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Time

23 Sep

It is a busy time of year for those of us with kids as we settle into the routine of school, activities and the like. Both our children have birthdays this month too – 4 days apart. And life at FIT has been busier than usual. And . . .I’m sure every one of you could repeat much the same scenario. Thom walked in to the office this morning and said, “I just need to slow down. I feel like I don’t have time to enjoy anything I’m doing.” Or something like that. I agreed and turned to my computer to receive this message from a friend. I found it so timely and appropriate that I thought it worth sharing.

So often we get caught up in what we are doing and getting there that we forget why we are doing it in the first place. My favorite example to illustrate this point is when one finds themselves rushing to a massage to go relax . . .hmmm. There are plenty of others and would love for you to comment on this post to share you mindfulness moments. The point is that long term health and lifelong vitality are about more than exercising a certain number of times for a set duration or about eating the right things in the right quantities – while those are important, there is much to be said for the experience of our days.


THE SITUATION In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? *If so, do we stop to appreciate it? *Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

For full text article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

Seasons of Change

9 May

This month F.I.T. turns 10!!!  It seems like only a short while ago that Thom, myself, Jason and Gabe opened the doors and anxiously awaited the first few clients to walk through our doors.  Yet, looking at how much we have evolved as people and professionals, as a facility and a community, I have a hard time believing that’s all taken place in 10 short years.

We have serviced over a thousand clients through the years and hopefully have positively impacted the lives of most of them.  For those who have been here all the while, as well as those who are newer to the fold, we sincerely thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you on your pursuit of long-term health and lifelong vitality.

With growth and evolution, there is a natural transition of staff.  Many of you were sad to see Analisa leave a few months back and now we are preparing for Jimmy’s departure.  I can assure you that members of our team ‘leaving the nest’ hit no one harder than Thom and I.  We believe the ‘secret sauce’ at FIT, that is palpable from the first moment you walk through the door, is the sense of community or possibly even family.  It is for this reason that I liken the transition of staff to what a parent must experience when a child goes off to college.  They are ready, it’s time, but it’s hard, very hard. 

Sticking with the analogy, we experience a great deal of pride in learning about the success each individual achieves, much like a parent would.  So, to brag for just a moment . . .

Jason – Product Manager, Apple Inc., CA

Josie – Executive Assistant, Sequoia Venture Capital, CA

Kellie – Owner, Moylan Training, WV

Trey – Performance Director, Velocity, TX

Katy – Franchisee, Stroller Striders, TX

Todd – Performance Director, Velocity, VA

Kris – Medical Device Rep, Stryker

Manny – Educator and Exercise Specialist for Chronic Pain Management, Feinberg Medical Group, CA

Herm – Ranger, US Army deploying 2012

Johnny – Program Director, The 3rd Door, CA

Analisa – Owner, Training Business, CA

Jimmy – Owner, Training Business, NV

Scott – Director of Wellness, Hunter Laboratories, CA

Jen – Owner, Buddies in Action, CA

In addition to these pursuits, Karen and Matt are currently working to complete their Masters degrees.

With each individual’s departure there has been sadness and stress as we all, clients and staff alike, adjust to their absence and adapt to the new faces that have replaced them.  The good news is that with each new person to join our staff, we evolve a little further.  We recently hired Michelle Watson, whom some of your will remember from the year she interned with us prior to pursuing her degree in Kinesiology.  In addition, we are currently interviewing a number of remarkable candidates and will go to great lengths to ensure that these new staff members are of the same caliber you have come to expect.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to hold on to our trainers as long as we do (5x the industry average) but it seems that we are currently amidst a season of change.  And change is never easy, but F.I.T. is and will always be a place where both clients and trainers come with a set of expectations and leave achieving so much more.  We are both inspired and inspiring.  The term development is often used when referring to fundraising or philanthropy, but a definition I recently heard applies to the spirit of F.I.T. . . .

Facilitating discovery of shared values.

Growing a community of individuals who care about a common cause

Just by walking through our doors you have committed to the common cause of living longer and living healthier.  And the discovery of shared values comes into play every step along that journey.  Thank you for supporting us over the years and for continuing to allow us to support you.

