Final Days for the Blog Give-Away.

You can’t win, if you don’t enter! 

I have eight newly released workout DVDs from Lionsgate to give away.  To enter, just put the name of the DVD(s) that you would like to win in the comment box at the end of this post.

I will be selecting the winners on Saturday, January 19th.  You have until Friday, January 18 at 5 p.m. to put a comment in the box letting me know which DVD you would like to win.

Workout DVDs 2

Your choices are:

  • Ballet Beautiful: Body Blast
  • The Biggest Loser:  Power Ab Blast
  • The Biggest Loser:  30-Day Power X-Train
  • Billy Blanks Jr. Dance Party Boot Camp
  • Denise Austin: Fit in a Flash
  • Denise Austin: Shrink Your 5 Fat Zones
  • Jane Fonda: Prime Time AM/PM Yoga For Beginners
  • Step Up Revolution Workout

For a review of each DVD, click here.

Good luck!

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Couch To 5K Apps To Get You Up And Running

The Best Couch To 5K Apps

If you’re embracing the Couch to 5K program and are looking for an option other than wearing a stop watch to clock your jog/walk intervals, try one of these apps.  They are designed to keep you on pace and motivated:

Download a Couch to 5K app to keep track of your workouts. --Flickr photo by Calgary Reviews

1.  RunDouble – The RunDouble Couch to 5K App takes you through the nine week program and cues you as to when you need to walk and jog while music from your playlist – or even Pandora – plays in the background.  The app tracks your distance and provides pace and distance updates as you run.  You can try the RunDouble app for two weeks free.  After that, the upgrade is only $1.60. Available at the Google Play Store.

2.  Couch-to-5K – The Couch-to-5k is brought to you by Active.com and is the official Cool Running Couch to 5K program.  With this app you can select an interactive coach, listen to you own music, track your progress and even get hooked up to discounts for 5Ks in your area.  You can download the app for $1.99.  Available for Android, iPhone, iPad.

3.  Jeff Galloway’s 5K App – This app uses Jeff’s unique Run-Walk-Run training method.  (need link to this) and uses technology that matches the tempo of your music to your pace.  The app includes GPS tracking and 15 tracks of high energy fitness music for free.  Available at the iTunes store.

4.  Fun Run – The Fun Run app includes four program:  A nine week couch to 5k and a six week C25K if you’re already doing some running and don’t need to start at the beginning.  Once you complete the 5K you can use the Couch to 10K 13 week program or Boost to 10K program.  Play your music in the background and listen to voice prompts for pace changes.  This app will also maintain a log of your progress.  Available at Google Play Store.

5.  Get Running – Has many of the same features as the apps #1 through #4.  Pace cues, integrates music from your playlist, and a tracker that logs your workouts.  The reviews for this app are excellent.  What people like most is the female voice that provides pace cues and words of encouragement. Available for $1.99 at the iTunes Store.

Using an app that will track your progress, provide verbal cues, and keep you on pace is key to keeping with with the nine week Couch to 5K program.  These are just a few of the apps that are on the marketplace.

Have you tried any of these apps or is there another one that you’re hooked on and has helped you reach your goal to run a 5K?

Qnexa: Real Weight Loss Solution or A Class Action Law Suit Waiting To Happen?

Are You Thinking About Asking Your Doctor For A Prescription To Qnexa?  

On July 17 news broke that the FDA finally approved a weight loss drug.  Qnexa is the first weight loss supplement to be approved by the FDA in 13 years and news of its upcoming release to the market is what many people have been hoping to hear.  Some are probably asking their doctors about getting access to the drug while you’re reading this.

Is Qnexa A Magic Pill?

What You Need To Know About Qnexa. 

I was at a health fair last week and an employee told me she’s thinking about asking her doctor for a prescription to Qnexa and wanted to know what I thought.  I think that – despite the fact that the FDA does due diligence before it puts a stamp of approval on anything – there are some things you should consider before signing up:

1.  Qnexa is a combination of phentermine and topiramate.

Topiramate is an anti-episepsy medication which increases the sensation of feeling full. Research on topiramate has shown that pregnant women exposed to the drug have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with cleft palates.

Phentermine is an amphetamine.  Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system and can be both physically and psychologically addictive when overused.  On the street, amphetamines are referred to as ‘speed’.

