Thursday, December 24, 2009

It Is All Good--Every Last Bit of It!

This year is rapidly coming to a close. Looking back, I can definitely say that that I learned a lot about the people in my life. More importantly, I learned a lot about myself. Like many of you, I am reflecting on everything that has happened, but with gratitude. I am grateful for all it-- the good, bad, and especially the ugly. The "good" has given me hope and affirmation. The "bad" has pushed me to work harder at "getting it right." The "ugly", however, has been the most valuable of the three. You see, the ups and downs of life are just a part of the journey. When I am focused and driven, I can take it all in stride. Struggling for balance is what life is all about. The really bad stuff, however, has forced me to see myself and others very clearly. There is no better time to find out who is with you than when you are up and when you are down.

If you will bear with me, I'd like to offer some of my insights.

1) Change is as difficult for others as it is for you.
For any number of reasons, you may not get the support that you would expect from family and "friends" when you attempt to make big changes. Marriage, divorce, having children (or not), new job/business venture, returning to school/graduating, moving, weight loss, and matters of faith will all change who you are, how you look at the world, and how others look at you. Don't lose sight of why you made your decision. Stick to your guns. Those who love you will come around eventually. Some will stand with you every step of the way. Just give it time, please God, and please yourself.

2) Inputs Equal Outputs
I am learning to slow down a bit, and for me that is huge! I am admittedly the queen of burnout. I figure that if I am going to do something, I have to do it right and all the way. You know, "go hard or go home." At some point, it is critical to stop and REST. On the flip side of things though, whatever you put into something will determine what you get out of it. Set clear, measurable goals, prioritize them, and assign deadlines. That way, you will be less likely to get sidetracked. More importantly, you will focus your energies on what adds to your life rather than what takes away from it.

3) Give yourself permission to love.
Sometimes we get hurt by the people we love. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, so the natural thing to do is to cut off the source of the pain. Ironically, whatever the source of the pain, many of us choose to punish and blame ourselves. But, there is another way to look at it. Our actions can trigger a variety of emotional responses in people, however, we have no control over what they choose to do with their feelings. We can only control how we react. I don't know any perfect people. I have my flaws and weaknesses like everybody else. And while it is difficult to separate what people do from who they really are, it is possible to love them all the same. Just be wise about the role they play in your life. Love self first, then others.

4) Listen to your own voice and you'll never go wrong.
(Now if you are hearing voices in your head and they each have a name, then skip this piece of advice!) Whether or not you realize it, each of us has the ability to figure many things out for ourselves. A lot of drama would be avoided if we stopped sharing our business with everybody. When you tell others about your personal struggles, many will assume that they now have a license to advise you and everybody else on what you need to do. I am bowled over by the number of divorced people who try to give advice to couples who are trying to stay together. Or how about people who have no children that transform into the Super Nanny every time they show up at your door? If you don't want outside advice, don't ask for it or at least consult with someone who is in the place you are trying to get to. Better yet, consider what advice you would give someone you love--then, take your own advice.

5) Be yourself.
You are a uniquely created individual. You were given a special combination of skills and talents that must be cultivated and used in this lifetime. You will inspire somebody, hurt somebody, succeed, fail, stand strong, fall down, get up, soar to great heights, sink to new lows, love yourself, hate yourself, be proud, and even disappoint yourself and others. I have. But, through it all, accept who you are with all of your imperfections and live your life your way. No one can do you better than you. Nor can you be a better version of anybody else. If you are reading this today, it's because someone believes that you deserve another opportunity to get it right. Don't squander it. That might be a tall order, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eating to Live: Getting It "Write"!

Even the most disciplined person can fall off the fitness wagon. One of the simplest things that you can do to get back on track is to keep a food journal. Writing down EVERYTHING you eat, the size of each portion, and daily water intake for just one week will lead to the discovery of why your weight or health condition isn't what you need it to be. Don't restrict your journal entries to sit-downs meals only. Include every piece of candy, chip, cracker, snack, etc. Medications, vitamins, and dietary supplements should be included as well.

At the end of this seven day period, re-read your journal and look for trends. Are you grabbing donuts and bagels from the break room at work? Do you snack on candy and chips during the day? Do you eat when you are stressed out, sad, lonely, celebrating, or watching television? How much water are you drinking? Are your portions too large? Are most of the foods you eat fresh or are they in a package, bag, or a can? Consider what was happening at the time you reached for that bag of chips. Try to link what you eat with why you eat it. Often food is a coping mechanism for other issues. What could you do differently the next time a certain situation presents itself? Once you know better, strive to do better.

