A Tribute To Life

Posted: July 27, 2012 in Healthy Living

This week’s blog isn’t about nutrition.  It isn’t about exercise. This blog is a tribute to life.  This week, as the events of the tragedy in Colorado were smattered across the news, emotions were stirred up in me as I recalled the day when I was told the devastating news that a dear friend of mine had been murdered.  This is a friend whose relationship with him dates back to when we were babies.  A friend who is in all of my memories of summers past as both of our families spent vacations in Cape May, NJ, together.  A friend that is deeply missed!

 

Both tragedies were acts of senseless violence leaving us to wonder why?  What makes another human being set out to deliberately take another human being’s life?  We may be left with the lack of answers to these questions forever haunting us.  But what I do know is that while we are left to wrestle with the loss, the emptiness, the heartbreak…we are also given a chance to do good in our lives as a tribute to those whose lives have been cut so short whether from a crime, a disease, accident, etc.  If we have been blessed with another day then it is a day to love richer, hug tighter, to do wondrous things with the time we have been given. 

Many of us waste so much time and energy (myself included) worrying about the minutia of life and at the same time losing sight of the bigger picture.  We allow those negative thoughts in our head to take up too much space when we should be displacing them with thoughts that will be productive and result in bettering our lives.  I think about the frivolous things that go through my head often, especially with my self-image… Ugh!  My arms aren’t as toned as I’d like them to be!  What I need to be saying is …Wow!  These arms of mine are able to wrap tightly around the ones that I love and hold them close to me.  These legs of mine could be stronger.  Again – I should be saying these legs of mine are able to get me out of bed each morning to enjoy another day. 

We all have our issues and if you have been following my blogs (in the interest of full-disclosure) you know that my negative self-talk is one that I am always working on.  But in the wake of yet another cruel act of violence, I am vowing to work extra hard to not devalue what I have been given by corrupting it with so many toxic thoughts.  There is no need to wait for tragedy to strike in order to change – do it heredo it now.  So, what thoughts are currently residing in your head that do nothing but bring you down and waste precious time and energy?  Now is the time to work on ridding yourself of them! 

For all of the lives lost in Colorado, the lives lost for the defense of our freedom, for any life taken at the hands of another, and for my amazing dear friend, Jim, we honor you and hope that in your memory we can do more good in this world.

To Jim…this one’s for you…love and miss ya!  

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Wly8pBuEE

My old friend, I recall
The times we had are hanging on my wall
I wouldn’t trade them for gold
Cause they laugh and they cry me and
somehow sanctify me
And they’re woven in the stories I have told
And tell again

My old friend, I apologize
For the years that have passed since the
last time you and I
Dusted off those memories
But the runnin’ and the races and the
people and the places
there was always somewhere else I had to be
And time gets thin, my old friend

Don’t know why, don’t know why
Don’t know why, don’t know why

My old friend this song’s for you
Cause a few simple verses was the least that I could do
To tell the world that you were here
‘Cause the love and the laughter will live on long after
All of the sadness and the tears
We’ll meet again, my old friend

Goodbye, Goodbye
Goodbye, Goodbye

My old friend

(Sung by Tim McGraw)

 

 

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Just a week or so ago I had the opportunity to return to one of my all time favorite places for vacation:  Cape May, NJ.  It is a place that is very dear to my heart seeing as I have practically spent every summer there since the time I was a kid.  (And no there weren’t any sightings of Snookie or the Real Housewives of NJ…not all of NJ is what those two shows portray!)

 

As I was sitting on the beach in my comfortable beach chair – I began to really take in all that my senses had to offer.  The smell of the ocean air as each wave crashed to shore…the taste of salt on my tongue from the salt water (could’ve been from my sweat too – IT.WAS.HOT!)…the touch of the sand as I was able to do one of my favorite things – walk barefoot…the sound of laughter and screams of delight as children played in the sand and surf…and the sight of many people of all ages enjoying their time on the beach.

It was the sounds and sights that caught my attention the most.  The children were all running so freely in their bathing suits completely unaware (or so I think) of body image – cellulite, 6 pack abs (or lack there of) and anything else that we as adults focus on all to well.  So when was it that we made the transition from the blissfully ignorant child to the adult that is slammed with images of what society portrays as beautiful?  When did we start looking to society to tell us what an acceptable body image should be?

Then I took note of the adults who were displaying their imperfect bodies of all ages and sizes in their bathing suits and thought to myself that it was amazing to see people’s head held high as they paraded down the beach.  At the same time, I began to wonder what was really going on inside their heads.  Who were the ones that really and truly loved their bodies and were totally comfortable in their own skin flaws and all? And who were the ones putting on a good act, but inside the negative self-talk was just as loud as those happy, giddy children?

