June 28, 2012

What would people say about you if you left the room? Are you living a life of true intention?

I know it’s a heady question, but it’s one worth asking. Luckily, Bryan Clay, Olympic hopeful for this summer’s Olympics in London, started to ask himself that question before it was too late. In his new book,  Redemption, Clay reveals his life story in great detail, such as how he had a very troubled childhood with parents who made their own share of mistakes. Throughout high school, and then later in college, he continued to ignore his highest athletic potential by drinking too much and engaging in dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until he met the woman of his dreams that he started to see a future beyond his current one.

Love can do that to a person.

Even then, however, he nearly lost his girlfriend because it took him a long time to realize the impact his partying was having on his relationship. The moment he changed his way of thinking, however, everything changed. A religious man, he began to see that he could indeed worship God through the sport instead of seeing his athletics and his spiritual practice as two separate things. He moved away from believing sports were a way to glorify himself; instead, they were a way for him to glorify God. Magically, his extreme partying dropped off.

The Big Picture can do that to a person.

“Keeping my priorities in the right order had brought me there,” he writes. He found Slow through God. Pretty darn cool.

So what do you think people would say about you if you left the room? Would they say you are kind, generous, emotionally available? Or would they consider you closed, disruptive, shut down and unreachable? As Maya Angelou says, people may not remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you’ve made them feel.

My guess is you can make someone feel really good today. Maybe in the form of a hug or a smile. There is redemption for us all, and it only takes one baby step toward your own truth. Don’t be afraid of it because it is there to show you the way even when you are lost. Embrace that beacon of light for all it’s worth. When you do, you will be set free.

Slow can do that to a person.


What Shape are You In?

June 22, 2012

We all come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on your mood, you might be feeling like a triangle right now ~ sort of sharp on the edges and not so centered. Or maybe you’re as full and round as a circle, rolling through life smooth as glass.

The stages of our lives can be reflected in geometry. We all start out as circles, exponentially multiplying cells until we turn into a not-so-geometric lima bean, then form a rounder shape once again. We come into the world whole, no matter what our bodies look like. As our personalities develop, we take on new contours. As an infant, we’re warm fuzzy roundness, but later, during that angular stage of adolescence, we might be more like a pentagon with lots of sharp points to push off the world. Then, by some miracle, we reach adulthood. Hopefully, in good shape and having recaptured a smoother line.

Even as full-blown adults, we take on different forms.

Circles are those delicious days of absolute completion. There is no beginning, no end, just harmony and flow. Other days we might feel like pyramids as we soar upward to the heavens, ever-reaching but with a solid base. On a slant, we might feel like a parallelogram that is off-kilter, but still standing.

What shape are you in today?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 8 out of the 10 million Americans who are estimated to have osteoporosis are women. Almost 34 million more people are estimated to have low bone density, increasing their risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.  National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As I mentioned earlier this month, National Nutrition Month focuses on the importance of developing healthy eating and physical activity habits, including meeting daily calcium requirements and performing various exercises to build strong bones, which is imperative in the fight against osteoporosis.

Nutritionist Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, author of the newly released book Bread is the Devil (from my publisher, St. Martin’s Press), offers tips for people who are trying to change their eating routines to drop the pounds in celebration of National Nutrition Month this March.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, carbs in moderation are all good. Even if bread is not your personal devil, Bauer’s book offers advice on how to build sensible, healthy meals, high in protein with complex carbs and how avoid other food demons – from ice cream and chips to sweet treats.

While taking a mindful view of our eating habits, it’s also important, especially for women, not to skimp on calcium. On average, women  fall short on calcium by at least 20%, getting only 500-700 mg per day – that’s significantly less than the recommended amount—putting them at risk of osteoporosis.

To decrease your chance of osteoporosis, Heather Bauer suggests:

  1.  Think of your bones as living, breathing tissue.  They can be built up and broken down with certain determining factors. These factors include daily intake of at least 1,000mg of calcium supplemented with Vitamin D for optimal absorption and weight-bearing exercise.
  2.  Get your dose of calcium in whole foods such as broccoli or soy milk. (I’m told Adora Calcium Supplement discs are made from rich, all-natural premium chocolate – whatever floats your boat, but I’m thinking broccoli is the better, if not more fun, option).
  3. By the time we hit our 30s, we stop naturally building bone mass and start losing it. Counteract this with anything that forces your body to defy gravity.  Activities include dancing, jogging, tennis, even stair climbing.  Make sure to avoid escalators and elevators!
  4.  Lifting weights at the gym gives you muscle tone, right? Well, calcium acts in the same way to keep your blood vessels toned. Calcium rich foods like milk, cheese, sardines, figs, and dark leafy greens like spinach can be tough to eat a lot of, so consider a calcium supplement if you’re not meeting the recommended daily value.

Even a slow or vigorous walk can have positive effects on your bones. Have you been outside today? Natural sunlight increases your Vitamin D, a necessary component for calcium absorption.

