Archives for June 2013

How To Make Your Own Kefir

I decided to make my own kefir when a co-worker asked me what I thought about the commercial product from Lifeway.  The label indicates that the Lifeway Kefir Smoothie is healthy and full or pro-biotics derived from the kefir.

Lifeway Kefir

But take a look at the nutrition label and you’ll find one serving equals one cup and has five teaspoons of sugar which is too much.  Plus there’s no way to know exactly how much kefir the product contains because the manufacturer doesn’t make that clear. The recommended serving per day is one cup but we don’t from the label how much is in the Lifeway product.

You can easily make your own kefir and add it to smoothies and other foods.  This puts you in control of the sugar, sodium and other added ingredients and you can make sure you’re getting a full serving of the pro-biotic.

What’s Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk product made with kefir grains.  Think of it as being a sister to yogurt.  The fermentation process gives kefir the active, but friendly, bacteria that promote intestinal health.  Our body naturally contains a large number of healthy bacteria, called ‘normal flora’. This flora keeps our immune system robust and our digestive system in tip-top working condition.

But the good bacteria in our intestines can be depleted by antibiotics, pesticides, chlorine, and viruses.  If our ‘normal flora’ become depleted we are at risk of developing some serious digestive problems.  One of the most unpleasant, Clostridium Difficile (CDiff), can be a serious and even fatal condition caused by the absence of normal flora in our gut.

Kefir is one of the best pro-biotics that we know of and including in our diet on a regular basis will protect us from these unpleasant intestinal illness by keeping the population of good bacteria in tact.

How To Make Your Own Kefir

Below is a step by step of my kefir making experience.  I hope the pictures are helpful.  If you have any questions, drop them in the comment box and I’ll do my best to answer.

I purchased the milk kefir grains for about $16 at the local food coop.

Milk Kefir Grains

1.  Pour the grains into a glass jar that has a lid.  Cover with a cup of milk.  Put the lid on the jar and set the jar on your kitchen counter or someplace where it will remain at room temperature.  Let it sit for at least 24 hours.  *Tip – For the best results, don’t let the grains come in contact with any metal containers or utensils throughout the process.

Grains in milk collage

2.  After it has fermented for at least 24 hours, put a plastic bowl that has a lid under a plastic colander or strainer.  Pour the contents of the jar into the strainer and allow the kefir to drain into the plastic container.  If your concoction is thick you can use a plastic or wooden spoon to loosen the milk from the grains and push it through the holes in the colander.

The kefir grains will now look like large curd cottage cheese.

Strained Grains Collage

3.  After straining, place the bowl with the milk product in the fridge with the lid on.

Put the kefir grains back in the jar, pour milk over them, and secure the lid.  Put them back on the counter and let them sit for at least 24 hours. Continue to repeat the process until you have enough kefir, which if you use it everyday, may never happen.

You can continue to use the grains for an unlimited time.  When you have enough kefir, rinse the grains with filtered, non-chlorinated water and leave them in the jar where they will continue to grow and will be ready for you to use again in the future.

Finished Product

The strained fermented milk is the finished kefir product and is ready to be used in smoothies and other foods, or over fruit.

Watermelon Kefir Smoothie

I made a watermelon kefir smoothie using fresh kefir, watermelon, a cup of frozen fruit (which gave the smoothie more body and flavor) and a splash of fresh lime juice. Add ice until it is the consistency you like and be sure and toss in a few chia or flax seeds.

Smoothie Ingredients

The Watermelon Kefir Smoothie is hydrating, nutritious and delicious!

Watermelon Smoothie

Not only does kefir keep your intestinal tract in line, it also helps lower blood pressure, regulates cholesterol and metabolism, improves gall bladder and liver function, reduces sugar cravings and aids in weight loss. Kefir is a superfood and one that you should add to you diet daily.

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What You Don’t Know About OTC Pain Meds Can Hurt You.

