Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy holidays!

To my dear readers,
I wish you and yours the happiest and (of course!) healthiest of holidays!  I am so grateful to each and every one of you for your support, clicks, comments, and words of encouragement.
I have so much to share with you in 2012 and I know it’s going to be the healthiest year yet!
I’ll be back with regular posts in the new year on January 3.  I will still be posting little treats on Facebook and on Twitter during my week-long blog hiatus.  And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to keep up with all kinds of specials, treats, giveaways, information, and general awesomeness!  It comes out the first of each month.
Enjoy your time with family and friends.

Read my lips: No more negative-self talk!

The other day I received an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a long while.  We used to be rather close, but as the years have gone one we’ve gone down our differing paths and while we’re still friends and we still care for each other, we’re not regularly in each others lives.  This email I received really bothered me because in amongst the cheerful holiday wishes this person completely dressed herself down for not staying in better contact with me.  She called herself names, used the F-word, and generally trashed her own character, all for having let several months pass since we last touched base. In essence she said she was a terrible friend and a jerk for letting so much time pass between emails and meeting for dinner. Truth be told, I am just as guilty of not staying in touch because the phone and email go both ways, right?  But to me, our several month hiatus didn’t really say anything about my character, rather it was just a product of being busy and not prioritizing getting in touch with her.  I’m sure that is what happened on her end too, but instead of just chalking it up to LIFE, she berated herself.
In the words of Hall and Oates — I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).
In my health coaching practice, I run across this all the time.  A client think she’s a bad person because she ate something she shouldn’t have, or she tells me she’s awful because she can’t quite kick her sugar habit fast enough.  This negative self-talk stuff is not something that I can accept.  I think it’s a quiet epidemic and a growing one at that.  It seems to be so commonplace and so ubiquitous that when someone harshly cuts herself down to size right in front of us we hardly notice it.  Also, I don’t even know if we realize how often we do it to ourselves.  How many times have you dropped something on the floor accidentally and then called yourself a clumsy idiot?  Or missed a workout and told yourself that you’re lazy?  Or how about you’ve set a goal and didn’t quite achieve it and so you tell yourself you’re a failure?  I’ve done it too!  It happens all the time, and I’d like to start a movement to make it stop.  It’s harmful, it’s counter-productive, and it does not help anyone.

Starting today, I will not abide any negative self-talk from myself or anyone around me. 

Period.  I will not negotiate on this.  I’m not even waiting for 2012 to make this resolution.  It starts now.
So, how can we stop this?  How do we let people know that there is a zero tolerance policy out there for negative self-talk?
Starting with our own chatter, we can remind ourselves that we are in charge of our thoughts.  There isn’t an outside source that puts them into our head or makes us believe these things.  We are the ones who come up with this stuff and we can be the ones to stop it.  I love this blog post from Athleta that talks about resetting our mindset.  It’s a great example of someone who used to let her own negative thoughts control her and then one day, gave it up.
It might sound corny, but it works – affirmations and mantras.  Remind yourself daily, even multiple times a day, of all that you are, all that you’re capable of doing, and all that you are able to achieve.  Tell yourself that you CAN DO what you want to do. That you are a GOOD and CAPABLE person.  That you are STRONG.  Absorb the words and really concentrate on what they mean.  Focusing on the good and the positive might seem artificial at first, but stick with it.  You become what you believe.

Address what is negative in your life.  What is bringing you down and making you feel ugly, weak, lazy, unattractive, etc.?  Are there people in your circle who reinforce these thoughts?  Are there circumstances that you are in that make you feel incapable? Do you have poor habits that are keeping you from meeting your goals and therefore making you feel like a failure?  Figuring out what is at the root of the negative self-talk and eliminating it from your life can be a huge step to breaking the habit.  Be honest with yourself and those around you.
If you hear negative self-talk coming out of a friend or loved one’s mouth, nip it in the bud.  Tell them that YOU hurt when they tear themselves down.  I admit to being guilty of this at times and when I call myself a name for making a mistake, my Dude will often stop me and say, “Hey. That’s my WIFE you just called a jerk.  Stop it.”  You know what?  He’s right.  When I insult myself, I’m insulting his wife, my parents’ daughter, my friends’ friend.  Would my husband have such poor judgment as to marry a jerk?  No, he wouldn’t and by calling myself names, I’m not giving him the respect he deserves.

