Category Archives: Organizing

Preventing Clutter

When I was little, my grandmother used to say “A stitch in time saves nine”…and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about at the time. It took me about 15 years or so to figure it out. Anyway, you don’t hear that one too often these days but it is surprisingly true. If you take the time to fix something now, you can usually save time, energy, money, and stress spent on a bigger fix later.

Preventing Clutter

A related turn of phrase is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Please tell me I’m not aging myself by sharing these! Regardless, prevention gets a lot of lip service but is arguably one of the last things we look at as human beings. We usually wait until after the disaster happens to dream up ways to prevent it in the future.

As suspected, prevention when it comes to clutter is not as commonly talked about (or pinned as much) as uncluttering or creating new storage and systems. Prevention really can be credited as the majority of the cure for clutter and disorganization. And, if you really want to be successful in living more organized, prevention is something you should look at first.

I talked about prevention as one of the four foundational organizing strategies here. And, I still feel strongly that you need to do work in all four of the foundational strategies (Prevent, Create, Reduce, Maintain) in order to live a more organized life. But, whether you are beginning your organizing journey or starting fresh with a reset, the best one to start with is the ‘Prevent’ strategy.

Most of us have been led to believe that the best way to start is by creating new systems and storage solutions. Pinterest says so, so it must be true, right? It’s actually much more effective to move this ‘Create’ phase much further down the timeline.

But it can be challenging to put off organizing projects for many reasons. Did you know many of us crave the dopamine release of buying new things? In addition, the anticipated reward of a wonderfully organized space can be too tempting to resist.

If you find yourself starting (or re-starting) your organizing journey, here are some things you can do to lighten the load:

  1. Minimize or eliminate bulk shopping. If you have a system of shopping that works for you and you are consuming much of what you buy, by all means don’t quit doing something that is working. However, be honest and eliminate the “great deal” purchases on things you and your family don’t consume on a regular basis.
  2. Stop shopping for sport. Stay away from your usual jaunts and distract yourself with another activity. Try going for a walk, meet up with a friend for coffee or a cocktail (though that may lead to retail therapy if you have too many), or take the kids on an educational outing. Better yet, you can replace this acquisition habit with a clearing habit by shopping your house for 10 things to let go of.
  3. Buy only what you need. This means shopping with a list, especially when you go places where you frequently end up leaving with more than you went in to buy. Target, anyone? Target and Sam’s Club are definitly my achilles heel. With a family of three, I don’t frequent Sam’s Club anyway but I find it super-challenging to get through the checkout aisle in Target without at least one, but usually more, additional cute/great/steaming-hot-deals. So, I’ve actually cut back on my visits to the store and order what I need online.
  4. Break the Garage Sale/Thrifting/Craigslist habit…at least temporarily. This is one I can say with the most certainty is adding to your clutter problem.
  5. Say “No, Thank you” to freebies and hand-me-downs. This also applies to raffles, giveaways, and freebies online and in-person. Freebies are not free! It’s either junk to clutter up your home , you are volunteering to have someone send the junk (unwanted solicitations) to your home, or they will be clamoring for your time and attention, which is already at a minimum.
  6. Resist taking home brochures and handouts. Instead of taking it home now so you can look through it later, take a moment to scan the paper to see if there is anything you need. Most often you can find the same information on a website. Enter it into your smartphone a la Evernote or Drafts or carry a single notebook with you for collecting information. Also, if it’s something you might need in the future, you can usually just Google it. After all, will you be able to find that brochure in the piles three months from now? Will you bother looking at all? Or will you just Google it?
  7. Unsubscribe from retail newsletters, especially flash sales. Most companies are skilled creating a sense of urgency when there isn’t any. If you need a specific item, you can always go directly to the website and search. While this may not be true for flash sale sites, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they aren’t selling anything you urgently NEED. If you are serious about simplifying, you know what to do!

Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear from you!

Ciao for now!

LaurenSignature

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organizing Diaries: Let’s Talk Garage Storage!

Can I be a dork for a minute? I am really enjoying this phase of homeownership. We’ve been in our home for two years now and we aren’t planning to buy or sell any houses or move anywhere- yippee! {maybe I shouldn’t put that in writing…} That means we’ve gotten past the initial phase of settling in, which is a new concept for us since we’ve moved so frequently over the past ten years or so.