Utilizing a free online tool like My Calorie Counter will help you identify whether you are eating enough, too little, or too much food. It provides nutritional content and also measures calories burned from your workouts.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tying the Knot

Life offers many challenges on the road to self-discovery. Every individual is presented with a unique set of circumstances. The way that these challenges are handled will determine success or failure, happiness or sadness, growth or stagnation, and more. I remember many years ago hearing the following quote: "When you find yourself at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on tight." Just when you think that your situation couldn't get any worse and you have tried everything to make things better, a little faith and a little patience will go a long way. Easier said than done, right?

The key to receiving your blessings and rewards in life is perseverance. Perseverance is fueled by a clear vision. It is critical to focus on the big picture. Be clear about why you have embarked on a certain path. Consider what the ultimate goal is. Take your attention away from drama and distractions. Focus on what you are striving to achieve. If the goal is worthwhile, then tie the knot. If it isn't, then let it go.

My point is that we only get one shot at this life. It is precious and special and has much to offer if we don't give up on it. Disappointments are inevitable. So-called friends will come and go. Even our families will give us grief from time to time. But the simple joys in life will always outweigh the hard times if we just cherish them.

So, when the finish line is in sight, but your legs are about to give out, Tie the Knot.

When your best friend "does you dirty", Tie the Knot.

When your spouse takes you for granted, Tie the Knot.

When your children rebel, Tie the Knot.

When your boss is breathing down your neck, Tie the Knot.

When your faith is a little shaky, Tie the Knot.

When you are struggling to break a habit, Tie the Knot.

When your grades just aren't cutting it, Tie the Knot.

When people try to take advantage of your gifts, Tie the Knot.

When someone breaks your confidence, Tie the Knot.

When someone slanders you, Tie the Knot.

When you lose a loved one, Tie the Knot.

When your money is too funny, Tie the Knot.

When others are critical of your success, Tie the Knot.

When you are down and depressed, Tie the Knot.

When you faced with a hard decision, Tie the Knot.

Tie the Knot. Hold on tight. Don't give up. Persevere. Fight through the rough times. Know with a certainty that no mistakes were made in your creation. You are alive for a distinct purpose. Figure out for yourself what that purpose is. Now, go forward, live your life, and be great at it! No one can do it for you and no one can do it better!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Going Green" Keeps You "In the Black"

My daughter, Halima, has recently inspired me to be more environmentally responsible. When I was growing up, the "Don't Mess With Texas" and "Adopt a Highway/Park" campaigns were a big deal and made quite an impact on my attitudes about about pollution. To this day, I still don't litter and I can't stand it when others do. But, my daughter has taken this ideal to a whole other level.

During Earth Week 2009, we made some minor changes that have greatly impacted the way we live. Maybe you, too, will be inspired to do your part in saving our planet. Here is the list:

1) Set up a recycling station. In our garage, we simply took 4 plastic storage bins with lids and labeled them. In the house, we keep a reusable shopping bag on a doorknob in the kitchen for sortation. It is amazing to see how much paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum/cans can be discarded every week. We have started looking for ways to cut down on the amount of waste. This is doing great things for the grocery bill and inspires some creativity. Empty glass jars have become vases and plastic detergent containers and 1-gallon milk jugs are used as watering cans. My daughter even took the scraps she saved from an art project and made a Mother's Day gift for me. Priceless.

2) Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. I know. I know. The bulbs are pricey, but they last longer than the basic 60 or 100 watt bulbs. Just gradually replace the old bulbs as they burn out. In the long run, the money you save on utility bills and grocery bills will be well worth the investment. Oh, and don't leave lights on and water faucets running when they are not being used for a specific purpose.

3) Plant a tree. One of the best things that you can do to improve the air that you breathe is to plant a tree, a flower, or a vegetable/herb garden. The benefits are endless. First of all, the exercise and "fresh" air (depending on where you live--smile) are great for your overall health and wellness. Trees remove toxic gases from the air and provide oxygen which is critical for all living things. Flowers are beautiful and inviting. If you want to improve your community's curb appeal, start working on your yard. (Believe me--no one wants to be the worst-looking house on the block!) And lastly, plant an organic vegetable garden. Not only will you trim your food budget, but you will also improve your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables--pesticide-free! This should lead to fewer doctor visits and fewer days lost from school/work.

