Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sweater Svelte: Getting that Perfect Winter Body

The temperature is starting to drop, the days are getting shorter, and the crisp autumn air is ushering in the season of jackets, sweaters, jeans, and boots. That's right, folks: it's time to shed that ridiculous bikini body and get yourself ready for sweater weather. I may have fallen ever-so-slightly short of my goals for swimsuit season, but I have the dedication and drive that it takes to perfect a body that will be shown off in oversize sweaters and stretchy leggings for the next five months or so. If you haven't already started, don't panic; I am going to give you some quick tips today to put you on the road to achieving the ultimate fall and winter figure in no time.

It takes the right physique to look good in a sweater. Heavier clothing demands a bulkier frame, and a gaunt shape just can't carry off a winter wardrobe with the proper panache. Personally, I find that a good starting point for getting sweater shapen has been a steadfast menu of tailgate food each weekend, paired with the arrival of candy corn and pumpkin spice everything, aided by a steady stream of carbohydrates. If you set your mind to it and commit to a regimen of consistent binge eating, you can attain the bigger, fuller body type that fall and winter command. We all know the motto "no pain, no gain," but this is the season to commit to the mantra "buffet, all the way."

As luck would have it, this is the perfect week to put your winter body plan into action. If you haven't already started indulging in Halloween candy, I would recommend that you find the stash closest to you and dig in immediately. To achieve your ultimate goal, steer clear of fat-free and low-fat options like Twizzlers, gummy candy, or (heaven forbid) gum. Instead, choose candy that will get to work right away in not only tasting delicious, but sticking to your ribs and keeping you padded and cushioned all season long. Aim for as many servings of chocolate as possible, with bonus points for things like caramel, peanut butter, and coconut. This candy gluttony will become the building block for your diet over the next weeks and through the holiday season.

To illustrate and make sure you understand the chow down fundamentals, let me include a picture my friend Holly was kind enough to share with me. As you can see, the middle picture shows the most commonly followed, most miserable option, the Weight Loss Trapezoid. That is not the fast track to sweater svelte that we are seeking to obtain this time of year, so instead, devote your focus to what is known as the Happiness Paper Hat. Now you can clearly see the foods that are the most important for full-figured success. Put down the apple, pick up the fried apple pie.

For those of you who think that this plan seems too difficult, or are doubting the methodology of winterizing your body, I have medical science to back my claims. My mother's physician told her just last month that he does not recommend dieting through the cold and flu season, as it can weaken the immune system and leave one more susceptible to illness. I'm not exactly sure his stance on actively gaining weight during this time of year, but I think the message is clear: it's October and thin is so three months ago. Flab is fab, and it's time to decide, commit, and succeed in the form of carbs, carbs with melted cheese, and carbs with melted chocolate. The beauty of this plan is the flexibility all these options give you to tailor your menus and snacks to suit your individual tastes. With the right combination of sweets, fried foods, pasta, and cocktails, your perfect winter shape is well within reach.

Some of you will still remain skeptical. You have been mistakenly taught that a slender frame looks equally appealing in winter clothing, and that moderation is the key to looking and feeling your best during the cooler months of the year. You've been conditioned to try and resist all of the temptations that holiday parties and get togethers can bring, and you may even be inclined to try and prepare healthy versions of the comfort food we all crave when the weather turns cold. I can understand how you may have been misled, so again, I offer unequivocal proof that a rotund shape is more than desirable now that autumn is upon us. Let's take a look at the most popular images of the season, shall we? After all, a picture is worth a thousand pounds words.

These images are the body ideals for this time of year. Need I say more? Now, get out there and graze. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, and the good folks at IHOP are eager to help in your winter body shape up with their seasonal pancakes. Common sense will tell you that an eggnog-praline-creme-brulee-hazelnut-cinnamon-bun stack of flapjacks is the obvious choice for the conscientious dieter. Traditional diets sometimes suggest eating six small meals a day; I urge you to eat three large meals with at least two or three medium-size snacks. When in doubt, nibble. Appetizer, or dessert? Yes to both. Super size it, have that second helping, use real butter, get the whipped cream on top. Bacon can also be a useful tool for you on your diet journey. As a general guideline, avoid anything green unless it is guacamole. It may help to get a sweater svelte diet buddy to keep you accountable and make sure that you do not skip snacks or opportunities to indulge.

