Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Mindset is Key

I'm working on a healthy weight-loss program to help shed some pounds I've put on in part through stressing over caregiving, etc. Call me crazy for doing this during the holidays, but things are going well, and my enthusiasm is high. Even better, I recently came across a book that I feel will help keep me energized and committed over the long haul. I believe it's also going to assist me in maintaining my weight loss - because I'm changing my MINDSET toward weight management!

This book is so transformational I believe it can significantly assist anyone who wants to get to a healthier place get there. In case you are interested, it's The Shift: 7 Powerful Mindset Changes for Lasting Weight Loss, by Gary Foster, Ph.D. I just listened to it over the past few days on audiobook while doing housework, etc. It's so good I've now ordered the hardcopy as I want to reread it, underline my favorite parts, and keep reading it for inspiration.

Foster is the chief science officer of Weight Watchers, but the book isn't really as much about the WW program as it is about cultivating a mindset that can help empower each of us to manage our weight in a healthy way. It doesn't matter which healthy weight-loss program you are on or want to go on, strengthening and fortifying your mental game will only help you become more successful!

I found Foster's clinical experience working with overweight and obese patients, the scientific research he pulled from, and his empathy for those who struggle with weight issues to add impact to his powerful insights on what mental attitudes and strategies do and do not foster healthier choices and better weight management. Much of what he said resonated with me, and I'm excited to have started using the new mental tools he advocates.

Foster offers seven mindset changes to employ. One is learning how to cultivate self-compassion and become more realistic in how we see ourselves. The biggest problem many of us have is getting down on ourselves and letting that self-talk derail us from making healthier choices either temporarily or even longer. When our self-talk is negative it makes us feel bad and feeling bad tends to kill our motivation and resolve, fosters self-defeating behaviors, and tends to spur overeating, Foster explains.

Do any of the following self-negating statements sound familiar?

If I was a stronger person, I wouldn't be so overweight.
I'm heavy, so what's the use of trying to look good.
I messed up by eating too much at the party, so I might as well give up on the whole thing.
I just don't seem to have the willpower to make healthy choices.
What's the use of losing weight, I'll just gain it back. I always do.

Foster shares specific techniques for counteracting those thoughts by questioning the reality of them and cultivating more body-positive thoughts such as

I can choose to use strategies that will better serve my weight management.
I do weigh more than I would like, but when I fix myself up and dress well I feel better about myself.
I've chosen to eat healthy most days this week. The party was only one day.
I can take steps to make it easier to make healthy choices.
I can maintain my weight loss by cultivating an ongoing healthy lifestyle and addressing setbacks.

After listening to the book I feel better about myself and more equipped to cultivate the self-talk and the mental strategies that will help me to become even more effective in weight loss and maintenance. Best of luck to you on your weight journey!

Friday, February 18, 2022

Dancing Does So Much

So many ways to dance: Zumba, line dancing, folk dancing, ballroom, belly dancing, flamenco, jazz, tap, just shaking your booty ... Which are your favorite ways to get your kicks?

Dancing may seem like too much fun to be an important form of exercise. The good news is that dancing is great exercise, serving as a moderate-to-high-intensity calorie-burning cardio workout and building our strength and flexibility at the same time. The fun factor is a major plus, because it means we’re more likely to do it. So consider spicing up your exercise routine by dancing one or more days a week.

Moving to music can be especially beneficial for those of us who don't play a sport that challenges our balance, agility and coordination. (Think about it. Walking, cycling or stepping on the elliptical – and I love to do all those - are great for the heart, but only use our muscles in limited ways.) Don’t think dance can be compared to sports? A University of Hertfordshire study compared members of Britain’s Royal Ballet to a squad of national and international swimmers. The dancers scored higher than the swimmers in seven out of ten areas of fitness.

As we struggle to learn or create the steps of a new dance step, style or choreography, we’re working out our mind as well. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that ballroom dancing at least twice a week made people less likely to develop dementia. No partner, no worries. Zumba, line dancing and belly dancing all challenge the mind of the solo dancer.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate dance into your exercise routine is just to turn on some peppy music and shake your booty. I started doing that as a toddler and periodically throughout my life have just given myself over to moving with the music. When I was working on taking off weight several years ago, I used the shake-your-booty method more systematically. I found it was a great alternative to walking outdoors when the weather was bad or if I had to delay exercising until after dark.

