Ever Throw the Game?

Have you ever decided that you couldn’t do something?

Maybe it was run a marathon, bake, or do calculus. Maybe you decided that you couldn’t play the piano, guitar, or figure out texting.

For me, it was coffee. When I graduated from Cornell with few job prospects, I went for entry level jobs. I ended up as an assistant to a CEO of a CD-ROM company, with an understanding that in 6 months he’d give me an opportunity to work in marketing.

I was a great assistant. I knew how to deliver service — I had bartended and waitressed for years. However. I didn’t want to be too good at assisting, if you catch my drift. I didn’t want to be irreplaceable.

And so, I made a terrible cup of coffee. Just terrible.

career coachingWe had a coffee pot and grounds, and I was supposed to clean it and prep.I was responsible for coffee, and coffee service to clients. How is it that an Ivy League-educated girl, with bartending and waitressing experiencing could NOT make a decent cup of coffee?

She didn’t want to.

I know I’m not the only one who does things like this. Last weekend, I was visiting my parents in Florida, and had to do some laundry. Laundry is a pretty straightforward activity. I walked toward the machine, arms full of clothes, and asked a couple questions over my shoulder. My mother said, “Don’t ask your father, he doesn’t understand laundry.”

My father is a smart man. He graduated from an engineering college and made a long career for himself in business. He knows stuff, especially about geography and history. He’s a fantastic card player.

I looked at my father and said, “That’s quite a racket you’ve got going on. You’ve got mom convinced you can’t do laundry?” He smiled without making eye contact. “I do other things.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

This choice, what you can or cannot do, comes up all the time for me with coaching clients. I have clients who have decided that they have no financial skills, or no cooking skills, or no time. Now financial and cooking skills are not talents you are born with — they are things you learn, either by exposure through your family routine as a child, or active study as an adult.

Not having enough time? Everyone has the same 24 hours. It’s how you use them. Is your commute too long? Are you watching too much TV? Vegging out with Facebook? Are you not getting enough sleep which renders you less effective all day long? There are always reasons.career coaching

Personal choices are active. If I don’t want to make good coffee, I’ll never make good coffee. If you don’t want to cook, you’ll never pick up the skill. And if you decide to be excellent managing your finances, find a career where you’ll make a lot of money, or climb that fence, you’ll do whatever you believe you can do.

Ready to Cook More and Weigh Less?

If you’re over your Whole 30 resolution, and would still like to drop some weight for the New Year (or just eat home cooked food and feel good about it), have I got a treat for you!

Maine Blueberry Cake

Eat more, weigh less!

My first Craftsy cooking class, COOK MORE, WEIGH LESS has just gone live!

Click on this link to see a trailer about the class, and receive a 50% off coupon if you’re interested in seeing the class and enjoying virtual one-on-one cooking classes with me!

Let's have fun in your kitchen!

Let’s have fun in your kitchen!


It’s Weight Loss Season. Don’t Get Crazy.

As a healthy cookbook author, the January diet frenzy familiar territory for me. This is one of two “seasons” in the industry, the other being bathing suit season (natch). This is when people get serious about losing weight (and when marketers get serious about selling weight loss).

Allison Task, Life Coach

Allison and Farro Asparagus Pea Salad

And by “getting serious”, people want to lose weight now, so they go from the sensible (I’m going to cut back on desserts this month) to the ridiculous (I’m going raw, organic vegan forever). Some marketers take advantage of that desperation.

Plus, we have a socially acceptable holiday binge, followed by a weird January purge. Heck, I’ve put on a little winter weight too, but after reading this article on the Whole 30, I’ve got to believe there’s a less drastic measure to take.

There’s extreme juicing, month long cleansing, and other fads promising X pounds in Y days; some consider these socially sanctioned eating disorders.

A coaching client spoke with me about weight loss recently. She’s a smart, beautiful yoga instructor and her weight is up. Not a lot, but enough to make her uncomfortable. She winced as she told me she that purchased Roccos recent book on negative calorie consumption (sounds yummy!). Of course it called for weird ingredients she’d have to schlep all over Manhattan to find. Of course it asked her to put tomatoes in her smoothies. Of course it required a two week kickoff during which time you only drink cold smoothies and eat raw vegetable salads…

And it would make her miserable.Who would choose to drink cold smoothies and eat cold salads in January in the north east? When you’ve got a head cold? It’s not normal or natural or healthy. But it is effective for weight loss (and self-loathing).

