Monday, December 29, 2008

Nutrient Density for the New Year

Have you ever heard the term "Nutrient Density?" Dr. Joel Furhman defines nutrient density in his "Eat for Health" book in this way: "What makes a food healthy is how many nutrients is delivers to your body. In other words, for optimal health we must eat foods that are rich in nutrients, in particular, foods that deliver the maximum nutrients in each calorie."

Often people equate health food or healthy eating with eating foods that have some nutritional value. Or they just call the food healthy if it isn't a dessert or processed snack. Others determine if the food is healthy or not by how many calories, fat grams or carbohydrates it has. With all the diet crazes over the past few decades, that might seem like the rational thing to do. But when you hear how Dr. Fuhrman determines the nutritional value of food, nothing else seems to seems to make much sense.

Dr. Furhman has a formula he uses to determine nutrient density. It's lists the most nutritious foods by how many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (which are called micronutrients) are in a food divided by the number of calories. The more nutrient dense foods you eat, the better your health will be. The formula looks like some simple Einstein equation. It's H=N/C, which means your future Health = Nutrients divided by Calories in each bite you take.

When we choose food by this nutrient density equation in mind, it changes the focus from all our usual patterns of thinking, such as:

"What do I feel like eating?"
"What sounds good?"
"What's in the fridge, pantry, on the menu?"
"What am I in the habit of eating and don't possibly think I could ever live without?"
"What am I celebrating and what foods traditionally go along with that celebration?"
"What am I craving right this very second?"

Instead we stock our fridge and pantry with foods that are naturally packed with nutrients and learn to eat and enjoy those foods just like we have with the other foods for so many years. Old habits are hard to break -- they are EXTREMELY hard to break -- it's not a trite phrase I just write to fill up space. It's hard and many don't succeed especially when it comes to food. However, the other phrase that you must replace an old habit with a new one is true too. I'll add that if you think more about the new habit than the one you are leaving behind, you will not feel like a matryr and whine that you can't eat like you used to. You'll be so thrilled and fulfilled with the new foods you are eating that you won't even care about those other foods. You might romanticize at times about how yummy something was (all the good memories of the times attached), but truthfully, your body won't have enough room to eat those foods once you build your diet around nutrient dense foods, so you'll be just fine without them.

If you think you can get these micronutrients from supplements and continue eating the nutrient-sparse foods, you're fooling yourself. Just look around at all the other people doing this with diabetes, heart problems, and a host of other modern diseases. My dad spend Christmas morning in the hospital this year after having a stent put in his heart on Christmas eve. He was telling me the day before that the doctor told him not to fear this procedure -- it was such a common procedure that it was routine -- they did it all the time. I told my dad that could either give him comfort that it's not a risky procedure or it could sound awfully scaryto know that so much of our population is having to have stents put in their heart valves to stay alive. Supplements will not cut it. Nutritional excellence is what we need for excellent health.

We can find the most nutrients per calorie from unrefined plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. What percentage of these foods do you think the average American consumes? Less than 7 per cent! With Dr. Fuhrman's Eat for Health (or former book Eat to Live) approach, you'll be eating at least 90% of these nutrient dense foods.

You'll need to get Dr. Fuhrman's books to see his list of the high nutrients foods, but basically the very highest (surprise, surprise) are the Leafy Green Vegetables, with kale and collard greens being at the very top (score of 1000). Spinach is a little lower with a score of 739 and then when you drop into the next group of Solid Green Vegetables. Foods like cabbage, broccoli, and asparagus have scores of 420, 376, and 234, respectively. That doesn't mean that they aren't healthy - -they are! It just shows you how incredibly nutritious and essential those leafy greens are! The other high nutrient, non-starchy, non-green Vegetables (all vegetables that aren't green and that aren't potatoes or corn, which are more like a grain to your body)

Off to be a mom for a bit -- will finish up later. Until then, here's a video of Dr. Furhman explaining Nutrient Density.

Wow! I just watched the whole video and I love the info he gives. He's so knowledgeable about nutrition -- it's wonderful to learn from him. I hesitated before to write his whole ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) list, but since he shows it there on YouTube, I'll go ahead and list it here on my next post (so you don't have to push "pause" to read the whole thing). That way you can get a good picture of which foods are the most vital to eat for your health and see how useless so many other foods that we usually base our diet on are for good health. It becomes evident that eating high nutrient, healthful foods like green vegetables, berries, and seeds and less animal products, sugar, white flour, processed oil, and processed foods is truly the key to excellent health and well-being.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Weight Gain -- Inevitable?

A few years ago I taught a workshop for women at my church on eating healthy through the holidays. I told them the statistics for weight gain in our country between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day -- 8 pounds of fat. That means while some are staying just the same or could even be losing weight, others gain as much as 15 pounds or more! I've been one of those upper statistics, year after year.

When I was in college, I gained the freshman 10 (at least) and creeped up here and there as the years (and finals) continued on. Each time I prepared to go home for the holidays, I'd crash diet, not wanting my friends to see how much weight I'd gained. Sometimes I'd lose weight, but I'd always gain when I went home. I'd bake and bake -- it was my passion to cook in the kitchen and eat 1/2 the sugary treats that came out of that yummy smelling oven. I felt like such a failure when I'd go back to school, heavier than when I started my crash diet.

As I've learned more about eating healthy and managing my weight, I've still struggled with keeping it all under control over the holidays. There are so many occasions to celebrate (which for some reason means to overeat -- especially with sugar) that I felt like a Scrooge to not participate fully. I mean, isn't that what Christmas is all about? Baking for others, getting plates of cookies dropped off by friends, picking and choosing through big boxes of See's candies, eating stuff that you're not even sure why anyone would make, but after a few bites, it tastes good so you keep eating.

Some years I'd find that I was only eating sugar throughout the day. I'd start by eating somethign on the counter that I'd baked the day before. Once I got that sugar in my system, I didn't want any real food. I'd keep going from cookie, to chocolate, to muffins, to hopefully some ice cream, back to cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Cap that off with some hot chocolate at the end of the day (seems like such the wintery thing to do) and I'd go to bed with a big headache and no desire to get out of bed the next day.

I finally convinced myself that this wasn't doing my body any favors. At first I had to peel myself away from the sugar. I'd play mental games like telling myself that the cookies on the Snowman plate someone dropped off were a week old and tasted awful. It worked. Sometimes I'd just smell them for a bit of satisfaction. It was never tempting. I knew that I was better off without them.

I'd also keep myself away from the baking aisle at the store. If I didn't see those Guittard chocolate chips on sale during the month of December, I wouldn't buy any and couldn't bake with them either. If I didn't buy any molasses, I couldn't make gingerbread. I could, however, buy up oranges and pomegranates and kiwi (oh my!) I also would buy lots of veggies for warm soup to have simmering on the stove. I found that if I cut up fruit or vegetables and left them on the counter, my kids would eat them. They'd eat whatever was there.

