Thursday, November 29, 2012

5 Real Ways To Stay Fit During The Holidays

There is always a mountain of articles this time of year, all dedicated to staying fit during the holidays. No wonder - we're surrounded by more sweets than ever, it's cold and dark so we're less active, and we have parties after parties to attend where we hope to fit into our cocktail dresses and look good in the pictures.

Personally, I feel tempted year-round. During football season, it's tailgates on Saturday and football food on Sunday. Then comes Halloween candy. Then Thanksgiving. Then holiday happy hours and homemade Christmas cookies. Then Super Bowl parties. Then it warms up and everyone is barbecuing and drinking beer.

I've mentioned this before, but I came up with a theory to approach the office break room called, "It's always somebody's birthday." I found there was always a reason why there were donuts or cake in the break room. It was somebody's birthday. Or someone was about to embark on a big project. Or had just wrapped a big project. Or was running late or was running early and swung by the pastry shop. Or it was a holiday. Now it's somebody else's birthday. I realized even if I said I'd only eat sweets on special occasions, (kind of awesomely) I could make any day a special occasion. And even if not, I was an adult, so no one was going to stop me from having ice cream for dinner.

I have two primary motivations to stay fit. One (of course!) is to be healthy. When I eat healthy and move around, I feel better. The other (which I'll admit is sometimes more motivating) is that I am a certifiable clotheshorse. I love clothes! And the thing is, I refuse to say goodbye to a designer dress because I no longer fit into it. Staying the same size year after year gives me an extensive wardrobe - I can rationalize spending a bit more on a piece and I can enjoy it for years longer. It's shallow, but it works for me!

Anyhow, there are five ideas I practice every day, particularly during the holidays, which I thought are worth sharing. I don't cut carbs or dairy or alcohol or sugar or anything altogether. I think anyone can adopt any (or all) of these and feel better this holiday season.

1. Don't Go Two Days In A Row:

- Don't go two days in a row without working out: I don't like setting a specific number of days to work out per week. And if you set certain days aside ("I'll always workout Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday"), they arrive and working out feels like a chore. Rather, my rule is I won't go two days in a row without being active. So I can take off any day I want, but the next morning, I choose to get a workout in. (Another note: I don't force myself to do any one kind of workout. If I don't feel like running, I'll do the elliptical or yoga- I just do something!)

- Don't go "out" two days in rows: Going out packs on the calories. You're not pouring your own drinks or making your own food (and in turn, you get extra calories and extra big cups and plates). And you usually drink more and eat more, because you're out at a table and it's in front of you. And if you're hungry later instead of going to your fridge for a small snack, you find yourself ordering (and consuming!) a humungous appetizer. So here's the deal. Go out, enjoy it. And the next night, stay in (often, unless there are events or I'm socializing, I try not only to stay in, but not to drink two nights in row). It's good for your skin. It's good for your wallet. It's good for you waistline. (If you have a super-fun weekend planned, don't worry about it, just don't do it every weekend.)

2. Always Order A Glass of Water Too:

Repeat after me, "May I also have a glass of water?" ALWAYS order a glass of water. It's free and it's so good for you, and it helps you slow down and enjoy whatever else you're drinking. A lot of women are good about ordering a glass of water with alcohol, so they drink less, but order it with everything. I'd like a diet coke, and a water! I'd like a latte and (a free) cup of water! You're staying hydrated which again is great for your skin and appetite control, and by drinking water you go slower on whatever else you're drinking. (I also swish with the water when I'm done with the soda etc. for my teeth).

3. Allow yourself to say no:

- When you're not hungry: Sometimes at the holidays, because everyone is going out of their way to bake for us, we feel guilty if we don't sit down and indulge in a sweet as soon as it's in front of our face. But, are you really enjoying it if you're still full from lunch? If you're not hungry, but it looks delicious, go with the honest response, "That looks so delicious, but I just finished lunch. I'm definitely going to try it with some coffee later/ for dessert/ tomorrow/bring it home to enjoy."

As a slim person, this can be much harder. Sometimes, people will food pressure you. "You're so skinny, eat a cookie already!" Stay strong, ladies. "I'm full right now, but I'd love to try one in a bit."

