Monday, August 31, 2009

Swine Flu? No Thank You (Please).

I woke up early this morning. My weather report hits my phone at 6:30 a.m. and not too long after that, I found myself wide awake. Today's high will be 72*; a rude jump (from yesterday's 85*) into September, and a day early. 

While reading the news, I happened upon a story about how universities are preparing for Swine Flu prevention (and I am not calling it N1R2 or whatever the government's decided to call it now). They're adding those Purell dispensers all over campuses and dorms, and teaching the basics, like hand washing. Oh boy. In college? Shouldn't we all know this stuff, by the time we enter college?

Sadly, we don't. I see more people leaving the bathroom without washing their hands than I'd care to say. I've been coughed and sneezed on in bars, restaurants, you name it. Viruses are spread by droplet nuclei, shot out of the body via sneezes and coughs, for up to 6 feet in distance (that's a big sneeze), and by skin-to-skin contact. Fairly preventable, if only people paid attention and acted courteously.

Let's talk about how we can up our chances of avoiding, or at least minimizing, catching nasty viruses. Using hand sanitizers does not replace good ol' soap and water. When tested, many brands did not remove germs, but instead, moved them around on your hands. So please, soap up.

I'm saying, literally, wash your hands. Seriously. Don't just run them under water. Wash them. Use soap, and scrub for the whole Happy Birthday song, two verses, on pace (don't rush the lyrics). Of course, probably best to sing in your head. I'm just saying...  

I have travel soap that I love, that smells so good, I always want to wash my hands. It's from Saipua, White Grapefruit with Bergamot travel soap (a full size bar) and I bought the muslin travel sack to go with it. It makes hand washing easy. I also keep a travel size tube of hand lotion to use afterward, to prevent dryness.

Now that you've washed your hands, don't grab the door handle (tons of germs). Use a paper towel between you and the handle, and then discard the towel after opening. Sounds like work? I think it's worth it, to prevent being sick.

Physical prevention is great, but it's also important to really boost your immune system. I am in the process of super-boosting right now. You need to eat really healthy, lots of fresh (organic whenever possible) fruits and vegetables, every day. I have a protein shake in the morning, and add frozen organic fruit to it. Then I eat at least one leafy green salad a day, plus a snack of a fruit in the afternoon, and a vegetable with dinner. It's not enough, though, so I am supplementing (I call it insurance) with Juice Plus+ capsules daily. (My son's taking the gummies - he gets it free since I buy it) Juice Plus+ has 17 fruits and vegetables, plus fiber, and probiotics. It's a very easy way to get my antioxidants, phytonutrients, and all the other things that I need but am not getting in my daily diet.

All this is wonderful, but it's also important to minimize the more toxic foods, like sugar, that cause your body to release free radicals. Read labels to see just how much sugar you are eating (you'll be surprised), and begin to cut back.

Along with eating well, your body needs exercise. Exercising works our lungs, heart, gets blood flowing. It strengthens the muscles and has a positive effect on our organs. Exercise daily, if possible, in any safe way. I love walking as a staple, and adding classes to your schedule as you become ready.

Making your body as strong and stable as possible is a great way to prevent illness. Unfortunately, it doesn't make us immune, so if you do catch a cold, please stay home (instead of passing it along to the rest of us), drink lots of fluids, get plenty of rest, and your boost Vitamin C intake. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crack Me Up, Please!

"Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships— as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends." Anonymous

I love laughing. It's fun, it's a great release, and it makes me feel good. W makes me laugh all the time. He's funny, and sometimes silly. It's one of his best qualities. Laughter isn't just fun, it's good for you.

I was reading Elephant Journal and found more proof that laughter is good for us:

According to Laughter Yoga Ireland “Laughter Yoga offers: an alternative aerobic exercise (according to Dr. William Fry of Stanford University one minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine); a supplementary and preventative therapy against other ailments; natural pain relief through increasing the level of endorphins in the body; an aide in the prevention of depression, anxiety and psychosomatic disorders; improved breathing capacity (laughter yoga is beneficial for asthmatics, athletes, actors and singers); strengthened immune system; increased confidence and positive outlook.”

I knew this, to some degree, as I once saw a story on a small tribe somewhere (I cannot remember) who all share a small sleeping space. At random times, they wake up and laugh, and then fall back to sleep. Also, In the
docu-drama The Secret, a woman who'd been diagnosed with breast cancer started an ongoing mantra "I am thankful for my healing" and allowed no stress to enter her life. Instead, she spent her days sipping tea and watching funny movies with her husband. Just laughing all day. Four months later, her cancer was gone.

Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have been studying the effects of laughter on the body. They have found that laughter is known to decrease stress hormones and increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. 

Clearly, laughter isn't the only form of holistic medicine, or the only supplement to good health. However, I think it's an important part of healing and health. We know that stress can cause heart attacks, strokes, and countless other medical problems. Conversely, laughter can help improve the immune system, boosts your energy, ad can diminish pain. It improves the function of the blood vessels, increases blood flow. Thus, laughing improves our health.

