Posts tagged ‘8 weeks to a better you’

January 7, 2013

Weightloss Resolutions: Are you in the 38%? (And A Public Service Announcement)

If you’ve been watching TV at all in the past week, weight-loss is a hot topic as it is every year at the beginning of the year.  Today I heard that about 38% of Americans have weight-loss as their New Year’s Resolution this year.  I’m not sure how that compares to previous years or even the validity of that number, but assuming that is correct, that’s a pretty big percentage of our population.

Most years, during the first couple of weeks into the new year, I try to tune out all of the weight-loss commercials, programs and news stories.  Tonight, I could not. I cannot honestly even tell you what show was on because I wasn’t really watching, but was working on other things and was too lazy to shut it off after the news was over, but then there was a story of a woman by the name of Valeria Levitin.  When her picture came onto the screen I happened to look up and my jaw dropped.  I couldn’t stop staring.  Horrified, my eyes were glued to the screen through the duration of her story.  Valeria, like many others, was talking about weight-loss, but not in the way you might think.  Valeria suffers from Anorexia and is speaking out because while she is struggling to stay alive, girls are idolizing her.  At age 39, Valeria is 5′ 8″ and a mere 59 pounds.  She is literally skin and bones, her body is dying and yet she is receiving fan mail from girls asking how to be like her.  Valeria is in the news, speaking out, because she doesn’t want anyone idolizing her.  If you haven’t already seen her story, I recommend you do, however, I will warn you that the pictures and video of her are disturbing.  Horribly disturbing.  And while I feel awful saying that, I’m writing this to help share her message.  She is going public because she is suffering, can no longer digest food and doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.

I wish I could say my “public service announcement” ended here, but it doesn’t.  Almost immediately following Valeria’s story, was a very brief story of Paula Deen’s weight-loss.  Paula Deen  is known for her cooking, but her recipes, until recently, are far from healthy.  With their sugar and butter and fat are they tasty?  Sure.  Healthy?  Absolutely not!  So while I commend Paula Deen for her weight-loss, I think it’s important to remember why she lost weight.  Paula was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which is typically brought on by diet and being overweight.  I’m not going to say I know what it’s like to be her or to have Diabetes, because I don’t.  I have family and friends with the disease and have talked with them about the impact of diet, which leads me to my next point.  I am extremely angry with the message Paula Deen is giving people!  She originally claimed that she lost weight because she cut back on Sweet Tea.  While she may have done this, it wasn’t the full truth, but that wasn’t what angered me.  Tonight, while watching the clip on her weight-loss, Paula Deen said that you can still eat whatever you want, you probably just can’t eat as much of it.  I wanted to scream,  “NO YOU CAN’T!”

We’ve all heard it, “everything is okay in moderation”.  I’ve come to cringe when I hear that.  I used to think that too, and use it when I wanted to justify what I was eating, but in the past year I realized that I used it all of the time.  I could justify nearly anything by using that phrase. But over time I realized that while I may be able to fool myself into thinking that phrase made everything okay, but my body begged to differ.  Sugar is sugar, butter is butter, fat is fat.  Although we may lie to our bodies, our bodies know what we are doing be it too much or too little.

I didn’t want to write anything about Paula Deen based solely on that quick clip, so I surfed the web looking for proof that it had been taken out of context.  It had.  Sort of.  I saw quotes of her saying, “I eat more salad and more vegetables.” But I also saw a quote of her saying her weakness is buttered biscuits and that “you can have two, you just can’t have them three times a day”.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  Please don’t let Paula fool you.  This is NOT moderation!  Moderation is eating healthy every day and having treats once in a while, not going from six buttered biscuits a day to two a day.  Two a day is still fourteen in a week.