2.  The FDA failed to approve Qnexa in 2010 because of concerns about the drug’s side effects that include heart palpitations, an increased heart rate, mental fogginess, and birth defect.

3.  On July 17, 2012 the FDA panel voted 20 to 2 for approval of Qnexa and, according to ABC news, said that they believe the weight loss benefits outweigh the risk of birth defects and cardiovascular problems associated with the drug.

4.  The FDA panel that approved the drug made a recommendation to the manufacturer that it include warning labels targeted at women of childbearing years because of possible birth defects that are linked to the drug such as cleft palate.

5.  There is a long history of safety problems with diet pills once they hit the market and are used outside of the pilot group.  Diet pills like Fen-phen seemed like a good idea at one time.  The manufactures of Fen-phen have now settled a class action lawsuit for 3.75 billion after the drug was linked to heart valve disease.  You can read more about Fen-phen, the wonder drug, in a post I wrote earlier this year.

There Are Always Two Sides

On the flip side, Qnexa is an additional tool that doctor’s can offer their patients that are struggling to lose weight.  Until now, weight loss options have been limited to diet, exercise, and, in some cases, bariatric surgery.   If Qnexa can help patients lose 10 percent of their body weight – which is what the manufacturer claims it can do – with minimal side effects, it will be a benefit for thousands of people.

The drug has the potential to be even more effective when used in combination with the proper diet, moderate amounts of exercise and counseling.  Qnexa, along with healthier lifestyle choices, could give people the jump-start they need to succeed at long-term weight loss.

I told the employee that raised the question about Qnexa that I would pass on being part of the pilot program.  Wait until Qnexa has been on the market at least a year and see if there are any red flags, recalls, or additional warnings in terms of side effects.  It took almost two years for the heart valve issues associated with Fen-phen use to be brought to light.  If there is a dark and dangerous side to Qnexa that the manufacturer and FDA are not aware of now, it will surface, and probably sooner rather than later.

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center said, “Honestly, I won’t be surprised if adverse effects over time result in a reversal of the approval.  But, in the interim, it will help some people lose weight, and many others will try it, dislike it and stop, and gain the weight back.”

Is Dr. Katz Right?

What do you think? Would you be interested in trying Qnexa? Do the possible side effects make it not worth the risk?

Winner! The Wellness Code Book Give Away

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Ruth – the winner of the Wellness Code book giveaway.  Thank you to everyone who posted a comment, is a Facebook Fan or Twitter follower.  This was my first give-away and I totally enjoyed it!

 Coming Soon . . . . . .

As promised, in August I’ll be giving away Cathe Friedrich’s CrossFire DVD.  It is a mixture of HIIT, Tabata and strength training circuits. CrossFire is a powerhouse workout that you can do at home. I posted a clip of the DVD awhile back.  You can watch it here.

Stay tuned for details on how you can win.

 

Be Fit’s Yoga For Weight Loss With Sadie Nardini Isn’t For Sissies

Be Fit’s Yoga For Weight Loss Premieres Here

Liongate’s Be Fit YouTube channel has added a weight-loss yoga workout to their programming.  Yoga for Weight Loss with Sadie Nardini takes you through a series of poses designed to strengthen the core, sculpt lean muscles and burn calories.

Sadie does some difficult poses in this 15 minute workout. You may want to watch it one time through before you follow along, and modify the deeper moves as needed.

I’ve posted the Yoga for Weight Loss program below so you can take a quick look.  Be sure and visit the Be Fit Channel where you’ll find a variety of workouts. Be Fit offers everything from Hip Hop dance to the Jillian Michaels’ shred series, and Dancing With The Stars workouts. By subscribing to Be Fit you’ll receive notice as a new workout is added each week.  For a previous post that I wrote introducing Be Fit, click here.

Sadie Nardini – Yoga Rock Star

Sadie Nardini is called the rock star of yoga.  She is the author of “Core Strength” and the creator of the Total Transformation Yoga DVDs; both bestsellers on Amazon.  She brings the ultimate of flow technique to yoga and uses cutting edge strategies to cue her students on alignment and anatomy. It’s a mistake to underestimate the challenge of her workouts, including the one posted here.