In my opinion, our society is so focused on body image that unless you fit into a certain mold then you need not be seen in various clothes much less a bathing suit.  Not true – of course!  There are many of us who unfortunately have fallen under society’s spell when it comes to judging our own bodies.  We are extremely hard on ourselves believing that if we just do this or that, eat this or that, buy this gadget or that one, that all will be fixed in a matter of time.  But will it?  Chances are we will never be able to change mass society’s views so we need to change ours.  No book, gym membership, DVD, trainer, etc. will ever be able to rectify things especially if our line of thinking and how we view ourselves are both flawed. I am not saying that we shouldn’t make an effort to better ourselves, (reach for goals or continually make new ones)…I am simply saying that we should not look to society to tell us what better looks like.

I have lived a large majority of my life under that guise and still to this day wrestle with it.  Fortunately it is not as bad as it once was.  There are times when it is easy to get lured back in fully if I am not careful.  I am still working everyday to rid myself of the negative body image self talk that unfortunately has been like a mantra for me for many years.  It’s not easy, but I am making progress.  So now – I don’t weigh myself like I did almost every day for the longest time.  In fact I don’t weigh myself – period!  I know I will never be a size 2 but that’s quite all right with me and trust me – it has taken me a loooooong time to be able to make peace with that fact.  I no longer focus on the scale.  I want to be healthy and strong.  Don’t get me wrong – I still work at the gym to get my appearance a certain way – but it is MY way, MY interpretation of what I want MY body to look like.  (And lately I have adopted another focus and it has been more on health and strength.)  So if I don’t fit into skinny jeans because I have gotten a little thicker due to muscle accumulation – so be it!

So don’t be fooled into thinking that the skinny that society puts so much emphasis on equates with picture perfect health.  That is not the case.  Ever heard of skinny-fat?  A person can be outwardly skinny, but still have a good portion of their body composition coming from fat.  Also – just because someone is thin does not mean that they are immune to ailments that are typically thought of as those that only pertain to overweight people.   

Strive to be healthy and look the way you want to look – not the way the TV and magazines say you should.  Focus on different numbers and other values rather than just the scale and clothing size.  Focus on getting stronger and being able to do more weights, focus on the blood pressure number, the body composition number, or finally changing your relationship with food after many years of having an unhealthy one, etc.

Learn to be yourself…respect yourself…love yourself.  Be the best you you can be!

Ever wonder what the secrets are to having a fat-loss frame of mind and living a fat-loss lifestyle?  People who are living that way have key elements to their success.  The following are 5 of those elements.  See how your current lifestyle compares to this list, especially if fat-loss is a goal of yours.  You may even surprise yourself and find that you are already on target!

  1. Healthy diet versus Fat-loss diet:  Yes – there is a difference.  Many people think that having their oatmeal and Greek yogurt everyday, or their turkey on a sandwich thin is going to ignite their fat-loss potential simply because they are eating foods that are healthier options than others.  That is not the whole picture.  Although you may be eating “healthy” – you are not necessarily eating for fat-loss.  The food that we consume sends different messages to the hormones – in simple terms…burn or store.  A caloric deficit does matter, but ultimately if you are eating the proper foods that balance the hormones then the calories will take care of themselves.  Which leads me into the next fat-loss tip….

 

  1. Protein and Veggies/Fiber:  Anyone living a fat-loss lifestyle knows to always go for the protein and veggies/fiber first.  Not only will you be sending the proper message to your hormones to help you tap into that fat-loss mode, but you will also find that the combination of the two will enhance the satiety factor.

 

  1. Label Reading:  This is crucial for living the fat-loss lifestyle.  First off – shop the perimeters of the store as much as you can since that is where your freshest foods will be.  If there is something that you buy with a label – READ IT!  Do not make any assumptions as to what the ingredients are.  The more “funky” ingredients contained in a food (and I use the word food lightly here) the more of a detrimental impact it can have on losing fat. 

 

  1. Sleep:  This is often missed by many people as aiding in fat-loss, but any fat-loss minded person knows the importance of sleep.  Sleep is the body’s time to reset hormones.  “Sleep lowers leptin, insulin, and cortisol levels and elevates melatonin, HGH, testosterone, and other hormones.  Sleep improves mood, burns fat, and slows the aging process.  Sleep is the ultimate anti-aging, muscle-building, fat-burning, and mood-enhancing process the body has available to it.”  (Teta, 2010) Get your uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep and be in bed by 10!

 

  1. Plan:  Fat-loss minded people always have a plan.  They are always thinking one step ahead.  If they are traveling they will pack appropriate snacks…they will call the hotel to see if the room has a fridge and/or a microwave…they will take the time to prep food such as cutting veggies all at once, cooking chicken breasts to have during the week…they will have their fridge stocked with easily accessible fat-loss friendly foods so getting hungry and picking the wrong foods is rarely a problem, etc.  Keep in mind the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

 

These are just 5 components of living and implementing a fat-loss lifestyle and having a fat-loss mindset.  Of course these are all in conjunction with an exercise protocol.  If you have all 5 under your belt – BRAVO!  If you are just missing one – then you know what to do – focus on that particular one.  If there is more than one – I would suggest picking just one that you are currently not doing to start and focus on that until you are comfortable and then pick the next one.  Fat-loss is a way of life and having the mindset that goes with it!  These 5 elements are a great place to start.

