Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keeping a Positive Outlook on Life

In my last post, I mentioned Richard Davidson’s how we use the six emotional styles in reacting to life changing events. I discussed resiliency, and explained how we can build our resilience for a happier life.
This time I’d like to discuss outlook, which is number two on Davidson’s list.
You’ve heard the old cliché about some people seeing the glass as half full, others seeing it as half empty. That is our emotional outlook simplified. Some of us see the positive while others dwell on the negative. This is guided by our hormones, our upbringing, even our lifestyle.
A positive outlook is essential to our well-being. Negative people attract more negativity. It’s difficult to be around someone who is constantly bemoaning his situation. Negative people tend to avoid change and refuse help. Many people with a negative outlook on life believe they are powerless and that no matter what they do nothing will make them happy.
Someone with a positive outlook on life accepts change and finds a reason to accept it. They understand that with change comes growth, and that the situation will rectify itself once they can get a handle on it. They feel that the power is either in their own hands, or in the power of a higher being.
I have met both types of people, and it is tough being around a constant pessimist. The pessimist would rather complain then make a drastic change. Perhaps because he is fearful of making a wrong choice. Or maybe she feels no matter what she does, things won’t change (powerlessness). But the change must come from within, especially when a circumstance beyond our control presents itself.
I found a lovely site that explains much more than I can here about negative outlook. Please check out the “Types of Negative Attitude” section, as you will either see yourself or someone you know on this list:
So, how do we change our outlook if we see our world as a cup half empty? According to author Lizette Balsdon in her list of “Ten Steps to a More Positive Life,” we need to stop dwelling in the past, learn to forgive, and stop criticizing others. (
Easier said then done, obviously. When we are hurt by someone else’s actions, that pain stays with us for a long time. Oftentimes until the day we die. Betrayal is a difficult situation to overcome, and anyone who says that they have completely forgiven someone deserves a medal, because that is one of the most difficult things to do. There must be a reason to forgive someone. And that’s where the healing starts.
For example, when I was in the seventh grade, others picked me on so badly that I was physically ill every day, and I had two breakdowns in the middle of school and was sent to the school psychologist for evaluation.
Twenty years later, I forgave the kids who did this to me. Yes, it took that long. I’ll tell you why: because I thought it shaped me as a person in a negative way. Over time I realized that although it was a negative experience for me, it helped me develop a deep empathy for others. It also taught me about social norms and expectations. It deepened my understanding of human psychology. All of which I use when I write my young adult novels.
I found the positive in the negative, and I was able to let go of the anger. I even had a dream where I told my bully, “I forgive you.” It was as if a thousand pounds of self-hatred was pulled from my heart and sent out into the universe. Because it wasn’t the bullies I hated…no. I disliked myself for allowing the situation to happen, even though at the time I felt powerless and confused.
Unhappy people blame others, point fingers, compare themselves to “lucky” people. Happy people look inside themselves for change, learn to understand and accept their limitations, and find ways to better their lives.
A positive outlook is essential to one’s well-being. If you are a naturally pessimistic person, this won’t be easy to achieve. You may need to find a trained therapist who can help you through difficult transitions in your life. If you are unhappy, you need to make a change whether it is in yourself or outside influences. But don’t sulk waiting for something to happen. Take charge of your own life in a positive way. Do it now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Changing Your Life Situation: How it Helps You Find Good Health and Gain Freedom