I realize that many people have weight-loss goals for their resolutions.  Five pounds by vacation, twenty pounds by my reunion, etc.  and while most people may do better or feel motivated by a goal date, I’d offer that if weight-loss was your resolution that you consider revising it instead to “eating healthy” or “living healthy”, meaning changing your focus from your weight to your health.  While I’ve been fortunate to not have severe weight issues, I have been on both ends of the spectrum.  When I was young, I couldn’t gain weight not matter how I tried and while some people may say “Lucky!”  it wasn’t.  In high school I weighed 110 at just under 5′ 8″ and on more than one occasion people stopped to ask me if I was anorexic or bulimic.  And I was always called “skinny”.  “Skinny” began to burn in my ears.  My weight stayed that way until my early thirties and then after I had my son my weight jumped around.  At one point someone asked me if I was pregnant again when I wasn’t.  For a woman, that’s about the worst thing you can hear.  Devastating.  But at the same time, it was a wake-up call.  I started looking to make changes, healthy changes.  I wanted to get back to when I felt good and felt good about myself.

Some might say I’m sensitive about weight, but honestly, I’m not.  Very rarely do I step on a scale.  These days I go purely by how I feel, what I’m eating and whether I’m getting enough exercise and sleep.  In other words, my focus is on being healthy.  I don’t diet.  I don’t do weight-loss challenges.  I don’t focus on what I can’t do, but what I can.

Last year I did 3 or 4 challenges through the 8 Weeks to a Better You! blog.  These challenges taught me to shift my focus away from just food, diet and weight, to living a healthy life.  I started Clean Eating a few years ago, but found myself still looking for more.  Last year, through conversations with a friend, I found out about the movies The Gerson Miracle, The Engine 2 Diet, and Forks Over Knives, among others.  These movies opened my eyes to the reality of food, the American diet and its connections to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, the list goes on.  This awareness led me to Vegetarian Times and ultimately to The Flexitarian Diet book by Dawn Jackson Blatner.  After years of searching, I finally feel at home with food.

I now eat many plants (fruits, veggies, beans, etc.) and limited grains.  My portions, while not much different in size, are drastically different in proportions.  No longer is meat or pasta a “main dish” and salads and veggies are no longer “sides”.  If I were to eat what we should have as a “serving” of veggies at a party I would clear off nearly half of a veggie tray (etiquette prevents me from doing that)!  Cow milk is no longer in my fridge, and has been replaced by soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.  I’ve experimented with a lot of foods I haven’t eaten before and am very pleasantly surprised at how much my whole family likes them.  (My son asks what we “get” to have at the next meal.)  My husband, who grew up on meat and potatoes and never ate salads or vegetables now eats everything I make.  He has seen changes both physically and on the scale and says that he didn’t know that he didn’t feel good until we made the change.  And while I haven’t weighed myself lately, my body has changed and I feel really good.

So while 40% of the population has New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, I ask you to think less about “losing weight” and more about being healthy because if you eat good food and take care of yourself, your body will figure out the rest.  And if you choose to simply “lose weight”, I beg you to do it for the right reasons, do it to improve your health, not harm it.  And if you know of someone who may be doing it for the wrong reasons, please show them Valeria’s story.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!


October 29, 2012

The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants

This past Saturday marked the last day of the 8 Weeks to a Better You!  challenge and what a journey it has been.  If you’ve been following me throughout the challenge, you know that I shifted things slightly in the beginning to make it a Mindful Living challenge for myself.  I didn’t change the rules, I just changed my focus on them, and I’m so grateful that I did.

I started off with my sights set solely on living mindfully.  My goal was to make sure I was present in every aspect of my life and every aspect of the challenge.  Well, that became a challenge in and of itself.  I started getting messages from the universe to focus on food, but that wasn’t my goal so I kept struggling, brushing it off and trying to guide myself in the direction that I wanted to go, follow the path that I wanted to learn.  I felt like I was already eating a healthy diet and didn’t need to focus on food, didn’t need to listen.  (For your information, this is not how mindful living goes.  You don’t get to choose what you learn, you need to let go of your control, stop the power-struggles and learn what is brought to you.  It took me a while to figure that out.)

