Time to Make A Plan

How long have you been saying you want to get in shape? How long have you been stuck in that dead end job or still living where you didn’t want to be in the first place? For many people, the answer is a really long time – too long – but they just sit and complain about it. If this resonates with you (or someone in your life), I have one more question: what will it take to get you to get off your butt and do something about it? 

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Blunt, I know, but that’s me. Time spent complaining, being depressed over a situation, wallowing in your inaction is the biggest waste of life I can think of. There’s always something you can do to improve your situation. Usually what’s holding you back is your fear. Fear that changing things might make life worse – you won’t like the new results any better. Fear that you might have to have a conversation of a serious nature (also known as the dreaded confrontation). And the biggest obstacle of all – indecision.

I’ve come to understand that despite the fact that I rarely, if ever, am indecisive, many people are. There are either too many overwhelming choices to pick from, or too few. Either way, they cannot make a decision with conviction for fear that they are making the wrong choice – that another choice might be the better way. Unfortunately they forget the first rule of decisions and planning. You can always change the plan!

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

 

We’re not talking Sophie’s Choice here people. We’re taking a point A to point B choice to get you to your desired goal. If the first step of the plan doesn’t get you in line for the next, revise the plan. Movement, even if not completely successful is better than stagnation. Besides, sometimes movement even in the wrong direction, brings forth an opportunity that you would not otherwise have found.

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I often use the analogy with my Life Coaching clients that they are on a ship, staring intently upon the horizon for another ship to come by so they can jump ship. But as life as proven to me and many, sometimes you have to jump ship and tread water before the next better ship comes along.

So to any of you stuck in a rut reading this, I say make a plan. Don’t second guess yourself, don’t make it too complicated or take too long. Then outline at least the initial steps (first 3-5) and then execute them in a timely fashion. I promise you the next steps will be easier. I’m always here to help should you desire it.

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Time to get off your butt and do something starts NOW!

Random Acts of Kind Words Challenge

Once in a while I’ve seen or heard of surprise random acts of kindness like someone in the car-line at Starbucks paying for the next customer’s coffee. Usually their intentions are to create a spirit of infectious pay-it-forwardness. Unfortunately these generous and genuine “gifts” happen with regular seldomness as we continue to be an inherently self-focused society.

Starbucks Invests Heavily In Drive-Thru Market

As this has been weighing on my mind, the other day at the gym I decided to act spontaneously and complimented a woman who was working clearly very hard at her goal of losing body fat and through all the pain and sweat still looked radiant. I told her “I just wanted to tell you that you look radiant and keep up the good work.” Her first response was one of suspicious caution, so I quickly added “I don’t think any of us give or receive enough compliments lately.” At that, she graced me with a huge smile and said “you’re right. Thank you, I’ll have to pay that sentiment forward.

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There’s no denying that it felt good and I resolved to not only offer more unsolicited complements but to issue a challenge to my friends, clients and blog followers.

Buying a stranger coffee, or helping them out when they’re short at the checkout counter is great, but more than money, we need to lift each other’s spirits more. There’s a lot of negativity out there, and a lot of hectic life being rushed through without stopping to smell the roses or, more aptly in this case, appreciating each other.

Rather than wait for a situational catastrophe (whether personal or global), let’s show our compassionate, giving sides when there’s no reason to do so other than to brighten someone else’s day, and in turn brighten our own.

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So here’s the challenge: A weekly random act of kind words.

Once a week offer a tactful, graceful, and sincere compliment to a stranger. While you could certainly perform this act daily, I felt that it carries more impact upon your week if you do not over-use the gift, so it remains special.    (Of course if it is to a person of the opposite sex, that’s why I caution to be tactful and sincere – this is not an invitation to hit on someone and come off creepy.)

Let’s do this together for eight weeks (two months) and see what kind of results return our way. Like a pebble dropping into a lake, I suspect the ripples will be profound and wide reaching.

Green Stem and Water Ripple the long goodbye

 

I welcome your comments either here in the response area of my blog, or on my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/danelifefitness).