I’m an advocate for change. But only if the change will impact one’s life in a positive manner. For example, don’t start drinking five beers a night so you can shove your troubles under a table coaster. You need to find what it is inside of you that’s contributing to your unhappiness and make the changes necessary to let that little stream of happiness we all have within ourselves bubble to the surface. It’s not easy. Sometimes we really have to dig to discover it. And sometimes we don’t even know where to place our shovel.
Today I will focus on a discussion of Richard Davidson’s six emotional styles. According to Davidson, people consult their emotions when making complex decisions. I understand that. When I make a decision as simple as choosing what clothes to put on, I generally let my mood guide me. Occasionally I will think, “I want to be warm. It’s cold outside.” And I will choose my warmest, albeit least attractive, clothing. But if I want to feel good about myself, I will choose something less practical, thus making an emotional decision.
The same goes for food. We can say to ourselves, “A salad without dressing is optimal for my weight loss plan today.” And then the television stops working, a pair of pants gets ruined in the dryer thanks to a renegade chap stick, and a fight ensues with the spouse. The undressed salad is a distant memory. “I need a hot fudge sundae,” is the emotional response. And it leads us to unhealthy fare, if only for its quick pick-me-up.
The six emotional styles according to Davidson are as follows:
1)   Resilience
2)   Outlook
3)   Social Intuition
4)   Self-Awareness
5)   Context
6)   Attention
In the next several weeks I’m going to choose each of these styles and dissect them. How do they interfere with my choices? How do they help me obtain my goals? How can apply this to a healthy lifestyle while I weather upcoming challenges in my life? What about you?
Today, we’ll discuss resiliency.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress -- such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences…Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” (
How adept are you at making plans and taking steps toward your goals? Do you lack confidence or motivation? Do you find yourself struggling with indecision? Or are you impulsive and quick to react either in a positive or negative way?
The APA has put together an article that contains “10 Ways to Build Resilience.” ( In a nutshell, they explain the most successful ways to become a more resilient person, including keeping positive about the future and having a clear head during stressful situations. It’s easy to be swept into a tide of fear and doubt, but we need to grasp a lifesaver instead of allowing the waves to tug us down where we can’t breathe.
If you have a problem—especially one that feels insurmountable—you need to find a way to step back and look at it objectively. Let’s say that there are layoffs happening where you work. You need your income and health insurance benefits, obviously. You also know that you are likely to be the next person cut loose. You could wait it out, gnawing on your fingernails until they bleed. You can come home to your family and take your anger and stress out on them. You can guzzle a six-pack and gobble down an entire bag of Doritos. But these things will not quell your stress. In fact, they may add to your problems. It’s time for you to look at the problem from a different perspective. To increase your resiliency.
The APA suggests turning to friends, family, and organizations such as church for support. Talking it through can help alleviate the fear. Accepting that there are some situations out of your control is another positive coping mechanism. Finding a new goal…such as searching for a new job or considering a career change…will help put you back into the driver’s seat. Exercise can help because you are taking care of yourself, which is a mood lifter. I know, I know. All these suggestions sound fantastic, but actually making them happen takes work.
But humans are adaptable. Behavior modification isn’t a work of fiction. They say it takes three weeks to make something a habit. Whether or not that’s true, I do know that after a month of regular exercise I began to no longer put it off. It became part of my daily life, blending into my schedule so seamlessly I now feel I’m missing something if I don’t do it. I’m heading headfirst into a very stressful situation very soon, but I feel I am, for the most part, resilient. I am going to try to look at the challenges ahead in a positive manner. I won’t let fear guide me, because otherwise I will make poor decisions by working out of my emotional state instead of my intellectual state of mind.
What about you? Where do you stand? If you’re more likely to eat seven Big Macs when you’re struggling with adversity than you are to hit the gym, you may want to take a look at how you’re handling problems. And you may want to change that. Starting today.
Where to find Richard Davidson's book:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to Succeed at Your First 5K Race

I ran my first EVER 5K this past Saturday. Generally, 5K's are fundraisers, and this was for domestic violence. I paid $25 to run, although people could walk as well. People volunteered their time and companies like the local Subway and Abbott's offered coupons for free products. Tim Horton's gave out free coffee and smoothies. So not only did I monetarily help out a charity, but I received amazing perks as well!

Okay, let me first say that I know people who really prepare for this sort of thing. They run almost daily. They time their speed. They get fitted for special sneakers. This is not me. I did none of that. I would've run every other day if I didn't have that stupid heel pain that makes it impossible to walk for the next couple days thereafter. (I am seeing a podiatrist soon, so I will have more great advice for runners after my appointment, once I know what I'm doing wrong.)

So, in other words, my lungs were not conditioned to the point I would've liked them to be. I'm going to assume many of you reading this are in the same boat. What I have to tell you will be invaluable. First of all, make your you exercise a good couple months (at least) prior to the race. You will want to build up your endurance, even if you aren't a runner. I cannot stress this enough: do weight training. Prepare your legs for a long run. 5K equals 3.1 miles. Driving 3.1 miles in a car is a blip in time. It doesn't seem very far. I'm here to tell you that 3.1 miles is no blip. It's more of a (bleep).

Okay. Second of all, even brisk walking will help condition your lungs, but the best conditioning is interval training. Run as fast as you can as far as you can. Stop, gasp, and walk. When your breath has regulated, run as fast as you can again. Continue until you are a blob on your lawn, hoping for rain. You have now begun to condition your lungs for running. You should work on this gradually, of course, and consult your physician to make sure you're a good candidate for this type of training. It can be hard on the heart.

If you can slowly train yourself to run three miles (and for me, it's four), you will be able to handle a 5K, no problem. If you're looking for first place, though, don't be 5 foot 3, racing against women who are 6 feet tall and have the legs of a gazelle. I speak from personal experience, here. But if you are short and still want to do well, here is practical advice from someone who used to be clueless until her very first race.

1) Wear comfortable clothes. Sweat + tight clothes and underwear = uncomfortable chafing. Don't let this be you! Placing Band-Aids in places the sun don't shine is not a great way to end a race.

2) Do not start off going too fast. I had started the race toward the back, and ended up passing 90% of the people right off the bat thinking, "Ha! Suckers." A mile later I was thinking, "I'm the worst sucker of all. I'm a Dum-Dum!" (Disclaimer: Dum Dum is a trademark name.)

3) If you want to win, don't stop for water. But if you're mouth tastes like dried spit, grab a water, suck it down, throw the cup to the pavement. Yes, they told me I could drop the cup. I had hesitated, wondering what to do, which took, like, an extra ten seconds off my time. And seconds are important in a race, gosh darn it! Next time, I'll know better.