In response to the hurtful email I received, I wrote back to my friend telling her that it bothered me that she would talk about herself in that fashion.  I reminded her of just how much I care about her and how, although we have been out of contact lately, I don’t think any less of her for being out of touch.  I even reminded her that while she thinks it’s one sided and she’s been out of touch with me, it’s actually a two-way street and I’ve been just as guilty of not calling or writing.  I hope I challenged her thinking.
Who is taking the pledge with me?  Who else is vowing to stop the negative self-talk epidemic that is going on all around us and in our own heads? Waiting until the new year is waiting too long.  We’re starting now.  Today.
Let me know in the comments what strategies you employ to stop the madness.

Commit to the effort

A few weeks ago I went to a family wedding and got into a conversation with one of my cousins, Mike, who is the director of a local YMCA.  He was sharing with me how their membership numbers go up and down depending on the time of year and we were talking about strategies to get people to commit to more regular exercise. He shared with me that while there are plenty of people who go to his Y very faithfully and exercise several times a week, there are plenty more who just show up to socialize with other members, or even worse, join and pay dues but never come back.
We came to a similar conclusion my friend Lynsey and I have come to very often, and it’s this: Sometimes the very fact that someone has joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, signed on with a health coach, bought a diet book, etc. is enough to assuage the guilt of not working out or eating right.  It’s the appearance of having a healthier lifestyle, and having all the accoutrements that go along with it that is enough to make someone think that he is doing all the right things.  I have a health coach/trainer/YMCA membership/read XYZ diet book/have an elliptical in my house/bought sassy workout clothes, so I must be healthy!
Of course in actuality it is what you DO with these things that really matters in the grand scope of health and wellness.
It got me thinking about work and effort and out of nowhere my dad sent me the quote I posted above.  Effort is only effort when it begins to hurt.  Now, by “hurt” I’m not talking about physical pain or agony.  But think about a time when you really feel like you expended effort on something – exercise or not.  It probably wasn’t easy.  It probably wasn’t pleasurable.  It probably wasn’t a party laugh a minute.  It got you out of your comfort zone, doing something you’ve never done before.  Perhaps you even broke a sweat.  It’s at that point, that very moment when a task went from being easy and fun to challenging and maybe even difficult, that’s the “hurt”.  Not pain, but friction, challenge, difficulty, hardship, work, exertion, effort, labor.  These are the very things that lead to improvement, accomplishment, triumph, victory, achievement, success, advancement, and growth.
The key though, is putting in the effort.
As we’re coming upon the most famous time of year for starting anew and refreshing our commitment to health, I just wanted to put out there that it’s the effort that matters, and the work that will lead to your goals being achieved.  The commitment to get healthier and joining the gym or hiring the trainer is just the first step and walking the walk is what will get you to the finish line.

Healthy on the go

You didn’t even know it, but for the past several days, I’ve been out of town and on a little pre-Christmas vacation with my Dude.  We’re city people. We live in a city and we like to visit cities when we go on vacations (with the exception of going to the Caribbean now and again!).  For the past several days we’ve been in New York City soaking up all kinds of fun and interesting stuff.  Traveling is part of who we are.
Unfortunately, the bad part of traveling is trying to keep up healthy habits while on the road.  A huge factor in living more healthfully and having healthy habits is routine.  Traveling is the enemy of routine and makes this difficult because when you’re not at home, you’re out of routine.  During a normal day you know what your next meal will be (hopefully), and you can plan ahead.  Your workout fits in nicely before or after work, and there’s no guesswork or curve balls to throw you off.  But when you’re out of routine and on the road, staying on track can be hard.
My biggest tip for traveling to be prepared.  Let me emphasize that properly: BE PREPARED. Yep, that’s how important it is, I had to put it in all caps and make it bold.

