Archive for September, 2010


We’ve all heard that a diet rich in fiber helps promote weight loss and fight disease such as cancer, but exactly how does fiber do that?

First of all, its important to understand that there are two different kinds of fiber—insoluble (dietary) and soluble. Insoluble fiber cannot be absorbed into the blood stream. Instead it promotes your digestive health by speeding up the removal of material in your digestive tract. By removing waste, insoluble fiber helps reduce the risk of such diseases as colon cancer and helps minimize discomfort from an unhealthy digestive system. Sources of insoluble fiber include whole grain cereals, wheat bran, and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

Soluble fiber is fiber that can be absorbed. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (which reduces your risk of heart disease) and helps with weight loss. This is because soluble fiber makes you feel fuller longer, causing you to eat less especially when paired with lean protein. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans and legumes, oat bran, barley, and citrus.
Health professionals suggest that the average adult consume 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber per day. This goal can be met with a well-balanced, varied diet consisting of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and at least 3 servings of whole grains.  A serving of a fiber supplement such as Metamucil 30 minutes before each meal will also help you get enough fiber and curb your appetite so you can avoid binging during meals.

Advertisements

Heroes know that an active mind is crucial to your daily superhero activities, but did you know it can also help prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s,  and other age related mental illness? Activities such as reading, doing puzzles, playing an instrument, or learning a new skill all help keep the mind active, sharp, and young. According to an article in Time Magazine, regularly challenging your mind with activities such as a crossword puzzle can reduce one’s chances of developing dementia by almost 50%!

It’s difficult to reverse mental illness once the first stages set in, so prevention truly is the best way to combat an aging mind. Activities for developing and keeping a young and healthy mind include:

  • puzzles
  • reading
  • playing a musical instrument
  • learning a new skill
  • problem solving such as math
  • gardening
  • art

Basically anything that engages multiple parts of the brain in an active manner. Of course, just like your body needs both exercise and a healthy diet, so does your mind so be sure to consume lots of water (to flush out impurities and stay hydrated), fruits and vegetables (full of powerful antioxidants), healthy oils like omega-3 (for brain development), and lean protein.

Would Batman be Batman without the batlike getup? Could Magento have been as menacing if his trusty helmet wasn’t blocking Professor X’s mental intrusions? Most likely not. The clothes don’t make the person, but they do go a long way to completing the persona and often give the superhero that extra boost of power they need to completely take the superhero plunge (remember Spiderman’s over-sized pajamas . . . exactly!)

No matter what kind of superhero you are–an environmental hero, teacher, police officer, volunteer, or socially conscious business owner–you need to dress the part if you want people to take you seriously. More than 90% of a person’s judgement of you is made before they ever hear you speak. Looks are the biggest part of the quintessential first impression, and yes first impressions do matter especially for the aspiring hero. You don’t want to start off with a bad impression. Witness, exhibit A:

Courtesy of the Fail Blog

A true superhero knows that to look the part they need to:

  1. Dress appropriately for the occasion: An environmental hero knows to wear comfy shoes and to come armed with trash bags and antibacterial hand lotion when attacking a dirty park. Just like a police officer doesn’t fight crime without his badge and uniform.
  2. No B-O for the Hero: Good hygiene is a must for any superhero. I’m not saying sacrifice personal style here. Piercings, tattoos, colored hair, and other expressions are all a-okay in the superhero handbook. What’s not good is offensive body odor, creepy toenails that look more like talons, and greasy hair and skin so slick we could oil down a whole fleet of semis (shutter).
  3. Clothes that fit: Clothes that are either too big or too small look all wrong. Clothes that fit make you look and feel good, and when you feel good your confidence exudes that superhero strength people respond to.
  4. Signature style: No two superheroes look-alike. Each one has their own unique look to match their persona. Develop your own signature style, one that lets villains and citizens alike recognize you and what you stand for.

We all know that we have to dress to impress. That phrase means even more to the hero. So be sure to dress the part. People will notice your hero style and respond in kind. It’s just one more step toward achieving your hero status.