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is a success” – Henry Ford

Happy Easter

24 Apr

nothing says happy Easter like star wars paleo pancakes … at least as far as this Jewish mom knows:)

paleo pancakes courtesy of:
paleo pancakes and more from rxgirlsmiami:

Be careful because they are SO light and fluffy that they tend to fall apart easily while you flip. Note: The agave is just used as a sweetener and is not a necessary ingredient. If you are strict paleo, you might not want to include it.

Paleo Pancakes

Ingredients:

3 eggs
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Agave nectar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons coconut flour
Directions:

Using a wire whisk, mix together eggs, coconut milk, agave nectar, and sea salt. (I used immersion whisk)
Continue to whisk and add in the coconut flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or pure butter) in a skillet on a medium flame.
Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet making pancakes about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Serve with either real/raw maple syrup, hot nut butter (like almond butter) or with some strategically placed fruit on top to cover the broken pancake 😉

star wars molds courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

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Whole 9

8 Apr

Earlier this month, Matt and I attended a nutrition conference put on by the Whole 9. While I had read some of what they had written, I was having a hard time imagining how there was still more to be said on the topic of paleo nutrition.  I was intrigued when I read the ‘elevator pitch’ that Melissa, one of Whole9’s founders, had written as an explanation:

“I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit.  I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition.  And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible.

It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight.  In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine.  Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way.

Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body.  It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym.  It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

The reason I was intrigued is that for some time, but more acutely in the past few months, I have been fielding objections to this way of eating from clients and friends.  One friend has been doing weight watchers on and off for years, eating food substitutes (food that’s so processed that most nutrition has been processed out) and in the past year plus has been training for ultra-distance running races, training at unbelievable volumes.  She’s been plagued by injury and has struggled in all the races she has entered.  She asked for my input because in addition to those challenges, she is lighter than she’s been in the memorable past, yet does not like how she looks naked.  I reviewed a food journal she kept for me for 3 days and found that she was primarily consuming carbs with little to no protein nor fat on any given day.  I suggested she read Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.  After doing so, she resolved to give it a shot.  Her husband’s response, “You are going to get hurt and you are going to regret doing this.”  My response, “How does one argue that eating unprocessed, high quality proteins and fats with large amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits is bad for you?”

Another friend’s husband was doing a 30 day challenge and my friend seemed completely annoyed by it.  I can understand opting out personally but why be resentful of a partner embarking on this challenge.  I could make the argument that it’s because she does the cooking and the shopping.  Upon review, it wasn’t that much of a burden.

The reservations of loved ones and hesitation from clients caused me to consider what was at the source.  In thinking about my friend’s husband, it seemed that while he might be concerned for her, the irrationality of his objections suggested something else.  My conclusion was that he was actually speaking from a place of fear, worried that he too will be ‘forced’ to buy in and felt his lifestyle might be threatened.  Simultaneously, in speaking to the other friend it became clear that she was responding to the same threat, or at very least felt his choice regarding his diet was a judgment as to what was ‘wrong’ with her own diet.

I attended the Whole 9 seminar in hopes of adding to my resources to better enable me to engage these skeptics and others in a thoughtful dialogue.  What came out of it for me was something altogether different.

I’m a nearly 8 year cancer survivor, which I’m sure I don’t need to say I’m thrilled about. However, I also carry a genetic mutation predisposing me to cancer again in my lifetime.  While the knowledge about my genetics hasn’t caused me to live in fear, it did cast a light of inevitability on my long-term perspective.  I felt like the dye had been cast and although I would continue to train and would continue to be relatively mindful about what I ate, it wouldn’t make a darn bit of difference.  Thom’s been nudging me toward a different conclusion for years but as with most things, I had to come to it myself.

In the weeks since that lecture, I realized that my hesitancy to commit to a ‘paleo’ lifestyle was not at all dissimilar from the hundreds of weight loss clients we’ve worked with over the years.  Ultimately, my thoughts were along the lines of, “why bother if I’m just going to fail”.  While this is difficult to admit, and I’m sure can be stated in a number of ways, those that have battled, be it weight or disease, more often than not have some  degree of self-defeating rationale that justifies their resistance to commit to change.  While one can rationalize however they choose, the fact remains that the primary fear in this case is likely a fear of failure.

I’ve tried to pinpoint the ah-ha moment when the light went on and the revelation occurred so that I could relate it to my friend’s husband, to the wife friend, to our medical advisory board, to whomever.  Alas, there was no moment.  I’ve been well informed for years and still unwilling to eliminate the last of my indulgences.  The justification there was that I eat better than 99% of the American population, how bad could my lattes, wine, and sugar be?  If I’m being honest, I’m not 99% of the American population.  I’m just me and I’m genetically predisposed to a deadly disease.  While some things are out of my control, other things are not.

