Lightening Up, Sparking Joy and Creating Love

heartAs I read many of your blogs I can see that we are on a similar path of questioning our lives, bettering ourselves and pursing our dreams. As I seek to accomplish the same, mine is a three part story and also an endless loop of lightening up, sparking joy and creating love. Creating a life that I love and that inspires the world.

Success So Far

Some of the less exciting details. In the past year I have lost 25 pounds, toned and strengthened my body, spent five to eight hours a day examining my values, thoughts and inner-conflicts while embracing a new lifestyle mindset of mindfulness and minimalism. All with the help of some of the best mentors, teachers, authors and leaders I can find.

laoFilled with Mad Love

Without going through the harrowing details of my personal backstory, the most important thing to know about me (that I think can help you) is that on July 18, 2014 I had had enough. Enough of everything, including –

  • The exhausting “weight of the world” that I thought I held.
  • Managing clients with entitled attitudes and bad business models.
  • Rushing through my days without a moment to breathe.
  • Feeling like a worn, torn and tired door mat.
  • Arguing and getting enraged at my family because I didn’t know how to ask for help.
  • Tackling daily task lists that ran the length of a full page of Staple’s copy paper.
  • Trying to play the role of super woman while managing everyone’s mess but my own.

wavesThe monumental motivation factor was raging anger, a deep-seated mammoth-sized storm of anger. Not depression, not a feeling of deflated defeat, no, an exasperated tsunami convulsed with rage.

Change don’t come easy.

I honestly believe it takes that amount of anger, pain and/or strong emotion to push someone out of a rut and/or from the false sense of security that society is trying to sell us to creating and designing a life that you love.

This type of energized and emotional fuel is what takes you from reading your hundredth self-help book filled with life hacks to actually taking action.

picassoWe are what we do

We are not what we think, or what we feel or what we say, we are what we do. Actions do indeed speak louder than words. If you are unhappy with a particular part of your life, take a strong look at what you are doing to be happier.

My Story

Part 1 Lightening Up

Symbolically, I think the added 25 pounds that I gained were due to the heaviness of life, daily strife and stress and uncertainty. I was caught in the spin cycle of success. That compounded with sitting at my desk for 10 hours, eating a mindless lunch and  banging away at the keyboard with only face-to-screen interaction for most of the day that did me in.

My transformation began with

  • Getting up earlier each morning to make the time for me.
  • Changing my habits and designing result rituals – daily, repeated steps towards my success.
  • Remembering to rest, breathe and take a moment to come back to the present.
  • Counting calories while eating low-fat nutrient dense foods.
  • A powerful dose of daily cardio and strength training workouts.
  • Scheduling a 10-20 minute vipassana meditation practice daily.
  • Starting each day with a gratitude journal.
  • A never-ending commitment to reading, learning and expanding my mind.

Part 2 Sparking Joy (where I am now)

It’s all about letting go. Realizing that perfect is the enemy of good. While it is important to have control over our lives, it can be counterproductive to attempt to control our lives. The energy spent trying to be perfect can keep us from enjoying and appreciating all the good things that exist right before us.

Which also means letting go of thoughts, things, people and habits that no longer spark joy in my life.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

tidying upWith no time to clean or organize (for reasons stated above), shopping for things I already had, my mind and home has become a disorganized array of clutter with stuff I don’t even like, yet enjoy.

I am in the process of –

  • Removing anything in my home and work environment that doesn’t give me a sense of true enjoyment.
  • Guarding my time and my mind with my life. (Note: The 7-Day Mental Diet helps with the mind part)
  • Detoxing my doubts and limiting beliefs about what I can actually achieve.
  • Saying no instead of yes to people who want my time, even if the immediate rewards seem really great. My new motto, “If I don’t feel it, I don’t do it.”

“The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Part 3 Creating Love 

For me, creating love in my life begins with forgiving myself and others, no matter what my ego says.