When we are constantly down, focusing on the negative, we tend to get sick more often. Having a positive attitude and a sense of hope seems a far better option. Laughing relieves physical tension and relaxes muscles. 

We spend much of our time taking care of our bodies by eating well and exercising, yet we often downplay the mental and spiritual component. Start finding ways to laugh more. Take yourself a little less seriously. Watch funny movies. Have fun. 

And laugh!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Motivated to Work Out

It's not always easy to get motivated to work out. It should be, you know, given all the health benefits associated with exercise. Yet there are days, weeks even, when it just seems like too much work. 

Maybe you don't feel like putting on your sweats, you'd just rather be home vegging out. I get that. Life presents you with enough demands as it is, and to add another one to your schedule just seems painful. However, the fact still remains that your body needs exercise. When you workout, in whatever way that you choose, I'll bet that you always feel better afterwards.

During the school year, I enjoy working out in the morning. After drop off, I visit my local coffee shop for breakfast; yogurt parfait and coffee. After that, I go to either the gym or a studio for some weight training, cardio, or a class. Next, I come home and shower, and my day begins. On the days that I miss the gym, I notice that I am more sluggish, and that my body feels weaker.

A couple of nights a week, I meet my boyfriend, W, at the gym and we workout together. On these days, I do something different at night than I did during the day, or I skip my a.m. workout altogether. If we lift, we don't lift together and spot each other (necessarily) but we share the same space and hang out between sets. It's nice because we are both doing really good things for our bodies, and for me, seeing him there encourages me to push myself a little harder. If we do cardio, we try to workout next to one another, whether we are on the treadmills, ellipticals, or AMTs. We talk for a few minutes, and then plug our earphones into the t.v. pods to listen to whatever we choose to watch. 

My motivation in the morning is the knowledge that I am starting my day off with something positive, following a routine that betters my health. Since my boyfriend doesn't have the option to go during the day, he goes at night. Knowing that I will see him at the gym is a huge motivation for me to go in the evening.

Finding what will motivate you is an important thing. It should never be related to food, or a habit that isn't positive. For example, you don't want to workout for the reward of a piece of cheesecake or a pack of Marlboros. You may choose to workout to be around other like-minded people, or to make your own personal best in the weight room. (My goal for my 40th birthday is to be able to do two sets of four solid bicep curls at 30 lbs.) If you start a class with a friend or loved one, you can motivate each other. Your motivation may just be, simply, to stay healthy.

I find that the more you move, the more you want to move. Try and find something that you love and do it as often as possible. I go in waves, and W will always ask me what my next big thing is. Currently, it's to cross-train. I've created my fall schedule and it includes spinning, yoga, Zumba, and my favorite, weight training. If you like the consistency of doing the same thing every day, then go for it. If you want to switch it up, do that. Your best schedule will be the one that you enjoy doing. And the more you love it, the more you'll want to do it. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

That Which Matters the Most

I love this picture. She looks so healthy and happy. How divine.

Why is it that, until that which matters the most is compromised, we don't pay good attention to it? Marriages falling apart go unnoticed until one spouse asks for a divorce. Parents ignore their children until they find out that their kids are on drugs, or sleeping around. Then, they seem so shocked. This is what happens when you don't pay attention to life. I do, actually, and I think it's due to my hypersensitivity to it. I am constantly aware that life is fragile, and that every good thing is a blessing. I am big about that which I love, and I let everything else sort of fall to the wayside. It is my choice to live this way. It doesn't make me much of a social butterfly, and you will rarely find me at large social gatherings that don't involve loved ones, but to those close to me, I give them the world.

If you were to ask people what matters most to them, I bet the majority wouldn't say money, or social status, but you'd hear a lot of them say health for themselves and their family. Yet much of our society focuses on getting richer, working harder, and showing off their status with material things. Why not focus more on health and nutrition, and time spent with loved ones?

Assuming that health is up there for you, think about what it is that you do everyday to support your health. Are you eating well? Drinking lots of good things? Water, tea? Are you exercising, keeping your muscles and bones strong? Are you paying attention to your heart, your lungs, your organs? And if it's the health of your family that matters to you, well, what are you feeding them? Think about it.

We all get really good about brushing and flossing about two weeks before we go to the dentist for a check-up, but how about the rest of the year?

More than half (and I am being generous here) of the people in the U.S. don't work out. It isn't until the doctor says that their blood pressure is dangerously high, or their cholesterol is out of whack, that they start thinking about getting healthy. Usually then, they go into fear mode and dive into a program that they aren't prepared for. Either they strip their normal diet of everything "naughty" or start running a couple of miles a day. After the fear subsides and the strict, new plan gets old, they revert back to their old habits. 

Let's not be one of those people.