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It feels foreign (but really good!) to have long term plans for our home. One of the spaces we dream about is the garage. We both want our garage to serve as a multipurpose space for working out, woodworking and storage. And, while I’d love to have the budget to makeover the entire space, I actually prefer to think about a space, live in it and use it before making updates.

I’ve broken this project down to three different posts: the problem and the planning, the before and after, and the tutorial. So, here’s part 1…

The Existing Space & Challenges

The Woodworking section is all mine and I’ve been drooling over this Modular Workbench plan from The Family Handyman. It features a fold-out work table, a roll out table saw stand, a miter box table and lots of storage modules including roll-out drawers and slide-out panels.


I love this plan because:

  • It’s customizable to just about any space.
  • It’s modular- which means you can choose which modules or sections to add and which ones to scrap as well as the ability to add as your time, energy and budget allows.
  • It’s super-functional with it’s roll-out drawers, glide-out panels, shelves for storage and abundance of workspace. What more could a handy girl want?!?
  • Best of all, it’s affordable.

My inherited workspace consists of an 36″ high adjustable steel shelving unit with a 34″ deep by 8′ sheet of plywood precariously placed on top and a 4’X4′ pegboard on the wall. Needless to say, it will take a bit of work to get from point A to point B but it will be worth it (as long as we don’t move in the process #cringe).

My husband’s Workout space consists of 9 square feet of mat, a TRX mounted to the ceiling, wall mounted pull-up bar, rowing machine, 112 lb. atlas stone, plyo box, fitness ball and shelving for iHome, towels, and workout bands, etc. He doesn’t care about pretty and I try not to impose my will on his space. As long as it functions well for him, he’s happy. As with most garages, the Storage has been taking over the garage and getting in the way of it’s optimal use.

  • Baby Equipment- I will openly admit that I am not ready to let go of all of the baby equipment. There. I said it.
  • Sell- There are a number of items we’d like to sell on Craigslist once the spring comes. I’m pretty good about this but if you’re the type who never actually gets around to selling anything, just donate it.
  • Handed Down Clothing- I’m super lucky to have such a generous brother and SIL who have given us a ton of boy clothes. We just need to store the huge bins!
  • Seasonal Decor- I probably have considerably less in this department because we haven’t really decorated much. This will change as the little man grows and we spend more holidays at home {hopefully}.
  • Garage Stuff- Of course, we need to store all of the typical tools, supplies and lawn maintenance items that come with owning a home. Plus, we eliminated our lawn service at the end of the season last year (they were horrible!) so we plan to purchase a reel mower and edger.
  • A Bunch of Stuff That Isn’t Organized- And, a bunch of odds and ends that we’ve accumulated and not gotten around to organizing…This is real-life, folks! Sometimes there are more important things than organizing.

Creating A Plan

In order to make room for the first two functions (woodworking & workout), I needed to address the third: storage. This would clear up a bunch of floor and wall space and help us function in the meantime. So, my first priority was to create some storage space for the above items without using all of the accessible, functional wall space on a budget.

Things were looking up…to the ceiling, that is. Most garages have unused upper wall and ceiling space around the perimeter of the garage and above the garage door. I first considered something like this around the perimeter of the room.


But I felt I could find something more affordable, easier to implement and more functional to access (I’d have to move the ladder multiple times to access a few of the items).

Then, I spied this sliding solution. So, clever and matchy! But I’d need to purchase the same bins and consider leaving them IF we move (or dealing with leaving a non-functional feature for buyers). Then, what if I needed to replace a bin and I couldn’t find the same size?


I finally settled on this simple solution:


I already had inherited some 2×4’s from the previous owner and had a scrap 53″x48″ piece of plywood that would work. The benefits of this solution are:

  • I can add another matching unit on the opposite side of the garage.
  • I’m able to access much of the storage with one ladder climb.
  • I can use containers and boxes I have on hand and upgrade in the future.
  • It is a super simple build. Even if you are a beginner DIYer, I’m confident you can do this. Heck, you could even get the Home Improvement store to make the cuts to the plywood and the 2×4’s for you. The most challenging part is mounting the brackets to the ceiling and getting them secured into a beam.

I feel like I’ve landed on a solution that will work for us well into the future. And, I’d probably recommend it for most long-term garage storage. You’ll have to check back to see the project pics.

Ciao for Now!

