6 Ways to get Involved in your Community During the Holidays

The other day, I heard on the radio that Katie Holmes spent over $50,000 on Christmas presents for her daughter, Siri. She bought her a Ralph Lauren dress, a kid-sized Mercedes Benz toy car, and a $30,000 Victorian home play house. Yeah, I wasn’t too happy when I heard the news, to say the least.

In fact, I was sick to my stomach.

$50,000 on Christmas presents for your one daughter? There are millions and millions of children in the world who don’t get to experience Christmas joy. Forget about not getting a present, they don’t even get to be with their families, sit around a table enjoying Christmas ham, sit on Santa’s lap, nothing. And Katie Holmes spent this much money on superficial things that this child is going to outgrow in a matter of years.

As a member of Kiwanis (similar to Rotary and Lions club) since I was 13 years old, volunteering and giving back is always on my mind during the Holidays. Every year I try not to take for granted how much I have been blessed with when I could have easily been born into a family who doesn’t get to experience Christmas joy. So, because of all this, I decided to share with all of you somethings you can do to get involved and help out during the holidays. I hope along the way you are inspired to help.

1) Toys for Tots
This just may be my favorite way to get involved during the holidays. While you’re out buying presents for your loved ones, pick up an extra toy or two for kids who aren’t as blessed to receive Christmas presents. Their mission statement says it all:

The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

Wallgreens stores (which happens to be where a great place to get stocking stuffers) around the country are collecting gifts to distribute to children. This makes it super easy to help out! Or if you feel like you don’t want anything for Christmas, ask your close friends and family friends for a toy to donate to Toys for Tots, perhaps in your family’s name.

2) Holiday Coalition
I used to volunteer for the Holiday Coalition every Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was in high school and it was one of the most rewarding things I did as a teenager. Holiday Coalition is a giant hub of goods that individuals have dropped off food and clothes for less fortunate families. We prepackaged meals in brown paper bags so families can easily come in, grab a bag, and go on to the next station. We also organized the clothes section and the toys section. Then, before Christmas, families come in to gather their meals, presents, and winter clothes so they can make Christmas even more special. It’s really a great cause! (This may be called something different in your area, but this is what it’s called in mine. If you’re from Northern Virginia, Loudoun County has a great program!)

3) Donate canned goods

During the holidays, we make countless number of trips to the grocery store. Even if you feel like you are in such a rush and you have a million things to take care of, just spent an extra 2 minutes in the canned food aisle and grab a couple of items to donate. This time of year especially, churches and private organizations are collecting nonparishable items and have set up donation sites all over your local area. If you have an extra second, call up local donation centers and see what they are in need of (in my experience, they are always in need of Peanut butter and tuna!).

4) Prepare an extra meal to donate to a homeless shelter

While you’re preparing your holiday ham, why not make an extra one and donate it to the shelter? Or even an extra mashed potatoes, cheesecake, cookies, anything you can whip up! A couple months ago, a group of my friends and I made over 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our local homeless shelter. Their faces brightened instantly and all the manager said was, “they are going to love these.” If PB&Js could brighten their day, imagine what a holiday meal could do!

5) Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has tons of bases around the country that can always use help sorting out their inventory, taking donations, and bell ringing. They have an electronic database for them to keep track of their inventory and so they need tons of volunteers. Less fortunate families are able to come in and tell them how old their kids are and then they pick out toys for them! They have things from bikes, to dolls, to video games! It’s a wonderful organization and they have shelters all over the country. Check out their website HERE to find one closest to you!

6) Find out what your local area needs

A simple Google search for “homeless shelter” or “food drive” and your zip code and tons of options will come up. From there, most of these sites list “current needs,” which include financial needs (mortgage, gas, administration, etc.), volunteer needs (upcoming events and opportunities), and wish lists (toilet paper, diapers, umbrellas, flashlights, medicine, etc.).

By the way, if you’re not sure where your local homeless shelter, donation site, toys for tots drop off site, or any other holiday volunteering opportunity is, a Google search with your zipcode will show you the way instantly!

So maybe we don’t all have $50,000 laying around to help out the less fortunate. This is why I have so much respect for celebrities like Ellen Degenerous who selflessly donate to the community, support our troops and global causes. Regardless of how much money you have, or how much time you think you don’t have, a little goes a long way. And just remember that more than money, your presence makes the biggest difference during the holidays.

And as for Katie Holmes, I just hope that she donates those toys when Siri grows out of them.

Happy Holidays! Much luv,

-Avi

10 Ways to Get Out of your Workout Slump and Stick With it!

I am the QUEEN of the workout slump. I have always been an active dancer since I was a little girl, but unfortunately once I went on to college I had to give that up. I tried joining dance groups on campus, but between the overload of school work and transferring Universities, it was difficult. By the time I was a Junior, my metabolism had caught up with me and I had noticeably gained weight. I made a conscious decision that I had to start excercising. The only problem: other than dancing, I had no idea how to work out. Over the next three years, I had gone through so many workout slumps I can’t even count.

But somehow over the past semester of school and now that I’ve graduated, something has clicked. I am finally out of the workout slump and I’m on the longest workout track of my life! In the process, I have learned a ton of lessons that I’d love to share with you all that will hopefully lead you all out of your workout slumps, assist you in your fit lifestyle, and help you out!