Popping a couple of ibuprofen or aspirin pre and/or post workout to help you push through the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that you know is coming may be one of the worst things you can do for your skeletal muscles and your gut.

Whether you’re trying to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by a long run, heavy lifting session, or an injury, taking non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) inhibits post-workout muscle repair and growth, and delays the healing process in the case of injuries.

Pills 2

Post-Workout Pain Relief

A number of studies have been done that show that NSAIDs and, in particular, ibuprofen, have the ability to limit the body’s natural ability to repair the tissue damage caused by exercise and injury.  Muscle regeneration is also affected.

Significant research by Dr. Louis Almekinders and his team at the University Of North Carolina School Of Medicine looked at the effects of NSAIDs on tendonitis.  Using four test groups, they broke the athletes in the following categories.  They were as follows:

Tendons received no treatment; they were not exercised and they did not receive an NSAID.

  1. Tendons were exercised.
  2. Tendons were exercised and the anti-inflammatory NSAID Indomethacin was given.
  3. Tendons were not exercised; Indomethacin was given.

Tendons in the four groups underwent injury through repetitive motion, similar to what would occur during athletic training. Seventy-two hours later the only group with increased levels of prostaglandins, which are the body’s own potent mediators of inflammation, was Group #2.  Groups #3 and #4 had significant lower levels of prostaglandins.  The participants in Group #4 that only received the NSAID had almost no prostaglandins in the sample, which signals a complete inhibition of the inflammatory healing process.

Not only does the use of NSAIDs inhibit the body’s natural healing process, they also cause a significant decrease in strength of flexor tendons, maybe as much as 300 percent over four weeks.

This theory was proven through a study done on acute ankle sprains in the Australian reserve military where Piroxicam was used to treat the injury.  Results showed that in the participants that used the NSAID Piroxicam, ligament healing was stopped.  And, even though the participants using the NSAID felt better and were able to resume activity, their ankles were considerably more unstable leaving them prone to injury.

An in-depth article discussing the treatment of skeletal muscle injuries by The International Scholarly Research Network (ISRN) Orthopedics has this to say:

“Whether or not NSAIDs should be used in the treatment of muscle injuries is still controversial.  They have long been the first choice to relieve pain after a skeletal muscle injury. NSAIDs may suppress the [the body’s own] inflammatory response and thus reduce the pain and swelling.  However, this response is an essential phase in the healing of injured skeletal muscle.  Attempts to inhibit this phase will lead to an incomplete functional recovery.  [Also], experimental investigations showed that NSAIDs might also decrease the tensile strength of the injured muscle.”

ISRN researchers concluded that using NSAIDs is so detrimental to the health process they recommend they not be given until 48 hours after the injury so that the body’s natural recovery response is not interrupted.

What About Pre-Workout Pain Relief?

If we know we’re going all out for a workout or run we may decide to pay it forward and take our pain killers before we exercise.  Beyond limiting muscle regeneration, taking NSAIDs pre-workout can mask the pain for us during the workout making us more prone to injury.  Remember, pain is how our body tells us that we’re overdoing it and it’s time to scale back, or, in cases of acute pain, suspend the workout.

But, there may be an ever better reason to skip taking a couple of Advil before we go to the gym.  In studies done on healthy, trained men, NSAIDs aggravated exercise-induced injury in the small intestine.  It only took a couple of doses of ibuprofen to register intestinal cellular damage in the athletes.

You might think about switching to an acetaminophen like Tylenol, but beware that overuse of these products increase the likelihood of liver and kidney toxicity even in healthy people. If you’re on a steady diet of acetaminophen and like to have a couple of beers after a long run, you’re flirting with disaster.

Better Options

NSAIDs are so good at numbing the pain from delayed onset muscle soreness and injuries that we consequentially think they must be helping us heal.  We figure we hurt less so we must be getting better, when in fact muscle and tendon repair is being impeded and our strength is being compromised.