The folks at Self magazine gave me a preview of their February issue, which provides various beautiful people doing squats and lunges with thighs made of steel. It’s easy to say “Puh! That’ll never be me. I mean look at her. She’s obviously a model. And no one —  absolutely no one — has skin that glistening.”
It’s important to keep things in perspective. Like a lot of people, I workout regularly, but lately I’ve been feeling the need to change up my routine a little bit. The truth is wellness and fitness require a holistic approach. As I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere, you are what, and how, you eat. (See this great New York Times article on mindful eating). You are also comprised of all the decisions you make, large and small.

So I decided to take a closer look at what Self is trying to say. And they have a lot of good tips to help shake up said routine to bring in new wind into a dulled wellness regime.

Tip#1: Place your leftovers and other food in glass containers in the fridge. You can only eat what you see.

Tip#2: Shop and chop once ~for the whole week. Do food prep ahead of time so you don’t have to dirty your kitchen over and over again.

Tip #3: A little movement can go a long way. It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. The following program will help you trim up with a slow burn. Integrate your fitness in small choices such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator. And follow the outline they provide here if it works for you (personally, I’m not ready to give up on my health instructor yet!) Every little bit counts so get up and move.

Tip#4: This one’s borrowed from the mindful eating article I read in the New Yokr Times ~ eat in silence at least once a week. You wouldn’t believe how much more enjoyable it is to unitask at the table. So unplug the electronica and just eat, for pete’s sake. You may actually notice what it is you’re putting inside!

Remember: life is a dance so shake it for all it’s worth!

Want more info? Check out Tiffani Thiessen’s Prep Once Lose All Week Diet.



Anyone who can run (or jump or skip, for that matter) has my full admiration. Mark Allen, a six time Ironman World Champion, is a record-busting triathlete with a great verve for life. In his recent book, Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You, he reveals how he moved away from beating the clock to expanding his spirit. He moved beyond his limits nNot only physically, but also spiritually. He writes:

“When I began my career as a professional athlete in 1982, I judged my sucess in terms of the minutes and seconds I could shave off my competitive times, and how close I could get to my body’s breaking point without breaking. For the first six years of my career, I won plent of races ~ but always fell short of my goal: the ironman world championship. After meeting and studying with Shaman-healer Brant Secunda, I learned how to channel the power of nature to make me calm, focused and strong. By expanding my idea of fitness to spirit and emotions, not just physical fitness, I learned how to harness courage, self-confidence, and self-love. I became free and humble. I saored when I cimpeted, and felt really happy doing it. Combining my athletic training with the wisdom of the Huichol shamans, I went to win six world ironman championship titles.”

There is something to be said for perception. Where your head and your heart are at informs where you are at. Imagine being in full alignment with yourself? I may never compete in a triatholon, but there are plenty of other competitions to win in life. How might you apply yourself today?

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Slow Exercise

June 9, 2010

In the 80s aerobics was hot. Jane Fonda and those lovely scrunchy socks, the full-body suits and the thong-like overpants. The faster you pumped, the better.

The 90s rolled by me as I rolled by it on my bike (I lived eight miles from University and rode my bike to and fro every day ~ in the snow, uphill, both ways). Ha ha.

The decade following Y2K was filled with raising babies into children who could tie their shoes (and roll their eyes ~ mostly at me). By 2008 I had discovered Pilates.

Ah, the beauty of the slow motion Pilates requires. It asks for the slow burn, the simple movements and charitable forgiveness when you cannot reach your toes as you once did.

Today I closed my eyes throughout many of the exercises in my Pilates class. The taut-bellied size 0 instructor has a way about her that is most nurturing. I smiled from the inside out as I actually asked my body “What do you want today? Does this feel good? Where does my stress reside?”

It was a mystical moment, right there on the mat amongst the others who enjoy the sanctity of slow exercise.

The next time you find yourself in motion, close your eyes (okay, not when you are driving) and you may find you see the world through the feelings slow motion brings.

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This is not a message telling you how to make your new year better. It is a message to help you make every moment (or at least most of them) great.

Flipping the calendar fills us with joy and hope. There is something magical about writing a new number at the tail end of the year. January 1 is not only the basis of our resolutions. It is the start of a brand new possibility of positive change.

The trouble with New Year’s resolutions is we often try to change who we are to fit a mold we think is better for us.  We look forlornly in the mirror at our expanding waistlines and at our statements at our receding bank accounts. We think what we are doing is somehow wrong and that it would best to make a quantum leap towards a better future. The challenge is most radical changes are not sustainable. Incremental change, however, can lead to lasting improvement and well-being.

Whatever your goals are, it is possible to set and attain them at any time of the year.

Whether you have fitness, financial or family-related goals, you can live the life you deserve every day of every year. Think about your New Year’s resolutions as a chance to show the world who you truly are. It requires a bit of courage to denounce the common resolutions most people make, but my guess is, if you are reading this, you already have what it takes.

