Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Exercise. Better Than Death.

Words to live by... Have you Cybercised today?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Life Portfolio

Hopefully, you began your gratitude practice today. Easy enough to do, remember, you can express gratitude for others or start a list for yourself. If you've begun your list today, you are already feeling a bit happier. Come on now... you can admit it. You're here among friends.

Not being one to stop with one good idea, here is another wee thing to consider. Create your Life Portfolio. A Life Portfolio is a collection of the greatest moments in your life. The Life Portfolio is best designed as a scrap book and is best done in the moment. The idea is to have a place to collect and remember those moments in your life when you say "I'll never forget this" or "This is the best day of my life." I suspect, while we have the best intentions of remembering such things, as the days and years go by, we can forget the thoughts, emotions and feelings associated with the greatest moments in our life.

What are the greatest moments in your life? I think it differs for each of us. Some obvious choices are college graduation, your wedding day, your child's birth, a great promotion or quitting a job that didn't fulfill you, dropping your first born at college. I contend there are more subtle choices as well (and the subtle choices can result from your gratitude list). A particularly beautiful sunset. A moment when you felt utterly and completely content. The first time in a new country. Receiving flowers just because. Or sending them.

Why would you devote time and energy to creating a Life Portfolio? Mostly because life is ever so sweet and even more short. And before you know it, the days have gone by and it will be your time to go. Collect and record the best moments of your life so you have something to read while sitting in the rocking chair on the porch. You'll really appreciate it then. And, the best reason of all? Something to leave to your loved ones. Some small piece of you to share with those who will live on after you've gone.

Health comes in all forms. Exercise and eating well are two ingredients. Enjoying each day and being grateful as we live them... that is the real secret.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Steady Diet of Gratitude

Yesterday we talked about getting rid of any anger you may have stored up inside and dispersing any new anger coming your way. Remember --- growl and spew! I'm assuming each of you, dear readers, has followed said sage advice and has gotten rid of any residual anger. And now? Now you are hungry! All of the space inside previously full of anger is now empty and you may not be quite certain what to do.

Do not fear, there is an answer. And a good one! Gratitude. If you feel any space or void inside fill it with gratitude, I promise your days will become brighter. It is very easy and something you can do for yourself or express to others.

Some ideas.... look the cashier in the eye and say "Thanks for your help" when buying your groceries. When your barista puts your cup of coffee on the counter, give them a smile and say "You've made my day!" Give your partner/kid/pet a hug in the morning and say "I'm glad you're in my life." When you see a spring robin hopping about the yard, give him a little whistle.

To practice internal gratitude, start a list. This is not a test and not something you need to do all at once. If you have a journal, devote a page to Gratitude. Start making a list of all the things you are grateful for. Family, friends, work, sunshine, rain, pets, your favorite cozy sweater... you get the idea. Be as specific as possible. And keep adding to the list. For a great life practice, take a moment each day and add something to your gratitude list. Simple things, big things, shared things, secret things. It is your list. When you're feeling blue, read your list. When you're feeling happy, add lots of things. There are millions and millions of things to be grateful for. Fill yourself up with them.

Pretty soon, you'll feel more happy! When you feel more happy, your health will improve. Really, truly. It is simple and easy. Give it a go!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Don't Eat Anger

Most likely, we've all had the experience of feeling our own anger or having someone else's anger directed at us. Neither situation feels particularly good. And, neither situation is particularly good for our health. Experiencing anger, either inwardly or outwardly, increases negativity around us and our body doesn't discriminate if it is our anger or someone else's. To the body, anger is anger and it sets off a whole series of biochemical reactions which can negatively impact our health.

It is also unhealthy to feel anger and eat it. Some of us (hello women!) want to be seen as the "good girl" so we don't express our anger, we simply swallow it. Now we are not only experiencing anger but we are consuming it and keeping it inside us where it can fester and continue to negatively impact our health. I've heard some people theorize cancers are caused by eaten anger that, over time, begins to eat away at our bodies. Interesting, eh?