LaurenSignature

 

 

 

 

What’s To Come In The New Year

Hi, there! It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me… I was having a good run there for a while and then fell off the wagon, so to speak. I decided it would be beneficial for me to take a break over the holidays. Though I wish that were as relaxing as it sounds…

While the holidays weren’t necessarily relaxing, I did put a moratorium on doing anything related to Homeology. In that time, I contemplated a lot- still am, really. Why can’t I write (& post) more often? Can Homeology really be what I want it to be? What should it to look like? How can Homeology help you? Can I help others and still maintain my own sanity? Do I really have the time to do anything at all with it?
The fact of the matter is that Homeology is just a hobby right now. There is no income associated with it. I am primarily a SAHM who occasionally works at home (freelance work). And as much as I want to do/be more than “just” that, I’m challenged to do much else with a young child at home. It is especially challenging to put two thoughts together with the constant interruptions and need to multitask. {Not sure if it’s “mommy brain” or just age, but it seems I can’t shake the brain fog.}
After all, Homeology is about simplifying and making room for what matters. And what matters to me is my relationship with my husband; raising my son to the best of my ability; and feeling abundant, inspired and connected (a la Danielle LaPorte Desire Map) aka. happy, in my daily life…or striving for it, at least. I’ve found (for me) that one of the primary factors for feeling abundant, inspired and connected is to create a thriving, inviting, functional home (& daily life)…without losing sight of the first three.
So, have I figured it all out? Nope. But I have gained some clarity on where my priorities lie, what I can give and how I can help others lose the clutter and chaos at home without gaining it myself.
All that to say…
  1. I’m going to experiment with ways I can make the most impact for you with the time, energy and attention I have available.
  2. I’ll post when I have something to valuable to share, rather than posting just to meet a quota (not that I’ve succeeded at that either!). I hope you’ll keep coming back.
  3. I will *try* to let go of fear and follow my own voice.

Ciao for Now!

 

LaurenSignature

 

 

 

 

Professional Organizer Tips To Simplify The Holidays

Hi all! I thought my 31 Days to Simplify the Holidays series I’d be in the spirit. Quite the opposite has happened…I’m sick of the holidays already! This 31 day series is turning into a 61 day series. Ack! I need to get my holiday mojo back. There’s nothing better to help me do that than to get some holiday help from some of my favorite organizers.

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My friend, Geralin Thomas shared her Turkey Day Timeline on How to Prepare for Thanksgiving. She thought of everything! And, she has a printable checklist for those of you who love to check things off. And, who doesn’t?

Here’s one from my friend Janine Adams in St. Louis at Peace of Mind Organizing:

If you’re short on time, but want to send out cards, buy a supply of cards, envelopes and stamps, and send them to the people who have sent you cards this season, addressing a card the day you receive one from someone. This requires minimal planning and will allow you to at least reciprocate the cards others send you.

Also, check out her short & sweet post about regifting on her blog.

Helena Alkhas in San Diego, CA at APersonalOrganizer.com gives some timely and pertinent postal tips:

The post office is infamous for its long holiday lines. It’s not uncommon to see dozens of people, carrying multiple large packages, all tapping their feet in irritation and becoming increasingly impatient. No one has any business being that stressed out so close to the holidays!

Skip the stress this year by sending your gifts early. Aim to have gifts wrapped and ready to ship via USPS, UPS or FedEx by the second week in December. If you won’t be ready by then, log on to usps.com and look for the Click-N-Ship option. You’ll be able to print your own mailing labels and postage from home and request free package pickup — which means you won’t have to spend a single minute in line at the post office.

Finally, mark your calendar with important shipping deadlines. According to the USPS, you’ll need to send your gifts prior to these dates in order to ensure they’ll arrive before the holidays.

  • December 10: Priority Mail Military
  • December 11: Express Mail International
  • December 14: Parcel Post
  • December 20: First-Class Mail
  • December 21: Priority Mail
  • December 22: Express Mail

Be sure to check out Helena’s 31 Days of Holiday Organizing Tips!