As a teen, Sadie dealt with an undiagnosed central nervous system illness that caused her to be nearly paralyzed for over two years. For the 10 years that followed, Sadie fought back and used yoga, nutrition and mental focus to conquer a disease that doctors believed to be incurable.

You can read more about Sadie here.

Be Fit Updates - I’m excited about Liongate’s Be Fit Channel and their commitment to offering a variety of free, quality workouts that are for public consumption. It’s absolutely possible that they are the answer to the beloved Exercise TV, may it rest in peace.

You can expect regular updates from me as new workouts are released to the Be Fit YouTube site. If you don’t want to miss out, please subscribe to this site or become a fan of my Facebook Fan page where I regularly offer blog posts updates in the news feed .

 

Exercise and Cancer: Don’t Overlook The Benefits

Today’s post is written by Guest Blogger David Haas who writes for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance web site.  

Exercise programs like Yoga can help the fatigue that comes accompanies cancer and treatments.

Exercise and Cancer – Benefits and Suggestions 

Whether you have recently been diagnosed with cancer or if you have had cancer in the past and are in remission, physical exercise is beneficial and should be part of your health routine. The National Institutes of Health recommends exercise as a way to help your body fight the cancer and to provide a healthy foundation for your body.

Benefits of Exercise

There can be no denying that cancer is a scary health condition. However, research repeatedly shows the benefits of exercising regardless of your cancer status. According to WebMD exercise provides a number of benefits for cancer patients.

Exercise can improve mood. One of the common problems for many cancer patients is depression and feelings of anxiety. Exercise releases neurochemicals in the brain that stimulate the “feel good” centers of the brain, lifting your mood naturally. Recent research has shown that depressed mood can actually contribute to repressed immune system function; so exercising to naturally lift you out of depression is a definite benefit in your battle against cancer.

Another benefit to exercise is that it can reduce fatigue. Fatigue is a major problem for many cancer patients. Exercising naturally lifts and boosts metabolism and gives your body energy, fighting fatigue.

Exercise Suggestions

Whether you are dealing with breast cancer or going through mesothelioma treatment, you can benefit from movement and exercise. If you have limited mobility try light stretching exercises or yoga. This type of exercise will increase your flexibility and help make movement easier.

Try isometric exercises or resistance training. This type of exercise will build muscle and burn fat. One of the common problems for people with cancer is that they lose muscle. If you have an especially high fat-to-lean mass muscle ratio, resistance training, such as weight lifting can be particularly beneficial.

Aerobic exercise, like walking, swimming, biking or jogging can be wonderful in building up heart health and expanding your lung capacity. Cardiovascular exercise burns calories and helps your body lose weight overall. This type of exercise helps lower the risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

Even if you are currently in remission from your cancer, you can receive benefits from maintaining a healthy exercise routine. Exercise not only provides you with a healthy foundation for your overall health, but can also contribute to avoiding a recurrence of cancer. If you are currently in treatment, try to at least do some flexibility exercise to get your body moving and increase your endurance and stamina.

I’m Sorting Through Cheeseburgers, The National Anthem, And Google+. I Need Your Help

 

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It’s Been A Really, Really Messed Up Week

This has really been a week.  Not so much in the world of health and wellness news, but certainly in other areas.  Do you ever find yourself thinking that in the 24/7 news media world that we live in we are subjected to too much information? Forgive me that I’m deviating from this blog’s usual topics, but sometimes a gal has to step outside of the day-to-day and try to make sense of the world around her.  Here’s what I’ve learned this week:

  • Some things are better left unsaid.
  • There are things that I do not need to know.
  • There are things I’ll never understand.
  • It is a crazy, wacky world that we live in.
  • It’s hard to escape the deluge of crazy wackiness

Things Better Left Unsaid

In an interview with ESPN2 Pat Sajak tells the reporter that there were a number of times that he and Vanna White were drunk while taping the shows.  He said that there was a restaurant across the street from the recording studio that they would go to between shows and indulge in Margaritas.  Sometimes they had four or five drinks. Why would anyone admit that they were drunk on the job?  

Later in the week, Pat started backing away from what he said in the interview.  He now says that he exaggerated the drinking episodes to the reporter and there were only a few times when they had a Margarita or two between shows.  I’m thinking Vanna got wind of the story and told him to fix it.  Now.