Think about your health. What about it would you like to improve? Start adding things like walking, water, vegetables. Start allowing bad habits (smoking, drinking soda) to fall away. Let's stop grabbing at the fat we want to lose, stop hating our bodies. Instead, be thankful that we have those body parts in the first place. I really don't like to use common sayings, but I have to here. Your body is your temple. Treat it as such.

End the fat talk, end the complaining. It's yours to take charge of, and simply deciding to change the way you treat your body will get the process moving. 

What matters the most to you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weight Loss for Winners

Everybody knows that diets don't work. People go on the grapefruit diet, Atkins, the milk and veggie diet. Often, people on these diets lose weight. And then they go off the diet and... they gain it back.

We are the fattest nation in the world, yet we are bombarded with diets, diet aids, diet pills. Even diet shows! Our supermarket shelves are packed with processed foods that are fat free, sugar free, and low carb

Still, we're fat.

Here's why. Diets don't work. Let me say it again, diets don't work. You might think that going on all all-soup diet or a 1,200 calorie/day diet will help you to lose 10 lbs. in two weeks, and you know, it just might. But I would bet that all of the weight lost will pack right back on in just as much time. 

I think that you are smart enough to understand that all these diets deprive you of the nutrients you need, stress your body, and don't really get you anywhere. This doesn't mean that you can't lose weight, it just means that the best method to lose weight and keep it off is to do it by making long-term lifestyle changes.

Changing the way that you eat won't show results as immediately as starving yourself might, but the results will last. If you start eating more vegetables and fruits, and less processed food, you will start to see changes. Replace soda with water, whole milk with skim, fatty meats with lean protein. Be mindful of what you choose to eat and why you are eating it. Often times, we eat because we are bored, or tired, or even thirsty. 

It's important to eat often. Three basic meals with two healthy snacks. A healthy snack might be sliced apple topped with a little peanut butter, or a serving of rice crackers with two tablespoons of hummus. It might be a handful of almonds, or a serving of low fat cottage cheese. 

We have to stop fighting with food, and start to having balanced, respectful relationship with what we eat. We eat to nurture our bodies, to feed our muscles, to get the nutrients we need. When we put lots of sugar, salt, and processed foods into our bodies, we are hurting ourselves. 

If we choose to think about our bodies as our temples, we won't want to do damaging things like starve ourselves or ingest garbage. Fad diets won't be acceptable to us. We will eat foods that energize and strengthen us. We will eat foods that are good for our bodies. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Being In the Moment

I've been reading and hearing, and even studying, about being in the moment. I've thought that I'd tried living in the moment hundreds of times, but until I actually accomplished doing so (just a few days ago), I didn't really understand how it worked. 

I'm not sure how or why it's taken me so long. I am inclined to say that I just wasn't ready until now. I've had people tell me to be in the moment, and walk me through meditations to help me do so. I've tried techniques and forms of meditations. It just didn't resonate with me. How is it that, after all those attempts, I wasn't able to do that until now?

Though I cannot answer that, I can tell you about my experience of being in the moment. While studying for my Holistic Wellness Specialist certification, I am reading a lot about somatic awareness, and letting go of past traumas. I am hearing all of the things that I've learned in years past, and applying it to asanas (poses) to assist in release and healing. 

Traumas may be small (being made fun of as a child), or very big (being abused). The emotional reaction to trauma is fairly specific, and seeing what those reactions are has really helped me to understand the way I've operated in life. Knowing that certain behaviors were misguided attempts at protecting myself is very interesting, and that knowledge allows me to recognize and stop the behaviors. We each control our own responses to life.

At this point in my life, I am in a healthy, loving relationship that is ripe with trust. It's been a progressive, forward moving relationship that has allowed me to grow. I am nothing like the person I was three years ago. Feeling safe and truly loved by my boyfriend has allowed me the freedom to really look at my life, and make honest and necessary changes. He lives in the moment naturally, which provides me with a great role model.

Living in the moment is still, for me, a conscious choice. It's not without thought. I have to constantly remind myself, and I do this whenever I find that I am living in the past, or the future, or in any sort of chaos. This weekend, I paid attention to the raindrops hitting the window, listened to the wind, and gave thanks for my love sleeping beside me. Hearing his breathing as he slept and noticing the blond hair on his tan arms helped me to appreciate that very moment. 

I've begun to let go of expectations. When my son was prodding me with questions that I couldn't answer, I just calmly said, "I don't know." When I felt myself getting annoyed, I just focused on my breath. Things became calm quickly. 
I'm really aware of the fact that my eating pattern is changing. I am craving more watery foods, like watermelon and salad, and I've noticed that I'm less hungry than I've been. It's still new to me but, perhaps, it's that I am feeling fulfilled emotionally.