Last, but certainly not least, here’s a two-fer from Helene Segura of HeleneSegura.com based in San Antonio, TX:
1. If you’ll be on the holiday party circuit, have a selection of thoughtful host/hostess gifts ready to grab from your gift station as you run out the door.
2. As you haul out your boxes, bags, and totes full of holiday cheer, take the time to do a little purging and planning. Discard anything that’s broken, melted, or so faded that you can’t tell what color it used to be. Donate decorations that you haven’t used in the past few years. Keep a running list of any replacement supplies for which to keep an eye out during the post-holiday sales.
 And, if you have a few minutes, invest them in watching the clip in this post with a valuable lesson from Helene about time (at :58-2:33). It’s a great reminder for this time of year!
I hope to do more roundup posts with my friends and colleagues. They have such great information to share, don’t they?!? If you have any tips to share, please don’t be shy. Let us know in the comments.
Ciao for now!
LaurenSignature

3 Reasons to Avoid Buying Novelty Gifts This Year

Editors Note: I’m thrilled to welcome my friend, Brooke McAlary of SlowYourHome.com, to the blog today. Brooke is a simple living advocate from Australia. She’s a fun, down to earth, practical gal and I’m entranced whenever I read something of hers. I wish I could write like that! Anyway, she’s here today to share her perspective on novelty gifts. I found myself reading this post, going “Yes!”, “yes!” and “Hell, yes!” and I hope you will, too!

AvoidNoveltyGifts

A few weeks ago I noticed the pop-up Christmas store being set up at the local shopping centre. In August.

To me, that seems excessively early. In fact, to me, that seems excessive in general. But I think my opinion on the commercialisation of Christmas might be unpopular, so I will move on before I say anything more.

But it is inarguable. The holidays are coming. And with the holidays come gifts.

Gifts are a wonderful way of showing love and appreciation and generosity. Done right, gifts enrich the lives of the giver and the receiver and the producer. There is nothing better than giving a gift that is not only gratefully received, but used and used and used and loved and used and loved.

Those gifts are, unfortunately, few and far between. It’s more likely to happen when gifts are given between good friends, mothers and daughters, boyfriend and girlfriend, father and son – people who know and understand the other.

But what about the gift exchanges that are forced on us – at work? At extended family gatherings? At large acquaintance-filled parties? What about those, ugh, Secret Santa draws? What about all the times we need to give a gift to (or receive one from) someone who doesn’t know us very well? Or someone that doesn’t care very much?

In those cases people often resort to buying novelty gifts.

Talking fish. Boob aprons. Prank mugs. Tommy the Dancing and Talking Toilet Turd (it’s a real thing). Bacon flavoured toothpicks. Stylish pin moustaches for girls (7 styles!) Silly books no-one will read. T-shirts too embarrassing to wear in public.

Each of us has likely given and received one such gift. At least.

And I get it. There is pressure to fit in at work or with the in-laws. No-one wants to be the stick in the mud muttering about the environment and waste while everyone else is chuckling heartily at their new Farting Alarm Clock.

But everyone will have those same thoughts on waste when in January they pack up their boob aprons and farting alarm clocks and take them to the charity shop or throw them in the bin.

I don’t know about you, but when I give a gift to someone I want it to be good. I want it to be useful. I want it to be appreciated. But these novelty gifts, while occasionally and momentarily entertaining, are giving the receiver three things they almost certainly do not want.

  1. Clutter – They need to find somewhere to keep Tommy the Toilet Turd. Preferably somewhere guests can’t see him. They need to find storage space for that funny T-shirt, or room in the kitchen for that novelty mug. I don’t want to give people clutter, and no matter how well intentioned, I don’t want to receive it either.
  2. Waste – Typically only 1% of consumer goods are still in use 6 months after purchase, and I would assume that percentage would be even less when looking at novelty gifts. Buying them, while perhaps funny, is undoubtedly wasteful and putting needless additional strain on our already over-stretched resources. Not to mention the money that goes straight in to landfill come January.
  3. Stress – When given a gift, no matter how lightly, it comes with a weight. We understand that someone has taken a little time and a little money to purchase it, and that makes it more difficult to declutter. We worry that they will discover our dislike of the gift, or realise that we have thrown it out. So sometimes we keep it despite not wanting to, and sometimes we let it go.

So it turns out that funny little gift you thought would get a laugh at the office party is delivering a whole lot more than you expected.

Honestly, I think it’s time we simply stop with the novelty gifts all together. Give some movie tickets or a bottle of wine instead. Try a gourmet cheese or a massage voucher. Whatever you do, do not buy anyone Tommy the Talking Toilet Turd. Ever.