  • Pack snacks and a water bottle – In transit, it’s as simple as that.  If you are flying, you cannot get through the security screening with a bottle of water, so bring an empty and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.  Bring fruit, dried fruit, cut up vegetables, beef or buffalo jerky, and nuts in your carry-on.  If you’re driving a long distance, pack a cooler.  There are too many roadside fast food stops and too many temptations along the highways and byways and that translates into too many opportunities to make bad food choices.
  • Plan ahead for where to workout once you reach your destination –  A hotel gym is almost standard these days.  Take advantage of it.  If there isn’t a gym in your hotel or they want to charge you a hefty fee to use it, there are many things you can do in a hotel room or in a hotel hallway to get a sweat sesh in while on the road.  Ask a trainer for some advice on this, but it takes very little room to do burpees, squats, sit-ups, push-ups and lunges.  Why not traverse the length of your hotel corridor a few times doing walking lunges?  And maybe if Santa bought you a jump rope and a resistance band you could really get a workout going in your hotel room!
    Running outside or in a local park is a great way to take in the local scenery, orient yourself with your vacation spot, and stay on top of race training.  Some larger hotels even have running concierges who will map out an interesting and safe route for you to run at any distance you request.
    If you are a CrossFitter, like Dude and me, find out where the closest box is to your hotel.  It’s a great way to make sure to get your workout in, and to connect with some locals who might have restaurant recommendations for you or ideas about what the can’t-miss things are in their town.
  • Let the Internet help you find places to eat – Since your snacks are for when you’re in transit, you’ll obviously need to find restaurants that fit your lifestyle and budget.  When I go to a city that I’ve never visited before I often do an Internet search for the name of the city and “farm to table restaurant”.  Read reviews on UrbanSpoon or Yelp to see what price range you’re getting into and if the locals think it’s a worthwhile place to eat.  Ask for recommendations from friends, relatives, or colleagues about what the tastiest and healthy spots are around town, or what a local delicacy is.  Maybe the town your visiting has a great urban garden that supplies local restaurants, or is famous for its artisan cheese.  Explore the possibilities ahead of time so you don’t have to wonder where to eat once you arrive.
  • Walk everywhere – This is especially easy when you vacation in a city, and it’s a great way to actually see and experience where you are.  You’ll be up and moving AND seem like a local.  A win-win if you ask me.
  • Have a good time – This is the point of going on vacation, no?  Relaxing with your friends or loved ones, exploring a place you’ve never been before, taking time away from your daily grind.  These are all the reasons we take time off.  It is important to move and fuel your body with great food while you’re out of your routine, but it is just as important to polish your spirit while you’re away too.  Do not forget to pamper yourself, make the most of your time away and enjoy.

Who is traveling these days?  For work? For pleasure?  Where are you going and what are you healthy travel tips? Share your experiences and recommendations!

Fresh Air and olive oil

Since I live in the middle of a city and because I work out of my home, I don’t spend too much time in a car, and consequently I don’t spend much time listening to the radio.  But on Monday afternoons I volunteer for the Travelers’ Aid Society of Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh International Airport and have to drive a bit to get there.  The timing of my drive always corresponds with the airing of NPR’s interview program, Fresh Air.
Typically I have a passing interest in the topic, or it’s something I know nothing about and I get a little education during my drive.  But Monday’s show was so interesting to me, and so fascinating that I found myself driving very slowly so I could hear the entire interview before I arrived at my destination. (Apologies to those of you who were in traffic with me!)

The guest was author Thomas Mueller and he was promoting his new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.  The interview (which can be heard here in its entirety. It’s only 20 minutes long.) had Mueller talking all about the making of olive oil, and how its production is hardly what it seems to be, and how what you’re buying as extra virgin olive oil, rarely is.  In fact, as the title of his book suggests, the whole enterprise of making, labeling, exporting, and selling olive oil is rife with lies and deception.
So, what does this have to do with health coaching and wellness in general?
I say everything.
One of the guidelines I give all my clients in our first session is that they must know their food.  Know where it comes from, what’s in it, who made it, what it does to their bodies.  Consuming food that is anonymous in these ways is not only foolish, but can be dangerous.  Many of us think we’re making a healthy choice when we decide to eschew vegetable oils for olive oil, right?  I mean, TV chefs, media pundits, health coaches and doctors everywhere are practically dumping it over their heads in jubilation for the stuff.  But do any of us know where it comes from?  Do we really know what kind of olives are used in making it?  Where they’re grown? What the difference is between extra virgin, virgin, cold pressed, first press, light, extra light, Greek olive oil, Italian olive oil, and Spanish olive oil? Not only do few of us know what these terms even mean, Mueller says that even if we do, the manufacturers of olive oil aren’t exactly being forthright on their labels anyway! Because so many of us are using olive oil to cook with and to drizzle on our salads or roasted vegetables and it is a base ingredient in sauteing and roasting, it is really important to know what we’re using and eating and it’s imperative that labels are truthful.
Because I haven’t read Mueller’s book yet, I cannot speak to what he recommends as reputable sources of olive oil in his book.  However, I have had personal experience with two US based olive oil manufacturers that I will vouch for in the highest regard.

