Not immune to the gloom (but stepping it up)


It’s been raining for weeks.

WEEKS. Not being dramatic. We had a rare respite yesterday with a 70-degree day and sunshine, but aside from that? RAIN. Rain every day. Every. single. day.

Though I spend almost the entire day indoors, I’m not immune to the gloom. Our office moved to a high-rise in March with a large expanse of windows (natural light, thank goodness), but my view now? Clouds. Gray clouds. Pouring rain.

As it is for many folks, I’m sure, the weather can definitely set the tone for the day.

Especially when I am, for the first time in ages, wanting to move.

In my Christmas stocking last year was a pedometer — a gift from my parents I embraced with gusto. As a competitive person obsessed with numbers and tracking, it was so interesting to see how much — or, in my case, how little — I walked each day.

For Mother’s Day, Oliver (er, Spencer) surprised me with my humble pedometer’s sleek older sibling: the FitBit One, which links to an app that gives me graphs and charts of my activity each day. Charts! For an English major, I get stupidly excited about graphs, man. And having a tangible way to map my progress as I try to move more each day has been really gratifying. And fun.

My step-count is nothing to get excited about. While the American Heart Association recommends walking 10,000 steps a day, I’ve crossed that finish line once since January. I make a concentrated effort to take the stairs at work, take breaks in the afternoons, even force myself to make an extra lap around the building before I head in the front door.

During our short-lived reunion with the sun yesterday, I actually took a 20-minute walk along the meandering sidewalks outside our building: an extra 1,400 steps.

But on an average day, I’m still doing about 4,000-5,000 steps — well shy of the 10,000 step goal.

Purely for selfish reasons, I recently researched how to add steps to your work day for a feature in our health magazine. SparkPeople had some great tips, and this one was my favorite:

“Be Inefficient. We are all so busy that it makes sense to multitask, combining several errands in a single trip, ordering takeout from the computer we’re already sitting in front of, or carrying that armload of clothes + toys + shoes + toilet paper upstairs in a single trip.

While technology has made a lot of things easier on us, what if you deliberately tried to be inefficient — any time it involved being on your feet. On days that I know I’ve been less active, I choose to be inefficient as a way to get more activity in while getting my daily chores or work done. For example, I’ll carry the laundry downstairs in three smaller trips instead of one oversized basket, or pick up and put away one item in the house at a time instead of filling my arms in an efficient way.

Although it can be difficult to justify taking more time to do basic things when you’re busy, I justify it to myself by thinking of it as multitasking: I’m getting activity in at the same time as my chores.”

I’m the person half-collapsed under a pile of grocery bags because I hate having to make two trips from the car, so this? This spoke to me. Spoke to my essence of very being. In the morning, I often come close to wrenching my back out because I carry my purse, laptop bag, lunch bag, Oliver’s bottles and the car seat out before I come back for the baby.

And you know what that is? Crazy.

I’m getting better. Thinking more. Being conscious of how little I normally move, how much better I feel with some activity and enjoying the ripple effect of wanting to eat better when I’m doing better with my movement.

Just wearing the FitBit is a huge motivator for me: knowing I’m earning a few extra steps (and credit for the stairs!) when I have to haul my rump back up for another diaper or my misplaced cell phone makes me . . . well, less irritable, actually.

And maybe that was Spencer’s plan all along. 😉

Any favorite tricks or tips for moving more during your day?
Spill your secrets. We’re all friends here!


Weighty issues (oh, and slow cooker thyme pork roast)


I think I set a record on Sunday.

The very first person — ever, in the history of kitchens — to call out, “Oh, don’t even TELL me we’re out of caraway seed.”

Because … who uses caraway seed? And who uses caraway seed so often that they actually fear running out of it?

(Well, my delightful grandmother, who made the Polish-inspired dishes from her own youth that I devoured in mine. But, you know.)

Never fear: our jar of caraway seed was more than halfway full, so I could stifle the panic building in my chest as I prepared this slow cooker meal for Monday. That’s right, friends: I officially got my act together and prepared a meal a day in advance, refrigerated it and pulled it out Monday morning to simmer for that evening’s dinner. (Just let the crock warm up to room temperature first, of course.)

And it was delicious.

Like, oh, much of the adult population, January finds me thinking about goals and priorities and all that adult-ish stuff. Now that I’m also a mother, a working mother and an often stressed working mother, I really want to get back to writing out a serious meal plan on weekends, sticking to it, grocery shopping on Sunday and placing an emphasis on healthy eats.