Eventually I progressed to wanting more dance in my life. Luckily, I heard about Zumba, which can incorporate most any dance step you’ve ever seen or heard about, depending on the instructor’s interests and ability. Although I knew I wanted to teach Zumba the first time I took Zumba, I had a long way to go. At first I did well just to get some of the steps right. Later I added some arms. Much work and many months later I was licensed to teach Zumba and taught several classes a week for years. Now I have a fuller schedule teaching yoga, etc., I Zumba at home for fun and fitness.

Among the most rewarding developments I’ve seen in myself since I’ve begun dancing regularly is the the increased strength and power I feel in my core. My cardio health, while good before thanks to walking, is even better now. And I look forward to exercising.

Dancing regularly has unleashed and empowered my inner dancer. I am listening and dancing to music from places I’ve traveled to or wish to see, which makes my exercise experience more meaningful. It moves my spirit as well as my body. I feel the music in me!

Maybe dancing will also speak to you now or in the future as a favored way to get moving. If so, and if you want to go beyond shake-your-booty and aerobic move basics, don’t stop till you find a class you enjoy.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Enjoy a healthier diet with Creative Substitution

I’m pretty wimpy about self-denial when it comes to food, as many of us are. Anytime I even think I may be denying myself, the strategy tends to boomerang. If I let my stomach rumble for too long, I end up eating twice as much when I do eat. Heaven knows what might happen if I watched as others ate birthday cake while I swallowed hard and shook my head “no.” I can’t remember ever letting that happen. You may be wondering how I maintain a normal weight.

I owe much of my success to Creative Substitution (in addition to regular exercise of course). The concept likely can help you stay full and satisfied while managing your weight as well. You may already be employing it at times without thinking. But it’s an even more powerful tool when you consciously use it. It’s easy: Just look for ways to cut calories and boost nutritional value by substituting one less-healthy food or drink for a healthy version that has a similar taste, texture and/or satisfaction level. The small pack of nuts I always keep on hand has saved me from gobbling down a fast food burger innumerable times when I get hungry away from home.

Another example of Creative Substitution: I have a bit of a beer tooth. Those liquid calories add up quickly, so when I committed myself to losing weight I decided to find a delicious low-calorie alternative. Diet ginger ale with lemon served the bill beautifully with almost zero calories. Sometimes I even serve it in a chilled mug. One more example: Because I like to have a crunchy snack while I watch TV movie, but also prefer being fit and relatively trim, I have shifted from dip and chips or nachos to microwave popcorn. I make my own microwave popcorn using a brown lunch bag and several tablespoons of generic or on-sale popping corn kernels. I season with sea salt and/or Mrs. Dash (when I’ve had my sodium quota for the day).

Creative Substitution even helps with portion control. Those healthy, low-calorie frozen meals seemed seriously small to me, and were not filling, until I started serving them on a bed of fresh spinach. A can of healthy soup can easily turn into a meal when I microwave it with fresh or frozen veggies such as broccoli, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. I thought I was a little strange about my need to pump up my food until I saw “The Hungry Girl” on the Dr. Oz Show. She has taken the idea of bulking up meals with high fiber, nutrient rich foods and gone wild with it. I love her idea for using cauliflower (cooked from fresh or frozen) in combination with a small portion of pasta and healthy sauce of choice to make your dish seem like you’re eating a restaurant-size portion.

By employing Creative Substitution every day I find I’m not on or off a diet. I’ve simply made a lifestyle change in my dietary habits. If I occasionally indulge in the high-calorie food or beverage I typically substitute for, I can do it without guilt because I know that overall I’m eating well. A friend looked at me suspiciously the other day when I ordered a small serving of ice cream while she opted for black coffee at the coffee shop where we met. Our orders cost about the same. I preferred to spend my money on a real treat, plus I needed a boost of protein and carbs after two back-to-back exercise classes. I know better than to let myself get too hungry!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Meditation and Mindfulness 101

Scroll down to see the meditation/mindfulness resource list below the lead in.

How do I meditate/be mindful? Let me count the ways … So many ways to enter that meditative/mindful state and get some of the benefits of deep relaxation.

Those benefits include de-stressing, boosting mood, lowering blood pressure, relaxing the cardiovascular system, and improving sleep - as well as improving mental focus and other cognitive abilities. Through meditation we learn more about ourselves from the inside out, appreciating our life more, and deepening our compassion for others.