No doubt, by now you have noticed the FIT Food Pyramid up front.  The reason for its creation was, first and foremost we are here to help you achieve results, but equally important we hope to aid you in the quest for lifelong vitality.  Secondly, we hoped it would inspire you to consider what and how you are eating and to ask questions of yourself and us as to why.  The effects of what you eat every day include, but are not limited to: energy, mood, immunity, performance, recovery, skin and hair health, and  gut health.  And while modern medicine has any number of remedies, what if the solution was as simple as changing what you eat.

If you are intrigued or simply want to learn more, Matt and I are offering a lecture for our members on April 21st in the evening.  Following that, on April 25th we will be kicking of a 30 day nutrition challenge for those wanting to face their ‘fears’ and give this diet a try in good company.  The challenge will include a participant forum, menu recommendations, recipes, and support.  We hope you will join us on the journey toward better health and lifelong vitality.

Balance Your Exercise with Play

9 Mar

Sometimes the activities that we ask our clients here at FIT to engage in can heighten self-consciousness.  For most people, going to a gym at all can be intimidating, let alone being asked to perform a complex movement such as a clean and jerk or being pushed to the point of physical discomfort for the sake of goal attainment.  As a team of trainers, we frequently discuss how best to appreciate what we ask of our clients.  For this reason, we opted to videotape ourselves in a Zumba class taught by a colleague, Sehin Belew.  The thought was to experience feeling uncoordinated and mildly self-consciousness in a physical pursuit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQfHZMMN5fo&feature=email

As I’m sure you too can note, some of us were a bit more inhibited than others, but the more notable observation would be how much fun everyone had.  Too often exercise is associated with work or something that has to be done.  How different would exercise feel if the mental association was fun and play instead of work?

Last year, we had the opportunity to spend time with Wes Walker, a young, Olympic-caliber runner. Wes was returning from studying the Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running ability.  While coaching us during a run, he continually asked us to think, “how can I make this easier?  What would make me more comfortable?”  I’d always viewed running as an opportunity to literally pound out my frustrations; I enjoyed punishing myself by pushing to go faster and longer.  Never once, since I began running 12 years ago, had I ever considered how to make running easier, and thereby possibly more fun.

Mark Sisson, author of http://www.marksdailyapple.com and the book, Primal Blueprint, emphasizes the importance of play in a way that resonates with me.  He discusses how play has become a bit of a guilty pleasure rather than a necessity.  For reasons that are unclear, or possibly different for everyone, ‘real life’ seems to get in the way as the drive for ‘success’ takes precedence.  In contrast, Sisson goes on to note, “Besides its stress-reducing and social qualities, play has other quantifiable benefits.”  The vacation gap study performed in 2006 showed that workers were 25% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits improved: averaging 20 more minutes per night and three times as much deep sleep.  The New York Times recently covered a study showing that increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it.  Although it has long been theorized that the more relaxed you are, the easier task seems, and the better you feel.  Now there is research to support it.  Couple that with the sheer pleasure that is inherent to play or the benefit of the laughter that often accompanies play, and a significant increase to quality of life is inevitable. 

While Zumba may or may not be the fun you are looking for, something is.  Finding it within yourself to laugh at yourself in place of being self critical, seeking opportunities to play with others, and, most importantly, making play a priority will not only be fun but will be as (if not more) beneficial to your health than the extra time spent at work, running errands or doing whatever else gets in the way.  This month we are speaking of balance, which means something different to all of us.  I’m not looking to define balance but I am suggesting that as you consider your social and physical engagements, prioritize those that involve laughter and fun, or consider approaching the activities you are engaging in with a playful spirit.  Fun has always been an important component of how we design and implement programs at FIT but it is a team effort.  We can’t make you have fun – that’s up to you.  Not everything in life can or should be fun, but for the activities that can be, try to let them.