1) Find something you love
This is the number one thing that brought me out of my workout slump. I tried the treadmill, I worshipped the stairmaster, I did everything in the gym and I just wasn’t loving it. Worst of all, I wasn’t motivated to come back other than the pure motivation of changing my body, which wasn’t changing. Then I found ZUMBA. As a dancer, this was something that came so naturally to me and I absolutely fell in love! I would go a couple times a week and I was addicted.

Even if you’re not a dancer, make sure whatever it is that you’ve decided to pursue for excercise is something you love. If you love to run and the treadmill isn’t doing it for you, run outside! If you love to bike but can’t seem to motivate yourself hard enough on the stationary bike, try a spinning class (which is also super fun!). If you are having fun, I promise it won’t feel like a workout, you’ll get addicted, and you’ll be out of your slump in no time!

2) Try a workout class
Aside from Zumba, there’s spinning class, yoga class, water aerobics, and the list goes on and on depending on your gym! There are so many advantages of going to a class: you’re surrounded by people working out with you which keeps you motivated, you’re looking to a professional instructor to see what to do instead of having to rely on yourself, most gyms have these classes a couple times a week so you can keep going and its a new outlet to make friends (or bring your friends!) with the same goals as you.

3) Don’t be so hard on yourself
Goals are good, but putting too much pressure on yourself is not. When you look back and realize you only worked out twice this week instead of your goal of five, or you had two cheat meals instead of one, these negative thoughts build and it’s very easy to be discouraged and stop working out altogether. So maybe you didn’t get a chance to go to the gym this week, use that as positive motivation to get yourself into the gym next week instead of being negative and putting yourself down.

4) Eat right
There is nothing more discouraging than working out super hard but feeling like it’s not working. If you feel like this, there’s a good chance it’s because you haven’t changed your diet. Working out is only 20% of it, the rest is what you eat!

But here’s what I’ve found about eating right: Eat what you love!That’s not to say, you love McDonalds so eat McDonalds, but don’t try to make yourself eat Quinoa if you don’t like it. Not only will this discourage you from dieting and eating right, but making yourself eat things you don’t like will tempt you to eat that Thai food you love or be tempted by $2 burger night. Then you’re back to square one and you’ll think “well, why workout now?”

5) Weigh yourself?
Well, that’s for you to determine. I know studies show that people who weigh themselves experience faster weight loss. But personally, this isn’t motivating for me. After a week or two and I see no change in the scale (sometimes seeing it even go up!) is anything but encouraging. I was being so hard on myself, until finally one of my good friends suggested to stop weighing myself and just base my progress on how I feel and how my clothes fit. I listened, and it worked. I was more motivated and after a month or so, I weighed myself and couldn’t believe my progress! But if the scale encourages you, then use it! Just remember that there are times of the day when the scale will say you weigh more than you do; the best time to weigh yourself is in the morning when you first wake up.

6) Reward yourself, but don’t restrict yourself
Ok, my favorite food on the planet is Pad Thai from this Thai restaurant down the block. I know it is so incredibly bad for me, but I love it so much. In the past, I have tried to restrict myself from eating it to stay true to my diet. Then I would have it once, realize once again how much I love it and how much I hate this diet, and then be back to square one and give up my diet entirely. This time I realized I don’t need to cut myself off entirely. Instead, I only eat half of it and give it to someone else. So instead of cutting yourself off from your favorites, just cut back. If you’ve had a good week, maybe share a plate of your favorite four cheese pasta with your friend so you don’t resent your diet later.

7) Don’t let others put you down
So often we, especially women, look for affirmation from others that our lifestyle changes have been working. Trust me on this, I’m Indian. The first thing a family member says when they see you after a while is either “you lost weight!” or “wow you gained weight,” nothing else and nothing in between. So when you feel like you’ve lost weight and someone makes no comments about your weight loss or that you’ve gained weight, it’s very discouraging. And then when you ask them if they’ve noticed and they say no, that’s almost even more discouraging. But here’s what you have to keep in mind: you are doing this for yourself! Who cares what people think or if they notice? Don’t let this put you down!

8) Check out Pinterest!
Believe it or not, Pinterest is the mothership of workouts, recipes, inspirational quotes, playlists, and anything else you need to motivate yourself. Download the app or check out the website and explore! But be careful: the fitness section is filled with pictures of gorgeous women who are in super shape and at first you may say “I want to look just like that” but eventually you may be discouraged by it and say, “I’ve been working out for months and look nothing like that.” Keep in mind, a lot of these women eat nothing but dry chicken breast and broccoli. Not to mention, there is a magical weapon called Photoshop! I know I was victim of these pictures for a while and it’s not fun! So try to ignore these things as much as possible on Pinterest, and in all of those Fitness magazines and such.

9) Track your progress and REFLECT
Whether through a diary or a blog, it’s always great to see how far you’ve come. But more importantly, reflect on why you are trying to lose weight to begin with. You’ll find a lot of internal motivation if you make a list of reasons why you want to lose weight. To look good in your New Years dress? To look great at your friend’s wedding? Or is it because you want to feel good and healthy? Then when you are feeling discouraged, take a look through your journal, progress, and reasons and you’ll be back on track.

10) Make your goal intangible
For example, as a shopaholic, I have a “goal dress” that I want to look great in! Just like that, if you’re not motivated by numbers, use goals like this to motivate yourself! Track your progress by trying on your dress (or whatever it is) here and there to see how far you’ve come! It’s a neat way to motivate yourself!

Losing weight is not easy! But staying motivated to keep going is sometimes even more difficult. I hope some of these tips motivate you and keep you on track!

Good luck! Much luv,
-Avi