No doubt there are times when taking an anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medication is needed and warranted.  However, taking them on a regular basis to avoid pain may, in the long term, be a costly mistake.

And there are some better, healthier options.

Believe it or not studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice after a workout reduces soreness and promotes muscle recovery.  Low-fat chocolate milk is also a nutritious high-protein drink that hydrates and promotes muscle healing and strength.  Coffee has also proven to decrease post-workout muscle soreness when taken before exercising. Some other post-workout methods to consider are an ice bath, massage, and a session of light exercise.

*In the case of an acute injury, apply RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and contact your doctor.

The good news is muscle soreness after a workout lets us know we worked hard and if we allow ourselves time, the muscles will repair and be stronger than before.   The last thing we want to do is something that makes us feel better temporarily but hinders our progress long-term, which is what the use of NSAIDs will do.

Over To You

What’s your secret for treating muscle soreness and pain?  Please share.

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Blog Give Away: Chris Powell’s Extreme Makeover – Bootcamp Workout DVD

Summer is only a few days away and transformation specialist Chris Powell, from ABC’s hit show “Extreme Weight Loss”, is ready to help you get the summer beach body you’ve been dreaming of.

Chris Powell’s Extreme Makover: Weight Loss Edition- Bootcamp workout DVD is available from Lionsgate on June 25, 2013 for $14.98.  But you have a chance to win it here before it ever hits the streets.

Extreme Makeover Bootcamp will help get you moving and start losing with a program for every body and fitness level.

Extreme Makeover Pic

This workout DVD features inspiring past participants from the popular TV show.  The program includes four fat-blasting workouts, each more challenging than the last.  Once viewers have mastered the levels individually, they can utilize bootcamp workout plans to really take it up a notch!

The workout DVD includes:

  • Warm-Up: Set your body in motion and get your heart pumping with Chris’ signature moves designed to limber up for a fun workout.
  • Level 1: Begin your transformation and jump-start your metabolism with easy-to-follow exercises that get every muscle moving to start burning fat and calories.
  • Level 2: Rev up the calorie burn and melt inches with this low-impact interval workout that challenges the body with five total-body exercises repeated in 45-second bursts.
  • Level 3: Up the ante and the fat burn with a calorie-crushing workout that includes five mega moves that shred, sculpt and slim the body with four 20-second blasts each.
  • Level 4: Get extreme results with four-minute circuits of hard-core exercises like Mountain Climbers and Squat Jacks designed to torch calories, obliterate fat and sculpt muscles.
  • Cool Down: Calm your breathing and soothe challenged muscles with complete-body stretches and movements that protect and invigorate your body from head to toe.

Dvd Special Features*

  • Custom Workout Option
  • Music Only Option

How Your Can Enter To Win

Put a comment in the box below this post on or before Friday, June 28, to get your name included in the drawing. It’s that easy!  Be sure and tell you friends and family.

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I’m A Fan Of The Eight Hour Diet. Please Tell Me I’ve Lost My Mind.

I’m not a fan of diets.  Diets usually call for counting calories, carbs, and fat and are based on deprivation.  Most diets offer the promise of ‘X’ number of pounds lost each week if you stick with a stringent plan.  Once you go off the diet the weight comes back and many people put back on more weight than they lost.  Diets offer a short -term solution to a long -term problem.

Except for the Eight Hour DietOn the eight hour diet you pick at least three days a week where you limit your food intake to eight hours. If you start eating at 8 a.m. you’re done at 4 p.m.  Start at noon and you’re done at 8 p.m.

The Eight Hour Diet is the creation of David Zinczenko, Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Men’s Health magazine and Editorial Director of Women’s Health magazine.  Zinczenko, who is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on health and fitness, has based his diet plan on the concept of intermittent fasting.

8 hour diet

Intermittent Fasting           

Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting.  Some studies have indicated that fasting increases longevity and reduces the risk of chronic disease.