A Quick and Easy Fitness Trick

Lately the most common question I get from over-weight or too-sedentary individuals, especially seniors, is how they can get a quick fix, short-cut, easy way to burn fat, increase their metabolism, improve their circulation, and strengthen their heart and lungs, all in one low-impact quick exercise. Keep in mind these individuals are usually not prone to enjoying any exercise, and their lack of physical endurance and flexibility makes many basic exercises (like even walking) a chore that they quickly give up on. So for you I offer up my quick, easy and cheap fitness trick:  The Stairs!

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Climbing stairs strengthens your lungs and heart which let you take in more oxygen, which is key to circulation and muscle stimulation and growth, which in turn burns more calories. When you walk up stairs, your body’s response is to release endorphins to handle the “strain.” Endorphins are natural mood lifters and anti-inflamatories. Stress is reduced, focus is improved, and your immune system is enhanced.

A study in European Heart Journal followed 69 hospital employees who used stairs instead of the elevator for about three months. Some of the results for the stair-climbing employees were:

  • Body fat dropped 1.7%
  • Blood pressure fell 2.3%
  • LDL (or bad) cholesterol fell 3.9%
  • Lung capacity went up 8.6%

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Now before you say that you I can barely walk, there’s no way I can handle stairs take a deep breath and consider this, to get any real fitness benefit from walking you have to achieve a certain speed or length, all the while having nothing to hold on to — daunting for many.  With stairs, however, you can get maximum body benefit with as little as one flight.  You don’t even have to spend 20 minutes walking a stair climber at the gym, or handle five flights of stairs at the office. What you will need to do is incorporate steps whenever and where ever you can as much or as little as you can – with the commitment to do so regularly and always push yourself just a little so that you never plateau.

Here are some practical examples of using stairs to better your body:

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Say you have a flight of stairs in your two-story house. You probably always walk up and down them several times a day. Next time you are taking the stairs to go to another room, stop and repeat the up and down (or down and up) 1-2 extra times, then continue on your way. Doing this 3-4 times a day is a simple way of increasing your fitness. Once that becomes easier, increase your speed a touch or add an additional up/down set.

Extra-credit: Sometimes when I walk past my stairs (not intending to use them), I just throw in a quick up and down (or down and up) then continue on my way. Try it!

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OFFICE:

For those of you in a high-rise building (or at least more than three stories), you probably have access to the fire-stairwell.  Even if you’re up too many flights to use the stairs to go to and from – take 2 breaks (one a.m. one p.m.) and walk up and down just 2-3 flights of stairs. Throw in an extra set on your lunch break. Once that is no longer difficult on your system, increase speed or add a set.

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GYM:

Maybe there’s a stair climber at the gym, but since you only attend classes or perform a quick resistance training circuit you’ve never used it.  Well, try adding 3 minutes of stairs climbing to your workouts, 3 times a week. When that become easier, add a few more minutes or increase your speed. An extra 5 minutes to your hectic schedule won’t kill you, and in fact it’ll do just the opposite!

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Important tips:

If you have problematic knees, keep in mind that walking down stairs is harder on the knees than up. Take them sideways (walk turned to the side) on the down, and the pressure is transferred off the patella (knee cap).

Speed is not essential – however, if you always stop just when your heart rate and breathing seem a little strained, you’ll never improve your cardiovascular condition. Take it slow but stay steady and always push yourself just a touch further.

Seniors: if balance or falling is your concern, there’s no reason why you cannot hold on to the railing (especially on the walking downstairs angle).  As long as you continue climbing you will still get the benefit. Just don’t pull yourself along, use the railing for stability but whenever you feel confident (especially on the upstairs), walk without holding on.

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So give it a try, before you know it you stairs will be a part of your daily life that you will enjoy.  Feel free to write me back and tell me your experiences. Now I’m off to run up and down my stairs!

Kids:  They will do what you do.  Teach your children to take the stairs whenever possible.  We must not forget the terrifying rise of childhood obesity in America and this is just one more way to make fitness an automatic aspect of their lives.

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How Good Is Your Word?

From an early age my mother instilled in me a solid work ethic, that being late was a sign of disrespect, and the importance of your word and honoring a commitment. I have never lost these ideals and am now teaching them to my daughter. I am sadly aware, however, that many parents from the generations in between my youth and now seemed to have slacked off on these traits.