4) Look for the signs that tell you where you are mile-wise in the race. They can help you slow or speed your pacing. Me? I was just hoping to keep going without collapsing. When I saw the sign for 2 miles I was like, really? That's all? I turned to the man walking beside me (this tells you how much I'd slowed down by then) and I gasped, "There's no end in sight!"

5) The man beside me was walking AND running his way to the finish line. Not a bad plan, especially if you've conditioned your lungs to deal with fast sprints. Consider this option. He finished the race right after I did, and I ran the whole freaking way!

6) When you see the finish sign, decide (quickly) whether or not you can charge at it without passing out. I did this, and cut a few seconds off my time, plus got the dang race over with just that much quicker.

7) Do NOT stop moving after you've run. Walk it out for at LEAST five minutes to slow your heart rate gradually. Then STRETCH, or you will be sorry the next day.

I had a great time, despite the fact I didn't pace myself and was winded way too soon. But I managed to push myself, something I'm used to doing, and guess what? I ran the entire thing in 26:28. I came in at 21st place, and as the 7th female, despite my short stature. (Gazelle-leg woman came in at 20:00, beating out even the teen boys! I was quite impressed.) My friend (and neighbor), Kari, beat her old time, coming in at 27:58, the 10th female. She did great, too. (I'm always happy to give kudos to hard-working runners.)

So if you're considering a 5K, my advice in a nutshell: train ahead of time with weights and with practice runs. Wear comfy clothes that don't bind. Find a good pace and stick with it...don't start off too fast. If you need water, grab, drink, toss. Don't stop. Charge the finish line. Stretch afterward. Oh, and my best piece of advice? Use the bathroom before you race. After the race, I heard a few horror stories about marathon racers and how they sometimes mess their pants, if you know what I mean.

And number one? Have fun! It goes fast, despite being more a (bleep) than a blip.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Body Image

There's been a lot of controversy over body image/self-esteem for a while now. Heavy people should be able to love themselves despite their weight. Advertisements shouldn't depict an impossibly skinny female because it will affect teens. And now it has been refuted that heavier kids aren't as smart as their thinner peers. (I had no idea that had been a theory in the first place!)

I don't understand why there's such a stink over the whole issue. The truth is, we've become a very lazy nation. We don't ride our bikes to work, we eat whatever and whenever we like, and we sit around in front of the TV munching on chips and slurping down sodas.

If you're happy with that, why is everyone getting upset over this whole body image thing? And if you aren't happy with it, then change it.

Easy for you, you might be thinking. You're thin. Probably never had a body image problem in your life.

It's true that I'm satisfied with the way I look now, but that's only because I work hard at being healthy. (Pretty sad, isn't it? That being healthy takes work, I mean. Wasn't too long ago people walked everywhere they needed to go. They couldn't afford cars. Even taking care of a horse and carriage was an expense. People worked in fields, hunted for their own meat. There was no Wii. No artificial fillers in food. No super-size anything.)

But I used to wish for for a more curvy figure. Wider hips, larger chest. While the rest of me stayed thin, of course. Most times, especially as we age, we can't have it both ways. So yes, we do need to accept what nature gave us.

On one of the doctor shows on TV (I believe it was Dr. Oz), the host asked the audience, "Who here believes they have a slow metabolism?" Just about everyone raised their hand. He advised them to rev up their metabolism by exercising.

So here's what I'm getting at. Plenty of people are miserable with their creeping weight, how they fit in clothes, and that advertisers continue to use skinny models to show off their products. They also blame their sluggish metabolism. My point is, if you aren't happy with yourself, make changes. That needs to be applied to all aspects of your life, not just weight. Because often when we are unhappy with our life, we eat to make us feel better. I know that I do. If I'm miserable, I cheer myself up with a large ice cream sundae. Now imagine feeling miserable every day (and for some of you, you actually do feel miserable everyday, so this isn't  stretch). Now envision eating junk to fill yourself with comfort. What happens? You feel worse. So the cycle continues.

Body image isn't the problem. It's the side effect. I am going to play the part of life coach, and give you a weekly post on how you can change your life for the better. And you know what? I'm going to follow it as well and see if it can help me, too.

I'm going to back up my findings with research, so it's not as if it's me just shouting out, "Hey, I think coloring in coloring books will bring us joy, so let's all do that! Hooray!" It might be true, but without backup sources, how can I prove it?

So let's fix ourselves from the inside out. Will you join me?

Monday, June 11, 2012

The "Child Obesity" Problem

Every time I open a newspaper (yes, I still do that, even if it is an archaic form of reading about events) or read news reports on-line I see information about the "child obesity" problem we have in the U.S.A. I will admit that over the years I've seen chubbier kids. I've also seen chubbier adults. In general, Americans are gaining weight. There's good news and bad news about this. Which one do you want first? The good news?

Good news: The recession hadn't starved everyone. The government isn't rationing food like it did in the past during times of war. Food is plentiful. We seem to have an overabundance in America, unlike many other parts of the world where supply and demand creates a government-controlled entity. People can waste food and not think twice.

Bad news: We are spoiled. We don't have to grow or prepare our own food. We can grab it on the run. We can eat it when we're bored. We can use it to cheer us up. It's a crutch for many of us. Including our children, who model themselves after us.

