February Challenge 2015

February 2nd, 2015

I can’t even remember how many years my friends and I have been using February as a re-set month. Regardless of great intentions, the craziness of the holiday season with all of it’s treats and parties tends to get the best of us. It doesn’t end in January either, but by February we’ve had enough. By February we’re ready to shift gears and focus on our health. The best thing about February is that it’s 28 days…you can do anything for 4 weeks and conveniently, 4 weeks just happens to be the amount of time you need to establish new habits.

Every year we change things up a little. This year we will be using the 80/20 rule…in other words, it’s what you do 80% of the time that matters. You can have some off days, some reckless days. Your body is designed to handle that. The trick is to set some goals and live to those goals MOST of the time. Keep in mind, this isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s the middle of winter and if you work hard for the next 28 days, you’ll be on easy street for the rest of the year…well at least until the holidays roll around again.

2015 Rules (pick at least 4 that challenge you):

1. Include fruits or veggies at every meal
2. Drink half your weight in ounces of water daily
3. Consume less than 40 grams of sugar (all sources)/day
4. Sleep 7+ hours/night
5. Exercise 60 minutes/day (walking counts)
6. Start every day with 10 minutes of mindfulness
7. Restrict eating to a 12 hour window (especially helpful for weight loss)
8. Don’t eat in front of the TV, your computer, while reading or in the car

Rules explained:

1. Fruits and veggies are great for us not just because of the crucial vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants they provide, but because of their fiber content. In a perfect world, you should consume about 12 (1/2 cup) servings/day. They help keep your digestive system running smoothly. If you’re getting enough, your bowl movements should resemble fluffy floaters, not stinky sinkers.

2. Most of us are chronically, mildly dehydrated. This affects everything you do. It affects your energy level, your sleep, your memory and your mood. Slight dehydration is also linked to colon, breast and bladder cancer. When well hydrated your urine will be almost clear (some medications also affect color). You can add a little liquid stevia to your water for flavor or even add a little fruit juice.

3. In the 1700s, the average person consumed about 5 grams of sugar/day. By the 1800s that jumped to 22 grams/day. Now, we consume (conservatively) over 124 grams/day, much of it hidden in processed food. For example: just one 12 oz can of coke has 39 grams of sugar…a 16 oz bottle has 62 grams! Constant over-consumption of sugar leads to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity so try to stay under 40 grams/day and you’ll be doing your health a huge favor. Read more at Mercola.com

4. There are a few people out there suggesting you really don’t need as much sleep as you think you do. They’re wrong. The research on this topic is thorough. If you cheat sleep you cheat your health. We can handle short-term deprivation but in the long-run, you need 7+ hours a day to function at your best. Some of the consequences of sleep deprivation include: Heart failure, stroke, obesity, depression, ADD, and accidents.

5. Sitting is the new smoking. We are becoming increasingly sedentary because of technology. There are so many distractions (including social media, 200+ channels on your television, games & apps) that keep us firmly on our butts. However, we’re designed to be in motion…we need to be in motion so buy a fitbit or some other devise that measures your steps and try to get at least 10,000/day. The biggest consequence of inactivity is muscle loss. You lose the muscles you don’t use so unless you plan to spend the final years of your life confined to a wheelchair…get moving!! If you really want to watch TV, think about doing it on a treadmill. Most health clubs have treadmills with TV’s attached these days or invest in a bike trainer and ride while catching up on your favorite series.

6. Starting the day with 10 minutes of mindfulness is a relatively new activity for me and one I wish I started a long time ago. I get up and go downstairs and sit on my yoga mat and just breathe slow and deep for about 5 minutes feeling grateful for my life. Then I spend the next 5 minutes centering the day. I think about the things that are priorities and commit to them and then visualize my best self. This is an easy thing to do and far more powerful than you might think. Why not commit to it for the next 4 weeks?

7. Choosing to eat all meals and snacks within a 12 hour window is the short-cut to maintaining a healthy weight. As an added benefit, the 12 hours of rest you give your digestive system every night has numerous health benefits. If you combine this habit with portion control and eating those fruits and veggies, the pounds will roll off.