(Here’s an olive tree from the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Olive trees can produce fruit for up to a thousand years!)

First, is the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, Arizona.  A few years ago Dude and I were lucky enough to visit this olive orchard and olive oil mill with some cousins of mine.  Here, like in Thomas Mueller’s Fresh Air interview, we learned how olive oils differ from one another, how reputable sources of olive oil will pick olives off of the trees to press into oil, and how cost-saving sources will use rotten olives that have fallen to the ground, mix in other types of oil with olive oil and still call it pure, as well as use hexane to extract and purify oils.  Blech.  We got to see every step of the manufacturing from picking the olives to the on-site bottling facility.  You can’t get any fresher than that.
Second, is Round Pond Estate in Rutherford, California.  They are a winery and vinegar makers as well as an olive mill so with one stop you pretty much have a significant part of your meal covered.  Because they’re in Napa Valley and also make wine, you can of course go to Round Pond for a wine tasting, but they also offer olive oil tastings, lunches and the opportunity to be there on the day they open their olive oil casks for freshly tapped oil to take home.

(A caprese salad from Round Pond shown with their Spanish varietal olive oil.)

I’m not affiliated with either place and haven’t received any kind of compensation for promoting them.  I just know they’re reputable domestic sources for high quality olive oil that is truthfully labeled.
Have you read Thomas Mueller’s book?  What kind of olive oil do you typically use?  Are you particular about your ingredients and know where they come from and how they’re made?  Share your experiences with me in the comments section!

Back on task

I’m alive!  I haven’t quite kicked my cold yet, but I’m definitely improving.  I spent this past weekend blowing my nose, drinking glass after glass after glass of lemon water, sipping on my broth and resting.  This is why I missed my normal Saturday post but today I’m back on schedule.
So, now that I’m getting back to normal I’m wrestling with a little problem.  It has been since the week after Thanksgiving that I’ve been on a regular workout schedule.  Last week I was down and out the entire week!  And today, while still not 100%, I’m healthy and strong enough to get back to it.  The problem?  I don’t wanna!!! (I’m saying that in the whiniest, most pathetic voice I have.)
This is a common problem I see with the clients I health coach.  They’re on a really good streak of working out and eating right, and then something – like getting sick, traveling, kids, work, etc.  – derails them and then it seems impossible to get back to those healthy habits.  I’m there right now!  I LOVE to workout.  I love my gym, my trainers, my friends are always there.  But even with all that gym love, I’m dreading going back.  I can understand how it seems insurmountable and impossible to those who don’t feel the same way.
But! It’s not impossible.  It just takes a little motivation and oomph to get your buns up of the couch and go.  Here are some tips to getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off:

  • Remember why you started in the first place – This is of UTMOST importance.  Why did you start working out?  Has that reason changed or vanished since the distraction?  Don’t you still want to be healthy/lose weight/run that race/meet that goal/best that challenge?  Chances are, you still have the same reason for starting and if it motivated you once, it can motivate you again.  Take time to reflect on why you started and use that same reason to go back again.
  • Ask why it’s so easy to not go back – Remember when you were a kid and didn’t want to go to school so you faked a stomach ache to try and stay home?  (I can’t be the only one who did that.) Usually it wasn’t really because you wanted a day off to lounge around and play, but rather it was perhaps you had a test you didn’t prepare for, or you had a fight with someone and you didn’t want to face him. There was a real reason why you pulled the old stomach ache ploy.  So ask yourself, what is the REAL reason you’re finding it hard to go back to the gym and get to the root of the problem.  For me, I know that after a 10 day absence, the workout is going to seem so much more difficult than it was when I was going regularly and the chances of me getting sore afterward are pretty high.  That’s a real fear and a real possibility.  But, after thinking about how much I want a lifetime of health, and how important having a fantastic quality of life in my old age is, the impending soreness is a temporary issue.  I’d rather have a long-term benefit and sacrifice in the short-term.
  • Make a change in your routine – Maybe going back to the same old same old is making you dread the gym.  Why not try something brand new after a long absence to give yourself something to look forward to?  Perhaps a new class or a fresh challenge will be just what you need to renew your excitement.
  • Make a date – Ask a friend or your partner to go to the first few workouts with you.  Knowing that someone will be there at the gym waiting for you might make you more apt to show up, plus knowing that someone is enduring the workout with you, and experiencing the same things that you are can make it an easier transition.
  • Start back slowly – Especially if, like me, you’ve been sick, starting back to your workouts at your former intensity might not be a good idea.  Ease back into your routine slowly and take it easy.  Promise yourself that you’ll commit to a small amount of time at first, and then build back up.  Stick to it and before long you’ll be back to your regular workout frequency and intensity.
  • Bargain with yourself – Make a deal with the little devil on your shoulder who is telling you to stay at home that if you do SOME exercise or part of a workout then you can rest.  When I’m really dreading a training run and I just don’t want to go, I promise myself that I’ll run for one mile and if I’m in agony and can’t stand it anymore, I’ll go home.  But almost 100% of the time, by the time I have a mile in, I am into it and figure that since I’m outside already running with all my gear on, I might as well finish.  Plus I usually feel great by one mile in and I’m glad to finish.
  • Stay positive – This may be the most important item on my list.  It is so easy to fall off the wagon for whatever reason and eat a million cookies and forget your workout.  It is also so easy to start making judgments about yourself based on that.  Am I right?  How many times have you slacked off or gotten sick or eaten too much and then called your self a lazy jerk or a weak loser or worse?  Can I say this loudly and forcefully enough? THIS IS NOT HEALTHY.  Negative self-talk is hurtful to yourself and will NOT help you reach your goals.  Negative self-talk is counterproductive, damaging, and frankly you ought to have zero time for it.  Every day is a chance to start anew, and every meal is an opportunity to make great choices.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to be perfect each and every time.  The important thing to remember is that beating yourself up over mistakes or trashing yourself in your own mind only makes the misstep worse and makes it more difficult to start again.  YOU are your best coach.  YOU are your biggest cheerleader.  If you’ve faltered or fallen out of your routine, then tell yourself that you CAN get back up and do it again and that you’re worth the time and effort.

So, who am I going to see out there exercising today?  Who is going to get back on the wagon today?  Who is going to renew her goals today?  Who is going to break a sweat today?  I’ll be out there and I hope to see you too.  Check in with me and let me know how you did.


I am sick.  I consider myself lucky that this is a rare occurrence because this is the first cold I’ve had in over two years.  I’ve had a mild day-long sniffle here and there, but beyond that I’ve been fortunate enough to elude the dreaded Common Cold for this long.  Until I got that tell-tale sore throat on Monday, felt weary and sniffly on Tuesday, and downright miserable yesterday and today.
In light of this, I thought I’d share with you my cold remedies.  Please note that I’m not a doctor and these are what work for ME. Consult your physician for treatment and do some thorough research into what remedies you’d like to try.