 

 

Are We There Yet?

Posted: June 13, 2012 in Goals, Healthy Living, Resolutions

Remember being a kid going on road trips and whining from the backseat of the car, “Are we there yet?”  This, of course, was before the dawn of iPods, DVD players in the car, or any other hand-held electronic device that occupies the time of many kids now a days when they set out on a trip.  I can remember playing things like I spy in the car to pass the time.  The best is when my family and I would listen to Billy Joel’s, We didn’t start the Fire, over and over again so that we could figure out every line in that song that was jammed packed with events that occurred throughout history!

The anticipation and excitement for the arrival of the destination can be overwhelming especially as a kid.  Of course the journey to get there can also be excruciatingly boring as well. Then something happens as adults.  Time seems to fly much quicker and before you know it there is no time to be saying, “Are we there yet?” because it is already here or has already passed us by.  Sometimes we are so consumed by a variety of things all at once that we miss the journey altogether.  And it is that very same journey that can teach us so much about ourselves, about life, and who we are and who we want to be.

Many of us set specific time frames to which we want to see certain goals completed.  Ever want to drop a few pounds for a particular event?  Perhaps an upcoming wedding, reunion, trip, etc. had you formulating a plan.  Maybe you gave yourself a date that by the time you reached it you wanted to have stopped smoking, have given up sweets, start exercising, etc.  But what happens the day after that date has come and gone especially if you didn’t accomplish the goal?  Do you just quit, or do you continue? 

I have had a realization this week as I am preparing for an upcoming photo shoot.  (Wow – it sounds like I am somebody really important when I say that – hahaha).  The date is quickly approaching, and I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of leanness and muscle development.  Due to that fact, I have been a bit apprehensive and almost threw in the towel figuring there is no way that I can get there by next week so why bother.  Yup, I know – a completely defeatist attitude.  So I got to thinking about it, and I came to this realization…just because I may not be where I had hoped to be for that specific date, there is no reason that I can’t continue my journey right here, right now, as well as when it is all over.  The photo shoot will come and go, but the real issue is will I let me goals go with it.  Most of us are familiar with the saying that life is a journey, not a destination.  So for me this photo shoot is just another stop on my journey.  It is certainly not my destination.  In reflecting on it, I was also able to begin appreciating all of the things that I have been doing along the way and not just focus on that one day.

I share my story with you in the hopes that in the future if you set a goal with a specific time frame, you will approach your thinking differently especially if it doesn’t happen.  So the next time you say something like, “I want to lose 10 pounds by such and such a date” – don’t forget that if that date arrives and you haven’t attained that goal – just adjust your sails and continue to make it happen. 

So even if you “aren’t there yet” – savor the journey, take pride in what you are actively doing to reach your goals and if you lose your way – chart a new course.  We have the choice to whine the whole way and be miserable (which will most likely result in never reaching the goal), the choice to let internal and external factors trip us up, or the choice to appreciate the journey (the good and bad) and all the steps that we take to better ourselves all along the way. 

Keep pushing forward!!!

Takin’ Out The Trash

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Healthy Living

More and more people are becoming aware of the grave issues when it comes to our food.  They are trying to make healthier alternatives and remove some of the toxins in their diet.  This is absolutely a great thing and a wonderful step towards taking charge of one’s own health.  But, unfortunately, there is more to it than that for establishing a well-rounded, state of over-all good health.  So removing the trash in your diet is cause for applause, but how about removing other things that are toxic in your life?  Let’s discuss just a few for the sake of this blog…

People:  Yup, people!  Some people can be very toxic and have an impact on our well-being.  Take a good hard look at your relationships with others.  Know of anyone that when you are around them your whole being is brought down?  Like vampires they suck the life out of you!  Their negativity envelops, consumes, and exhausts you.  It just might be a good time to begin distancing yourself from those kinds of people.  

 

Stress:  How many of you chuckled when you saw the word stress and thought to your self – is she insane?  There is no possible way to rid all of the stress in our lives.  That is an absolute fact.  What I am posing here is to try to reduce the factors that we have complete and utter control over that continually cause us stress.  Is it that closet that every time you open it you need to be wearing a suit of armor due to all of the clutter that falls out?  Is it that stack of mail that just seems to multiply and be moved from one location to another, but never really gets the attention it needs?  I joke with people about our garage.  There have been instances where people will offer to go out there to grab something in the fridge.  I joke that before they do they will need a map and have to sign a waiver releasing us of any responsibility due to injuries that may occur as of a result of all the CRAP that is out there.  Yes – that is on our “to do” list!  Take some time to list all of the controllable stressors in your life and prioritize them and then make it a goal to tackle one at time until the list is complete.  Well – let me rephrase that…until the list is complete for NOW!  There will likely be more things that will eventually crop up.  So no, we can’t get away from all stressors (economy, weather, car trouble, bills, etc.), but sometimes we bring them on ourselves, or make them worse by our avoidance or over-reaction to them.