Meditation/mindfulness may not be a cure-all but it is an improve-much tool. But where to find time? Luckily we can mix and match meditative/mindful techniques to fit our schedule, interests and needs. The techniques build on each other over time as we invest time in them and ourselves.

I will note a few simple ways to start or take a few steps more along your meditation/mindful journey, and then point you to a resource list (below) you might want to check out and pull from to learn much, much more about meditation and mindfulness.

Start by giving yourself the gift being present for a few moments now and then. You may want to schedule the time or pair a few moments of mindfulness with a regular activity. Notice in a relaxed and accepting way what is going on right now inside and/or outside of your body.

When we are witnessing the moment, noting what is, allowing what is to be for this moment, we are present and relaxing. When we are swept into a torrent of thought worrying, judging, justifying, or resisting, we are over activated, which often isn't helpful.

When directing our attention in, feeling the sensations of the breath, the bodily sensations our sitting or standing or lying down. Scanning our body and noticing what is happening inside moment to moment, either directing our attention in a comfortable way or letting that attention float. When sensing outside, noticing sounds, sites and other sensations from the world around us. Letting thoughts or judgements drift away, bringing back our awareness to what is.

Yoga, Tai Chi, Walking Meditation, Seated Meditation, and other mind-body practices are methods of being present. Watching birds, fish, your pet or wildlife are other ways of being present. Actively listening to music or ambient sounds by focusing on tones, rhythms and other sonic characteristics can be mindful. Many, many paths for accessing that meditative mind. Enjoy!


Mindfulness-Based Stress Relief course –
Free 8-week program with breathing, body scan, yoga and other guided mindfulness exercises as well as links to related articles and videos. Visit

Mindful magazine online – Offers a wealth of free how-to articles and guided meditations. See

Tara Brach – A leading mindfulness and meditation instructor offers numerous free video lectures and guided meditations. Visit

Other online mindfulness resources that offer some free content include Sounds True, Headspace and 10% Happier.

For further reading
Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations, and Exercises From The Power of Now. By Echart Tolle. Essential insights by the highly regarded philosopher into how to spend more time in the present moment, developing the meditative mind and its accompanying benefits.

Everyday Mindfulness: 365 Ways to a Centered Life. By Phoebe Morgan. Inspiring quotes by contemporary to ancient observers on incorporating mindfulness and its enlightening perspective into our lives.

Real Happiness : The Power of Meditation. By Sharon Salzberg.
Excellent one-stop source for creating a basic mindfulness and meditation program for yourself, including free audio meditation downloads.

Full Catastrophe Living. By Jon Kabat-Zinn. Extensive overview of the famous 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Relief program from the father of MBSR. For those looking for user friendly yet in-depth knowledge on the subject.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book. By Dan Harris and Jeff Warren.
ABC television journalist Harris and meditation instructor Warren take us on a journey across the country to help explore and overcome common barriers many of us have in establishing a meditation practice. The book works well in tandem with accessing free related video and audio content of Harris’ 10% Happier app.

How to Sneak More Meditation Into Your Life: A Doable Meditation Plan for Busy People.
By K. Kris Loomis. A yoga and meditation instructor highlights key steps of various types of meditation and how to add them to your day in her no-nonsense, compact book. A quick overview for experimenting with various forms of meditation.

A Beginner's Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. Edited by Rod Meade Sperry. Some of the world’s most respected meditation teachers share the essentials of getting started with meditation and deepening the practice. The top experts make trying and succeeding at meditation much easier.

Staying Well with Guided Imagery. By Belleruth Naparstek. The psychotherapist and guided imagery instructor explains how using imagery meditations can reduce stress and improve mental and physical health. Included are a variety of helpful imagery exercises.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Fitness and "The Traveler's Gift"

Have you ever read "The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success," by Andy Andrews? As I read the book in one sitting I was struck how its principles apply to pursuing fitness as well as various other aspects of our life. Success depends on the decisions we make. All seven decisions that Andy explores are superpowered by a spiritual component.

First Decision: The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and my future. The book takes our discouraged out-of-work hero on a time-travel adventure where he meets historic characters who inspire him to look at and conduct his life in a different way. The first is Harry S. Truman, who schools him on personal responsibility. Where ever we are on our fitness journey, whether it be losing weight or reaching a new level of strength, it's empowering to realize its up to us where we go from here. It's in our capable hands to find out what we need to know and do what we need to do to get where we want to go. Taking baby steps, changing one small unhealthy habit for a healthier habit, time after time, adds up to a transformed body and life. I am still traveling that road.