I wonder how I might be able to help my clients to live in the moment. I feel that it might be more than application, but a readiness and good timing. I can say, though, that it feels really good and I will continue to remind myself to be in the moment. It's a very peaceful place to be.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Learning to Breathe

My son was having a hard time falling asleep tonight. He usually resists sleep, but tonight he was overtired and really wanted sleep to come. He asked me to help him fall asleep. He's done this in the past, and I've tried different techniques with him; my boyfriend's white paper meditation, repeating the word 'Om', counting slowly. Tonight I tried something new.

I touched his nose and asked, "What's this?" 

"My nose," he replied.

Then I touched his mouth and asked again, "What's this?"

"My mouth?" he questioned, as if to try and follow me. 

Last, I touched his belly. "And this?" I questioned.

"My belly," he responded.

"Okay," I said to him. These are the three places you will focus on, to get yourself to fall asleep. I had him put his hand on his belly and just observe it. I asked him to notice how his belly would rise and fall according to his breath. This was easy for him. He understood the concept. Next, I told him to bring the air through his nose and to watch it as it goes on a path to his lungs and fills his belly, causing it to expand. (I was careful not to say the word "in" which often triggers a person's desire to hold their belly in, fighting the natural rhythm of breathing.) Last, I told him to open his mouth and allow the air to leave in a slow exhale. And he did.

In the past, I taught breathing to kids, as part of a wellness class. Babies and young children naturally take big, deep breaths. Everyone does, when they are unaware and sleeping. It's beautiful to watch bellies rise and fall with wonderful inhalations and exhalations. As we get older and focus on it, we can get confused and we sort of try too hard to breathe. As kids get to a certain age, somewhere around first grade, they start to forget how to breathe. Keeping them in practice is beneficial.

Shortly before my grandmother died, she was required to use an inhaler. The inhaler provided a medication that she desperately needed to breathe. She was, however, unable to inhale and hold her breath. She would inhale up, taking in air, raising her chest and tightening her shoulders. Her belly would suck in, and her lips would release from the inhaler. I tried coaching her through it, but she got incredibly frustrated and stopped trying. At eighty seven years old, she was unable to figure out how to take a deep breath.

It is so important to know how to breathe. 

The practice of deep breathing comes in many forms. The most basic, I believe, is in through the nose and out through the mouth. Simply put, allow the air to enter through your nose (mouth closed) and fill your lungs, expanding them. Your belly will look as though it's got a full balloon in it. As you exhale, think of the air reversing its path but exiting through your open mouth. Do this for as long as is comfortable, and practice it daily. I like to visualize my lungs making big expansions, the air reaching to the very bottom of my lungs, getting into every nook. 

As my son was deep breathing, I was helping him to visualize his lungs expanding slowly, and then releasing the air. He found this to be very peaceful, which surprised me because, generally, he laughs at my relaxation techniques. After only a handful of minutes, I noticed that his breath had quieted. He was positively asleep.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do ya Zumba?

I've always loved to dance. From the moment I could walk, I was enrolled in dance classes. First came ballet, and then tap was added. As I got older, I started to study jazz, and though I dabbled in modern dance, I was never a big fan.

In the early 90s, I danced for the MTV show The Rave (which later became The Grind). I used to go dancing at night clubs every week, Wednesday through Sunday. Until I met my ex-husband (who hated dancing), dancing was my life. 

Last year, I took Zumba classes at my gym. Walking into my first class, in the giant gymnasium, was overwhelming. There were about 40 people in the class, and though they were different ages and sizes, they were all familiar with the class. The instructor, Cathie Guadara, quickly put my mind at ease. She was very unassuming, had a great laugh, and made the class lots of fun. I went through two 24 oz. sport bottles of water during the one hour class. The workout was so intense that I left the class literally dripping with sweat. I had to immediately shower. Boy, every second of class was a blast.

Today I feel blessed to be talking to Cathie about Zumba, for those of you who don't know what it is, or are thinking about taking a class.

BF: Cathie, define Zumba for me.

CG: Zumba is a fun and exciting aerobic workout, done to Latin music with Latin moves.

BF: Do you have to have a dance background to take a Zumba class?

CG: No, you don't have to have a dance background to do Zumba, just a love of having fun. I, myself, have no professional dance background... just on the stoop in Brooklyn growing up.

BF: How did you get started teaching Zumba?

CG: I took my first Zumba class three years ago with my now best friend, Kathy Graham, and was immediately hooked. 

BF: What do people need to bring to a Zumba class? What should they wear?

CG: The only requirement for Zumba classes is a good pair of cross trainers, or dance sneakers (no running shoes in Zumba), and a desire to have fun!

BF: Can anyone take a Zumba class?

CG: Anyone of any age group can take Zumba. There are higher and lower modifications for all moves.

BF: What do you find that your students like best about Zumba classes?

CG: My students love Zumba because it is so much fun and so freeing. Not regimented like other aerobic classes. And we sweat off pounds and inches while having a blast!

BF: If someone who knew nothing about exercise or Zumba wanted to try a class, what would you tell them?

CG: Anybody young or older can take Zumba. You just have to love dancing around and making a lot of noise. Kinda like a party, without the punch!