A couple of weeks into this last challenge a lot of things came about that changed my focus.  I found out that a dear friend of mine has been diagnosed with rectal Cancer, another friend from our old neighborhood has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and my mother-in-law had to have angiogram and stents put in.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more family and friends to Cancer than I care to admit, but when your friends, people your age and younger, start getting Cancer, it’s downright scary.  If that isn’t a message from the Universe, a wake-up call to check-in on your own health, I don’t know that is.

Around this same time, I was lucky enough to have a close friend of mine, who lives in Boston, visit not once, but twice.  We started talking about our friend with Cancer.  We started talking about the other people we know with Cancer and heart problems and allergies and ADD and ADHD and more.  And when I asked “Why?”  We started talking about food.  And that’s where my journey shifted gears.

My friend and I talked and talked about food.  And we talked about movies we’ve seen.   Movies… about food.   She recommended I watch The Gerson Miracle, Forks Over Knives and The Engine 2 Diet.  I highly suggest everyone on this planet watch all of them.  They are all available on Netflix and you can even watch The Gerson Miracle for free here.  All three movies talk about what our food does to us and for us.  Some of it is literally killing us (meat and dairy), some can heal us (plants).  There is scientific research that backs up the information in all three movies and if we let go of our fear of change, acknowledge that nutrition that was taught in school in the 1950s and the food pyramid we were taught in grade school might be wrong and trust our intuition, we’ll find that plants just might be the key to our future.

Unfortunately, many of us focus our diets around meat, dairy and other animal products and add in plants like we would add salt and pepper.  Unfortunately most of the health problems we face (Cancer, Diabetes, etc.) can be tied to eating animals and processed food.  One of the films reported Cancer studies done in Norway over a period of a few decades around World War II.  In the 1940s, during World War II, Hitler invaded Norway during that time the Nazi’s took all of the animals (beef cattle, pork, etc.) from Norway for themselves to eat and left the Norwegians with nothing to eat but plants.  Ironically, prior to the invasion, Cancer was prevalent, during the time of the invasion and for a number of years after, Cancer rates dropped, significantly.  But after the war, when the animals returned, so did the Cancer.

Now here’s where I get excited (where my plant-geekiness really comes through).  In each of these films they talk about plant phytochemicals.  I know, you’re saying, “Phyto-what?”  Phytochemicals are the natural chemicals in plants that protect them from the elements, insects, etc.  and they have found that these same phytochemicals have protection and healing properties for us when we eat them.  (The more phytochemicals the darker the plant/fruit… think dark leafy greens, blueberries, etc.)  And what’s even better is that eating plants can repair damage that has already been done, even Cancer.  In 1928 Dr. Max Gerson discovered that by juicing and eating a plant-based diet that he could heal many chronic diseases, including Cancer.  Now, believe me, it makes me a little nervous to put this in print because according to our society’s standards I don’t have the right credentials to say this.  But what I can say is that it makes perfect sense to me.

I think of anything I’ve ever heard about food that was the best thing I could hear.  We often hear that if we eat this or that it will help prevent Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease or Cancer, but in the back of my mind I wonder, “But what if it’s already there and I just don’t know it yet?”  To learn that eating the right foods, a whole group of them, not just one or two, plants specifically, can repair damage that’s already done is incredible.  Remember as a kid when you were playing and you goofed up, but you didn’t want to lose the game so as quickly as possible you’d yell, “Do over!”.  Now we, as adults, can also yell “Do over!” to our bodies.  And you can start the repair with your next snack or your next meal!  How cool is that?!?

At one point someone told me I was trying to hit too many topics with this blog, that maybe I should just focus on one… say, gardening, or mindful living, or healthy eating.  But to me, they are all intertwined, which is why the tagline is, “Living today for tomorrow’s generation.”

Eight weeks ago I started off on a mindful living journey.  When I started paying attention to my health, the health of my friends and family, I discovered I really needed to take a harder look at our food.  Then I realized that I need to limit my meat intake to just a few ounces a week.  I need to incorporate more plants into my diet.  And what’s the best place to get fresh food?  Why our own garden of course!  If we take care of the soil, don’t use herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers, then we are growing food in a sustainable manner.  If we are being mindful of what we are doing to the earth, to the soil and what we are putting into our bodies, then we are living sustainably and mindfully.  You see… all connected.

