It's that time of year again. No, not Christmas - bathing suit season (just as stressful but with no gifts).
Spring has sprung and you can feel the panic in the air. Across the nation, women are jogging on treadmills, foregoing desserts and privately flogging themselves up for gaining a few pounds over winter.
All this because the weather has turned warmer, the jackets have come off - and we only have a few months until the bathing suits come out. [Insert shiver of horror here]. So it's only natural that many of us are looking for the best diet plan to shed pounds fast.
The mainstream media knows this. That's why there's a new diet on every cover right now. That's why there's a fresh crop of celebrities touting their miracle diet on TV or the shopping channel.
That's why you feel a bit more pressured than usual. You can't help it - it's all around you. Between the day-time talk shows, the newest book releases and the magazine covers touting the latest diet plan, the insinuation is there: You're a failure.
You're a failure if you don't easily slim down to a size 0 with our diet. You're a failure if losing weight for spring isn't the whiz-bang-easy-good-time we're telling you it is.
Just try our diet. You did and it didn't work? Well, it's certainly not our fault. There must be something wrong with you. Just buy next month's magazine and try that diet. Maybe if you're a good girl, you'll get it right this time.
Ok, maybe I've been buying magazines for too long. But you know what I mean - this subtle pressure about this time of year that says "Losing weight should be a cinch - it's easy!"
But there's something that these magazines aren't telling you about the latest and greatest best diet. There's actually something they're leaving out. And it's this something that is probably sabotaging your weight loss in a number of ways.
What is it?
It's simply this: They don't tell you that losing weight is a challenge. Yup, that's right - it takes effort.
But if you believe the hype that it should be easy - and then it's not easy for you - you'll get discouraged, break the diet and beat yourself up. And then you're stuck in the same cycle over and over of trying the latest best diet, failing, trying a new diet, failing etc. etc.
So what's the truth?
Losing weight is not easy. It is a lifestyle change. And it takes work.
So you need to be prepared to do everything you can to give yourself the edge. And consider any way you can that will make things easier while you lose weight.
That's one of the reasons I use a diet food delivery service to shed pounds every spring. It gives me that edge - that extra push I need to stick with it. I've used a couple of different services to lose weight over the years and they were the most enjoyable "diets" I've ever tried.
Why? Because the meals were done for me - and they tasted good (not like my cooking at all). So even though losing weight was a bit of a challenge, having the meals done for me took a lot of stress off.
I didn't have to shop or prepare the food myself. I didn't have to slave for hours in the kitchen - only to be disappointed by food that tasted blah. All I had to do was choose my entree for that night, heat it up and enjoy. Sometimes there was even dessert.
So if you've struggled in the past with losing weight, this is definitely an option to consider. There are other ways to make things easier and take the stress off too - like carving out some time alone to pamper yourself every day. Get a massage or do something special for yourself.
I would also suggest that you find a diet that lets you eat food you enjoy. So if you are a chocoholic, choose a diet that lets you have chocolate (ok, maybe not every day, but...).
If you need your glass of wine at night, there are diets that will allow this too. When you enjoy the food you're eating, you're more likely to stick with the diet and lose the weight you want.
Again, you want to make it as easy on yourself as possible.
Regardless of what you decide to do, or which diet you decide to try - just know that it's supposed to be a bit challenging at times.
It's not as simple as the magazines (or movie stars) say it is. If it was, then we'd all be size 0 gazelles lazing by the pool sipping margaritas.
So go easy on yourself, give yourself time and remember - it does get easier. And the results will be worth it!
Your kitchen doesn't need to be the place in your home where you undertake dreary daily cooking chores. It can be a room full of fun and new adventure. Forget about cooking standard food items the customary way and start being creative, and your kitchen tools can soon be as fun a place as any playground, especially during the holiday season. Walk into your kitchen with a playful mindset and begin exploring all the fun things you can do with normal, everyday foods.
Nothing is more of a staple food than rice. Nevertheless, you can innovate when you cook it - and have fun doing so. The next time you make rice, divide it into two equal portions. Use a small amount of two different food colorings in the cooking water. Choose the colors according to your whim, or if it happens to be a holiday season, get your inspiration from that. For Halloween, color half the rice black and the other half orange, for Christmas use red and green, pink and yellow rice will look wonderful on your table during the Easter holidays.