First off, a disclaimer. Not everyone is meant to be thin. Some people's bodies hold onto fat better than other people's bodies. These are the people who, if times got real tough and there wasn't enough food to go around, would probably outlive the skinny people out there. I believe in loving and accepting ourselves no matter what. Some children are going to be heavier than others. Some kids eat a varied diet and are satisfied, other kids, like my own, will only eat two types of vegetables and one kind of fruit, and we parents are happy if they eat half a sandwich for lunch. Kids are not a one-size-fits-all product.

Okay, here are my feelings on this so-called epidemic. A lot of these kids are eating fast food because their parents are busy. After work they're running their children to sports, dance, drama club...any number of activities. With only a half hour in-between, who has time to cook and eat? No one, that's who. And there's no time to argue with a child over a request for a high-fat option versus the less tastier, healthier venue. Sure, you could order the healthier one anyway, but most kids will stubbornly refuse to eat it and go hungry instead. That is, until they come home famished and raid the cookie cupboard.

Also, one would think if a child is attending baseball three times a week, that's plenty of exercise, right? Wrong. Watch the kids. What are they doing? Most of the time they're standing around, waiting for a ball to come to them in the outfield or waiting for a turn at bat. If they're lucky, they'll get to run toward a wayward ball once in a while. So specialized sports, while great for teaching discipline and sportsmanship, should not be the child's only form of exercise. How to get more exercise for your kid? A game of tag! If you play the game with your children they'll be so thrilled it can go on forever. A plus? You'll get exercise, too.

A lot of these children, when not standing in turn to hit a ball or eating fat-filled fast food, are playing video games, Wii, Gameboy, etc. They're thumbs are getting a good workout, but the rest of their bodies? Not so much. I know this is a big "duh," yet many parents put up with it. Why? Because it prevents the kids from attacking one another in a physical sense. They can work as a team to go after the "bad guys." This means a mom or dad can get work done around the house without having to stop every five minutes to pull the kids apart. I can relate! But when we rely on this "babysitter," our kids become addicted to the games and don't want to play outside where they can run around.

Okay, I know. I know. I've heard this, too: some kids live in rough neighborhoods and it's too dangerous to play outside. First off, I think it's a damn shame that poverty forces people to live in undesirable neighborhoods. I could rant more on this, but it's a sticky subject, so I won't. I understand a parent's concern over this. If there are free after-school programs where kids can play sports, it's helpful. If there aren't, or if there's no way to transport the child to and from these places, consider finding a place in the home for active play. It could be as simple as putting up a Nerf basket ball hoop over the closet door. Or find large boxes and let the kids build a castle with them and play games where they have to jump up and run around the castle to get away from dragons. Be creative. But try to dissuade the kids from video games.

Here is my last opinion on this matter. Many kids are eating out of boredom. Or guilt. Or depression. The list goes on. They are battling the same types of stress adults deal with daily. We try to treat them mini adults. We have years of learned wisdom they don't yet possess. They can't think problems through like we can. Food becomes a great comfort. Fail a quiz? A Snickers bar will help. I fear this is becoming more common, especially when children model on their parents, who might grab a beer at the end of the workday to relieve stress. Or eat an ice cream sundae when feeling blue. Can we find better ways to handle stress and teach those methods to our kids? After a bad day at school, maybe a kid needs to listen to music and draw pictures. Your child is bored? Help her come up a dance routine instead of letting her run to the fridge. Then do these activities yourself to model the behavior. You will find your appetite waning along with your child's.

In the end, we all want what's best for our kids. Parents know when their children are "heavy." And while some choose to wait it out, knowing a growth spurt might be all that's needed for the child to be at a healthy weight for his/her height, others may wish to get a head start by finding alternatives to their lifestyle. Most don't want their children on a "diet," and I agree. Many adults can't even stick to a diet, how can a child?

I'm open to other ideas. What can be done to prevent children from becoming obese? What do you think is the cause? And is the government handling it well? Should the government be involved at all? I'd love to hear your opinions.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happiness Is...Running Without Pain

I haven't been running much because of my bad foot and some new sciatic nerve problem I've developed. Apparently age is creeping up on me. Anyhow, I decided to run four miles Saturday and managed to do it without collapsing.

During my run, there's this yard I pass on the way home where a man has planted rocks in semi-circle formation. Because of the way the rocks face, it always looks like his landscaping is smiling at me. For some reason, the thought of reaching that keeps me going.

By the way, if you are a sports clothing designer, may I suggest making running shorts with pockets? With my awful outdoor allergies, I need to keep a handful of tissue handy. It would also be nice not to have to tie my house key to my shoelaces. And if I could keep my phone somewhere instead of holding it in my hand as I run, that would be even better! So a roomy zippered pocket would be ideal. Yes, I am aware there are fanny packs (so archaic, aren't they?) and I own one. But even tied as tight as I can make it, it slides up and down my waist as I run. Oh, and I suggest always to take a phone with you in case you run into trouble or suddenly don't feel well. Especially in this heat. You could have a heart attack or stroke. 

