National Sports and Physical Fitness Month

May is National Sports and Physical Fitness Month.

I’m a big fan of having a fit mind in a strong body. I value having mental muscle as well as toned arms.

It’s not ever too late to start a fitness routine. I started to train for life at the gym when I was 45 going into 46. It’s better to do this later than not ever.

I disagreed with a woman who told me if she didn’t get sick by now she saw no reason to change her habits. I didn’t tell her that I thought changing for the better later in life is healthier than not changing at all.

I existed on Velveeta shells-n-cheese and hot dogs and frozen TV dinners when I lived below the poverty line circa the late 1980s. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I got on track with 80 percent healthful eating.

The Mediterranean Diet is by far the best eating plan because it focuses on fruits and vegetables, seafood, and occasionally chicken or turkey, plus whole grains.

In my view it’s better to make positive changes at any time in your life and your recovery rather than continuing to live in ill health.

If you don’t like your body the solution is to exercise. You will feel good in your body when you train. It can be as simple aschecking fitness videos out of the library. An expensive gym membership is not for everyone. Hiking a nature trail might be more your speed. As famously documented in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild.

I have an enduring fascination with fitness. I might be biased yet I don’t think a person should live in hell for a minute longer than they have to. Delaying treatment or not getting treatment or not making the changes you know you need to make is not healthy.

Why is it that a lot of people resist doing what’s in their best interests? I wonder about this.

Health can lead to happiness. I value mental and physical health and emotional health too.

Certainly trying to do things on your own because you think you should be able to cope on your own often sets you up to backfire. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. That’s when you call in a team of reputable professionals to help you get better.

I will report back next week on National Sports and Physical Fitness Month techniques.

Stay tuned.

Eating To Live

I’ve reviewed the book Body for Life for Women in the reviews section today.

Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP gives sound advice: to control your portions and eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

She is quoted: “You’re talking 15 almonds, 20 peanuts, or 12 walnut halves.”

A sample day’s meal plan includes 2 light string cheese sticks and 1 medium apple as an a.m. or p.m. meal.

You can have six mini healthful meals throughout the day.

This is the best kind of eating plan. A healthful “snack” counts as one of the six meals.

I’m going to experiment with buying the tuna and salmon in the foil packs. I will report back in here what I think of this option. Bumblebee calls their foil packs “SuperFresh” and I wonder if it is.

My contention is that even if for whatever reason you don’t want to buy organic food, you should be loading up on fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they’re organic.

I have fallen down in this regard lately. The goal is not to have perfect habits. The goal is to follow your plan 80 percent of the time. This makes sense as a livable option to me.

The goal is to always do your best and to know that your best will change from day to day.

We each of us need to be kind to ourselves and stop chasing perfection, which is an impossible standard to live up to.

80 percent. Something to think about.

Healthy Habits

I recommend making it as convenient as possible to adopt healthy habits that you can stick to.

Make things happen for yourself instead of making excuses. I used to be friends with a woman and I was willing to help her lose weight yet she kept making excuses for why she couldn’t do what I suggested.

My first recommendation is to buy a small container of Blue Diamond whole and natural almonds. The container can easily fit in a gym bag or a medium-sized woman’s pocketbook.

Everyone knows cramming down nuts can pack on the calories yet I advocate for having a handful before or after a workout or during the day when you’re traveling.

Eat one banana a few times a week too. I realize the foam packaging my organic bananas are wrapped in defeats the purpose of being eco-friendly. Yet as long as I do the right in most other ways I’m okay eating an organic banana packaged this way.

Have five healthful meals every two to three hours throughout the day. This helps regulate blood sugar. If you are able to store a container of peanut butter at work or in your refrigerator at home, have a spoonful of peanut butter when you eat the banana. Slather slices of an apple with peanut butter to regulate the sugar rush from eating the apple too.

In a pinch, ongoing, you can have a Kind bar once a day every so often.

What I’ve done: when the almonds ran out, I stored chocolate-covered almonds in the Blue Diamond container to take with me to the gym or in my travels.

Another secret solution: I bought Silk unsweetened almond milk. I braved drinking some and to my delight it tastes only different not yucky. Plus it has more calcium than regular milk and you can use it in a shake you can make in a blender. Mix some blueberries, 0 fat Greek yogurt, a scoop of organic whey protein powder, and some almond milk in a blender. Voila: a healthful snack.

I know a guy who carries a couple sticks of string cheese and an apple wherever he goes. Guys: there’s no shame in carrying a backpack to store these items in your travels.

