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.

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.

Morning Rituals, Mindful Breathing, Spinning and the Slow Carb Breakfast

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The Importance of a Motivating Morning Ritual

When I decided to change my daily habits to create a more fulfilling life, I created my very own morning ritual. The idea was to create a more inspiring way to begin each day and then in turn, create a better life for not only me, but for all of those that I love around me.

I urge anyone trying to improve their lives  to awaken one hour earlier every morning to learn, read, meditate, move and take a moment to think about all that you have  to be grateful for, even the smallest of things. This daily habit has  made a huge impact on my life.

I am currently studying the teachings of the philosopher Seneca, because I believe that without a philosophy to guide my work and life, I will succumb to daily excuses and distractions. I will make the mistake of acting on my moods throughout the day and not on my principles.

Many of us want to place blame and responsibility on external objects because it’s easy to do, but the truth remains that all conflicts start internally, in our minds.”

Taken from this essay @99U written by @PaulJun_ of Motivated Mastery “The Stoic: 9 Principles to Help You Keep Calm in Chaos.”

Read an essay a day  Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)

I’ve been experimenting with breathing techniques to help me stay energized and relax throughout the day. Who knew that the simple act of mindful breathing could actually improve the way I do just about everything –  exercise, work, write and deal with frustrating craziness throughout the day. Evidently proper breathing has profound effects on our health and unbelievably most of us don’t know how to breathe properly. Crazy.

The Power of Vital Breathing

As I was sleep-driving to 7:30 spinning class at Covert Fitness this morning, I tried the four short & fast breaths  that I heard Tony Robbins talk about as part of his Power Hour morning ritual. It’s a simple technique of breathing in and out through the nose rapidly four times with about 10 repeats. Hello and good morning, my brain just woke up! Now, I am not an expert on the topic but there are plenty of tutorials on  breathing techniques .

How can we improve our breathing? Well first by recognizing the bad examples like over-breathing, holding our breath and/or shallow breathing. These breathing patterns are very stressful for the body and lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy. Read How to Breathe Properly

Spinning away the Stress

Let’s get this straight, Spinning is not for everyone, although you may wonder with Soul Cycle and it’s cult-like following now filing an IPO.  I lost my last 10 by Spinning on the weekends and found my self to be a lot less stressed. I join Saturday & Sunday morning classes at Covert Fitness which have also helped me power up my outdoor cycling routine. There is something very motivating about letting the instructor take over your brain for 60 minutes while you zone out and focus on your body doing the hard work. After a few sessions of Spinning (along with my regular daily workout routine) I became even more energized and motivated as I watched my weight melt away.  The calorie burn is intense and there are plenty of residual effects.

Schisandra chinensis & the Slow Carb Breakfast

If you are looking to lose extra weight and eat to sustain your day, then the slow carb diet from The Four Hour Body is a must try. My breakfast begins with two soft scrambled eggs (yolk included) with a few tablespoons of small white beans and fresh spinach or left over vegetables. The white truffle salt that Tim Ferriss recommends helps to spice things up.

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

I drink a ton of coffee, but in the morning I also take steep a small glass jar of Traditional Medicinals Detox Tea which contains organic chicory and dandelion root. Side note: my grandmother use to boil dandelions and drink the water which she claimed helped clear her kidneys and liver.

This tea also contains a strange, exotic berry from China and Russia. The berry of Schisandra chinensis owes its name Wu Wei Zi (five flavored berry) to the fact that it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. Schisandra chinensis has been digested to prolong life, retarding the aging process, increasing energy, as a fatigue-fighter, and as a sexual tonic.

I am always looking to learn how to make my morning rituals and work outs even better, so if you have something that you think I should try, please share it in the comments.

a total mind and body transformation

Beans-and-Legumes

Around this time last summer I decided to make some major changes in my life.

I knew the changes had to begin from what I was doing daily and I had to get real honest with myself.  Sitting at my desk, working ten hours or more a day in front of a screen just took a toll on my entire being.

These changes included a new way of eating, exercising, working, living and thinking. Yes a complete mind/body transformation. Ever since, I have been determined and devoted to creating what I call “daily result rituals” and habits to help continue to move me in a healthier and happier direction.

It’s an ongoing quest and I hope to share some of the people, strategies, books, podcasts and other influences that have helped me along the way. My main goal is to be the best version of myself that I can be and to be an inspiration to others.

For starters, I just knew that feeling great about my body would help boost my confidence, so I started with a new way of eating.  I have had tremendous success (read:25 lbs lighter) by following the slow carb diet from Tim Ferriss (check him out on Twitter @tferriss). The slow carb diet involves managing your insulin levels by avoiding grains, fruit and sugar and replacing them with vegetables and legumes.

Now at the same time, I knew that I would benefit from a mental diet, so I followed The 7 Day Mental Diet by Emmet Fox. This was more difficult than shedding pounds because more often than not, I lived “behind enemy lines” inside my head and the worry, fear and anxiety was just tremendous. I had to start the mental diet three times before I got through 7 days without obsessive worry.

I also started my own fitness training program, with some serious workouts seven days a week. I did say I’m determined right? More like relentless.

Prepare to blow your mind
The Seven Day Mental Diet: How to Change Your Life in a Week

Read & shed those pounds –
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman