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October 28, 2014

Confessions of a zombie

9:39 am - Posted by Gregg

All Hallow’s Eve is the perfect time to confess that I often compare myself to a zombie. And not because I’m on a constant quest for “Brains… Brains…” — although certainly some people who know me might argue that a mission like that would be appropriate. But no… For me, the “zombie comparison” comes from my commitment to constantly moving — and often stumbling – forward, no matter what kind of odds or circumstances I’m facing.

Picture, if you will, a zombie in a field, moving toward its goal — one (often ungraceful) step at a time. Although this zombie might be missing a limb or two — or even if it’s being shot at — it just keeps on going. Kind of like the Energizer Bunny — only with more blood and guts. Still, there’s something to be admired about the zombie’s drive. And that’s why I often liken myself to one of these undead creatures (even during times of year when All Hallow’s Eve isn’t nigh).

Believe it or not, this comparison can be especially helpful if one has suffered a crisis of spirit due to a recent loss or disappointment. It’s tough to stay committed to one’s goals after experiencing a setback (no matter what aspect of life it pertains to).

Similarly, it’s sometimes tough to walk out the front door when your heart and spirit are heavy — perhaps feeling like you’ve gone one step forward and two steps back (feel free to insert your own analogy here). We all have days where matters of the heart, our health, our career or another seemingly crushed desire (even if just temporarily crushed) seem to weigh us down due to original intentions evading us (no matter how hard we’ve worked to achieve said goals).

Some days it feels almost impossible to keep on moving in the direction we’d originally intended for ourselves. It’s these kind of “down days” that seem to call out for staying in bed and hiding under the covers. Or cheating on our diets. Or picking an argument with a loved one. Or telling our boss off. Or giving up completely.

Again, this can all be likened to the life of a zombie.

After all, it’s not any easier to reach a lofty life goal than it is to dig yourself out of a grave — not to mention move across a large field fast enough to catch up with someone who has two working legs and can likely run faster than you can stumble. Think about it… Neither we nor the zombie totally knows exactly what he or she is doing. And yet the zombie just continues to stumble forward, sure that his or her goal will be worth it. In other words, zombies never give up. And this is something we can definitely take a cue from — whether wanting to reach our goal mindset, goal weight, goal promotion, goal marriage or goal whatever.

Just as a zombie is committed to stumbling forward to reach those sought-after brains — even when being shot at, attacked or even pulled apart (torn limb from limb, for crying out loud) — we can do the same when approaching our goals.

Sure, we don’t always know what obstacles lie ahead of us (setbacks that we can’t predict — even ones that seemingly block our efforts and require us to rethink our strategies from another starting point). But no matter what knocks us down, we have the option of considering it to be a temporary thing and then getting back up and recommitting to stumbling toward our goal. Because eventually — even when stumbling — as long as we’re moving forward, we’re going to reach our desired destinations.

So this Halloween, whenever you happen to see a zombie on TV, in a movie or at a costume party (hopefully as opposed to seeing a real one that’s sizing you up like a Thanksgiving dinner), take a moment to acknowledge that you have something in common with the walking dead.

And, of course, if you do happen to see a real zombie, run (don’t stumble) the other way. After all, we need all of the brains that we can hold onto. Besides, the run will potentially do your heart — and spirit — some good.

Picture Source: 20 Funny Zombie Pictures

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October 21, 2014

News you can use

2:27 pm - Posted by Gregg

ABC7 in Los Angeles recently featured my weight loss story and my new book, Weightless: My Life as a Fat Man and How I Escaped, on their 5pm news program. Reporter Lori Corbin (the ABC7 “Food Coach”) narrates the piece. Click here if you’d like to check it out.

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4:59 pm - Posted by Gregg

Guest Post By JoAnn Takasaki

For some reason, “comfort food” is something I associate with cold winters, cozy fires and flannel. It’s food you eat to warm you from the inside and that reminds you of all the best parts of being a kid. Living in Houston, even the idea of flannel is making me break out into a sweat! But it is October and, based on all the pictures of friends who live in more northerly climes, it’s cool somewhere. So for those of you who get to enjoy the cooler season, here’s a recipe for Chicken Long Rice, excerpted from my collection of family recipes published in Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way.