I'm not sure what's going on with sciatic nerve thingamajig. But my sister says she gets that pain too, so I'm guessing it's hereditary. I do know that two pairs of my sneakers give me heel pain. Maybe they need to be replaced? My Asics so far are the only pair I can wear and feel comfortable. 

Do you have pain when you run? Do you have a favorite pair of sneakers? What do you bring with you when you run? I'm curious to know!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lifestyle Changes

Recently a writer acquaintance of mine blogged about dieting. She wanted to lose weight and look good for the summer beach. Truth be told, I loathe the word diet. Oh, we all use it. "I can't have that third slice of cake, I'm on a diet." But what exactly does it mean? To me it sounds temporary. Like something borrowed that has to eventually be returned. "Thanks for the use of the diet, but I'm at the size I want to be, so you can have it back now."

If you are looking to lose weight, become more toned, or feel stronger and more vibrant, you need to consider a lifestyle change. It can be as small as walking a mile every other day or as encompassing as hitting the gym daily while noshing mainly on fruits and veggies. But this will have to continue the remainder of your life. Once you hit your target of, say, 140 pounds, if this is where you want to stay, you can't return to your old ways.

Here's what I mean. I apologize if you've read this story before in one of my other blog posts, but it bears repeating. When I was in my 30's I worked in a retail store. People brought in donuts and cake regularly. Maybe to ease the tedious days of folding shirts and sweaters? Maybe to celebrate a birthday? Whatever the reason, junk food was readily available. My co-workers didn't care for me passing on the invitation to indulge. Once in awhile I'd reach for a donut, but I knew I couldn't have more than one, nor could I eat one everyday. My metabolism was already showing signs of slowing, and I didn't want to encourage it to conk out altogether. The responses I'd get? "It's one donut, it's not gonna hurt you." And "You're skinny. You can stand to eat a couple donuts." Or "Look at you. You can eat what you want."

That was the point. I didn't eat what I wanted to eat. Between that and moving around a lot on the sales floor, I kept my weight steady for years. The truth is, the older you get, the more often you need to change both your diet and your exercise plan. That is, if you don't want to turn to mush by the time you're 70.

Those of you who have been steady readers understand that my main focus is keeping my cholesterol levels down. I could stand to lose a little belly fat (and some around my back), but for the most part I think I'm pretty healthy. But I exercise three times a week for at least an hour each time, and I don't consume much meat, and try to load up on the green stuff. I love my cookies and pastries, so there's my downfall. If I could quit my sugar addiction, I'd be perfect. But that's one lifestyle change I have yet to master.

Dieting is temporary. It's a way to trim the fat until you've hit your ideal weight. But it doesn't last because once you're there it's easy to think, "I did it! Now where's that ice cream sundae award I've been waiting for?" And suddenly you're sitting in the breakroom with a gigantic bag of Fritos in your lap. A lifestyle change? Fritos are replaced by carrot sticks and a couple of saltines. Dieting: "I'm at 135! Perfect! I was getting sick of running on the treadmill." Lifestyle change: "Running on the treadmill is getting lackluster. Maybe this week I'll master the Precor."

See the difference?

Oh, sure, a Frito or eight won't hurt once a week, and skipping the workout because you're not feeling well (or you've pulled a groin muscle) is fine. But being that it's now routine to eat better and get exercise, the break is temporary. Like a diet is temporary. Only better.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What I've Learned About Running (That I Should've Known)

1) People would rather see you model too-tight spandex running shorts than watch you surreptitiously wipe your nose on your sleeve because you forgot to bring tissue on your run.
2) Bugs adhere to sticky lip gloss.
3) You can not outrun dogs. Cross the street when you see one. Don't assume there is Invisible Fence. Or that the dog cares about Invisible Fence.
4) Not all sidewalks are even. If there is a tree planted close by, assume a part of the sidewalk has been raised by humongous roots. If you are clumsy, avoid the sidewalk and run on the tree lawn instead.
5) Not all cars stop to allow you to cross. Only the ones with nice people inside them. These people are likely to not be envious of your devotion to your health. Mean people hate anyone who unintentionally reminds them they are due for their checkup. And they haven't yet had their coffee.
6) If there is thunder rumbling in the distance, it will probably rain.
7) If the sky blackens quickly, it will probably rain.
8) If the forecast calls for rain, it will probably be sunny.
9) On windy days, your hat will fly off your head and you will spend an inordinate amount of time chasing after it.
10) People will gawk at you as they ride by in their cars. You may think this is because you look sexy in your workout clothes. It will really be because you look like you might pass out any second.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Time to Make Time

One of the excuses I hear the most for not exercising is, "I don't have time." Trust me, I can relate. But here's something to consider. If you don't properly prioritize your well-being, you could end up sitting in a hospital bed wired to machines with all the time in the world. Or you could end up dead.

I'm not trying to scare you, I'm simply being realistic. Here are some basic facts from the CDC: in 2008, about 1 in 4 American deaths were caused by heart disease. Every year almost 785,000 Americans have a heart attack. More than half of those people have a second attack. Inactivity has been proven to be the most significant reason for a heart attack, followed by obesity and high blood pressure. See all the statistics here:

Here's another scary statistic, also from the CDC: 18.8 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% of the cases. There is no known way to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the remainder, and one of the main causes has been established to be, again, obesity and inactivity. Many people discover when they lose a significant amount of weight and make healthier food choices, weight, they no longer have this type of diabetes.