Brain and Brawn

10 Feb

I can’t remember the last time I spoke to someone who was excited at the prospect of getting older.  People fear different things, but it’s safe to say most concerns surround declining physical and/or mental well-being.  For years, the medical community has promoted cardiovascular exercise as the best for the prevention and intervention of disability and disease.  Aerobic exercise was said to keep the heart and lungs strong as well as aid in neurogenesis, or the creation of new neuronal cells in the brain, especially in those portions of the brain associated with memory and thinking.  While this recommendation still holds true, recent studies are showing that resistance training is as effective, if not more, at stimulating neurogenesis in the same areas of the brain.

Recently, a few studies examining the effects of exercise on the stimulation of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in November.  BDNF is part of a family of proteins responsible for the growth, survival and differentiation of nerve cells, and maybe the underlining factor responsible for exercise induced effects on cognition and mental well-being.  In one study, researchers from Brazil secured weights to the tails of a group of rats and had them climb ladders for five sessions a week.  This study, which measured the levels of BDNF, found that the weight lifting rats compared favorably to the rats that ran on a wheel.  The sedentary rats showed very low levels of BDNF.  The other study presented studied rats that ran on a weighted wheel (resistance being equivalent to 30% of the rats body weight) compared to rats that ran on an un-weighted wheel.  Not only did the rats moving the loaded wheel pack on muscle mass but they also showed significantly greater gene activity and levels of BDNF within their brains.  Although these results are not definitive proof, it is, at very least, an indication that further study is warranted.

One such study is underway at the University of British Columbia where principal investigator, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, has found that older women who lifted weights performed significantly better on various tests of cognitive functioning than women who completed toning classes.  Ms. Liu-Ambrose has hypothesized that the beneficial effect of strength training on cardiovascular health accounts for some of the improvement in function, but also stated “resistance training at first requires an upsurge in brain usage.”  She goes on to mention the involvement and stimulation of the brain during exercise using proper form and technique could contribute to greater cognitive functioning.  In addition to increased cognitive demand, the brain is responsible for activating the appropriate muscles, the necessary type and quantity of muscle fibers (efficiency) and activating the various energy systems that need to be involved.

One word to the wise, conventional wisdom often suggests that if some thing is good, more is better.  When it comes to exercise, this is not always the case.  Another study recently published showed that excessive exercise in postmenopausal women was linked to lower cognitive function.  Although this study was assessed by questionnaire, not known for their reliability, we do know that overtraining stimulates the release of cortisol.  Cortisol in excess has been linked to depression and lower levels of neurogenesis.

Sharon Begley’s January 3, 2011 Newsweek article “Can You Build a Better Brain?”  presented a review of what neuroscience has learned, and has yet to learn, about improving cognitive function. Supporting additional research regarding strength training and the brain is a statement by Columbia University’s Yaakov Stern that “the research so far suggests that cognitive training benefits only the task used in training and does not generalize to other tasks.”  Stern’s input begs the question, if training cognition doesn’t help, what does?  In answer to that, Begley quotes Art Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied the effect of aerobic exercise.  Kramer found that “A year of exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30-year-old, improving memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity, and multitasking… fitness training [stimulates] the molecular and cellular building blocks that underlie many cognitive skills.  It thus provides more generalizable benefits than specifically training memory or decision-making.”

In relation to anti-aging, the adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is a good guide for the maintenance of movement and cognitive function, and it appears these are no longer unrelated.  These studies suggest that you can engage both the brain and the body by learning and practicing new or complex movements under a safely prescribed load.  My recommendation would be to start with body weight exercises and focus on learning how to move properly and then progress to greater loads.  The other implication of this study is that checking out during your exercise routine and simply going through the motions to just  ‘get it done’ may not be as beneficial.  Practicing movements with the intent of getting better not only improves your physical health, but also may contribute to your mental well-being

Resolutions Are One Thing-Solutions Are Another

11 Jan

The new year is typically marked by a period of reflection and planning.  Often resolutions are the result of this thought process.  Since becoming a parent, I find that I no longer solely ponder the areas of my life that require my attention but also how that shift in the balance of time will affect my family unit and whether the benefit will outweigh the cost.  Like most people, taking better care of myself by exercising more and eating a bit better tops my list.  The nice thing about these goals is that efforts in this direction directly benefit the whole family, not merely the beneficial affects of exercise such as mood enhancement and stress reduction, but also by setting an example and helping to inspire loved ones to adopt healthier practices as well.  How to be most efficient, or better yet, impactful with these efforts is a better question.