I finally broke the trend of gaining 8-10 pounds over the holidays. I stopped feeling sluggish, heavy, and worse of all, out of control when the New Year began. My problem never ended at New Year's. I'd continue on at least through Valentine's Day and sometimes onto Easter. It took at least until June to get that holiday weight off. But now I seem to manage it. I don't look at all that sugar with longing like I did before. I do still bake from time to time, but I use more natural ingredients and don't bake as often or by quadrupling the recipe. I'm not writing this to brag, but to tell you that it is possible.

After 25 years of yo-yoing through the holidays myself, I've learned to keep my weight stagnant by continuing to eat nutrient dense foods and keeping even the healthy sweets to a minimum. After seeing so many friends pass away this year (even just in the past few weeks) from various diseases, I can see there's much more to this that just weight gain. I wish you all a healthy holiday. You don't need to feel deprived -- you'll be richly blessed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dr. Joel Furhman Video

I have so much that I want to share about Dr. Furhman and his latest book, "Eat for Health." I'd planned to write a post about what he calls Nutrient Density last week, but my computer broke (still broken -- on my husbands for a bit right now) so I haven't been on much at all. It's an NTLDR boot problem if anyone wants to come to my rescue :).

For now, I want to show you a video Dr. Furham put on YouTube to explain "Eat for Health" a bit. Hmm, now if I could only remember how to embed a video! It's been awhile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Raw Recipe -- Citrus Green Smoothie

I just came up with this recipe in my kitchen and it's sooooooooo creamy and yummy. I just had to share!

Usually I use my favorite green smoothie formula over and over (with little variations), but tonight I decided to break out of that mold a bit and see how it would go. I took a cooking creations risk and thankfully, it paid off!

Here's what I threw in my blender:

2 tangerines (peeled)
1/4 c. water
1 frozen banana (I'm sure you could use fresh, but frozen made it seem ice-creamy)
1 c. frozen strawberries (I'm guessing on the amount, it may be 1 1/2 c.)
3 handfuls of spinach
2 large chard leaves, broken off the stalk into smaller pieces

I tried it first w/o the water and it just wouldn't blend the frozen stuff. So I added the water after the strawberries to get it to blend. Worked like a charm!

This filled one 8 oz. glass and one much larger (which I froze for tomorrow). Oh, it was dreamy yummy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Raw Recipe -- Berry Green Smoothies

When I make my green smoothies, I usually use this basic formula. It's always yummy and gives me plenty of dark green leafy greens. Try it!

Berry Green Smoothie Recipe

2 c. juice (I like to juice apples or pineapple but you can use anything --sometimes I put in 2 c. grapes and blend it up for the juice)
2 c. frozen berries (the triple berries are best)
optional -- fresh strawberries, kiwi, peaches, or mango
2 bananas (or 1 if it's really large)
3 big handfuls of washed greens (kale & spinach seem to work best -- if you use kale, make sure you tear it up into spinach leaf size so it doesn't get stuck in the blender -- the kale stems are really coarse and you don't want them in there).

Blend it all up in the order listed. Drink one glass right away, hand another to a friend and freeze the rest (usually another 2 glasses). It's really good thawed out the next day or even up to a week or two later. I've taken them frozen in a cooler when traveling before and it worked great. In the photo I added a few berries whole as a garnish, but it also tastes good to have some berry chunks inside.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hydrogenated Oil / Saturated Fats -- Shopping for Healthier Eating

Sometimes I stop and think about all the shortening I've eaten in my lifetime and I shudder. I shouldn't look backwards, though. Knowledge has given me an insight to the dangers of hydrogenated oil and I'm excited to know what I know now. You can be too!

Saturated Fat and Hydrogenated Oils are in much of the food we buy -- maybe even in the food we prepare. It's good to learn what they are, the dangers they bring to the body, and how to avoid them completely. Yes, it's possible to avoid them completely!

Let's start with Saturated Fat. (I know in English class those words wouldn't really get to be capitalized, but for the sake of this post and standing out amidst other words, I'm letting it slide). There are healthy Saturated Fats and unhealthy Saturated Fats. Saturated fats from animals are not healthy for your body. These fats are hard (or solid) at room temperature or (or obviously in the cold) -- usually liquid when hot. It's the marbleized fat in meat that you can see (and often can't see) -- is also found in eggs and dairy products. The firmer the dairy product (cheese, butter, cream) the more saturated fat. Healthy saturated fats are found in plant foods like coconuts and raw cacao.

Hydrogenated Oil (or even Partially Hydrogenated Oil) is oil that has been tampered with to be able to have a longer shelf life than oil has in its liquid state. Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. Think of fluffy shortening or tubs of margarine. Fully hydrogenated oil becomes a solid (a fat), but if the hydrogenation process is stopped part way, the oil is Partially Hydrogenated and has a consistency like butter that's been out of the refrigerator for awhile. These are both trans-fats.

You can look at other websites to see the dangers of Hydrogenated Oil. Just know that they cause a host of serious problems for your body. You can grow up eating them, thinking "This is fine for my body" like someone can smoke for years without any problems. However, the problems will be transpiring within your body and you may not know until it's too late. Over the past decade, however, I think the problems have become more evident, with obesity and heart disease on the rise -- at lower and lower ages.

I'll be back to give you shopping tips on how to avoid these. My kids are needing me now. TTFN!

I'm back! Sorry it took so long. Before I get to the shopping tips, here's a good article on these harmful fats that fill in some of the gaps I may have left open. for the shopping tips.

First of all, read the labels until you get familiar with what's in your food. Look for the word "hydrogenated" (whether partially or fully) and if you see it, don't buy it. Many items that don't have labels (donuts, fast food, animal products) have harmful fats too. If you want to keep animal products in your diet, treat them like the condiment on the side of plate instead of the main dish (and only have them once a week or better yet, once a month -- you'll be surprised at how well you can live without them).

Here are some foods that commonly are made with hydrogenated fat:

biscuits / breads
peanut butter
frozen meals
fried foods
processed dairy products.

When I shop for items that normally have hydrogenated fats, I buy them from the health food store (or health food section of the grocery store) because they will tell you right on the box "No hydrogenated fats." Many kinds of breads have hydrogenated fat too. Check the label. So many people are concerned with this now that the food companies are proud to make their "No hydrogenated" claims. Some companies are actually changing how they make their food items. I've recently found this true for high fructose corn syrup in bread (yay!)

Other companies are doing just the opposite. They are hiding their hydrogenated information from you by stating things like "cooked with vegetable oil" when that vegetable oil can be hydrogenated. Some break up the ingredient list and describe the filling or some other component in such detail that by the time you get to the end of the list and see "hydrogenated" you may not think there is very much. Not true. Or they say "0% Trans Fat" which can just mean it has less than 0.5 g. per serving -- not completely void of it. Also, hydrogenated oils are not considered trans-fats, so 0% trans-fat is just pertaining to the partially hydrogenated oil, not the fully hydrogenated oil. So be careful with the companies that are trying to make you think their foods have healthier fats, but they really don't. I find that if I buy organic food, for the most part, they're using healthier sugars and fats. (Not always, but 90+% of the time they do).

Start buying peanut butter that requires refrigeration. You may not like stirring it at first, but the fact that it separates means that they didn't put any hydrogenated fat in it to keep it firm (as well as preservatives to make it okay to leave in the cupboard). Of the health food store brands, my favorite is Marantha, but Costco sells an organic peanut butter now that is creamier and doesn't require much stirring after the very first time. My kids seem to like this one best.