  • Bone broth – I ought to do a full-blown post on bone broth because it deserves it’s own time and space.  As far as I’m concerned it’s the elixir of life and even when I’m not sick I ALWAYS have some in the fridge and freezer ready to go, especially during the cold weather months.  I’m not a coffee drinker and while I really like tea, I more often sip on a mug of hot broth when I’m craving a hot beverage.
    Bone broth is made from bones (duh), and can be from any leftovers you have after cooking any kind of meat – beef bones, pork, duck, chicken, turkey, you name it.  They’re cooked S-L-O-W-L-Y slowly slowly slowly over low heat in a pot of water for many hours.  Beef bones can be cooked for up to 48 hours and smaller, more delicate bones (chicken, turkey, etc.) for 18 to 24 hours.  You can do this on your stove,  in the oven or in a slow cooker (Hey! What a great gift idea!).  In the final hour of cooking, add vegetables (onions, carrot, celery) and then strain.  (Click here and here for some great instruction on how to make your own bone broth.)  You can use the finished broth for soups, stews, seasoning, or anywhere your cooking adventures need a great stock or broth.  But to me, drinking it straight is tops.  Bone broth contains all kinds of vitamins and minerals that are easily assimilated into your body and can boost immunity to help fight off a stubborn cold, among tons of other benefits.  Now that I’m sick, I’m drinking it down like it’s a magic cold cure.  Besides, it just tastes great and warms me up on a cold day.
  • Water – Think about what happens to you when you have a cold.  You blow your nose a thousand times a day, you’re sneezing, wheezing and sniffly stuffy.  You’re quite literally blowing water out of your body.  Hydrating is even more important when you have a cold.  Hopefully you’re also drinking bone broth, but make sure you get some water in there too.  Water becomes even more important if you’re not doing the broth.  I’ve heard of people adding lemon, honey, and/or apple cider vinegar to water for an extra cold-fighting punch.
  • A neti pot – If your head is stuffed up and/or you have a sinus infection, try using a neti pot for relief.  It looks weird, and takes a bit of practice, but the benefits are worth itHere is a short video on how to use it, and how easy it can be.
  • A eucalyptus steam – You’re probably familiar with what eucalyptus smells like even if you don’t know what it’s called.  Think of Vicks Vap-o-Rub.  That somewhat minty, kind of herby, sort of medicinal scent that when inhaled seems to clear your sinus immediately is eucalyptus.  You can make your own eucalyptus steam by getting a small bottle of essential oil, putting a few drops into a pot or sink full of hot steamy water, and then inhale the steam.  Be careful not to burn yourself! The water should be hot enough to steam up, but not boiling or enough to scald your skin.  Sometimes I’ll soak a wash cloth in hot water with enough eucalyptus oil to give it a mild scent, and then take that wash cloth into the hot steamy shower with me.  I don’t use it on my body, but having it in there with the steam creates an entire roomful of the nose clearing steam.  Do not over do the oil as it can be very very powerful!
  • Sleep – When you have a cold, it is not the time to crank up your workouts and push yourself at work.  If your cold is mild and you do not have a fever, it’s ok to stay active, but do not skimp on sleep.  Your body repairs itself when you’re sleeping and cheating yourself out of that time can only extend the duration of your illness.  During the day take a nap if you can and go to bed earlier than usual.  You’re going to want to give your body as much of a chance to fight off your sickness.
  • Keep your diet clean – This is stellar advice no matter if you have a cold or not, but especially so when you’re sick having a clean diet is very important.  When your body is fighting a cold, it needs all the munition it can get.  I realize that the thought of having a meal when we’re sick is often not that appealing, but even if you’re not that hungry make sure what you are eating is nutritionally dense.  It’s just not a good idea to drown your cold in chocolate chip cookies and Tang.  There’s nothing in that stuff that will give your body the strength it needs to heal itself.

(This has been my life for the past 36 hours.  Tissues, a mug of bone broth, and lemon honey water.  Oh, and the remote control to the TV.)

With that, I’m off to go enjoy more broth and take it easy today.   Hopefully, this cold is waning and I’ll be back to my normal activities soon, and I also hope if you’re unfortunate enough to catch a cold this winter season that it is brief in duration and mild in intensity.  And I’m open to any other remedies with which you have found success!  What do you do to beat a cold?

The healing power of food

If you’ve not heard of this Hippocrates quote before, chances are you’ve heard some iteration of it.  It’s hard to read anything in mainstream media these days without running across a mention of a “super”food that can cure all your ails, or hearing other ridiculous diet claims like someone who ate nothing but pickles for 8 months and lost 200 pounds.  The gist of what Hippocrates was trying to say is out there, but I say it’s been twisted and contorted to suit the marketers’ messages to the point of it having lost its true meaning.
To me the real spirit of this quote is that through what we consume, we have the power to heal ourselves.
A friend of mine passed this brief lecture on to me and urged me to watch, and I’m going to do the same for you.  Please take the time to watch this.  It’s only 17:47 long, but I promise that by the time you finish watching you’ll be amazed, inspired, shocked, and maybe even a bit moved.  I sure was.  I haven’t heard a more compelling or impactful message about the power of food and a clean diet.

Convinced? Or at the very least, inspired to eat more vegetables?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Dr. Wahls’ lecture.  I’d like to know what your impressions were.  Please share your thoughts with me and others in the comments below.


Holiday gift guide - part 3

Well, in theory after this post you all ought to be prepared for a healthy holiday season. At the very least I hope to have shown you that even during these overindulgent few weeks health, fitness, and general well-being do not have to go out the window and giving gifts that support a healthy lifestyle can be fabulous.
My final installment focuses on something a bit more difficult to define than “in the kitchen” or “exercise and athleticism“.  These are things that will hopefully raise someone’s spirits or put your loved ones in a great state of mind.  Things that will feed the souls of those on your list this year.  Let’s call it improved state-of-being.  Because being healthy isn’t all about diet and exercise.  It’s also about loving yourself and others, respecting yourself and others, and not keeping these feelings to yourself.