Stick to your plan, and visualize the results you will have after just a few short days of eating like there's no tomorrow. In no time, you will notice the byproduct of your efforts (I almost said the fruits of your labor, but we are avoiding fruit at all costs here) and begin to fully enjoy your elastic waistbands with confidence, and wear those tunics with pride. As always, I am here to guide you on your path to health, happiness, and a body that can support the weight of cable-knit sweaters without flinching. Our support group meets weekly at IHOP, and we'll save some chocolate syrup and marshmallow fluff just for you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom. The woman who introduced me to big hair, Days of Our Lives, and beauty pageants. She taught me to say please and thank you, always say my prayers, and never chew gum in public. The woman has watched more of my ballet recitals, pep rally routines, tap dances, baton twirls, and talent show capers than anyone should be subjected to witnessing. I call her roughly every other day--many times there are emergency calls that are on unscheduled days so that I can get wardrobe/etiquette/cooking advice that I feel quite certain I would die without. Or at least develop a very painful ulcer from the sheer stress of not being able to get Mom's input.

And so, I couldn't let the day go by without a special post for my mother, who is celebrating her birthday today. This is a lady who is a Neiman Marcus in a world full of Walmarts. We were at her house over the weekend, and it is decorated for fall in a manner that would make Martha Stewart either very proud, or very jealous, depending on her mood. My mom is a master of all things decorating-related; she arranges flowers, she sews, and even though she doesn't like to cook, you can tell by looking at our family that darn good things come out of her kitchen on a very regular basis.

Susan (also known as my mom) is a woman whose wardrobe is to die for, is always well-manicured, and full of style. She is a rare breed who still sends cards, uses beautiful stationery, and if she is asked to bring a dish of food, hers will undoubtedly be homemade. My mom is incredibly generous, and if you are lucky enough to know her, you have probably been the recipient of this generosity for no apparent reason or occasion. There were several years when a good size portion of her grocery money was siphoned away for prom and pageant dresses, while she got out the sewing machine and made her own gowns for her cotillion club ball. Whenever we get back to Charlotte after a visit to my parents' house, it takes us an extra hour to unload all the goodies my mother has sent back for us to enjoy.

One of the best gifts she ever gave me was an introduction to my alma mater. As difficult as it may be to believe, I did not always bleed orange. In fact, it was the spring of my senior year in high school when I came to the realization that the only college I had ever had any intention of attending was, despite my acceptance and the plans we had already been making, so not the place for me. I panicked. My carefully laid plan had totally unraveled and time was running out. Since she knows me like the back of her hand, my mom calmly suggested that perhaps I might like this school in South Carolina, this placed called Clemson, that we had passed for years on our way to the Anderson mall. I had been naive and totally oblivious, but once I stepped foot on campus, it was perfect. Like pretty much every other time in my life, mom was right. Were it not for her, none of you would have to listen to me extol the virtues of being a Clemson Tiger week after week (you can thank her later).

I could go on and on, because my mom is a force of nature. She does so much for Clint and I that I would need days to tell about it all, and she and I have so many memories and stories and inside jokes that I can't even begin to fill you in on the things we have shared over the years. She has a wicked sense of humor and a love for fun that is completely contagious. When I was in high school, my friends always wanted to spend time at our house--to hang out with my mother. She is funny, feisty, and fabulous, and I wanted to wish her a birthday that is the same. Quite literally, she is the one who put the "belle" in For Whom the Belle Tolls.

Happy, Happy Birthday to my one-of-a-kind mom! 
No matter what age the calendar says, you will always be a perfect "10!" 

You've come a long way, baby!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

8 Things Scarier than American Horror Story

American Horror Story: Freak Show premiered last week, and everyone has been frenzied with anticipation for the new season. I watched a few minutes of the first episode, but once Twisty the homicidal clown started hacking away on a guy in very vivid, violent detail, I had to shut it down. Maybe you've seen the show, possibly you haven't, but almost everyone has heard about its reputation for bringing the terrifying to television. Is it scary? Without a ghostly, haunted doubt. But as the saying goes, "truth is better than fiction," and I can think of a few things that are even scarier than a handful of fictional characters in a freak show; things that would make ol' Twisty squirm inside that clown suit.