Studies on animals have shown a number of health benefits derived from fasting that include reduced serum glucose and insulin levels, enhanced cardiovascular and brain functions, and a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

In a nutshell, what intermittent fasting does is gives all of the organs that are involved in the digestion process – and that is most, if not all, of them – a rest.  Once your body has digested all of the food you’ve eaten, your large and small intestine, pancreas, and liver get to take a break until you eat again.

In the case of the Eight Hour Diet your body’s digestive system gets a 16 hour break at least three times a week. How could 16 hours of rest three times a week for the most crucial organs in our body be a bad thing?

What’s Right About The Eight Hour Diet

First of all, let me put in a disclaimer in about my so-called review of the Eight Hour Diet.  I have not tried the diet.  A co-worker bought the book, brought it to me, said she was going to try it and asked me what I thought.

After reviewing the book I found there were a number of positives about the program.  Here they are:

1. You don’t have to count calories, carbs, fat, or protein. You are allowed to eat whatever you want  for eight hours(which is then followed by 16 hours of fasting) and you don’t have to track it.  Of course, the book warns that the principle of garbage-in-garbage-out always applies.  If you go on an eight-hour free-for-all and consume the most calorie dense foods possible you probably won’t be as successful with the diet.  But, if you eat as you normally would for eight hours, followed by a 16 hours fast, you should lose between one and two pounds a week.

2.  You choose.  Pick the three ‘fast’ days every week that best align with your schedule.  If you find it is easier to limit your food consumption to eight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, do that.  If you have more control during the week and don’t want to think about the diet on the weekend, fast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  It’s up to you to find which days are best for your schedule each week. If you want to see results faster, do the eight-hour diet for four or more days each week.

3.  The diet encourages you to eat healthy foods.  That may sound like a no-brainer, however many of the popular diets (Ideal Protein, Body by Vi, Shakeology) are based on two pre-packaged shake mixes followed by a highly processed heat-and-eat meal a day, which isn’t exactly health food.  This plan recommends you eat these superfoods everyday:  eggs and lean meats, walnuts and other nuts, yogurt and other dairy, blue and purple berries, fruits, green vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals. These are the foods we all should be eating everyday anyway, so no big deal. Right?

4.  There are no restricted foods. Is it sounding too good be to true?  Possibly, but with the Eight Hour Diet, not only do you not have to track calories, carbs and fats, you don’t have to take your favorite foods off the menu.  On this diet you continue to eat the foods you like. The only restriction is how many hours you have to consume them.

5.  The concept of intermittent fasting has been proven to be effective. Although there are more studies to be done, the research does show that intermittent fasting can help people lose weight without cannibalizing lean muscle tissue. Because you are not depriving yourself of calories, your body won’t have to use muscle tissue for fuel. The end result is a metabolic rate that is higher and burns calories more efficiently over a 24-hour period.

6.  It’s a lifelong strategy – Let’s say you go decide to try the eight hour diet.  You lose 20 pounds over a 12-week period.  Then, you start to skip the fasting days and the pounds start to creep back up.  The only thing you need to do is re-incorporate the fasting days back into your life. Get back to eating the superfoods and do the 8-on-16-off three days a week and you’ll get the waistline back under control.

Tell Me I’m Wrong

I’m finding it hard to believe that I’m a fan of this ‘diet’. But is it really a diet?  To me it seems like an eating plan that encourages people to eat highly nutritious low-calorie foods, as well as some of their favorites. Just not 24/7.  In a round-about way this diet helps you control how much food you consume because you only have eight hours to consume it.

Then there is that sweet spot where you let your system rest.  And it deserves a rest.  Your pancreas needs a break from pushing out insulin. Your intestines could use some down-time from churning through all the junk you shove through it everyday.  And your liver?  If you knew what your liver had to go through to process the stuff you eat and drink everyday you would realize that it needs a break too.

Over To You

Have you tried the Eight Hour Diet?  I would love to know what your experience with it was?  Please leave a comment in the box below.

