Has this ever happened to you? One day, you’re doing your thing—whatever that thing may be—you know, taking care of business, tending to the daily details of your so-called life. It’s a breeze, a walk in the park, a nice, comfortable routine that you enjoy. Sure, it can be mundane, at times, a bit of the same old/same old, but it’s a smooth, effortless ride. You’re getting stuff done. You’re productive. Happy. Living la dolce vida (and maybe even la vida loca, for you Ricky Martin fans out there). And then, out of nowhere, out of the blue, it all ends. Stops. Ceases to not only be fun, but to be at all. You are suddenly stuck. In a rut.
This sensation can apply to just about any situation in anyone’s life. As a writer, the first thing that comes to mind is: Writer’s Block. I can hear the moans and screams from my fellow writer’s out there—no, no, not that! Not writer’s block! Do not go there!
Okay, I won’t, not just yet. Instead, how about I go here: constipation.
Now we’re talking about some serious blockage.
Isn’t that a bit of a stretch, Mike? From writer’s block to constipation?
Not really. Here’s why: to avoid any kid of blockage in your life (let’s call this Life Blockage), you need to follow a few simple tips—plan ahead, practice good, healthy routines, balance your triad—mind, body, and spirit, and work hard at it. Every day.
Life blockage isn’t limited to writer’s block or your ability or inability to regulate your bowels. It can challenge your relationships or careers, appear as a mid-life crisis, and mess with your diet and health; just about anything in your life. The good news: working on these tips can help you manage most of what life, and life blockage, sends your way.
DO IT EVERY DAY
It is said that practice makes perfect. While seeking perfection can be a practice in futility, practicing is a good thing. To get better at anything, you need to work at it. Repetition is an important key on the road to improvement, but mistakes are bound to happen—another good thing. Making mistakes is encouraged, as long as you learn from them.
Let’s go back and take a look at writing again. I strongly suggest you write every day. Easy, right, you’re a writer. But it is easier said than done—at least for me it is. I mean, who has anything relevant to say every day? Not a lot of people. But you still need to write, all the time, if your desire is to become a good writer, and to improve your writing skills. So write. Every day. At times (lots of times) you will write bad prose and you will discard most of what you have toiled hours to create. If you want to write (and those who really want to write, will write—it’s almost an unstoppable compulsion) you will, and, if I may be so bold, you will enjoy the process.
Writing every day will keep the writer’s block away!
Using these methods will help you with most any challenges life tosses your way.
• Work at (_______) every day
• Understand that it is okay, encouraged even, to make mistakes
• Learn from those mistakes
• Work smart
Working smart is managing your time, balancing your tasks, and doing the little things that you learn and pick up along the way. One of the tips I picked up to help me combat the evils of writer’s block was writing every day. And on those days when your creative muse is your best friend, take a moment to jot down all those amazing ideas that seem to be overflowing from your brain. You will be grateful for them a few weeks later when your brain bogs down and is as productive as a wedge of Swiss cheese.
Another tip that is great for writers and writer’s block is to read, all the time, everything you can get your hands on. Diverse data, fiction and non-fiction, books and magazines, every day. READ.
The more you know, the more you can write.
So, what does any of this have to do with, you know, ahh, that other backed up situation you mentioned earlier?
Yup, that’s the one.
Apply the same tips.
• Work at it every day. This means eating the right foods and the right amounts, along with an exercise program
• Make mistakes and learn from them. Discover which foods make your plumbing happy and which ones do not. I can give you a one-word hint—FIBER! Lots of fruits and veggies. And stay away from cheese and processed foods.
• Work smart—see above
When I sat down to write this, I was blocked—just my mind, not anywhere else (if you are, this video will help). My life these days has been filled with more than my share of outside distractions and challenges that have upset my routines and balance, creating a blockage. A life blockage.
Whenever I am faced with these challenges, these life blockages, I always fall back on the common sense methods that have helped me overcome myriad difficulties in the past. Writing down a few of them in this post reminded, and reassured, me that they still are effective. Still work for me.
I hope they work for you too.
Until next time…
Monday, July 28, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Whenever someone visits my home, one of the first things out of their mouth is, “Wow, read much?” Or something along those words. Why? Picture a library, with furniture—not library furniture (desks and chairs), but living room, bedroom, dining room furniture—and you have a snapshot of my house (“our” house—mine and my lovely wife’s, who besides being wonderful in countless ways, is a saint for allowing me to turn much of our home into a book lovers paradise).
I am a collector. Not just books, but a collector of many things collectible.
Is this a bad thing? A form of some obsessive/compulsive disorder?