This is blather.  Divulging personal information that is not meant to be shared or making exaggerations to make a good story is what happens when the competition is so steep we think we have to say things – sometimes stupid things – to stand out.

More Things Better Left Unsaid

Paula Deen is seen eating a cheeseburger, or according to ABC news, “wolfing down a cheeseburger” and had fries on her plate too!  The haters have really been after Paula the past two weeks.  She has taken a lot of grief for coming late to party in telling the public that she has been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and now doesn’t seem to be cleaning up her act.

Then of course Paula’s competitor, food chef Anthony Bourdain, added gas to the flame with his tweet that he’s “thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business so he can sell crutches later on”.  I’ve never been a Paula fan. The bacon and egg cheeseburger sandwiched between two donuts that she came up with a few years ago offended me.  I see no point it deliberately trying to create something that could win the award for the Unhealthiest Meal On The Planet.  How is that helpful?

Anthony got as much publicity out of his derogatory tweet as Paula got with her cheeseburger and fries. Maybe the famous saying, “Together we can change the world one good deed at a time,” should be changed to “one good tweet at a time”.

Some Things I Could Live Just As Well Not Knowing

Did you hear the one about the 17 year old girl that was rushed to the hospital emergency room after she collapsed while having trouble breathing?  Upon examining her, the doctors learned that since the age of two she had rarely eaten anything except fast food chicken nuggets. Fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods were completely missing from her diet.

The mother claims that she has tried to get her daughter to eat other things but wasn’t successful because her daughter liked the nuggets so much.The article does not say that the steady diet of nuggets led to the young girl’s health issues or the trip to the E.R.. It does not quote the doctors as saying any such thing either.  We are left to draw our own conclusions.  My conclusion is that the nuggets aren’t the primary problem here, however ridiculous that may sound.  This is a mother-daughter team that is destined for the Dr. Phil Show.

This can be classified as a non-story and one I could have lived just as well without reading. By the way, this story has been tweeted 934 times and received 164 comments – so far.

Some Things I’ll Never Understand

Why is it that every article I read about generating traffic to my web site insists that I have to have a Facebook presence, send out tweets on a regular basis and be LinkedIn?  As if that’s not bad enough, now I have to find people to follow me on Google+.  Apparently Google favors people that have a solid Google+ following and ranks them higher in the search engine food chain. Where am I going to find all of these people that think I’m interesting enough to follow me every time I post, tweet or update my status somewhere?

I’m a follower of Jay Dolan’s Anti-Social Media blog.  His post “No One Will Hang Out With Me on Google+” hit home. No one will hang out with me either.  In fact, I don’t even know where to go to find people to ask.  The idea that I have to be popular in the social media world to generate site traffic irks me.  I’m a busy person.  If I have to spend my time tweeting, linking, sharing and plussing, I won’t have time to write these insightful, entertaining posts or play Words With Friends.

It’s A Crazy, Wacky World We Live In 

My number one pet peeve of the week was all of the negative publicity Steven Tyler got after singing the National Anthem at the AFC Championship on Sunday.  The LA Times is taking a poll to find out if people think it’s the worst ever. Give me a break!

If you ask Steven Tyler to sing the National Anthem at a ball game he is going to sound like Steven Tyler when he does it.  I don’t see any way around that one.  The phrase most used to describe his performance was that he ‘butchered’ the song.  I didn’t think so.

People that think he butchered the song either a.) don’t know who Steven Tyler is or b.) are jealous of the 63 years old rock star worth 0 million that can stand on a football field in the freezing cold and belt out the Anthem.   The comments sections below the articles I read show that Steven still has a huge fan base and nearly everyone defended his performance.

Also, have you ever noticed how every time a performer is dissed because of they way they sang the anthem people still bring up the Roseanne Barr? That’s tiring.

It’s Hard To Escape The Wackiness

It’s hard to escape the deluge of constant information.  Some days I feel like checking out completely.  What would a day without texts, tweets, shares, likes and links be like? Peaceful. Tranquil. Stress-free.  Q-U-I-E-T.

Do you agree with me?  If you do, be sure and click one of the social sharing buttons below.  I would love it if you tweeted or shared my blog with the rest of the world.  If you’re on Google+ be sure and click that one. I’m trying to get Google to like me again.  Thank you.