Forgiving ourselves is a process that continues our whole life. We are so used to replaying the story of what is wrong with ourselves and others that living with a resentful, tight heart can become our most familiar way of being.

Thousands of times we might find ourselves caught in stories of what we are doing wrong. Thousands of times we might drop under our blame to where the deeper pain lives. With each round of freeing ourselves through forgiveness, we strengthen our recognition of our basic goodness.

Quote from

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

416XVNN6NRL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you have decided to make a change in your life, I would love to hear about your transformational process – what is working for you, books you are reading, workouts you love, films that have inspired with you.

Insanely Useful Weight loss and Training Gear Investments

I’m not necessarily a gear girl because I absolutely believe it’s not the tools, it’s how you use them, however, on the other hand, I truly appreciate great quality when I find it. I wish I would have discovered a complete list of the best of everything when I decided to turn things around.

I have found the following weight-loss and training tools have stood the test of time, lasted way longer than I expected and helped me lose 25 pounds while getting stronger over the past year.

athleta Athleta Be Free Capris and the Relay Capris are both flattering with an awesome fit, even as I lost the weight. Perfect for warmer weather and summer months, even through 95 humid degrees in Florida summer heat.

Under ArmourUnder Armour Women’s Heatgear Capri Pants got me through the frigid temperatures last winter in New York, whether I was up at 5:30 am driving in my jeep to the gym or running to Soul Cycle in Union Square.

Extremely Mindful Eating – guarding Calories In & Out

I truly don’t believe I would have dropped the pounds if it wasn’t for tracking my calories. Now, I’m on my third Fitbit because I lost the first two “zip” models that you clip on your sports bra or pants, so I don’t recommend them at all. I have found that the wrist band stays on and when synced with the app is a truly mindful weight loss tool.

 Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, Black

When I first started wearing my LG Headphones around my neck I got some pretty strange looks, but they have become incredibly popular and since I’m the kind of geek that has practically strangled herself with her earbud wires wrapped around the Elliptical arm, well, these babies are both blue tooth and powerful.

LG Electronics Tone Pro HBS-750 Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Headset – Retail Packaging – Black

Supposedly drinking 2 to 3 liters of water a day will speed up your metabolism (read the NCBI study here), but regardless, staying hydrated is critical and also helps fill you up.  I dropped $24.00 on this Ello Glass water bottle at Whole Foods, and like everything else, I found it for much less on Amazon – under $10.00. It’s durable and dishwasher safe. Better for the planet, but also for your body.

 Ello Pure BPA-Free Glass Water Bottle with Lid, Coral Fizz, 20 oz.

Practicing Mindful Portion Control

I haven’t eaten off a regular size plate since I started enjoying nutrient-dense, high-fiber slow-carb meals. Small plates help keep portion sizes under control.

Boston International Ceramic Appetizer Plates, Nautical Flags, Set of 4

Speaking of fiber, I found Goya Beans, specifically black and small white beans added to every meal (just a few table spoons will do) are just what you need to keep the scale moving in the right direction.

Goya Premium Small White Beans 15.5 oz

It all started with changing the way I ate, which was absolutely mindless and mostly in front of my computer. The diet that changed my life, is The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.

The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman

He’s the grandfather of self-improvement and performance coaching. Yes Anthony Robbins and yes his book Ultimate Power helped frame my new empowered mindset.


Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement

As fun as they are, do not buy the headbands at Free People or Urban Outfitters. They unravel and slide off, even during Pilates and Yoga and they don’t absorb jack. Try Mava’s instead.


Set of 6/4/2 PCS Multipurpose 12 in 1 Headbands for Athletic and Casual Wear, Highly Comfortable Seamless Bandana, Balaclava, Scarf, Face Mask, Best Moisture Wicking Headband With UV Protection, Suits Both Men & Women, Mava Premium Quality Headwear (Set of 6)

While they became a thing about five years ago, I am still in awe at how comfortable, light weight and long lasting my Nike Free trainers really are.