A few facts for parents to consider:

•   A study in 2000 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that Americans gain on average .4 to 1.8 lbs per year throughout their adult life with about 1 pound of that weight gain occurring during the winter holiday season.

•   Upon establishing The Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2005 jointly with the American Heart Association, former President Clinton, representing the Clinton foundation, stated “Without proper prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, our current generation could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.

•   Dr. David Katz of the Yale Preventative Medicine Research Center stated that ‘poor diet in kids is more dangerous than alcohol, drugs, and tobacco combined!’

•   The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese.

However, this is a new year and the start of a new year is typically, and should be, characterized by optimism and hope.  Keeping that in mind, I encourage you to think beyond 2011 and look 5, 10, 15 years ahead for you and your family.  What do you hope your life will look like at that time?  What activities do you hope that you and/or you children will or will be capable of participating in? What aspects of your family lifestyle need to be adjusted in order for those goals to be attainable?  What changes would you need to make this year to turn over a new leaf and embark down the path of your above stated goals?

If you are like most people I speak to, you hope to age gracefully, maintain a good quality of life, and uncover the ‘secret’ to sustainable health.  You hope that your children will acquire the skills to attain lifelong vitality.  These sound like lofty goals, and I do recommend setting more specific short term goals; however, the key to all of this is learning to take time out and prioritize and commit to physical activity as well as mindfulness surrounding your nutrition.

The key to the message above is commitment.

Resolutions are one thing, solutions are another.  Here are a few tips to help ensure an active, healthy and happy 2011 for the whole family.  Pick one or a few to start with and go from there:

•   Schedule it.  Very few people ‘have time’, you have to ‘make time’.  You have to schedule your activity times otherwise they just won’t happen. Sadly, it’s always easier to not do something than it is to do nothing.

•   You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.  Cut out or cut back on processed foods and attempt to consume a diet that’s rich in vegetables, quality animal proteins and good fats.

•   ‘It takes a village’.  Ask for help and support from other families and friends.  Plan active outings.  Try new activities.  Ask to be held accountable.

•   Commit to consistently participating in activities you already enjoy as a family or commit to trying out the activities  that are enjoyed by each family member.  Incorporate some body weight strength training (push ups, body weight squats, sit-ups, for example).

•   Seek out expert advice.  Muddling through the quagmire of what’s good and what’s not can be daunting and intimidating.  There are experts available for all of it: personal trainers, nutritionists, life coaches… You name it and there is someone who can help guide you.

•   Be realistic, be gradual, be forgiving.  If you are starting from ground zero, 1 or 2 hours per week is a big improvement and is more likely to build on itself than shooting for the moon.  You may get off track but don’t be discouraged, you are making a gradual shift in the right direction over a lifetime.  Try to make every day, or week, or month a little bit healthier than the last.

•   Enjoy the journey!  As with most endeavors, attitude is everything.  Whenever motivation wanes, or life gets in the way, gently remind yourself and your family that your healthy future together is worth the effort.

Find of the Week

12 Dec

Kalona Supernatural – one word . . .Yummm.  This company produces non-homogenized, VAT pasturized dairy products.  The cows are pasture raised on small family farms.  Wish it were local but c’est la vie.  The cottage cheese is delish and I’m guessing the yogurt would be to.  Look for it at your local Whole Foods.  For more info, check out their website which explains their rationale for the process they use.

Give Back By Giving To Yourself

6 Dec

I recently read a story where a rabbi was quoted as suggesting that by giving an EXTRA ONE percent of daily effort, one could self-improve 365% by years’ end!  Everyone defines success differently, but fulfillment is almost always a primary component.  With the goal of giving one extra percent of effort a day towards our own personal success, we can ensure that we are keeping our eye on the ball and maintaining our commitment to leading a fulfilling life, not just a life that’s full.

The same rabbi also said, “People who are fortunate enough to have a partner who loves them, kids who idolize them, and friends who support them, MUST take this one percent for themselves.”  In essence, there are two forms of giving: giving of thyself and giving to oneself.

Ever notice that you are generally in a better mood on the days you workout?  That you sleep better?  That you are more fun to be around?  When you give to yourself, you nurture yourself, which in turns rejuvenates your soul and enables you to have more to give.  In the end, rather than feeling completely tapped and depleted, you will feel good about yourself AND good about all you were able to do for others.  You give, you get.