Despite my hesitancy in my last post, I went ahead and jumped back into Weight Watchers (affiliate link). It’s been three years since I nervously attended my first meeting and two since I hit my goal weight, dropping 35 pounds, but I’m now — post-Oliver — heavier than I was when I started in 2013.

I just wasn’t sure I was ready for that level of commitment. Last summer, when I was an exhausted new parent who had just returned to work, I got it into my head that I needed to get “me” back. Now. If I let myself slack off with my eating, I thought, I’ll never lose the weight again. I’ll roll right back into old habits. That will be the end of the person I used to know.

Well, I was right — and wrong.

I’m not my pre-baby self again, of course. Everything that happened in 2015 — the beautiful, the scary, the overwhelming, the miraculous — changed me forever. Becoming a parent changes you forever . . . and I’m extremely grateful for that! I mean, it should.

But I did go back to old habits. It’s tough to come out of a pregnancy — unexpectedly early, too — and go right back to tracking every single thing you put in your mouth: something I was not in the habit of doing. Like, at all. For the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I pretty much lived off Chick-Fil-A’s frozen lemonade milkshakes.

When Oliver remained in the hospital for a month, Spencer and I ate whatever was quick and convenient. This translated to many lackluster cafeteria meals a few floors down from his NICU, as well as Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A runs at odd hours driving back from Baltimore.

When he finally came home, it was just about stuffing something in your face between feedings, and diapers, and screeching.

Prepping enough to prepare healthy, quick meals with a newborn in the house? It just didn’t happen. I had grand ambitions of getting freezer meals ready before the baby came, trying to make our lives a little easier, but . . . well. That obviously didn’t happen.

After I went back to work in mid-June, I thought: it’s time. I now have nine uninterrupted hours in which I can focus on my job and control what I’m eating at ye ol’ desk.

That didn’t happen, either.

I was tired. And sick. Our company was sold over the summer and everyone’s duties changed quickly. Many of my friends were laid off, and I was staring down an extreme amount of change in a short time. It was the final straw in a very stressful season.

Quite honestly, I was depressed.

Though I haven’t discussed it publicly, I’ve been struggling with PTSD and postpartum anxiety since last spring — and there are times it was all I could do to get through the day. I finally sought help in the fall and feel about 1,879,986 times better than I did in October. The pressing weight of worry has lifted.

Through all that? I wasn’t obsessing about eating pumpkin pie, I can assure you.


But I’m out of excuses now.

Oliver has been sleeping through the night — with the occasional hiccup, of course — for months . . . which means Spencer and I have, too. That early haze of dead exhaustion, which clouded absolutely everything, is gone.

Work has settled down. I’m happy and excited with my new responsibilities, and enjoying the new challenges. I’m still writing my column, but also working on projects and articles about different, interesting things. It’s really . . . fun. I miss my friends, of course, but we’ve kept in touch through the holidays.

The holidays are over. They were beautiful, but there’s something refreshing about vacuuming up all that rogue tinsel. It was sad hauling out the Christmas tree, but let’s be honest: the holidays have their own pressures that can’t be denied. Choosing perfect gifts, paying for said gifts, trying to see family and friends in a short time, traveling. It’s . . . a lot.

But January is bare. January is clean. January is scrubbed fresh, a calendar waiting to be filled with whatever we choose, and I’m ready again.

So I’m choosing my health.

It’s been a whole four days since I got back on track with Weight Watchers, so the aroma of my enthusiasm is still quite strong, I know! But honestly, there’s comfort in getting back to a familiar program that helped me so much before. It taught me to control my eating — and gave me such confidence — for the first time in my adult life.

Weight Watchers has been revamped for 2016, and I love the changes. LOVE. (They are not paying me to say this, by the way; my subscription is paid for by yours truly, along with generous affiliate referrals.) With their new “Beyond the Scale” approach, there’s a much greater emphasis on physical activity — not just your pants size. Obviously we’re all joining Weight Watchers to learn healthier habits and drop pounds, but everything begins and ends with overall health.

They’ve revamped how points for foods and drinks are calculated, and the new method makes much more sense. Under the old system, fats were fats; it didn’t matter if they were saturated, “bad” fats or good, healthy fats, ones we need and should eat. For example, a tablespoon of olive oil and tablespoon of butter could have the same points value. So what’s the incentive to go with the healthier option?

