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Why Halloween is About More Than Just Sweets

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I love Halloween.

A lot.

The costumes. The silliness. The parties.  The fact visiting neighbors unannounced is encouraged. The abundance of skulls and skeletons.  

It’s my favorite holiday.

Halloween held this most favored status, in fact, long before my daughter was born.

While she has definitely increased my enjoyment of the holiday (I now have a partner in getting the canine costumed) I’ve always been a fan.

As a child I’d spend months plotting and planning my costume (what’s the backstory? what’s my motivation?).

I’d be wrapped up in creating, imagining and counting down to October 31st while the rest of North America was still steeping in summer fun.

As friends and family were starting to mourn the winding down of vacation, even as a child I was readying to decorate and bring out the skulls.

 

You may have noticed some themes to my love of Halloween.

Costumes. Characters. Skeletons. Skulls.

Nowhere have I mentioned the abundance of sugar.

Sweet stuffs wouldn’t even make my Top Five Reasons I Love Halloween! list.

It’s not, as you may be assuming, because I’m a “grown up.”

Even when I was little the thrill of getting costumed, attending parties and running around my neighborhood at night was far more thrilling than an infusion of sugar could ever be.

Now that I am an adult and a (finger quote) healthy living expert (unF.Q.) I find other parents seek me out this time of year for advice.

“How do we keep our kids from eating too much candy? It’s everywhere this time of year?”

“How can I create a healthy, holiday party so my child doesn’t want to go Trick or Treating and gather a bag filled with junk?”

The answer I give is always the same.

The answer is, I believe, the reason Halloween never really became about the sweets for me.

The answer is why I don’t struggle with over-consumption of junk as an adult.

The answer, over time, has been broken down into three reasons.

 

Halloween is just one day.  I know it feels as though the candy comes out when it’s still summer and stays on shelves through December—but it really is just one day.

I strive to emphasize with my daughter how any single day really doesn’t “matter” as our healthy life is the sum of all of our days strung together!

I focus with my family on how any single meal really isn’t all that “important” given the backdrop of our healthy life being the sum of all our meals over time.

 

That said, I do understand, with parties and dress-up days at school, how Halloween can feel as though it stretches on for a full month.

Tip: Mark a red X on your calendar on the days where parties/events occur.  If you’re anything like I am this process helps you realize how few “sweet treat focused events” there really are.

 

Practice what you wanna preach.  Quite frankly I don’t change at all no matter the holiday.  All things in moderation are fine.  My Halloween focus is not on the food but the fun! I love Halloween and have (hooray!) passed that adoration on to my eight year old.  She’s watched as I decorate and dress up.  She’s seen how much fun I have with the costumes and the skull-stuffs.  No matter how it may seem at times, we parents are the biggest influence in our children’s lives.  Even with the backdrop of school parties and trick or treating to her the excitement of Halloween is found in the fun and not the sugar.

Tip: If you aren’t quite there yet with being able to resist the sugar make this Halloween one where you get in character!  Create a story for yourself regarding exactly who you are and why you’re choosing not to indulge in the sweets.  Fake it till you make it!

 

 

Forbidden never works.  This notion has been a backdrop for much that I do as a mother.  Barbies? Not my thing, but I realized early on if forbidden they became that much more alluring.  Playing with make-up?  I still don’t wear it as a 45-year-old woman, yet I decided to let my daughter experiment with it inside our house.  I decided the moment I issued an emphatic NO! I’d empower the face-paint and make it more attractive to her. I’ve chosen to approach Halloween sugar the same way.  “Sure you may have a piece of chocolate and afterward lets have dinner together as a family.”

Sure, the sugary excitement may reach an all time high the night of the 31st and yet, since it’s not forbidden, I invariably I find myself tossing out stale sweets the second week of November.

 

Most important for what can feel like a sugary celebration?

Have fun.

Get into character.

Embrace the silliness.

It might surprise you how the sweet stuff slips into the background without your even realizing it.

 

What’s your best tip for taking the focus of the holiday off consumption and onto costumes?

Burning Calories is N.E.A.T.

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Before our daughter I’d never heard of the acronym N.E.A.T..

I was active.

I worked out.