So tell me again, do you think you can find time to exercise? I think you can.

Start walking more, even if you have to do it on your lunch break. Lift weights in front of the TV instead of chowing down on snacks. Drink water or unsweetened tea instead of soda (even diet soda will make you want to consume more food). Lighten your mochas. Keep an apple at your desk for when you crave something sweet. Jog in place while you talk on the phone. There is time, you just have to find it. Make your health a priority. Right now. Today. Turn off your computer and start moving.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Six Secrets to Staying (or getting!) Slim

I know what it's like to feel, well, chunky. I gained a lot of weight with each pregnancy, only to have to work hard to get back into my clothes. It's no surprise to anyone, I'm sure, that it's easier to lose the weight when you haven't held onto it for years and years. But I'm posting how I succeeded in losing the weight, and the key to how I've kept it off.

Like everyone, I gain and lose a few pounds week to week. Our bodies are adept at knowing when we need to pad our bodies (for cold winters, preparing for ovulation, etc.) and when to let it go. But I have pretty much stayed the same size and weight since high school, and that's over twenty years, folks! I've had to change my strategy over the years, though, because what I could eat in my twenties is vastly different from what I put into my body now. My metabolism isn't the same, and that's biological. Sure, I exercise. But when I was twenty-two, I didn't have to exercise regularly and with such intensity.

That said, let me move on to my rules. They're the ones that work for me, and they might work for you, too. Some I've mentioned on my blog before. Some are new.

1) I do not consume soda. Why? Extra calories, for one thing. Calories I don't need. If I want a punch of caffeine, I have coffee or tea with very little added sugar (about a half a teaspoon). Twenty years ago I was dumping three heaping teaspoons into my tea. I gag thinking about that now. But what had happened was that I slowly became addicted to the sugar. I began drinking tea in my teens, and I started out with a teaspoon of sugar. But then I became used to it and no longer could tell if it was sweetened or not. In order to taste it, I needed to add a little more. When I was in my early thirties, I decided to break that habit. I started out by going cold turkey. No sugar at all. After awhile, I added a little bit of sugar (the half teaspoon). I could taste the sweetness! I never looked back. Before I was pregnant with my first child, I drank soda regularly. But I was told to avoid caffeine, so soda was out of the question, except for the occasional caffeine free Coke. Eventually all carbonated drinks gave me heartburn. Water and tea was all I could drink. After a few months, I didn't miss it. Today I believe it's one of the reasons I have been able to keep my weight down.

2) I eat cheese and crackers as a snack once a day. I know, I know. What's a gal with high cholesterol doing consuming cheese? But the truth is, I detest milk, and cheese is the best way to get a little calcium in my diet. Why is it on my list of weight tips? Because the protein in the cheese fills me up. I might eat eight low-fat Ritz crackers and a small block of cheese, and I'm good for hours. Not a lot of calories, but keeps me sated.

3) I make sure I get my exercise. Three times a week (four if I'm highly motivated), at least an hour each time. It's my "me" time. I go to the YMCA and watch TV (I don't watch it at home). I sweat and push myself. I do weights (Very important tip here! Building muscle helps to keep weight off! Spend twenty minutes three times a day on your will not regret it.)

4) I rarely eat out. I cook at home. Even chowing down on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than diner or fast food. Why? Salt. Restaurants fill food with salt and it a) makes you thirsty so you drink more (terrible if you're drinking the soda) and b) makes you eat more. Eating salty foods makes you want to eat MORE salty foods. Think about it this way: when you're eating movie popcorn, how hard is it to put that bucket down and stop eating it? Even when you know you are full! Your taste buds love salt. They crave it. The more salt in your food, the more you will want to eat. Plus, when you eat at home, you know what fats are going into your body, and you won't be enticed by french fries and fried chicken. Most of us don't have fryers at home, and if we do, they're a pain to clean so we don't fry our food every night. Which brings me to my next point.

5) I avoid all fried food. Oh sure, occasionally I'll steal a french fry from my son's plate at Chili's, but I order soup and salad or a veggie burger when we go out. Once in a while I will treat myself to something fattening, but it's rare. And we don't hit up fast food places when we go out except for a special treat for the boys. And I order the salad and a small order of fries. Oh, and I do love their fruit and oatmeal. Get it without the maple and brown sugar topping, and you cut out calories without skimping on too much taste.

6) The last thing I do to stay slim is I snack on fruit. Ravenous? Eat a banana or an apple. It will help you eat less when you have your next meal. Filling up on blueberries is better than grabbing a handful of mini Oreos. Oh, and I try not to keep cookies around. If I want cookies, I have to make them from scratch. Makes me think twice about how badly I want them. Keep fruit available, not store-bought sweets. But keep ingredients for making cookies available. If you deprive yourself, you will be miserable and eat to feel happy.