Here is the Mayo Clinic description of Obsessions:
Obsessions are repeated, persistent, unwanted ideas, thoughts, images or impulses that you experience involuntarily and that appear to be senseless. These obsessions typically intrude when you're trying to think of or do other things.
And for compulsions:
Compulsions are repetitive behaviors that you feel driven to perform. These repetitive behaviors are meant to prevent or reduce anxiety or distress related to your obsessions.
I can relate to my collecting the words—repeating, persistent and repetitive. But not “unwanted ideas or images”—I WANT to collect. Does my desire to visit bookstores intrude on my thoughts when trying to do other things? Sure, at times, but that’s not a BAD thing, is it? Do I feel driven to collect? Again, sure, at times. And, again, not a bad thing…is it? Does collecting help reduce anxiety or distress? Ahh, some good news: not when related to my obsessions, which are still debatable. Okay, now I’m not just concerned about the possibility of my having OCD, but bordering on confusion and bewilderment that may appear to be senseless. Let’s skip the psychological evaluation portion of the program and get back to collecting.
I was talking about books. Okay, maybe I exaggerated about our house looking like a library—my wife may be a saint, but she’s not stupid. She has magically managed to tastefully distribute over twenty bookcases throughout the house while still able to maintain…oh, heck, the place reeks with books, almost 3000 of them! What can I say? I can’t help myself—I’m a collector.
My love for reading began as a boy growing up watching my dad devour paperback after paperback with delightful ease. He was a paperback juggler, able to read a half-dozen at a time, leaving dog-eared, food-stained, abused and battered pulps strewn throughout every room of the house. Yes, I always enjoyed reading, but collecting? I used to be like my dad—read a paperback with nary a concern for its safety, then toss it aside like a candy bar wrapper. Then one day, about two decades ago, something clicked inside my skull. While visiting a book store, I noticed a queue of folks, brand-new hardbacks in hand, waiting to meet an author. I grabbed one of the books for myself and joined my fellow readers, met, chatted with, and enjoyed watching this writer (Robert McCammon) autograph my copy—and like that, I was hooked.
I started collecting signed first editions from all the writers I already liked, then expanded my tastes and collection from there. My hobby quickly became a passion; my passion a vocation—one that has yet to show any signs of slowing down. I still love nothing better than leisurely perusing the musty shelves of a used book store in search of buried treasure in the form of an elusive first edition needed to complete a collected set of one of my favorite author’s works. I’ll figure out where to put it (my book cases are overflowing) later. I just can’t help myself. Why? You guessed it—I’m a collector.
And I don’t just collect books. I have happily amassed turtles and frogs (not the real things!), guitars and magazines (I cannot throw them out), globes and tea. Yes, tea! I have over fifty varieties of organic teas, mostly green, rooibos, and yerba mattes. And, yes, I drink my collection every day. That’s another great thing about my collections—they, for the most part, are functional. I read the books I collect, drink the teas, play the guitars, read the magazines. Okay, I admit it—I like to talk to my fake turtles too.
Eliminate the massive quantities of these items and I am basically your everyday normal person…save for a few idiosyncratic tendencies that shall remain nameless.
It is just me? This collecting thing? I don’t think so. Human beings are pack rats, they enjoy accumulating things—be it old newspapers, cabbage patch dolls (remember them?), hammers or Hummels. It could be worse— Jay Leno collects expensive automobiles . Besides being way out of my league cost-wise, imagine what his living room looks like. Oh, that’s right; he has a garage the size of ten of my houses. Makes sense—he also collects a much larger paycheck than I do.
How about you? Are you a collector?
I bet you are.
Until next time…
Monday, July 21, 2008
One of my favorite things I like to do this time of year is visit the local farmer’s market and load up on my fresh fruits and vegetables for the week. This past Saturday, I was there—tasting apples and a variety of flavored nuts (almonds, in this town, it’s all about almonds!), while carefully selecting cucumbers, peppers, squash, and that market staple, tomatoes. Boy, do I love fresh summer tomatoes!
Recently, tomatoes have been getting a bad rap, with all the salmonella scares. And don’t get me wrong—there are several crops infected with these serious bacteria. The good news: most of the tainted crops have been removed from the marketplace, and none have been traced back to any local area farms. I still suggest exercising caution (wash and rewash all of your produce, not just tomatoes), but do not stop eating these nutritious and tasty…um, vegetables? Fruits? Ah, let me get back to you on that.
To even suggest that tomatoes sold in your grocery store are of the same species as those bought fresh (some are picked that morning!) at your local farmer’s market, is to compare eating frozen pizza to a fresh-from-the-oven slice from your favorite pizzeria. There is no comparison. Same with tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes are months-old, stored and refrigerated for who-knows-how-long before being placed in the produce section.