8. Not multi-tasking while I eat is by far my biggest challenge. I have a very bad habit of snacking while I drive. I’ve also been known to eat in front of the TV and even while working in the office. Ugh! This is a mindless behavior that easily gets out of hand. If snacking is part of reading, homework, typing or relaxing, you’ll consume far more calories than you realize. If this sounds like you, it’s time to break this habit for good.

Happiness and confidence are, in part, the result of creating habits that support the person you want to be. Don’t settle for a mediocre you because the better you are, the more you have to share with the world…or as my philosophical son likes to say, “You can’t volunteer at the hospital if you need one of the beds.”

The “D” word: Discipline

January 2nd, 2015

I read a quote once that went something like this:

The definition of Hell: Coming to the end of your life and having to face the person you would have become if you lived to your potential.

It’s a sobering thought but honestly, I don’t think any of us live to our potential. There’s too much perfectionism in that concept. However, I do think we can be proud of the final product. If we like who we’ve become, if we’ve grown from our mistakes and if we’ve made a difference…I’m pretty sure meeting that ideal version of ourselves wouldn’t be so bad.

Getting to that point takes discipline. Yuck! I’ve never been a fan of the “D” word. I conjures up memories of my parents harping at me to stop procrastinating and get more organized. I resisted.

Now, pushing 60, I’ve figured out that I have more to give everyone else if I live with discipline. My routines include:
-Eating a non-processed-mediterranean-style diet
-Exercising including strength training
-Getting 7 hours of sleep
-Waking up early enough to spend the first 15 minutes of every day investing in myself, i.e., meditating and visualizing the day

Trust me, making health a priority won’t make your life a little easier…it will make your life dramatically easier. You’ll have more energy and more patience. You’ll feel more centered. You’ll be happier. It’s a win/win.

So my New Year’s wish for you is to make friends with “discipline.” The world will be a better place if you’re a better you. Read the rest of this entry »

Eat Clean for Two Weeks

October 11th, 2014

The food industry is a highly competitive multi-billion dollar machine that’s bombarding us with messages showing beautiful, happy, skinny people eating junk food. The subliminal message is: If you want to be like them, eat this.

In the 1700′s we consumed about 4 lbs of sugar per person per year. That number jumped to 18 lbs in the 1800′s. Today it’s over 100 lbs! Sweet drinks and processed food are the major culprits…sugar (corn syrup, fructose, brown rice syrup, etc…) is hidden everywhere and it’s killing us. But, that’s okay because it’s great for corporate profits. We’re being manipulated.

You don’t have to fall in line. You can fight back and take control of your health. A great way to get started is to focus on the quality of your diet by taking a clean eating challenge for two weeks. It’s enough time to feel a change and enough time to examine your current habits.

Clean eating:
1. No added sugar
2. No gluten
3. No processed foods
4. No dairy
5. No artificial sweeteners

What does that leave? Lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, potatoes & yams, brown rice, quinoa, nuts (except peanuts), beans, tea, stevia, and water…lots of water (64 oz/day).

I’ve just finished two weeks of clean eating and I’m amazed by a couple of things: First, my teeth are always clean. I feel like I just left the dentist’s office. And second, I’m sleeping more soundly. I also noticed that I was losing weight, not good for me so I countered by increasing my nut consumption (almond butter on apples is awesome). If you’re trying to lose a few pounds, skip the nuts and it will fall off of you.

In spite of the inconveniences (not having desert with my friends), I’ve liked it so much that I’m doing two more weeks. Why not do them with me? Your worth it.

How much is too much…social media?

August 4th, 2014

I recently took a break from social media along with all the other “screen” distractions in my life. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube, several Aps, e-mails and the all mighty television, I felt like I was getting swallowed up by technology.

As a speaker and author, I know I’m supposed to stay connected. Social Media “experts” have warned me to be “out there” often or I’ll risk losing my base and my google juice…oh no!

Here’s the thing: My message is about being “centered” which means taking care of yourself so you can be more effective. I wasn’t walking the talk. Plus, my family is a giant priority and they were taking a back seat. So, I took a break – a long break and amazingly, nothing came crashing down. During the time away I got married, spent more time with my kids and established some better habits. I’m happy.

How about you? Are you getting sucked in? How many hours a day are you sitting in front of a screen? Why not take a break? Come on…turn it off, head outside and live!

Is it selfish to put yourself first?