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The Best Way To Keep Calm And Carry On Under Pressure

Stress does a number on our mental and physical health.  It can keep us awake and night, leave us unable to focus on important tasks during the day, and diminish our motivation to do much of anything beyond worry constantly.

The link between unmanaged chronic stress and chronic illnesses that include heart disease, depression and obesity are very real. Some studies have even revealed that stress leads to overeating.  Despite its connection to illness and obesity, many people don’t take any steps to manage their stress

J David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University has conducted studies that show that the application of self-affirmations can buffer stress.  Recently he and his team took their research a step further to find out what, if any, impact self affirmations have on problem-solving performance in chronically stressed individuals.

Stress

Stress, Problem-Solving and Creativity

We’ve all been in that situation where we are under pressure to finish a project, the deadline is looming.  As the tension builds we begin to make mistakes and lose our ability to think clearly.  At some point we can’t think at all, much less problem-solve or look for creative solutions to our situation.  Sometimes the pressure can send us into a complete melt-down.  Creswell’s research indicates that if during these times of intense pressure, we engage in a session of positive affirmations we will be able to maintain our ability to think clearly and creatively.

Creswell’s study was based on the results of 73 students between the ages of 18 -34 that underwent a Remote Associate Task (RAT), a well-known measure of problem-solving and creativity.  Prior to the RAT, each student was asked to rate their level of stress over the previous several months.  Half of the students were instructed to engage in a self-affirmation activity.

Then, all of the students, under time pressure, underwent a series of 30 challenging RAT items ranging in difficulty from moderately to extremely difficult.  The tasks required some level of creativity to complete.  To create pressure, the RAT evaluator provided feedback (correct, incorrect) after each task.  In addition, three times during the exercise the evaluator provided evaluative feedback (“I need you to try harder.”)

The participants that indicated they had been under high levels of stress solved roughly 50% fewer problems than the group that reported low stress except for the participants who completed the self-affirmations. The results of the study showed that the stressed students who engaged in the self-affirmation exercise performed as well as the students who reported low stress.

“We found that self-affirmation completely eliminates the effects of chronic stress,” Creswell said. “Those subjects managed to erase the negative effects of the chronic stress on their problem-solving performance.”

Creswell says the research shows that “People under high stress can foster better problem-solving simply by taking a moment beforehand to think about something that is important to them. It’s an easy-to-use and portable strategy you can roll out before you enter that high pressure performance situation.”

Applying The Research

If you plan to apply Creswell’s work to your own life you’ll need to utilize a method of self-affirmation that you may not be familiar with.  When we think of self-affirmations we have a tendency to think that we should repeat positive thoughts to ourselves like “I can do this.” “I’m going to be successful.”

But Creswell says the affirmations have to be specific and about something that has value to us. “I’m a really good friend to Mary.”  “I’m an asset to ABC Corporation.”  “I’m a strong swimmer.”  These are the affirmations that seem to have the most influence on stress reduction.

People tend to believe that being stressed-out is just part of life and there’s not much we can do about it.  But that’s not true and taking the necessary steps to manage your stress is essential if you want to have a healthy, joyful, meaningful life.

Next time you feel the pressure building, write down a few affirmations about the things in your life that are most important to you and find out if it helps to push your stress thermometer back down. Creswell says the one remarkable feature of self-affirmation is that it can be brief, easily implemented and can have big effects.

What methods do you use to stay cool under pressure?

If you liked this article you might also like How Positive Affirmations Can Get You Unstuck And Moving Again.

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Rev Up Your Metabolism With the New Be Fit 30 Minute Gym Circuit Workout

The latest is the series of the Be Fit GO series is the 30 Minute Gym Circuit Workout, an explosive, total-body circuit workout that combines cardio, weight training and plyometric moves.  This 30 minute workout is designed to build strength and endurance, burn fat and engage all of the major muscle groups.

