Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Do You Want?

The popular quest... deciding on New Year's Resolutions (NYRs). Many people spend the days between Christmas and New Year's Eve contemplating what they will resolve to do in the new year. For the record, I happen to think creating New Year's Resolutions is ill-informed. I stick by the advice in my blog from last December 28th to skip the NYRs and instead spend the time working on New Spring Resolutions. If you're intrigued, go back to 366 days ago and see if that makes more sense for you.

If you are still determined to create New Year's Resolutions with which to ring in 2011, I offer another thought... Don't resolve without intention. Huh? Yes, I know it sounds a bit silly but allow me to explain.

Many times we create our NYRs to address something we want to change in the short-term. Eat less, exercise more, stop smoking, be a better friend... blah, blah, blah. Don't get me wrong, these are all great little achievements but they hardly count as a "resolution." In order to create a Resolution (capital R and bolded), you have to understand what it is important and where you want to go in your life. When you understand your own true intentions it is much easier to make meaningful Resolutions and stick with them. Why? Because they compliment your purpose and they call you a larger view of life. Let's do it:

1. To begin, take a few moments and answer the following questions:

  • What age do you want to live to?
  • When you die, what do you most want people to remember about you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you most look forward to each day?
  • Who or what makes you smile?
  • Where in nature do you most like to be? (ocean, mountains, desert, etc.)
2. Now, with those answers in mind:
  • Create your intentions by devoting a bit of time to list the things you intend to do with your one precious life. Be brave. Dream big!
3. And, finally, with those intentions in mind:
  • Create your New Year's Resolutions for 2011. 
This little exercise will give you clarity. It will help you create meaningful Resolutions. It will give you specific goals for 2011. It will help you better see if the choices you make are moving your life forward or holding you back. 

Planning your life, and 2011, is best done with a purpose in mind. I'd love to hear from you... Please share your Resolutions with me so we can encourage others!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How Did it Happen?

You’re not sure how you got here. A few pounds after high school. A few more after you got married. You never lost the several you added with your first child. The next two kids? You didn’t have the time or energy to notice.  Now, you’re overweight and you’re tired. Your body aches. You hate to look in the mirror. You hide the pounds under baggy clothes. You don’t care so much about your hair or make-up anymore. You feel so far away from the energy you had as a high school cheerleader. Being that person almost feels like another lifetime or maybe a movie.

You feed the family fast food or carry out several times per week.  When you do eat at home, you open the freezer even though you know frozen lasagna and fish sticks don’t really count as cooking.  You don’t really know how to cook.  You watch those cooking shows on television and they make cooking seem so hard and complicated. You don’t have the time or energy after work to stand in the kitchen for an hour to cook. All you really want to do is get dinner over with so you can forget about the guilt you feel.

Two of your kids are overweight now too. You know they learned how to eat by watching you. They snack constantly on pretzels or chips or cookies. They drink too much soda. You’ve tried to get them to drink water but the water from the tap tastes awful and soda is cheaper than bottled water that they’d complain about anyway. You’re worried about their health. You’re worried about your own. The last time you went to the Doctor, he said you were pre-diabetic and your cholesterol was too high. He warned you about diabetes and what could happen. And you think about your Aunt who had diabetes and suffered for years.

You haven’t done any exercise since you were 20 years old. None. You used to take the stairs instead of the elevator at the mall. Every now and again you’d park at the back of the grocery store parking lot so you could walk more. You gave all of those things up as the pounds continued to add up. Now, you’re too embarrassed and really have no idea how to exercise anyway. The thought of going to a gym, even one of those woman-only gyms, makes you sick to your stomach. And even if you could work up the courage, when could you do it? Between work, running the kids to their activities and taking care of the house you barely have any time for yourself anyway.

You want things to be different. You want to lose weight. You’ve tried many diets over the years. You were miserable and they only worked for a few weeks anyway. You’re not sure what diet is best. The news is always changing. Low-fat or low-carb… Who knows? You want to have more energy. You want to have more hope. When you were young, you had a dream of owning your own flower shop. Now you can’t even picture your dream anymore. You’re tired. You’re afraid for your kids. You want to teach them how to take care of their own health. You don’t know how.

You’re not sure how you got here.

You don't know how to change.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wait... Look Back!

The week between Christmas and New Year's is a popular time for the "look back" at 2010 articles. Pick up a newspaper or browse the web and you'll see lists and lists of top 10s... movies, books, news articles, photos, etc.

I suggest that each of us take a few moments before we ring in the new year and create our own Top 10 list. Doing so is a great way to reflect on the past year and remember those moments most important to us.

