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Filtering by Category: Celebrations

Doctor's Orders: Mindful Eating at the Thanksgiving Table

Fay Johnson

By Dr. Larry Burchett |

I love Thanksgiving.  Dipping turkey with stuffing into cranberry sauce is one of my favorites.  I must have inherited my father’s affinity for pumpkin pie, too.  Legend has it his grandmother made 1 pie for his 4 siblings, and 1 pie for just him.  Few moments are as blissful as the post Thanksgiving lunch slumber/coma on the couch where tryptophan intoxication enables me to nostalgically construct my Christmas wish list (I’m in my 30s), with some irrelevant football game in the background.

Then there’s the scale on Monday afterwards—talk about a walk of shame, from couch coma to that electronic reality checker.  When I was younger (20s and below), I didn't gain much weight despite competing in the annual family Overeaters Anonymous competition at our holiday table.  But once I passed 30 and the ol’ metabolism changed, I could literally see the turkey migrate from my stomach to setup a semi-permanent residence on my belly.

Interestingly, studies have shown that many people aren’t aware that they’ve eaten too much until one thing—they have to loosen their pants. Literally. Until we have eaten so much that we no longer fit in our regular clothing. 

When it comes to holiday meals, I think we have simple wants:

  • To enjoy food
  • To enjoy family time, people
  • To be comatose on the couch so we don’t have to watch the Dallas Cowboys (does anybody still play Romo in Fantasy Football???)

I think it would be safe to assume that there are simple things we don’t want:

  • To gain weight over the holidays
  • To feel hungry or unsatisfied
  • To feel guilty about enjoying a nice meal

Did I miss anything?  Maybe you have other wants. Sharing stories with loved ones. Enjoying a day away from your desk to reconnect with friends. Taking part in the ritual of flag football. It would be relevant to consider what would define an enjoyable Thanksgiving.  Can we have it all?  Is there a way we can both enjoy food, the time AND not gain weight, not feel hungry or guilty about it?  I think the answer is yes, there are several things you can do to limit the weight gain without losing the things we really want, like enjoying food. 



Think about that for a minute.  If you are eating for 40 minutes and you stop at minute 40 because you are full (and are in your fat pants struggling to breath because you housed more than your share of the dark meat), then the last 20 minutes you’ve been eating, has been past when your stomach was full.  In other words, you overate for 20 minutes!


So what can you do to counter this?  Eat more slowly.  What if you spread out that first 20 minutes of food—over 40 minutes or an hour?  You can savor eat bite of bird instead of inhaling it.  Focus on socializing and conversation, enjoying the moment with people.  Space out bites by drinking water.  Pace yourself by eating more slowly than the slowest person at the table. Try asking questions of your fellow diners. Who has a great story that will engage the entire table?

Because eating more slowly does 2 things: 1) Enables you to feel fuller and therefore eat less overall and 2) Enables you to more efficiently digest your food, and store a little less as fat.  How would you do that?  How would you suggest your family do that, or even—how would you model the behavior of eating more slowly for them?

What about our criteria for what we want from our meal?  Have we compromised?  By eating more slowly, can we still enjoy food and people?  Yes, arguable you can get MORE enjoyment from savoring food and eating more slowly.  Can we do it in a way where we are not hungry and don’t feel guilty about what we are eating?  Somehow I don’t think we are going hungry at Thanksgiving, and in terms of the guilt—eating more slowly should actually make you feel BETTER and LESS guilty.  If anything, this enhances several aspects of what most of us want to get out of the gathering.  Yes, you are a genius.  Now, is The Wizard of Oz still the traditional Thanksgiving movie?



In the book The Volumetrics Eating Plan by PhD Barbara Rolls, she discussed how you can make a ¼ hamburger look like the same amount (visual volume) as a ½ hamburger—by adding fixings to bulk it up—yet have significantly less calories.  Here’s the crazy thing—neither our eyes nor our stomach’s can tell the difference, and we feel just as full, even though we’ve consumed less calories.

Suppose just for a second, that’s true.  How can you use that info—that volume not calories fills us up—to enjoy Thanksgiving eating and not gain/minimize weight gain?  One way would be to fill your plate with more calorie light (not calorie dense) foods that take up space but don’t have a lot of calories.  1 cup of mixed greens for a salad is 20 calories, whereas 1 cup of brown rice is 216 calories, over 10 times that of the greens.  I’m not suggestion you don’t eat the good stuff, but I am saying that adding some calorie light food to fill your plate next to and around the good stuff might help you actually overeat less. 

Regardless of how you stack your plate this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to be mindful about what you're enjoying. Pay attention to how your body is actually feeling, so your pants don't have to tell you.


Dr. Larry is residency trained and board certified in Family Medicine. He currently practices as an emergency physician, hospitalist and in the ICU. He is also the author of the forthcoming book The Gentleman’s Diet. You can learn more about Dr. Larry's take on healthy eating and exercise at www.doctorlarry.com.