  1. Name the year. While in graduate school, my husband and I developed a system of naming the New Year something to help each other realize our goals. One year was the Year of Fun. We spent it looking for new, yet inexpensive ways to be entertained. Another was the Year of Travel in which we took ten trips to various places. Last year was the Year of the Book as I completed and published The Power of Slow. What will your focus be this year? Family? Career? Inspiration? Fun? Have the title reflect your main goal for the year. You may have many goals, which is great. The key here is to identify your main focus and to drive your efforts in a common direction.
  2. Get a new calendar. As silly as this may sound, holding a fresh, unmarked calendar is a powerful, hope-filled exercise. Flip through each month and envision how you would like to spend your time. Make a few notes in the margins or on the days themselves. Find inspirational quotes that motivate you towards your main goal. Add them to the page.
  3. Be realistic. The fastest way to discourage yourself is to set unattainable goals such as running twenty-five marathons in as many days. Recognize your limits. Be kind to yourself. New Year’s resolutions are about empowering yourself to live your best life, not a tortured one.
  4. Go slowly. We often get impatient when we ‘miss’ our self-induced deadlines. Celebrate the small wins and embrace the setbacks as something you have learned. Take baby steps to sustain your energy and your progress. One step forward is better than a giant leap, then a tumble to ground zero. Sometimes we achieve our goals in the most unexpected ways. Allow for surprises and trust that your life is unfolding just as it should.
  5. Get support. Gather your tribe of like-minded people to help you achieve your goals. Whether it is a weight loss group, an exercise buddy or a partner who lifts you up when the going gets tough, we all need human connection to help us on our way. No man, or woman, is an island. Sharing your goals with others also gives you a higher level of culpability than if you keep it to yourself. If you struggle with procrastination, ask others to help keep you in check. Do the same for them.

The New Year is a time of hope and renewal. It is a period of transition to our higher selves. We can reside in that place of heightened awareness more often than we think by tapping into our inner voice and actually listening to what it says. What do you truly want 2010 to be?  Take a moment to reflect. It can be yours for the asking.**

**Parts of this essay first appeared on

Alice Naughton says taking ninety minutes a day for herself is no sweat. Well, actually it involves a lot of sweating. She hires a babysitter for her nine month-old and heads to her Bikram Yoga aka Hot Yoga class. I’ve taken a class with Bikram himself. When you’re in a room that’s set at 100 degrees, you choose your movements carefully…

Here’s Alice’s take on doing what she loves. [Listening

Establishing a positive relationship with time sometimes requires we go out on a limb, such as taking risks to try new things while spending the units in our personal bank account of time wisely.

Yesterday I took a drum aerobics class for the heck of it. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either until I tried it.

Admittedly, I thought someone else would be doing the drumming while I pranced about to the beat. I envisioned a team of African drummers beating their hearts out while I danced out mine.

Not so.

african drummerThe five-foot-wonder at the head of the class looked harmless enough. She had us get down large exercise balls that you normally sit on and grab a pair of drumsticks.

“Let’s go,” was all she said.

For the next hour we banged the ball with all our might to the beat of techno music blaring from the speakers. I was so concentrated on the dance moves that I completely forgot I was actually moving. More importantly, I also forgot the time. 

During the last five minutes, the instructor spoke.

“If you’re T-shirt’s not wet yet, it will be.”

I grew scared. I had already seen what the little power pack was capable of. We beat, we danced, we beat some more.

It was the most well-spent time I’ve had all week.

How do you find time to do what you love?

I read. A lot. It’s a great way to slow down, get centered, and keep up on what’s hot, and what’s not.

slow-burnFredrick Hahn, Michael R. Eades, and Mary Dan Eades came out with The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow-Motion Exercise that Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week in 2003. I’ve known for a long time that slower movements have more impact than faster ones. Whether it is lifting weights or doing yoga, jerking motions only serve to strain ligaments and joints. I like the format of the book. It busts myths such as being fit means you are healthier, all exercise is good for you, and any physical activity is exercise. They define exercise to mean strength training. The stronger you are, the healthier you are. The pictures that accompany the exercise explanations are also easy to follow. I find reading about exercise as about as exciting as listening to grass grow, but the authors’ enthusiasm is rather infectious. It made for an easier read than I thought.

slow-burn-kidsRecently, Frederick Hahn came out with a children’s fitness book, Strong Kids Healthy Kids: The Revolutionary Program for Increasing Your Child’s Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week , which I found a bit harder to digest. I suppose the myths of weight training being bad for growing bodies remains strong in my mind. Weight training for eight-year-olds? I’d rather see my daughter lift the saddle onto the horse herself. Practical exercise, meaning integrated movement, seems less daunting than having your kids wield heavy weights. I will say the case studies the authors mention in the book were inspirational. In fact, when my seven-year-old son cried that he’s not as muscular as his eight-year-old friend, I pulled out the book to show him what’s possible. I doubt he has the focus for weight training just yet, but it’s good to know I have a resource when his interest grows as he does!