Desperately Trying To Fall In Love . . . With Zumba.

Flickr photo by Cimm

The Zumba Craze That Has Swept The Planet Has Captured Everyone But Me

Why am I having so much trouble falling in love with Zumba?  I’m a step-junkie, boot camp-aholic and like Turbo Kick but I don’t get the Zumba craze.  The popularity of the Latin dance fitness party that has swept the country is a mystery to me.

I went to a Zumba class yesterday.  This wasn’t my first.  I’ve taken several different classes with various instructors.  Overall, I’m not a fan of dance-style workouts or classes where you do the same ‘routine’ for several weeks in a row.  My biggest beef with Zumba however is the hype over it. That, along with the all of the Zumba gear that the instructors wear, and the claims that you burn 800 calories a workout leaves me unimpressed.

Not All Zumba Classes Are Created Equal

There are some things about Zumba that strike me as being a little off the beam and don’t really line up with the advertisements you see about the program.

The official Zumba web site says that the basic instructor course teaches four basic rhythms that you will learn how to put together into a song to create your first Zumba class.  After attending the training you are certified to teach Zumba for one year.  There are no prerequisites to become certified except taking the training.

There is a huge variation between levels of instruction not dissimilar to what you find with any other fitness class that you attend.  After completing the training, It is entirely up to the instructor to make it work and to motivate the class.

I have been to a Zumba class where hip-hop dance steps were done to top 40 music.  We moved to Justin Beiber’s “Baby” and Ciara’s “Hotline”. This class did not use Latin music and did not incorporate any moves that resembled a salsa or a mamba.  The class would not be recognizable as Zumba except that the instructor wore the popular Zumba gear.

The class I went to yesterday was taught by an instructor also outfitted in Zumba pants, tank and head wrap.  She went from song to song working through a series of  Latin-style dances without a breakdown of any of the movements or doing any cuing. We were in a large space.  She didn’t wear a mic and did not speak to the class throughout the session.  There wasn’t even a shout out of “great job you guys!”  The people that have been coming to her class followed along and were enjoying themselves.  The rest of us were lost.

I have been to other fitness classes where I didn’t get a great workout, the instructor didn’t connect with the class and the cuing was weak. That happens. For some reason I don’t expect it with Zumba.

Calorie Burn

The Zumba web site says that the number of calories burned per class varies per person but you can burn “hundreds of calories per class”.  These claims are also made by some of the instructors.  During one class I attended the instructor said that you burn around 800 calories per hour.  I believe this to be an absolutely false statement.

The number of calories an individual burns, whether they are in a fitness class or sitting in a chair, is so individual it’s impossible to claim that people will burn a certain number of calories doing the workout  Calorie burn is based on Basal Metabolic Index which is as individual as a fingerprint.  No two people are the same.

Still, studies have been shown to draw conclusions that we can come close to determining how many calories we burn based on age and weight. A 160 pound person burns approximately 533 calories during one hour of high impact aerobics.  That same person would burn 365 calories an hour in low impact aerobics, which is what I consider Zumba to be. How much the individual is putting into the workout, and what they get their heart rate up to are also determining factors. People that weigh more burn more calories; people that weigh less burn less.

So what’s the problem with instructors promoting that the class burns 800 calories an hour?  If the people attending the class are there because they want to lose weight it gives them the liberty to increase the amount of food they eat so that the calories-in, calories-out deficit isn’t sufficient to cause weight loss. To say 800 calories are burned is misleading. It’s also over promising and it waters down the credibility of the entire program in the same way an instructor teaching Zumba to Justin Beiber does.

What’s Right With Zumba

Zumba is reaching a segment of the population that hasn’t been reached before.  People that might be intimidated working out on their own in a gym, or joining higher intensity classes can go to Zumba and have fun moving around for an hour.  The classes are predominantly large so even if you’ve never done it before, you can sneak into the back row and follow along inconspicuously.

A workout movement that gets people exercising two or three hours a week that might not otherwise not get that amount of physical activity is a definite positive.  Two to three hours of moderate physical activity a week goes a long way towards improving overall health.