Brain:  Time to take out the trash as far as our brain is concerned.  That negative self-talk that so many of us do – myself included (work in progress) – is just another form of toxicity in our lives.  How many of you when you get a compliment just say, “Thank you” and move on?  And how many of you say, “Thank you, but…”  No buts!  Don’t negate the very compliment that person just gave you.  Take it and run with it!  Time to stop those negative thoughts that have taken up residence in our brains.  Clean out the negative noggin clutter! Another big one with the brain is many of us let other people and/or our financial standings dictate our self-worth.  If you have to look for your self- worth in what others think of you or in your wallet, it is definitely time to take out the trash in that line of thinking.  NOW!

Personal Care Products:  If you are not new to my blog then you will know my strong stance on funky stuff in our foods and trying to eliminate any foods that contain them from our eating.  But what about our personal care products that we lather, roll, and spray on each and every day?  Ever wonder what we are really applying and let soak into our skin?  Complete disclosure where this is concerned…This is an area that is still a work in progress too, but I have made adjustments with shampoo/conditioners, facial cleansers, moisturizers, and toothpaste which I feel has been a great start.  In my opinion, we should be concerned with what we put on our body, not just in it, especially when many of those products have a variety of chemicals in them.  Take out the trash and get rid of some of those types of products and slowly replace them with better alternatives.  For all of you DIY people – there are many great options for making homemade soaps, shaving creams, detergent, etc.

Leading a quality way of life extends much further than the parameters of eating well and exercising.  I have talked about just some of the things that can be toxic in our lives.  Time to reflect on our current situation to see what “trash” needs to be removed in order for us to live better, more full-filled, healthier lives.  Who’s with me?!

So What.

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Fitness, Food, Healthy Living, Nutrition

As I sat around this past weekend being quite lazy and loving every minute of it (the weather was just not cooperative), I found myself saying “so what” to various things.  Blame it on the weather, my mood, whatever it was – it felt good to dismiss some things.  I would like to think that some of it was because I have come to an understanding on things that have bothered me, if not tortured me, in the past.  So maybe saying “so what” was my way of letting those things go and not letting them hold me hostage anymore.  So here are some of my “so what” revelations pertaining to me and some pertaining to what I have encountered from others…

So what if life isn’t perfect.  Isn’t that truly part of life – the absence of perfection?  Or at least the absence of an easily identifiable, measurable and agreed upon by all state of perfection? Besides, in my opinion, perfection is perception.  They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”…well I say, “Perfection is in the eye of the perceiver”.  For some, perfection is a picnic in the park and for others a picnic would be far from perfection and it just wouldn’t be a perfect day unless it included fine dining.  Enjoy the here and now and stop waiting for perfection – it will never come until you decide it’s already here.  (I am not saying stop striving to be better, healthier, stronger, smarter, etc. I am just simply saying don’t let this moment pass until you realize that you can only be what you already are at this precise moment.  Got that?) 

So what if my jeans are snugger than they were just a short time ago.  It is because my body has shifted – in a good way – I might add!  Those squats, lunges and all the other exercises that I so frequently mumble expletives under my breath while doing them are really paying off.  The behind is s.l.o.w.l.y. getting rounder and more lifted so that means jeans are fitting differently.  It may be slow, but it is ultimately changing.  If the result of that happening is going up a size in jeans then so be it.  So what.  Don’t let your jeans define you – you define those jeans.  Rock ’em! 

So what if food has “natural” on the package when the ingredient list tells a completely different story.  If the ingredient list is a who’s who of something that reminds you of your former chemistry lab class – simply put it back on the shelf and walk run away!  Do not be fooled by fancy packaging or snazzy health claims.  If food has to claim to be healthy – that should be your first warning sign.  When is the last time you saw a claim on fresh produce to be healthy and natural and used fancy packaging to convince you to buy it? 

So what if you don’t have a solid block of time to workout.  Do you have 10 minutes?  Even 5?  Push-ups, air-squats, lunges, jumping rope, sprints and so much more can all help to create workout options when time and even equipment are factors.  Just make sure to keep the intensity high since time will be short. Try to repeat at another time during the day so you have accumulated more minutes by the time the day is over. It doesn’t need to be an all or nothing mentality when it comes to working out.  Something is better than nothing. 

So what if you can’t buy all organic food.  If you buy a bag of non organic apples instead of that bag of chips then you are headed in the right direction.

So what if you have the finest gym equipment and/or a membership to the “best” gym if you don’t use them! 

So what if I am 41.  I am leaner and stronger than I ever was in my 20’s and 30’s, albeit with a few more lines and “dimples”.  Don’t let age stop you.  It is never too late to change, but it won’t happen unless you make the choice.  Fit and fabulous at 40 is my motto…okay, okay 41, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as using 40! 

So now it is your turn.  What, in your life, can you think of that you would feel so much better being able to say, “So What”?