Many things haven’t changed, thankfully: fresh fruits and vegetables are still zero points, so you can — and should! — eat as much as you want. That was my saving grace the first go ’round. If I’d overindulged earlier in the day and was out of points for that after-dinner snack, I could always reach for a clementine and not feel deprived. There was always something to eat — as long as I’d made the effort to stock up on healthy food for the house. (But that’s another post.)

The first time I joined WW, I wanted to feel better: physically, mentally, emotionally. And I absolutely did. But I’ve come back to WW because I want to get my blood pressure down, return to a much healthier relationship with food and start showing my son — right now — that how we treat our bodies matters. And I know WW works.

So: there it is. My current weighty issues. It feels good to just . . . get all that out.

And I swear, this started out as a recipe post!

So, um, did you want to talk about pork tenderloin? Sure. Okay. Let’s do this.

This recipe is a WW recipe, actually: from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, which is ringbound and glossy and pretty. Some of the recipes I’ve made from it have been hits, others misses, but this one? Definite hit.

If you don’t like sauerkraut, you won’t like this. But if you do? You will. So much that you’ll want to make it again immediately. The apples lend a delicious sweetness to the dish, while the sauerkraut, caraway seed and onion — which mellows through slow cooking — give it punch.

It’s the perfect blend of sweet/sour. Dig in!


Slow cooker pork roast
with sauerkraut and apples

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (1 1/2-pound) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of fat
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 (2-pound) package of sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 large red or white onion, sliced
1 McIntosh or Cortland apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1/2 cup dry white wine
Chopped fresh parsley

1. Sprinkle thyme, pepper and salt over pork. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes.

2. Combine sauerkraut, onion, apple and caraway seeds in 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Place pork on top of vegetables; pour wine over. Cover and cook until pork and vegetables are fork-tender, about 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

3. Transfer pork to platter and cut into 6 slices. Spoon sauerkraut mixture around pork and sprinkle with parsley. Serves 6.

From Points to pregnancy: dealing with weight gain so far


This time last year, I was celebrating two milestones: my first anniversary with Weight Watchers and achieving lifetime status with the program after reaching my goal weight. Dropping those 35 pounds took me out of the “overweight” category for the first time in my adult life.

Shedding that weight was life-changing for me. Beyond being happier with my appearance, I actually had energy. Drive. Purpose. My new relationship with food made me feel empowered, not guilty. I slept better, walked taller and generally felt like Meg 2.0. And I was getting married!

Life was great before, but after WW? It was fantastic.

When I learned I was pregnant last September, I had every intention — every intention in the world! — of maintaining my healthy eating habits. Reaching for a banana instead of a high-calorie snack was just what I did — not something I thought about. I was so well-versed in the Weight Watchers way of life that I tracked Points in my head, naturally knowing when I’d overdone it or could indulge a little that day.

And I wanted — want — to have a fit pregnancy. As Spence and I began to discuss starting a family, I started researching prenatal health and nutrition. Armed with facts, data and support from doctors and other mamas, I felt fairly confident that I could continue to be me . . . just with a baby bump.

And then I got sick.

Funnel cake

The nausea started in week five, reaching a delirious fever pitch in week eight. Though I have heard so many stories that make my own morning (er, all day) sickness seem wimpy by comparison, there is no denying I was ill. Perpetually nauseous. Foods I once loved — Brussels sprouts, hummus, green beans, yogurt, chicken — became Enemy No. 1. In the weeks after we learned I was expecting, my husband and I basically had to empty out our fridge and start again.

There was no telling what would set off my gag reflex, which made it even harder. I would walk into a restaurant craving chips and queso, then panic and walk out before I’d even gotten to the counter. Something I loved one day — spicy pickles, chocolate ice cream — would sicken me the next.

What I could count on? Breads. Macaroni and cheese. Bagels. Potato chips. Rich, carb-heavy foods that seemed to settle my stomach the way my lighter fare could not.

In short? I wanted everything I stopped eating after committing to healthy eating. For the first time in more than a year, our house was packed with junk food — and I began packing on the pounds.

At this point, 20 of them.

Until I began to make my peace with it, that number terrified me. Though I limit what/how much I’m reading about pregnancy (online, especially), I know a “healthy” weight gain in the first few months is generally between one and five pounds. I probably gained that in the second week.