The Zumba Story

The creator of Zumba, Alberto Perez, created the class by accident when he forgot the music C.D. he needed to teach his evening aerobics class.  He hunted around in his car for music to use and ended up dropping in a C.D. filled with mostly Latin music from which he ad-libbed some dance moves to go with  His class loved it and the craze began.

That was in Columbia in 1996.  Since that time the workout party has swept the planet and is taught in 105 countries with an estimated 7.5 million attendees. A look at the web site leaves no doubt that Zumba is a huge money-making machine.  Zumba.com sells instructor trainings, Zumba clothes, workout DVDs and music, toning sticks, and even a magazine.

Is It Just Me?

There has been so much excitement about what an awesome, calorie burning workout Zumba is. I know people that are fully engulfed in the Zumba craze and fitness instructors that live and breathe it.  It is the class with highest attendance at the Y where I teach and has been since it was  introduced there.

So why can’t I fall in love with it?  I think it’s the overpromise, under-deliver factor.  I always expect a great, energizing, intense workout, but what I usually get is a series of memorized dance steps that I find it impossible to get my heart rate up doing.  I’m certain there are some excellent Zumba instructors out there in those 105 countries, but I think it’s hit and miss. My experience with Zumba is that it under delivers and doesn’t live up to the hype.

Incredibly Thin and Deliciously Irresistible . . . . Coming Soon to a Workspace Near You

Flickr photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

The Annual Girl Scout Cookie Sale Starts Today . . . .
I’ll get some Thin Mints but I won’t eat them.  I’ll and put them in the freezer.

By this time next week every employee breakroom in the northern hemisphere will have at least one Girl Scout Cookie order form.  I’ve heard rumors of a new cookie this year, but a spokesperson from our local council said that’s not really true.  There are two bakers that make the GS cookies and our area is using a baker that they haven’t used in years past – or at least recently – so an old cookie will seem new.  New to us anyway.

The History of Girl Scout Cookies at My House
Not only were my daughters Girl Scouts, they were the top cookie sellers in their troop because my husband and I would take the order forms to work.  We were always amazed at how fast those forms filled up!  People wait all year for them to go on sale.  Everyone was so generous in purchasing multiple boxes from my girls, It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t return the favor and buy a couple of boxes from my worker-mom friends. To put in the freezer, of course.

I Feel Obligated To Enlighten You
If you want the scoop on how many calories are in these wonderful once-a-year delights, keep reading.  If you believe ignorance is bliss, click here.

Let’s start with the all time favorite and work down.

  • Thin Mints: Serving Size – 4 cookies for 160 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Samoas:  Serving Size – 2 cookies for 140 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Trefoils (shortbread): Serving Size – 4 cookies for 120 calories and 4.5 grams of fat
  • Do-si-dos (peanut butter sandwich): Serving Size – 3 cookies for 160 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Tagalongs (peanut butter patty):  Servings Size – 2 cookies for 108 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Dulce de Leche: Serving Size – 4 cookies for 160 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Lemonades:  Serving Size – 2 cookies for 150 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Shout Outs!:  Serving Size – 4 cookies for 130 calories and 5 grams of fat
  • Thanks-a-Lot: Serving Size – 2 cookies for 150 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Thank U Berry Munch: Serving Size – 2 cookies for 120 calories and 5 grams of fat
  • Savannah Smiles (the new cookie): 5 cookies for 140 calories and 5 grams of fat

I notice that the new kid on the block – the Savannah Smiles – has a serving size of five cookies for 140 calories.  They must be itty-bitty.

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)

Q.  How many Girl Scout cookies can a gal/guy eat in one sitting?
A.  If it’s the Thin Mints, probably the whole sleeve.  They are incredibly addicting!

Q.  What should my daily limit be?
A.  That’s totally up to the individual and depends on how many extra calories you want to have to work off every day.  Unfortunately the calories-in, calories-out scientific stuff applies to GS cookies too.

Q. How can we administer effective portion control methods?
A.  I have no clue.  Put them on a smaller plate maybe?

How Are You Going To Put Down These Cookies?!?
I apologize that I don’t have some amazingly effective strategies to help you put down the Girl Scout cookies.  I know freezing them doesn’t work.  The Thin Mints are just as good frozen.  Refusing to buy them would be a good strategy, but they turn up everywhere you go so that would only help a little.