Most people are familiar with the saying, “hindsight is always 20/20”.  I got to thinking about that the other day. I thought of some things in terms of nutrition and exercise (go figure) that if I had only known then, I could have saved myself so much money, aggravation, and time just to name a few. I also would have savored some of those moments back then even more.  So here is my list of what I had come up with initially…

1.  If I had known what an integral part my scale would play in me becoming obsessed with a number and the fact that there is life after the ditching of the scale – I would have ditched it a long time ago.  I have spent way too many years and have cried too many tears over that thing.  Hey – that sounds like a good start to one of those sappy sad songs! 

2.  Knowing that “a healthy diet doesn’t always equal a fat-loss diet” would have been ideal to know many moons ago.  I can’t begin to fathom how different things would have been if I had been privy to that insight.  I would have known what foods specifically generate fat-loss and could have made sure I focused on them!

3.  Did you know that there are hormones that are closely linked to fat-loss and that falling for the standard “calories in/ calories out” mentality is NOT the way to go?  It is not that calories don’t matter, but for fat-loss it is more than just burning more calories than you consume.  Could have told me that sooner!

4.  All those times when I wouldn’t dare stand up from my beach towel without shimmying into my shorts first…can I take them back?!  So much time and energy expended on worrying if my thighs were too big, etc.  Ugh!  How I wish I had flaunted it!  I should have really appreciated my body back then.  I even went so far as to wear these neoprene bands around each thigh hoping to sweat and shrink my thighs.  No, no – I didn’t wear them on the beach!  (Mental image – yikes!)  Of course I had no idea way back then that even if I could sweat some weight off – it would only be temporary.  Sigh… 

 Come to think of it – where is my thigh-master?   

Buns of Steel, anyone?!

 

5.  I would like all of the money back that I spent on the copious amounts of potions and lotions that contained various toxic chemicals in them when all I needed was a jar of coconut oil!  Not only can you use it as a full body moisturizer, but you can cook with it too. In fact the uses for coconut oil seem to go on and on. Read more about it…  http://wakeup-world.com/2012/03/02/160-uses-for-coconut-oil/  ( I fully understand that there may be times when severe skin conditions may warrant the use of conventional treatments, but again I urge you to be a detective to see if your food could be the potential cause and to read any and all labels before you put something on your skin.  You should be concerned with what you put on your body just as you should be with what you put in it.)

6.  You mean frozen pizza at midnight while having a movie marathon with my family wasn’t such a great idea?  I suppose those late night runs in college to Pat’s Steaks in Philly to top off our consumption of ‘beverages” for the night were not the best option either. Inside-outs and greasy pizza from Mario’s down the street from our dorm were staples freshman year.  My stomach is turning right now as I type this just thinking about that!  Oh, and let me not forget the countless nights in high school that ended at the local diner with cheese fries and gravy – AKA Disco fries!    However, I wouldn’t trade any of those memories – not for a moment – maybe just the food given what I know now.

7.  The countless lunches and dinners that came out of a jar or a box was not proper nutrition?  Who knew?!  And yes – it wasn’t too long ago that I too was under the spell of the low-fat/no-fat craze!  If I only knew that most of those Frankenfoods were not even food at all, I could have spared myself endless bouts with indigestion, bloating, feeling sluggish, and those annoying few extra pounds.  Not to mention my body would have appreciated it more!.  Eat. Real. Food!  I have learned that message loud and clear.

These are just a few of the things that I can appreciate now as I look back to my days gone by.  But as I said in my last blog, “when we know better we do better” and that is what I have to take away from all of this reflecting.  Sure, life would be much easier if we all had a crystal ball that could save us from making costly mistakes both monetarily and health wise, but we do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at the time.  Remember all of those mistakes are not failures. They are opportunities for feedback.  Use them to create a better today and tomorrow.  Nourish your brain with knowledge so that you can then properly nourish your body.  Then hopefully there will be less instances of would have, could have, should have …if only I had known better.  

So what do YOU know now that you wish you had known then?

Game On!

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Fitness, Food, Goals, Healthy Living, Nutrition

Spring has sprung! Although, as I am writing this, it feels anything but Spring out there today. There is just something about Spring and the weather that has everyone (me included) in a panic that summer is almost here which means bathing suit season and traveling.  Neither of those are a bad thing. In fact they both represent times of relaxation and freedom from the everyday routine.  But it should not be a free pass to forget all that is vital for good health unless you want to come back from your trip with more than memories and souvenirs.  Let your pictures serve as memories – not the extra pounds you have the possibility of bringing home with you!

There is a misconception that all bets are off when it comes to traveling and sticking to a plan.  But that’s just it – it is a misconception – it doesn’t have to be that way.  It is a choice!  With a little forethought there are quite a few things that you can do to make sticking to your goals a real possibility while on vacation.  There are some hurdles that people face, so I am going to address what I view as the top three and hopefully you will walk away feeling more confident that you CAN stick to a PLAN!