Okay, that's it in a nutshell. Six simple secrets. Try these for a month, see what happens. I'll bet you'll find it's not so hard after all.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Keeping Up with Goals

I've seen a lot of miserable people at the gym lately. I'm guessing they aren't thrilled with their daily routine. Maybe not happy with the rate they've been sloughing off pounds or building up muscle.

Me? I am at a good weight, thanks to The False Fat Diet, and I've been working out regularly. That could change at any minute. There are three people in this house who, if they catch a cold or flu, will derail me on my routine because I will have to stay home with two of them. And the third? Me. I believe I've mentioned if I'm out, I'm out for a while.

Yesterday I ran 4 miles. That's right. Ran. In February. No snow on the ground. Who would thunk it? I just hope we don't get a blizzard in June. Something's up with this weather. Don't get me wrong...I love it. 50 degrees in the middle of winter is considered a heatwave here in upstate New York. My kids? Not liking it one bit. Their boots and snowpants? I'm just happy my youngest can fit into the hand-me-downs.

Tomorrow is a half-day of school for my oldest, so no gym workout since I have to be here to see him off the bus. But I recently purchased four nicely priced DVDs with Yoga and Pilates exercises. I will try them and rate them here so you can decided whether or not they might be useful to you as well. Here's to warm days and snowless nights! Get happy, people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Put a Fork in Me...I'm Done

So much for the elimination diet. I just ate a Celeste Pizza For One and topped it off with two rice pancakes (which are actually very yummy. Plus I used real maple syrup, which is delish).

I did learn something through this experience, although I had an inkling about it even before I started this diet. I have a problem with corn and with food derived from corn, such as canola oil.

I will now softly sob in a corner because corn chips are one of my favorite foods...especially when used as scoops for my favorite confetti salsa (recipe on this blog).

I also learned that any diet that tells you to abstain from consuming chocolate cannot possibly be a diet a chocoholic can stick to. (A duh moment here, folks.)

So I'm taking back my chocolate. I'm taking back my pasta. Give me my coffee with artificial powdered creamer. And where the heck is my Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese?

True, I slimmed down some and I like that. But maybe I can find a happy medium in here somewhere. I do believe I mentioned earlier that I don't do well on diets.

So will look for a happy medium and report on it. I do love my juicer, however. And I'll give you its merits in a later post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

More on the False Fat Diet

Okay. We are hungry people, my husband and I. But we started this False Fat Diet on Tuesday and he has already lost about three pounds. I lost almost one pound. Of course, I'm not doing this for weight loss. I'm a size 2 or 4 (depending on the manufacturer), and it's hard enough to find clothes that fit. (Plus, I'm short, but too tall for petite sizes, and apparently most petite sizes are meant for great grandmothers anyway).

But I digress...I am doing this diet to help me get off my sugar and carb cravings, and end the bloat. Also, I hope the side effect of this new diet will be the lowering of my cholesterol. The last time I had it checked it had zoomed up, and I believe it's because I ate too many refined sugars and consumed too many carbohydrates. AND (I will admit) I was eating a lot of cheese. Daily. Saturated fats galore.

I have also been adding vitamins. B complex, D, E, Calcium, MGM supplements, and Omega 3s that make burps taste like salmon. I will be retaking my cholesterol test in March, and following up with a visit to my doctor (whom I see annually for physicals anyway).

My goal is to continue eating more fruits and vegetables and eat less saturated fats and sweets. A lot less. So far I'm doing well. I haven't made a batch of cookies yet!

Now I have amended this diet plan. I added Cheerios because, frankly, I'm sick of Rice Squares cereal. Which is ironic because last week I was bemoaning how sick I was of Cheerios. I have to admit, though, I really liked the Cream of Rice cereal with maple syrup (the real maple syrup, not the kind I usually buy that is mostly high fructose syrup).

Oh, and this diet cuts out high fructose syrup, too. I'm especially interested in seeing what happens to my LDL levels if I avoid it completely. I will, of course, keep you posted.

But right now, I'm hungry. I will eat a banana. I will not break down and shove cookies in my mouth. (New mantra.)

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dr. Haas's False Fat Diet

I am not a dieter, per se. In the distant past I've taken diet pills, tried to live off only fruits and greens, attempted the Atkin's diet, and considered fasting for detoxification purposes.

May I just say all of that really, really sucks? People aren't meant to live like this.

Long ago, after these methods were either tried and dumped or never tried at all, I decided dieting was not a great option for me to lose weight or control my cholesterol.

I am telling you this because someone recommended a book to me, since I have one of those annoying "sensitive stomachs." Elson M. Naas, M.D. is the author of The False Fat Diet. The idea behind this book is that excess gas and bloat make us look bigger than we really are. Gas and bloat can be caused by food reactions. Food reactions are when we eat something our bodies have trouble processing.

This book enables the reader to discover what foods he or she is sensitive to so that he or she can eliminate it from their diet. There are different ways to go about this, some ways are much stricter than others. I will be honest by saying I planned to go the strictest route, and then chickened out and took the least strict route instead.

I'm glad, because I am only on Day 2 and I am HUNGRY.