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When I became a personal trainer at the ripe age of 42 (20 years older than the average first time trainer) the Fitness Manager at the gym lamented daily about how he wished he had 10 more like me. While the other beginners stood around talking on their phones when they had no clients, I walked the floor, re-racking weights, helping people with their workouts, passing around free samples of our protein bars, etc. I was always on time, never kept a client waiting, and had their workout planned out in advance. Surprisingly I was the anomaly.

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When I was 21 I committed to photographing a co-workers wedding, happy to have a paying gig. Then it turned out that her wedding was taking place over an hour away from where I lived, that I would know no one else, and couldn’t bring a date. I really didn’t want to do it. I thought about what excuse I could make. But my mother’s teachings would not let me off the hook. I had made the commitment – given my word. I sucked it up, drove the 80+ miles by myself, focused politely on my task as photographer, and left four hours later knowing I had done the right thing.

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I find these days that many people do not share these apparently antiquated social ethics. They just weren’t raised with them. Kids call their relatives by their first names, not Aunt or Uncle, etc. I’ve had four play dates for my daughter here at the house this summer, not one of the parents ever reciprocated. I contact my clients the night before their training sessions with a courtesy reminder, yet many clients continue to give last minute cancellations or simply not show up. Friends email me with suggestions of getting together, I reply with multiple dates, and then weeks go by and the dates are missed.

My ultimate pet peeve is tardiness. It simply isn’t in my DNA to be late – and chronic tardiness by friends and clients irritates the heck out of me. There’s no reason for it, especially with all of technology on our side – alarms on smart phones, reminders set with Siri, etc. But alas, I know that time management is not a priority to everyone.

Once again I find myself on a soapbox today, spurned on, no doubt, by having watched Ken Burn’s amazing 14 hour documentary on The Roosevelts. If you want to teach your children about good social ethics, FDR and Eleanor were great examples. Not perfect people, but certainly raised with an ingrained sense of honor, commitment, and respect.

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People used to say “my word is my bond.” It’s a simple statement that says so much about the reliability of a person. I ask you – how good is your word?

Combo Moves: Twice the benefit, half the time

In the 12 years that I have been a Certified Personal Trainer, my approach to training and designing of routines has changed as has the fitness industry itself. There’s always newer, faster, more efficient exercises or equipment that changes how we approach workouts. But I have consistently utilized one favorite technique throughout these 12 years – that of the combo moves.

A combo move is a combination of 2-4 exercises that target either the same muscle group (i.e., biceps) or agonist + antagonist muscles (chest + triceps). The beauty of combo moves, and hence the reason they are still so relevant a tool in workout design, is that they can give you twice the benefit in half the time.

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With everyone wanting to spend less time exercising, while simultaneously seeing quicker and better results, combo moves should be in everyone’s repertoire. Now before you go combining moves on your own, there’s a few things you should be clear on.

First, and foremost, is form. Form is essential to the success of your workouts – good and proper form gives you the most effectiveness in the least amount of time. Often I see a client (usually a man) who is lifting too heavy a weight with too little range of motion, and incorporating multiple muscle groups to help him lift (contraction of the muscle) all of which results in less gain and potential strain. I come in, lower their weight sometimes by half, and see to their proper posture and execution of the exercise. Lo and behold, suddenly they start to see huge results (huge muscles that is) though remarkably they can barely get through a set of ten with the “little” weights I’ve given them.  They may not understand it, but they’re always happy with the results.

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Second, the combinations themselves do matter. While a combination of three different biceps dumbbell curls is an effective combo, six weeks later, what will you do? The answer may be agonist/antagonist combos – but do you know which muscle groups are which? (That’s where a trainer comes in!)

Think about it this way, when you bench press, on the push of the weights you are relying upon the pectoral muscles (agonist) to support the weight you are holding above you. But when you reverse and bring the weights back to starting position, you are actually using more triceps (antagonist) to support the weight. So a good combo move would be chest press + triceps ear busters.

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Clearly I’m not going to give away all of my bag o’ tricks, but you should get the gist enough to make your workouts more effective than they’ve been. If you are interested in getting a customized routine full of combo moves, please check out my website www.workouts247.com.