Let’s start with potential hurdle number one: nutrition on the road.  For those of you who are road tripping it for summer vacation here are a few tips to help you.

  • Prepackage snacks for the car:  apples, bananas, baggies of grapes, almonds, sliced peppers, etc.    
  • Pack a cooler with water (of course keep in mind that could increase the amount of pit-stops along the way and if you are like me that means more pit-stops = less sanity! I want to get where I am going! 
  • In your cooler you can also pack ham/turkey/cheese roll-ups for an easy finger food that won’t leave crumbs in your car.
  • Hard boiled eggs already shelled in your cooler make a great snack.  Yes, I do realize the potential for the smell!
  • When you stop for gas keep in mind that most places have nuts and some even carry fruit.
  • Pack a small container of your own salad dressing so that if you do stop at a fast-food place you can get a salad and top it with your dressing.  Try to get some protein on that salad for the extra satiety factor.
  • Feeling like a burger than just leave the bun. Take the burger.  “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”.  Sorry!  I couldn’t resist!
  • If you are staying at a hotel – call ahead to find out if they have a fridge and/or a microwave.  Once when staying in a hotel I asked the front desk for a local super market, went there and bought a pre-cooked chicken roaster and kept that in my room to eat.
  • No matter where you stop – think protein and veggies first followed by some fruit!

Air travel may be less out of your control, but once again all is not lost.  If you only have time for fast-food while waiting for your flight then find some type of protein whether it is a grilled chicken sandwich or a burger and you know what to do with the bun.  Again, think protein first with veggies or fruit if you can as grab and go veggies may be harder to come by.  It is easier to grab an apple or banana than it is to grab an order of steamed broccoli!  You get my point.  You may have more options if you have more time and are able to order from a restaurant. It is very easy to be lured into buying some of those great smelling snacks that have now made their way into airports.  Cinnabon – really?!  They know your defenses are down.  You’re either tired and cranky from dealing with air travel, or you are on such a vacation high that all rational decisions are left behind. 

Now on to exercise – potential hurdle number two… all is not lost here either.  Your own body can be your greatest piece of gym equipment when traveling.

  • Push-ups, jumping jacks, sits-ups, dips, burpees, air-squats, lunges, etc. can be really effective for getting something in.  Pack a jump rope if you have one or resistance bands that take up no space at all.  I have been known to do lunges down the hallway of the hotel.  Again – call the hotel ahead of time to see if there is any kind of equipment on site. 
  • If you are going to the beach – the beach makes a beautiful setting for exercise.  Last year my son joined me for some sprints, burpees, air-squats and push-ups on the beach.  I would just caution you to scout out the area for your sprints before you start running.  Wouldn’t want to twist an ankle when you step into someone’s left over hole from an afternoon of digging in the sand!
  • Don’t forget that walking on vacation is a great form of recovery exercise especially if you have been overloading your workouts trying to prepare your body for vacation.  Walking will help to reduce stress and your stress hormones and will also help to balance you out.  The type of walking I am referring to is at a leisurely pace, not power walking.  Please don’t save this type of recovery exercise just for vacation.  Try to include something like a walk or some other form of recovery exercise everyday.

The next potential hurdle – hurdle number three – when it comes to travel and vacations is the mind-set that usually takes up residence in our head and wants to tag along for the trip.  I am speaking of the “I don’t care. It’s my vacation”, “I deserve it”, and the “I need a break” thoughts that are being packed along with your luggage!  Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t go and enjoy yourself. If you know me then you are probably familiar with my utter disdain for cooking.  I will look for every opportunity to get out of it and vacation fits that bill perfectly.  But just try to enjoy yourself in a manner that will not throw you completely off your game.  Eventually that vacation will come to an end and reality will set in.  If you find that your choices were less than stellar – DO NOT beat yourself up.  Wipe your hands of it and move on.   

This mind-set is not only evident on vacations, but is also ever-present for some on the weekends as well.  “I don’t care.  It’s the weekend.”  Yup –so it is.  Health is not important on the weekends?!… “I deserve it.”  You deserve to be healthy!… “I need a break.”  A break from your health?!  I am not perfect and don’t claim to be.  It is taken me some time to get where I am now. I have made many mistakes along the way both in exercising and nutrition, but have learned from them and used them as a catalyst for change in my life.  Those mistakes and the lessons I learned ultimately brought me to where I am now, and it is in a really great place.  It has been, and continues to be, a learning and growing process.  I love the quote from Maya Angelou that says, “When you know better you do better”.  I truly believe that. 

Since I have been asked by countless people how I personally deal with vacations and weekends (and holidays and birthdays for that matter), I will share with you my line of thinking.  So here is how I look at all of those things (aside from using many of the strategies above)…  If we are blessed each day to keep putting our two feet on the ground in the morning then part of that is dealing with all of those things.  It’s called life!  We have to learn to make peace with those things, embrace them as part of life – a very good part of life, be thankful for them and most of all – enjoy them.  Enjoy them in a way that respects who you are and who you want to be.  Don’t let those events control you.  You control them!