Nike Free 5.0

uni

And as the weather turns cooler here in the northeast, I love my Uniqlo down vests and jackets for working out. They are inexpensive, long lasting and wind resistant.

Do you have any workout favorites? Anything to recommend? I’d love to learn what helps you perform.

Pattern Interrupt, Pushing Through and Improving Your Workouts

russian-twist-exercise-illustration

Usually habits are really useful. When we are on “auto pilot”  our brains have become so efficient at doing something we can tune out our conscious minds, which can be helpful sometimes, like when brushing our teeth, but not when working out.

More about the upside of habits in this awesome book:The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Problem with Mindless Patterns

Habits and patterns can also be a real problem. We can eat mindlessly and therefore overeat. We can tune out important people and not actively listen. We can exercise without paying attention and not get the most out of our workouts.

Russian Twists

I’m focusing on a bit of mid-course correction while making sure I don’t become weary from unconscious behavioral patterns during my morning exercise routine. The minute boredom sets in, I am reminded to “pattern interrupt”. It keeps things fresh – and improves results. So I do something different – I step up my stride, moving faster; add 20 more squats with calf stretches and try new exercises, like today – the Russian Twist (see illustration above) for toner abs.

Chi Walking and Core Movement

I’ve also been practicing engaging my lower abs throughout the day, especially when walking, jogging, running and sprinting. It has taken my routine to the next level.

When you correct your posture, you will be able to tighten your abdomen while you are walking. Leading your stride from your pelvis or what some call “Chi Walking” teaches us how to redirect the workload of propulsion to our core muscles around the pelvis and lower trunk area.

Pushing Through

When you are working out  every single day, it is easy to find yourself in a state of apathy about the mundane routine. Four things that help me push through –

Focusing on my super hero strength.  Yes, that’s me, in my mind, when working out. Lara Croft. Beautiful and brainy, with a fearless quest criss-crossing the globe, in an amazing attempt to save the world. 

Lara_Croft_film

Break it down into small increments. 200 squats in a row my ass. I do 10 sets of 20 deep squats and jog in-between. Before I know it, I’ve completed 200 squats with a tighter tush.

Goblet_Squat

Feel your body and get to know the slow, soft burn. Get to know what small progress feels like in your muscles. Where there is energy, there is life and growth – Seneca. More philosophy and wisdom here: Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

b7935bffc8c3db080af229edccd571e0

Don’t focus on the time. Cover the clock and speed up the pace, even if it is just a bit quicker.

What are your workout tips? 

Do you have tips to push through to the next level? Something awesome to help make workout routines more fun? I’d love to know what you recommend. Leave a comment below.

 

Eating at Airports and Healthier Chow for Commuters

plane

I have been spending way too much time passing through airports this summer. I love to travel, but the food options along the way, let alone the lack of hospitality, leave much to be desired.

I’d like to think that I’m that girl that packs a healthy lunch from home for the plane, but I’m not.

The Commuter Chow Dilemma

In my humble opinion, airport food options haven’t gotten any healthier, tastier or better. When it comes to eating on the go, this whole “food revolution” might just be a farce.  It’s just pretty packaging and pricey promotion. Shake Shack – the new modern roadside burger – is simply a replacement for the old McDonalds brand. Exotic veggie chips-  just another processed fattening mindless bag of nothingness –  a big fat “0” of nutrients.

The shelves and signage look prettier – with better eye-popping packaging to lure you in with sugar-dense, dried-fruit (kettle-cooked??) candy replacements –

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Fattening Nuts – Weighing the Options

These pumpkin seeds and “healthy nuts” should come with a high calorie – extremely fattening warning. 1 cup of seeds = 747 calories.

terra chips 2terra chips

Wait! Terra chips seem to be “high fiber”. 12 grams per serving.

smoking

Photo from the bathroom plane – an ashtray in the door?  – smoking was banned in 1988 – wait, but this means my plane is over 25 years old.