  • Time – In my health coaching practice I often work with clients who, of course, benefit from the work we do together regarding food and movement, but very often they tell me that the time they get to spend focusing only on their own needs is even more valuable than the nutritional information I share.  To give the gift of your time to a friend or family member can be more cherished than any tangible item you can buy.  Set aside one Saturday morning a month to have tea with a friend.  Schedule a date with your partner.  Call someone you’ve been out of touch with.  Listen.  Receive whatever they have to say.  Be there.  Make it a 2012 habit to give more time to others.
  • A childhood memory gift – I think one of the neatest gifts to give someone is a tangible item that sparks a great memory. Vintage toy stores are rife with old toys at reasonable prices and giving something small as a gift can be a terrific way to bring a sunny childhood memory back to life.  Another idea is to have an important artifact from your loved one’s past framed to hang in their home or office.  For example, my Dude was very active in the Boy Scouts and also in the Order of the Arrow.  Hanging in our home is one of his uniform patches that we had framed.  Each time he sees it, he is reminded of his great experiences and accomplishments.  Prices for something like this can vary depending on how complicated you want to get, but it’s worth it to shop around and find that perfect thing from the past that will make someone’s day and bring back good thoughts.
  • Photos – Along the same lines as a childhood memory is a framed photo.  Whether a recent snap, or something from days past, a special place, vacation memory, or maybe even of someone you and your receiver find mutually special, a photo of someone or something special can evoke good feeling all year.  My house is full of photos of special people in my life and sometimes I’ll just take a minute to look a one and think about that person or recall the day the shot was taken.  A memento of a cherished memory is a wonderful gift and can be as simple and inexpensive as printing out a spontaneous, funny photo from your phone and getting a cute frame that goes with it.  A little cost and effort for a big return.
  • Something you wrote – In these days of emails, evites, evitations, voicemail, texting and Facebooking, a handwritten letter, card, poem or story can mean a lot to someone, plus it’s becoming quite rare these days so it’s a gift that will stand out as unique.  My Dude is an accomplished writer and poet with a few publications under his belt.  Each year for my birthday he gives me a poem he wrote about a meaningful or funny happening in our life over the previous year.  I have a whole collection and they are one of my most prized possessions.  If you’re not a gifted wordsmith, not to worry. Just put down your honest feelings in a card or letter.  Let someone know how dear they are to you because that can be the greatest gift they receive all year.  If it comes from the heart, it doesn’t matter if it’s Dante writing to Beatrice or a simple “I love you” in a card.
  • Something handmade – If you’re crafty in any way, break out your skills and get to work! A store-bought something is fine, but if you can give the gift of your time and skill, that’s worth more than any mall purchased anything.  Showing your loved one that you took the effort to handcraft something just for them can be extremely meaningful.  Knitting, painting, sewing, woodworking, anything.  The fact that you gave of your talent to give to someone else is what counts and can make someone feel treasured.
    (I hand knitted that sweater.  A labor of love for my love.  Tedious, but worth every hand cramp because Dude loves it.)
  • Commitment to health – If you know you could eat better, move more, and take better care of yourself perhaps the best gift you can give someone is the gift of YOUR health.  Telling your partner, friend, kids, or loved ones that you’re finally making the commitment to live a longer, healthier, fulfilled life can make someone’s heart swell to the point of bursting.  This life is about spending as much time as possible enjoying those around us, serving those around us, loving those around us.  To be perfectly blunt about it, you can’t do that if you’re not here.  Finally starting to be a good steward of your own health, especially if those around you have been wanting you to make the commitment, is more valuable than gold, frankincense, or myrrh.  Truly.   It tells everyone on your list that being alive, present, and active so you can spend more time with them is top priority.  And that’s my favorite gift of a lifetime.

So go forth and gift wisely! Christmas is 22 days away and Hanukkah starts in 17 days! Please do let me know if you used my guides and what your loved ones’ reactions were.  I hope this holiday season is happy, healthy, and full of special times with those you love most in life!

Holiday gift guide - part 2

Did you see part one of my holiday gift guide?  Have you done some shopping yet?  Gone out and purchased a few cooking goodies for yourself?  Well, I hope you haven’t spent your whole holiday budget yet because here is chapter 2!
Today’s focus is on exercise and athleticism.  Whether the folks on your list are regulars at the gym or just contemplating getting started with an exercise regimen, you’ll find some great ideas here.