As you make your summer plans (or just your plans for the weekend) – remember to do just that – PLAN!  I have given you just some of many good tips to employ.  Have any others?  Please share!

 

In today’s world we have become a society that loves our instant gratification.  With the dawn of great technology along came things such as never being away from your email; not having to sit through commercials if you have a DVR; being able to buy things from the internet on your phone; and the list goes on and on.  I’m thinking that patience is not one of our finer qualities.  Who’s with me on that?  

Quick fixes are another thing that have become more common place.  We don’t have time to deal with long drawn out issues.  Right?  I am all about the quick fixes when it comes to certain things.  Ah, here’s an oldie, but goody – putting clear nail polish on a stocking snag to prevent it from running anymore!  Am I dating myself?  Probably!  But if you know what I am talking about then you are right there with me!  But eventually if those quick fixes are not taken care of properly they will just be around again and potentially on a larger scale.

Too many people have been lured into this quick fix mindset when it comes to their health.  Have heartburn?  Here. I’ve got a pill for that.  Have a migraine?  Here. I’ve got a pill for that.  Please DO NOT get me wrong.  I am not discounting the use of proper medications for the right reasons, and I am certainly NOT making light of heartburn and migraines or any other medical conditions for that matter. Just examples people – don’t get your feathers in a ruffle!  The point that I am trying to get at with all of this is that we can’t continue to put band-aids on all of our ailments and expect them to miraculously disappear.  They may go away for the time being, but what happens when they crop back up again?  Continue to pop a pill?  Increase the dosage or try a different pill? Or should we start with being a detective and looking into what may be the root cause of the issues: diet, lack of exercise, lifestyle choices, lack of sleep, too much stress, etc. For the sake of this blog – I am going to focus on food and the choices we make as being the possible instigator of many of these ailments that afflict people.  I know full well that there are many people on life-saving medications and ones that control major health issues.  Those are not the ones I am referring to in this post.  Having had my brain surgery I am extremely aware of the need for certain prescriptions, and I am thankful that medical advancements were able to produce them!

The foods that we eat have the potential to make us healthier or less healthy. Sometimes the effects are not clearly seen immediately but will be a delayed reaction that can take years to make its presence known.  

If you are a diet soda drinker and/or a lover of non-fat processed and sugar-free foods you ARE taking in artificial sweeteners.  One such sweetener is called aspartame. 

Thank you to http://www.sweetpoison.com/aspartame-side-effects.html for providing the following list.

Adverse reactions and side effects of aspartame include:

Eye
blindness in one or both eyes
decreased vision and/or other eye problems such as: blurring, bright flashes, squiggly lines, tunnel vision, decreased night vision
pain in one or both eyes

decreased tears
trouble with contact lenses
bulging eyes

Ear
tinnitus – ringing or buzzing sound
severe intolerance of noise
marked hearing impairment

Neurologic
epileptic seizures
headaches, migraines and (some severe)
dizziness, unsteadiness, both
confusion, memory loss, both
severe drowsiness and sleepiness
numbness of the limbs
severe slurring of speech
severe hyperactivity and restless legs
atypical facial pain
severe tremors

Psychological/Psychiatric
severe depression
irritability
aggression
anxiety
personality changes
insomnia
phobias

Chest
palpitations, tachycardia
shortness of breath
recent high blood pressure

Gastrointestinal
nausea
diarrhea, sometimes with blood in stools
abdominal pain
pain when swallowing

Skin and Allergies
itching without a rash
lip and mouth reactions
hives
aggravated respiratory allergies such as asthma

Endocrine and Metabolic
loss of control of diabetes
menstrual changes
marked thinning or loss of hair
marked weight loss
gradual weight gain
aggravated low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
severe PMS

Other
frequency of voiding and burning during urination
excessive thirst, fluid retention, leg swelling, and bloating
increased susceptibility to infection

Additional Symptoms of Aspartame Toxicity include the most critical symptoms of all
death

irreversible brain damage
birth defects, including mental retardation
peptic ulcers
aspartame addiction and increased craving for sweets
hyperactivity in children
severe depression
aggressive behavior
suicidal tendencies

Aspartame may trigger, mimic, or cause the following illnesses:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Epstein-Barr
Post-Polio Syndrome
Lyme disease
Grave’s disease
Meniere’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease
ALS
Epilepsy
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
EMS
Hypothyroidism
Mercury sensitivity from Amalgam fillings
Fibromyalgia
Lupus
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) 

You can see by this very comprehensive list that what we may be ingesting (daily for some) can have a very negative impact on our health.  Keep in mind that this is only ONE of the many food additives that is present in some food and drinks.  So that migraine/headache that you have been dealing with just may be result of that diet soda habit.