My suggestion—Don’t buy them!
My other suggestion—Grow your own!
My last suggestion—If you can’t grow your own, then support your local farmer’s market and load up on this wonderful…ahh, vegetable…I mean, fruit? Chew on that for a bit longer and I promise I will get back to you.
Why are tomatoes so good for you? Lycopene. This is the chemical that makes tomatoes red. A review of over 50 different studies showed consistently that the more tomatoes and tomato products people eat, the lower their risks of many different kinds of cancer. The evidence is stronger in the prostate, lung, and stomach. The tomato is also an excellent source of vitamin C (one medium tomato provides 40% of the RDA) and a good source of vitamin A (20% of the RDA).
Okay, well and good, Mike, but the summer-fresh tomato season is short, and you suggest we shy away from the grocery store tomatoes. What do we do for the other eight months?
Beg your pardon?
The tomatoes. Can them.
Oh, I thought you meant…
Never mind that. For those months in between the too-short farm-fresh tomato season, I suggest, especially if you grow your own, to eat as many as you can, freeze some, and then can, or jar, the rest. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how fresh and tasty they remain months after you have plucked them from the vine. As for the rest of you who don’t grow your own—buy them canned. There are several excellent canned tomato products to choose from. I look for organic and watch the sodium levels. While these are not as tasty as the summer fresh fruit (veggie?), they still, in my opinion, are many times tastier that those sad excuses sitting forlornly in your grocer’s produce section. And here’s a bonus: processed tomatoes contain even more lysopene because the process helps release concentrated carotenoids. Even in ketchup!
What’s your favorite tomato dish? Growing up in an Italian household, where my mother made a tomato sauce once a week, I love pasta. I could drink marinara sauce! (I’m kidding…I use an i.v. drip). But summertime, I love nothing better than slicing up a fresh tomato (still warm from sitting on a window sill to ripen. Do not put fresh tomatoes in the fridge—it reduces flavor and texture, turning them into clones of their pathetic cousins from the grocery store) and eating it between slices of lightly toasted bread, a touch of mayonnaise, maybe a slice of cheese, and salt and pepper. My mouth is watering. Hope yours is too.
So, what’s the verdict?
Yeah, wow, tomatoes are good for you and taste great, especially in the summer. Gonna run out and—
No, not that. Fruit or vegetable?
A: To really figure out if a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, you need to know what makes a fruit a fruit, and a vegetable a vegetable. The big question to ask is: does it have seeds?
If the answer is yes, then technically, you have a fruit. This means that tomatoes are a fruit. It also makes cucumbers, squash, green beans and walnuts fruits as well.
What does it all mean? Who knows? What I do know is this: call them what you want, but just go out there and eat summer-fresh tomatoes every day while they last. They taste great, and may just save your life.
Until next time…
Friday, July 18, 2008
I didn’t want to write this post. Not because I don’t have a passion for the subject matter—I live for goals! I just didn’t feel like sitting here, pen in hand (yes, I write the old fashioned way, with pen and paper; I then transfer those scratched out words to a word document, and then I post it to my blog—it works for me) vexing my brain into coming up with today’s post. But here I am, writing about the necessity of goals in our lives, despite desiring to be elsewhere. Why? Because I have to—it’s one of my goals.
Recently, I decided that I would write three blog posts a week—on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I visit dozens of blogs each day, taking note of content, style, and frequency of posts, and based on that figured that three was just about right. That number also fit in with my wanting to write about the three main themes of livelife365.com--Health, Personal Development, and Entertainment—each week. After making this decision, I then made it a goal. Being serious about my goals, and today being Friday, I felt compelled, bound by self-promise, to keep my word to myself. Ah, goals!
I am a firm believer that to be successful in life one needs to have a plan. Now, I also understand the need for spontaneity and that I am unable to “control” a lot of situations, realize that life often tosses us curveballs of fate, both ominous and serendipitous, that my plans or goals make little dent in. For that I like to say, “Worry about the things you can control and not about what you cannot.” What I am getting at is the gist of this post, and that is: Take charge of your life by setting goals!
Let’s say you’re trying to lose weight—I strongly suggest setting a weekly goal to strive for. For me, when I lost 40 pounds in six months, I set a goal of losing two pounds a week as something to shoot for. My short-range goals also included weighing myself daily, keeping a diet journal of everything I put in my mouth, and counting calories consumed and burned. A lot of effort, but well worth it—it worked!