4) Use reusable shopping bags. These bags can be purchased at your local grocery store for about $1.00 each and help cut down on the amount of plastic that is used. (I often forget to take mine with me, so I'll just keep some in the car going forward.) When you have the option, opt for paper bags over plastic. Also, recycle the plastic bags that you already have as trash can liners or drop them off in the recycle bin at the store.

5) Donate unused items. It is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure. There are many people who would put old toys and clothing to good use. Charity is an act of kindness and a great lesson to share with your children.

6) Park the car. Take a walk or ride your bike for short trips. When shopping, choose a parking space farther away from the building. Why burn gas unnecessarily and add more exhaust fumes to the air when you could burn a few extra calories? And don't get me started on fuel prices...

7) Support your local food co-op. The best produce that you could eat is locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables. These farmers work hard to ensure the highest quality without pesticides and/or chemical additives. A great advantage is the low cost of shipping, which adds up to huge savings for you. I recommend The Third Day Organic Produce and Natural Meat Coop. Contact Vanesa Clark at To find your local co-op, check out:

8) Go chemical-free. Use more cleaning products and detergents that contain natural ingredients. This will cut down on the toxins in your home and improve your family's health. Search the internet to find instructions on how to create your own cleaning products from items in your pantry. Here is a link to get you started:

Going green can improve your quality of life in many ways. Health, vitality, and longevity are within reach. You can make your community a better place to live. In fact, doing so is both our individual and collective responsibility. Remember: If everybody does a little, then no one has to do a lot! Get started today!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lower My Blood Pressure and Cholesterol? Sign Me Up!

The benefits of a good diet and exercise regimen reach far beyond the number on the scale. In less than one month, both blood pressure levels and cholesterol levels can be brought within healthy ranges. How? Consuming a low-fat, high-fiber diet and walking for 45 to 60 minutes daily will reduce blood cholesterol levels and help clear arteries. According to the American Council on Exercise, researchers at UCLA conducted a study (2002) on 11 obese men who consumed a low-fat, high-fiber diet and walked on a treadmill daily over a three week period. Here were the results:

"At the end of three weeks, participants hadn't lost a significant amount of weight, but the seven men who previously had high blood pressure now had normal blood pressure, and the entire group reduced their cholesterol levels by an average of 19 percent.

"Insulin levels dropped 46 percent and free radicals by 28 percent, both of which are associated with heart disease.

"This is the first study to show that this type of diet and exercise can reduce oxidative stress, lower blood pressure and improve risk factors for other chronic diseases in a very short time," wrote lead researcher R. James Barnard."

How do I get started?

See your doctor for your annual physical. Inform him/her that you want to begin an exercise program and that you need specific recommendations based on your current health condition and your fitness goals. Your examination and blood work will dictate how your diet will change as well as the type and level of intensity of your exercise program. If your total cholesterol is 200 or higher with an LDL of over 99 then you will want to get started right away. Blood pressure increases with age. A normal reading for a 30 year-old man is 126/79 while a 60-year old man registers 142/85. Consult with your doctor. Health conditions, age, gender, and medications can affect your numbers.

What should I be eating?

Your healthy diet should consist of carbohydrates, protein, and good fats. These macronutrients are derived from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, lean meats, fish, and plant-based oils. Visit and develop a plan for your general nutrition needs as well as physical activity. Since carbohydrates supply the primary fuel for most metabolic activity, your daily caloric intake should be comprised of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fats. Eliminate pork, red meat, fast food, junk food, fried food, soda, caffeine, alcohol, sweets, and cigarettes. Add fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans,and (if you prefer meat) lean cuts of meat like chicken or turkey. Healthy fats should come from olive oil, canola oil, low-fat dairy, salmon, avocados, flax seed, and sesame oil. Be mindful that the body produces cholesterol naturally. Animal-based foods contain saturated fat, so excess consumption of meat and dairy products will lead to high LDL (bad) cholesterol. Lastly, drink plenty of water--at least half of your present body weight in ounces.

How often should I exercise?

Strive to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days per week. Try walking. Balance cardio (walking, jogging, running, biking, rowing) with strength training (weights, pushups, yoga). Set new goals every month and make sure that your program is progressive. The key words here are: farther, faster, stronger, longer (distance, speed, power, endurance). Be sure to stretch major muscle groups daily and perform core/ab exercises every other day. To stay motivated, incorporate daily activities like yard work, washing the car, cleaning, and playing with your children. Recreational sports in a club or league as well as walking/running clubs provide great support from your peers. Just get moving!