Cathie Guadara is a certified Group Fitness Instructor, and certified in Spinning and Zumba. She teaches at the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA and the Madison YMCA, and her class times can be found on She also sells a line of Brazilian Fitness wear called Margarita. She says, "I love teaching Zumba and my other classes, and hope to be doing it for years to come!"  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Operation Beautiful Contest - We Need You!

Operation Beautiful came to my attention a little over a week ago. Through Lululemon Athletica, I saw that they were asking people to leave positive notes around and to photograph them. Photos were then added to flikr (I did a bunch - one is shown above). Later, when joining the Athleta group, I saw that they, too, were participating in Operation Beautiful. Since my belief is to love yourself exactly the way that you are, right now, today, I thought it would be a great thing for me to continue spreading the word. 

I'm giving you a little added motivation by offering the person who posts the best photo a prize, a Nomad Adventure Journal. Wonderful!

Operation Beautiful's mission is to end "Fat Talk." They ask that you post messages in public places, on mirrors at the gym, or work, with messages like, "You are beautiful." I've been posting them all over the mall, in restaurant menus, on public seating. The OpBeauty goal is to get as many notes posted as possible. 

OUR CONTEST: Post notes everywhere that says anything along the lines of "You are beautiful just the way you are." Feel free to get creative. Post them at the gym, or on dressing room mirrors. Pay phones. You name it.

The winner's photo will be posted along with his/her name. Contest is open to men and women. Feel free to tell your friends. A little healthy competition is a good thing. Contest begins August 18 and ends on September 18, 2009. Send pics to:  For more on operation beautiful, click here or visit

Top photo: "You're Beautiful Just The Way You Are" posted next to Exhale tee in Victoria's Secret dressing room.
Elevator picture at right:
Say the letters: "U-R-B-U-T Full" (you are beauty FULL!) Posted on the elevator at Rockaway Mall in Rockaway, NJ. It was up for over two hours, and last I saw, an older woman in a wheelchair was reading it aloud (but to herself) as the doors were opening. WOW.

Face, baby!

I am so excited. As I write this, I am still coming off a high I just experienced. It is Sunday night (I know that this blog won't be published 'til Tuesday, but I can't wait), and I just got the greatest compliment in the world.

Tonight I was at the supermarket doing the weekly groceries with my son. My hair, unwashed, is up in a banana clip, exposing my face and neck. I am wearing a pale blue sundress -- halter style -- that I live in, the way our grandmothers used to live in their muumuus . Granted, the dress is far more exposing than any muumuu, body skimming and with a severe dip in the neckline, but still... 

Someone behind me heard me shopping the aisles with my son, and asked if I was his full-time nanny. "Nanny?" I questioned. "No, I'm his mother." Shocked, the shopper said to me, "Wow, you look too young to be his mother. I was going to ask if you'd come nanny for me part-time. I mean, really. Wow."

Now, I haven't felt like the youngest of ladies, lately. While I know that I am still quite young, I'm noticing changes in my skin that I didn't really expect. Things that show signs of age. 

"Thank you," I replied. "That's very sweet of you." 

The shopper asked, "So you're how old?" And I, "Just about 40." Then she looked at me, paused, and said, "You look like that and not a stitch of make-up, huh? I thought you were in your mid-20s."

It made my night. Here this woman, about my age, thought I was younger than she was. 

What makes this difference? I think it's partly genetics, of course, but also, it's the life choices that I make. I drink tons of water, exercise regularly, and try to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I snack on nuts, and hummus, and the only really bad thing that I do is lie in the sun. I used to smoke religiously, a pack a day, but gave that up ten years ago.

My son and I, when we are bored, people watch. Sometimes we play a game and we guess who smokes. We can tell, because they have different skin, and lines around their lips and eyes. Somehow, and I can't put my finger on what it is exactly, but the habit of smoking shows on your face. Even on women in their 20s. Their skin looks deprived and sad. And baby, it isn't pretty.

The reality is that I don't really look like I'm in my 20s. Not even my late 20s. But the compliment still made me feel good, and it made me realize that my Amy's Spinach pocket and bottles of water just may be part of the key to my fountain of youth. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

Exercise Doesn't Make Us Lose Weight?

I just finished reading "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin" by John Cloud (Time magazine, Vol. 174, No. 6). I was interested to see what point the writer was making, and how he set out to make it.

Basically, he wrote was that when people exercise strenuously, they tend to compensate by doing less afterward (like taking the elevator instead of the stairs, sitting on the couch instead of sweeping the floor) and tend to eat more afterward (muffin and latte instead of a yogurt). He also mentioned that a strenuous exerciser might have less willpower than someone who didn't workout so hard, mostly because they are so tired. 

