or impact. Often it has more, for what is one of the universal best gifts we can all give each other? Time spent together!

When I was in my young and single and living on a shoe-string budget, I made most of my holiday gifts.  I made candles, candlesticks, soaps, hand-painted wine-glasses, and other items — purchasing all supplies needed at dollar-stores.  All my friends loved these gifts and even lamented that they wished they had been creative instead of shopping.


So if money’s tight, consider a home-made gift, or a “gift certificate” promising to see a movie together, or that you’ll cook a meal for them, or simply have a night out at a time when you’re more flush. No one wants their friends or loved ones to be stressed this time of year. Year end holidays are about money and gifts – they’re about taking time to count your blessings, and be appreciative of your family, friends, and health (hopefully).


Remind your children (and yourself) that the holidays are not about getting a bunch toys and gifts.  What ultimately makes us all happy is simply spending quality time together be happy. Kids need love and memories of time spent with stress-free parents way more than they need the latest gadget.  Remember also, that love and thought-fullness is the best gift we can all give to each other and ourselves!


Managing Holiday Eat Outs

If fitness and nutrition occupy a large portion of your life as they do for me, the most stressful part of the holidays is how to maintain your nutritional goals/routines while still enjoying multiple feasts, parties, and restaurant gatherings. During this past Thanksgiving I successfully implemented a plan that allowed me to stay on track nutritionally while still participating in family events full of high-caloric foods, desserts and lots of wine… lots and lots of wine (wink). (This is extra-important as during the 4-day holiday I, like many of you, did not get to work out.)

So here’s the four simple steps that I follow and I highly recommend you give this “plan” a try as you head towards the year-end holidays and celebrations:

1. Be Choosey:

While I do enjoy almost all of the Thanksgiving foods, I realized that some of them I can skip (or eat a significantly small portion) and not feel that I was cheated out of something special. For example, mashed potatoes are easily available and/or made all year round and really do not add that much joy to my personal pallet (same for cranberry sauce). Stuffing on the other hand, is generally reserved for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas and I find it to be a “treat” I enjoy. Therefore, I skipped past the potatoes and sugary-cranberries, and instead drizzled gravy all over my decent-sized portion of stuffing. My pallet was happy, and I didn’t feel stuffed since I had less food on my plate.


2. Keep Quantities small – eat more often.

By now you all should be following my repeated advice to eat six small meals a day. In keeping with that, it’s easy to take a very small portion of each dish you enjoy (even if that’s all of them) and allow yourself to hold off on seconds – at least for 10 minutes to see if your stomach’s “full indicator” catches up with brain and taste-buds. You can always have round two a few hours later as one of your next meals/snacks. This keeps you from over-eating, while maintaining that fuel-in vs. fuel-out metabolism boost.


3. Opt for Restaurant Simple.

When dining out, if you keep your orders simple, small and flavorful, you will not only feel satisfied nutritionally, you will feel relieved that you didn’t over-indulge and in most cases small simple choices are also way better on your wallet! My family went to a Mexican restaurant for brunch one day and I chose a small mixed veggie salad and added grilled salmon, pine nuts and feta (dressing on the side of course). The dish was super-yummy, not too much food, affordable, and stayed well within my nutritional routine.


4. Keep the alcohol and sweets separate.

This last trick is a great way to “have your cake and drink it too!” I find that if I limit my meals to having either a dessert or some wine, I not only keep that uncomfortable fullness at bay, but I balance out my sugars as well. As an example we had a wine picnic one day where I skipped over the decadent chocolate dessert in favor of a long afternoon of drinking (wine tasting and a few bottles shared). Later at dinner, I abstained from the wine and enjoyed a luscious dessert.


So fear not and stress not – with a touch of restraint and clever planning you can enjoy all the upcoming holiday feasts and parties without blowing out your waistline or your fitness goals. Cheers!

3 Holiday Health Hints

Well it’s Christmas eve and the week has been hectic for me as well as for many of you. Therefore, I thought it the perfect time to I remind us all of some very important perspectives that help keep our lives FIT (hence “Dane Life Fitness”). Here are my top three tips to having a better time through the holidays – and everyday!

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.

Such a simple statement from Richard Carlson’s best-selling self-help book. Don’t sweat the small stuff – because it’s ALL small stuff. I always tell my clients to picture their dilemma/issue/problem as a spec on the road of life. If you believe that when you look back a year from now it will have been a pebble sized blip, then don’t sweat it. If the issue has significant importance, staying calm will help you solve it all the quicker anyway! (I recommend the book by the way.  Great quick read that will inspire you.)


Time Together Matters More Than Perfection.

So many of us get wrapped up this time of year (pun intended) in making sure we get family and friends the perfect gift(s) or presenting a perfect meal, perfectly decorated house, flawless backed goods, etc. In reality, every single one of us would rather just be together having good laughs and making fun memories, wouldn’t we? I’d rather have my best friend here sipping a $10 bottle of red while we play Uno with our children, then stress over how much I have to spend on a present, and how early I have to get up to cook a turkey.



As other of my blogs have addressed, breathing is crucial to stress management. Deep slow breaths lower blood pressure and clear your head. Taking time to breathe when you feel harried gives you a better perspective (once again referring to my first tip). As you and your peeps sit down to a holiday meal (be it roasted turkey or KFC), grab hands, close your eyes, and take 5 deep slow breaths together. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.


* * * * *

I wish you all Happy Kringle, Happy Christmas, Happy Holidays, but most of all, Happy Healthy Hearts!



Don’t Let The Holidays Kill Your Joy!

christmas_stress_shoppingWe all know that certain times of year there seems to be not enough time to get everything done.  December is most certainly the busiest time of year (I even missed posting a blog last week because of my commitments and chores). I listen to my clients grumble that they have to go buy this, or committed to bake that, and they can’t make their training sessions because they promised the kids they’d take them ice skating though they “haven’t the time or energy.”

But something I have learned in my quest to maintain a martyr free life is that no matter how busy, no matter how many things you think need to be done, there is always time to stop and smell the gingerbread! The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, not stress and forced smiles.

Ultimately all any of us really want is to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere, enjoying a cup of hot-cocoa (always quick and easy to make) and just sharing good times.  Even kids would rather have your attention at home playing a card game, than ice skating if it means that you are uptight and irritated by kidscardsthe crowded (and often expensive) ice rink experience.

Traditionally, the holidays were a time when families gathered to enjoy the comfort of a warm home, a hearty meal, and laughter around the table.  Simple, and often homemade gifts were exchanged, and most importantly the holiday period itself was 2 days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Now we suffer the onslaught of holiday regalia and commercialism starting as early as October!  The pressure is on to buy, bake, decorate, celebrate goes on for way too long!

gingerbreadSo I say step off the holiday bullet-train.  None of this really matters in the long run.  Life goes on, friendships continue, and a life less stressed is worth more than the gratitude of that gift you hastily purchased in a crowded mall when your budget was already shot.

Short on time, money or ideas for gifts – give homemade cards that offer a “lets go see a movie together in the new year” or an invitation to “dinner at our house next month,” etc. Give your kids arts & crafts gifts that you will make with them during the school break. Stay home and just be with your loved ones.

As for me I make the following promises to myself every year:

  • I’ll make time for the gym but I won’t worry about my calories
  • I will give thoughtful but affordable gifts and won’t worry about if I’ve given enough


  • I will remember that Christmas dinner does not need to be an exhausting production – just put a turkey in a roasting bag, throw some veggies in a casserole dish, and pour lots of wine.


In the end if will be the relaxed fun around the table that my guests will remember and they will know I love them — which is all anyone really wants at the Holidays!