While it's always better just to eat whole foods than to buy processed food, if you are going to buy processed, make it a healthier version. For example, instead of buying Wheat Thins, buy Nature's Path Crispy Wheats. They really do taste the same (if not better). Classic Rounds are the same as Ritz Crackers. I don't buy these often, but my kids love it when I do. Shop the sales. I've found with health food that their specials usually last all month instead of just for a week.

Alternatives to animal milk (almond milk is my favorite) are healthier for you. I still wouldn't drink almond, soy or rice milk as often as I used to drink cow's milk. I use it mainly for cooking or for an occasional bowl of Kashi cereal. It's a processed food and I try to keep those to a minimum. But if you're trying to change one habit at a time, just take your usual versions of fat intake and change it up to save your body the health problems that result from the intake of the bad fats.

Another great idea is to make more of your food in your own kitchen instead of trusting the food companies to do it for you. You can control not only the kind of fat, but also the amount. I've substituted oil in many recipes for butter or shortening and often cut the amount by 1/2 or 1/3 by adding in another form of moisture (fruit).

Stop buying margarine or butter. Butter is the lesser of the evils imho, but butter has saturated fat (or should I say "IS" saturated fat) and margarine is hydrogenated -- both not good for your body. Smart Balance and a few others are made w/o hydrogenated fat, but I think the health food store brands are much better for you -- such as Earth Balance or Canoleo. They don't have all the preservatives that Smart Balance has. Better yet (there's always a better yet, huh? :)), stop using butter altogether or at least cut back on it. No matter how you buy it, it's not a whole food and has no macro-nutritional value. It's much better to get your fats from nuts, seeds, and grains.

That will be my final note. If you can cut out all these unnecessary fats and just have a handful of nuts or add seeds to a salad or something instead, you'll be even better off. There are so many healthy ways to meet your fat needs. Raw cashews are super yummy if you've never tried them. You'll never miss all that other stuff if you have a stash of those nearby.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Workout confusion

I'm not sure why, but for the past few years (I was going to write 2 or 3, but that's a few, right?) I've been sporatic about my workout plans. It's been driving me crazy. Except for a few focused rotations, I'll do some workouts for a few weeks, then will get bored or distracted and move onto another plan (or non-plan, just doing whatever I can talk myself into that morning). The best I did was my periodization plan I did with Cathe's workouts for 6 weeks, and my few Slim Series rotations getting me ready for my trips to Beachbody.

I used to plan out rotations for 4-6 weeks -- or even 12 and would stick with them religiously. Nothing got in my way. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor even a vacation or sickness would keep me from sticking with my workouts. (Okay, maybe a few illnesses did, but even as sick as I'd be, I'll still do a light yoga video or meditation CD so I could feel like I was doing something).

I remember lugging my full-size step and risers into my mother-in-law's house (along with weights) and doing my workouts before anyone else got up. One Christmas vacation day, I slept a little too late and had several nieces and nephews joining me for a Tae Bo workout -- it was pretty fun. I also remember calling a hotel before a family reunion to see if they had a TV and VCR I could use in their fitness room. They didn't, but they told me I could bring mine in (we had a TV/VCR combo we plugged into a car for trips -- long before those little DVD players were so hip -- which btw we've never purchased -- we just make our kids look out the window and enjoy the drive now). But anyway, each morning of this reunion, I'd lug the TV into the fitness room from my car so I could keep up with my rotation.

What ever happened to that dedication? I think I started questioning my sanity at one point - -like does it really matter if I miss a few days? Well, yes and no. No, probably not in the overall scheme of things -- I could pick up where I left off, but sometimes my cardio capacity would have faltered or my strength and flexibility gains. However, mentally, I do think it makes a big difference. Once you break that stride, it's hard to get back into it at the same pace as before, or even to get back into it at all.

I think I broke my stride when my allergies and asthma got really severe 3 1/2 years ago. It was before I learned about raw foods and my allergies were controlling my life. I was frustrated that I couldn't keep up with a rotation, so I learned to be happy with what I could do whether it was light yoga or just a little cardio. That's healthy to learn to go with the flow, but I miss my old pace. I've never really regained it. Even when I did my 16 week periodization Cathe plan, I was regretting it at times. I went through a few slumps of "Do I really have to keep doing this?"

Another contributing factor may be that I have so many workouts to choose from that I'm often wondering if I should switch gears to something else. I have yet to find the perfect plan for incorporating cardio (step, kickboxing, and rebounding), yoga, weights (traditional and functional fitness), and Pilates without spending 2 hours a day doing it (and feeling a bit scattered). I have to narrow it down and that gets frustrating. Yes, I want it all!

I've thought of getting rid of some of my workouts so I'm not longing to do something else once I've started another plan. But whenever I've done that in the past, I end up buying or trading for those workouts again. There's actually a Video Fitness term for that -- it's called trader's remorse or seller's remorse. So I'm better off keeping something I will likely want to do again.

Hmm . . . I really think the key is (think, think, think) to keep my eating on track. When I don't, I get sick or I want to sleep in more. That's the biggest interrupter to my workouts. I get pickier about my workouts and tend to bail on what I'm doing. So I think I'll go with that for now -- come up with a plan that I really think I will love for even just the next 2 weeks (until Thanksgiving), eat my best, get to bed at a 1/2 decent hour and see if that will keep me happy and going for awhile.

My biggest regret over the past few years is that my cardio capacity is nothing like what it used to be. I want to be able to do an hour long advanced step workout without wanting to quit at any point. I want to even go on for another 1/2 hour if I feel like it. And boy do I miss sweating. I just don't sweat as much as I used to because I don't work as hard. So that will be my goal for the next 2 weeks.

My plan will go something like this:

W -- Yoga
Th - Cardio
F -- Weights
S -- Cardio
S -- Rest

M -- Cardio
T -- Yoga
W -- Cardio
Th -- Weights
F -- Cardio
S -- Yoga
S -- Rest

M -- Cardio
T -- Weights
W -- Cardio
Th -- Yoga & a nice walk (Thanksgiving Day)
F -- Yoga & walk
S -- Yoga
S -- Rest

I'm just allowing for keeping it easy while traveling. Gone are the days of bringing my step and weights with me!

I'll be back to report my progress. TTFN!

P.S. (If you want to check out this workout planner program that I have pictured at the top, here's the free trial for Raquel's Workout Log
I downloaded it a few weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to fiddle with it yet. I need to though before my free trial is over! I'll get back and share my impressions later on. So much to talk about, so little time!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cathe's Shock Training System video previews

Cathe Friedrich's long awaited weight training workouts -- Shock Training System -- are still not available to be shipped, but a few are on YouTube to preview. I don't know if you read my previous post about STS, but it is a periodization system with 3 mesocycles. My favorite method of weight training is muscle endurance (or mesocycle 1 in this system). Each of the available previews thus far are from the first mesocycle -- yay!

There will be 4 different workouts for each body focus in each mesocycle. These are all from week one.

Here they are for your viewing pleasure. The leg workout looks great!