The point of this writing is not to depress you or cause you to begin to spew anger at those nearby (unfortunately, we often direct our anger at those closest to us and are incredibly sweet to strangers). The point of this writing is to give you a productive and, dare I say funny, way to get rid of any anger you may have stored up and a way to disperse any anger you feel in the future. This is a very simple process and one which can be used anywhere (granted some people may think you a bit odd if you do so in public). I give credit for this exercise to Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Step 1: Growl.
Growl aloud. Use your claws, if you are so inclined. Growl big. Growl loud. Growl and use your best lion or bear or panther or coyote voice.

Step 2: Spew.
Raise your voice and, in only made up words, argue. No real words (in any language) should be used. Use your hands, get your face muscles involved and spew. You can think all of the real words you wish, though I contend you'll be laughing in about 10 seconds and will completely forget any real words of anger you may have felt. The idea is akin to the Far Side
cartoon about what a dog hears. "Blah, blah, blah." But when you're spewing your made up words use all of the passion you feel in your anger.

I practiced this exercise with my classmates. And, we were all laughing in seconds. The exercise is brilliant because it gets your energy moving and moves the anger outside of your body. And, you start to laugh and realize how very silly most actual arguing sounds. Life is simply too short to have anger and is really too short to hold on to it.

So next time you feel angry, either at yourself, your partner, your kids, your co-workers, your boss, or traffic remember two simple things... growl and spew. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

30 Days of Not

In a previous blog we talked about what you could accomplish in 30 days. Unlike other monthly projects, the idea of the 30 day numberless calendar is you can start at any point and will make progress if you merely commit to doing a task for 30 days in a row.

I think the idea is also valuable to use as 30 days of not. There are hundreds of examples:
  • 30 days of not consuming sugar
  • 30 days of not smoking
  • 30 days of not watching TV

You get the idea... Mostly, we like the concept of using the 30 day numberless calendar to make small, steady steps toward a goal. After all, life is lived in each and every moment, one at at time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dinosaurs and Yogurt

Recent attention have begun to question the impact of food marketing on American children. We have a significant issue with the health of our children. Our children are now obese and getting more so by year. The incidence of Type II Diabetes in American children has grown significantly during the last 10 years. This is a problem.

Why? What happened? It would be too simplistic of a view to pinpoint the issue on any one cultural change. More than likely it is a combination of more two-parent working families, the costs of fast food (cheap due to farm food subsidies), and the increase in the video game generation distracting kids from the age old pursuit of going outside to play.

And, dinosaurs. Yes, Tony the Tiger and the Trix Rabbit seemed rather harmless at the time. Watch children’s television on Saturday morning and you’ll see yogurt being hawked by dinosaurs, TV dinners recommended by fluffy stuffed characters, and snacks by cheetahs. Is this good for our children? I happen to think we should be teaching our children about vegetables and fruits for their own sake, not because of an attractive fun character jumping around on a television screen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What is it not?

A friend recently shared a phenomenon. The US is the only place in the world that has food labels which describe what is not contained within the package. In the rest of the world, the labels tell you what you are about to eat, not what you are not going to eat. Seems to make sense. When did the food labeling system in the US make this transition?

Now, as with many things, we have made the task of buying food more complex. Not only do our labels say what is not within (no trans fat, no MSG) we also have a system of what things we are adding to food to make it more “healthful.” Please recognize the insanity of this.

I contend we should not buy or consume any food that requires labels of what it is and what it is not. Food labels should really only be their own peels and skins. Seems much easier to follow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Labels - Use the Power for Good

Last month we learned about food labeling in the UK. Their simple system of red, yellow and green helps consumer make better choices about the food they buy (green is good!). These are good labels as contrasted to the confusing and complicated labels on US food stuffs. Not to mention the questionable "health" claim labels that now adorn many package fronts on grocery store shelves.

Today, in "The Decision Tree" by Thomas Goetz, I read about a proposal pending at the FDA to add a simple label onto prescription medications. Thomas shares the concept of the Drug Facts Box created by Lisa Schwartz, Steve Woloshin and Gilbert Welch which would require clear, factual labels on all medications in the US. Study results show consumers with access to the Drug Facts Box have a greater ability to understand drug risks. These labels would also be good labels.