I’d love to hear from nutritionists on what the healthiest food options are for airport travel. Do we have to pack our own snacks?

On the Go Movement, Growing Good Habits and Elon Musk

 The Emotion & Motion Connection 

I stay in youth-mode – powered with an ageless mind – armed with a liberated, open, playful, light-hearted and free-spirited attitude. In youth-mode, I am limitless.

Not exercising each day makes me feel lethargic and depressed. Over the past decade I have noticed that all forms of daily, disciplined movement – walking, biking, running, yoga, Pilates -helps to soften the rigid suit of armor I call my body. Tense from head to toe, my body takes in and holds all of my emotions – memorized in the tightening of each muscle. The connection between my emotions and motion is fascinating to me. Stretching releases the ache and tightness I feel in my neck as I release the “weight of the world” from my shoulders. Sit-ups strengthen my lower back so I feel strong and “supported” as I feel my “intuition” making better “gut reactions” from strengthening from my core. Squats help tone my legs and my knees and joints give me more balanced, confident  “legs to stand on”.

Habits are Everything

We are an accumulation of everything we do daily. To see change in our lives we must change the way we go about our day. I use to wake up worried, now I turn the channel in my mind  to gratitude – literally forcing my mind to think about what I truly appreciate in my life from the moment I open my eyes.

Eat More Salt to Curb Sugar Cravings and eating healthier on the go.

My next good habit will be switching my taste buds to healthier on-the-go eating  – especially for days like today – when I have been on a golf cart buggy to the dock, boat to the mainland, taxi to the airport, plane to the States, and finally train to my car. I will shop, plan and make snacks to bring along – fresh vegetables, salads and home made health to eat along the way.

Elon Musk -Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future  by Ashlee Vance

I just started reading the incredibly fascinating life of Elon Musk. creator of the Tesla and now working on a way to have us living in outer space.

Where Mark Zuckerberg wants us sharing baby photos, Musk wants to save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation. He’s wired like a scientist and suffers mental anguish at the sight of a factual error.

Love this thought from Musk – “It seems like one should make the world a better place, because the inverse makes no sense.”

A Sky Like Mind, Active Abs and The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating

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Have you thought about what pace feels right for you? At times I do have a need for speed and love the energy and creativity that feels supercharged in big cities like Manhattan. Right now, I feel the need to breath deeply, chill out and slow down to refocus. Not unplug, just down shift to first or maybe second gear.

Something clicked the minute I stepped off the plane at Providenciales. An assuring voice inside my head delivered a comforting message “a more intentional pace.” This slower island pace. Not the harried, brisk and hurried hustle of New York, but the more deliberate and intentional easiness, much like the gentle movement of the waves and soothing breezes of this island.  I am not describing a snail-like, creeping, lazy/boozy pace, but that of speaking, thinking, walking and working which is more conscious, considered and purposed. More thoughtful living. This is the pace for now.

And so it goes with meals, especially meals together. My memories of my youth bring me back to four hour dinners around the long outdoor communal table, under the grapevines, with my loud and excited extended Italian family. The never-ending conversations, the slow and relaxed experience of enjoying a meal together.

The Art of Slow and Mindful Eating begins with an intention to create an experience. Setting the mood, dimming the lights, selecting soft and slower music and smaller plates,  create an atmosphere for mindful eating.  Imagine setting a stage to enjoy and savor your meal. This mindful eating ritual can be extended to any meal – from breakfast to dinner. For more tips on mindful eating, check out Dara Rose, PhD, neuroscientist, foodist, author and the creator of Summer Tomato.

I start my meals by saying grace. Sometimes privately, sometimes with my family. Saying grace can transform a mere meal into an act of celebration, focus, and gratitude.

Listening to meditation talks from Tara Brach, I actually envisioned what she describes as “A Sky Like Mind“, a more expansive mind that allows me to open to the very healing, healthy and beautiful moment that is right now, this healing presence.  Tara’s podcasts and book, Radical Acceptance has really helped release the fear, worry and pain that stems from the mental swirl of anxious activity, the grasping and wanting that only proves to enslave my mind.