Happy lifting!

EAT EAT EAT!

I’m sensing a pattern here – a pattern of people having a completely wrong concept of food and how to utilize nutrition to lower their body fat (lose weight). I know I’ve discussed these concepts a few times on my blog but evidently it bears repeating.

Here’s how the pattern displays: I ask a potential client how much they eat. They reply with anything from “I eat a lot” to “I try to keep it to 1200 calories or less” or some other such nonsense. Then I probe a little deeper and usually discover that (a) they do NOT eat a lot or (b) they actually have no clue how many calories they are really ingesting. I found out one client was eating six 5-calorie mints a day. Do the math: 5×6=30. That’s 30 calories they were not counting. As you may know if you follow me, miro-managing your calories is a waste of time in my opinion.

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Finally comes the part where I shock this person by telling them they are not eating enough. The human body is designed for movement, movement supported by fuel (food). The machine (our bodies) takes fuel in (ideally clean and healthy fuel) and then hums along seamlessly running everything from blood flow, circulation, digestion and brain processing (behind the scenes) to supporting us as we walk, run, lift, twist, kneel, and of course, exercise.

If you do not put in regular, consistent quantities (and quality) of fuel, our bodies know to store the fuel for slower disbursement and later use. They way fuel is stored is FAT. If you do not use that stored fat, it remains in your body. If you’ve ever watched NBC’s The Biggest Loser you’ll see that the trainers (Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels) are always telling the contestants they have to eat more to lower their body fat!

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SO, once again, fuel in – fuel out. Eating six times a day is essential. The quantity and quality matters as well. I had a client who was eating six times a day, but after reviewing her food journal (something I highly recommend you keep), it was obvious that her six meals were what I call “squirrel food.”

Here’s an example of what the I eat a lot people, actually eat:

7:00 a.m.     Breakfast: 1 Egg, 1 slice of toast w/jam, Orange Juice

12:00 p.m.   Lunch:  Grilled chicken salad, piece of fruit

3:00 p.m.     Snack:   Granola bar

7:00 p.m.     Dinner:   Pasta with protein & marinara sauce

Why is this a problem? First, you have a 12 hour fast from dinner to breakfast. Second, you have a long stretch between breakfast and lunch. Third, while both the lunch salad and the dinner pasta are very filling so they feel like they’ve eaten a lot, the reality is this is not enough fuel to support a day’s worth of activities. Remember, if you have a sedentary job, your body has a lot of work going on “behind the scenes.”

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Here’s an example of those who eat squirrel food meals:

7:00 a.m.      Breakfast:  small bowl of oatmeal with blueberries

10:00 a.m.    Snack:   handful of nuts and grapes

12:00 p.m.    Lunch:  Half a turkey & veggie sandwich, apples slices

3:00 p.m.      Snack:  1 DNA Life Bar (there are 2 in a pack)

7:00 p.m.      Dinner:  ½ chicken breast, quinoa and roasted veggies

9:00 p.m.      Snack:  ½ apple with peanut butter

Now while this meal plan is way better than the I eat a lot sample above, you still have too little quantity in each meal. Especially if you are actively engaged in an hour of exercise at least four times a week. Your initial body fat loss will plateau very soon and leave you stuck in your fat loss goals.

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Now here’s an example of balanced nutrition for the average person’s needs:

7:00 a.m.     Breakfast:  Bowl of oatmeal with natural peanut butter, bananas, & real maple syrup

10:00 a.m.   Snack:   Handful of almonds, handful of grapes, 2 DNA Life bars

12:00 p.m.   Lunch:  Half a turkey sandwich + veggies & humus

3:00 p.m.     Snack:   Other half of turkey sandwich

5:00 p.m.     Gym:  Protein shake

7:00 p.m.     Dinner:  Full chicken breast, quinoa & roasted veggies

9:00 p.m.     Snack:  Small serving of 3-bean salad (black, kidney, chickpea) + an apple

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So the next time you wonder why you’re not seeing a difference in how your clothes fit (or if you’re still weight focused – on the scale), perhaps this detailed itemization will help you adjust your own nutrition to a more effective level. Of course, if you have questions or would like a meal plan catered exactly to your needs, you know where to find me! (www.workouts247.com)

You’re Never Too Busy

We’re all busy these days, lives jam packed with jobs, kids, driving, chores, errands, (and hopefully a little play time crammed in as well). So it’s no wonder that for the past five years, the fitness industry has grown steadily towards quick and fast workouts.