13 Quick Tips for Thanksgiving Prep

TipsThanksgivingPrep

Can you believe it’s time to think about Thanksgiving prep? Thanksgiving is one month away. What?!? Well, here are some tips for preparing for the holiday meal to get you started:

  1. Don’t let your regular activities slip- like paying your bills, sorting the mail, doing the laundry, etc.  However, now is not the time to revamp your entire organizational system. Don’t start cleaning out your cabinets or rearranging your closets, etc.
  2. Make an effort to consume the food you have in your refrigerator instead of making huge shopping trips.  This will make room for the turkey and other fixings.
  3. If you are having people over, plan in advance and ask your guests to bring a dish.  Bringing one dish is less work than hosting the meal, so I am sure they would be more than happy to do so.  And make sure to coordinate so you don’t end up having three people bringing sweet potatoes and no veggies!
  4. Gather your recipes in advance.  It will eliminate last minute searches for grandma’s mashed potato recipe and allow you to create a thorough shopping list.
  5. Make sure you have plenty of containers for leftovers- my family has taken to using ½ and 1 gallon sized plastic zipper bags.  This eliminates the need to search for just the right sized container. It also makes storing leftovers much easier because the bags are much more flexible than hard plastic containers.  And, of course, you can readily see what’s in the bag!
  6. You may also be able to prepare some dishes in advance.  This is where the plastic bags can be helpful, too.  They can be thrown in the microwave. Or you can purchase boiling bags to toss into a pot of boiling water. You’ll be able to easily reheat dishes and cut down on the massive amount of food preparation the day of.
  7. Don’t forget to thaw the turkey!  In case you don’t already know this (or forget every year at this time), it could take three or four days to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator.
  8. If you have converted to frying your turkey, don’t forget to check if you have enough oil or make that purchase.  And start gathering your equipment now.  You’ll avoid the stress of a last minute search craze for all of the parts.
  9. Prepare your linens by pre-washing (and yes, that dreaded ironing), especially if they have been stored in the attic or musty space all year.  Or better yet, bring it to the dry-cleaner to press in advance.  Just make sure to remember to pick it up.  And make sure you have enough napkins.
  10. Some families have chosen to go disposable.  Is it really worth all of the stress to wash and re-wash dishes and utensils on this special holiday in order to make sure there are enough for every course?  Or would you rather spend that time enjoying the holiday with your family and friends?  There are so many options available to choose from to match your tastes.
  11. Make sure to have games and activities set up for any children so they will be entertained while the adults spend time together.  There is nothing worse than a bored child- except maybe many bored children!
  12. Create new traditions- try to plan a traditional event, particularly an active one.  During the holidays, the average American gains 1-3 pounds.  Encourage everyone to get up off the couch, go outside and play a game.  This could be a game of touch football, kickball, a ‘turkey trot’ fun run, a scavenger hunt.  The possibilities are endless.
  13. Last, but not least, if you are traveling, keep in mind that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year.  Leave extra time and be realistic about your travel expectations.  Many times we are extra-stressed because we fool ourselves into thinking that it will take us the same amount of time as it always does.

I hope these Tips for Thanksgiving Prep are useful. Don’t forget to cherish the time you spend with your loved ones.  The more you are able to plan in advance, the less stressed everyone will be.

Ciao for now!

LaurenSignature

 

Clutter-Free Gift Ideas For the Holidays

I was prepared to do the research and write up an entire post on clutter-free gift ideas for the holidays. Clutter-free gifts can be consumable, experiences, memberships, and donating to charities, etc. When I stumbled on two fabulous resources full of great gift ideas, I figured why not just pass these posts on to you, dear reader.

Clutter-Free Gift Ideas

Simplify Your Holidays With Gifts That Are Not Stuff at FindASimplerLife.com

Occupy Christmas: Gifts That Give Back at HuffingtonPost.com

Ciao for now!

LaurenSignature

 

 

 

 

7 Simple Tips for Holiday Housecleaning

We could all use some help to simplify holiday housecleaning, right? Of course, you don’t need me to tell you that waiting until the day of your party is the most stressful (and common) way to do it. So, why do we do it? Sometimes our brain isn’t very good at reminding us to do something at the best time. I always remember something I forgot at the grocery store when I’m driving home. Please tell me this happens to you to! Sometimes you plan more than you can accomplish (not me, of course- ha!)