My client knows that if she starts the radical initiation, she’ll be grumpy. And frustrated. And a mom with a shorter fuse. So maybe, instead of adding cold vegetables to her diet, she could ditch her cheese and cracker snacking, limit chocolate to 1 square a day, and add Roasted Cauliflower, Black Bean Soup, and Farro Salad with Asparagus and Pecorino to her diet?

Tasty Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Winter Vegetables: Delicata, Beets, Cauliflower “Steaks”

Yeah, it sounded good to her too.

[Here comes my pitch…get ready!]

On Monday, I’m thrilled to announce a new 2 1/2 hour video class that I’ve created for Craftsy called “Cook More, Weigh Less”. All the above recipes are included in the class (and more!). And right now, I’m giving away a free class for those who are interested.

Craftsy Banner

To recap: Why do we get crazy about our weight in January?

  • We’re a little heavier after the holidays, and with natural, healthy cold weather weight gain.
  • We want a resolution.
  • With less daylight hours and cold weather, we’re less likely to be exercising.
  • We’re staying inside, less social after the holidays and maybe experiencing a little Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • Our kids are driving us bananas, as we’re doing some stress eating.

These fad diets, against our better judgement, promise speed, efficacy (heck, starvation works), and gives us something to do this month, a project.

But we know better. You know better. So listen to yourself:

  • Exercise (bundle up, get out and take an invigorating walk)
  • Eat more vegetables (fill half your plate). And roast the vegetables. It’ll warm you inside and out.
  • Eat more soup, the protein kind with beans.
  • Stop eating after 8PM.
  • And seriously — watch the drinking. I mean, have that drink but don’t drink every day. Come on. You can do it.

No, it’s not sexy. And friends won’t pledge their support to you on  Facebook. But it works. And you won’t be as grumpy or anti social as you would be with the bottomless smoothie diet, the Whole 30, or any other cold vegetable regime.

In my next posting: more recipes. We can have fun with this.

Allison Task Wellness Coach

The Kitchen is for FUN!

Thoughts? Comments? Would you rather do the Whole 30? Let me know!

The Key to Change? Turn Off to Turn On

A nutritionist, a lactation consultant and a life coach were chatting at a holiday party. They were lamenting their clients’ biggest challenge: the ability to focus.

The nutritionist said that she was going to stop offering home visits for her clients, because the clients couldn’t focus when she was with them in their homes. “I just see them looking past me, nodding, and I know they aren’t hearing a word I say. They just can’t focus.”

The lactation consultant shared how bad she felt that she had to ask her clients to come into her office with babies just one or two months old. “But if I go to their house, a 90-minute consultation becomes a 3-hour endeavor! They just can’t focus.”

The life coach (me) shared that although she coaches clients via Skype and on the phone, it’s becoming harder to do so. “Ten years ago, I’d ask them to sit in a quiet room, with paper and a pad, away from media. And they would do it. Now, they tell me they’re doing it, but I can hear them checking email, going online, and answering the door while they’re in the middle of a session. I can just feel it when they check out. Which is wild to me — because after all, this is their time for themselves.”

We three agreed that although we are in a culture of time poverty, much of it seems to be self-inflicted. Can you step away from media for an hour? Of course you can. Focus is the key to change. And we agreed that when their clients get a chance to step away, take a quiet moment from themselves and be present, the health effects are tangible.

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

We sighed and walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, where we met a yoga instructor. We explained our frustration, and she told us about a NPR story she was listening to recently about an artist (Marina Abramovic) who was asking all patrons to “check in” for half an hour before they could engage in her latest performance. She requires the audience to remove all devices (including watches), and wear noise canceling headsets for half an hour before a pianist performs the Goldberg Variations (by memory). This brings the audience and the artists into a collective present, from which they are better prepared to engage with the music.

(If you’re interested in attending, the performance is continuing through tomorrow, December 19, at The Armory in NYC.)

Turning off to turn in, and ultimately on is the very baseline of coaching. In fact, I had one client who preferred to work on the phone (versus in person) because she found that while speaking to me in person, she would say certain things to elicit a response from me — a positive look or a smile. She was less true to herself and her own thoughts in the social setting of my office.

When coaching clients, I am not imparting wisdom, or sharing information they need to retain. I am asking you to clear your space, and clear your head to allow yourself to think.

It is amazing how difficult that can be to just clear the space (and trust me, I get it — there’s a lot of comfort in “doing” — just ask anyone trying to meditate for the first time).

Life coach

Be present.

But clearing the space, or turning off to turn on is a most important thing. Without it, you’ll be stuck in the rut of your current thoughts, unable to move up, out, and ultimately on.

One of the best part of being a coach is giving someone else your complete and total focus — meditating on another, if you will. It’s why my husband likes to watch sports; he can get completely engrossed in something inconsequential (my words), and relax.

And yes, cell phones and ubiquitous availability are at the heart of this problem. But there’s another way; and this article offers 9 good reasons to turn off your smart phone.

Just a couple helpful reminders from me, Marina, and Inc. magazine in this togetherness time of year.

The Christmas Transition for Jews

Jewish ChristmasWe were so earnest. It was a sunny Black Friday, and my husband and I were excited to take our children to the zoo. No malls for us, no sir! Out in the world, faces to the sun, we’d open Turtle Back Zoo and be the first ones through the door!

We were still buzzing from our Thanksgiving. We had the ultimate invitation, from our walking-distance neighbor who happened to be my chef instructor at the culinary school I attended. The food was fabulous, and so were the guests down to the 5-, 6- and 7-year- olds who treated my 1- and 2-year-old children just right.

We met new people, played soccer with the kids in the backyard, drank wine and whiskey and watched football.

It was a glorious American day.

Something I’ve always loved about Thanksgiving is that there are no gifts, we just spend time together and eat. The religion is patriotism. There is no consumerism but there is consumption. Everyone is included; doors are open. And you know that at a million other tables across the country, the exact same thing is happening. We are together, separately.

At the zoo, it was clear that changes had been made. They were preparing for their annual “Holiday Light Spectacular”, so I was looking forward to snowflakes and animals aglow. I was not ready for what was there. Santa was out in front in a big sleigh with reindeer. Red ribbons and Christmas trees were everywhere. And that’s all good, except for one thing.

We’re Jewish. Ever since I married a Jewish man, and especially now as I’m raising Jewish children — the period from Black Friday to Christmas puts a little pit in my stomach. My children didn’t know who Santa was, couldn’t recognize a Christmas tree, and were perplexed by all of it.

And I didn’t know what to say. I was ready for a snowflakes and snowmen, not Santa.

After feeling very included, we suddenly felt very left out. We don’t have a Christmas tree; we don’t have Santa stories. When I grew up, I was able to “visit” these things, as my mother came from a Protestant family (she converted to Judaism before she married my dad), and my family was always invited for Christmas. Though we didn’t go to church, we had stockings, opened presents, and understood this as a time when we were celebrating with my cousins.

Although we had a different holiday at our house, we could enjoy their holiday with them at their house. Just like you can celebrate someone’s birthday even though it isn’t your birthday. You can still be included in the fun.

If I were to put my transition coach hat on, here are some things I’d say to myself:

  • Sounds like the Christmas transition is tough for you since you don’t celebrate Christmas.
  • Sounds like you enjoyed being invited to someone’s house for Christmas as a kid.
  • Have you ever invited someone not Jewish over for a Chanukah?

Yes. Yes. And no. And the thought of inviting someone not Jewish over here to spin dreidels and eat latkes seems like…well, why would they want to do that? Would that be fun or would they think it’s weird? I’ve never done it and I’m not sure why.

I suppose the only way to find out is to do it. And here’s where coaching comes in again: if the idea feels good right away, and it’s simple enough to execute, than it’s probably worth trying, yes?

Instead of focusing on that thing I don’t have, I can share that thing I do have. Everyone wins.

I’ll report back in a couple weeks to see how the Chanukah proposition impacts the Christmas transition. Until then, let me know what you think of the idea.


How I Lost The Baby Weight

Allison Task - Professional Life CoachHere’s an article about losing baby weight that I wrote a couple years ago for Cooking Light magazine while I was a contributing editor there. Now the piece is appearing on the Huffington Post. Ah, the Internet.

The article reveals my unabashed (and unpaid) affection for those funky little exercise bands; they were the key to my post-baby weight loss.

I also gave up the gym in favor of a daily 3 mile stroller walk with one of my children. I live in a very hilly area, so it helps me get my cardio going as well as a little quality time outside with one child at a time.

Here’s the full article.