Do consider yourself duly warned that they are headed your way.  If you have found an effective way to put ‘em down, please let the rest of know what your secret is!

 

Reflections On A Six Month Old Blog. It’s Been A Challenge, But I’ve Had Help.

It’s January 2, 2012 – I’ve been blogging for six months now.  I’m not exactly sure when the moment was that I decided that I would start a blog – or why – but once the wheels were set in motion it began to consume my attention in a way that I never imagined.

So much of my time is now spent reading other blogs, reading tips about how-to-blog, digesting information about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), researching topics to blog about, checking out customized WordPress themes, updating the sidebar, searching for plug-ins, tweeting and re-tweeting, commenting on other blogs, figuring out what I’m doing.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming but always it is fun.

I’ve read about so many bloggers that started a site and it either morphed into something else or they shut it down and started over. Some bloggers have several sites going at one time and they invite ‘guests’ to post on their blog.  This helps the blogger because they get fresh content on their site without having to write something and the guest gets a new audience that can easily follow a link back to their own site, hence increased traffic.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.  I Know What I Need To Do . . . . . But It Takes So Much Time!

I’ve read about all of the things that you have to do to get traffic to your site: generate fresh content, do your homework on common key word searches, read and comment on other blogs, create a network of Twitter followers, sign up for community blog sites like Technorati and Blogcatalog, submit posts to blogcarnivals, fill every post and page with external, internal and back links, blog at least three times a week, blog everyday, and ultimately try and stay in the good graces of Google so you can work your way up the food chain.

The list is never ending and it would be nearly impossible for someone totally clueless  like me to get out of the starting gate without  help from the folks out there that know more about how the internet and web site development works than I ever will.

What follows is a list of the extremely innovative and technically savvy folks that, were it not for their sites, I would have never made it through the first six months.  I continue to learn from each and every one of them.  If you’re a new blogger, these sites can help you too.

To All Of The People That Have Helped Me That Don’t Know It!

Christian PF (Personal Finance) – This is where it all began.  This was the very first how-to blog article I read when the moment came that I decided I was going to reserve a spot for myself on the world wide web.  Although Christian PF is a web site in the personal finance niche, the article that I came up when I threw a string of words, such as ‘how do I start a blog’ at Google, was “How To Make Money With A Blog”.  I didn’t even know how to set up a blog and had surely not considered that it could be a revenue source!

This article reads like a how-to-blog tutorial and helped me make some very important start-up decisions that I absolutely believe saved me some pain and suffering down the road.  Because of Bob Lotich suggestions, I decided to spend a little money up-front to purchase my own .com through HostGator and use WordPress.org as my blogging platform; both excellent choices.

As a new blogger, there’s no way to incorporate all of Bob’s suggestions so I have the article bookmarked to refer back to whenever I feel like I’m ready to take the next step. For anyone that plans to launch a web site and isn’t quite sure where to begin, “How To Make Money With A Blog” is totally packed with information and is a must read.

Copyblogger – I found and began subscribing to Copyblogger after, again, doing some random key word search about how to build a better blog.  You would think after awhile all of these how-to posts would sound the same.  Not true.  And I should know because I’ve read hundreds of them.

Copyblogger is unique in a way that is hard to describe, but if you visit the site, you’ll see along the sidebar titles like, “21Ways To Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue”, “Five Simple Ways To Open Your Blog With A Bang”, and my personal favorite, “The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine”.

The posts are as intriguing as the titles.  I must admit, some of the content on Copyblogger is over my head, which challenges me to learn more.  But that’s okay.  I now know that mastering this concept of post-it-and-they-will-come is going to take a very long time and as a Copyblogger subscriber I won’t miss out on any of the fascinating updates.

Blog Tips – The best thing about this web site is that – as the name suggests –  readers subscribe to daily blog tips.  As a beginner there’s no such thing as too many tips.

Many of the tips are short and you can read them in a few minutes. I find they are easy to read from my phone which I like.  They are always insightful and provide me with information about something new I can try, something I’ve heard before but never had a chance to check out or just common sense stuff that new bloggers need to hear over and over like, ‘be patient’, ‘developing an audience takes time’ and ‘don’t give up’.