February 17th, 2014

What’s most important to you?  Faith?  Family?  Friends?  Career?  Are you driven to be a great parent or the top performer at work?  Do the needs of others often take priority over your personal needs?  Do you have a hard time saying, “No?”  If so, you’re in good company.

Many people think there’s honor in putting others first.  After all, they get to brag about the sacrifices they’re making by doing everything they can to please all the people all the time, right?  There’s a significant sympathy factor included when they behave like that which can make them feel good about it in the short run.  However, in the long run they end up feeling like doormats…exhausted, stressed out, unhealthy, beat-up doormats.  What’s so admirable about that?

No, if you want to accomplish great things, you have to change your thinking.  In reality, you are better equipped to serve others when you value yourself enough to make your personal health and well-being a priority.  In other words, it’s UN-selfish to put yourself first. Honestly, it’s the most UN-selfish thing you can do.

People who live in the zone, i.e., eat healthy, sleep enough and work out, feel good about themselves and because they feel good about themselves, they’re better able to handle stress, they’re more patient and they have more energy.   It’s a win/win.

No one will value your time more than you do so stop being a victim to the endless demands of the world and start taking care of #1 (that would be you).

Try these idea:

  • Devote the first hour of every day to your health and well-being…even if it means getting up at 5:00.
  • Build relationships with like-minded, positive people who support your goals.
  • Say “No” more often.  Sometimes “No” means “Yes” when it comes to your priorities…never feel guilty about that.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours/night.  Lack of sleep shortens your lifespan, reduces concentration and contributes to over-eating.  Come on, turn off the TV and go to bed.
  • When you’re struggling, don’t give up; get help.  There’s nothing weak about getting help.  Working through something tough will make you better, stronger and happier…all of which mean you will have more to offer the world.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish.  It’s selfless and you’re worth it.

Your year in review

December 27th, 2013

The final weekend of 2013 is upon us.  It’s the weekend when several of the news and entertainment shows do a “year in review” program, highlighting the year’s best and worst events.  Many of these events will likely show up in history books and maybe future generations will learn from our mistakes or be inspired by our successes.  In theory, the world should be a better place because of the lessons of history, including the history of 2013.

These end-of-year shows are interesting to watch but I’m always surprised by the number of events from the year that have already become distant memories.  Clearly, the things that don’t impact us directly quickly fade into the background.  But how about the things that do impact us directly?  How about your life and the lives of those around you? Maybe the events of your personal life didn’t make a news reel, but they’re still part of  history and their lessons are important.  The life you lived in 2013 has the potential to make 2014 better…if you take the time to reflect.  So find a quiet place this weekend and ask yourself the following questions (suggestion: get a journal, record your answers and make it an annual event):

  • What do I want to remember…good and bad?
  • What am I most proud of?
  • What would I have done differently?  (hindsight is a gift)
  • Who do I wish I spent more time with?  Less time with?
  • What did I do too much of?
  • What should I have done more of?
  • What do I want to change in 2014?

The answers to these questions will help center you and position you to move into the new year with confidence.  Whether 2013 was a good year or not, doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you do with the knowledge you gained by living through it.  You matter.  Never underestimate the impact you have, good or bad, on the people you meet and the paths you cross.

Because of 2013, together, we can make the world a better place in 2014.






Does your rhythm support you?

November 18th, 2013

Your life has a rhythm.  There’s a flow to the way you move through the day which includes certain things you always do, things like brushing your teeth, showering, wearing a seat belt, etc…   It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a crisis or on a long vacation…you do these things.   I like to call them non-negotiables.

You always do them because  they’re important.  You’ve made them a priority.  My list of non-negotiables includes an early workout, a shower, brushing my teeth, flossing, drinking lots of water and eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  I might compromise on sleep once in a while and I eat too many sweets more often than I’d like to admit but I don’t compromise when it comes to my list of non-negotiables.   They’re the foundation of my rhythm.

I’ve learned that when my rhythm supports me, I feel centered, giving me more energy for everything and everyone else.  When I’m centered I also carry less stress and feel happier…consistently happier.

So think about the non-negotiables in your life.  What do you always do?  Do your habits support you?    Are you a priority in your life?   Remember, no one will value your time more than you do.

Sustainable happiness comes from creating a healthy rhythm.