Chest, Shoulders & Biceps -- part 1

Chest, Shoulders & Biceps -- part 2

Back & Triceps -- part 1

Back & Triceps -- part 2


What do you think of that green top? Pretty bright! It reminds me of the lime popsicles I used to pick out when the ice cream man drove by our house. :)

These dvds are supposed to ship before Christmas. I'm excited to finally do them!

Click here to visit Cathe dot Com.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Milestones with Eating

Maybe I talk about eating way too much. It's just a reflection on my thoughts. I think about it far too often too. But I love when my thoughts are a recognition on how I've progressed -- how I've improved from one year to another, from one season to the next.

A little over a year ago, I realized that I'd succeeded on taking my first vacation without gaining weight -- well, at least since I had my last baby. Before my late-30's, I was able to maintain my weight for a few weeks of vacationing or holiday eating as long as I exercised. Since I had my last baby at 38, that's no longer been the case. In fact, I can't even go a whole weekend at home without watching what I eat without gaining weight. My body is that sensitive.

Other milestones I watch for are certain times of year when I yearn for certain foods and finally break that cycle. I used to think I needed pumpkin cheesecake on my birthday. I love cheesecake and Costco sells the Cheesecake Factory's pumpkin cheesecake in the fall just before my birthday. For years, I would buy it and would love every single bite. My family didn't eat as much of it as I did, so I'd end up eating it for a week or so afterwards. (This photo brings back memories. The cheesecake is pre-sliced at intervals on each side of the whipped cream mounds. It breaks away perfectly, which is wonderful. But I never felt wonderful AFTER eating it, just before and during).

Last year, I had a sample of the cheesecake at Costco just before my birthday. Within about 10 minutes, I had a headache and felt tired. I knew it was a sugar headache. I used to get them in the late afternoons all the time when I ate a lot of sugar. That somehow propelled me into not buying the cheesecake for my birthday (yes, I know I haven't eaten dairy for years, but I still was making these exceptions for these certain occasions). It wasn't easy. I eyed those boxes of pumpkin cheesecake for as long as Costco sold them. I even 1/2 hoped they'd clearance them out at the end of the season so I could justify a sale purchase (I do weird things like that -- used to do it with Breyer's Ice Cream way too often).

This year, I actually forgot about the cheesecake until right now. Pretty exciting!

I used to have to make goals not to eat candy before and during Halloween (and most definitely afterwards too), but this year, it wasn't a struggle at all. I don't think it was hard last year either. Refined foods -- especially in wrappers -- rarely tempt me. If Andes mints were a Halloween candy, maybe I'd think twice, but that doesn't seem to be in abundance until Christmas time.

I'm really hoping this will be the first year I make it through the holidays without losing control of my eating or without gaining weight. Last year, I did really well up until a few days before Christmas, continued on until a few days after Christmas and somehow gained 8 pounds (the national holiday weight gain average by the way!) I've had all sorts of strategies to keep me from faltering in the past. I'm hoping I will do it effortlessly this year.

I'll keep you posted as Thanksgiving and Christmas grow nearer. TTFN!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Coconut Oil -- makes your skin feel like satin

I know I've already written about Thai Baby Coconuts, but I just have to tell you about the coconut oil. I'm no expert as to all the benefits of unrefined coconut oil, but I've recently discovered how fabulous it is for my skin.

A few years ago, a friend of mine told me she'd read an article about the health benefits of coconut oil. I'm pretty sure she was talking about taking it internally. I bought a 14 oz. jar of it from the health food store for $6.19. It was on special (regular price $8.35 -- no my memory isn't that good, the sticker's still on the jar!) I'd read that it was a good substitue for butter or shortening in recipes. I think I used a teaspoon or so of it for something, then forgot about it.

When I was having problems with my eczema last month, I read somewhere online that coconut oil was good for skin problems. I decided to give it a try. Besides the extra virgin olive oil I'd been using, this was the only other thing I was able to put on my skin that didn't cause it to burn or be further irritated (and I tried many other natural remedies and simple solutions like aloe vera gel from a plant and tea tree oil).

To back up a little further, a few years ago, my mom gave me some Lancome samples. She likes to buy her cosmetics in department stores when they're having their free gift pack special. She often gives us some of the little samples. There was a moisturizer that made my skin feel like satin. It was amazing. And my make-up blended just perfectly with it. I loved using it, but it didn't last for long. When it was gone, I looked into how much it cost and it was something like $50 for 1 oz. or something crazy like that.

I figured someone else must sell a similar formula, so I went to Target and checked ingredients other brands. I bought a few things and finally found a moisturizer by Oil of Olay that was pretty much the same thing. I've been buying it ever since at Costco for about $25 for the 3.4 oz. size. They even offer a $5 off coupon a few times a year.

Well, the coconut oil feels exactly like this regenerist serum -- just as smooth, just as satin-y. And it's natural! So how great is that? And it's FAR less expensive. If I were to buy 14 oz. of the Lancome product, it would cost $700. If I were to buy 14 oz. of the Oil of Olay serum, it would cost $100. For the coconut oil, it is under $7. Maybe it's gone up in the past year, but even if it's $10, that's not much at all.

I've been noticing lately that many of my natural lip balms has coconut oil as a main ingredient. So I've been putting the plain coconut oil on my lips. Feels (and smells) great. I don't use it directly out of the jar. The jar is just too big for easy use. I put it in a Burt's Bees tin (that used to have another ointment in it) for traveling and in a little ceramic bowl that my daughter made at school for home use.

Try it and let me know if you like it too. (Start with a small area just in case you have an allergy to it, but in my highly allergic state, it felt soothing and wonderful on my skin - -hopefully it will for yours too!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rebounding -- Oh what fun it is to jump!

Not everyone knows what I'm talking about when I say I do rebounding or that I worked out on the rebounder this morning. They say, "The what?" It's just a fancy fitness term for mini-trampoline. I don't how the rebounding word surpassed the mini-tramp word, but it is what it's called, so I'll go with it.

Here's a little news clip that talks about rebounding. One form of rebounding is Cardiolates, which is a combination of mind-body (Pilates posturing) and rebounding for the cardio. I have a Cardiolates dvd that does explain this posture and it makes a big difference in what I get out of the workout.

I bought my rebounder close to 5 years ago. It's one of the nicer ones -- by Reboundair. The Needak rebounder is similar to the Reboundair in quality and bounce. The Urban Rebounder is also a good quality rebounder that has a firmer bounce.

I first tried to save money and bought one for less than $50 at the sporting goods store. It was fun to use, but after about 15 minutes of running and jumping on it, my ankles would hurt and my feet would go numb. It didn't feel all that great.

I saved up a bit and bought the Reboundair off of Amazon marketplace. It was the best price at the time $129 + shipping. Now they start at $199. I bought the one that doesn't fold -- just the legs fold under for storage. The 1/2 fold and 1/4 fold models are easier for transporting and for storage, but I just keep mine out in the family room all the time. Everyone likes jumping on it. I figure the ones that don't fold are probably more stable.

I'll write more about workouts tomorrow. Sorry for the partial post! Until then, check this out. I want to do some kicks like they do!