Now 19 weeks along, I’ve discussed this with my doctor. I’m closely monitored. I weigh in at every appointment, give blood and urine — all the normal procedures. And so far, I’m good. We’re good. At this point, there is no reason to worry or obsess about my weight — and that knowledge calms me down.

Also? I’ve learned to cut myself some slack.

Brussels sprouts

Those early months felt like I was stumbling around with an awful stomach virus — and if I thought I was going to be munching on salad greens with a light vinaigrette, well . . . there was no way. No way. I wasn’t sitting down to five-course dinners, but I was eating what I could stomach — and snacking often to keep the queasiness at bay.

Physically, I did what I had to do to get through it.

But emotionally, it was tough.

After feeling so healthy, strong and slim, my body’s rapid transformation was crazy. I felt sick, not pregnant, so it was psychologically tough to differentiate between gaining weight for a little one and just . . . gaining weight.

Those early months were hard.

I subscribe to a few baby boards for expectant moms also due in June. Though they can be something of a dark hole sometimes, especially for nervous first-timers, I do find camaraderie there — and answers to many “Is this normal?”-type questions. (Answer: probably. Everything is weird in pregnancy.)

But when I see a post called “No weight gain!!!” or “Feeling fat,” I know to stay away.

They’re triggers for me . . . especially when I started scrolling through posts from women who had not gained a pound — or actually lost weight — in their first trimester. Even recently, at almost five months along, some ladies can still fit into non-maternity clothing. Entire threads of women showing off their svelte figures at 12, 14 or 16 weeks made me self-conscious and anxious.

I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at six weeks along — because I really needed them. My pants with their single-digit tags now look laughably small, and 75 percent of my wardrobe is completely unwearable.

But this is a season. You’re growing a baby, I gently remind myself — so of course I’m growing, too.

Though I know they’re probably innocent, remarks about suddenly seeing weight gain “in my face” take me aback. I’m so happy to be having this baby, but the comments about my changing shape are hard to take. Especially with a smile.

A friend — a mom of two herself — recently told me that, once you’re obviously expecting, everyone feels as though your body is public property. Your breasts, rump and belly are all open for conversation, scrutiny and comparison . . . along with your eating habits. And parenting style. And so on.

When I was craving Milano cookies in November, someone casually mentioned “all the sweets” at my desk.

“Remember, you’re going to have to take all that weight back off,” she warned. “And good luck with that.”

I feel I need a disclaimer here . . . a big, bold one that says, Yes, I am so unbelievably happy about this baby! We already love him or her so much, and I know all these changes will be more than worth it. With time and patience, I’m sure I’ll begin to feel like my old self again.

But it’s still hard sometimes.

Honestly, it is.

So, the title of my post: how I’m “dealing with” weight gain at five months along? Now that the dark, sick days of the first trimester are behind me, I find myself . . . thinking again. Thinking like Meg 2.0.

About what I’m eating.
Why I’m eating it.
How it’s benefiting Baby J — and if it’s benefiting me.
Am I hungry . . . or bored?
If I’m hungry, is this what I’m really hungry for?

Slowly, slowly, the fruit and vegetables have returned to my plate. Slowly, slowly, I’m reaching less for the chips and more for the almonds. String cheese is back, as is Greek yogurt. And my appetite for meat, though smaller, has also returned. (Minus chicken. Something still doesn’t sit right with me.)

I’m feeling less like the junky, tired stranger who arrived in the fall and more like the empowered, choosy woman — the mom-to-be (!) — that I’m much more comfortable with. I feel human.

I guess that’s why everyone loves the second trimester, right?

Shifting from Points to pregnancy hasn’t been seamless, and I know I’ll feel a thousand conflicted emotions between now and June. (And, you know, for the rest of my life.) But I feel like I’ve reached a place where I’m feeling well enough — and strong enough — to take control of my nutrition again.

And I really want to. Moving forward, I want to approach healthy eating during pregnancy with the same zeal that first brought me to Weight Watchers in 2013.

Though part of me does wish we could take that whole “eating for two” thing literally sometimes — especially when funnel cake is involved.

Pass me an apple instead?

Broccoli cheddar and a book for the soul


There’s nothing like treating yourself to lunch.