All too often, in our food and drug system special interests win out over the most simple and clear ways to help consumers make better choices for themselves and their families. Did you know a box can say "Zero Trans Fat" even if the product inside has less than 1/2 gram of trans fat per serving? Last time I was in school less than 1/2 a gram was still greater than zero. How does this happen?

Personally, I think we should put a label on the FDA which says "Warning: Following This Advice Could be Potentially Harmful to Your Health."

Monday, March 15, 2010


Have you ever noticed a car covered in bumper stickers? You read the stickers, like some of them, completely disagree with others, and in the span of 60 seconds or less have made a judgement about the person who owns the car. Perhaps none of the stickers are controversial, they only give you an idea of the interest of the person driving. I recently saw this truck at a gas pump. The license plate was from a running club, one bumper sticker said 26.2 and the other JFK 50. Clearly, the driver was a runner. Why do people label their cars, and themselves, and what do those labels mean? Are they bragging? Are they seeking a community? Are they trying to make a political statement?

Could we change our labels and, by doing, so change our lives? Imagine you are someone who desperately wants to lose weight. Imagine you are obese and all of the clothes you wear are big and dark to camouflage the fat. Contrast this "label" with the ones donned by athletes. We've all seen the healthy, fit looking people running about during our weekend errands. What would those people look like covered in yards of fabric and all dressed in black?

What if the people who wanted to lose weight wore athletic shoes and clothes during their weekends out? Would they be more apt to adopt the behavior of those more athletically inclined? A quick Google search revealed several theories about how clothing choices impact children, especially teens. I found nothing compelling on adult behavior and clothing choices. I think there is a theory to be studied in this tiny idea. Suggest diet and exercise changes to a group of people, one half of them are given athletic clothes and the other half told to wear their normal wardrobe. I suspect the athletic clothes group would show greater weight loss after a few months.

As you choose your wardrobe for tomorrow, take a few moments and ponder. What labels do you wear?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

30 Days

What could you do in 30 days? Google will say it only takes 21 days to develop a new habit. And this research says the number actually averages to 66 days. Have you ever noticed how there isn't really one answer to anything?

Anyway, we're in the 30 day progress conversation per yesterday's blog about tracking progress for the sake of progress instead of the end goal. Since that time I've begun making a list of the things I could track for 30 days. Drinking green tea each day, taking a walk with my dog each day, eating vegetarian for 30 days, doing yoga each day, strength training each day... the possibilities are endless.

So I've begun a few 30 day lists as we do some planning to incorporate the 30 day numberless calendar concept into Cybercise. One big 30 day project occurred to me this evening... eat only whole foods for 30 days. This would be just the opposite of what Morgan did in Super Size Me. This seems like a significant challenge, particularly with travel and lunch and dinner meetings. Is it possible? Perhaps. So I'm off to ponder my ability to eat nothing processed for 30 days. And you? What will you consider doing for 30 days?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tracking Progress for the Sake of Progress

Yesterday we blogged about trusting the progress you can't yet see. Today, we're going to explore the idea of tracking progress for the sake of progress. As I've shared before, I'm working with a great group of people (none of whom I've met in person) on a little experiment called The First Follower.

On Sunday, Andrew 2 decided to seriously pursue Andrew 1's idea of the Numberless 30 Day Calendar. This is a fairly simple way to track your completion of a task for 30 days without regard to the days of the week or month. How many times have you waited to start an exercise program on the 1st of the month only to then forget, change your mind or be too busy to start anything new?

The Numberless 30 Day calendar, per Andrew 1, is a simple piece of paper with 30 boxes in which you place a check in each box as you complete your task for each of 30 days. Andrew 2 and his group of followers are feverishly discussing the idea and brainstorming on how to make this into a simple, clean and usable web application.

Cybercise? We love, love the idea! We do have a calendar feature on our website so people can plan their workout schedule by day, week and month. And, we think this feature to track progress would be a great addition.

Could we actually revolutionize people's motivation to exercise by giving them a simple tool to "just" check the box? We contend the most important thing is that you do a little exercise each day. Don't worry about what the mirror says just yet. Remember... trust the progress you can't yet see.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Progress You Can't Yet See

Today is the day, you say. Today is the day you are going to start a new exercise program and work up to the six-pack abs or rock hard glutes. For the first few days, things are going well. Abs are crunching or glutes are tightening and you're focused on your goal. After a few days, you check the mirror and notice no changes. Abs still flabby, glutes still sagging. You power through a few more days and check again. No progress. The ugly voice of discouragement starts to creep its way in. Perhaps you aren't working hard enough. Perhaps the muscles will never appear. You wonder why you're spending all of this time and effort on this seemingly futile pursuit.

The difference between success and failure at this very moment is your ability to see the progress you can't yet see. Below the surface, changes are happening. Deep in your muscles, they are beginning to respond. They are accepting and understanding the environment is changing and they have to begun to grow and develop and adapt to the world. How, you ask, do we know this? If you are skeptical, we can look at one example in nature to prove our point.

This year in Maryland, we experienced an unprecedented amount of snow. Nearly four feet when all added up. Over a month went by where I was unable to access my backyard. As the season began to change and the snow melted away, I took an opportunity this morning to walk outside and survey the damage . Upon walking around the corner of the house, I found this lovely surprise.

I had forgotten about planting the garlic bulbs months earlier when the warm sun of early fall still fell upon the earth. So after all of the snow and all of the appearance of no progress, here were these lovely little shoots of garlic leaves pressing their way toward the sky.

The moral of this story? Even if you can't see progress each and every day, know that spring will come, things will happen and take comfort in the progress you can't yet see.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Display your Wares

I spent some time today at the Herbal Medicine show at Tai Sophia Institute (the 'Tute, as affectionately called by students). By way of background, the 'Tute is the oldest school of acupuncture in the nation and the only school where you can earn a Master of Science in Herbal Medicine. The Herbal Medicine Show gives the 2nd year students an opportunity to display their creativity and products resulting from their two years of study. And... wow.

The creativity and passion in the room was palpable. The variety of products and wares was amazing. Herbal teas, cookies, lotions, snacks, breads, dips, oils... the list goes on and on. There were at least 50 marketable businesses/products in the room of twelve students and their presentations. All done using the gifts of nature in ways that honor the earth and heal the body and mind.

If you are seeking a new possibility for your life, come and visit the 'Tute. I promise you'll be welcomed as if you are finally arriving home. And, if you decide to become a student, an entire new world of wellness will unfurl in front of you. Taking some leaps makes all of the rest of the steps so very clear.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Ready to leap? Yesterday we talked about five steps you could take to improve your health if you aren't quite ready to leap. In the interest of equality, let's talk about leaps. Leaps are not for the meek or mild. Leaps require bravery, commitment and internal fortitude. Leaps often happen at the moment when you've finally, completely and without doubt had enough. I suspect everyone, at one point or another, has made a leap. Some leap out of airplanes, some move to the other side of the country, some leave unhealthy relationships, some quit smoking, some lose weight. If you haven't ever leapt, give one of these a try. They are all leaps designed to improve your health.

Leap 1: Eliminate all sugar from your diet. Ellen leapt!
Leap 2: Eliminate all processed foods from your diet.
Leap 3: Exercise every day, without fail.
Leap 4: Commit to 8 hours of sleep each night. Zzzzzzzzz...
Leap 5: Give up meat.

There are two great things about leaps... The first is the moment right before you leap, the adrenaline, the bravado and excitement. The second is each and every moment after you leap and you win the battle against the 'anti-leap' and regression into your pre-leap world. That battle, by the way, is all in your head. The lizard brain, the demon, the gremlin (the voices who fear change).

Our suggestion? Go for it. Leap. As Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In yesterday's post, we discussed the difference between people who step and those who leap. If you aren't ready to leap into a new wellness program, here are a few steps you can take to edge yourself closer to the big leap.

Step 1: Add 3-5 glasses of water to your daily liquid intake
Step 2: Add a 10 minute walk before lunch each day
Step 3: Add 1 serving of vegetables to your daily diet
Step 4: Add a 5-minute meditation to each day
Step 5: Add a 5-minute strength program to each day
(Steps 4 and 5 can be done for free on Cybercise for 14 days)

Don't worry so much about giving anything up at this point. You can get more healthy and work your way to wellness by adding things to your life. And, let's face it, adding is often much more fun than subtracting!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Step or Leap?