Like I say: it’s better to make things happen instead of making excuses.

And making it as convenient as possible to eat healthful foods is the best way to go.

Too Fit To Quit

It’s possible to become “Too Fit To Quit” as a Nike tee shirt proclaims.

The October issue of Allure features an article that echoes what I’ve talked about all along: maintaining a healthy weight not a bone-thin weight.

In the Cindy Crawford interview, “How to Eat Well,” she quoted a doctor who gave her great advice:
“Find your healthiest weight and stay there. And don’t make it your skinniest weight because it’s unsustainable.”

That’s priceless advice for the five bucks it costs to buy the magazine.

How did I always know this? You can strength train and gain muscle yet you’ll still fit into the same size pair of jeans even if you gain five or 10 pounds.

It irks me when a woman sets a single, arbitrary number as her “must-get-to” goal weight. If you’re 5’5″, weighing 125 pounds might not be realistic, particularly if you strength train and gain muscle.

Cindy Crawford admits: “I still don’t love exercising, but I like feeling empowered.” She likes being able to help her husband move a couch.

The more you exercise consistently each week, you’ll fall into a groove because you have more energy and stamina. That’s the trick: even a supermodel resists doing what’s best for her body.

I recommend more than anything developing a fitness routine as part of your wellness practice. Link doing this to a SMART goal: one that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Set a realistic “lifeline” for achieving the goal instead of an impossible restrictive deadline.

The truth is too: when a person eats crap, she feels like crap. And that’s the best motivator for having healthful eating habits. Food choices go hand-in-hand with fitness choices.

We need to treat our bodies with love. We need to love our bodies as workhorses that can help us accomplish our life goals.

I’ll end here by echoing that it’s absolutely true a woman doesn’t have to be bone-thin.

Be proud of your curves. Be proud of your muscles. Use food as fuel.

Appetite For Life

I might be Italian yet I eat to live not live to eat.

There’s a difference: food can fuel your body and give you energy and stamina. Or it can make you sluggish and lethargic.

Cooking is one of the joys of life that makes the difference between health and hardship.

I wanted to talk about this again because I devote information about it in my book.

How you eat and what you eat does change your body. I got into a fight with a friend because I told him to “can the cans” and not drink diet sodas. Drinking diet sodas or any kind of cola or soda or soft drink is linked to obesity.

I suggest you can the cans too. Have water flavored with a slice of lemon. Most drinks and sports drinks are full of sugar or “natural flavors.” Natural flavors are actually fake chemicals labeled “natural flavors.” It’s a marketing tool.

The best way to change is to change one thing at time. I recommend starting by nixing any kind of drinks.

It’s the plain truth that you deserve to be healthy rather than making agribusinesses and biotech firms rich. They don’t care that upwards of $71 Billion of healthcare costs in America are linked to obesity and diet. They’re getting rich and we’re getting sick.

It’s prime time right now to shop at farmers’ markets and buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

You can go on the LocalHarvest website to find a Greenmarket near you. It’s Without a farmers’ market you can shop in WholeFoods if there’s one near you.

In New York City: FreshDirect delivers groceries and household supplies to your door. Log on to to sign up. The great thing about FreshDirect is that it delivers CSA boxes to your door: community-supported agriculture boxes where you can buy produce from a local farm.

Instead of traveling to a meeting place, schlepping home boxes of fruits and vegetables from a CSA, and having to spend hefty fees for a summer-long share: voila: you can get a CSA box delivered to your door without the cost of car service to take the box home from the meeting place.

I’m a big fan of buying and eating organic food mostly. Spaghetti squash is in season and is easy to cook too.

I will write this week in the reviews section a review of the book Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. I’ve created numerous recipes from the book that are tasty and nutritious.

In evolutionary terms: it makes no sense to eat meat anymore. Having chicken or turkey occasionally is something I do though. Any kind of extreme diet might not be healthful.

Mostly, I’m opposed to factory farming of beef because of its impact on the environment.

I think eating mostly fruits and vegetables is the way to go now. Though I couldn’t judge other people because I do eat seafood. It’s a choice, and everyone has the right to choose.

I have an enduring interest in health and fitness because I’ve seen the positive effects of diet and exercise on mood, confidence and well-being. It can’t be a coincidence that the two are linked.

On Thursday I will talk about my own experiences losing weight. I used to be 20 lb. overweight as a young woman.

I’ll end here because I want to post the book review.