Oftentimes, when we think of heroes we think of those famous people, the ones on national news who have done something outrageous and huge. Although its great to have such a wide reaching impact, the most powerful impact one can have is on their own home town.

Home town heroes, just like all heroes, come in many shapes and sizes, and like I’ve said a million times it doesn’t take much to do something heroic especially if its in your own back yard. All it takes is a local perspective, a sense of community, and a little time.

Here are a few ways to achieve hometown hero status:

  1. Buy local: Support local businesses and farmers by buying local instead of from the big box stores. Not only do you help keep unique businesses open and people employed, you also keep more money in the community. According to the 3/50 Project, for every $100 spent local, independently owned establishments $63 stays local compared to less than $43 spent at box stores.
  2. Vote: Local governments are incredibly receptive to constituent concerns and support, more so than at the state or national level. There are always coffee with the representatives, council meetings, and other opportunities to speak directly to candidates and representatives about your concerns. Of course the best way to have your voice heard is by voting.
  3. Volunteer: There are so many ways to support your community. It only takes a few hours a month to make a huge difference. You can tutor local kids, teach a class at the community center, organize a park clean up, or deliver meals to local families. The possibilities are endless, as is the impact.
  4. Throw a block party: National night out is coming soon. Strengthen your community and get to know your neighbors by throwing a block party. Exchange phone numbers and offer to watch out for each other’s property and kids. Not only will you feel safer, but you’ll also enjoy your home that much more.
  5. Become a weekend warrior: Weekend races and festivals are commonplace. Though a great way to get in little exercise and competition, many of the races you see are held to support a cause such as breast cancer or your local food bank. So get out of the house, get some exercise, make it a family event, and support a local cause.
  6. Donate: Local charities do so much for the community. When the economy slumps, these charities are often the hardest hit as their reserves are quickly depleted. Add a few extra cans of food to your groceries this month or send in a check to help out your local food bank or crisis center.

Of course, how you become a hometown hero is only limited by your creativity and abilities so don’t be afraid to think beyond this list. If we all take the time to do a little in our own communities, we can start a snowball effect that will reach far beyond our hometowns.

I would love to hear what you’re doing in your own community!  Share with me in the comments section.

Eating healthy when you’re busy is next to impossible, but if I could do it as a single parent and a full-time student and still lose weight, then so can you! In order to stay on track I had to rely on some quick staples and a few think ahead techniques.

Here is my list of healthy staples:

  1. Kashi: Kashi makes an amazing line of whole grain, low-sodium, low-sugar organic snacks. Every single item they make fits into the 10 ingredient rule and stores easily. They also have some healthy frozen meals to keep on hand for those days when you don’t have time to make lunch. Plus, their chewy oatmeal and dark chocolate cookies are awesome!
  2. Frozen fruit and veggies: Healthy meals are a snap with frozen goodies on stand by. You can get organic fruits and veggies in the frozen section of any grocery store. Use what you need when you need them and pair them with a sandwich, chicken breast, or make a light stir fry. Use low-fat greek yogurt and frozen fruit for a healthy, protein rich smoothie on the go. You can drink your breakfast on your way to work or school. **Tip: Get a single serve blender that doubles as a to-go cup. It’s quick and leaves you with less dishes to clean.
  3. Stretch Island Fruit: These tasty chewy treats equal 1/2 serving of fruit and are void of unnatural dyes and white sugars. Pair them with a granola bar, string cheese, or a handful of nuts for a quick snack. Plus, since they’re fruit leather they’ll keep well in the pantry or in your desk at work.
  4. V-8: Get a serving a vegetables fast by keeping V-8 on hand. The big jug is cheaper per serving, but the individual jars are handy for those crazy mornings. Of course, don’t forget to recycle your cans!