Visit the American Heart Association website to create your personalized walking plan and track your progress at:

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Staying Well While You Grieve

Losing a loved one is often one of life's most difficult experiences. The manner and duration of the grieving period is unique to each individual. Each loss affects the bereaved differently. Most people associate grief with the loss of a family member or close friend. There are many types of loss that one may experience including the loss of a job, divorce, financial setbacks, death of a pet, etc. In any and every case, it is critical that good health, nutrition, and fitness are maintained.

Grief is an active process that is cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical. It affects moods, motivation, stress levels, appetite, weight, sleep patterns, energy levels, and more. Ignoring one's personal needs during this time can complicate the grieving process. It is not uncommon to turn to food, alcohol, drugs, sleep, work, and withdrawal/seclusion to deal with death and loss. Unfortunately these coping strategies can delay one's ability to face and work through the gamut of emotions that are being experienced. The following tips can be implemented to facilitate a state of wellness while grieving:

1) Eat balanced meals regularly. The human body needs balanced nutrition for proper function of all vital organs and systems. Avoid fast food and junk food along with caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy will promote good health and offset the physical strain that grief can place on the body.

2) Take daily walks. Some type of regular physical activity is good for improving one's outlook and overall disposition. A long walk can help clear the mind, or at least allow the griever to get away from everything and just be themselves in that moment. Exercise promotes restful sleep. Some may try other mind-body disciplines like yoga or Tai Chi. Cycling, swimming, and jogging are good choices as well. The key here is to do what feels good and keep moving.

3) Sleep regularly. This might be a challenge initially, so taking naps as frequently as possible and trying to rest at the same time daily may help.

4) Use prayer and meditation to stay connected and grounded. Maintaining a connection to one's spirit has proven to be very helpful in handling grief. There are often many unanswered questions and unresolved feelings that manifest themselves through anger and frustration. Some experience a loss of control. Allowing oneself the time to work through the mental and spiritual aspects of grieving is extremely helpful and important for achieving wellness.

5) Ask for help. Surrounding oneself with loved ones and enlisting help with daily tasks can relieve stress until some balance is returned to the daily routine.

6) Use a journal or other creative outlets to express yourself. After a certain point, family and friends don't always share a desire to talk about the loss of a loved one. It is still necessary to articulate or channel the various thoughts and emotions that accompany death and loss. Writing, painting, knitting, poetry, and music are all examples of ways to work through the stages of grief. It can be shared with others or be kept in private. What is important is to find ways to express thoughts and emotions while giving oneself permission to grieve.

While all of us will experience grief in our lives on some level, be encouraged and know that you can make it through the sad times. I did and you can, too.

Written in memory of my mother, Regena Vetene Thomas, RN (June 23, 1937-July 25, 2003).

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Protein for Your Health and Weight Loss

Along with the onslaught of fad diets on the market comes a lot of confusion about the best ways to get fit. There are simple formulas that anyone can follow to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or support training regimens for athletes. A balanced diet is critical to achieving and maintaining overall health and wellness. Today, I'd like to take a look at the role that protein plays in each of these scenarios.

The USDA recommends that the general public consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. This is a general baseline for sedentary individuals or those who engage in low to moderate physical activity. Strength, endurance, and team sport athletes should consume higher amounts of protein. Athletes looking to gain or lose weight consume the highest amounts of protein ranging from 1.6 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight. Protein intake should range from 10-35% of an adult's daily calories consumed.

To calculate the minimum amount of protein that your diet should contain, take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2.2 (to convert into kilograms), and multiply that result by .8 g/kg. For example, a 150 pound individual should be consuming 54.5 grams of protein daily (which equals 218 calories):

150 lbs. / 2.2 = 68.2 kg

68.2 kg x .8 g/kg = 54.5 grams of protein.

Protein contains 4 calories per gram, so to calculate the calorie equivalent of 54.5 grams simply multiply by 4:

54.5 grams x 4 calories per gram = 218 calories.

If this same individual consumes a total of 2000 calories per day, then protein will comprise 11% of the total calorie intake.