Be Fit In 30

Circuit training is an effective and quick way to fit your workout into a busy day. It provides a high intensity cardio workout, combined with weight and resistance training to target fat loss and lean muscle building.

A circuit is comprised of a series of exercises, also known as “stations,” to be performed in succession of each other to keep your body moving, and keep you interested in exercising. Circuit training stations are generally sequenced in a way to alternate between muscle groups, allowing them to recover while you move onto another exercise.

There are some challenging moves in this workout so feel free to modify as needed.  Here are some examples of possible modifications:

  • Man Makers at 9:40 – eliminate the push-up, and only do one row before coming back up.  This slows the exercise down to where it is more doable.
  • Plank Ab Raises at 12:39 – drop one knee to the floor and lift the opposite arm.  Change sides.
  • Wide Mountain Climbers at 24:37 – This is a tough move but if you limit the range of motion and bring the legs straight up under the chest to start with you can still get the job done.

There is a lot of variety in this 30 minute workout.  Make sure you grab some water during the 30 second rest periods and as always, work at your own pace and take a break when you need one.

You can access the workout from your Smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer here. Lionsgate’s Be Fit channel offers an abundance of challenging workouts that you can do anywhere.  The best part?  They’re free!

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10 Tips For An Injury-Free Trail Race

There’s a big difference between running the pavement and running a trail. The principles that you apply to cover seven street miles pretty much go out the window when you’re on a trail with mud, hills, tree roots and a narrow winding path. A trail race is an obstacle course and it can get tricky.  But if you pay attention to your surroundings it can be enjoyable and rewarding.

I did a trail run last weekend and had a specific goal in mind: not to fall down.  I took a pretty bad fall on the trail race I did in September and have been nursing an aching shoulder since.  A couple of the runners had battle scars after the run on Saturday. One fall occurred on the trail just ahead of me when a runner got her toe caught in a covered tree root and literally went head over heels down a steep incline.  Not pretty.

Trail Run

If you’re an inexperienced trail runner or thinking about signing up for your first trail race, here are 10 tips to help you get to the finish line injury free.

1.  Pick Up Your Feet – The ole street shuffle doesn’t work when you’re dodging, sticks, roots, holes and mud puddles.  You have to consciously think about picking up your feet throughout the race to reduce the risk of falling.  I found as I got near the end of the run and my legs started to fatigue I was stubbing my toe on things that I was skimming across during the first half. I constantly reminded myself to pick up my feet as I watched for rocks, limbs, roots and other obstacles.

2.  Wear Old Tennis Shoes – You don’t want to worry about getting your shoes wet and muddy and in many cases you’ll do both.  The trail runs in this area always have patches that are wet because of streams and rivers that run through the woods or rain water that lingers in the thickness.  Wear shoes that fit well and are comfortable and that you won’t mind throwing in the washing machine when you get home.

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Donut Sandwich, Tongue Patch and Smokin’ a Beer. It’s Friday I’m In [Link] Love

Some weeks there are always so many weird, crazy, entertaining articles to share I have trouble narrowing them down to five or six of the best ones.  This was one of those weeks.

There are some bizarre things going on in the world, three of which belong in the “just when I thought I’d heard of everything”category.

Here goes. It’s Friday, I’m in [link] Love!

Link-Love2

Your Donut Sandwich Is A Crime Against Sandwiches Everywhere – Who among us doesn’t occasionally splurge and indulge by having our favorite confection at Dunkin’ Donuts?  While some fast-food restaurants are working to offer healthy alternatives to their usual fare, Dunkin’ Donuts has gone above and beyond in creating an unhealthy entrée they like to call a sandwich.   That’s right.  It’s breakfast sandwich ingredients – like eggs and bacon – placed between two glazed donuts.  Sounds too sticky for my taste. The sandwich debuts on June 7.  Read more about it here.