Here is just a small sample of every day horrors more frightening than American Horror Story...because while I haven't encountered a two-headed, split personality oddity like they have on the show, these things are very, very real to me.

1. Making eye contact with one of those kiosk people in the mall. One moment, your only care in the world is if you should pay full price for that sweater in Anthropologie or wait and hope it winds up in the sale room, and the next, you are being slathered with miracle lotions and pressured into buying skincare kits from "world renowned" companies no one has ever heard of before. You can't break free because they are busy moisturizing every inch of skin they can find, while sticking business cards and coupons in every pocket and orifice of yours they can manage. These people are relentless retail torturers, and I find it especially frightening because nothing that you say or do seems to daunt their hard sell routine. My best advice is to throw one of their samples in the other direction as a distraction, and run like the (lotion covered) wind.

2. Answering the phone without looking at the caller ID (daunting in and of itself), thinking you know who is on the other end, only to have them answer, "What?!?" upon hearing your witty greeting. That is a moment of terror that will get your pulse pounding. My mom, from time to time, will pick up the phone when I call with a friendly, "Stop calling here!" She almost fainted last year when she answered a call she assumed was from me in her special way, only to find out the caller was a lady from her church congregation calling about Bible study. I'm pretty sure they have permanently barred her from serving on the hospitality committee.

3. Your dog sits up in the bed in the middle of night and growls into the dark, for what you hope/think/pray is no apparent reason. Gulp. Now lie there and try not to jump at every sound you hear for the next four hours while you try to doze back off to dreamland. In my case, my dog is 18-pounds and completely blind, which means he is neither fully aware of his surroundings nor a very intimidating watch dog. It makes for a slightly-less-than-peaceful slumber, I can tell you that.

4. Getting stuck in the corner at a gathering with a big, dull, dud who won't take the hint and realizing there are no rescuers in sight. Being slaughtered by a killer clown seems like a picnic compared to the endless, droning tales of allergies, gluten-free recipes, and Montessori schooling advantages. Thanks to the age of iPhones, there will now also be a slide show from Dull Dud's camera roll of little junior's latest Boy Scout badge ceremony, and a real time video from little cutesy's dance recital. Are you starting to panic yet? Thaasophobia is the fear of boredom (go ahead, look it up), and it is real.

5. A friend calls to tell you she's in the neighborhood and thought she'd just drop by in a few minutes--which means you have about 360 seconds to try and hide the fact that you are still in your pajamas and your house looks like a promo spot for an episode of Hoarders. I mean, not that this has ever happened to me, of course--my house, like my personal appearance, is always tidy and well kept (ha), but I have heard from friends that it will set your heart a-racing. Now, quick, shove that stuff under the couch and throw a kitchen towel over the dirty dishes.

6. That sinking moment when you finish eating something and only then notice that, according to the packaging, it expired last week. Suddenly, you don't feel well, do you? Or are you fine? No, you definitely feel "off" somehow. Right? Enjoy having this debate with yourself for the next 12 hours while waiting to see if sickness is coming for you. Lions, and tigers, and bears, and placebo effects, oh my!

7. Trying on swimsuits in early spring, before the sun has had a chance to take the incandescent glow from your thighs. Your New Year's resolutions have either never started or have already gone by the wayside, and you are still carrying some extra "warmth" from that stretch of anti-diet that occurs from Halloween candy to Christmas cookies and eggnog. There are few images that will haunt your dreams the way those of your pale, spandex-clad body glowing underneath fluorescent dressing room lighting can. Things that go bump in the night have got nothing on things that bulge, jiggle, and dimple.

8. This one is probably the most horrifying of them all, so prepare yourselves and know that you have been warned. It is not for the faint of heart. Take a deep breath, and when you feel ready, proceed:

A woman asks, "What did you say?" The odds are approximately 99.999% that she has heard exactly what you said, and this is the chance she is giving you to correct yourself before she rips you to pieces. The best reaction to this hazard is similar to protocol for being attacked by a grizzly bear. Do not make any sudden movements, or engage in any behavior that could be deemed aggressive. If the woman cannot be distracted or calmed, play dead. Lie down, and do your best to cover your vital organs in preparation for attack. And for the love of Pete, stay quiet. Trying to talk your way out of such situations could result in a higher casualty count. Lie there and wait for the storm to pass, and hope someone else says something stupid soon to save you from yourself.