Take time once a week to prep your meals and snacks for the whole week. Here are a few make ahead ideas to get you started:

  1. On Sunday make a batch of quinoa, rice, or lentils that can be mixed and matched with different veggies and proteins throughout the week. Use the frozen veggies and precooked meats for super fast meals.
  2. Pre-pack veggies, fruits, and nuts into reusable 1/2 and 1 cup containers that you can grab and go. You can do the same thing with cottage cheese and yogurt. (Plus, by doling out single servings, you’re keeping your consumption in check).
  3. Invest in a crockpot and create healthy one-pot dinners like chili or a seasonal stew. Not only are they easy to make but they save energy (compared to the oven) and make enough servings for more than one meal.
  4. Precook a batch of turkey or chicken that can be used in sandwiches or stir fry or paired with veggies.
  5. Use low or no sodium added chicken, tuna, salmon packed in cans with water (no oils here) to make quick meals. Top on salads, pair with ezekiel bread/tortillas, or add them to casseroles.
  6. Boil a dozen eggs. They make great snacks, protein for salads, or pair them with avocado and ezekiel bread for a fast lunch.

The key is to have plenty of things on hand ready to go for those inevitable mornings when you’re running behind. A little prep work on Sunday, combined with some good ole stand-bys can make the difference to keeping you committed to eating healthy (and staying on budget).

We all want to do more, something good for the world, but sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed by the amount of need and injustice there is in the world. Then, instead of doing something, we become incapacitated by the sheer size and weight of it all, and instead do nothing. Thing is, it doesn’t take much to make a difference. It only takes small acts, repeated consistently, to make a big difference in your life and in the lives of others.

Sometimes all it takes to impact others is to make changes in your own life. Small changes that will make a big difference in your life include:

  • Read or listen to something educational or positive for 30 minutes every day. Over time you will become more enlightened and positive, which will change your attitude and outlook on life. Those around you will notice, you will have more energy and knowledge to pool from, which will help you perform better at work and home.
  • Add in 30 minutes of activity. Take the stairs, park further away from the building, go for a walk in your neighborhood, dance in the living room–it doesn’t take much to start moving toward a healthier life. The healthier you are, the better you feel, the longer you’ll live, the longer you’ll be there for your family, and the less medical care you’ll need as you age.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments. Stop at least once a week and acknowledge the positive things you’ve done. No achievement is too small here. You’ll be surprised what it does to your ability to handle setbacks and to identify opportunities.
  • Take your lunch/make your own coffee. Eating and drinking out quickly adds up. Substitute at least one meal out with something brought from home. Start putting that money into a savings account. The average cost of lunch is $5-15 for one person . That’s an average of $520 a year!
  • Cut out 1 hour of television. The television is one of the biggest time sucks. If you really can’t tune out, try doubling up–exercise, craft, clean, or do some other activity while watching television so you don’t waste that time completely. Of course, you’ll be surprised at how refreshed you’ll feel with less television, especially if you limit it before bed.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to have an impact on others. Here are some small ways you can make a difference in the lives of others:

  • Donate an afternoon once a week/month: A couple of hours of your time can help tutor a child, deliver meals, clean up a public park, and more. Sometimes, that’s all the time it takes to save a life, to change someone’s view on life, and to improve the community.
  • Donate $5 a month. Take that money you would put toward coffee and put it toward your local food bank, animal shelter, library or other charity. As you feel you can afford it, add more to the donation pile. What you used to spend on your caffeine boost can feed a family, save an animal, build a well or school, and so much more.
  • Follow the three R’s. Reducing your waste, reusing materials, and recycling help to cut back on waste and reduces the amount of land needed for trash disposal. Not only does it preserve natural resources and improve your local environment, it saves taxes and other costs associated with building and maintaining landfills. Oh and don’t forget to BYOB–Bring Your Own Bag!
  • Write a Note. People don’t know how much you care if you never tell them. A quick note saying how much you appreciate someone will boost their self-esteem and strengthen your relationship. Of course, we always need reminding, so don’t forget to show your appreciation often.

These are just a few suggestions. Of course there are a million little things you can do daily, weekly, or monthly that will build up over time into big changes. In what small ways can make a big difference today?

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I haven’t always been this way. In fact, I only made the change in the past two years. Before that I was a fast food munching, junk food junkie who treated myself to cake on a daily basis and spent most of my time on the computer.

Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Now my dad is not and has never been healthy–not as long as I’ve known him. He’s a type 1 juvenile diabetic. Over the years he’s gone into diabetic shock more times than I can count, letting his blood sugar waver from below 30 to well above 200 (ideal range is 80-120). He didn’t exercise, ate horrible food, drank, chewed tobacco, and when he had a sugar low instead of eating healthy to maintain his sugar he would counter with a dozen candy bars.

Overtime he developed acid reflux disease (among other things). Repeatedly it ate away at his esophagus until finally his body couldn’t keep up with the repairs. The cells turned cancerous. They gave him a 20% survival rate because of his diabetes, but even if he survived cancer he wouldn’t be the same because he already had advanced renal disease (a side of effect of his diabetes) and the chemo was sure to accelerate that, meaning he would have to start dialysis.

Family members, including myself,  took turns taking my dad to chemo. I sat in the waiting room, reading all of the literature on cancer and other serious diseases. In the many materials where some consistent statements:

  • 1/3 of all cancers are lifestyle related
  • Healthy diet and exercise can prevent cancer
  • Organic foods are best

My dad’s cancer was a result of acid reflux disease. Like many things, my dad didn’t change his diet or manage the acid reflux. Added to his other heath issues, it was bound to happen.

So I sat there in the recovery room with my dad after chemo as he’s being re-hydrated. He has to get up and vomit several times. He was 6’2″ and 225lb when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now,vomiting what little he was able to swallow, his 160lb frail frame staggers back to his chair to finish with the nurse. I’m holding the informational materials on cancer, trying to be strong because right now I just want to cry. I love my dad, but that stubborn bastard can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. He couldv’e taken better care of himself. It would’ve saved us money (medications, hospital costs, monthly checks with the specialists, etc) and my mom wouldn’t be up half the night, jumping at every weird sound he makes, checking to make sure he’s still breathing.

That was when I decided I’m not putting my daughter through this.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, I want you to understand that your health doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you. The consequences of poor health can take a severe emotional and financial toll on your family and friends. At least once a week I have a nightmare about my father’s health. It’s hardest on my mother of course. I always wish I could do something more.

I decided to set an example.

It was hard at first. I love cake, and I ‘m not keen on cold, hard veggies. I was working 60+ hours a week and going to school full-time and the sole caregiver for my then four-year old daughter. Of course, my siblings and I have all earned my father’s stubborn streak, so I made sure to use it to my advantage. I didn’t see much difference at first. It took time to change all those little bad habits. In October 2009 I made the commitment to go full throttle. I lost 20lbs of pure fat and dropped from a 12 to a 2. Although I look good, I feel even better. I can go with my daughter to the park. I can go on a 4 mile run and come home and paint a room and still have energy to go dancing. Many of my health issues subsided. Best of all, my daughter loves that I don’t tell her I’m too tired and she knows that I’m doing everything in my power to insure I’ll be there for her for a very long time.

My father’s health issues have been hard on my daughter too. She loves my dad. She’s grandpa’s little girl. It only shows how far one impacts people, and how devastating their decisions can be when they choose not to take care of themselves.

My dad survived the cancer, but he did have to start dialysis. He’s getting a transplant for Christmas, courteous of my mother’s donated kidney. So now I have the stress of having both of my parents in the hospital during Christmas–not my idea of a holiday. I try to keep that to myself, don’t talk about it in front of my mom or dad. They don’t read my blog (they’re not tech savvy) so it’s okay. I can let it out here.

So I implore you, take care of yourself. Get healthy. Go exercise. Lay off the junk food. If not for yourself, do it for your children.

Heroes know that balance and strength are important. Balance and strength of body, spirit, and mind empower the hero to take life’s challenges and to do their part to make the world a better place. Yoga is an excellent way to achieve that balance.

