Friday, February 27, 2009

Study Spills the Secret to Weight Loss

Study Spills the Secret to Weight Loss--Surprised?
As it turns out, you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. You just have to pay attention to the amount you eat. (Sound familiar?)
A major study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine reinforces the SparkPeople philosophy. For two years, 811 overweight people were placed on four diets--low carb, high carb, low protein and high protein--and all lost weight. What they ate didn't matter. Portion control and tracking calories helped them, just as that has helped millions of SparkPeople members.
This major study supports what we (and you, as SparkPeople members) already knew: "Diets" that restrict certain foods don't work! The key to losing weight and keeping it off is moderation, coupled with portion control and tracking calories.

There is a lot more! Enjoy the article!

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Highlights from President Obama's 2009 Address to a Joint Session of Congress

In case you missed it:

Highlights from President Obama's 2009 Address to a Joint Session of Congress liked the fact that he emphasized our responsibility as citizens to become more educated. We can no longer afford to go through life with only a high-school education. Other countries are passing us by in level of preparation and understanding. We need to be responsible for our education, not only for ourselves and our families, but also for our country.

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Finding Balance: How Do I Make Time?

Finding Balance: How Do I Make Time?
Finding time comes down to making priorities. It's easy to find time for the things that are a high priority in your life. I always shake my head at the people who say "I don't have time to exercise." Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day- it's just about how you choose to use them. Those people who have time for exercise are the ones who put it higher on their priority list. This doesn't mean that you're a failure if you can't find 60 minutes a day for physical activity. But I don't know anyone who can't find 10 minutes here and there throughout the day to get up and move.

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Finding Balance: Where Do I Begin?

Finding Balance: Where Do I Begin?
Setting my goals and developing a plan is my first step toward finding the balance. Do you struggle to find a balance in your own life? If so, what's your first step going to be?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What a difference a few weeks makes

Here is yet another clear example of what is going on with my body.

On 11/11/08, I had a health screening. My BP and pulse were:

BP: 133 / 96
Pulse: 87

The above are indicative of borderline mild hypertension -- one sign of bad news if you do not take some immediate action.

Today I walked into CVS and took my BP:

BP: 109 / 62
Pulse: 71

It makes me feel like crying with joy. These numbers do not lie -- they are the best possible witness that exercising and healthy eating makes a difference.

Is your life filled with anger?

When someone cuts you off while driving, or misses an appointment you made together, you probably get angry. Often our imaginations create internal situations and fantasies that perpetuate those feelings until you are boiling and ready to take it out on someone else. Truly though, we waste too much of our time and energy feeling negatively towards all sorts of things in our lives. When was the last time you went an entire day without feeling angry? Think about the times you most frequently feel those tense, frustrated feelings building up in you and examine the root. If the situation is unavoidable, you've got to force yourself to accept it and move past it. Maybe you need to sit down with a co-worker and talk to her about what is bothering you--instead of just letting her idiosyncrasies get under your skin each day. Perhaps you need to find an alternative route home to avoid the daily traffic jam that makes your blood boil. Your body and mind will thank you for the peace such moves provide in the end.

Is Your Diet Making You Fat?

Is Your Diet Making You Fat?
If you're still in "diet" mode, temporarily changing your habits just until you reach your goal, then one of these dieting dilemmas could be preventing your from reaching your goals - and achieving a permanent, healthy lifestyle. Your diet might be making (or keeping) you fat if…
The rest of the article is fantastic! Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What is Spiritual Growth?

As of the beginning of this year, the kids and I have embarked in a new journey. We began attending service at the Columbia Zen Buddhist Priory. Why join a Buddhist church? First, but not foremost, was the fact that this was a decision Tracey and I had made informally before she was gravely ill. We both felt that Buddhism was the closest religion to our personal beliefs. And that second part was the predominant criteria for beginning the journey into Buddhism.

I felt it was important that both kids began learning about internal (spiritual) growth. I held back for almost two years because I thought they were too young to understand some of the concepts of religion and church. They had been exposed to Christianity through their friends and society as a whole (after all, we live in the Bible Belt). But this year I appraised their readiness and decided it was time for them to begin learning.

The following passage beautifully illustrates spiritual growth, regardless of what religion you follow:

Spiritual Growth
  1. I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost. I am hopeless.
    It isn't my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

  2. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don't see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can't believe I'm in the same place again.
    But it isn't my fault.
    It still takes long time to get out.

  3. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in -- it's a habit.
    My eyes are open,
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

  4. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

  5. I walk down another street.

Wise words

Positive Mental Attitude Sayings and Phrases
SMALL MINDS talk about people.
MEDIOCRE MINDS talk about events.
GREAT MINDS talk about ideas.

This page credits the thought to two different authors: Eleanor Roosevelt and Hyman Rickover. The thought is brilliant and goes to the mindset of the majority and why, as a global community, we are more susceptible to domination by an elite group. Our mass focus is on stupid events like the Oscars and on people's dresses and private affairs (who divorced whom, who is sleeping with whom or cheating on whom or …). What happened to people getting together to discuss important things like concepts and ideas?

Our Mantra

Ever since Tracey passed away, the kids and I adopted the following mantra. I wanted to share it with all of you:
Everyday, in every way, I am getting better and better and better.
I am safe … I am healthy … I am happy.
Everyday, in every way, I am richer and richer and richer.

I designed this mantra after serious consideration. The words better and richer are repeated three times to acknowledge body, mind and spirit. The second line was designed to give them comfort and remind them that they are safe despite Tracey's loss, that they are blessed with health, and they can be as happy as they set their mind to be. I added the richer line, similar to the better line, because richness comes in many forms, and we need to recognize that being rich is not about money or having things.

Do You Value the Small Tasks in Life?

Do you ever feel that you will never advance in your life or career and get that opportunity to do something BIG? Don't doubt the importance and impact on doing the smaller jobs in life! The key to this quote is being consistent--despite the level (or lack of) glamour or grandeur of your work. If you must scrub toilets, make them the shiniest, cleanest darn toilets on the block! In all things do the best you can, whether someone is looking or not. If you want to succeed in life, it is important that you have a strong foundation of consistent, hard work. Don't dodge the smaller tasks in an effort to hold out for the glamorous, important jobs. Put value in the small things and you'll reap a huge reward when you're put to the test!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Planning: Make a battle plan for success!

My SparkPeople friend Tim, whom I mentioned before, had a great blog yesterday, which has re-iginited my passion for daily planning, a habit I had somewhat abandoned due to cheer laziness:

Make a battle plan for success!
Whenever there is a battle, the winner is usually the one who has thought out the battle, planned for contingencies and implemented the plan.

SparkPeople has a very nice article on the subject: Think Two Steps Ahead
After a long day with the kids, doing laundry, reading books, and working on night school homework, you might have to decide between exercise and a couch that is screaming your name. Another difficult decision we face on a regular basis, and once again we often choose to think one step ahead. “I need to rest – I’m so drained!”

The difference between one step ahead and two steps ahead can mean the difference between staying on the fitness roller coaster or achieving your goals. Two steps ahead, we are still tired, stressed and cranky, BUT also determined, committed and able to see the big picture.

I think having a plan for the week and the next day is essential to minimize stress and achieve our goals. I have always liked Dr. Stephen Covey's approach to goal achievement through the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People." One of the things that Dr. Covey and Tim focus on is to determine what is important to you. The former calls it "Big Rocks." Focus on putting the big rocks in your jar (weekly/daily plan) first and then fit any smaller stuff in if possible. Prioritizing is the key to planning. And, as Dr. Covey so eloquently explains, you have to sharpen the saw first -- and that means focusing on you.

Planning for being fit and healthy is not a selfish activity -- it is the best thing you can do for others: your family, your community, society, the world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Family Diet Danger: High Fructose Corn Syrup

Trying to save money, food companies introduced High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) into the food market in the 1970s. Sweetening manufactured foods this way is profitable, because it is less expensive and much sweeter than sugar, yet easy to transport because of its liquid state. Today HFCS is found in a variety of foods from soda pop to ketchup, fruit drinks to salad dressings, cereals, breads, flavored yogurt, and sauces.

Fructose should not be eliminated from your diet. It is primarily found in fruits, which provide a wealth of nutritional benefits for your family. Fructose found in fruits is fine! However, are we setting up our bodies for damage by constantly feeding it foods that have been filled with sucrose (fructose and glucose) and heavily loaded with HFCS, which is approximately one-half fructose?

A recent study conducted by the University of Cincinnati says yes. Mice freely consumed either water, fructose-sweetened water, or soft drinks. The researchers found increased body fat in the mice that drank the fructose-sweetened water and soft drinks--even though these animals decreased the amount of calories they ate from solid foods.

Another soda study conducted on humans suggests that HFCS does not provide the body with a sense of fullness. This may cause an increase in excess calorie intake, leading to weight gain.

Whenever possible, avoid food products that contain HFCS and refined table sugar. These foods often have little--if any--nutritional value. Start by:
  • taking inventory of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Start reading the fool labels. If HFCS is one of the main ingredients (which are listed in descending order on the food label), scratch it off your grocery list--permanently.
  • limiting foods that have "sugar" as one of the first ingredients.
  • shopping around the perimeter of your grocery store; this is where you will find the foods in their natural, unprocessed state.

Source: SparkPeople

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Take an ordinary life and change it into an extraordinary adventure

This is my new motto!

Take an ordinary life and change it into an extraordinary adventure.

Simple and powerful -- just like I like it!

Simplifying the English Language

Programming Humor
088 - Simplifying the English Language
Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC, the European Parliament has commissioned a feasability study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.

European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessary difficult; for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using 's' instead of the soft 'c'. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with joy. Then the hard 'c' could be replaced by 'k' sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.

There would be growing enthousiasm when in the sekond year, it was anounsed that the troublesome 'ph' would henseforth be written 'f'. This would make words like 'fotograf' twenty persent shorter in print.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reash the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.

We would al agre that the horible mes of silent 'e's in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing 'th' by 'z'. Perhaps zen ze funktion of 'w' kould be taken on by 'v', vitsh is, after al, half a 'w'. Shortly after zis, ze unesesary 'o kould be dropd from words kontaining 'ou'. Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the Guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Critical Mass

Critical mass time...
We're already 6 weeks into the new year and I'm seeing a sad event happening around me, even here at SparkPeople. People that were fully energized and ready to take on the world have fallen off and are not exercising at the gym. Certain members on my friends list have not been active for a few days up to about 3 weeks.

While everyone that falls away has the same goal of getting into better shape, there are many reasons that some fall away from their motivation or their plans that some took some good thought and measure to create. It makes me sad to see this but yet I am not going to watch it happen quietly.

This was written by one of my SparkPeople friends. His name is Tim. I encourage you to read the whole blog entry -- it is not very long, it will only take you a minute, but it will definitely give you a lots to think about and take away with you.

One of the things that Tim made me think about is the sense of community and leadership. How many times do we see something wrong and do nothing about it? He vowed: "I am not going to watch it happen quietly." As members of this world we need to seek the opportunities to do something about things that need to be corrected. In the most basic sense, it means reaching out to someone and saying that you care and you are ready to spend some time helping them. If we help only one person per week, we will make a huge impact on the world around us. It reminds me of the movie "Pay It Forward."

When we do something for someone without expecting something back in return, we impact the world.

When we care for an elder person with love and patience, we impact the world.

When we take care of a child with love and patience, we impact the world.

When we take care of a pet with love and patience, we impact the world.

When we get involved in community affairs, we impact the world.

When we take care of ourselves with love and patience, we impact the world.

Take an ordinary life and change it into an extraordinary adventure

This is my new motto!

Take an ordinary life and change it into an extraordinary adventure.

Simple and powerful -- just like I like it!

Over 100 Super Foods for a Super You

Over 100 Super Foods for a Super You
These foods benefit your body in so many ways. They power your brain, and correctly and efficiently fuel your body. Super foods fight infection, enhance your immune system, and protect against diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and respiratory infections.

Daily Vitamin Doesn't Help Your Health

Study: Daily Vitamin Doesn't Help Your Health
A recent, quite sizable study of more than 160,000 women found that a vitamin regimen doesn't lessen one's chances of developing cancer or heart disease.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Patience leads to results

Trying (but failing) to see your goals realized can be frustrating. Margaret Thatcher once said "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it," and she was absolutely right. You've got to believe that you will succeed! Never admit defeat as long as time and effort remain. Our greatest asset is patience; our greatest weakness is throwing in the towel. Banish discouragement and feelings of impossibility by working hard, doing more, and not giving in! A diamond was only made beautiful after millions of years as a lump of coal.

Source: SparkPeople

Exercising with Lower Back Pain

As someone that has suffered from back pain (and has two back surgeries to prove it) I really appreciated this article and suggested exercises:

Exercising with Lower Back Pain

Monday, February 09, 2009

Habits of Healthy Eaters: Measure Portions

Habits of Healthy Eaters: Measure Portions

Measuring portions helps keep you on track, and it keeps you from convincing yourself you only had "a few" chips when you know the bag was full when you opened it. (No one else does that? Just me? OK…) Find out how to recover from portion distortion.

When Does Food Become Fat?

This is a very interesting quiz:

SparkPeople Quiz: When Does Food Become Fat?

When the Moon and Sun say "Good Morning"

As I took Baron for his morning walk, I was treated to a conversation between the moon and the sun. To my left, just above the horizon, was a full moon, bright and beautiful, just behind a group of pine trees. To my right, the sun had begun to show its gorgeous oranges and yellows. It was a spectacular, humbling view of three celestial bodies coming together to say good morning.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The positive cycle of forgiveness

OK, be honest. Do you hold grudges? Do you allow old drama to determine your behavior? Is there someone you just can't seem to forgive? Grudges and a non-forgiving attitude do nothing but harm both parties. You might feel like you're "winning" by not letting someone off the hook, but you're only increasing your own worry and stress. Bitterness can lead to hate, which can sour a life. Today, write a letter explaining your point of view to the person you feel resentful towards. Clear the air; forgiving him. Even if you don't send it, it is an excellent way to relieve tension. Forgiving someone does not absolve them of the wrong that you experienced. It can simply free you to live a life that isn't anchored to the hurt and resentment of past events

More at:

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sherry: a story of endurance

If you are looking for inspiration, if you are feeling down on your luck, then I urge you to read the following page:

SHERRY528's SparkPage - Welcome

What an awesome lady!

Appreciate the plateaus

It is funny how our minds work. Some of us think that progress is always going to be steady in the direction of our goal. Progress comes in waves. It is during the plateaus, when the results we expect are not coming, that we really grow and learn how to get better. It is sometimes only when we fail at something that we get better at it. We should appreciate the ups and downs of our journey. When we look back we will see that the highs and lows, and everything in between, are what made our goals possible.

How America Grew

How America Grew
Highlights on food and America from the past 50 years:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Healthy Reflections: What wealth do you possess?

One of the many benefits of being a SparkPeople member is that I receive these amazing emails called Healthy Reflections. Here is today's:

What wealth do you possess?

There is a long-standing tradition for Buddhist monks to rise each morning very early and set out to collect alms bowls, and go out into their community to collect donations of food, usually merely rice or a simple curry. Surprisingly though, none of this food is eaten, as the monks are typically well-stocked at their monastery. Why? This age-old tradition is still in existence simply to allow the nearby townspeople to experience the joy of giving. Do you have resources or talent that you can use to help others? Hoarding what you have wastes opportunities and fails to leave a positive mark on the world. Whether you have money, talent, time, knowledge, or energy, each should be shared. No one is better off by keeping wealth--tangible or intangible--to himself or herself.

They who give have all things; they who withhold have nothing.
- Hindu Proverb


Measuring Progress

Progress in being more fit and healthy can be measured in many ways. Some we can put numbers to, some we cannot. Many of us weigh ourselves (sometimes daily) and measure our dimensions in inches. I am fortunate to have made some very welcomed progress in both of these areas during January. I went from 255 to 236 pounds and, for example, from a 47" to a 44" waist. My hips stayed the same at 43" -- maybe there is not a lot of excess there, maybe it is not an area I have targeted properly, or maybe that part will slim down once my waist gets smaller. My neck went from 18" to 17".

But today I proved to myself that there is a different type of progress that is harder to measure. When I started this program in January, I decided to use the office staircases as an exercise machine. I could barely make it to the 8th floor without my legs giving up on me; today I made it to the 9th floor without problem, followed by a trip back to the 4th floor, back to the 8th floor, back to the 4th floor, back to the 6th, and back to the 4th floor. My legs got a bit tired but I was barely beginning to perspire. It is obvious that my conditioning has improved. THAT makes me happier than all the numbers above. The fact that I can go jogging without significant knee pain gives me great satisfaction. The idea that I will be able to coach my soccer team without being in agony the next day gives me the incentive to keep going.

I will close by saying that SparkPeople has given me a lot and I hope I can reciprocate by helping others achieve their goals.

An example to live by

So ... if they can do it, why can't we?

Dog, Cat, and Rat

The Benefits of Berries

The Benefits of Berries
Red, Black & Blue are Berry Good for You!

We simply love berries. As expensive as they can be, the health benefits of these fruits are amazing! We enjoy a combination of strawberries and raspberries as a smoothie -- a great dessert or snack!

My Gazelle -- The Buy of the Year

Last week I found a listing in craigslist for a Tony Little Gazelle. I had read some positive comments in SparkPeople and got excited by the price being asked ($30 for an item that is selling for $189 at Wal-Mart). The kids and I took it home on Saturday and I began using it immediately. What a great workout machine! Although Tony Little's infomercials have raised a few eye brows and are nothing less than tacky, I think the machine actually does a great job of giving you a fantastic workout. Thanks to YouTube, I was able to view of the possible workouts you can do on the machine. So far, 5-10 minutes is all I need to break into a nice sweat and feel my heart rate reach a nice level -- all with little impact to my joints. Although my right knee is feeling a lot better, I still experience minor discomfort on it. I strongly recommend getting your hands on one of these machines, especially if you can get an awesome deal on a used unit like I did.

10 Tips to Keep from Overeating at a Party

10 Tips to Keep from Overeating at a Party
Temptations abound at parties, but celebration doesn't have to mean overindulgence.