For active individuals who want to lose weight, protein plays a critical role in building lean muscle and increasing metabolism to burn fat. Training intensity and duration both increase protein requirements (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky 2009). At the onset of endurance training for less fit individuals, it is critical that protein intake be increased for the first 1-2 weeks (1.2-1.4 times body weight). Soon after, protein levels should return to baseline levels. The majority of calories should come from carbohydrates because they are the primary source of fuel for the body. A good breakdown looks like this:

Carbohydrates 45-65% of total calories
Proteins 10-35% of total calories
Fats 20-35% of total calories

The key here is to ensure that the majority of the proteins ingested come from the diet as opposed to supplements. Meat eaters should include animal proteins like eggs, dairy, lean meats, and fish which are classified as complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce. Vegetarians have slightly higher protein needs because plant-based sources of protein are incomplete. Combining beans, grains, and vegetables in one meal or in one day will compensate for amino acid deficiency if paired optimally. A good example of this would be a lentil rice pilaf.

Consuming more than 35% of your daily calorie intake in protein can lead to serious health conditions. Some of these conditions are kidney malfunction, diabetes, high blood pressure, bone mineral loss, and dehydration. In essence, too much of a good thing is bad.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Defining Your Success-Part 2: Are We There Yet?

The most predictable question that a child will ask while on a seemingly long journey is: "Are we there yet?" Because adults may underestimate a child's ability to grasp the mechanics of travel, they often withhold important details about the trip. Children have to grow into an understanding of time, rates of speed, geography, etc., but the more information that they have, the easier it will be to gain their buy-in. Adults are no different. If people understand where you are going, they will better be able to decide whether they want to support your efforts.

"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." -Arthur Ashe

I love this quote by Arthur Ashe. While I agree that the journey is what determines the outcome, it occurs to me that it is critical to know the destination. You must know where you are going first, so that you can devise a plan that details the best way to get there. In other words, you must have a vision for your life. One of my brothers said to me that each of us has a God-given purpose. Once we identify what that is, we should go about the business of formulating a vision for what we want to accomplish during our time on this planet.

Successful people align themselves with those who share the same/similar vision because they recognize the power in the collective efforts of like-minded people. They have a clear vision for their lives and they know how to articulate it to others. If your goal is to become a parent, you wouldn't enter into a relationship with someone who doesn't want children. If your goal is to become an English professor, you shouldn't major in physics. If your goal is to be promoted to a management position at work, it is critical that your supervisor be aware of your aspirations. They must also, however, share your vision and be committed to helping you reach your goal.

Consider all of the relationships that you have. Look at your marriage, family, work, school, social clubs, etc. Ask yourself, "What is my vision for my life? Do the most important relationships that I have support my vision?" This an assessment that we should make every time we consider entering into a new relationship or ponder a new opportunity.

When partnerships dissolve, one of three things has occurred. One partner develops a vision where none existed prior. One's vision has changed. One or both parties discovers that their visions for life are not the compatible. It is critical that both parties be honest and forthright about their intentions. If one chooses to withhold information, the other is forced to make decisions without knowing the big picture. This relationship is doomed to fail. Both parties have a right to know the truth because the lie will hinder both people from reaching their individual destinies. Using someone else's skills and talents for personal gain is unfair. Put all of the cards on the table. The big lesson here is that if there is no shared vision, then go your separate ways. No harm, no foul.

Take some time and discover your true purpose and formulate a vision for your life. Then surround yourself with people who share that vision. If you know where you're at,where you're going, and who's going with you, then you'll never have to ask, "Are we there yet?" again.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nutrition Corner: Raychelle's Power Smoothie

There are many benefits of eating fruit. Fruits are generally low in fats, calories, and sodium. They contain no cholesterol. Coupled with high amounts of dietary fiber, fruits are heart healthy. Some of the nutrients contained in fruits include potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Potassium helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Dietary fiber, obtained from eating fruits whole, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and can lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is very important for elimination of wastes (proper bowel function). It helps to reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Vitamin C supports the immune system. It is also important for body tissue growth and repairs, helps to heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Folic acid helps the body to produce red blood cells and reduces the risk of neural defects in unborn children. The USDA recommends that we should consume a minimum of one to two cups of fruit daily depending on our respective ages and genders. Children should eat at least one to one and one-half cups of fruit per day, while adults should eat a minimum of one and one-half to two cups daily.

Are you getting enough?

Click the following link to see how much fruit you should eat everyday:

So what counts as a cup of fruit?