Office survival tip: this sounds wasteful, but I like to take office sweets I'm interested in back to my desk with my afternoon coffee. That way, if I want to devour every bite - great, but if two or three have satiated my sweet tooth, I pitch the rest (and don't risk offending anyone).

- When it's calories that don't interest you (especially of the liquid variety!): What if it's a treat you're not into? Don't eat it "just to be nice." First, choose to be nice to yourself and not send yourself through a guilt cycle for no reason.  Second, do you think your friends, family or colleagues are so petty that if you say, "No Thank You," they'll like you less? You can even come up with a mental list before a party or event of what you want to say yes and no to - I.e. I definitely want a glass of champagne, but I'll say no thank you to calorie laden, sugary mulled wine which I'm not even into!

I also have a list of things I'll never have. Why? Because I don't like them! Examples: shots, beer, crazy sugary, syrupy coffee drinks, regular coke or any other soda, and desserts I've never liked such as tiramisu. No thank you. No thank you. No thank you. (Isn't Sara so healthy to forgo these drinks for water and black coffee? Sure, but she's also just allowing herself skip what she doesn't even like!)

4. Have a Healthy Indulgence:

What healthy options do you love? As you may have gathered, I love a skim latte. And it's espresso and skim milk. So when I want a treat, or when everyone is ordering "skinny" lattes at Starbucks that are all imitation sugar, or the full-fledged lattes that have an insane amount of sugar, I order a skim latte. Because I love it.

Another one for me is cheese. Cheese is so indulgent, and delicious. And a stick or a hunk of cheddar cheese is usually a staple of my afternoon snack. Yes, it's not low fat but it's protein, and it's a moment of deliciousness in my day that makes me happy and keeps me satiated until dinner.

Or champagne. Which happens to be one of the lowest calorie alcoholic choices. I love it, and it's comparatively better for my waistline. (Yes, please!)

5. Have a game plan (and a back-up plan): 

Game Plan: Make a plate, eat it, and then stay away from the food table: Notice how the thin people are often seated in front of a plate of food? That's because the 90's waif look is out. If you want to be hot, you know better than to starve yourself or eat celery or juice cleanse or do whatever people may think we do. We know that to look like Jessica Biel and Lauren Conrad and J Lo, we need to eat (healthfully!) and fuel ourselves to hit the gym and do some squats for our backside. So the slim people always make a plate. And then, we sit down. And we eat it. And then we practice our healthy indulgence if we so choose, and for the rest of the evening, when offered something, we say that we are full.

Game Plan: If you don't want anything, go with the healthiest option: Sometimes you go to a restaurant and the burger or the special sounds amazing. Other times you don't know what the heck you want and everything looks the same. When faced with the latter - the 'I don't care what I eat' - I always order a salad with the dressing on the side. It's healthy, and since I didn't care anyways I might as well have a healthy meal full of veggies (and I can have my cheese or piece of dark chocolate or latte later).

Back-Up Plan: If the food is all calorie-laden, watch your portions: If you need to eat dinner, and your only options are calorie laden party food, just watch your portions, and have small portions of really calorie dense food. What are you afraid of? That you'll end up going hungry? What's the worst that can happen? You're an adult! You're allowed to just eat a little when you're out, then go home and have healthier leftovers or whatever the case may be. No one is going to tell you that if you don't fill up on carbs, you can't eat ever again.
During a time of year where we seem particularly interested in what others do, I hope you enjoyed my "real-life" tips and tricks. My final piece of advice is to find what motivates you! As I said, for me it's clothes. When I'm wondering why I should go to the gym, I picture an outfit I want to wear. Find what works for you, and good luck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When A Company Is Just Not That Into You...

There is a good reason why He's Just Not That Into You grew from a Sex and the City episode to a book to a movie. Rather than waiting and wondering by the phone for an interminable amount of time, women were encouraged to take back the power. They could free themselves from the nagging, "why hasn't he called" question with a simple refrain: "If he likes you, he'll call you." (Subtext: If not, move on).

It was revolutionary.

And while it sounds harsh, as you may remember, Miranda found it liberating. Why worry? If he likes her, he'll call her; if not, it's not meant to be. The book and movie reassure us: men know how to use a phone, men know if they like someone, men know how to hold onto a number, men will find a way to track someone down if it's important to them (Serendipity, anyone).