When opportunity knocks would you step or leap? There seem to be two very different schools of thought. The "step school" says day by day, task by task, you best reach your goal by perseverance and plodding through the minutia to reach the end. Those in the "leap school" believe the net will only appear after you leap. Who is correct?

In this week's NY Times, Tara Parker-Pope wrote an article with discouraging news for those making small changes in their health habits. The theme of the discussion was small changes don't really have a great impact on a person's health status. If true, this delivers a potentially harmful blow to those people who are eliminating one soda a day or adding a walk around the block during lunch. Does the "step school" work in improving your health? If people don't believe it possible, I fear we'll lose masses who can't quite commit to going to the gym for 60 minutes 5 days each week. This is a huge risk for all of us, I say.

If you'd like to see a great example of a leaper, read here about Andrew Wicklander and his leap. It is well worth consuming the entire story (and continuing to follow along), but the basic premise is Derek Sivers created The First Follower and Andrew Dubber said he'd give away one idea a day for 30 days and Andrew Wicklander said he'd implement one of Dubber's ideas and ship by May 1, 2010. Andrew Wicklander is a leaper. And, I'm struck by the similarity between leaper vs. leper (defined as a person ostracized for unacceptable behavior, opinions, character...). Keep in mind, Derek, Andrew and Andrew don't really know each other. Andrew #2 made a leap based on the passion of two other people he met via the web. That, my friends, is a leap. And I think we need more leapers, and lepers, taking more leaps.

So, what does this mean for a person struggling with their weight, not exercising and not eating well? Should they even bother taking a step if they can't leap? Yes! A resounding, certain and loud yes. If you're not ready or can't leap, take some steps. Steps can help you inch your way closer to a leap. If you really, truly want something to happen? Leap with your whole heart and your eyes wide open.

Change happens with steps. Movement happens with a leap.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Food Efficiency

Many people will tout the benefits of joining the vegetarian masses. If you ask veggies why they choose to be so some will say health, some to save animals and the latest fad reason is the environment. The environment, you ask? Is there any actual environmental impact from vegetarianism?

This blog by GOOD includes a great chart that shows "the energy cost required to produce different kinds of food and then the efficiency of those foods based on the calories they provide."

To use the much maligned corn as an example...
Energy to produce 1 lb of corn: .43 kWh
Calories per pound of corn: 390
Energy efficiency of corn: 102%

And then beef:
Energy to produce 1 lb of beef: 31.5 kWh
Calories per pound of beef: 1176
Energy efficiency of beef: 4.3%

So we expend much more energy to create 1 pound of beef vs. 1 pound of corn that results in nearly 4 times more calories (which most Americans do not need). The difference in energy efficiency is nearly unbelievable. Granted the blog goes on to say the production of food only accounts for 10% of the first-world energy consumption so there are many other things we can do to reduce our environmental impact.

Food for thought... literally!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pareto Principle Power Prescription

It is easy for " the powers that be" (doctors, family and bloggers alike) to tell you to eat better and get more exercise. The power most often invoked in such suggestions is the power of opinion. Should we all eat better and get more exercise? Yes. What does the advice mean? Depends on who you ask (and there are as many opinions as there are people on earth). Want something more concrete? Keep reading.

Apply the Pareto Principle. To review the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, says we get 80% of the results from 20% of the effort. Suppose your approach to health was based on making the wrong choices 20% of the time? Purposefully, and with awareness.

Here are some ways to implement of the Pareto Principle Power Prescription:
  • Exercise. There are seven days in the week. Do not exercise 1 day a week. Be a slug, lazy, immobile.
  • Food. Eat processed, non-organic, and restaurant food 4 times a week. Have a greasy fast-food burger and fries and enjoy every single unhealthful bite.
  • Fluid. Consume 13 ounces of something other than water each day. Conventional wisdom says we should drink 64 ounces of water each day. Be bad and toss back 13 of those ounces with something colored.
  • Sugar. Have sugar during 4 meals each week. Eat your Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and enjoy them!

Freedom! Liberation! Choice! Go ahead, go out there and be naughty. Use your power and do it wrong 20% of the time and enjoy every single moment of it.