I stopped for a while, mostly when I went full-force on Weight Watchers and knew that dining out each day was a surefire way to go over my daily points allowance. Lunches out went from commonplace status to special treat — and that wasn’t a bad thing! Not for my wallet, my waistline, my psyche.

When I stopped worrying about lunches every day, I became more productive at work and in my personal life. The time I once used to read over soup at Panera became a chance to run errands, get gas, swing by the grocery store for random items. All those little, annoying tasks we must fit in somewhere.

But I missed those relaxing breaks. A chance to step away from the desk and into the sunshine; an opportunity to reunite with characters, eat a hot meal and gather my thoughts. I don’t mind eating alone . . . it’s one of my favorite things to do, actually. And where I tend to go on my breaks, I’m just one of many sitting solo.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After, a library book I’ve already renewed and will probably have to check out for a third time to make it through. It’s my “lunch read,” and I usually start debating where to take it that day by late morning.

Though I’m still following the basic tenets of Weight Watchers, I have eased up. I have not been tracking, but I feel okay about that. I’ve given myself permission to relax my strict eating — especially as dealing with recent health issues have meant I’m eating only what I can stomach and no more, no less. If that’s just a slice of bread? So be it. I’m not so far down the rabbit hole I can’t recognize that, first and foremost, I need to take care of myself.

Body and mind.

And that’s where the lunches can come in. As work and daily life can get stressful, I’ve returned to treating myself to meals out a few times a week — when I feel the pull to get up and out, soaking up the colors of fall and enjoying the last few warm days before the cold comes bustling in. Sometimes I meet my dad or my sister, but I often head out alone. Lately, with Isla.

And it’s good. Good for the soul.

Almost as good as Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, you know.

Learning to share the funnel cake

Funnel cake

I see you over there, eyeballin’ my funnel cake.

It looks fantastic, right? The ultimate in fried pleasure. Perfectly golden on the outside, crispy on the edges, but still doughy in the center.

Warm from the fryer, the grease soaking through my paper plate.

Covered in powdered sugar, which is just beginning to form the most finger-licking crust.

Few things in life provide as much joy as a really good funnel cake — and they’re not all created equal, friends. The ones at our local baseball stadium? Lackluster. The creations at our county fair? AMAZING.

I know I should share one with my sister, a fellow funnel cake lover, or my husband — but, you know, I’m greedy. I can’t help myself. Though I have no problem stealing food off others’ plates (rude, I know), I don’t like to share dessert.


As I continue seeking healthy eating and try to keep the weight off, though, I’m in the habit of avoiding sugar . . . until I get to an event. It’s harder to say no when deep-fried goodness is all around you, perfuming the air, and everyone has a corn dog or fried Oreo or funnel cake in their messy hands. I’m pretty strong, but I’m not that strong.

Where once I would have hogged a funnel cake all to myself, though, I keep working on balance — and know devouring an entire one alone is probably not wise.

So I shared. I shared on Sunday.

Spencer and I split one while my sister and brother-in-law had another, and the results? Pretty great. Successful. I ate my fill of fried goodness while feeling (somewhat) less guilty, and we all left feeling coated in powdered sugar in the best possible way.

The key to staying on track — with Weight Watchers, yes, but in general — is not to restrict yourself completely from foods you love. As our mothers always told us, All things in moderation. This has been the lasting strategy that keeps me from returning to old, unhealthy habits, and is one I plan to continue indefinitely.

Some goodies are “trigger foods,” though — and a year ago? I would not have had the funnel cake. At all. It’s a gateway food, and it would have been too easy for me to return to bad habits and eating whatever struck my fancy as often as I liked — a routine that brought me to my heaviest weight ever with health troubles that kicked off my mission to drop the pounds.

But I’m no dieting saint. I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that, for me, the occasional half of a funnel cake has to be okay — and as along as I wake up tomorrow still staying the course and choosing health, I’m doing all right.

For me, food once brought guilt: guilt of eating too much; eating “bad things”; snacking too much or too little; making the “wrong choices” and not doing anything about it.

I feel farther removed from the woman I once was 35 pounds ago, but I’m concentrating on not falling into habits that brought me there in the first place. Weight loss is great, sure, but how I live now is really about living. Reaching a sustainable level. Getting into habits that will serve me well for the rest of my life.

Even if I haven’t been tracking as religiously as I used to, I can see the fruits of that discipline in everything I do. Fresh produce, smaller portions, lean protein — and far less sweets.