The Best Kind of Beautiful

November 10th, 2013

The volume of “beauty” images that cross our paths these days is mind-boggling. What was once limited to television and movies, now infiltrates our lives non-stop because of our gadgets…computers, smart phones, tablets, etc…  What’s the impact of all those images?  Do they affect our self-esteem?  Do they affect our behavior?

According to the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery over 10 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2012.  That’s a lot of people spending a lot of money to look better.  It’s a 250% increase since 1997.

In Hollywood, actors and actresses have always felt the pressure to fit a specific image  because, generally speaking, getting old isn’t good for business.  “Enhancing” their bodies has  been the norm.   Is it becoming our norm?  Maybe the bigger question is:  Does it make us happy?

You’re happy if you love the life you’re living.  You’re happy if you believe in yourself from the inside out…not the outside in.  Outside in thinking is like designing a great book cover without paying attention to the content.  What’s the point?  In the end, no one cares about the cover.  In the end it’s all about the content.

Break away from all of that external noise and focus on who you are and where you’re headed.  Surround yourself with friends who believe in you and find ways to help others believe in themselves.  If you do that, you’ll develop a happy heart and a happy heart  beams with warmth and confidence…the best kind of beautiful.


How are you different?

October 10th, 2013

Imagine there’s a team being assembled to participate in a one day, “idea sharing” retreat.  Team members will be paid $100,000.00 each for their time.  Of course it would be held at some amazingly fantastic place, all expenses paid.  To qualify, you must answer one question.   If your answer is unique, you’re in.  It’s that simple.   The question is:

How are you different?

I’m different because:

  • I’m tall
  • I teach Pilates
  • I’m an author
  • I’m divorced three times
  • I have a gay brother
  • I was anorexic
  • I was bulimic
  • I’m a rape survivor
  • I’m an Ironman
  • I like strangers
  • I believe in happy endings

My experiences, good and bad, have given me a unique perspective on life.   Without a doubt, living through them has made me more compassionate and less judgmental but I’m still limited by what I don’t know.  Imagine the wisdom I’d gain if I understood your experiences.

How are you different?  Are you shy?  Are you a pragmatist?  Do you get depressed?  Are you musical?  Are you super smart?  Do you have fears?  Have you made mistakes, big ones?   These things are important.

Instead of focusing on being similar and fitting in, we should focus on being authentic.  If we can drum up the courage to share who we are with the world, maybe we can change the world.

Be brave enough to be different.

Starting tomorrow is easy

October 8th, 2013

Starting tomorrow means we can continue doing whatever we’ve been doing for one more day.

Everyone likes a fresh start, i.e., a new day, a new week or a new month and by the time October and November roll around, it makes sense to just wait for a new year, right?

Do you do this?  Sadly, I must confess to employing this strategy too many times to count.  It’s appealing because it takes the pressure off.  Picking a date in the future is a license to stay on the current course until the “fresh start” date arrives.  If you’ve been eating badly, you can continue eating badly.  If you’ve been sedentary, you can remain sedentary.  If the house is a mess, it can stay a mess.  You don’t have to change…yet.  What a relief!

It may be a relief but unfortunately this kind of pattern is also a trap because while waiting for the magic date, the hole you’ve dug tends to get deeper.   It’s how 5lbs in November turn into 10lbs by January.

If I’m honest, I recognize that I utilize this approach because I enjoy my bad habits.  I like snacking in front of the TV.  I like snacking in my office.  I like snacking in the car.  Over the years, I’ve conditioned myself to associate these activities with food to the point where my decisions aren’t even slightly driven by appetite.  Instead, they’re driven completely by habit.  It’s amazing how mindless I can be while taking something out of a bag and putting it in my mouth.

Well, that was then and this is TODAY.   Today I didn’t snack in the car (that was tough).  Today I didn’t snack in the office (tougher).  Today I didn’t snack in front of the TV or my computer (toughest).

I’ve been taking care of TODAY for a week now and it’s getting easier.  I haven’t be perfect, especially in front of the TV but then I catch myself and instead of saying, “Oh well, I’ll start over tomorrow,” I reset in the moment.   The thought is, “It’s still today and this day matters.”

It’s working partly because I expect it to be tough and partly because it’s just TODAY.  I feel like I can do anything for one day and as for tomorrow…I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.

Come on, people!  Nothing changes by waiting for tomorrow.  Start today.