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Anyway, here are 7 simple tips to get a head start on holiday housecleaning:

  1. Purchase a dollar-store tablecloth for your wrapping table. Then, gather it up and dump the wrapping paper clippings, ribbon and other debris into the trash.
  2. Use a lint roller for cleaning up bits and pieces: gift wrap clippings, ribbon, glitter, broken ornaments, lights, tinsel, pine needles (fresh or faux), etc.
  3. Get a head start by doing some deep cleaning now. I started with the entry closet and I’m picking a room every few days to do the oft neglected tasks of cleaning under furniture, uncluttering, etc.
  4. Now is a great time to clean out the fridge and freezer. Pick a day just before you go grocery shopping…maybe even challenge yourself to use up what’s left in the fridge, freezer and pantry. This will really show you what you can get rid of. Don’t forget to dust underneath.
  5. Clean the oven. It seems like baking soda and vinegar are the new miracle cleaners everybody is using to avoid chemicals and fumes from the auto-clean setting. Here’s a tutorial from TheKitchn.com. Don’t forget crumbs in the cracks and under the stove.
  6. If you’re in a hurry, I’ve heard that you can use cola to clean the toilet. I’ll have to try it and let you know. If you have some stubborn stains, try a pumice stone. I purchased this one from Lowes and it works great.
  7. In my garage workshop, I generate a lot of sawdust. To clean it up, I use a 3″ wide paintbrush. I find that the “quick dusters” don’t work that well. While I’m not suggesting it replace your year-round dusting, a paint brush is a great dust remover for hard to reach nooks and crannies when unpacking your decorations. Try misting with a little water if there’s some stubborn dust.

Got anything to add? Please help us all out and share it in the comments.

Ciao for now,

LaurenSignature

 

Wisdom Wednesday: The Love of Stuff…

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There is a generally accepted notion that minimalism defines stuff as the root of all evil. While that’s not necessarily the case, I wanted to share this quote from In Defense of Stuff on ParentHacks.com.

For those of us trying to simplify, it’s all too easy to vilify stuff as silly or materialistic, or to feel guilty about wanting stuff we don’t necessarily need.

But just because we’re striving for Minimalist Holidays (or minimalist parenting in general) doesn’t mean we must foresake our love of stuff. It simply means clearing away the stuff we don’t love so there’s time and room to enjoy the the stuff we do.

‘Nuff said.

Ciao for now,

LaurenSignature

 

 

 

 

Q&A: Simple Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

I’m doing something a little bit different for today’s post. I’ve tapped into my favorite Registered Dietitian for a bit of advice on simple ways to avoid holiday weight gain. I figured with all of the party spreads, candy, flowing alcohol and chaotic schedules, we could all use a little bit of help, right?

I’m pleased to introduce my husband, Chris Halagarda. In addition to being the spouse of a professional organizer (poor thing) and fun-loving father of a very active 3-year old boy, he is also a talented and skilled sports performance dietitian. I asked him to drop some knowledge bombs on us today about nutrition and fitness through the holidays.

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Q: After the holidays, many people will say they gained 10 pounds. Is that true? 

A: I think that gaining ten pounds of fat over the holiday season is an exaggeration. Weight gain is common during this time of year, but research shows that a lot of folks gain around 1-2 pounds of fat over the holidays. Unfortunately they keep that weight on, only to gain another 1-2 pounds next year and the year after that and so on. Remember also that the scale measures weight and not just fat. So if you weigh yourself after gorging on Thanksgiving dinner you might be 5-10 pounds heavier due to stored carbohydrate, water and fat.

Q: There is food everywhere I turn at the holidays. How do I avoid the temptation?

A: Well, food isn’t the enemy. So, if there are a good variety of foods available, do your best to fill up on the lean meats, vegetables and fruit. Then go for a short walk, strike up a conversation or drink a couple of cups of water before allowing yourself some of the fat and sugar laden foods. Adding short walks or conversation between trips to the buffet line allows some time for your appetite hormones to communicate to the brain that you’ve consumed enough food. Limiting your hunger is your best defense against unwanted eating.

Q: I was hoping to get a jump start on my New Year’s Resolution of losing 10 pounds. What should I do to get started?