He's got a point. Two summers ago, I stopped working out for the month of August. I was going through some personal changes, and I just didn't want to go to the gym. I walked regularly, about an hour a day, but leisurely and with friends. My eating was pretty basic: a slice of pizza, a yogurt, some salad, coffee, water. I was probably eating about 1,400 calories a day. At the end of the month, I had literally dropped over 10 lbs. I wasn't even trying. Since I didn't workout, I wasn't as hungry, and I was more aware that I was expending less energy.

People who want to lose weight and use working out as the only method to do so will have a much harder time than those who combine working out with healthy eating. But still, working out is important overall.

We need to workout to build muscle strength and bone density. We need to stretch to sustain and increase flexibility. We need to do sweaty workouts to maintain and improve our cardiovascular system. Working out is important, but the writer of that story is correct in saying that working out cannot be the only method for weight loss.

Working out can be comprised of a variety of forms of physical activity. It can be yoga, walking, indoor cycling, dancing. It can be intense or moderate. The story was a good reminder, though, that working out doesn't replace moving in everyday life. If you are parking, it's good to park a bit farther away to wherever you are going, to get a good walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator, and walk whenever you can. Mow your law, plant flowers in your garden. Rake leaves. Throw a frisbee or football with your child or a friend, and have fun. 

Be aware of everything you are putting into your body. Think before you bite, and make a conscious decision when choosing food. 

Exercise is a good thing. Even strenuous exercise. It relieves stress, works the cardiovascular system, and increases metabolism. Just be sure to bypass the drive-thru on the way home from the gym.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Habitually... (insert word here)

I saw change yesterday, in a familiar face, and it was so powerful that I wanted to share it with you. My boyfriend and I were invited to a pig roast by some old friends. When we walked into the party, what was most notable was not the roast pig, nor the tents; it was not even the giant double water slide. It was our friend M. She looked incredible. Young, beautiful, tan. I couldn't put my finger on why exactly she looked so noticeable. Was it her festive, green hibiscus print dress? Nope. Turns out, it was that she'd lost 25 lbs.

She and I talked a lot about this. She is turning 40 in less than six months (like me), and she said she finally decided that this was the time to lose the weight she'd wanted to lose. She has an eating plan that she likes, and she sticks to it. It isn't easy, as she is a mother of three, and has a house to feed and manage every night, while also going to work. But she's doing it. And you can, too.

It's not about her plan, but about the fact that she found one that works for her, and she is committed to it. She stays on track through days of errands, and parties, and nights when she really feels challenged to stray. Seeing someone be so committed to something is admirable, and it's also quite motivating.

My boyfriend has also made some very healthy changes in his life, major changes that welcome me to eat healthier and workout more consistently with him. His sticktoitiveness not only helps me to commit to my health, but it makes me admire him so much more than I already do. He looks fabulous, and his choices promote his (healthy) goals. He amazes me.

Here are some tips below, to making healthy eating a habit.
  • Decide to change. Just plain decide. Once you really decide to change, it's just a matter or restructuring things in your day-to-day life to support that habit.
  • Water, water, water. Drink water all day long. It's okay to drink other things, too, like tea, coffee or an occasional glass of wine. Just be sure to make water your primary beverage every day.
  • Make a *good habit* bracelet. You know how people used to tie a ribbon around their finger to remember something? Well, it's like that but you wear it longer. Try a beaded bracelet (of course, I love my Good Habit Bracelet by Bella), or a rope bracelet, anything to remind you that you are in the process of creating a good habit for yourself. Feel free to pass the bracelet on to someone else, once you've met your goal.
  • Write your intention, make it present tense, and post it where you will see it often. (If you write what you want, you will continue to want it. Write it in the present tense and behave as if you've already accomplished your goal.) An example is, "I am healthy and strong" or "I drink water and eat lots of fruits and vegetables."
  • Relate the new habit to a current practice. If you want to practice deep breathing, decide to do it at every red light. (Put a sticky note in your car to remind you.) Or do ten Kegels (both women and men should do them) every time the telephone rings.
  • Start a new habit with a friend or a loved one. If you both commit to walking five days a week, do it together. If you aren't on the same schedule or in the same area, call or email each other daily as motivation. My friend Mary is doing a half Iron Man with a friend, and while training she and her friend shout mantras to each other. She said that this really gets them through the tough times.
Remember, you are human. If you slip up, or get off track, just brush yourself off and start again. It's okay to make mistakes, and you don't need to get down on yourself for them. Love yourself enough to get back on track and move forward.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthy Love Relationships

The biggest epiphanies often come randomly and from the most unlikely people. I recently ran into a woman I haven't seen in months. No one particularly close to me, just someone I say hi to every once in a while. We started talking about a couple that we both know, and she remarked that every time she sees them together, they're smiling and laughing. They are always happy. It's really nice to see. And I thought, That is exactly it! That's the whole reason we choose to be in relationships in the first place. To be happy, to feel good, to share joyful moments.