Wait…what?

I’m sure you’re confused by now. Why am I writing about a so-called “Hawaiian-style” soup, cold winters, and comfort food from Houston? Well, I actually grew up much like Gregg did. In fact, we went to the same high school in Wiesbaden, Germany. His family was military and mine was civil service. My father hails from Honolulu, HI. And though my mother (and co-author) was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she learned how to cook from my dad’s mom, who was also born and raised in Hawai’i. So really, I did eat this as a kid in cold climes like Korea, Colorado, Germany. And even in Hawai’i. Because let’s face it: chicken noodle soup is wonderful no matter what time of year!

What started out as an ad hoc effort of collecting as many recipes as possible from my mom for my own use, resulted in me deciding to organize a few of them in some fashion. And I wasn’t sufficiently motivated by merely capturing the recipes, so I promised her that for all the work we were doing to actually measure her “put in some” or “just a skosh” or “to taste,” that I would publish the recipes. That was eight years ago. I finally made good on my promise in March when I self-published Luau Like a Local.

There is a native Hawaiian cuisine but really it has evolved to include the food of the various ethnic groups: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Spanish, and more. This particular dish is actually Chinese. And while I promise the easy way (you could really just use store bought chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken, shredded), this recipe is how mom makes it. It’s not particularly hard at all. And is perfect for whatever may ail you!

Chicken Long Rice
Chinese-style chicken noodle soup

This is not as soupy as a typical chicken soup. When served, the bowl should be bursting with noodles and chicken.

Prep time: 30 minutes (10 minutes before, 20 minutes during)
Cook time: 1½ hours
Servings: 8 as a side dish (or 2 for dinner, maybe with some leftover for lunch)

Ingredients
½ small chicken
4‒6 cups water or chicken broth
½-inch slice of ginger, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 bundle long rice (also know as bean thread or vermicelli), soaked in warm water to soften
4‒5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
½ 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, julienned
½ small round onion, sliced thin
⅛ cup soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks green onion, sliced 2‒3 inches long diagonally for garnish

Directions
1. Place chicken in large pot with enough water or chicken broth to cover.

2. Add ginger, bay leaves, and five spice.

3. Bring to a boil and simmer about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the meat falls away from the bones.

4. While chicken is cooking, put long rice in a large bowl with hot water to soften.

5. Prepare the shiitake, bamboo shoots, onion, and green onion for garnish.

6. Remove chicken from broth and pull meat from bones, returning meat to broth. Discard bones.

7. Add long rice noodles, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and onion.

8. Simmer until about half of the broth is absorbed. Season with soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.

9. Garnish with green onions.

Excerpted from “Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way” by JoAnn and Susanna Takasaki. Used with permission.

About Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way:
Within 24 hours, Luau Like a Local: The Easy Way went to #1 on Amazon in Hawaii cookbooks. The reviews have all been 5-stars with praise for the gorgeous photography (by Toman Imagery), humor, and the well thought-out planning guide and shopping lists. “I found the recipes to be very clear, with options for doing things the traditional way or the more practical way for those of us with small kitchens and no access to exotic food markets. The photos are gorgeous and the shopping list at the end was incredibly helpful!” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

About Guest Blogger JoAnn Takasaki:
JoAnn Takasaki (pictured here, right, with her mom) started writing about food with two columns in the new Midtown Paper back in 2003. She decided to make the jump to full time writing in 2004 in hopes of “being paid to eat and get massages around the world.” While she didn’t exactly realize that dream, she did end up writing the Houston destination guide in AirTran’s “Go!” magazine for three years and her restaurant and bar reviews were syndicated out to many hotel and travel sites including AOL and Yahoo! Travel. She gained enough notoriety to catch the eye of then Executive Producer Geoff Roth of FOX26 Houston News and was the first Houston Food Blogger to be featured on the evening news in the popular segment. In 2011, she decided to focus her efforts on growing her Houston-based copywriting and content development agency, GlobalWrites, but she still has a bit of a foodie following on Facebook and Twitter. You can keep up with the latest developments for “Luau Like a Local” on the Facebook page or by searching #LuauLikeALocal.