What interests me about this principle is that "he's just not that into you" can be applied beyond dating, really to anything involving chemistry, and particularly to job-hunting. I've held two super-impressive, competitive jobs, and with each one, I was called and offered the position within twenty-four hours of my interview (one on the morning after the interview, and the other just a few hours later as I was sitting down to write my thank-you note).

So if I don't hear within 48 hours, I'm nervous. My husband thinks it's ridiculous- superstition at best. Don't we all know that companies have policies and timetables and the interview process can stretch out over weeks upon weeks. Sure, but here's what I know: If they want me, they'll call me. (And why not apply this dating lesson to job-hunting: the sinking feeling when it's been days since your interview and the employer hasn't called feels similar enough).
But what about a company that really can't tell you for x number of weeks because of their hiring policies? (A note: these companies should assess why it takes them so long). Or what if it's a relatively speedy process - decision less than one week after the final interview- but there is no wiggle room to discuss the offer before a given date in the future?

If they like you, they'll call you.

Why? Because companies don't want to risk losing their top candidate. Why else? Because they want to show through their actions that they value the candidate's time and talent.

How? Even if they can't formally offer you, they'll provide some kind of indication that you stand out from the pack. Maybe a response to your thank you email, that it was great meeting you as well and your ideas were innovative and well-received (positive reinforcement) or an inquiry as to when you might be able to start or a request for references (hint, hint). Even a "bear with us" email (aka you're still top of mind). 

I'm not encouraging impatience nor am I suggesting if you don't hear immediately you should feel downhearted. And many a hiring manager may think 48 hours is ridiculous (to clarify, I'm saying 48 hours after the final, finalist interview). But seriously, if one candidate is clearly better than the rest it shouldn't take any longer than that. 

So when it does, it might be the kindest, most empowering thing to let the jobseeker begin emotionally preparing. I, for one, would rather be happily surprised than miserably blindsided.

The company I interviewed with is still one I hold in the highest regard. And their process was fair - they even sent me a thoughtful 'it's a no' email, which (take note hiring managers) matters! But while everyone around me was saying "It was Thanksgiving"; "It's only been a week"; I was hearing, "He'll call, really he will," and I knew better. 

I really wanted this job. I'll admit it -I cried when I didn't get it (no matter how much of a longshot I knew it may have been). But when I grab a latte later today, and am thinking all of this over, it will be comforting to remember that this doesn't mean no company will ever want me: it means it wasn't the right time, the right position, the right fit- they just weren't that into me this time, but that's okay.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

4 Ways You Might Be Turning Your Interviewees Off

So you’re looking for the perfect new hire to fill your open position. You complete a round of interviews, make your decision, and offer the star candidate the job—you’re done!
Except—she declines. Worse, you move on to the back-up candidate, and it’s the same story. What gives?

If you’re finding that candidate after candidate isn’t interested in an offer, the old adage, “You’re not just interviewing them, they’re interviewing you,” can begin to haunt you. Sure, finding the best person to give the offer to is a key part of the interviewer job description, but you’ve got to make sure candidates think you and your company are great, too.

So before you hold your next interview, make sure you’re not inadvertently making one of these four common interviewer mistakes.

See the rest of my latest The Daily Muse piece here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still Behind After Sandy? 4 Steps to Catch Up

At my last job, my work was highly cyclical. There would be weeks in the summer when I could address the "to do whenever I have time" project list, and the two biggest deadlines of the year were less than two weeks apart in December.

On the morning of my first major deadline, our server crashed. And my colleague with two years more experience, who had faced this deadline before, wasn't there because his wife had given birth that morning (that also explains why he wasn't taking my calls).

So on a day with one of the highest volumes of phone calls and emails, I was receiving repeated "Do you know your website is down?" messages. Surely this is an extreme situation. But we all face days when we have to play serious catch-up, and that is what inspired the ideas for my latest The Daily Muse piece.

Moreover, as you can tell from the title, this piece was written in light of Hurricane Sandy. My heart and thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected. Visit or text REDCROSS” to 90999  to donate to the relief efforts.