I was tempted to suggest we each make a list of the Top 10 "Best" moments, which you can certainly do. And maybe a Top 10 Memorable Moments list is a more appropriate approach. Why? Often things we consider "bad" at the time turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened to us. Time is a gift and can make the past make so much more sense.

So there is your assignment. Create a list of your Top 10 Memorable Moments in 2010 list before the clock strikes midnight on Friday.

And, if you're feeling really ambitious, find an empty journal and make this list every year. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

When Small Isn't Good Enough

Here at Cybercise, we stand on the idea that making small, positive changes is a great way to improve your health for the long-term. Odds, statistics and experience show too drastic a change and attempting too much, too soon most often results in failure. Start small, stick with it and over time you'll see improvement.

And, what about those times when small isn't good enough? They happen...

Example #1: Blockbuster. The fine people who created Blockbuster had a really terrific idea that revolutionized the way we watch movies. The model was perfect and Blockbuster was very successful. And then, along comes Netflix. Sure, Blockbuster started making small changes. They tweaked their model. And they sat in corporate conference rooms too afraid to make the big change and do something dramatic. Why? Big change is uncomfortable and scary. I get it; I understand. And as time went on, those people in corporate conference rooms sat around  only making small changes just long enough while their idea died and the company went bankrupt.

Example #2: Company X. The very safe, stable and predictable Medicare market Company X has operated in for the last 40 years is about to drastically change. The market changed a little about 5 years ago and Company X made a few small changes and survived the little shake. Since that time, they've continued to make a few small changes even though they know, without a shadow of a doubt, the big shake is coming. The market is about to change dramatically and where there were 20+ Company X's there will now only be 5 or 6. What is Company X doing? They are sitting in corporate conference rooms making small changes, doing little things piecemeal at a time. Why? Sticking your neck out there and being a leader is scary. Change is uncomfortable. My prediction? They'll be gone. They might as well turn the lights off now and go home.

Example #3: My father was a smoker. He knew he should quit (just as all smokers know they should quit). Sure he'd cut down now and again, he moved to the light version,  but he didn't quit (granted this was 20+ years ago so the evidence was a bit less clear then). He had his first heart attack at 39. We nearly lost him. Guess what? He quit smoking. Never had another. He was lucky to be alive. He made the big change and is still alive today.

The point? Small changes are good and small changes do make all of the difference. And, if you are overweight, or diabetic, or a smoker, or have pre-hypertension, or you don't exercise, maybe now is the time for the big change. The only big change you really need to make is to finally and resolutely decide to do something different.

Don't sit in your living room and be afraid. Yes, it will be uncomfortable and it is scary. You can start the big change with small changes but be really clear with yourself that you're going to do something really different. Why? Because the only thing you really have to fear is waiting too long and not having a chance.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Health in 300 Seconds

We tweet in 140 characters and manage to communicate with our friends and followers. We've learned to write short emails because nobody has the patience to read a novel anymore. Our Facebook status updates fall somewhere in between. Texting? With shortcuts and abbreviations we can tell our partner "IMY♥" and they know exactly what we mean.

Yes, people, we've evolved. We've learned how to get a message across to those around us by recognizing what is really important and delivering a short, clear message.

We need to do the same for our exercise and eating habits. Stop beating yourself up because you didn't spend an hour in the gym. Don't worry about not being able to cook a gourmet four-course meal for your family each night. Short and frequent is better and, best of all, you can actually do it!

Exercise in 10 minute bursts at least 3 times each day. Eat 6 small meals per day and include lots of fruits and veggies (healthy, easy and don't require much prep). Most of all, stop driving yourself crazy because of what you're not doing. Move often, eat well and be happy. All in a few minutes a day.

Extend the revolution.
UR worth it!

- Posted using BlogPressxei from my iPad

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Micro Choices, Macro Wellness

Ask any woman and she'll confirm... the small things matter most. An unexpected love note from her partner, flowers for no reason, a hug from her child, and a call from a long-lost friend just to say hello. We know this and yet we forget in the part of life that matters most: our own health.

Weight-loss doesn't come from the latest blockbuster diet. A firm, toned body could come from hours each day in the gym, but who has the time? And true happiness doesn't come from the perfect spouse or the perfect kids or the perfect job or perfectly stuffed bank account. All of life happens in the little moments. Moment by moment, day after day. Same goes for our health and wellness.