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October 9, 2014

Fall Food Demystified

12:15 pm - Posted by Gregg

Even though it’s still super hot here in Los Angeles, the calendar says October…so I’m turning my attention to seasonal fruits and vegetables (’cause I’ve got to get my autumn-fix from somewhere). I love this infographic from HealthCentral, which illustrates  favorite fall veggies and fruits while offering the benefits of incorporating them into your diet as well as some tips for buying, preparing, and enjoying. In other words, Happy Fall Y’all!

Infographic from HealthCentral

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5:06 pm - Posted by Gregg

When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I’m a supermodel, I’m only half kidding. Sure, they chuckle — especially when learning that I’m actually a screenwriter who works behind the cameras rather than in front of them. But if I happen to share that I took off over 250 pounds of excess weight over a decade ago and have kept it off ever since, they then start to notice my model-like swagger. After all, as someone who used to wear a size 60” belt (as long as I am tall), I never thought that I’d be able to fit into and wear clothing that wasn’t purchased at one of those Big and Tall stores. So now that I do, I’m only too happy to strut my stuff — no runway required.

And I’ve got news for you. You’re just as much of a supermodel as I am. Perhaps even more so.

Before moving to Los Angeles, I worked in the fashion industry as both a copywriter and art director. This gave me the opportunity to work with real life models and supermodels — most of whom were surprisingly human. When working in New York City with some of the biggest names in the biz (at the time), I weighed in excess of 400 pounds. You can only imagine the heads that turned when I would walk into a meeting to discuss some designer’s latest clothing line. I was the extra-large square peg trying to fit into the fashion industry’s round hole. But being from the other side (the real world side), I was determined to find out the secrets that these creatures of beauties knew, but that they didn’t seem to be sharing with the rest of us.

To my surprise, most professional models (the ones who wanted a lasting career at least) were pretty darned normal. They put on their pants one leg at a time. They got irritated when their hair didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to. And they also (surprise-surprise!) were conscious of what types of foods and how much of these foods they were eating (all the good things we learn about here and on other helpful websites like joybauer.com).

Sure, there was the occasional girl (an industry term not a sexist one, I assure you) who didn’t have to think twice about what she ate. But most models were careful about their food choices and portion sizes. And it’s while working with them that I began to pick up strategies that would help me eventually shed the 250+ pounds of my excess weight once and for all.

But my initial fascination with supermodels aside, I eventually began to realize that everyone around me was a supermodel in their own right. No matter if they were flying to Milan or trying to get the kids to school on time, everyone had agendas, everyone had schedules. Sometimes they met them. Sometimes they didn’t. But the real champs (whether appearing in magazine ads or not) carried themselves with grace at all times. And yes, I would even see this kind of grace in friends selecting vegetables while at the grocery store or picking random bits of baby food out of their hair after feeding time.

No matter what we do (or are trying to do) for a living, aren’t we all rockstars? (Oops. Sorry. I’ll try and stick to one analogy here.) But hopefully you’re starting to get my drift.

We’re all on life’s runway and all strutting our stuff. We have good days. We have challenging ones. But we’re making life work as best we can. And it’s when we throw our shoulders back, walk with proper posture and keep the right attitude that we can achieve even greater successes. This is true whether we’re trying to take off some excess weight, working to find that dream job or even simply meeting friends for coffee. We are all supermodels. And the sooner we own that, the more easily we can shift into carrying ourselves with a little more self-confidence — the kind of self-confidence that can help us meet all of our goals (even if said goals are going to take a little time).

So now the answer to the question posed in the headline of this piece… Did you know you’re a supermodel? Because, without question, you are one. And yes, with this proclamation, I’m giving you permission to work it however you see fit. As you scan this blog for your next favorite recipe, some fun snack food ideas or tips for looking your best, own your goals. Own your challenges. But also own your star quality… And make it shine.

Photo Source: Grunge Mummy

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