First there were 30-minute workouts, then one smart infomercial peddler came up with 25-minute workouts. He showed them, eh? Soon almost every body part had a 10-minute option (10-minute-abs, 10-minute-arms, etc.).  Now we have Tabata a remarkable offering of 4 minute workouts – woo hoo! Whether you workout at the gym for an hour, or hustle though 4 minute workouts here and there, I thought I might offer a few tricks of the trade to getting a calorie burn, increasing circulation and blood flow, and helping your metabolism do it’s thing – all in one minute! How about that? (Throw back to the old game show Name That Tune for those of us baby boomers who remember.)

Some are easy, some a tad more challenging; some indoors, some outside. The key is to do as many as possible throughout the day. The more opportunities you take to move your body the better health your body will be in. These little bursts of energy expulsion will not help you lose incredible amounts of fat, but added into a sensible exercise and nutrition regiment, they will help speed up the process. For those of you not doing any regular exercise they can still offer immeasurable benefits if you consistently engage in them.

1. Whenever possible, take the stairs.

If you have bum knees take them up vs. down. If you have a week cardio system (get out of breath easily), take short flights, but take them. Build up slowly.

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2. Stand up and stretch.

In 30 seconds you can do a full body stretch (arms, shoulders, hands, neck, legs, ankles, feet. Get the blood moving, stimulate circulation and muscle engagement. This will go a long way to alleviating stiffness, especially if done several times a day.

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3. Jumping Jacks.

As little as 10 jumping jacks (I always suggest 25) can get the heart pumping which again aids in circulation, digestion, and clears out the brain cobwebs!

4. Push Ups.

Again, 10 (though I prefer 15-20) is a magic number to get blood pumping in your upper body, while stimulating the metabolism. Don’t want to get down on the ground at work – no problem, incline pushups are almost as good. Stand back from a wall or desk, lean into it, and then do push ups.

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5. Burpees.

A masochistic blend of jumping jacks and push ups, this staple to us trainers really revs up the entire body, circulatory and muscular systems, digestive process, heart rate and is perfection with as little as 10. Not sure how to execute these – easy: from a standing position, jump up then place your palms on the ground and throw your feet behind you into a push up position, perform a push up, then bring your feet back in and jump back up and repeat.

6. Walk and Talk.

On a business call stand up and pace the entire length of the call. If you need your computer, get one of those swing arm computer stands that with the flip of a lever moves to standing height. Use a speaker phone or blue tooth devise so you can be hands free.

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7. Air Squats.

The more muscles (or larger muscle groups) that you can affect in a quick burst of activity, the bigger the benefits to your entire body. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, hold your arms out in front of your body, and push your butt towards the floor like you’re going to sit in a chair. Go as low as you comfortably can, then come back up and repeat 10-20 times. Feel that quad (thigh) burn – and know that it’s doing your body good!

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8. Dance Off.

At home or office, if you have music on (or can turn on a song from your phone briefly), take a moment to dance. Don’t be self-conscious – everyone needs to dance (see Footloose for validation)! The kids will love it, your co-workers will too. Does wonders for mood uplifting and fighting that afternoon slump.

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9. Park Further Away.

Stop being lazy and park further away. Unless weather plays a factor, there’s no excuse for not being able to walk an extra 10-100 yards away.

10. Trot the Dog.

No this isn’t a yoga move – it’s my idea of walking your pet. Speed walk or trot the dog around a block or two (or 3 or 4). The dog and you will benefit from a slightly faster pace that allows you go a little further in the same amount of time.

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I could go on but I figure 10 are enough. Please let me know how many of these your incorporate into your day and the positive results you receive.

(By the way, during the 30-minute course of writing and publishing this blog, I performed items 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8!)

Selfies — What Are You Selling?