When I hear my phone chime to alert me to new mail that has landed in my Yahoo mail box, I’m eager to see if a daily blog tip has arrived for me to devour.

Hollaback Health – The Bloggers’ Blog.  I love this site.  It is all about helping people that are blogging in the health and wellness niche.  There are eight Hollaback Girls in all and they supply the Hollaback  Health site with content that is – for lack of a fancier way to say it – really, really helpful and they keep it very real.

I think I got hooked when I read “Four Reasons Your Penchant For Irrelevant Self-Portraits is Ruining Your Blog” because I thought, “Yes!” I absolutely agree that a blog that looks like you’ve inadvertently been linked out to MySpace doesn’t really belong in the health and wellness world.  Or “Mommy, Wow! I’m a Big Blogger Now” which in a nutshell says to the reader, “So act like one”.

A Blog To Remember –  A relatively new blog about a woman’s blogging journey.  I wish I had thought of that!  Something I love about this blog is that Karen Stevens began her ‘journey’ about the same time I did and the content is so relavant to my experiences.

For someone that is new at this, Karen’s design stands out with a custom header, exceptional color scheme and easy to read layout.  A Blog To Remember has a slideshow on the Home page and all of the posts display a teaser that you can click on if you want to read the full post.  I’m taking notes from this blog and think that mine will start to look similar to it in 2012.

I am a little worried about Karen though.  She hasn’t blogged since November 30th.  I hope she taking a haitus and hasn’t gotten discouraged. Maybe if we all put a comment on one of her posts or give her a few Facebook likes she’ll get back to posting.

Cranky Fitness – Crabby McSlacker, author of Cranky Fitness is a rock star blogger.  Even though she’s way out of my league I’ve subscribed to her site.  I figure, why not learn from the best!  Her writing is funny and fresh and she has this way of changing her mind a lot using the strikethrough key in place of the backspace.  Cranky is both my blogging and sense of humor mentor. Cranky Fitness is just pure fun and you don’t have to be a fitness junkie to enjoy it.

Blogging Without A Blog – Barbara Swafford started her blog in 2007 by writing everything she was trying to learn about blogging in a notebook when she realized that she was blogging without a blog.  Since that time her site has taken on a life of it’s own.

This is one of those sites that I could spend all day reading because it has awesome content and comments and the design is one of the best I think I’ve seen.  Barbara’s blog looks like an open notebook.  Barbara calls Blogging Without A Blog an on-line ‘blogging classroom’, so if there are newbies reading this, check it out.  There is much to learn from Barbara. You won’t be disappointed.

Traffic Generation Café – Question: What does every new blogger think about ALL the time?  Answer: How to get more traffic to their site.  The Traffic Generation Café devotes the entire site to this topic alone.

It’s hard to image there would be this much to write about traffic generation, but Ana has post after post and page after page that will help you market your web site in ways that you’ve never thought of. I will confess that I can only read one or two posts at a time at this site.  Ana is so much smarter than I am and doing everything on such a different level that I tend to get overwhelmed at the café.

This is site that you will want to bookmark or hit the subscribe button so you can stay on top of Ana’s posts.  It’s amazing.

Flickr photo by jmoneyyyyyy

What Will 2012 Bring?  Bring It On!  Now that we’ve rolled into 2012 I’m wondering what my blog will morph into this year.  I have no doubt that it will go through dramatic changes. I’m thinking about a new WordPress theme – I’m just not sure which one, a customized header, and a focus on developing a tighter niche to reach a more targeted audience.

I have what it takes to become a blogger: I’m dedicated to it.  I enjoy it. I’m not overly discouraged or de-motivated by site stats that show less visits per day than I’d like to have. Since I began in August every month is better than the last.

Crazy Creativity Inspires Me

And, as you can see, I have found so many crazily creative bloggers that arouse my thinking, and techy techs that help me figure out stuff like what the heck a Meta Tag is, and brilliant mentors super funny, inspiring women that push me to become more like them. (There are so many more than I can possibly mention here because a blog post really shouldn’t be over 900 words which means this one is already way too long.)  I’m absolutely certain with all of the amazing people that are posting new posts, launching new sites, and pushing their co-bloggers along, that by the end of 2012 I’ll start to get the hang of this.