Set clearly defined goals, but make sure they are not too easy or too difficult to attain. If they are too easy, then raise the bar; find yourself something worthwhile to shoot for. But don’t raise that bar too high—if a goal appears unattainable, then you begin to lose faith, get frustrated, regress, and sometimes give up. It is a challenging balancing act, but if you put some thought and effort into it, you’d be surprised at how effective your results will be.
Speaking of effort—setting, maintaining, and reaching goals is all about effort. Hard work. You will get out of it only what you put into it. If you are serious about changing your life for the better—physically, intellectually, financially, spiritually, relationship-wise—and bringing more purpose and fulfillment into your days, it takes some work. Work well worth the effort. But you need a plan. You need goals.
Have you ever sat in a job interview, or maybe just a performance review with your boss, and heard this query: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Big groan, right?
Most of us are just trying to survive today, or at least this week, month, maybe year. Think about five years for a moment—it seems like a long time, but, for me, at least, these last five years have flown by! If you are not where you want to be now, chances are you did not give enough attention to your goals five years ago—make sense? Put another way: If you see yourself five years from now in a better career, nicer home, married with children (or divorced, free, and consuming fruity beverages on a beach in the Caribbean), you will need to start planning NOW. Start setting goals.
• Make a list of your dreams and goals
• Make a plan of how to attain the above
• Set a doable timetable
• Put forth the effort
• Remember that there will be snags, forks in the road, challenges and adversity along the way, so…
• Don’t be afraid to reassess, tweak, and refresh your goals. As you evolve, so do your goals.
• Stay the course, never give up, dream, and live!
When I think long-range, I think ten years or more, maybe longer. What I’m really trying to say is—when can I retire? And: how much money will I need? Also where?
A few years ago, I made a major commitment and decisions that would greatly determine when and how well my wife and I would retire and live. How did I go about doing this? I set goals. Sensing I was nearing the end of my prime earning years, I made a concerted effort to work more hours, earn more money, so we could save more. I set short- and mid-range goals for contributions in our 401k plans, upping the percentages each year until we eventually hit our maxes. I reworked our budget to help meet these goals (a good practice to do at least once a year), cutting spending here, sacrificing there (here’s a helpful video to get you started in the right direction), without compromising our other goal of enjoying our lives today.
These are just some of my goals. Your goals will be different, and they will need different strategies and planning. No matter what your dream life is, what goals you need to work on to achieve it, the more effort you put forth the better your results will be. Focus, plan, work hard, and you’re on your way.
Set goals and stick with them and your dream life, before you know it, will become reality.
Remember: A life without goals is a life unfulfilled.
Wow, for a guy who didn’t feel like writing, I sure wrote a lot. Why? Because it was a goal.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The other day, while reclining atop a hotel room bed, reading a magazine, I was attacked by a rogue pretzel. What, you may be asking yourself, was I doing eating pretzels on a hotel room bed? Well, I was attempting to embrace and enjoy a rare respite from the madness otherwise known as “my life,” that’s what. Happily trying to catch up on two month’s worth of magazines, giddily avoiding my laptop, while shamelessly engaging in a rare caloric activity—namely shoveling empty calories of fun into my normally dietary-rigid mouth.
Perhaps that had something to do with this recalcitrant pretzel’s sneak attack—my rustiness in the simple art of consuming snack foods. You see, I am a total health nut freak (recently I was slightly taken aback by a comment left on one of my posts that described me as a “health nut,” until I sat back and thought about that word and realized, without a doubt, that, hey, I am a health nut! And that’s a good thing). I rarely allow myself the pleasure of consuming snacks (like pretzels or potato chips—a HUGE snacking vice for me, by the way). But on occasion, and this was one of those (being on vacation), I cut myself a break and indulge in some salty treat…and it ended up not biting me in the backside, but stabbing me in the mouth.
Here’s what happened: I was methodically cramming pretzel after pretzel into my seemingly insatiable maw, stick pretzels (my favorites are Snyder’s), you know the kind I mean, when one snapped in half, flipped up on to one end, and impaled itself into the roof of my mouth. Okay, maybe not impaled, but definitely jabbed, gouged, stabbed, shived, bayoneted, knifed, poked—name your bloody word! Because there was blood, lots of blood!
Needless to say, the elation of my pretzel pig-out was immediately and sadly cut short—as if the God of Nutrition had decided that he had seen enough, and reached his hand into my masticating mouth and manipulated a half-chewed pretzel into attention and to use as a weapon, thus putting an end to this empty-caloric nonsense.
Tossing the offending junk food bag into the corner of the hotel room, I hurried to the bathroom sink and rinsed and relieved my mouth of blood and all starchy remnants. I probed and stuffed balls of moistened tissue into my throbbing mouth until, after almost an hour’s battle, the bleeding subsided, leaving me with a very sore palate, and zero desire to indulge in any salty, crunchy foods for the rest of this decade.
This harrowing brush with death (okay, maybe not my death, but at least the death of desire for a pretzel, once one of my few remaining guilty pleasures) left me pondering my lot in life, and reminded me of a similar incident, years ago, that involved our infamous lame duck resident of the White House. You remember, right? While eating pretzels and watching football on TV, good old George W. fainted and fell face first into oval office carpeting. Left with a bruised cheek and ego, he joked about it later, saying, “If my mother is listening, mother, I should have listened to you: Always chew your pretzels before you swallow.”
Wow, me and the Prez. Some may be thinking: it couldn't have happened to two nicer guys…or something along those lines.
Better yet, the lesson I learned from all this is one I have been shouting from the rooftops for years and years, and that is:
JUNK FOOD KILLS!
…or at least attacks and maims.
As always, you can enjoy my variety of humor, music, self-help, how-to, inspirational, and personal development videos at my website, livelife365.com.
Here's a new, very short one that may tickle your funny bone. Enjoy!
Until next time…
Monday, July 14, 2008
Potatoes are a misunderstood vegetable. They are kind of like the Rodney Dangerfield of the veggie world—they don’t get any respect! Sure they are popular: they are the number one consumed vegetable (around 130 pounds per person, per year…man, that’s a lot of spuds!) in America. But they are never mentioned along with broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, or apples as one of the healthiest. One reason: their association with that deep-fried, fast-food staple, the French fry. But what if I told you that potatoes are loaded with all sorts of healthy goodness—even in their greasy French fried state? Why not grab a fry (not too many) and read on.
The first misconception about the potato is that is it high in calories. French fried potatoes are (over 500 calories per serving; plus high in saturated fats and sodium, though zero cholesterol). But a medium baked potato (before you smother it with butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits—wow, my stomach just growled real loud!) has only 160 calories. I eat my baked potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and they taste delicious. Try one with just a touch of your favorite butter or margarine (although I recommend trying the olive oil), and skip all those other toppings, and you will get the healthiest benefits. The potato’s bad rap comes from the fatty toppings most people add to them, as well as in how they are prepared in other ways (augrautin, mashed, for instance). I compare this to eating salads (trying to eat healthy), but then drowning your lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, and carrots with fattening dressings, high-in-calorie croutons, cheese, and the rest of those salad bar offerings. You have essentially taken a healthy eating choice and rendered it unhealthy. Please resist doing this. Instead, let’s focus on more of the potato’s good attributes—like fiber.
One potato has around 4.0 grams of fiber. I am a huge advocate of fiber, constantly looking for ways to get more than the recommended amounts of fiber into my daily diet. I recently lost 40 pounds on a high-fiber diet, and have kept it off. I am always searching for healthy, fiber-rich foods, and the potato gets high marks.
Here’s a question for you: Which has more potassium, one banana or one potato? Most of us assume that the banana, with around 800 mgs, has the most. But a medium potato has just over 900 mgs. Did you know that the best way to get the most out of this tuber is to eat the skin, along with the potato? This helps retain the nutrients. So, always eat the skin when digging into a baked potato. Buy yourself a good potato scrubber and give your spuds a good cleaning before baking. That way you can enjoy the tasty skin without hesitation, while getting all that healthy potassium (and other nutrients) in the bargain.
Looking for a source of vegetable protein? I know I always am. Look no further than the potato. Eat one and get around 4.0 grams of protein—a good thing!
Potatoes are also loaded with more than 60 vitamins—including 45% or your daily value for vitamin C, also thiamin, niacin, iron, and magnesium—and phytochemicals, which along with flavonoids, are considered heart-healthy. Plus kukoamines, a plant chemical found in potatoes, which help lower blood pressure. Those are a bunch of big words that just mean—EAT POTATOES, THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU!
Wow, when you look at all those amazing healthy benefits, maybe potatoes aren’t the Rodney Dangerfield of the veggie world after all? I guess it’s all in how they are prepared. My mantra—keep it simple. The more toppings and extras you add (to any food, not just potatoes) that do not enhance the naturally good flavor and healthy benefits of that food, will ultimately detract from it…and add unnecessary and unwanted calories, fats, sodium, and carbs.
To help you get started on your way to appreciating (and eating) the amazingly healthy potato, here are a few excellent websites that are all about potatoes. They offer some great recipes and helpful tips in preparing these tasty spuds.
Okay, wait, just one fry can’t hurt, can it? Man, those are good…
And good for you (in moderation)!