Think of it this way; if you only succeed in giving the extra 1% a day, for a third of the year, you will still be approximately 100% better off.  Think of the benefit of that 100% if it’s split between all the things that matter to you. All of a sudden, you are a better spouse, mother, friend etc… You will then be setting an example for those around you to follow the same principles and in effect, giving them the same gift that you allowed yourself to receive.

Having never really considered the origins of these holidays, it was recently brought to my attention that most are related to the celebration of light during the dark days of winter, so on that note, on behalf of all of us at FIT, we are thankful to the light that you bring to our days and wish you and your family a happy, healthy new year.

Mindfulness During the Holidays

6 Nov

The season for gluttony has begun and as your resident fitness experts, we want to encourage you to enjoy it.  Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the earth’s bounty and be grateful that we live in a world of plenty, not to feel guilty about a piece of pumpkin pie.  The December holidays, along with Thanksgiving, are a time when after all the pre-holiday hustle and bustle, people typically sit down to share a meal together, which we know benefits overall health and well being (allthingsfit 8/10/10).  It’s also a time when routine is disrupted, and stress escalates. Social engagements surrounding food and libations are plentiful and taking care of one’s self is more easily overlooked.

In the interest of simplifying at least part of the holiday season, and hopefully maximizing your experience of this festive time of year, here is list of tips and reminders that might come in handy.

•   Get good sleep – never underestimate the impact of good rest on mood and efficiency.  Although 11 p.m. might seem like the only time you can prepare this or wrap that, getting good sleep will improve your stamina. You might find tasks take less time to accomplish and you enjoy doing them more.  Additionally, you will have more energy to keep up with the next day and the day after that.

•    Stay hydrated – regular consumption of water is not only good for overall health, it also increases your sensation of fullness making you less inclined to reach for whatever goodies might cross your path.  Carry a water bottle with you when you are out and about.

•   Enjoy the goodies – rather than thinking of I can’t have this, and I shouldn’t have that, go ahead and have a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Not every day and not at every opportunity, but rather taste mindfully.  Savor the taste, hold it on your tongue, imagine tasting whatever it is for the first time and think about how you would describe it.  Much like a new article of clothing or a gadget you look forward to owning, holiday treats are worth indulging in, but should be special and not taken for granted.

•    Look out for your own best interests – keep quick, healthy snacks on hand and around the house.  It’s impossible to experience the months of November and December without feeling more rushed than normal, so plan for it.  Keep a bag of nuts and some beef jerky in the car.  Keep the house stocked with fruit and cut veggies so you can grab something on the fly.  Package leftovers in individual containers so you have ‘one pot’ meals readily available.  If you are bringing a dish to a gathering, make it something you will feel good about eating as you can safely bet someone else will bring treats.  If you are heading to an open house or cocktail party, be sure to have something to eat before heading out.

•    Remove the food or remove yourself from it – the longer food is available the more likely you are to eat it.  While most people enjoy sitting around the table and enjoying company, most do not enjoy the discomfort of overeating.  Clear the food off the table or move the gathering to another room.

•    Ensure that the good food is REALLY good – seek out heritage, organic and/or sustainably raised turkey.  Not only are these birds more flavorful, they are better for you.  You can find a local supplier by visiting (http://www.eatwellguide.org/search/advanced/).  In my experience, you can typically order locally from Whole Foods and Mollie Stone.  Whenever possible, stick to local, seasonal produce.  If you belong to a CSA, you can typically request extra items but beware that even the farmers may take a little time off so you may have to place your order early.  Mountain View and California Ave farmer’s markets are year round but go early the week of a holiday as they get crowded fast.

•    Lighten it up – not by using low calorie substitutes, but by utilizing nutrient dense alternatives.  As a substitute for traditional mashed potatoes, try cauliflower mash.  Or breadless stuffing made with vegetables, squash and/or beans.  Serve crudités with appetizers and fresh fruit with dessert.

•   Take time out – as easy as it is to get swept up in the excitement, the key to maximizing enjoyment of the holidays is to take a few moments for you to reflect and relax.  Go for a walk, sit by yourself in a quiet room, take a few deep breaths . . . whatever you do, don’t let the holidays pass by in a flurry of events and activities – enjoy the connections you have with others (which is believed to be central to longevity), savor the delights of the season and take time to truly be grateful for the gifts in your life. This may be the best gift you can give to yourself. The expression of gratitude is believed to be vital to the quest for happiness.