It is by meeting each moment throughout the day with radical acceptance for what ever is going on and holding those feelings that arise with a compassionate and open heart, a forgiving heart, this is feels like true freedom.

Reading
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Active Abs

With everything moving at a slower pace this week, I had the opportunity to try Pilates class for the first time. One of the slowest classes I have attended in a long time, a slight pick up from yoga, nothing about the Pilates Method is haphazard. The reason you need to concentrate so thoroughly is so you can be in control of every aspect of every moment.  The one reminder that I have walked away with today is Active Abs and focusing on my posture, especially when sitting at my desk for hours at end.  Two exercises to help you feel your abdominal muscles correctly.

Superfoods, Supplements and Maintaining Optimum Well-Being

GreensEvery single time I walk into my local health food store I ask myself the same question. If this is a health food store,  why are there so many plastic bottles, amber glass jars and cardboard boxes? Before my eyes, a sea of sameness – multi-vitamins, boxes of daily supplements, packs of protein powders – compared to the very small amount of actual fresh produce. It’s daunting.

I have never taken nutritional supplements, let alone a damn vitamin, partly because I can’t swallow pills. Especially horse- size pills. I also can’t seem to buy in to the whole Ashwagandha to calm the mind  and Huang Qui to support energy and vitality. For some reason I just don’t know if organic Bacopa will help my off-the-chart level of anxiety.

However, with so many new supplements on the market, I have become kind of curious about what might be beneficial. Will drinking these things buy me a few more minutes of life on the planet? Will it be like – well, she lasted to 12:05, thank goodness she drank her greens.

There seems to be so much jargon and “information” about what to take depending on the lifestyle you live. Also, even though I have heard that our vegetables and animal-based protein do not contain the same amount of nutrients they once did, I am a healthy, mindful eater.

What the “experts” take

I attended a special trade event for Sprouts Farmer’s Market this past weekend and had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of store managers from their locations around the south and midwest. I asked two of the vitamin category managers from Sprout’s Los Angeles stores, land of the protein smoothie, what they take on a regular basis and both said they loved Paradise greens.

Paradise Greens2

So I ran to their table and I grabbed a few packets to try at home. Now that I have a moment to open their catalog and visit their website I realize I should have asked  which greens? The Orac Energy Greens? Slimming Greens? Protein & Greens? Oh no.

Now, I know Tim Ferriss, really seems to like Athletic Greens, especially when he misses a meal, so I have decided to compare ingredient profiles.

Wow, this might take a while, as I sip, (wait I am suppose to sip this green protein drink right?) my very first Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Energy Proteins & Greens.

The label alone will take me months to decipher. Please, if any of the nutrition experts out there want to weigh in – I’m all ears. What are the best supplements to take if any (providing one consumes a balanced and healthy diet) and why?

Paradise Protein & Greens

paradise

Athletic Greens

athetlic greens

 

 

Maintaining Weight Loss, Healthy Eating on the Go and Spicing up any Damn Diet

spices

I have friends and family that live in the (new) Brooklyn. They are the cynical Williamsburg creatives.  So, when they asked me how I managed to shed 25 lbs, I’d channel my inner hipster-poser persona and told them I was adhering to a low cal, gluten-free, nutrient dense, slow carb, high-fiber, anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy, process-free, no sugar diet. Say what?  They would just look at me.thumb

Weight Loss Maintenance & Practicing Radical Self-Acceptance

I’ve been at my healthy goal weight since the end of May and I am not striving to meet the media standards of a perfect body. I don’t compare myself to anyone; I’m just really excited about finally paying some attention to myself and appreciate the gradual process of self-improvement; the small steps that I take each day while unveiling my best self. I am anxious about enough things in my life, I don’t need to add anxiety while transforming to a calmer, more peaceful person.