Another way to have fun in the kitchen is to use non-traditional items to make things. For instance, you can use any of the wide variety of flavored yogurts now available to make frozen popsicles for your kids. Another idea is to pour juice in ice cube trays, freeze and use the cubes to flavor your tea. Instead of adding regular ice cubes to your iced tea, use iced tea cubes to prevent the tea from becoming too diluted. Use spearmint extract to flavor hot chocolate and make delicious peppermint patties to savor in the winter.
If you would like your children to drink more water, add a couple of drops of food coloring to it. Your children will be attracted to the colorful 'new drink' and you won't need to sweeten it at all. To encourage kids to drink their milk, you can mix in a spoonful of chocolate or strawberry ice cream into their glass of milk. Frozen peanut butter buttons make tasty and nutritious snacks for growing children. Put the peanut butter on wax paper before you freeze it so it will be easier to remove without breaking.
Make pancakes using cookie cutters to shape them into awesome shapes for your family one morning. Or better yet have pancakes for supper, just to throw them a curve. You can even throw in some chocolate chips or M&M's for added color and flavor. Cook eggs in metal cookie cutters for added fun at breakfast. Cut up fruits to make funny faces or animals on the kid's plates, it's just another way to add more fruit to their diet, but its fun. One more way to get more fruit in your kids is to use a juicer. Try different mixtures of fruits and fruit juices to create your own beverage. You and your kids can even give funny names to the creations you make.
The most important take away from this is to have fun and be creative. Diversify the foods you eat to make them more enticing, more interesting. Use regular everyday foods and make something special from them. Something as simply as frozen seedless grapes will make a fantastic summer time snack. Use a dehydrator to dry bananas to make banana chips. They are so much better for you and your kids than potato chips, and they are delicious. Forget about mom telling you not to play with your food, play with it all you want.
Like its close neighbor Mexico, Cuba found itself at the center of many converging cultures. This has produced the distinctive taste that is now known worldwide as the Cuban way of cooking. Read on as we take a gastronomic journey from Havana to Guantanamo.
Spanish explorers strongly influenced on Cuban cuisine, as they did for many countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. Cuba's food history also has been affected by African tastes. The Spanish were influenced by the Moors, African Muslims who ruled parts of Spain for several hundred years, while African slaves who served as cooks for Cuban gentry added their own touches to native cooking. French colonists who fled slave uprisings in Haiti also added their own culinary arts to Cuban dishes.
Mixing indigenous ingredients along with those brought in by the Spanish, Africans, and the French, Cuban cuisine evolved into something that is unique and possessing a distinct character. It is similar to what would many describe as a "county" style in that cooking is simple and recipes and techniques got passed down through oral lore and hands-on teachings. New cooks serve as apprentice for experienced ones and this allowed for self-expression and modification of dishes.
It is actually very difficult to make an authentic Cuban cookbook as Cuban cooks rarely measured ingredients. Instead, they used "pinch" and "dash" a lot and a lot of tasting and adjusting was done to get the taste just right. This tradition has given rise to dishes that are simple and straightforward and requires very little tending to. Anything fuzzy and requires constant attention was rare. In fact, deep-frying - with the necessity of watching over everything closely - is practically unheard-of in Cuban kitchens.
As the predominant island nation in the Caribbean, one would naturally assume a rich tradition of cooking with seafood. But with the strong African influence, Cuban cooking has an affinity towards vegetables, such as platano (similar to bananas), yuca (cassava), boniato (a tropical sweet potato) and malanga, another starchy root vegetables. These are often chopped up and simmered with onions adding flavor to the mix.
Instead of overpowering the natural taste of meats, Cuban cuisine uses herbs and spices to enhance them. Cumin, garlic, oregano, and bay leaves are kitchen staples. A unique seasoning mix is made by sauting onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and black pepper in olive oil. "Sofrito" as the Cubans call it, is similar to the Cajun taste that Americans from the South are familiar with.
Limited grazing lands have given rise to lesser quality meats and that prompted the practice of marinating in lime or sour orange juice and slowly cooking to allow the meat ample time to tenderize. Rice and black beans are the usual companions to meat dishes.
Despite its tropical climate, Cuba is also known for the quality and variety of its baked goods, especially turnovers with unusual fillings. For dessert, there is flan, an egg custard topped with caramel sauce that is beloved by virtually all islanders.