After touring that little house of horrors, you do your best, knife-wielding, hatchet-toting carnival folk. I live in the real, cellulite-laden, boring-party-folk populated, questionable-food-safety world. You can't scare me. But if you could scare off those mall kiosk folks, I'd be ever grateful.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Magic Words

When I was growing up, whenever I asked for-- or let's be honest--demanded something with my mother, she would almost always reply, "What's the magic word?" To even be considered for whatever request I was making, I had to say please. As usual, Mom knew best. Please and thank you are the magic words. They can make the world go 'round.

We have been in Clemson for football games for the last two glorious weekends (be still my tiger print heart). Thankfully, I am proud every time we return to God's country, not only because of how beautiful it is there, but by the hospitality we inevitably receive. Strangers have voluntarily helped us put up our tailgate tent, take down our tailgate tent (side note: that tent gives us some trouble), doors are opened, friendly conversations started. There is an ease and warmth that never fails to make me feel at home. Graciousness and courtesy are as abundant as the color orange around my favorite little town, and it does not go unnoticed.

Five North Carolina State fans sat in front of us at the game on Saturday. I can't even sugarcoat this by saying they were zealous or passionate; the truth is, they were downright rude. As they arrived at their seats, surrounded by a sea of orange-clad Tiger fans, they loudly expressed their opinion that our stadium was not up to their standards (ahem). They heckled an Air Force captain who was receiving an award down on the field prior to the game (really, boys?). Several times during the first half, they yelled to the crowd that Clemson can never beat Florida State (although we beat the Wolfpack 41-0 this week, so there is that to fall back on). I kept hoping that, as their team continued to fall further and further behind, they might quiet down a bit. It never happened. I did love when, at one point, a gentleman in a camouflage Tiger paw hat down in front of them gave them A Look, then turned to his friend and asked in a disgusted voice, "Are they bothering those ladies?" Because a Clemson man might put up with those kind of nuisances, but as soon as a lady becomes a damsel in distress, the game is over.

The North Carolina boys seemed to catch the death threat drift that Clemson fan was throwing in their direction, so they settled into a charming round of armpit farts and spent the rest of the first half shouting things that would make a sailor in a swearing contest blush. I get that we were at a football game, not a black-tie event, but I still think that using a little sensibility would have helped prevent everyone in our section from wanting to high five those the face, with a chair.

Later in the day, I saw a little boy wearing a (very tiny) shirt that read: "Always say please, thank you, ma'am, sir, and GO TIGERS!" In my book, those are good guidelines. But no matter what team you pull for, or what state you might be in, good manners are always in fashion. Why is it that, as we get older, we tend to forget those very basic ways to treat others? We have a saying in the South: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. What does it mean? Simply put, you'll find that the sweeter you treat people, the more likely they will be cooperative with you. When you dictate that someone do something, your results are iffy at best. But try making a request, throwing in those magic "please" and "thank you" words, and I guarantee you will get a much better response. People are drawn to good behavior like a moth to a flame.

These things called manners are not rocket science. They are free. They don't require an etiquette class or an Emily Post guide, just a little common sense and courtesy. Say excuse me. Respect your elders. Don't take things that don't belong to you--this includes parking spaces, accolades, and especially someone else's boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other. Even if you don't believe in the power of manners, there is a thing called karma and it has a long memory and ironic sense of humor.

For the record, good manners are a big part of the reason I married my husband. By our second date, he was such a gentleman that I was completely smitten. He opened doors, carried a handkerchief (which comes in handy when your date is a tad clumsy, like yours truly), refilled my drink, and even stood up when I left the table to go to the ladies' room--which, embarrassingly, prompted me to naively ask, "Oh, are you getting up, too?" Bless my heart, and bless him for knowing how to treat a lady. To this day, he still gets oohs, aahs, and swoons from my girl friends for being so chivalrous.

Mind your manners. Be pretty, witty, and gracious. Even if you don't see immediate results, at the very least you'll keep a good ol' boy from having to take you aside and show you how to behave. Please and thank you are still the magic words, and after all, who doesn't want to make a little magic?