Being in the fitness industry I understand people being proud of their transformations from fat to fit, and wanting to document their body’s changes. I also accept that our society is geared towards admiring (and lusting after) bodies of hot young women. So self-posed body photos on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook shouldn’t be a big deal to me. However, lately the current trend of “selfies” has risen to a level that I find annoying, irritating, and destructive to the overall self-esteem (or lack thereof) of girls and women. I want to ask these self-photographers what are you selling? Usually shot in their bedrooms, bathrooms, or the gym, these shots are cloyingly posed and suggest that the poser is desperately seeking adoration.

For those of you not familiar with the term selfie (noting that it was not in the dictionary five years ago), a selfie is a photograph you have taken of yourself with a cell phone (usually in a mirror to get a full body shot). The internet is littered with them. Pose after pose of scantily clad women displaying their tight young abs, butts, thighs, and almost always with pouty lips and a swayed back for extra sexy emphasis. (I am, of course, not referring to selfies taken with friends where you hold the camera with one arm while everyone crowds around. Those are fun and harmless.)

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I am in the business of helping people have healthier bodies and lives, and I always try to keep my approach and advice positive, motivational, and sensible. So every day when I post my ideally helpful pictures and words of wisdom on my social network sites, I am saddened to see so many vapid selfies. I really think these girls do not really get what it is they’re saying to the world, or more importantly, how they seem to be selling themselves (selling themselves short for sure).

At the gym locker room the other day, I caught a stereo typically breast-enhanced, muscle-bound, swollen-lipped woman snapping a selfie in the mirror posing in the exact way describe above. Later I saw her kneeling over the flat bench, angling her phone awkwardly to catch a shot of her butt. I know I live in Las Vegas so I should expect this, but I’ve reached my tolerance limit. (The photo below is NOT her.)

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Then last weekend I was at Mandalay Bay Hotel and saw girl after girl parading around dressed so provocatively that they could barely walk. Dresses were cut to the crotch and their heels were 6″ spikes or higher. I saw them lining up individually and posing for solo-selfies, one hand on hip, lips pursed. Then they gathered in a clutch, uploaded their pics to the internet, and told each other how great they looked.

Now I know the way I dressed in the 70’s must have seemed like I was walking around naked compared to my Mother and her generation, so I suppose my perception is now likewise tainted by being in my 50’s and being a mother of a young girl (see a sample of my high school fashion sense below).  But at least back then not only were our clothes way less revealing than now, but once the night was over, the proof of any misguided choices was not documented for the rest of the world to see and comment on.

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The barrage of selfies on the internet (thanks in part to the empty shells like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian) can only erode the current and future generation of young girls’ perspectives on their bodies. Sex still sells more than health. As long as this holds true, having the perfect sexy body will be more important than having courage, inner strength, compassion, and strong self-esteem.

Once again I feel I must reiterate that the average women in her 20’s or early 30’s has the ability through proper nutrition and diligent physical fitness to be rock hard, flat stomached and “perfect” (society’s label, not mine). The rest of us have to not only work really hard and stay committed to our nutrition and exercise, but in truth must accept that we are beautiful and perfect no matter our flaws. Life is just too short to try and look 20 all the time.

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So the next time you want to document the hard work you’ve put in to change your body, ask someone else to take the picture, pose realistically and then think before you share it with the world. Remember what you’re saying to others when you post that picture. Ideally you’re saying you’ve worked hard and are proud of the results. I’m sure that girl at my gym was trying to say that, but unfortunately her selfie was more about what she was selling!

 

Sometimes, I wish I were French

How great would it be to be French? You could have a meal comprised of bread, cheese, wine, and a touch of delicately dressed salad and not worry about your waistline. Or be Italian and enjoy a serving of fresh al dente pasta with tomatoes and basil, tossed lightly with newly pressed olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. No fretting about gluten or pasta affecting your glycemic index.

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Granted these are generalizations and I know there are many French and Italians who have diabetes and worry about their figures. But there’s one thing for certain, the French and Italians understand food better than we do.