Gluten is another trouble maker that is present in many of the foods eaten on a daily basis.  “Gluten is a strong elastic protein found in wheat, rye & barley that provides structure and elasticity to baked goods. These strong protein bonds-that give bread its shape & texture are difficult to digest and often adhere themselves to the gut wall. Our immune system releases toxic compounds to try to destroy the gluten proteins resulting in inflammation of the small intestine wall. Chronic inflammation results in a leaky gut which results in the more chronic inflammation in our body. Chronic inflammation is the root of chronic disease.”*

These are just a FEW of the many gluten–associated medical concerns as presented in the book Dangerous Grains by James Braly, M.D., and Ron Hoggan, M.A.

Abdominal distension/bloating

Asthma

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Bone Diseases

Calcium deficiency

Celiac disease

Crohn’s disease

Dementia

Eczema

Emotional and behavioral disorders

Headaches (persistent, recurring. Migraine like, often not responsive to conventional therapies)

Iron deficiency Anemia

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

And the list continues.  Unfortunately it contains issues that are on an even grander scale than the ones listed above.  Many people feel just fine and don’t display any issues and are unaware that gluten is indeed beginning to take its toll on their body.  I, personally, avoid gluten at all cost as well as artificial sweeteners and other foods and ingredients that can create a toxic environment in the body!

So before you continue to search for that magical pill, inspect your food for ingredients that may be causing your issues and the types of foods that you are eating.  I have talked about two in this post, but there are many more out there such as MSG, food dyes, soy, dairy and grains (yup – I said grains) to name a few.  Be your own best advocate for your health.  Remember from one of my previous posts – be proactive, not reactive!

Wishing you all good health!

 “Humans evolved for thousands of years on the micro-and macronutrients available from plant and animal food.  You are genetically programmed to grow and thrive on a naturally derived diet.  Nearly all of the chemical compounds added to food have never previously existed on this planet prior to their creation in some chemist’s lab…The majority of the human race is currently engaged in a massive involuntary experiment on a scale that has never been seen in the history of the world.”  (Dr. Joseph Mercola) 

*Thank you to the Hail Merry Facebook page for providing that description in one of their recent posts.  If you are not familiar with Hail Merry products they are amazing ~ especially the raw chocolate macaroons.

Ever have a cut that was bleeding and you didn’t even feel it UNTIL you saw it and then all of a sudden the pain kicked in?  It is amazing the power of the brain.  You are going along oblivious to the fact that you are injured and it is not until your brain gets wind of the fact that injuries and blood are typically synonymous with pain that you even begin feeling the pain.

Our brain can be our most powerful asset, and yet it can also be our most powerful detriment at times.  It is all in how we use it.  Our thoughts have a direct bearing on our actions.  Think negative thoughts all the time and our very being will be brought down due to those thoughts. Our whole outlook on things can become clouded.  Think in a positive way and somehow the world seems like a much brighter place and our actions will reflect that positivity.

A perfect example of the power of the brain presented itself in the gym yesterday.  A friend of mine, who is an amazingly strong woman and whom I admire for her determination, was squatting and cranking them out like nobody’s business!  She effortlessly did a squat with very heavy weight so delicately balanced on her traps.  When she finished she was shocked at how much weight she did.  She hadn’t realized that in her head she had the wrong weight – a much lower one at that.  But because she had thought the pounds were lighter than they really were and that was what her brain knew – she cranked that squat out believing it was the lighter weight and therefore knew she could execute it seamlessly seeing as she had done it so many times before. All the while she was really doing something much heavier!  She ended up breaking a record yesterday, and I truly believe it was because she kept telling herself that she could do it.  No doubts, no fear – only mind over matter!  So proud of her!  

So how do we harness the power of our brain?  For starters, in my opinion, we need to shift our thoughts to more positive ones.  Stop with the “I can’t…” and “I’m not…”! “I can’t lose these last 10 pounds… can’t get that promotion at work, etc.”  “I’m not strong enough…not pretty enough…not thin enough…not smart enough, etc.”  I will admit that this is something that I am working on for myself.  If we don’t set higher expectations for ourselves than we have nothing to strive for, nothing to help us reach our true potential.  It is easy to get stuck in a place of self-wallowing if that is where you have been for sometime.  It tends to become all you know and worse off – all you expect.  Every one of us deserves better than that. 

When someone gives you a compliment do you ever hear yourself saying, “Thank you, but…”?  Just accept the compliment with a thank you and move on!  Don’t discount the good that someone just recognized in you with a BUT!  But nothing!  Challenge yourself to decrease your negative thoughts each day.  It may be good to start with an awareness of how many negative thoughts you actually have. (Some of you may not even wrestle with these kinds of thoughts.  I commend you for that!)  This may be extreme, but worth a try – wear a rubber band on your wrist and every time you are compelled to think those vampire thoughts that suck the positivity out of you – snap that rubber band!  That will get you thinking differently. 

Harness the power of your brain to move forward in life.  Tackle those things that have been holding you back head on because it is all in your head!  No time like the present.  And remember – “Attitude is the seed of all successes and all failures.  What you plant is what you reap!”

So…what are you currently planting?