The final part of my food and plant journey includes the next steps in my life.  I’m transitioning my diet to a primarily plant-based diet, which I will elaborate more on later.  But on a business note, I have decided to begin the Urban Farming Certification Program in my area, which starts in January.  What that means for you is that I’ll be adding more ammunition to my plant knowledge, specifically edibles, which will add more services to my business. More knowledge, more experience…  more food!

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.


October 22, 2012

Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2

This is it.  Week 8 of the 8 Weeks to a Better You! challenge is here.  I have to say, this challenge did not end up as I thought it might.

If you recall, I decided to use this challenge as a Mindful Living Journey/Practice/Challenge.  In the beginning I was spending a lot of time “in my head”.  Digging deeper, trying to figure myself out (and everything else).  I set out on my 8 week challenge on a mission to practice living mindfully.  I was very serious about this endeavor.  Too serious, in fact.  It took me a few weeks to realize this (okay, more like 7 weeks to realize this) but about a week ago, as I was busy thinking everything over, and over, and I realized I wasn’t happy.  I was miserable.  I was spending so much of my time and energy trying to be mindful, focusing on every little detail of everything I was doing, analyzing whether I was doing it mindfully and how I could be doing it better, that I found I was taking everything in life far too seriously.  I decided that I didn’t like who I was becoming.  I’m not a serious person.  I like to have fun.  I wasn’t having fun.  I’d become so serious that I couldn’t stand to be around myself.  Something needed to change.  That’s when I realized that I needed to take a step back, I’d been trying too hard, delving too deep.

It’s like this: Imagine you go to the beach to watch the sunset.  You sit down in the sand and soak up the warmth of the evening sun.  You feel the breeze gently brushing your cheeks, then you look by your feet and notice the sand, really notice the sand, and wonder, “How did I miss this?  How did I miss how soft and beautiful the sand is?”.  You continue looking ever closer at the granules of sand, thinking, “Here I am on the beach, made up of all of this beautiful sand, how did I never notice the shape of the granules?  They’re rocks, tiny rocks, miniatures of big rocks, all slightly different in shape, size and color but have the same wave-washed texture and they all work together to create such as soft surface…”  While you’re admiring the sand the sun is setting, the colors are lighting up the sky, but you don’t see it because you are so focused on the details underfoot.  By the time you lift your head, raising one granule of sand in your hand, you look up to the sky and realize you missed the sunset.

Bummer, right?  Well, I didn’t have any real missed sunsets on the beach during the challenge, but there were plenty of daily life situations that I kicked myself for going “too deep” and felt like I missed out.  So I realized that while it’s important be present, it’s equally important to keep things in perspective.  Sometimes we need to limit ourselves or we’ll miss out on what we really came for.

After a number of these sunset on the beach situations, it finally it dawned on me that perhaps I’d been taking mindful living too seriously.  I started to wonder, do you have to be serious to live mindfully?  Can’t mindful living be fun?  I started thinking of people I know who seem to have a good grasp on mindful living and started recalling whether they are/were ultra serious.  Nope. Everyone I could think of has a pleasant, peaceful, welcoming, relaxed disposition.  I grabbed my mindful living books, the authors had a sparkle in their eye and a smile on their face.  The Dalai Lama almost always has a smile on his face for crying out loud.

Hotei Buddha

Then, as I was watering some of my multitudes of plants, I saw the Buddha a friend had given to me.  He’s not a serious Buddha, he’s a happy Buddha (Hotei Buddha).  Ha, ha!  Again, proof!  It was almost as he was saying to me, “Mindfulness can be fun!  You can be happy and mindful.  Don’t take life so seriously!”  From that point forward, the focus of my mindful living journey has shifted.  Yes, I know, that was Week 7 and this is Week 8 so my shift was only a week ago.  And I realize that I only have a few days left of the Challenge, so I don’t have a lot of time left to practice this during the Challenge, but this Challenge is just the beginning of my journey.  I have the rest of my life to continue practicing.  🙂

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

By the way… if you like my Buddha as much as I do you can find him, and others, at my friend Ryan’s website:  If you stop over there, tell him I said, “Hi.”