Aside from the occasional funnel cake, of course.

It’s really not optional.

Stress management (sans pie)

It’s all too much sometimes.

It is. We all know it is. Those days when the phone won’t stop ringing, emails flood in, a hundred and one people are competing for something they needed from you yesterday . . . we’ve all had them — and will again. (And again.)

Though I try to keep myself on a pretty even keel, harried days are unavoidable. We all get stressed. As we’ve dealt with endless paperwork, financial decisions and the logistics of planning our move the last few months, I’ve been struggling to not panic and, you know, move forward with all of my hair.

Coupled with work, family, a traumatic accident in the extended family, trying to maintain friendships but realizing some friendships will naturally ebb and flow . . . along with, you know, day-to-day stuff like paying bills, feeding ourselves and making sure the car has gas? Well, it’s a process.

I’m still figuring things out. So many things. But what I have learned about stress management, thanks in no small part to my weight loss journey?

I can figure it out without pie.

I’ve always been an emotional eater, and it’s natural to want to reward myself with food. Celebrating? Have cake! Had a rough day? More cake! Need a little pick-me-up to get through a big work project? Candy! Bored with TV re-runs? Chips!

These are all behaviors I didn’t realize I had until . . . well, until I started paying attention. And I only started paying attention when I was more than 30 pounds overweight — and I decided to stop living in the neighboring lands of denial and “someday” (“Someday I’ll eat healthier, someday I’ll lose weight . . .”).

So much of my eating was done absentmindedly, and that’s what worried me most. My portions were out of control. I wasn’t even thinking about what I was eating; I was just popping crackers while cooking dinner, or helping myself to a third muffin because it was there.

That was the simplest explanation for so many of my eating habits: because it was there.

Now that I’m sharing digs — and a kitchen — with my husband, also conscious of his eating, it’s easier to control what comes in and out of our home. I’ve mentioned my mantra before — You can’t eat what you don’t have — and find myself going back to basics a bit lately. You can’t eat the good stuff, like fresh fruit and vegetables, if you don’t have the good stuff. Conversely, you can’t while the evening away with a bag of Oreos if you don’t have Oreos to tempt you.

You dig?

Weight loss - May 2014

It’s been almost six months since I hit my goal weight and became a lifetime Weight Watchers member, and I’m proud to have maintained my weight within a pound since January. But what you don’t always consider at the beginning of the journey? The “journey” has no end. It’s cliche because it’s true: good health is not a destination; it’s a way of life. It requires diligence and dedication. I’m not “dieting,” friends — I have a new diet. This is what I eat now. I can’t slip back into old habits after hitting some “magic” number.

And as life has gotten interesting, I’ve had to develop new coping mechanisms.

Before I share my own tips for dealing with stress without sinking into a pile of banana pudding, my previous go-to, I want to stress that I love y’all and would never want to make anyone feel badly about their lives or choices. As my favorite WW Leader would say? You do you, boo.

But if you see some of yourself in my words and are making changes, here are a few of my ways to deal with challenges in a healthier way:

Stress without pie

Talking it out. Despite being an active blogger, columnist and all-around oversharer, I often find myself feeling rather . . . guarded. Private. I’m not one to offload my issues, even to those I love and trust, so when I finally break down and talk about something? It’s big. And usually a relief. If I call my sister instead of helping myself to a crescent roll, I’ve made a step forward.

Pinterest. Really. It chews up time, gives me inspiration (healthy recipes! home decor! pretty places!) and generally keeps my mind busy. If I’m really stressed at work, I use my break to mindlessly scroll through pretty pictures at Panera while sipping coffee until I feel better. And usually? I do.

Baking. This may sound counter-intuitive, but I’m a stress baker. The careful blending of flour and butter and vanilla is nothing short of therapy. I love channeling my nervous or sad energy into the creating rather than dwelling. Baked goods are my love language, but I don’t let them linger too long; Spence and I may enjoy a cupcake or two, but the rest get carted off to our respective offices. Here’s a life maxim you probably know, but just in case: coworkers like free food. So now you’re suddenly popular, friends. Try it: it’s fun.

Reading. No surprise to bookworms, right? Distraction can be key during times of stress. And what’s better at helping one decompress than losing yourself in a good novel? When I keep my hands busy with a book, they’re not rifling through a bag of potato chips.