The Most Extreme Weight Loss Method Yet? – If you don’t have the willpower to pass on the Dunkin’ Donut Donut Sandwich, no worries.  You can now have a patch embedded in your tongue that makes eating solid foods so excruciatingly painful you’ll have no choice but to adhere to a total liquid diet. The method, launched by Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Nikolas Chugay, claims the patch helps people lose up to 30 pounds a month.  I don’t know what’s most disturbing, realizing that people are so desperate to lose weight they are willing to suffer to this extent, or that a doctor has created the procedure.  You can read more about the tongue patch here.  If you read the comments at the end you’ll know for sure it’s a bad idea.

Smoking Alcohol – Doctors Warn Calorie-Conscious Trend Is Extremely Dangerous – Alcohol typically isn’t part of a weight loss plan.  That is unless you’re smoking your beer instead of drinking it.  A device that vaporizes alcohol so that it can be inhaled has been created by Broderic Allen.  After Allen lost 80 pounds he was determined not to put the weight back on but missed the buzz he got from drinking alcohol.  His calorie-free alcohol smoking invention was a win-win.  Except for one thing. The method, which unfortunately is catching on due to a how-to YouTube video, is dangerous, even deadly, and it put users on a fast track to liver disease. Check out the full article here.

The ‘Prancercise’ Craze and Other Strange Exercises – Are you bored with Zumba and Body Pump classes?  You may want to try Prancercise.  You can see for yourself whether or not it’s for you.

The article also explores some other, shall we say, strange exercises crazes.  If you need your daily chuckle, check it out here.

Juicy Gossip: Inside the Cleansing Craze – Nutritionists continue to tell the public that juice diets and cleanses are a waste of time and money but people don’t seem to want to listen.  This article explores reasons why nutritionists agree there’s no reason to juice or cleanse.  I’ve always been of the belief that juicing wasn’t a healthy weight-loss strategy however, as it turns out, it’s the only option for tongue patch participants. Full story here.

Is Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt – Don’t throw away your running shoes just yet.  New research on barefoot running shows that the claims that going barefoot or with a minimalist shoe makes runners faster and stronger are not substantiated.  The latest studies indicate a myriad of problems with going shoeless including an increased risk of injury which turns out to be the biggest complaint amonst  barefoot runners.  The NYTimes article can be found here.

I hope you enjoy the links. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Spinach Hummus Recipe

I started making my own hummus a few months ago after I spent the weekend at my sister-in-law’s and she had homemade hummus.

There are some excellent commercial hummus products on the market, but the flavor of hummus that is made in your own kitchen has such a fresh taste.  It’s inexpensive to make and there are endless add-ins that you can mix together to make a variety of healthy flavors.

This is a basic hummus recipe that includes a half of a cup of fresh spinach.  The flavor and texture are both excellent. 

Spinach Hummus

 Ingredients:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas (15 oz), drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

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Take Your Life Off Of Auto-Pilot and Go Some Place Different

“Between stimulus and response there’s a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
— Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.

If you’re choosing to live on auto-pilot, maybe it’s time to go some place different.

Happy businessmen

We all have that person in our life, a partner, a friend, a boss, that are so predictable that we know what they’re going to say before they do.  Their reaction to situations and events – good or bad – is inevitable.  It’s what we’ve come expect from them and rarely do they let us down.

That person usually feels the same way about us.

Most of us spend the majority of our lives on auto-pilot.  We live inside  a comfortable routine.  Not just a routine where we get up at the same time every day, drive the same path to work, and eat the same thing for lunch.  Our thoughts have a routine too. When this happens we think that. When that happens we think this. It’s almost as though it’s pre-determined.

No wonder we’re bored and feel stuck in our existence.

But slipping into a routine thinking pattern that’s typical for you when the boss questions items on your expense report, your daughter doesn’t get picked for the travelling softball team, or justifying hitting the snooze instead of meeting your friend for a morning run, is not pre-destiny. It’s a habit.  And it’s a habit that’s worth changing.