How Lifting Changed My Life

I recommend consistently lifting weights only because I’ve tried other forms of exercise (all OK on their own) yet lifting was the secret solution to losing 10 lb., keeping it off for years, and maintaining my weight.

I don’t encourage any woman to strive to be bone-thin or look like a waif. As I’ve often talked against using pretty woman for face makeovers instead of letting average woman get beautified, I’m also against the use of Kate Moss skeleton body women in fashion shoots. Kate might have a beautiful face when Francois Nars does her makeup. Yet I’m no fan of her tape measure body.

I’m not certified as a personal trainer or nutritionist. Yet I’m certain carrying 5 or 10 extra lb. is no big deal. The goal is to be a healthy weight and that can be a range of numbers not one specific number. It’s also not good to constantly weigh yourself every day.

How I lost the weight: I started to train at the gym in February 2011 going on 4 years now. I have the trainer create a new routine every five weeks. Then I do the routine on my own and meet with him again to get another new routine. It’s cheaper than hiring a trainer for weekly one-on-one sessions.

You can go on YouTube and searching under the move, like “sumo dead lift” to watch a video that shows the correct form before you start the routine.

Hitting a plateau after 3 years is a good thing because you can continue to challenge yourself by lifting heavier weights. I want to hit women over the head with a pocketbook when they claim they won’t lift heavy weights because they’ll bulk up.

Do I look like the Incredible Hulk? I rest my case. The goal is not to be Kate Moss thin: the goal is to be fit. Remember: “Fitness is Forever.”

Women who have the money to do strength training at the gym should absolutely try to do this if they also feel they need to lose weight. You can spring for attractive workout gear from Nike or Athleta. My favorite place to shop for this is Modell’s. Gotta Go to Mo’s? You bet.

You might get overwhelmed thinking you’ll have to do strength training for the long-term. Yet the pounds didn’t magically appear: most of the time they got there because of what a person did (busted: I’m guilty of this too). So break your long-term goals into weekly, 3-week and 3-month goals, going as far as one year for your goals. Once you’ve reached one year, examine and set a new goal.

Keep a fitness journal in a small hardbound journal. Record your goals in it and the routines you did and whether the routines were easier or harder that day.

No kidding: I can now dead lift 190 lb. That’s how I know that when you repeat the mantra “fitness is forever” it doesn’t matter whether you’re bone-thin or not. What matters is that you build muscle so that you burn more fat as you get older and go through menopause with all its bodily changes.

Do you think. It’s a coincidence. That I kept the weight off for the long-term after I started to train.

I will end here by stating that aside from feeling better/having a glorious mood, you will gain emotional freedom and confidence, and alacrity in how you resolve problems. The self-doubt will come on, yet it will become fleeting and you’ll find yourself not caving in to it anymore.

You’ll start to take risks in other areas of your life.

What’s not to love about lifting?

Lifting Weights To Lift Your Spirits

I’ve talked about this in my old Left of the Dial blog a couple of times and I’ll reprise it here now.

I’m going to detail a little-used secret technique for succeeding in life. It’s not a pill you swallow or an easy, breezy walk in the park. Yet if you commit to this technique for the long-term you will succeed beyond your wildest expectations.

You can make this change at any point in your recovery or your life. It’s better later than not ever to create this change. I’ve talked about it before: strength training.

Taking action cures fear and instills confidence in a person. “Lifting” as it’s commonly called is the magic motivator for creating other positive changes. The more you do it, the easier it will get. And the longer you lift, more benefits accrue like greater confidence and ahem-a better sex life.

Training 3x/week for 4 weeks is the goal. Training 2x/week on the days you can’t train 3x is acceptable. The goal is to train consistently to see progress over the long-term. A slip-up, a failure, days when you fall down here and there don’t matter as long as you’re resilient, pick yourself up and right yourself to re-commit.

Setbacks of any kind are often only temporary and this goes for doing lifting routines. A quote on the whiteboard at the gym was from Robin Williams a couple of weeks ago. It talked about finding that spark of madness and using it while you have it. Though it could seem in poor taste that the management chose that quote Robin’s words do hint at what it takes to persist in achieving goals.

I’m okay calling this spark madness because it appears not everyone has it not even people diagnosed with mental illnesses. My words for this are drive, determination. It’s when you decide to commit to a goal, take steps to make it happen, and use the achievement of the goal as a springboard to do other things.

It helps to make it as convenient as possible to do what you have to do to succeed.

I will sign off now and on Thursday talk about my own experiences with lifting.