Until next time…
Friday, July 11, 2008
I recently received an email from someone who had visited my video site, livelife365.com. After viewing my video on how to beat addictions, she wanted to share with me her own recent success in overcoming her struggles with alcohol, and then ask me if I had any advice for helping her overcome her ongoing addiction to cigarettes. I offered several successful methods and programs that helped me quit smoking (years and years ago, thank goodness), and then added one of my favorite sayings:
TURN BAD HABITS INTO GOOD ONES!
While far from a cure-all, especially when attempting to quit smoking cigarettes (nicotine addiction is one of the most difficult battles to overcome), this advice has helped me change my life for the better time and time again.
Using smoking as an example, what I suggested to my email friend was to stop cold turkey. Actually, I suggested that she check with her medical professional first before making any drastic lifestyle change in diet, fitness or addictions. Once she stopped smoking she should then replace that nasty habit with a healthier one—like exercise. Start off slowly at first (a walking program is always my first choice for those just beginning to get back into an exercise routine), and then build from there. I then suggested eating healthier foods. Essentially, what this does is force you to stay away from the butts. By introducing healthy habits into your life, your mind and body (and don’t forget the other member of the triad of balance, the spirit) will rebel against such a negative intrusion—like inhaling burning tobacco leaves into your once pink lungs, introducing a toxic poison that will cut years off your precious life. After awhile, not only will your body reject tobacco (or alcohol or greasy fast-foods), but your mind and spirit will too.
I am a huge believer that diet and exercise, along with a positive mental approach, can cure just about anything. Most of the good habits I recommended to combat the struggle with quitting nicotine addiction can be applied to other bad habits that afflict us all—be it trying to stop the over-consumption of alcohol or attempting to cut down on fast-foods or soda.
I used to be a Diet Coke fiend. Let me give you some background about myself first. I was once a heavy drinker, from the age of sixteen to thirty-six. I figure I used up all of my booze tickets in twenty years, when they should have lasted me a lifetime. Using the bad habits/good habits method, along with other effective programs, I was able to quit drinking, and haven’t touched a drop in over fifteen years. But one habit I acquired, after giving up the vodka, was soda. Diet Coke, to be precise.
Figuring I had eliminated just about all other vices from my life, what harm could soda do me, right? Especially diet soda. I used to suck down five, six, seven or more bottles a day for years…until I started reading up on what was actually in diet soda. Along with the high sodium, which causes bloating, and various gastrointestinal side effects, overconsumption of diet soda is far from a healthy beverage option.
The solution: Turn that bad habit into a good one. My good one was: green tea. Never that much of a coffee drinker, I had read about the health benefits of drinking green tea, so I tried it—and have enjoyed it ever since.
This method can be applied to just about any bad habit. Watching too much bad TV? Shut off the set (there are some good shows on television, but it’s up to you to find them and then only watch the good ones) and pick up a good habit—like reading. Or a fun or interesting hobby. Relationship with your spouse getting dull? Spice it up or switch things around. Some of our routines, while necessary and comforting, can become ruts, if we allow them to. Turn that bad habit into a good one.
As I have said, this is not a cure-all for whatever ails you (some problems need bigger solutions), but give this method a try and see for yourself. The results may surprise you.
Good luck with whatever challenges you face. And may all your habits be good ones.
Until next time...
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
If someone were to ask me a few years ago what one of my favorite snacks was, I would have probably said: potato chips, or some other salty treat. Hummus would have been far down the list; in fact, it would not have even made the list. Back then, I didn’t even know what hummus was. Do you?
Well, today, most of us have at least heard of hummus. But how many of you have actually eaten it? Interested in learning more about this intriguing food? Read on.
Hummus is a dip, spread, or paste made from cooked and mashed chickpeas. It is then blended with tahini (crushed and soaked sesame seeds), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. The best way for me to describe how this delicious spread is made is by letting someone else do the talking. Watch this informative video (after you finish reading this post) for one of the best hummus recipes out there.
Hummus is Middle Eastern in origin, and has been around forever. Chickpeas have been a food item for over 10,000 years. Wow, that’s a lot of hummus over the years, huh? Most people eat hummus with pita bread—tearing off pieces to use as a scoop. You can also use your favorite dipping chip or cracker. I like to eat it with soy chips. My favorites can be found at Glenny’s; and they are loaded with vegetable protein. A snack of soy chips and hummus, which I consume two or three times a week, gives me around 10.0 grams of healthy protein and 7.0 grams of fiber. And they taste amazing!
Besides being a wonderful source of vegetable protein and fiber, hummus is also high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron--and is a good source for antioxidants.