A: I would recommend worrying less about losing weight and more about maintaining weight through the holidays. A simple strategy to help maintain your weight is to weigh yourself 1-2x/wk first thing in the morning. This awareness strategy is not to make you neurotic over a one pound weight change, but to be able to adjust your intake quickly before there’s a two or three pound change. It’s even more important to focus on making healthy food choices, getting 7-9 hours of sleep and getting physical activity in every day. Another effective strategy is to wear a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps per day.  I’d also recommend that you get 2-3 days of resistance training every day. Resistance training adds lean mass which is the fountain of youth.  Most adults start losing muscle slowly but surely after the age of 30.

Q: Do you have any healthy food suggestions for a pot-luck?

A: A lean meat entree, vegetable crudité with hummus, mixed green and vegetable salad bowl, fruit bowl, pitchers of seltzer with cut up fruit, quinoa salad, part skim/low-fat cheese/lean cold-cut/cracker spread, deviled eggs, caprese (tomato-basil-fresh mozzarella) salad.

Q: My schedule is jam-packed! How do I possibly fit in workouts? 

A: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Just kidding! It’s important to realize a couple of things. First, you don’t have to work out for an hour to get health benefit. In fact, simple “fit breaks” are potentially more effective than a 1 hour workout with 23 sedentary hours. Some more obvious ways to get some activity are to go for 5-10 minute walks every hour. Tell your boss that you’re going out for a smoke. Smokers always seem to get a pass on hourly breaks. Try things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking the car in the boondocks at work and when shopping so that you have to walk further, standing up while speaking on the phone or better yet, creating an elevated workstation so that you’re standing at your desk instead of sitting. Especially since sitting is the new smoking, it’s important to stand as much as possible.

The second thing to realize is that you don’t need to be soaked in sweat after every workout.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for sprinting and metabolic type training, but you’ll also benefit greatly from long walks or many short walks and heavy weight lifting days without a lot of huffing and puffing. And by lifting weights I mean use your own body weight, resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, suspension straps or any household items. Even kids are great to lift in a pinch.

Q: What foods should I avoid?

A: There is no easy answer to this question.  I’d usually say something very registered dietitian-like that sounds like eat everything in moderation….but not many people know what moderation means when you’re looking at a tray of fudge on a holiday party buffet table. When it comes to buffets, most mortals like to sample a bunch of things and then get more of what they liked.  Try to avoid food triggers.  They are your kryptonite- the foods that make you lose self-control.  For many people pizza and chocolate are food triggers that lead to more and more. I’ve worked with many folks who can easily avoid chocolate but once they have a bite, they eat most of the package. Pizza has this effect too.  I can’t eat just 1-2 slices, it’s more like if I eat 1 slice, I will probably eat 4+ slices.

The other food to be aware of is a liquid. Alcohol pretty much leads to a loss of self-control….a job too, if you drink too much at a work party. But joking aside, alcohol leads to poor eating habits and then poor sleep quality. Even if you pass out for 12 hours, you’re not hitting a deep REM, which means you’re not getting a good release of human growth hormone and testosterone which are 2 important hormones for tissue repair and maintaining lean muscle. Sleep is also when cortisol (stress hormones) go down which will help the body lose the stubborn fat around the belly. And obviously, if you wake up feeling awful, you’ll probably make poor food choices because your appetite hormones are out of whack and you’re probably not going to be motivated to get some physical activity.

Q: If I do pack on the pounds during the holidays, how do I lose it?

A: Slowly. Crash diets are great at losing weight, but they are not sustainable and they end up decreasing your lean muscle mass. Higher lean muscle mass keeps your metabolism higher.  When you lose lean muscle mass, you’ll experience a decrease in metabolism.  When you give up on the crash diet, the weight you put on will most likely be all fat, leading to the dreaded yo-yo dieting. By slowly I mean shave 300-500 calories from your diet, prioritizing the healthiest calories you can eat from lean proteins and meats, nuts, seeds, olive and canola oil, whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables. Then make sure you’re walking at least 10,000+ steps per day and weight training 2-3x/wk. I’d like to say to throw away the scale too. Weight doesn’t mean healthy or fit. Take circumference measurements of your waist, hips, chest, upper leg and upper arm to evaluate your changes. Also, take note of the difference you feel in how your clothing fits. Before and after pictures are helpful, too.

I hope this info is helpful! Have a healthy, happy holiday season!

Ciao for now,

LaurenSignature