Second Decision: I will seek wisdom. It's amazing how little most of us really know about getting and staying fit. If you were/are a high school and/or college athlete, physical education major, fitness professional, health nut, or such, you're likely an exception. The average person knows less about what makes the body function at its best. Until late 2009 when I began my career shift to fitness I had only a basic understanding. Now I have good foundational knowledge and continue adding to it by keeping abreast of current exercise science, nutrition and other health-related research as well as consulting with allied health care professionals. The more I know the better I'm able to train/treat my body and help my clients. Please check out some of the health resource links on this site to learn more about exercise, nutrition and other ways to improve your health.

Third Decision: I am a person of action. I seize the moment. I choose now.
Some day may never come. Today is here. Every time we exercise (in a prudent and safe manner based on our health profile) we improve our health. It's a scientific fact that the benefits of exercise begin to accrue almost as soon as we start our first exercise session. Also, when we add the right fuel to our body, in the form of healthy foods, we get an almost immediate benefit as the macronutrients and micronutrients are digested. Talk about instant payoff! The more such healthy actions we take, the more we'll see significant improvements in how empowered we feel as well as how mentally and physically healthy we are. We get healthier step by step by pursuing fitness.

Fourth Decision: I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured. It's not "if I become more fit," or "if I lose weight," it's "as I become more fit," or "as I lose weight." Decide you're going to adopt specific healthy lifestyle behaviors and do it by tackling those behaviors step by step. When you get 100 percent behind your commitments to yourself success is pretty much guaranteed because you just don't let anything stop you. If you look hard at what stopped you or others from achieving certain goals in the past, you'll easily realize that it's because you or the other person gave up the fight. When I look back at failed attempts at weight loss or increased fitness, I have to admit I gave up too easily. As my Dad always told me: "You can do anything you really want to do."

Fifth Decision: Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit. Abraham Lincoln said we're just about as happy as we choose to be. Happiness isn't about what's outside of ourselves or whether we have a perfect physique in the world's eyes. It's about how you look at yourself and your life. Do you focus on how you have been blessed and what you do have, or do you focus on what you don't have? Are you unhappy because you feel entitled to something you don't have? I have to admit that periodically in my life when the going gets tough I think "If only X, Y, or Z, I could really be happy." Fortunately so far I've been able to get past that over time and look at the world again with gratitude through an optimist's eyes. I'm happy to be alive.

Sixth Decision: I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself. This is a particularly good one for fitness. It's way too easy to get down on ourselves for not meeting our expectations for fitness and/or weight loss goals. Unfortunately that can lead to our sabotaging ourselves with self-defeating behavior creating more problems for ourselves. The classic is eating the whole sack of potato chips because you ate a half a bag of chips and hate yourself for it. It's best for our long-term success with health and fitness as well as the other aspects of our life to be gentle with ourselves. If you stumble, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, resolve not to repeat the error and go on. Love yourself the way you love or would love your own child, unconditionally. And forgive others. Holding a grudge not only poisons our spirits but also our bodies

Seventh Decision: I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith. Faith has been the key element of any success I've ever had, especially with weight loss and fitness. Praying and meditating give me the strength to keep seeking what I need to do to continue to improve my health. After I kept failing to lose weight a number of years ago I had a "V8" moment and realized I needed to pray for help. That moment of transformation led me to find the right resources to educate myself on what I needed to do to lose weight. A "healthy lifestyle and weight loss" program set me off in the right direction. Then I started yoga, strength training, Zumba, etc., and I continue to work on my fitness levels. I persist because I have faith that my Higher Power will continue to help bolster and guide me.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Mind and Body

It’s so easy to get absorbed in our worries, plans and dreams in this busy, high-tech world that we lose touch with ourselves. Somehow when we spend too much of our time in our head we become disconnected with our physical and sensory being. We may easily come to think and feel like it doesn’t matter so much if we don’t give our bodies enough rest, hydration, nutrients and movement. Or if we stuff processed food mindlessly into our mouths while trying to zone out in front of the TV.

Luckily exercise, especially mindful exercise, is a great antidote to the many ills caused by overthinking and the harried “monkey mind.” Exercise naturally leads to a more focused mind, elevated mood and honoring our bodies. It can help us to get back to sensing, being and reconnecting with ourselves. More like we felt as children in wonder over the magic of experiencing our world in the moment. 

