This weekend was epic. And I mean EPIC, like one of those weekends that will go down in history as some of the best times I’ve ever had. It was my family reunion up in the Catskill Mountains in New York, which is a biannual gathering of several dozen of my favorite people in the entire world. We all meet up for a weekend tradition that my grandfather and cousin Jeanne started back in 1983 to celebrate our Irish heritage. We’re all descendants of the Taylor clan from County Cork and we celebrate the lineage we share under the Taylor name. Though only a few have the last name Taylor, we’re all Taylors at heart. It means we’re tough, we’re strong, we’re proud, and we’re family.
My cousins are some of the most amazing people I know and they inspire me in so many ways. We’re an eclectic mix…we’ve got teachers, firefighters, nuns, nurses, corporate leaders, and students; we have intellectuals and creative types, spanning the spectrum…you name it, one of us has done it. We are all so different, yet so alike. The tie that binds us is our family, our heritage, our zest for life and our Irish pride. We carry that with us always, and we celebrate it when we are together. And if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s celebrate. Work hard, play hard. It’s the Taylor way.
We play horseshoes and sing Irish songs and share stories, and over the years the reunion has also evolved to incorporate a sort of drinking olympics complete with flip cup, beer pong, and car bombs. At the place we stay, the food selection is limited and the choices are not very healthy. When your day starts off with french toast, you crack your first beer before 11am, and every meal ends in complimentary dessert, it isn’t easy keeping a healthy diet. Did I mention the family reunion also entails staying up into the wee hours of the morning, dancing and riding around on golf carts, and you might just drink out the beer supply so you’ll drink wine out of solo cups and margaritas from a bucket? We’re kind of a big deal.
I didn’t want to write the weekend off before it began, so I went in with a game plan. I’ve learned that if you know you’re going to go overboard (sometimes it’s inevitable), you can clean up your diet going into it and afterwards to balance it out. So, I ate super healthy and cut back for the week leading up to the reunion knowing that the drinks would be flowing and that flip cup tournaments are mandatory. I ate less meat and carbs than usual, and had plenty of veggies so I was feeling great. I wanted to be prepared so that I could relax and not stress about afternoon cheese and crackers or a brownie after dinner. I needed the mini vacation after a stressful go of things lately, so being kind to myself and allowing myself to relax was very important. Beating myself up over calories was not on my agenda, and I’m happy to say that for the first time since I started this whole process, I truly enjoyed myself on a weekend away without stressing so much about losing weight.
Thankfully I was on my feet most of the time since my sister and I were running around organizing things as the official reunion committee, and since standing burns about 50 extra calories an hour more than sitting, that was a small victory. I also came in second place in the horseshoe tournament with my future brother-in-law; I know horseshoes isn’t the most intense sport, but it is still an activity and we played for 6 hours on and off, so I felt good about that (we lost to my aunt who is a nun; she had God on her side, we’ll take the title next reunion!!) The best calorie burn was probably the dancing at the pub. Hours of dancing to an Irish band covering everything from Taio Cruz to Bruce Springsteen to traditional Irish step-dancing music made for a lot of fun and exercise. I got a ton of Nike fuel points on my fuel band throughout the whole weekend from all the continuous activity even though I didn’t lift weights or run like my usual routine. The horseshoes and bouncing around and dancing added a ton of activity to my weekend. And dancing is not just good for your body, it’s great for the soul. There’s something about a day that involves family, sunshine, and dancing that can’t go wrong in my book. And when I can enjoy it and realize how far I’ve come, it feels pretty good.
I hadn’t always fully enjoyed myself at previous reunions because I often felt so self conscious and uncomfortable in my own skin. The most important thing for me this year was to have fun and enjoy every moment. That meant not obsessing over the food and drinking, and just to have fun with these people who mean so much to me. I had been a bit worried going into the weekend, wondering what people would think when they saw me. At the last reunion I was so much heavier and though I’ve lost a lot of weight, I worried that people would think I didn’t look as good as my pictures or that I wasn’t as healthy as I should be. I thought I would just bring protein bars and not eat the food at the resort because it would derail my healthy efforts. But I realized I live a healthier and more balanced life now, and I’ve come so far. I used to be consumed by the calorie counting and now I just try to enjoy a good time and look at my diet more like a bank account. I’ve learned to factor in the celebrations into the days surrounding the events so that if I go over, I still net even for the week or close to it. I feel even more focused on my health and fitness after a weekend of indulging, because it helps me to see how much value clean eating and fitness bring to my life. Now that the weekend is over, I’m excited to resume my normal workouts and experiment more with healthy new recipes. Getting healthy and staying healthy is a process, and there are a lot of temptations along the way. The sustainable route for me involves living life to the fullest, enjoying all the celebrations you can, making up for the extra indulgences in a fun way, and then getting back on track. Because life is meant to be lived, and celebrated, and enjoyed. And there’s no better way to do that than with family.