As for different types of hummus—shop around, there are dozens of flavors and styles and brands out there. And, as always, read the nutritional information—some are high in fat and calories (read the ingredients, see what you’re eating!). These days you can find hummus in most grocery stores. I love the eggplant hummus at Trader Joe’s. And this site has some excellent organic hummus and other products you may enjoy.
For all you lovers of hummus (like me!) out there, keep enjoying this flavorful food’s myriad tastes and healthy benefits. And for those of you who have yet to try hummus? Give it a shot; you may end up loving it and making it one of your favorite snacks.
For more about hummus, I suggest visiting these two great sites:
The Hummus Blog
And, as always, you can enjoy self-help videos about health, personal development, entertainment and much more at my video site, livelife365.com.
Until next time...
Monday, July 7, 2008
My wife and I just returned from a 4th of July getaway across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, to Reno. Why Reno? Well, it’s close (three hours), and the drive is relaxing and filled with enjoyable scenery—mountaintops still speckled with snow, rivers cutting rapids through rock-strewn ravines, waterfalls and forests, historical bridges and quaint towns. We also like to lose ourselves with the lure of gambling, fine dining, diverse shopping, and the occasional show. It’s always an easy escape whenever we feel the need to escape from the everyday.
But, if you are like me and have certain special dietary needs, you need to plan ahead. Here are a few tips that will help make your next getaway smoother and more rewarding:
BRING YOUR OWN
I seldom leave on a trip—short jaunt or long trek—without my trusty Bodum travel tea kettle. It’s compact and light enough to fit in any carryon bag or suitcase. I suggest you also pack your tea (or coffee) cup and spoon—that way you don’t have to worry about finding one in the morning, and this also reduces exposure to germs (never use those glasses they put in hotel bathrooms!). I also bring along all of my favorite green teas (as well as rooibos and yerba matte) in a Ziploc bag. If traveling by automobile, I toss in a case of mountain spring water—you can stuff six bottles at a time into your carryon or on your person and bring them up to your room. This allows you to have safe water (not all bottled waters are created equal) to drink and make tea with, as well as saving you a bunch of money. I never drink tap water, even at home—I always bring along my own spring water while dining out. And I bring it along, whenever possible, while on vacation. I enjoy Crystal Geyser or Arrowhead. It makes a difference which type you drink. Always opt for mountain spring versus purified.
For longer trips, or if traveling by air, I will pack the Bodum travel tea kettle and my own tea, but then buy a case of mountain spring water at either a grocery store or Wal-Mart, if one is convenient. The difference in cost per bottle when you buy it by the case (around 21 cents per bottle) versus purchasing a bottle in the lobby of that fancy hotel (anywhere from $2.00-$4.00 per bottle) is staggering. Spend your hard-earned cash on some fun, not bottled water. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the lobby gift shop carries mountain spring water—most of the time you’re paying for bottled tap water that has just been purified.
If you have special dietary needs (and being a pretty strict vegetarian, I sure do!), then never assume that the restaurants at the resort or city or area you are visiting will offer the same dining fare you are accustom to. The good news: most restaurants these days do offer a few vegetarian menu items to choose from—but often they lack adequate protein or fiber, or are just salads or vegetable plates.
The solution: Bring your own, if you can. I never leave on a road trip or getaway without a Trader Joe’s bag filled with healthy snacks that satisfy my vegetarian needs (okay, and some fun stuff that just taste good—hey, you’re on vacation, after all, right?).
But the best solution:
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before leaving on any trip, go online and research the area you are visiting. Search for the restaurants or hotels that cater to your special needs (and not just vegetarian needs, but whatever your particular needs may be). Unless you’re vacationing in some obscure, faraway, remote island in the middle of nowhere, you should be able to find something that satisfies you.
Using the Internet (or magazines, newspaper articles, bolgs) for research before your trip is also invaluable for planning where to stay, what to do, how to get there, how much you should spend, and the best time to go.
Remember, you’re getting away from your routine, the everyday. If for some reason you can’t find exactly what you need to eat (I still have this challenge, at times, no matter how much planning I do), then just go with it. By that I don’t mean you should scarf down a cheeseburger if you’re a vegetarian. But if a burger joint is your only option, then ask if they can make you a veggie burger. If those aren’t on the menu, try asking them for something creative, like: a cheeseburger without the burger. Maybe a side salad instead of fries (oh, what the heck, have a few fries, Mike—you’re on vacation!). Or, do what I do when there is absolutely nothing that I can eat—order a salad, and then save room for dessert. I seldom eat dessert, but when I do I dive into it—banana split or slab of carrot cake. It is a getaway, after all, right?
I hope these tips help make your next getaway a happy and healthier one.