Valentine's Day Ideas for Dudes

Seth Strickland

By Seth Strickland

This Valentine's Day is a great time to step it up, deliberate dudes. It's clear that the cascade of hearts and pink champagne and chocolates is the face of this holiday, but it's easy to let it be all of the holiday. Too many guys buy a big heart box and hand it in like some sort of half-forgotten homework. This Valentine's Day, put a little more deliberation into your celebration. You're seeking to live deliberately, so here's a chance to show it. A few ideas for those in relationships:


If you're in a new relationship, or not yet at the place where you feel comfortable uttering the word 'relationship' out loud, here are a few ideas based around getting to know each other:

  • Play your favorite record for her & have her play hers for you. Challenge each other to see who can find the sappiest song. It's a fun activity that can help you get to know each other, set the mood, and potentially help you find "your song."

  • Take her to your favorite local BYOB restaurant and have her bring her favorite wine.

  • Go on an adventure. Ask her what her favorite sort of shop or activity is, and find a nearby unexplored spot & get to know it.


If you've been in a relationship for a little while (or a long, long while), take this year to refresh a memory. Think back to one of your first great dates or memories, and build your activity on that. Even a dud the first time around can brighten with a second visit. A few suggestions:

  • See if any of your favorite bands are playing in your area or check out the lineup at your favorite venue to find something new.

  • If you are musically inclined, learn your partner's favorite song & sing/play it for them – everyone loves a little creative effort even if the end result isn't perfect. Too cheesy? Check out a comedy show for some good laughs.

  • Revisit a restaurant dear to both of you but which you haven't visited in a while. Alternatively, hit up a farmers' market & cook an old favorite. 

  • Go on an adventure. No reason not to. Make a new tradition; try something for the first time.

For ye single dudes, celebrate the love of friendship. Most of the dearest people in the world are simply your close friends. Take Valentine's Day to have some killer bro time. As Michelle wrote, love is selfless. Don't take Valentine's as an excuse to go on a self-pity bender – give something to someone else. Give time, give effort, give words of encouragement. Invite a group of friends over for a movie or board games – or take all your single girl friends out for ice cream. Give the gift of a good example: it's vital to act in a way those young guys who look up to you can emulate.

So, in the face of gushing romcoms and be-hearted teddy bears the size of, well, bears, take this Valentine's Day to be a man. February 14th is more than a Friday this year; it's more than a girly chocolate holiday: it's an opportunity to give something meaningful to someone very close to you. Take that opportunity by the horns, and give deliberately. Give love.  

Spreading the Love: Valentine's Day

Michelle Park


By Michelle Park

As Valentine’s Day has been dubbed the national holiday of romance, it’s no surprise that February 14th can be a day filled with a lot of…emotion, and whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, running on just emotions can get really stressful, really fast.

What’s more, the presence of emotion often gets confused with the presence of love and discerning the difference between the two can be quite important for both singles and committed relationships. The cure for this confusion is simple: love acts, and it acts selflessly. It compels the human heart to look outside itself, to deliberately overflow—and not just for one day, but all year-round.

So whether you have a special Valentine or not, everyone has access to the presence of love. We just need to reclaim it. And where do you start? Maybe it’s a word of encouragement to the waitress who’s spending V-Day in an apron, or finally taking some time to call your parents. Maybe it’s cooking dinner and buying gifts for a single mom you know, or baking cookies for a friend who’s hurting from a bad break-up. Or, if you’re up for it, maybe it’s all of the above.

And for those of us who are partaking in some good ol’ romance on V-Day, we can take up the challenge to be deliberate in honoring our loved ones. Put your phones away, serve each other extravagantly, hug deeply, and tell them why you’re proud to call them yours. Consider getting an impacting gift that isn’t just the hottest new product at Barney’s, like this unique jewelry from 31bits, which help women in Uganda rise above poverty. Through informed purchases, you can demonstrate love to both your special someone and to a complete stranger miles away.

Here’s some simple tools to make love a lot more deliberate on Valentine’s Day 2014:

  • Fresh farmer’s market flowers
  • A couple batches of home-made cookies, to box up and give to quality friends or that very special someone. (Recipe below)
  • Sketchbook to handwritten letters paired with a great scented candle
  • Good vibes music play-list (dance party may follow)
  • Bottle of red wine or lavender tea
  • Fair-trade dark chocolate

Need some more ideas? Here are a few ethical gift ideas our research team pulled together: 
Ethical gifts ideas for her || Gifts ideas for him

Maple Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sprouted Kitchen:

  • 1 stick/ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup muscavado sugar
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. maple extract
  • 3 T. maple flakes (optional)
  • 2/3 cup almond meal
  • heaping 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips/chopped chocolate

Heat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, sea salt, vanilla and maple extracts and mix again to combine well. In another bowl, mix the almond meal, oats, white whole wheat flour, pinch of cinnamon and baking soda together. Add the dry to the wet mixture and stir until almost combined, being careful not to over mix. Add the chopped chocolate and give it one more stir to combine. Allow the mixture to chill for at least 20 minutes, or covered overnight. Place your cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet or silpat, leaving space between for them to spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until the centers are barely set. They will appear underdone, this is good. Allow them to cool and enjoy. 