September 24, 2012

Mindful Living: Appreciating What You Have (Money Isn’t Everything)

It was Thursday, a little before noon, the home phone rang.  Nobody ever calls the home phone.  I didn’t recognize the name so I walked by it.  My husband, on the other hand, picked it up.  I was instantly irritated.  I could tell by the brief conversation, that it was for me.  I could have killed him.  It was a telemarketer.  I hate telemarketer calls.  That’s why I registered for the Do Not Call list.  WHY would he answer it and WHY would he say, “Sure, she’s here.”?  Seriously!?  There’s a reason why I didn’t pick-up.  I didn’t want to talk to a telemarketer.  I was hungry and wanted to eat my lunch, not struggle to get off the phone with some telemarketer.

I took the phone from him, half-glaring but half curious.  “Hello?”  I was not a telemarketer.  Turns out it was a head hunter.  For me.  That stopped me in my tracks.  Suddenly I wasn’t so angry with my husband any more.  I listened to the friendly voice at the other end of the line.  A lot of information was coming at me pretty quickly.  Holy smokes!  I needed to take a break to think about this.  I needed food so I could think clearly.  I needed… to call him back.

You may have heard me talking about listening to your authentic self (or God or the universe) to help guide you in life, but it never crossed my mind was that instead of a subtle message, you might get an honest to goodness, real person at the other end of the line, out of the blue, throwing you a curve ball, testing you, in your face, kind of message.

You see, I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas as to which way to take my blog and my business lately and occasionally I start wondering if things would be better if I worked for another company instead of freelancing. I keep telling myself to stick with it.  Trust in myself and what I’m doing and things will all work out.

That’s when the phone rang.  It was almost as if the universe was saying, “Are you sure?”  The call I got was for a very well-known landscape company in the Twin Cities.  And while the call wasn’t a job offer, it was suggested that I would be a good candidate for the position and I should consider pursuing it.  There was also conversation about money.  The salary would be nice and the commissions would make the job even more enticing, but…  here in Minnesota our landscape season is relatively short.  Plus, working on commissions in landscaping only applies to jobs sold, not all plans drawn, so it’s possible that I could end up doing a lot of work I would never get paid for.  After thinking about this  I did some calculations and figured I would need to be working at least 80 hrs. per week during the season (summer) just to meet their expectations. Could I do it?  Sure.  Would I be stressed out?  Definitely.  But the money!

The money, is not worth it.  My son is young.  Assuming I interviewed, things went well and I got the job, it would mean not being there when he gets home from school, missing dinner, missing his games and maybe even missing bedtime.  I might have money in the bank, but no amount of money could bring back his childhood.  No amount of money could fix the regret I would feel being at work instead of being with him.

So as you probably figured out, I graciously bowed out.  I was flattered to receive the call and at another time in my life this would have been, or could be great, but not now.  We are all given choices in our lives.  Some of them big, some of them not-so-big, but regardless of how large or small the decision seems at the time, we need to make sure the decision we make is right for us.  We need to listen to our hearts and do what will truly make us happy.  I’m grateful to have the opportunity to spend so much time with my son right now because I know it’s not always going to be that way.  There will come a day when I will barely see him at all and I’m sure that day is coming faster than I even realize.  But for now, I want to be there.

So, yes, I might be walking away from the opportunity of a lifetime, but I have something much more valuable to me, the ability to make my own schedule so I can be where I’m needed when I’m needed.

I realize what I chose isn’t for everyone, but for me, I can’t think of a salary that would make me feel okay about not being there for my son.  We all need to find balance in our lives and what’s right for me might not be right for you, but neither is better than the other, it’s just different.

So when the universe sends you a message, make sure you take the time to listen, to figure out what the message is and why its being sent.  And then, once you’ve figured out why, figure out what the best answer is for you because no matter how many people to talk to about it, no matter how many opinions you get, nobody else knows what is right for you, but you.