Take a vacation in those two countries (or anywhere in Europe, save for maybe the UK) and you will see an entirely different approach to food than we follow in the US. I’m talking specifically about how they approach meals in the home. There are three major differences:

  1. Portion size
  2. Refrigerator size
  3. How, when, and what they cook

The average European household ingests far less preservatives and additives. With their refrigerators being classically small little boxes designed for limited items, food is bought often on a daily basis, made fresh from local vendors and cooked immediately. Meals are simple, uncluttered by manufacturer-inserted-sodium, nitrates, high fructose corn syrup and even GMO foods. Portions are smaller, while frequency of meals/snacks are higher.

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I long for the freedom to eat bread and cheese. Why do I avoid these items? I do not have a gluten or dairy allergy. I eat in moderation and exercise regular so I really don’t have to worry about my fat content. I avoid them because in America these items are not good for us.

The Untied States’ approach to food creation, treatment, preparation and preservation focuses more on the dollar value of making food grow quickly, cheaply, and having it last (shelf-life). Europe has thankfully not embraced this concept.

While we may live in the “greatest nation on earth” we are not necessarily the smartest. It is up to each individual to band together with more like-minded individuals and fight the long up-hill battle to regain control over our food. When having our food not genetically modified matters to all of us – then perhaps we can make billion dollar companies like Monsanto will feel the pinch. Until more parents really care about the food they put in their childrens’ bodies (even those on a limited budget), then McDonalds will still be able to serve substandard food.

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But forgive my soapbox today. I guess I’m just really missing warm sourdough bread with fresh brie cheese paired with a lovely french wine!

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Communication Breakdown Part 2

In March 2013 I wrote an entry entitled Communication Breakdown in which I addressed problems with communicating intentions and improving listening skills. Today I want to tackle another aspect of our communication breakdown, that of rapid fire communication.

Did you know that hihowareyou is not all one word? I find myself increasingly irritated at how many people ramble that phrase at me, whether on the phone or person, all the while not really listening or even caring about my answer. Hi How Are You has become a staple greeting for so many people that it has lost its meaning.

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Many of my friends know that I almost never answer that question when they call me and lead with it. I in turn never ask them that question when I call. I prefer more specific questions – ones that hopefully indicate I truly care about what I’m inquiring over. “How are you feeling today,” or “what’s new in your world?”

Raise your hand if you have answered How Are You with a “good” even when you’re not. Now I ask you, what is the point of this greeting if the result is meaningless and the answer isn’t true. I also cringe every time someone on the phone says “good, thanks” when not only haven’t I responded to their howareya query, but specifically have NOT asked them how they are in return. They simply answer out of robotic routine moving obliviously into the reason for their call.

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The bottom line here is that we are not truly communicating (speaking with intent and listening). Another problem in current communication skills is the intrusion of technology. I continually marvel (disappointedly) at how many couples, families, teenagers sit oblivious to each other, engaged almost exclusively with their phones. Questions are asked and answered with little eye contact. Meals are conducted with televisions on, car rides have the radios blaring, everyone lost in their own private worlds.

Despite the evidence that texting, Instagraming and Facebook check-ins is keeping us in touch with our friends and family in a more consistent manner than ever before, this lack of personal one-on-one communication is decreasing our ability to conduct meaningful or intimate connections.

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Society has decided that it’s less intrusive, and therefore more considerate to text someone rather than call them. I disagree. A quick I’m on my way text is fine, but entire conversations or negotiating complicated plans – what’s wrong with actually talking? We’ve also turned phrases that were formerly used as proper social greeting manners into throw-away comments –like hihowyadoin, and straight-forward conversations seem to be more dialogues of double-talk these days.

So what does this teach our current and future generations? I fear more for what it does not teach. The ability to conduct oneself articulately and tactfully. To get your feelings or desires across quickly, succinctly and compassionately. More importantly, that a person can be comfortable with personal and meaningful interactions with family, friends, and co-workers alike.

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Likely many of you, especially those in generations below mine (I’m a baby-boomer afer all) disagree with my assessment of current communication and that’s okay. But before you scoff, see how many times you or those around you say hihowareyou and more importantly, how much you or they even listen to or acknowledge the response. If you find my perspective to hold a little more weight, then perhaps you will find room for improvement in your communication skills. Then pay it forward and perhaps our communication breakdowns will lessen.