Get Inspired, Read
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Food Journaling

So what really works for me? Food journaling and staying really active. Read: like sweating every day for 60 – 90 minutes a day active. I say “works” and not “worked” because you can’t possibly think it’s over when you hit your goal weight. Oh, no, you’ve just begun. This is about lifetime change with lasting results. Now comes the daily discipline part. Almost harder than reaching the weight loss goal.   I started with the LoseIt app and now I use the Fitbit Charge. It is my third FitBit. The first two “Zip” style Fitbits just popped off my sports bra while I was out hiking. But that’s kind of just like me. Would you know I still look for my last lost Fitbit when I lunge through the intermediate school field? It’s been six months and I’m still tracking back my last steps. Talk about OCD.

Eating healthy on the go

I’m traveling to some of the hottest (and I mean degrees) places this month – Arizona, the Caribbean and South Florida; so the key to continued disciplined success with the slow carb lifestyle is planning ahead, especially while eating on the go. Just thinking about the food options at JFK makes me nuts. Now, the first thing I do when I get to my destination is hit the grocery store, to buy wine, because you can’t buy wine in a supermarket in NY. I think it’s so amazing that you can buy wine, and like a decent Sauvigon Blanc, at Publix in Punta Gorda.

No Need for Snacking

So there is no snacking on the slow carb diet. Just eat more of what you made for lunch and/or dinner.  However, when I slip into my let’s-worry-about-everything-going-really wrong mind, I imagine myself being stranded in the airport, hurricane conditions, with no food and freaking out about what I going to eat. So I always have a snack, but I rarely ever eat it, that crumbled (and probably stale) Nature Valley Peanut Butter bar thing at the bottom of my bag.

One thing about nuts

While they are healthy for you and permitted on the Four Hour Body slow carb diet in small quantities, I never snack on nuts, they are just too fattening. Best you don’t eat them at all. Don’t even start.

Curious about The Four Hour Body? Read more

The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman

Dining Out

Dining out includes scouting cafes and restaurants (prior to your arrival) that have great salads. Salad with chicken,  salad with shrimp or chicken with vegetables, Thai chicken with vegetables, steak fajitas, riceless sushi, lettuce wraps, and when in a bind, a burrito bowl, hold the rice, at Chipolte.

When I am cooking at home I have found it’s the seasonings that spark joy with the slow carb diet. I typically grill and slice chicken breast and/or steak and toss them in the skillet with Goya small white beans and broccoli florets with spinach. My family is so sick of this meal. Oh well.

A word about all those beans on the slow carb diet – the easiest I found to digest Goya Premium Small White Beans 15.5 oz .

Here is what I ate for six months straight this past winter to lose the weight.

Breakfast

two scrambled eggs, beans and spinach or broccoli

(or whatever left over veggies I had in the fridge.)

Lunch

see chicken with broccoli above. Don’t forget the beans.

Dinner

see lunch.

The best thing to do is not make food a “thing” any more.  Make like you are a car and the food is your fuel. But just to keep things interesting, I change it up with some spices.

My favorite spices so far (and I am open to suggestions, so please share)

Dave’s Gourmet 6 Pure Dried Chiles, 1.97 Ounce

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning, 29 ounce

Casina Rossa Truffle and Salt by Nicola de Laurentiis, 3.5 oz

Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Sweet Lime Pepper – 2.5 oz

Additional Tips from fans of the Four Hour Body

Everything you need to know about the slow carb diet @medium @liftapp.

Traveling and the Slow Carb Diet Slow Carb Diet.

A note about garlic

I do this thing with garlic in all my dishes. I chop it and brown it (slightly) and put it on everything except my eggs. Warning, I just read that leaving the garlic in the olive oil to “cool” at room temperature is dangerous – something about botulism. Who knew? So eat it hot. Roasted chopped garlic is a great replacement for fattening bacon on a bunless burger.

Are you a slow carb eater? I’d love to hear what has been successful for you.