Living in The Space Between Stimulus and Response

The way to truly change our lives is to figure out how to live in that space that comes between stimulus and response. To do this we have to practice self-regulated thinking and train ourselves to bring our mental processes under greater voluntary control.  It requires mindfulness.

Learning to be mindful isn’t a new topic for this blog.  It’s one that I revisit on a regular basis because it has become a huge focus of my own life since I completed my wellness coaching certification.  Through the certification process I discovered there is an undeniable connection between  mindfulness and goal achievement.  It is only when we get control of those random, repetitive thought patterns that we are all a victim of,  that we can achieve our goals, change our behaviors and ultimately find happiness.  We can’t change our lives until we change our thoughts.

You Can Be Mindful

You can train yourself to come off of auto-pilot and have fresh responses to the typical, mundane events that happen daily as well as the more extraordinary things that take place that you find yourself overreacting emotionally to.

1.  Practice.  The key to mindfulness is being able to recognize that space between stimulus and reaction. Each day practice being consciously aware of where that space is.

2.  Choose. When you’re cut off in traffic do you usually give the perpetrator a hand signal and call them a name that starts with ‘d’ and ends with a double ‘s’?  That’s a typical knee-jerk response for many of us and it’s a useless one.  Practice choosing your response to stimuli in place of just reacting.

3.  Self-regulate.  Self-regulation comes down to four words: Be. In. The. Moment.  I’ve been chosen to lead a rather significant project at work.  Yesterday I had an hour long phone conference related to the project.  Thirty minutes into the call my cell phone vibrated and I caught myself reaching for it to check my personal e-mail account.  I’m certain there was nothing new in my Yahoo mail more important than the information being delivered on the call but I felt compelled to check it. Technology makes it hard for us to concentrate on the here and now. Instead of checking the phone every time someone sends you a tweet, ‘likes’ your Facebook status, or a junk e-mail lands in your inbox, ignore it and practice living in the moment.

3.   Breath. Not only are most of our thoughts repetitive, the majority are also negative. You’ll know when you’re stuck on auto pilot because you’ll be thinking the same repetitive thoughts you think all day every day.  Tune in to these thought cycles and break the chain by taking three long, deep, cleansing breaths to reset your brain.  Start a new thought pattern that is focused on finding a different way to go after something.

4.  Meditate.  Meditation is, in itself, mindfulness training.  When you meditate you’re focused only on your breathing, your muscles relaxing, imaginary waves hitting the shore.  For those of us who have thoughts that skip all over the place, spending a few minutes in meditation each day trains our brain so it goes where we lead it instead of the other way around.

5.  Surprise!  Remember those people in your life that are expecting your same-ole-same-ole response when they ask you a question or make a suggestion they know you’re not going to like? Once you accomplish the art of mindfulness you will surprise them with a unique response that can take your relationship down a new and better path.  Who knows?  It may propel them into a round of their own fresh thinking.

Connect The Dots

Do you know someone who has lost weight only to gain it back, not just once, but three or four times.  Each time they start on a new program they are completely motivated.  They watch what they eat.  They log extra workouts. They’re careful not to splurge on high calorie foods? In the beginning they lose a considerable amount of weight, almost reaching their goal. Then something happens.  The motivation wanes.  They’re too tired to work out.  They’re justifying eating ice cream for dinner.

Why?

Because that’s what happened to them the first time they lost weight. They blew it.  They tapped out.  They gave up.  Now the same thing is happening because they’re on auto pilot. They are thinking the same repetitive, negative thoughts they did at this point the first, second and third time around.  They want to stick with it but they’re unable to recognize that sweet space between stimulus and response.

It’s not only a problem with weight-loss strategies.  Maybe you’re a relationship sabotager.  Or is it your career that’s floundering? It may be that you’re on auto-pilot and don’t realize that you have the power to choose a different, more positive way of responding to your surroundings. Viktor Frankl said it so well.  That choice is where growth and freedom lies.

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Are you choosing your responses to events and situations or are you travelling through life on auto-pilot?

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