Photo Credit: Michelle Park.

No-Waste Gift Ideas: Give a Hobby

Seth Strickland


by Seth Strickland

This Holiday season, as always, there's a lot of pressure to give gifts, and if you have a lot of friends, it can be difficult to make the cut - who gets gifts? Who doesn't? Instead of buying all your buddies an ESPN key fob this year, introduce them to your favorite hobby. 

One of my friends, Alex, has just started brewing beer. This is a great dude hobby to pursue for reasons I won't enumerate here, but Alex suggested that we make beer sometime and that if I helped him, I'd get to take some home. This great gift idea has both the benefit of time spent together and a frills-free gift for your friends. The cost-per-beer is very low, especially if you already have the brewing equipment, which means that it's a good economic choice. There's no wasted wrapping paper but also no tactless unwrapped present. A simple but good-looking invite card can serve as the physical object which you hand out at the office Christmas party or the weekly squash match. Some Saturday, brew for a few hours, and four weeks later, get together again to bottle it. 

It doesn't have to be beer. Any skill you have or hobby you pursue which your friends or brothers or sons or nephews lack is an opportunity to teach, to share, to spend some time this holiday season. The gift of amateurism (the pursuit of something for love, rather than gain) is priceless, often costs little, and strengthens the beneficial bonds of friendship.

Leave comments below for other great hobby gifts & how to start them.

No-Waste Gift Ideas: Classes

Fay Johnson

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This year, instead of buying the little ones toys that will fill the house, start them on a new hobby. Leah, one of our readers, gives a great example of what this could look like:

“With two growing daughters who are 4 and 6 years old, the list of items they actually need seems to get a bit smaller as they get older. Sure there are plenty of items they want and their list of interests seem to expand daily. Their actual needs are very basic; they have food and roof over their head, clothes for growing bodies, friends, physical activity, creative outlets and lots of learning opportunities. Truly, that’s all they need and there are simple ways to meet those needs.”


As a mother and reader of deliberateLIFE, Leah knows that there is a better option than buying more gifts and recognizes the struggle that parents have to balance the needs and wants of her children. “For every new movie or attraction, there’s an entire line of merchandise. I desperately wanted to get back to the simpler days of pulling out a few puzzles, reading and doing ABCs. I had to think of a way to decrease the stuff that entered our home on Christmas and birthdays, then our youngest became old enough to take the same classes as her sister. Suddenly, our monthly budget for their weekly activities like swimming, gymnastics, soccer and dance, was almost the cost of our food budget; so I asked their grandparents to give a series of classes as a Christmas or birthday gift. The joy my girls experience and the confidence and skills that are built over time are far greater than any enjoyment they will receive from the toys and games received. Plus we get some great pictures to send home to the grandparents. Thanks grandma and grandpa!”

Give new experiences to your little loved ones this year and watch them blossom. Your investment in classes also supports the local economy and encourages connection between you and your neighbors – win, win, win.

Last-Minute Halloween Ideas

Fay Johnson


By Aimee Oberndorfer Le

At our house, we're last-minute Halloween people. Week before, or night before, really. I always envy our friends who have their costumes and decorations planned six months ahead of time, but realistically, that's not us. However, we do try to be deliberate people, and this year -- our first with a toddler -- we find that to be more important than ever.

Tonight, we'll go with our little Space Robot to 2-3 houses on our block to say "trick or treat", and head to a neighbor's home for pie, cider, costumes and play. Our son will get to see his friends dressed up and we'll get to hang out with adults, too. Most importantly, we'll be celebrating and having fun with our community.

There are many issues that you may grapple with around Halloween: feeding small children so much sugar, the slave labor that produces so much of our mass-market chocolate, nut allergies, safety, the cost of costumes and treats. But even if you are a last-minute Halloween person like me, it's still possible to deliberately address the issues that are important to you and your family, and have fun!

Here's how we're doing it (and how we've seen friends and neighbors do it, too):

  • Candy alternatives: In our town, many of our neighbors are handing out pencils, stickers, glow sticks, beads, temporary tattoos. One neighbor even does a sweep of her home the night before and collects small toys and trinkets that have gone unused, and puts these in a bag to give away. It's a huge hit!

  • Fair-trade chocolate: If you only have a few trick-or-treaters, this may be a feasible option for you. You can read more about great, options here.

  • Costumes: This year, it was important that we not spend any money on costumes. Search your house for things you can re-purpose! Talk to neighbors and friends and see if they have costumes from previous years that no longer fit their children, or things that you could borrow for yourself. Here are a few creative and fun ideas!

We put our son's costume together a few days ago with a cereal box, duck tape, water bottles, paint chips, stickers, a tupperware bowl, a borrowed headband, and his favorite boots. It's far from glossy-magazine-worthy, but he helped color and glue and stick, and is now counting the minutes until he can put it on and go outside. Success. Bonus: he will definitely play with it for months to come! 

However you decide to deliberately celebrate, we wish you a wonderful, safe and happy Halloween.