Oh, and one last thing. When gambling in Reno (or anywhere else), always set a high and a low. It’s simple: if you win a jackpot, don’t give it all back to the house (because the odds strongly favor this happening) by continuing to play. Set a high, and a low, dollar amount. When you hit either amount, cash in your winnings and live to gamble another day. Don’t let the house win when you have the opportunity to quit while you’re ahead.
On that note, think I will take my own advice.
Until next time…
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
At some time in each of our lives, most of us want, or need, to lose some weight. Whether it’s dropping those last ten pounds that have been driving you nuts, or, like tens of millions overweight Americans, you need to drop a whole bunch. 20 pounds? 40? Over 50? Guess what? Do I have some great news for you!
If you can count, you can lose weight. Now, I know you’ve all probably heard a lot of this before—count calories, watch portion sizes, eat less, exercise more—but not all weight reduction programs are created equal. Still overweight? Still need some help? Read on…
That’s the magic number of calories that makes up one pound of weight loss.
Okay, I understand, no one said there was going to be math, right?
Let’s say you eat 2000 calories each day (which, depending on your body size, gender, or age, is a nice, average number to go by). Now multiply that by 7 days, and the result is that you will consume 14,000 calories per week. Here’s where that magic number—3500—comes into play.
If your goal is to lose one pound a week, you will need to burn 3500 calories more than you ingest, per week. Using the above example: if you consume 14,000 calories, you would need to burn 17,500 to lose one pound in a week. Now, take those 17,500 calories and divide by 7 (days). That’s 2500. That’s how many calories you would need to burn, on average, per day, to lose one pound.
Wow, sounds like a lot of math, and hard work.
Actually, it’s a lot easier than you could imagine.
Using this formula, and eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet, I lost over 40 pounds in only six months. And I have been able to keep all of the weight off for over two years. And here’s the best news—burning calories is not that difficult. We burn them while asleep! You are burning some right now just reading this post. I burned a bunch writing it!
One of the best ways to burn more calories, though, is to become more active. You don’t have to go crazy and start training for an Iron Man competition, you just need to get up and get going. Start a walking program, work in the yard landscaping or gardening, use the stairs instead of the elevator, clean the house (yup, burns lots of calories). Even going grocery shopping will burn a bunch. Here is a great tool that will help you keep track of all the calories you burn. The good news—burning 2500-3000 calories (or more!) per day is not that difficult to do. The challenge for most of us is consuming fewer calories. That’s why I titled this post: Make Your Calories Count.
If you are to limit caloric consumption (eat less), then you need to make sure everything you put in your mouth has value and nutritional purpose. This means—no empty calories. An empty calorie is something (a bag of chips, slice of cake, most fast foods) that fills your stomach, but gives little in return—no nutrition, few vitamins or minerals. They may even be high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar. No value—so, don’t eat them.
Here’s the important thing to understand—if you seriously want to lose weight and decide to limit your caloric intake, you need to ensure that every calorie you consume has a purpose. Why? Because you only have so many in each day/week, to waste any could lead to your weight loss downfall. An example: one trip through that drive-thru window at your favorite (not anymore, I hope) burger joint could blow your calorie count for the entire day. A double cheeseburger, large fry, and soda or shake, depending on which grease house you are visiting, have anywhere from 1000-2000 calories. And watch their salads; most are high in sodium and calories. My advice: Don’t go there!
I talk in greater detail about all of this information at my video website, livelife365.com.
If you are serious about dropping those last ten pounds or ready to take that first step toward losing fifty, or more, count your calories (magic number: 3500), and make your calories count.
Here are a few more tips that have helped me:
• Eat small mini-meals throughout the day, every 2-3 hours. Toss out the traditional thinking that you need to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• Chew gum in between meals. You’d be amazed at how effective this it.
• Eat lots of fiber and less animal protein. Fiber curbs your appetite, digests slowly, helps with regularity, and is good for you.
• Stop eating before you feel full. It can take ten minutes or more before the brain realizes that the stomach is full. We all too often continue to eat way longer than we need to.
• Keep a journal. Jot down everything you eat each day—and I mean everything! This includes “tastes” while cooking and “nibbles” from your kid’s or spouses’ plates. And don’t forget liquids; they count too. This is an excellent way to monitor what is working or not in your diet. I still have my journals!
• Walk. Walking is the easiest, least expensive exercise there is. Here is an informative walking video to get you started.
Remember—3500 calories equals one pound. Burn more than 3500 calories than you ingest and you will lose a pound of weight. Do this every week and, before you know it, you will be well on your way to a healthier, happier, better life. I hope these tips help. And, as always, you can find more healthy information, as well as personal development, how-to, and entertainment videos at my video site, livelife365.com.