I mean, isn't that what it's supposed to be about? Relationships are supposed to be about being happy, right? We don't live in a perfect world, and I don't expect relationships to be without problems. But generally, the person you choose to spend most of your time with should be someone, well, fun.

There is a very serious side to committed relationships. The person you choose to be with should be someone you can trust, with both your heart and your secrets. They should be someone you can count on in a time of need, someone who offers you a shoulder to cry on. The person you give your time to should respect you, and love you for who you are. Your lover should be your best friend.

Of course.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Positive? Affirmative!

When I was a little girl, I read a book called The Little Engine That Could. It was a story about a little steam engine that had to get up a big hill, but didn't think it was possible. She noticed big trains around her and asked each for help, but none would come to her aid. She kept searching until, finally, she came upon another steam engine exactly like her. She asked, "Will you help me over the hill with my train of cars?" and the other little steam engine replied, "Yes, indeed!" The two engines worked as a team and started saying their own mantra, "I-think-I-can! I-think-I-can!" and before you know it, they made it over the hill.

The Little Engine That Could was published in 1930, and still today the story is told and repeated. The idea of having a mantra to get us through tough moments is a basic concept. Just as recent as three years ago, the documentary The Secret reminded viewers that the mind is a very powerful thing. We become who we believe that we are. If we believe that we are beautiful, we begin to see ourselves as beautiful and behave in a manner fitting of the concept. If we believe we are healthy, we eat healthier and do things that healthy people do. Somehow, this seemingly easy practice can be tough to stick with.

I have tried doing positive affirmations for many years. I've keep gratitude journals (where, each day, I'd write all that I am thankful for), and practiced many different positive affirmations. Still, with many things in life, I'd lost interest in the application, mostly because I felt like it wasn't working.

Finally, I just decided that I would not allow myself to be my own worst critic. Rather, I'd be my own personal cheerleader. Before I look in the mirror, I literally tell myself, Expect to see something beautiful. I say "Thank you" to compliments. And when I think I look fat in a photo (something that recently happened), I just think to myself, Okay. So what. 

For me, the straightest path to being my best self is to focus on where I am going. I continue to eat well, exercise as often as I can, and love myself for all that I am. I may miss workouts, or eat a handful of cookies, but that doesn't make me bad, it makes me human.

Lululemon Athletica has a challenge. It asks fans to leave notes in public place with positive affirmations and take photos of them to send to Lululemon (click here for details). I like this. I used to make little fortunes for people on my computer, but instead of offering predictions, it would have beautiful quotes on them. I would leave them with tips for waiters, or in bathrooms, on park benches. 

Try treating yourself to this kind of positive messaging. Write an affirmation on paper. Feel free to pretty it up with different colors or doodles. Then post it somewhere that you will see it often. When you see it, read it, and take a few deep breaths. Absorb the affirmation into your very being. Give it 30 days, and see what happens.

Share your affirmation with me at If I choose to use it, you will receive a free gift from Lovelines Apparel.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just You Weight!

I am in love with lifting weights. Totally, completely in love with it. People don't always associate weight lifting with women (for shame!) or they assume that lifting equals big muscles. You probably aren't one of those people. If you are reading my blog, chances are you lift, or you've dabbled in lifting, or at the very least, you know that the concept isn't foreign for women.

I used to think that lifting weights was only for muscle heads or for people who wanted to get bigger. My preference was always to have a yoga body, lean and strong. It still is. Once I started lifting, though, I realized that weight training doesn't make you big (necessarily), it makes you strong. 

When my son was younger, I used to carry him up to bed every night. He loved being held by me, but hated when I left him to go to the gym. It dawned on me that my time at the gym made me stronger, making holding him easier. So one night, when he asked me to carry him up the stairs, I said, "You know, I go to the gym to get strong so that I will always be able to carry you upstairs, no matter how big you get." He thought that was fabulous.

Five years after we had that conversation, I am still able to lift my son and carry him up the stairs. I take great pride in my ability to do six sets of 25 lb. bicep curls (working on 27.5 lbs. to make one set of eight reps of 30 lb. curls by my birthday). I can squat over 100 lbs. in the squat rack, and to do ten sets of ten push-ups. None of this makes me any bigger than my size 6 frame, but all of it makes me stronger. And that feels powerful, and feminine, and beautiful. 

My son no longer asks me to carry him up the stairs to bed, but sometimes I do it just to prove that I can.    

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Healthy Life (contest)

What makes you feel healthy? Is it a certain type of exercise? Perhaps it's a meditation practice, or a weekly massage. Maybe it's as simple as time spent outdoors with friends. In 2003, a study published that 80% of the American population doesn't do any form of exercise. This makes me wonder what it is about exercisers that make us want to stay healthy. What does it mean to you to be fit? Do you think wellness is attained through good nutrition and exercise, or is it more rounded (spirituality, supportive loved ones)? 