I rebound in a variety of ways -- just to my own music (usually while watching something silently on TV just to keep my brain going) or to the Cardio Coach CDs (which are super motivating -- I wrote a whole post about Cardio Coach awhile back and still need to post reviews on each CD).

I also rebound with exercise dvds (surprise, surprise!) I only use two dvds that are specifically for the rebounder though -- Cardiolates and FitPrime G-Force. Here are some reviews of those from the VideoFitness website. I was the only reviewer for Cardiolates and others reviewed G-Force: FitPrime G-Force my review of Cardiolates

G-Force is a cardio/weights circuit workout where you jump on the rebounder for part of the time, then get on the floor for weights periodically. I've only done it that way a few times. Most of the time, I do it as an all cardio workout and use the weight increments as cardio intervals and do higher impact jumps and kicks to get my heart rate up. I love it that way.

Cardiolates is 1/2 rebounding and 1/2 Pilates (on the rebounder). I prefer doing my Pilates on the floor and like my other Pilates dvds better, so I just use this dvd for the rebounding.

I also use my rebound all the time with other dvds. Sometimes when I'm doing one of Cathe's circuit workouts, I'll get off my step and go use the rebounder to make it a step & rebounding all cardio workout. My favorite to do this with is Cardio & Weights. I also use the rebounder in place of high impact drills or intervals that are too much for my if-fy knee. I can still do the impact and get my heart rate up, but without the jarring to my knees. I probably do this the most with IMAX2, which is actually on the same dvd as Cardio & Weights. If you love step aerobics, this is a great dvd to have whether or not you ever use the rebounder.

I've also just started rebounding to walking dvds too. First I tried Debbie Rocker's (see that post below) walking workouts, then a good friend of mine sent me some Leslie Sansone workouts for my birthday, so I've been trying them too. They work great on the rebounder and get my heart rate up a bit more than if I were doing the workout as designed on the floor.

Last, and certainly one of the most fun ways to use my rebounder, I "just do it" while watching an old sitcom. I have a big collection of dvd sets like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Gilligan's Island, Gidget, The Flying Nun, That Girl, Get Smart, and I'm not sure what else off the top of my head, but (oh yeah, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie too!) for a fun quick cardio workout, I'll put an episode on and just jump, fun, whatever while watching it (they last about 25 minutes) then will stretch a bit afterwards. My youngest daughter does this from time to time too. Sometimes I double it for a longer workout.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees -- Magnificently Done!

A few years ago, a good friend of mine handed me her copy of "The Secret Life of Bees" and said, "You've GOT to read this." I did. I've read it two or three times since. It's rough at the beginning (just have to say that for those who are affected easily or the younger ones -- this is sold through Scholastic, but I wouldn't recommend it for children -- maybe for mid-teens. I'd say the book is a bit rougher than the movie, if you're concerned about either).

I hate to sound trite with the word "Heart-warming" but this is definitely a heart-warming (and heart-wrenching) story. It's the kind of tale where you immerse yourself in the setting and long to spend a summer or two there (in this case, at the Boatright honey farm) sometime during your life.

When I heard this book was going to be made into a movie, I was excited and anxious for the day to go see it. I was even more interested in going when I heard who the actors were -- stellar line-up -- Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, and Alicia Keys (I've never seen Alicia Keys in a movie, but was curious to see her in a film anyway).

Today was the opening day and I went to see the first matinee' with my friend who first told me about the book and her sister. Without giving too much away or building up your expectations way too much (sorry, I may just do that), I just have to say that the movie is a gem in the jewelry box of classics. The acting was stellar. Dakota Fanning is always good, but she was superb. Same with Jennifer Hudson. Each actress was a joy to behold. One main actress I'd never seen before was Sophie Okonedo. She was amazing. Paul Bettany played the father and was so believable in the role that I didn't recognize who he was for the first 15 minutes or so.

I experienced the same elation of longing to spend some time in the Boatright home while watching the movie as I did while reading Sue Monk Kidd's book. If you have some time, read the book first. If you think you never will, go see the movie while it's in the theatres. It's wonderful.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I don't really sing the Birthday song to myself, but I certainly feel like SINGing! It's my 44th birthday today and it's been a very HAPPY day!

From the time I went to bed last night, I've been planning out my day. I thought through my workout options, knowing it was a cardio day and thought, "Do your favorite form of cardio" (which for a long time has been Cathe's step). I felt like rebounding a bit too, so I did her Cardio & Weights workout, which I know (and love) like the back of my hand and is mostly cardio, with 4 breaks for weights. During the weight segments, I got on the rebounder and did jacks and jumps.

After I had fun getting the kids ready for school, I drove home and thought, "What would be the perfect thing to eat for breakfast on my birthday?" I remembered that my friend Cherie gave me some pomegranates yesterday. So I ate a huge pomegranate (my very favorite food) and relished every bit of it.

As I went to do the next thing (check e-mail -- hear from good friends, read up on fitness and food, etc.), the thought hit me, "Should I take such care in choosing what I do and loving each moment like I have for my birthday?"
Perhaps I should. But what if it didn't meet my expectations? Would I live a life of frequent disappointments? Maybe so. I know that's a problem for some during the holidays -- they build it up to this big happy day and if it's a time of loss, sorrow, or sickness, it's an extra hard time for them. I don't want to have that happen on a regular basis.

So maybe just having these perfectly planned moments are better for special occasions -- or even for serendipitous moments, but it may be a bit much for every day.

The rest of my day followed in a similar fashion -- fun birthday wish phone calls , out for lunch to my favorite Italian restaurant (rigatoni w/vegetarian marinara -- a side of steamed veggies and another side of mushrooms -- all mixed together -- yum!) with good friends, opening festive packages that came in the mail from family and friends, unwrapping beautifully wrapped gifts from my children and husband, and eating more food with my family than I usually eat. My youngest daughter even filled a hot bath for me with my new candles (banana nut -- they smell so good).

It's all been wonderful. Tomorrow I'll catch up on the laundry. But those moments will be nice too. I like laundry. It may seem silly, but whenever I fold clothes, I feel like I've just brought the clothes home from the store and am discovering them for the first time. It may be my failing memory, but they seem new to me all over again :).

So 44 years down, hopefully at least 55 to go! Happy times!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Debbie Rocker -- walking workout athlete

I just tried a Debbie Rocker workout this morning for the first time. I'm really pleased!

I’ve never really been a walking workout video person before. I did one Leslie Sansone video long ago (when there were only videos – it was a 2 mile walk) and it was nice for that day, but I never did it again. Since then, I’ve only tried the Prevention one with Michelle Dozios, which didn’t have enough spark for me. I guess I've just always preferred step or kickboxing for my cardio. I do love rebounding though and look for ways to adapt other workouts to rebounding.

I decided to try Debbie Rocker because I love
Gaiam’s production quality and am looking for more low impact workouts. (If you're not familiar with Gaiam, they almost always use scenic outdoor sets for their workouts. They used to mainly do yoga and Pilates productions, but lately have branched out a bit).

Walking for Weight Loss is a 50 minute workout with mainly low impact walking moves, with some higher impact intervals, and segments of squats, front lunges, plie’s and back lunges. For some reason, I didn’t catch the variety in the Collage description (although when I go back and read it now, I can see that they mentioned it). I guess I thought the variety would be in the movements (amidst walking steps) instead of stopping the walking for lower body work here and there. I really enjoyed the change of pace and the work on my thighs (which always seem to need it to keep my knees strong).

I actually did the workout on the rebounder though. I was going to try it on the floor, but the intensity didn’t look like it would be enough plus I’m always looking for fun ways to use my rebounder. It was PERFECT for rebounding. I did step off the rebounder for the leg work and for the ski step. But I did the rest quite happily on the rebounder.

I liked Debbie’s approach.
She seems to be training the athlete more than the weight loss want-a-be. (She's a former professional athlete -- she's a world record holder in cycling and was one of the developers of spinning.) She uses more athletic-style moves than dancy moves. I like her straight-forward style I felt like she knew the body well and knew simple ways to get a good workout for my body. She was clear and pleasant. The only downside was that she would announce an upcoming move and then never count down for it (like say “in 8 counts”) – she’d just say “keep going” or something and you’d keep walking and you weren’t quite sure when the new move was starting. But this wasn’t a big deal since all the steps were so simple. It wasn’t like I was trying to keep the 8 counts of a stepping routine of kickboxing move just right or I’d get lost.

The music was pleasant and kind of playful. Nothing modern, but not boring either. The scenery was classic Gaiam – beautiful Hawaiian background. At one point, Debbie said to imagine we were out walking and then they just showed waterfalls and scenic spots on the beach for a bit. Very nice.

There’s a 30 minute option on this dvd as well. I could tell when that came in the workout because they all lined up and it seemed like Debbie was concluding. Then the intervals began and the pace picked up a bit. (I was 1/2 tempted to stop at 30 minutes since I'm just getting over being sick, but I told myself to keep going and it was lots of fun -- so glad I did!)

The set also includes a CD for outdoor walking, which I haven’t tried and hope to sometime soon.

I was excited to see in the credits that Phil Scarpaci (pictured on the left) was the director. He was the director of the infomercial I did with Beachbody in July. He also interviewed me back in November 2006 when I filmed with Beachbody) and is really, really great. Pattie Kelly (middle) was the producer and I got to meet her in July, too. (I've never met the man on the right). Kind of fun to know that I knew who was involved with making this workout!

I received this dvd on a 2 for 1 trade and also got her Walk, Sculpt, and Tone dvd. I'll try it out later this week and will get back to you with a review. It actually got better reviews than this one, so I'm excited to try it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sugar -- Shopping for Healthier Eating

I have to preface my post about sugar with the fact that I'm definitely one of those prone to eating sugar all day long if let loose. That's one of the many things that convinced me to learn about healthier eating. Especially at Christmas time, I would eat cookies and sweet breads all day long. I would bake and eat, bake and eat. Occasionally I'd have fruit too, but I'd go around the clock eating sugar.

When I was young, I remember going to visit my grandma. I'd look through her kitchen drawers for sugar cubes and marshmallows (two things we never had at home, unless we were headed to some summer event included roasting marshmallows). I'd eat the marshmallows whether they were soft or years old and hard (which was often the case). I remember even eating colored marshmallows -- yuck! And the sugar cubes were just beautiful.

This same grandmother baked and decorated cakes professionally. She always had cakes mixing and frosting around for licking. One of my favorite activities was to sit and look at her Wilton Yearbooks. Sugar stacked upon sugar creation. Just beautiful.

Through the years, I've seen what my love for sugar has done to my body and to my ability to be in control of my eating. I'm happy to say that even though I still love my fruit and prefer sweeter salads to the savory ones, the artificial stuff just doesn't do it for me anymore. I've even seen a progression in my preference for almond milk. I used to buy the Blue Diamond Vanilla Almond Milk. It tasted like I was eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Very yummy. As time passed, that just became too sweet for me, so I switched to the Original formula. Not much later, that was too sweet too. Now I drink the Original Unsweetened if I ever have the need for milk and it's just perfect. It's so fun to see that my tastes have adjusted to my healthier eating habits.

Okay, now for some talk about sugar shopping. The object is not to eliminate all forms of sugar, but to eliminate refined sugar and sources that are digested too quickly -- w/o fiber, like Dr. Oz mentioned in my previous post (well, he didn't mention it there, but I quoted him there --

"Sugar is supposed to be eaten, of course," says Dr. Oz, "but it should come together with fat or some element like fiber—as you would find in fruit—so you can absorb it a bit more slowly."

Some people think "Oh I can't have a banana -- it has too much sugar" -- but it's a natural sugar, filled with other nutrients. (Then they go eat a bagel that is low in nutrients, fiber and causes problems in your body). Unless your doctor has told you not to eat them for some medical condition, eat away.

What kind of sugar should you NOT buy? Don't buy any of the following (alone or in the ingredient listing:

  • white sugar
  • brown sugar
  • pretend maple syrup (Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, etc.)
  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • powdered sugar
  • turbinado sugar
  • "raw" sugar
  • black strap molasses (there are other names for refined molasses)

The high fructose corn syrup one is tricky. It's the most highly refined form of sugar and blocks your body's ability to know when it's full. To quote Dr. Oz again:

"It blocks the ability of a chemical called leptin, which is the way your fat tells your brain it's there"

Hmmm, so that's why we eat so many artificial foods without wanting to stop. I'm sure there are other damaging effects from high fructose corn syrup too, like leaching nutrient from your body.
You'll be surprised once you start checking ingredients HOW MANY foods have high fructose corn syrup in them. I was buying what I thought was a healthy wheat bread for my family for YEARS and it had high fructose corn syrup in it. I had to really look around to find some affordable bread for my kids w/o it. Thankfully, Costco got on board with this several months after my search began. They sell their Kirkland loaves of organic 100% Whole Wheat and Organic Multigrain that say right on the top "No High Fructose Corn Syrup."

If you don't have access to a Costco store, many stores sell Franz bread and probably 1/2 of their breads don't have high fructose corn syrup in it. It states that at the top. Sometimes it's expensive, but it's on sale at least once a month for the same price as the Costco bread. I personally think the Costco bread is more fresh and tastier. Make your own bread and you won't even have to worry about it! :)

There's a TV ad campaign running right now (sponsored by Pepsi, if that gives you any inclination to what the motivation is) to try to convince the public that high fructose corn syrup is just fine. They show one adult saying she doesn't want to eat something because of the high fructose corn syrup and the other friend says it's natural because it comes from corn. And besides, "all things in moderation" which is one of the biggest myths of nutrition. I'll write a whole post about that another day. Obviously arsenic isn't fine in moderation. There are TONS of things that aren't fine in moderation. But I'll let that rest until another day. Here's a really good article about that ad campaign and the truth about high fructose corn syrup. (It even shows you the commercial I was talking about!)

What can you buy? Here are some unrefined sugars that you can look for in the store or on the ingredient panel:
  • pure maple syrup (yes, it's expensive, but don't use as much or as often -- save yourself a few trips to the doctor and it all evens out in the end)
  • dates (soak them or blend them dry in the food processor -- very sweet and yummy),
  • evaporated Cane Juice (looks like white sugar, but is more a more carmel-y color
  • sucanat (grainy dark brown sugar -- dissolves well in recipes -- works well in the place of brown sugar)
  • rapidura (similar to sucanat)
  • fructose (looks like a thinner white sugar -- is inconsistent in sweetness -- hard to figure out for recipes, but dissolves well if you just need a bit to add to something
  • date sugar (extremely expensive, I've never justified buying it)
  • unrefined, unsulphured molasses (barbados molasses, sorghum molasses)-- (yummy!)
  • stevia (I've bought this, but it takes some experimenting and I think I've only used mine once -- so long ago that I don't even remember what for)
  • honey
  • brown rice syrup (I've never bought it by itself -- just in foods made with it, like Clif bar products or Soy ice cream).
  • barley malt (same comment as with brown rice syrup)
Now that I've listed all these sugars you can buy for healthier cooking, I do have to tell you that too much added sugar is still not good for you. It's not a nutrient dense food. So keep it low. Keep it in that 10% realm -- and this doesn't mean 10% of the time, it means 10% of your calories. Sugar alone has far more calories and less nutrients than fruits, so if you can get your family to eat more fruit instead of prepared foods made with even the healthier sugars, you are better off. If you find a product that is organic (like Jam or Peanut Butter for example), the chances are the it has these unrefined sugars used instead of the refined (and in the case of peanut butter, they don't even add sugar, which is great).

The sugars I buy the most are honey, pure maple syrup, dates, evaporated cane juice (I buy it in bulk when it's on sale or in a 25 pound bag), and sucanat (pic to the right). One thing I realized when I first started buying healthier sugar is that since they are more expensive, I didn't use them as much. That's a good thing. It evens out the cost and keeps me from making so much sugar food for my family.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Aztec Lily -- Amazingly Beautiful Jewelry

We went to an Art Festival on Saturday -- the annual fund raiser for our little rural K-8 school. Last year, there was a young woman at a table selling jewelry that she makes. I bought a necklace from her and have worn it (and loved it) all year long.

This year when I went, I wondered if she'd be there again. I was at another booth (which I also love -- I'll have to write about them another time -- it's handcrafted silver jewelry by Anne & Jane Harvey -- I've been buying their earrings for years -- the picture to the right is from them. I have earrings of the flowers in the upper left corner). Anyway, my daughters came and told me I had to come with them to see these beautiful necklaces and bracelets. "You're going to love them!" they cried. I wondered if it was the same young woman who was there the year before. I even wore my necklace that day so I could ask her "Did you make this?" (Kind of reminded me of the Duke taking the glass slipper around to find it's match on Cinderella :)).

We went to the booth and I was pretty sure this was the same jewelry. We oohed and ahhed at practically everything, then I asked her, "I bought this last year here -- did you make it?" She had. Her name is Alicia Dominguez and she's truly an artist who has found her craft. She calls her art Aztec Lily because the lily symbolizes tranquility, spirituality, peace, and bliss.

She said that she went to a seaside jewelry store north of where we live when she was younger, saw the beautiful necklaces made from shells and fine beads. She thought, "I can do that" and decided that was what she wanted to do.

She has a website, but it's not up and running right now. When it's working again, I"ll post the link. For now, I just thought I'd tell you about her and show some photos of her work. You can always e-mail her if you'd like. She works alone and is really sweet. I'm sure she'd love to share her passion with you.

I'm not sure if you can read the brochure I scanned up above, so I'll quote a few lines. Of her jewelry, she says:

"I make all my jewelry from the finest sterling silver, 14k gold fill, semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls, genuine Swarovski crystals, fire-polished Czech glass beads and other magical elements.

Availability is limited only by your imagination. You may custom order the perfect accent for any occasion or incorporate your own beads of special significance.

I find inspiration in the shapes and colors of nature and in the stones, beads, and materials themselves. Each piece is carefully and thoughtfully created, resulting in treasures that are unique."

Her prices range from about $8 for some bracelets (starting at about double that for necklaces) up through $85 or so for longer necklaces with more silver or intricate beads. She has several necklaces that are double stranded -- they would be at the higher end too. She also sells earrings -- some made to match the necklaces or bracelets.

We ended up buying 3 bracelets that day (for me, my 9 year old daughter, and my 16 year old, who could have picked out a dozen things if $$$ were unlimited). I also really liked a necklace that was a double necklace, which was really pretty, but I'm pretty simple in my style and asked if it could be separated into 2 necklaces. She didn't have her tools with her, but said that wasn't a problem and had it ready for me (for less than 1/2 the price of the original necklace) just a few days later. Pretty wonderful service.

I posted a few pictures of what we bought from Alicia. My photography isn't the greatest for close-ups like this, but it will have to do for now. I'll be back later on to post some more pictures. I wish I could share all the favorites we had at the festival that day, but maybe once her website is up, you can see them then. TTFN!

Edited to add: Her website is up!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ellen Barrett -- Pilates Fusion Queen

I don't know if Ellen would ever aspire to be a queen, (she's pretty down to earth), but she's definitely found her nitch in the Video Fitness world, instilling that essential mind-body connection. Ellen's workouts are either pure Pilates or have Pilates inspired moves. She incorporates ballet, yoga, strength, and cardio, while keeping the mind engaged with that core center.

Ellen's first video was Crunch Pick Your Spot Pilates. I love this dvd. First of all, the cover art is purple, so that's always a plus in my book! The actual dvd has 3 ten-minute Pilates workouts, working the core, rear end, and thighs. There's also a bonus workout for the total body. It's probably one of the less challenging Pilates dvds that I have. I'd rank it between Beginner and Intermediate. I like doing it on mornings when my energy isn't really high -- where I don't feel like having to work really hard at the Pilates moves, but I still get plenty of benefits.

The dvd menu allows you to pick which of the 3 segments you want to do in any order you desire. If I remember correctly, you can't choose the bonus Total Body segment in with those 3, but I've done it many times just added on at the end (after I get back to the menu again). The pace, music, and Ellen's voice and demeanor make this dvd a joy to do every time. I particularly love doing the Mermaid with her -- it always feels so good and relaxing.

Ellen has several other dvds available. I've done all the Crunch workouts by her. My least favorite is probably Fat Burning Pilates. The style then was to have REALLY low waisted pants and one of the background exerciser's pants were so low that it was distracting (and unattractive) to me. I couldn't get past that.

I've never tried her Self workouts. From what I've read, they're more upper body toning oriented w/weights and I usually use Cathe Friedrich for my upper body work (and like the challenge of Advanced workouts for weights -- hers are Beginner/Intermediate).

I haven't tried Pick Your Level either because I didn't really like the set or the 1, 2, 3 graphics I saw (with different windows for different levels) on the video preview. (Edited to add that my good friend Robin just wrote and told me how much she LOVES this Pilates dvd -- she says there isn't a split screen throughout the workout -- maybe the clip just showed an intro or something. So give it a try. I'm sure I will sometime soon).

You can preview any of these at (You can do a search for Ellen Barrett if my link doesn't work. Sometimes the specific links for Collage just come up as the Home Page).