Even working full-time I had hours at my disposal to do with what I pleased.

I hadn’t heard of the acronym and most likely would have scoffed at the concept had I stumbled upon it.

Exercise, in my mind, needed to be focused, sweaty and completed in stints of a minimum of thirty minutes at a time.

Flash forward a few years and I now live each day with a N.E.A.T. backdrop.

As a working mother, wife, sister, friend and volunteer I’ve learned the importance of seizing N.E.A.T.ness in any form I can.

I credit it for my ability to remain functionally fit with minimal time invested in traditional exercise.

I’m busy.  I travel for work.  I do what I can.  And I’m grateful I have N.E.A.T to help me take care of the rest.

Is your curiosity piqued?  Allow me to clarify what I’m talking about.

N.E.A.T. is defined as non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Essentially, the acronym refers to energy expended during activity (fidgeting to shopping) that’s not specifically exercise.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say N.E.A.T. has been my fitness-savior.

It’s taught me my body really doesn’t know the difference between walking on a treadmill and pacing during a conference call.

It’s shown me the strength I gain through grocery hauling and dog–hoisting is pretty comparable to what I used to gain in the gym (I know. I was shocked, too.).

In addition, since sitting has been deemed the new smoking, the fact I’ve converted much of my sedentary time into movement could also lengthen my lifespan.

Sure in a perfect world Id have time to do all I need to and fit in traditional workouts, but these days that’s not happening.

Thankfully studies (and my experience) show taking advantage of N.E.A.T can burn up to 500 extra calories per day and, more importantly in my opinion, result in a fitter, stronger you.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to squeeze N.E.A.T. into my day.

    • Buy a pedometer.  I selected a basic, inexpensive basic model.  Something that only counted my steps.  Not only did I find the numbers motivating, I discovered the slight pressure of the pedometer on my waistband reminded me to get up and walk.  Phone calls and brainstorming sessions for work are all easily done in motion, too.

 

    • Isometric ab contractions Sometimes life dictates I sit still and work.  During those long stretches I find both activity and stress reduction through tightening and releasing my core.  I also have friends who swear isometric ab contraction is their secret to core strength and six pack abs.  Whether this is true or not is debatable, but I’ve definitely found it helps me remember to keep my core contracted throughout my day.

 

    • I lunge.  Everywhere.  I lunge across parking lots.  I lunge as I clean the house.  I lunge (we call it silly walking) at the park with my daughter.  You will never find me lunging as part of a formal workout (can’t stand them)—but when N.E.A.T.ing I’m a fitting-them-in machine.

 

    • I’m a N.E.A.T. cook.  I don’t love to spend time in the kitchen.  I’d rather be with the ones I love than separated preparing food for them.  It’s just who I am.  Now, when I grow impatient waiting for water to boil or salmon to poach, I N.E.A.T.  I turn on music and dance.  I do calf raises in place after I’ve retrieved the colander from the shelf.  The kitchen offers myriad ways to fit in fitness when we’re willing to get N.E.A.T.-creative.

 

    • I shift sedentary into active.  I love to watch recorded television.  Now, instead of skipping all the commercials, I’ll use a few for movement bursts.  Two minutes of planks?  4 sets of push-ups? A minute of jump rope or hula hooping? These all fit perfectly into commercial time.   I also drag friends along for the N.E.A.T. ride.  I love book groups.  I wish I possessed more motivation to walk outside.  The two mixed together (our walking book club) is a perfect N.E.A.T. combo for busy book lovers.

 

Whatever you choose to call it—-N.E.A.T., constant motion, viewing your day through the lens of movement— the result is burning daily calories in a manner that fits fitness into any schedule.

What sedentary daily activities could you turn into N.E.A.T.?

How are you already incorporating the idea of N.E.A.T. into your busy day?

Throwback Thursday

The original Swerve logo from 2001.

My grandmother said to me once, “As you get older, the years go by much faster.”  At the time all I could think is that the school year went by like molasses and the summers seemed to never be long enough.  Well, twenty-five years later, I now know exactly what she meant.  Where did the first half of 2014 go? Most of you are probably new to Swerve Sweetener, within the past couple of years or so.  You may not ……[Continue Reading]