Any exercise, including walking, weight lifting, etc., can help integrate brain and body - especially when done mindfully. But some exercise modes, such as yoga and tai chi are specifically designed to focus our awareness on the here and now. Those disciplines in particular teach you to breath slowly and deeply, noticing and concentrating on the sensations of your physical self, including the activation of your muscles.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve received from exercising regularly, especially practicing tai chi and yoga, is to have reawakened my sensory system and developed a more unified sense of my mind-body. I'm more often present and aware, experiencing more moments vs. being on autopilot. In general I feel I'm living more fully and intentionally. A greater sense of mind-body unity has made me feel more confident, positive, relaxed, patient, empowered and spiritually centered. Not that I never feel agitated, anxious, bummed out or disconnected, but just less often and less intensely.

The body and mind are one and the same on both a physiological and spiritual level. And the mind-body system works much better in harmony, when our sense of the here and now is not always ignored and suppressed. The good news is that if we consciously choose to spend more time focusing on our sensations and reconnecting with ourselves we will feel more comfortable in our own skin. We will develop more energy and will power to shape not only our bodies but our lives.

Being dominated by non-stop thinking can leave us feeling unhappy and stressed with little relief except to sedate ourselves with food, medications, alcohol or other less-than-healthy relaxation options. As an alternative, we can choose to relax and reconnect by becoming mindful of our breath, noticing our surrounding and the sensations of our body as we exercise and/or even when we go through the activities of daily living. Mindfulness makes us more aware and boosts our feelings of gratitude for the many blessings of our life - which is the key to happiness. Try it! All you’ve got to lose is some stress, disconnectedness and self-doubt. And maybe even some extra weight!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The joy of flexibility

Like most girls, I first started stretching in gym class. I remember my gym teacher saying "It's important to stay flexible," and although I didn't know why, I dutifully stretched. As I was a fan of gymnastics and ballet during junior high and high school, I did a lot of stretching in association with those pursuits as well. Fast forward to college and beyond, and my stretching almost completely fell to the wayside.

I didn't notice too much of a difference because I wasn't particularly athletic and my primary form of exercise was walking. But I was losing range of motion little by little and sometimes experiencing muscle pain. By the time I was in my late 40s, I was stiff and found it difficult to bend down and to twist my head back. When I stretched my arm back to get something behind me I would sometimes pull a muscle. As I was also 40-plus pounds overweight, I basically felt like a sluggish lump. I attributed my fatigue, aching muscles, and limited range of motion to the natural process of getting older.

What I didn't realize was that more than getting older, my lack of flexibility and aching muscles were caused by disuse. I wasn't moving very much all day long. Primarily I sat at my desk for hours and did a bit of walking here and there. Back then, I didn't understand how weak and stiff muscles, ligaments and tendons can become unless they are challenged on a regular basis. (I get that now after studying anatomy and exercise physiology to become a personal trainer and group fitness instructor.)

I began stretching a bit more as well doing resistance and cardio exercises about eight years ago after I started on a healthy lifestyle and weight loss program. That helped some. But it wasn't until I started taking yoga that I really began to methodically stretch my entire body from my fingers to my toes. At first I was seriously stiff and had the least range of motion of anyone taking the class, but I kept with it.

Over time, my tendons and ligaments loosened up as my muscles became stronger. I regained the strength and flexibility I had in my 30s. Let me tell you right now, as I have said before, life is better when you're fit and flexible. During a flamenco show I attended after I regained flexibility, one of the dancers came to our table and asked me if I wanted to get up and learn how. Without thinking I jumped up and jumped right into it, shaking it with the best of them.

To continue drinking from this fountain of youth, I continue to work out, including stretching, consistently. I now teach yoga and other forms of senior fitness as well as practice it. Yoga has become part of my workout routine and part of how I train my clients and teach group exercise. Stretching makes me feel so good, I do it now not because I have to but because I want to. Just as I can't imagine not brushing my teeth every day, I can't imagine not stretching.

Attending yoga classes isn't the only way to add more stretching to your exercise regimen, but it's a simple and effective one. An excellent book on stretching for do-it-yourselfers is "Stretching" by Bob Anderson. It's thoroughly illustrated and includes stretches targeting various sports and activities.