Women, in particular, have an incredible ability to do just about anything for a short period of time. Stay up all night to make cupcakes for the class party? Work hours and hours of overtime to finish a project? Put aside our own chores to help a sick friend? Easy. We've all been there and done such things happily.

Unfortunately, we treat our own bodies and own health the same way. A few days of fast food because we're busy? A crash diet before our high school reunion? Skipping breakfast to get to work early? Missing a workout due to a lunch meeting? Missing another workout due to a PTA meeting? Missing another workout because we're exhausted? We've all been there and done those things, too.

I think if we can begin to think of our own health and our path to wellness in the small moments, we can be successful for the long term. Each and every day, do one new small thing for your health. To mimic the popular book series...

Green Tea
Second cup of coffee
Red Meat
Salad Dressing
Strength Training
Bone Loss Drug
Real, Whole
Eat Out

Come on, ladies. We know it is the small things that matter to us the most. Matter to yourself most and do a small thing each day, moment by moment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Food Desert

Another airport, another lesson. Once you pass beyond security screening at most airports, you enter a food desert. If you're hungry, you can choose from familiar fast food chains and, if you're lucky, a quick service sit down spot or a locally owned bar that serves food.

If you're seeking real, whole healthy food from nature you have to be a detective. You have to sleuth about looking in cases and on counters. You need to be strong as you walk by the old familiar choices.

What are you seeking? Non-processed food. Things without added sugar, fake sugars and salt. Things without hydrogenated or trans fats. You're searching for whole fruit and vegetables. Whole grains, legumes and greens. Maybe some nuts.

My 20+ years of business travel experience offers this advice: bring your own food (but nothing liquid or even liquid-like... I've had yogurt confiscated by the TSA). Some of my favorites: apples, avocado, almonds, celery and carrots (No dip... It is "liquid" and not healthy anyway), pumpkin seeds, a bag of leafy greens. Yes, people will look at you and not understand when you put a health feast on your tray table. Get over it.

If you find yourself in an airport without a food stash, which happens often in spite of the best intentions, head for the little deli counters. There is usually some fruit there. Most Starbucks have a fruit cup. Most news and magazine shops sell nuts or seeds in the back hanging on the wall. Look for a salad though don't use the dressing, odds are it is full of sugar or fake fats. And remember to get water so you can stay hydrated during your flight.

The bottom line... Until we amass and leverage the power of our consumer choice and spending to put pressure on what options are readily available, you will have to do the leg work, be a detective and seek out healthy foods in airports.

Consider yourself lucky. Some people get their food, every day, in communities much like the airport.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Owe

What if we lived in a world where borrowing wasn't allowed? A society where you couldn't get something today if you had to leverage tomorrow to get it. It would be somewhat akin to cash society. Pay before you play. Pay to enter. Pay to receive. 

Initially, the idea the sprung from some unease about the national debt. I find it a little disconcerting we owe so much money as a nation. And then it started to occur to me such a "cash" policy could apply to many things. 

This clearly would be a good policy for our personal finances. Yes, we could argue having a home mortgage and car loan is almost necessary (unless of course, we had a better public transportation system and we could be mobile without our cars... a blog for another day). How much more peaceful would you be if you didn't have credit card debt to work off? 

What about a pay-in-advance system for health and wellness? Interesting... 

Let's take the meat industry, for example. An article released today said we pumped our meat with 30 million pounds of antibiotics last year. I imagine if we didn't do so, our factory farms would only be able to produce a fraction of the meat we consume. I think, perhaps, this could be a good thing. Less factory meat, less pollution, fewer health issues resulting from unhealthy meat products... We would have no choice but to explore ways to work in concert with nature to produce food. Nature = Good.

The pay upfront policy applied to how we care for our bodies: Instead of eating whatever we please and then dieting to work it off,  we only eat the amount of food our body needed to survive. If you exercise more, you would have an "allowance" to eat more food. Our current system of eat, exercise and diet means we're always playing catch up with ourselves which is pretty exhausting. If each nice long workout had the reward of our favorite treat afterwards, maybe more people would exercise. How about a points system to get food instead of a points system about our food? 

The bottom line is we could do ourselves, and each other, a huge favor by taking responsibility. We wouldn't owe ourselves, our bodies or anybody else anything. Maybe each day would actually feel like a gift if we all began to look at each day for today instead of paying the debt on yesterday.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Salad Girls

Business travel took me to Arizona for 3 days this week. With many trips, maintaining some control over how much food I eat can be a challenge. When traveling for work, you typically work a little later than you normally would, you skip the post-workday workout and you gather some other traveling colleagues and go out for a great meal. None of which are that beneficial for your health.