Submit your answers to me as a message (, and the top five answers will be listed here. Maximum word count: 500. The winner's essay will be posted along with her name both here and on my blog. Winner will also receive our Lotus Blossom Inspiration tee
 in moss green (pictured above in white). This contest is for women only. Feel free to tell your friends. A little healthy competition is a good thing.

Contest begins August 1 and ends on September 1, 2009.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What to Look for When Looking for a Gym

I love going to the gym. There, I do cardio, lift weights, and take classes. At night, I usually go with my boyfriend, and we are in our own world when we are there. We listen to our iPods, work whatever body part(s) we are focusing on that night, and talk between sets. For us, the gym is mostly for function. 

For others, they enjoy the rush of people in the cardio room, the weight room, the spin room. When the weather is bad, there's always someone to commiserate with; when it's snowing, it's a place to wear shorts and sweat. When you become a regular at the gym, the other regulars tend to notice if you've been absent for a while. It's a great form of peer support for those who might worry about veering off track.

Today, I am talking with Anthony Shovlowsky, Fitness Director of the Lakeland Hills Family YMCA, to find out what a person should look for when joining a gym. So if you don't belong to a gym, or are looking for a new one, let this interview be your guide.

BF: There are lots of gyms all over the place. There are gyms exclusively for women (like Spa Lady) and cheep chain gyms. When I looked at a local $10/month gym, I noticed that it was lacking many of the amenities I've grown accustomed to. What should a person look for when trying to find a gym?

AS: When someone is looking for a workout facility, it is really important to first sit down and think about everything you want. Are you looking for a place to just lift weights, just for cardio, do you need a pool, do you need Group Fitness classes, do you care about amenities like workout towels or shampoo in the showers? You really want to think about this because it all adds value to your membership.

BF: What kind of classes should be a staple at a gym? Do you find that more classes are popular than others?

AS: Most places that offer Group Fitness classes should always offer some kind of yoga, Pilates, a boot camp type class, a dance class, and a strength training class. There is no doubt that these classes are always more popular to members. 

BF: Do you think it is important to offer classes at a gym? Some people think offering a cardio room is enough. 

AS: I love having the option to take a group class because it adds so much more to your routine. It gives you an alternative to just the basic cardio program and it allows you to change it in so many different ways. Adding something like Spinning can really give you a jump start to accomplishing your goals.

BF: What would you tell someone who is looking to join a gym for the first time, but is nervous about her lack of experience, or who feels intimidated by all the muscle heads in the gym?

AS: Take tours of every place you visit. See how other members interact, see how the staff interacts with members. Make sure you feel comfortable when you walk in and you still feel comfortable when you leave. Avoid places that you won't feel comfortable coming to everyday. Also, most places will give you some type of orientation on the equipment. This should be a must!

BF: Can gym members have someone show them how the equipment works and write them a workout place, or do they have to hire a trainer for that?

AS: Most places will offer some type of orientation without a sales pitch. An orientation should be designed to make new members feel comfortable with the equipment, not to try and sell them Personal Training packages. If after the orientation you still do not feel comfortable, or you feel like you want more, then Personal Training should be the next step. 

BF: Having a babysitting option is a very nice, and often important, option for mothers of young children. What kind of hours should a good gym offer, in regards to babysitting?

AS: The more babysitting the better. In most cases, babysitting will not be open every hour the gym is open, but if this is a big concern for you, then the more hours the better. Keep in mind the number of babysitters needed for the amount of children in the room. Make sure they are following guidelines.

BF: What are the general rules for gym etiquette?

AS: There are a few common rules that should be followed when working out. The most important thing is wiping down the equipment after you use it, because germs travel fast. Also, clean up after yourself by putting away the weights you use, magazines you read, or garbage you drop on the floor. Lastly, be courteous to other members around you whether you are working on the same machine or just sharing the same space.

BF: In today's economy, a gym membership seems to be a luxury. Can prospective clients negotiate for a discount, or have a limited membership at a discounted cost?

AS: Some places will negotiate discounts but this tends to annoy other members who had to pay full price. Also, some places do offer limited memberships for summer months, monthly options, or pay as you go type of memberships. The best thing to do is ask the membership department and see what they can do.

BF: A benefit of your gym is that you offer camp for children. Do you offer classes too?

AS: We offer classes to kids of all ages. The Youth Programs director runs programs for kids up to age 11 and I run programs for kids 12 and up. All of our Group Fitness classes are open to kids 15 years and older.

BF: What, ultimately, should be the deciding factor when choosing a gym? Is it the hours, the classes, the cleanliness of the place, the qualifications of the trainers and instructors? There is so much to process!

AS: Yes, you are exactly right. It should be a mix of everything you mentioned. The more you get for the same membership price should make the difference. Don't pay extra for services you should be getting. The place should be clean, the hours should work with your schedule, they should have a qualified staff and a friendly atmosphere. You will be able to tell as soon as you walk in, whether or not the place will fit with your personality. Remember, working out should not be a scary experience, just give it a couple of weeks and see how you feel.