Crunch Fat Burning Pilates
Crunch Burn & Firm Pilates
Crunch Super Slimdown Pilates/Yoga Blend
Self Slim & Sleek Fast
Self Bikini Ready Fast
Pick Your Level: Weight Loss Pilates
The Studio: Fat Burning Fusion
The Studio: Yogini Workout
The Studio: Slim Sculpt

I've just tried one of The Studio workouts and was really impressed. I'll review it for you now and will hopefully get the other 2 later on to comment on later. (Edited to add I found the Yogini workout on the Ya-Ya Swap, so I should have it to do and review next week).

I did The Studio Fat Burning Fusion this morning. This is the second time I've done it and it's really a gentle, wonderful workout. It's 45 minutes of standing stretches, twists, plie's, ballet leg work, and a variety of flowing moves. I never took dance lessons when I was growing up. I always wished I could take ballet. There are some cues of "first position" or "second position" which are ballet talk, but it's not hard to see what they're doing. None of the ballet leg moves are difficult, but they stem from the core and work the lower body muscles.
If you have knee issues, like I do, you'll want to be cautious on a few moves that have you lunging from side to side or doing a plie' and a twist at the same time. I really watched what I was doing and was fine, but I did have to be mindful of it.

The set is a dance studio and has hardwood floors, wooden floors on the stage behind, and white walls, windows and draperies, with white lattice screens & drapery on the stage. It's very pleasant and peaceful. Ellen and her cast do the workout on yoga mats, but I did mine on the carpet yesterday without a mat and it worked just fine. I did notice a little bit of movement in my feet sliding a few times on plie's, so a mat might be nicer to use. I think I used it the first time -- my only problem with the mat is sometimes it comes up with my foot and interrupts the flow of my movements. Perhaps I need a mat that isn't so sticky. (I actually think I do have a Denise Austin yoga mat that I bought really cheap at Ross -- It isn't as sticky and I don't use it much, but it might work for workouts like this).

The music is gentle -- almost jazz-y. It reminded me of the music on Karen Voight's Streamline Fitness (which is probably my favorite of Karen's).

I will admit that I watched the clock about 14 minutes into it. Ellen is wonderful and the moves felt great, but for some reason, my mind was anxious and wandering. I got past that and enjoyed the rest of the workout.

At the end, I watched the Special Feature where Ellen talks about her Studio workouts -- the concept behind them. There were testimonials by women who come to Ellen's studio to workout with her. Ellen emphasizes that the mind-body connection is key in her workouts to feel and receive the benefits. She also mentioned in her workout and in this feature that the dance/Pilates fusion moves she uses help beautify the female physique. From looking at Ellen and her cast (and testimonials), they all have curvy lean (and toned) figures instead of super firm like you might see in Cathe's workouts.

BTW -- Ellen has a blog called Fit & Fab and writes in it often. Check it out. I've discovered on it that she's into raw food too!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bidding on e-bay

I'm interrupting my workout this morning because something I want on e-bay closes in 16 minutes. I could run up and do my workout, but what if it goes over or I don't gauge it right? I'll go try. I don't want to waste that many minutes of my precious early morning time. Oooh, maybe I shouldn't -- I just have 14 minutes and 28 seconds left now. Okay, I'll keep on writing.

I just wanted to share my closing bid technique. Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe you'll be standing on the sidelines, waiting to beat me out of my next wanted e-bay auction. But it's fun and it works, so I'd might as well pass it along. Perhaps it's nothing new and you already do it. No matter. I have . . . (refreshing page here) 12 minutes and 58 seconds to tell you something. This might as well be it.

When I find something I want to buy on e-bay, the first thing I do is click "Watch Item." Pretty basic. Sometimes I think "Oh, I'll remember" or "I'll find it later on," but clicking "Watch Item" isn't very tough to do and helps you organize what you've found later on. It's kind of like when I used to look through the Sear's Catalog (especially the Christmas Wishbook -- very fun!) when I was younger. I'd get out a pen (we didn't have Sharpie's then, but they are the best now for catalog paper) and would circle what I liked. If I weren't the only one in the house apt to do the same, I'd put my name by it. (Initials didn't really work since my brothers and I all had names that start with "R" :)).

So I have my items in the "Watching" area of "My e-bay." (Oooh, refreshing and only 9 minutes and 24 seconds left -- I'd better hurry here!) Even if the items I'm interested in will end pretty soon, it's nice to have them all organized in there. That way I can go and compare and ask myself which I really like best, if I want to bid on all of them. Sometimes I delete one or two. Sometimes I keep a few in there that I won't bid on, but I just get curious if they sell or how much they go for. (Yes, it's a form of entertainment).

If the item ends later in the day, I'll set the buzzer on the stove for it. I'll set it for maybe 10 minutes within the time it closes to allow for time to turn on the computer, get one of my kids off of the computer, get into e-bay, etc. (6 minutes and 41 seconds!!! Boy time is flying!) If the item ends the next day or further out, I'll write it on my calendar. Sometimes I'll forget even with it on the calendar (or will find it's at a time when I won't be home), but the calendar usually helps.

Once I'm at the time where it's about to end (like right now . . . 5 minutes and 23 seconds), I click to My e-bay (having to log in -- make sure you click to stay logged in the whole day in case you accidentally get logged out -- saves you precious time later on) and find the item I want to bid on. I click "Bid" and list my highest bid. (4 minutes 14 seconds) This will take me to the last window before bidding, "Review and Confirm Bid." I leave that window alone.

Then I bring up the item in a new window -- not a new tab within the window, but a whole new window that will shrink and allow me to see the two windows side by side. (2 minutes 56 seconds left). I shrink them so I can see the button for "Confirm Bid" on the left and the Refresh green arrows button and the end time (1 minute and 59 seconds -- I'd better hurry here) at the same time.

When I get to within 5 minutes or so, I continually click Refresh to see how much time left. (Just 1 minute and 15 seconds left!) I'd better go. Once I get under 12 seconds, I count to about 5 and click "Confirm Bid." Off to try! I'll be back with my results!

A big "PHEW!" there!!! When I got there to refresh, I only had 28 seconds left. I'm amazed at how much time passed between writing 1 minute and 15 seconds and taking off to bid. I clicked on Refresh one more time after that and it was at just 15 seconds. I counted to about 8. You have to be careful at this point because if you count too long, it could take too long for your page to load and you'll miss the bid. If you don't count long enough, someone else may be sitting there seeing that you raised the bid and will come in within the final few seconds and beat you. It's happened to me before, but not for a long time.

There's always a chance that your bid won't be high enough and you'll still lose in those final few seconds, but if you put your absolute highest bid on there and someone beats you, you didn't want to pay any more for it anyway. At that point, I just figure I helped make someone else more money that day.

For now, I'm off to pay for my new (yes, even NWOT, or "New without Tags") Eddie Bauer black jumper. Retails for $85. I got it for $15.50. I've always wanted one. It's probably because of how Meg Ryan dresses in "You've Got Mail" -- I still plan to write my post about that very fun movie sometime. TTFN! I need to go exercise!

P.S. (I wore my jumper today to church. I absolutely LOVE IT!!!)