Yoga is a three thousand year old Hindu practice uniting body, spirit, and mind. There are four spiritual yogas, and much of the physical work/exercise we associate with yoga stems from each of the four yoga paths. The four paths are:

  1. Karma-yoga: This is the path of selfless action, the path that frees one from the ego.
  2. Bhakti-yoga: This is the path of devotion, the path that teaches that love is the most basic human emotion.
  3. Raja-yoga: The path of concentration and meditation, the process of igniting the flame of knowledge through careful and repeated practice and meditation.
  4. Jnana-yoga: The path of knowledge and discrimination, the path to a pure and enlightened existence.

Much of what we know in the West as yoga are physical spin offs of one or more of the four yogas. Some of the more common practices popular in the United States are:

  1. Anusara: This method focuses on lifting the heart to the divine. All poses work to open the body and heart to the heavens.
  2. Ashtanga: This method uses heat and breath to purify the body and spirit of toxins.
  3. Bikram: Also called heated yoga, it combines 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises while working in a room typically heated to 105 degrees.
  4. Hatha: This actually encompasses all physical renditions of yoga. All yoga practices fall under this. Still, some studios use this term.
  5. Iyengar: Nicknamed “furniture yoga,” it incorporates blocks, straps, and other tools to help the practitioner get into a more perfect pose.
  6. Jivamukti: This method tries to incorporate more of the traditional spiritual practices if yoga with extreme physical practice.

Of course, there are several more, each one a slight deviation from the next, but all work to align the mind, body, and spirit.

This month, many yoga studios are offering special classes. Most studios offer at least one free class to new students year round, some offer as much as a week, making it easy for you to try out studios and find one that works best for you. Take advantage of National Yoga Month and learn how yoga can help you find balance and strength.

What Makes Someone a Hero?

The purpose of this site is to explore what it means to be a hero. Personally, I think that there are so many types of heroes, so many ways to make a difference, that it’s impossible to create a “formula” for becoming a hero. Still, there are some commonalities I’ve seen. For example, heroes tend to be:

Courageous                                                       Adventurous

Strong-willed                                                    Altruistic

Strong-hearted                                                Determined

Compassionate                                                Gracious

This is a basic list, but again, there are so many different ways to be a hero. So I want to know. What do you think makes someone a hero?

As a superhero, you’re always looking for ways to give back to your community. There are more than enough organizations and causes for the superhero to choose from. Too many, in fact.  With so many to choose from, how do you decide which opportunity is best for you? Here are a few tips to help you decide:

  1. Choose the cause you’re most passionate about. Every cause is a worthwhile cause. You may feel the pull to choose one or more because you recognize the need for change. However, in order to be a truly valuable volunteer, you need to be able to serve as a “raving fan” for your cause day in and day out. So remember, it’s okay to choose your passion even when volunteering.
  2. Be realistic about how much time you can commit. Don’t be afraid to ask how much time the organization expects each volunteer to commit. In order for it to be fair to the organization and manageable for you, stick to opportunities that fit into your current schedule. Whatever you do, don’t over-commit. Volunteering should be an uplifting experience, not a stressful one.
  3. Talk to other volunteers. Find out what other volunteers think about their experience. Ask them what kind of activities they do? What are the other volunteers and administrators like? What do they like most/least about volunteering? It’s one of the best ways to find out what your experience will be like.
  4. Compare the volunteer duties with your skill set. Look for opportunities that will also let you shine. If you’re an artist, look for ways where you can help beautify dilapidated buildings. If you’re a carpenter, then maybe something like Habitat for Humanity will work well for you. If you’re a writer, see if you can help with their newsletters or grant writing. Of course, don’t overlook the fact that volunteer opportunities are a great way to learn new skills, so don’t be afraid to challenge yourself either.
  5. Try it out. Talk to the volunteer coordinator and see if its possible for you to try help with an event or some activities before you commit to volunteering on a regular basis.

If you’re not sure where to look for volunteer opportunities, check out Volunteer Match or United We Serve for opportunities in your area.

Above all, don’t be afraid to explore multiple opportunities. Look at the many ways you can participate within each organization and choose the one that best fits your interests, personality, and time availability. Above all, actually get out there and do it. It doesn’t take much time to make a huge difference in someone’s life.