I chose the "Sensitive Seven Elimination Diet." It eliminates dairy products, wheat, corn, eggs, soy, peanuts, and sugar.

Do you see the last item? That's a biggie for me. I love sweets. Love 'em so much I want to marry them. (Or at least marry the Pillsbury Dough Boy.) So instead of avoiding sugar altogether I sprinkle a half teaspoon of raw sugar in my tea. I have sweetener already in my almond milk. (I tried to go with unsweetened. Blech. I dealt with it for ten days and didn't get used to it.) It's also in the pear butter Dr. Haas recommended for my rice cakes (very yummy, to be honest.) But I am eliminating cookies, cake, my beloved Dark Chocolate Chex Mix, and anything else that makes me have sugar cravings all day long.

Excuse me while I brush the drool from my chin.

My husband, the trooper, is joining me on this journey. I figured 1 week will be good, and if I still feel hungry and miserable, I will re-modify my modified diet.

While discussing this diet with my husband, I learned that it's highly possible that I normally consume more calories than he does in a day. Yet, he has gained weight over the last year, and I have remained stable (with mild fluctuations during that "time of the month," if you know what I mean).

How can this be? he wondered. Here are possibilities:

1) He miscalculates how many calories he eats per day (most people believe they consume a lot less than in actuality).
2) I exercise at least three times a week. He does not.
3) I ALWAYS eat breakfast. He rarely does. (Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast consume less later in the day).
4) I snack, something he thinks should make me weigh more. But the body needs energy throughout the day.
5) I am a stay-at-home mom who does daily housework and sometimes runs around with the kids. He sits at a desk at work much of the day.
6) I get at least eight hours of sleep. He gets less; sometimes much, much less. Again, studies have shown that people who do not get sufficient sleep tend to gain weight.
7) If he doesn't consume enough calories, his body might think it's in starvation mode and hang on to every calorie it can.

I don't know the reason, but I do know that going on this elimination diet should be an interesting topic of conversation at his holiday party coming up. Will this diet help my husband lose weight? Will it make me heavier? Will I be able to keep it up? Only time will tell. I will keep you up-to-date!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting Started in Running

I realize that with the start of a fresh new year comes the potential for hamstring injury. Why? Because people decide they will take up running.

Here's what I did to prevent injury and exhaustion, both of which usually lead to giving up this potentially life-changing form of exercise. First of all, let me state that I went about it the wrong way for years. I was also in my twenties and recovered much quicker than I do now in my forties. When I began running again, I knew I had to be smarter.

It was spring, maybe April or May. I walked to warm up my muscles. Music pumping through my ears helped me stay motivated because let's face it, walking is boring. Okay, maybe the first few times you see nature at it's best, birds singing from trees, squirrels dashing up tree trunks. If you go at night, there may be a few houses with lights on, and the inhabitants have left their drapes open, exposing the beauty of their homes. All of that is interesting the first few times. But then it becomes blah, same old same old. So music can be helpful.

Next, I jogged...which is different from running because it's more like bouncing. Jogging is slower than running. The heart doesn't pump as fast, the lungs can get used to exertion little by little. I jogged about an eighth of a mile. That's pretty much when both my legs and lungs gave out. So I walked the rest of the estimated total of 2 miles.

Two days later, I did it again. And a few days after that, I repeated this. Finally, I felt ready to jog a little further. This slow progression prepared me for my final goal: to run 3 miles straight by the end of summer.

I slipped into running mode and ran, then walked, ran, then walked. Eventually, I was able to run 1 1/2 miles straight, then walk the last 1 1/2 miles. By end of summer, I had stretched it to three miles. When winter kicked in, I stopped running. Sure, some people love ice crystals in their throats and slipping across patches of ice. Not for me. So the next spring? I had to start all. Over. Again.

Man, that sucked.

Exercising regularly at the gym changed that irritating pattern. This year I ran 4 miles by April. Of course, if you've been loyal to my blog you know I had Achilles heel pain by fall, so I took it easy. But yesterday I ran those 4 miles again, no problem.

*so proud*

Moral of the story? If you aren't running, but you want to do so, get on a regular exercise program at the gym or at home. You might be able to start off your first run surpassing that 1/8 of a mile mark. But don't overdo it! Other things to consider if you're running in neighborhoods:

1) Bring a phone in case of emergency...unusual shortness of breath, pain in left arm, anything that may be a symptom of a heart attack.
2) Avoid dogs. Even when there is an Invisible Fence. If someone is walking their dog on the sidewalk in front of you, move across the street until you've passed them. Same goes for a barking or watchful dog in a yard. Avoidance is the best policy.
3) If you are a beginner or intermediate runner, stretch halfway through your run. Your legs will thank you later.
4) If you feel exhausted, walk. You can always run again later. Take care of yourself.
5) You might want to bring a water bottle in hot weather in order to stay hydrated.
6) Don't run in thunderstorms. Even if you don't get hit by lightning, you will worry about it.
7) ALWAYS stretch after a run for at least five minutes.
8) Don't reward yourself afterward with a giant hot fudge sundae unless you have normal cholesterol and are trying to gain weight.

Happy running!