Cleaning. Since crazy times often equal messy houses, I try to stay on top of clutter by choosing one “project” to work on after dinner when I’ve had a long day. Spencer and I will occasionally email about this ahead of time — “Tonight, let’s go through the mail” — and it gives a focus to our evenings. Though I love unwinding with “The Mindy Project” as much as the next gal (and still do), having a cleaning project helps keep me from snacking at night. And then the apartment looks way better, so.

Snacking healthier. If my gut reaction is still to snack when feeling harried (which it is — hard to unlearn), I try to have choices on hand I can feel good about eating. I like the crunch and time-intensive enjoyment of celery with hummus or a ripe apple, but I’m also a huge fan of unsalted almonds, individual cottage cheese cups, grapes, low-fat pudding snacks, Triscuits and string cheese.

Getting your significant other on board. Piggybacking on my previous point, getting your loved ones to understand your stress tactics — like not have a chocolate cake in the house — can help. We have an agreement to divide up sweets and other goodies to take to work before they linger too long on our counters. (See also: stress baking.)

But sometimes cookies do help. And you know what? That’s totally fine. Am I a patron saint of healthy eaters who refrains from dessert like a sour-faced martyr? Absolutely not. I eat what I enjoy, and I enjoy what I eat — while being mindful of my overall goals. Foregoing cake today does not mean foregoing cake forever; it means I’ll choose to enjoy dessert when I’m in a clear frame of mind, not when I’m emotional and wanting to devour something just for the sake of devouring it. I drink something — water, hot tea, diet green tea, coffee — instead.

That sounds super boring, I know. Trust me. And if you told me I’d be “sipping water” instead of slicing pie a few years back, my eyeroll would have knocked you into a previous century. But I have changed, and I’m proud of how I’ve taken control of my eating — and my life.

I can’t tell you the difference it’s made.

I really feel like me. A calmer, happier me.

The new dessert challenge


Desserts are really making a comeback around here.

I’m a little scared to admit that — mostly because I fear putting it out into the universe. Since losing 35 pounds last year, I had to get serious about cutting down on my sugar intake . . . which was tough. Not as hard as I expected, honestly, but still no cake walk (pun intended). I mean, y’all know I love to bake — and we got so many cool kitchen items as wedding gifts. Pie plates and cookbooks and the Kitchen Aid and . . .

It’s so tempting.

But I knew — I know — I can’t be trusted around chocolate. I just can’t. I have my limits, friends, and know when I’m reaching them. Having cookies and cake and other tasty treats loitering in the kitchen is a recipe (! okay, I’ll stop) for disaster. Even though I’m still going hard with Weight Watchers, I’m in maintenance mode now. Having hit my goal weight in January, the idea now is to keep on keepin’ on.

And I don’t want to slip back into my little bad habits.

Long term, I know I won’t go back to the way things were before. I’ve come too far and fought way too hard to change my entire lifestyle to start sabotaging myself with snack-size Snickers bars, but . . . well, the reality is that having avoided temptation for so long, sweets are getting extra tempting. I miss them. My stomach misses them. We remember the cool crunch, the chocolate tang, the caramel goodness . . .


But I’m learning to cope and am still adapting. In terms of Weight Watchers, I’m allowing myself some extra points each day for a Lindt Lindor truffle (2 points!) or two Hershey’s Kisses (1 point!). From the beginning, my motto was not to “deprive” myself of anything; going on a true “diet” — where you eliminate a certain food or food group — can create hunger pangs that go beyond simply eating fewer calories, I think. For me, anyway.

The second you tell me I can’t have it, I want it desperately. It’s a universal law or something.

Without getting on my sparkly spokesperson soapbox, Weight Watchers worked for me because I learned to make smarter choices, control my portions and treat myself to indulgences — not enjoy them nightly. Then they’re not indulgences. To say I can never have X, Y or Z again? Nope. Not my bag.

In that vein, I’m trying to be gentler with myself about the sweets. For Valentine’s Day, I requested molten chocolate lava cakes for dessert — and my sweet husband obliged. He even improvised by making dulce de leche as a topping, and . . . well, it was amazing.

I didn’t feel guilty after, exactly, because I planned ahead and gave myself the wiggle room to accommodate that sugary deliciousness that night. But that experience did get me thinking about trigger foods, and how the key is to indulge occasionally without going overboard.

It’s a work in progress — like me.

But we’ll get there . . . one alluring spoonful at a time.