Before this week’s trip, I had decided I would use these three days as a little experiment to learn more about the challenges of eating while traveling for work. I wanted to avoid as much processed food as possible. Breakfast was easy as the buffet included fresh fruit and whole-grain bread. I skipped the coffee (feeling parched from airplane travel) and opted for hot tea. Lunch both days was a salad, with grilled chicken, no dressing, no bread. Not bad. Dinner on night two was sushi also a pretty healthful choice though I did indulge in a few rolls with yummy sauces spread over the top. Not to mention some wine.

Dinner on night one, however, was most interesting. I went to a lovely little family owned Italian restaurant with two close colleagues and two people I had only met a few hours before. As we were waiting for our table the aroma was heavenly. The menu? Very traditional family Italian, very rich and not very healthy. I had a small mental battle, really wanting to try “Mama’s” ravioli (Mama was there, of course, watching over her brood and you knew, just by looking at her, that this woman could really, really cook). The group opted to order one of their famous pizzas to share as a starter and I was voted to choose so we had a prosciutto, Parmesan and arugula pizza. As we order our mains, one of the women I had just met ordered a salad.  Pasta for the other three and when it came to me I decided on a spinach salad. My body was tired from a long flight, my body was confused by eating so late, I didn’t want to feel weighed down by a heavy meal and I was hoping for a good night’s sleep.

The two colleagues I’ve worked with for years, immediately made a comment about my dinner choice. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of those comments before, or perhaps you’ve even made them. Something to the effect of, “Oh, of course you’re getting a salad. You always have to be the healthy one.” I’ve learned over the years to simply nod and smile and let the conversation move on to other things. To be honest, my salad wasn’t that great (the slice of pizza I had, however, was terrific) and I skipped the bread (which Mama also made). We left, I felt sated and not stuffed and managed a good night of sleep.

The following day, I was chatting with my salad co-conspirator who expressed how much she appreciated me also ordering a salad so she wasn’t the only one eating leaves in the face of cheesy, creamy pasta dishes.  She too had been on the receiving end of “those comments” about making the healthy choice. We commiserated for a few moments as if whispering about a secret and went on to our meeting.

As I travel home, I’m left with a wondering. What makes people comment on the food choices we make? Is it envy? Support? Judgment? Justification? Random, meaningless dinner conversation? Is there a “good” way to make a comment? Should we simply say nothing at all?

I certainly don’t feel better when someone remarks that I’m being healthy when out at a restaurant. What I really want to say is “Yes, I am being healthy because I care about my body and my life and my health and my family and I seriously doubt the pasta you just ate is actually worth feeling icky for the next few hours.” I don't, of course. I nod and smile and eat my leaves and I know taking care of me is my first priority… Mama, pasta and comments be damned.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do Your Dishes

One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy weight is to manage how much food you eat. Not particularly groundbreaking advice, I will admit. And yet something many people struggle with. We have been brain-washed by the portions we are served when eating out. A half-pound burger and 64 ounces of soda? Way more food than a human needs in one sitting.

To better manage the amount of food you eat in one sitting, do your dishes! This evening go through your kitchen cabinets in search of small dishes. Perhaps you have some little bowls for kids. Maybe there are some sushi plates you received as a holiday gift one year. If all else fails, put away the large dinner plates and use your salad and bread plates instead.

This is one serving, or 1 ounce, of almonds. Almonds are one of my very favorite treats (and something I eat with breakfast everyday) and I enjoy them so much I often find myself mindlessly digging into the container for more. Almonds are very healthy and they do pack quite a large number of calories in a single serving, so having 1 ounce a day is about right for my body.

On my good mornings, I would weigh the almonds and put the rest away. And on most mornings, I put the big container of almonds on the breakfast table and munch away. And then I remembered my sushi plates. This little dish is for soy sauce and it nicely holds one serving of almonds. Now, I leave the soy sauce dish on the top of my almond container and each morning, I scope out a dish full. One serving made easy!

If you start to use small plates and dishes, over time, your brain will be re-educated. And you'll begin to learn how to make other size comparisons to help you better manage your food intake. While working one morning I sat my almonds next to my computer and then noticed one serving of almonds is about the size of my mouse. Another strategy discovered!

Healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle happens in the little moments you design for yourself. You don't need a "grand plan" to begin to make better choices. Do a few simple things each day.