    • Clothes — Unless your loved one is an ancient Greek, chances are he/she doesn’t want to work out in the nude.  There are all kinds of sources for good workout clothes and prices range from bargain basement to uber-spendy.  Going the less expensive route is perfectly fine, but as with many things, you get what you pay for with workout clothes.  They’re going to be drenched in sweat, stretched all over the place, out in the elements, washed frequently, and generally abused.  It’s my experience that investing a little bit will pay off in the long run when they won’t need to be replaced as often.
      Target has a line of Champion athletic wear that is pretty good and not very expensive.  Old Navy also has a somewhat trendy line of activewear at a low price point.

      Moving up the price scale are online retailers like Athleta, Title Nine, Gaiam, and prAna.  All of these offer fashionable, higher quality gear in a medium price range.
      On the upper end are lines by lululemon, Nike, Reebok, and Lucy.  The quality will be great, and the clothes really stylish, but you’re going to shell out more than a few pretty pennies.  I’ll let you decide if it’s worth it.

      If you’re a bargain hunter (like me!), it is often worth it to shop sales, go to stores like Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx, and to hit outlet stores. If you are patient and don’t mind searching through racks of clothes, you can find top-quality workout clothes at great prices.  Also, mine is not an exhaustive list.  It seems that nearly every store is offering a line of activewear, so shop around to find what you like and what fits your budget.
      Obviously getting gear that fits the activity is important.  A loose, flowy yoga top is going to be useless when training for a triathlon.  If you’re unsure what to purchase, ask a salesperson for advice, or many of the websites I mentioned above have their online stores organized by activity.
    • Personal training sessions — This can be an especially thoughtful gift for the person who is just starting out because it gives him/her a starting point and guided help right from the beginning.  It can be intimidating to walk into a gym as a newcomer and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  A personal trainer can give a gym orientation so that it’s not foreign territory, help establish workout routines, and that’s one person you’ll know when you arrive everyday.  A few one-on-one training sessions can also be helpful for the experienced gym-goer to gain insight into improved technique and form, help shake up established habits and plateaus, and offer additional challenges.  The cost of one-on-one training sessions varies by facility and by trainer.  Some trainers do in-home training for additional costs, so it’s worth it to carefully consider what your recipient would want.
      If individual training sessions are too expensive maybe the gift of a gym membership for a month or two would be better suited to your budget.
    • Jump rope and resistance band — Between these two pieces of equipment and one’s own body weight, you can craft a difficult workout to do on the go.  This is especially helpful for your loved ones who are travelers or find it hard to make it to the gym.  They are both inexpensive items and easy to find at any big box or sporting goods store.
    • Foam roller — This seems like a goofy piece of equipment because it’s only a firm, cylindrical piece of foam.  But if you have ever had sore muscles this little baby is pain and pleasure wrapped up in one package.  Rolling out your sore and stiff muscles hurts like the dickens, but offers sweet relief at the same time, and if your loved one is just starting out with exercise, there are going to be some sore days.   Foam rolling can help head DOMS off at the pass and make the inevitable soreness less severe, or eliminate it all together.  Retailers must know how awesome a foam roller is because they’re a bit more expensive than you’d think they’d be at $20 to $30 or more.
    • Yoga mat — For more more than yoga, although that’s a great use for it.  They’re available everywhere, they’re inexpensive and they can be used for any kind of floor exercises from Pilates to sit-ups to just stretching it out on a soft surface.
    • Emergency ID wristband — It’s unpleasant to think about but accidents do happen.  If your gift recipient walks, runs, or bikes outside alone, then it’s a smart idea that he/she carry some kind of identification and emergency contact information.  These wrist, shoe, or ankle bands usually have a person’s name, address, phone and the contact info for a loved one on it in case the unthinkable happens.  They’re relatively inexpensive, ranging from $15 to $30, but can be invaluable should something happen.  I have a Road ID, but there are other brands and styles out there.
    • Music — I don’t know about you, but I seem to move my fanny faster when I have some sweet tunes to rock out to.  Music can be very motivating and can make the difference between skipping a workout to chill out on the couch and getting up and out to get a sweat on.  Why not treat those on your holiday list to an iPod Shuffle or Nano or any other kind of MP3 player?  They’re small enough to clip on a waistband and be out of the way, but powerful enough to hold thousands of jams.  If those on your list don’t need the player, an iTunes gift card can bring those inspiring workout songs home!

How is that list shaping up now?  Inspired to outfit the fitness guru in your family?  We’ve got the food taken care of, we’ve got the exercise taken care of, how about a little TLC for your spirit?  The final installment in my gift guide series will be on Saturday and focuses on making sure everyone on your holiday list gets the new year started in the right state of mind.