P.S. - Add some sushi plates to your holiday wish list!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let Our Children Teach Us

The simplest ideas are always the best. The greatest thing about this new food label is it uses knowledge we already have and strategies we are taught in pre-school:

  • Red = Stop
  • Yellow = Slow
  • Green = Go
The first part of the implementation could be the food in our schools. Each choice along the cafeteria line would be labeled like this:

Or this:

This system is so easy it cannot fail. It does not require special training and is so intuitive the numbers inside of the boxes almost don't matter. By implementing this in our schools, we could make great strides to help our children make good food choices and teach them to be aware of what they are eating. The kids would take the strategy home and tell their parents they want to "Eat Green." The points reward system could be used for special school-related activities.... extra recess, a special healthy luncheon with a local sports star, an awards ceremony at the end of the year to acknowledge the best eaters. 

Making a difference isn't hard. We only need someone brave enough to take the first step. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Label. The Newest Generation.

The design keeps improving! In case you haven't been following along, we're on a quest to design a new front of package label for our food. The whole thing started with the ridiculous commercial on TV that says one serving of Manwich has a full serving of vegetables. Then talk started about how to rebrand High Fructose Corn Syrup so we wouldn't be aware of what is in our food. The idea really blossomed at HealthCampDC 2010 a few weeks ago with some terrific thought leaders in health and wellness. Then a trip to the United Kingdom further refined the idea (am I the only one who loves going to grocery stores in other countries???).

Today, I'm happy to unveil the latest generation of our front of package food label!

Front of Package Food Label © 2010 Cybercise®

Now, we have this lovely little color-coded bar which helps consumers choose food based on an easy system of red, yellow and green. The idea is simple... choose products with mostly green and avoid products with mostly yellow and red. It is universal. It is easy to understand. It is clear.

What a revolution! The simplest ideas are always the best.

Servings not Calories

The weight-loss powerhouse Weight Watchers announced some changes to their popular points diet system this week. We applaud their recognition that the kinds of foods you eat is also as meaningful as the number of calories you consume. Progress is good, even if in small steps.

The best big step for everyone is to eliminate food that comes in boxes... if people simply stopped eating things out of boxes we wouldn't have an obesity problem in the US (my humble opinion). And, I fully recognize such an undertaking would be massive. So, in the meantime, we've designed Move.Eat.Be. to teach people to find their own personal path to wellness.

One of the best things about the nutrition portion of Move.Eat.Be. is we focus on servings instead of calories. Let's face it counting calories is tedious and it requires a reasonable amount knowledge on serving sizes and the ability to read labels (through our food label redesign project we all now know the labels currently displayed on our foods are confusing, at best). Yes, having a general idea of the science behind calories consumed and calories burned is important. Burn more than you consume is easy to understand. Counting each one? Old news

Evidenced by the Weight Watchers change, the "secret" that conventional nutrition is starting to embrace is that the kinds of foods we eat are much more important than the number of calories. Ever heard of a junk food vegetarian? These are people who give up meat in the name of "health" and end up eating processed, junk food instead. Not a good idea!

By counting servings you develop a stronger link between what you eat and your health. In Move.Eat.Be. we help people design their weekly eating plan by counting servings of:
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Plant Protein
  • Water
  • Lean Meat
  • Treats
This system allows a great deal of flexibility and it gives you an easy way to make incremental improvements over time. Vegetarians and vegans can simply plan for zero servings of lean meat and more plant protein. Each week, we encourage you to add one serving of something new (quinoa anyone?). And, we include treats. To be fair, we help you set a goal for a reasonable amount of treats per week and treats include a wide variety of things (like processed foods including soda and sugary drinks, cookies, cakes, ice cream, chips, etc.).

If you eat more whole, natural, real food you will be more healthy. There really isn't an easier way to life-long health and wellness. 


Yes, Thanksgiving is over and thus the "day" to be thankful is behind us. You are now free to go back to your usual self and grumble about the economy, the weather, your job, etc. Need something to grumble about? Read the morning newspaper or watch the morning news. Egad.

Or.... or, you could try something new. Welcome to December 1, 2010. For the record, this is the only time, ever, that today will be December 1, 2010. Seems like something worth celebrating or, at the very least, acknowledging.

To celebrate this month and start my day with a smile, I made a list of the things I feel grateful for this morning. My love, my son, my dog, the pending birth of the newest baby in the family, frozen organic wild blueberries for breakfast, the flowers that have inexplicable bloomed on a palm-like tree in my house...

Starting the month by remembering the things I'm grateful for makes the day seem brighter. If each day seems brighter, it will actually start to feel brighter and pretty soon the news won't matter so much any more. Take a few moments and jot down 3 things you're grateful for today. Three little things can make all of the difference in the world.