A cup is the equivalent of one small apple, one large banana, 8 large strawberries, or 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice. Be sure to note that drinking fresh juice is excellent for quick absorption, however, it will be necessary to compensate for the lack of fiber contained in it. My suggestion would be to take the remaining pulp and add it to a smoothie. For more examples of your favorite fruits, click this link:

A great way to ensure that you consume a variety of fruits everyday is to blend them into a smoothie. (I like to freeze my fresh cut fruits prior to blending because I like a slushy consistency.) The key to choosing fruits is to make sure that you eat as many colors of fruit every week. You should opt for pesticide-free, organically- grown fruits whenever possible and make sure that they are in-season. To learn more about locally-grown fruits in your state, visit the following link:

Here is a recipe for a great smoothie:

Raychelle’s Power Smoothie

1/2 cup strawberries; 2 cups unsweetened apple juice; 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed

1/2 cup pineapple; 1/4 cup aloe vera juice; 1 ripe banana

1/2 cup mango; 1 cup crushed ice; juice of 1 large lemon

2 tbsp. honey or agave nectar

Gradually combine all ingredients in a blender .
Use additional juice to achieve desired consistency.
Serves 4.


Be good to yourself! More next time...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Defining Your Success: Part 1

In a previous post entitled "Lessons from my Life Coach", I made the following statement in my closing remarks:

"Each of us is entitled to being wildly happy, having vibrant health, fostering good relationships, being wealthy and successful as defined on our own terms,..."

At the time I wrote that piece, I was reflecting on the idea of success and what that really means. By definition, success is:

1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors;
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like;
3. a successful performance or achievement;
4. a person or thing that is successful;
5. Obsolete.

But, who decides what is 'favorable'? How much wealth is enough? How many honors must one attain? When does one's success become obsolete? Does every aspect of one's life have to be successful before he/she can call him/herself successful? What I deduced is that success is relative to one's own definition of it. The question that every individual should consider is, "Did I achieve what I set out to accomplish within the scope of my goals/vision?" Success can be measured in many different ways and by many different criteria. Because success is relative to the individual, he or she should never gauge it by anyone else's standards.

In subsequent posts, I will elaborate on this concept. Until then, I'll leave you with some notable quotes made by people who have been regarded as successful in their fields of endeavor. My hope is that you will think over this and either formulate or expand your own definition of successful living. I will do the same.

"Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value." -Albert Einstein

"I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time." - Herbert Bayard Swope (1882 - 1958)

"If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all." -Anna Quindlen (1953 - )

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." -Maya Angelou (1928 - )

"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much." -Bessie A. Stanley

"The only place where success comes before work is a dictionary." -Vidal Sassoon

"Success is relative. It is what we can make of the mess we have made of things." -T.S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." -Colin Powell (1937 - )

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." -Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915)

"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." -Arthur Ashe

"Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal." -Mike Ditka (1939 - )

"The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance - and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning." -Oprah Winfrey (1954 - ), O Magazine, September 2002

"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate." -George Burns (1896 - 1996)

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, February 2, 2009

You Are What You Ate

Did you know that it can take up to eight hours to digest one meal? If you ate breakfast at 6 a.m., your body won't finish metabolizing it until around 2 p.m. this afternoon. If you eat lunch at noon and dinner at six, you might be creating a bit of a traffic jam in your intestinal track. Not to be crude, but have you ever paid attention to a baby's elimination habits? They seem to pass what they eat and drink several times a day. Believe it or not, that's normal. In a 24 hour period, a person who has eaten 4 big meals could still have 2 or 3 of them in a holding pattern waiting to be broken down and absorbed by the small intestine. If there was a lot of sugar released into the bloodstream, it is being converted to fat. Often I hear people say that they will just work out extra tomorrow to "burn off" the double-fudge cakes, carbs, and alcohol consumed tonight. The problem with this strategy is that the weight gain that results from overeating and poor diet doesn't happen until the meals in question are digested--sometimes 2 or 3 days later.

I would like to offer some advice for those who would like to improve their eating habits. There are some very simple techniques that will allow your body to use food for fuel more effectively and avoid overloading it. Some simple changes will result in increased energy, better sleep, and an improved overall sense of well-being.

1) Eat the recommended number of servings from each food group daily (

2) Control your portions. Too much of a good thing is bad.

3) Stay well hydrated year-round. Hunger between meals is often a symptom of dehydration. Don't wait until you feel thirst to take a drink.

4) Eat foods that are high in fiber. This helps to keep you feeling satisfied and "keeps things moving." fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are good sources.

5) Cut refined sugar from your diet. The more you eat it, the greater your cravings. You will also avoid overtaxing your pancreas, liver, and kidneys in your body's attempt to digest it.

6) Go meatless (what?) once a week. It takes more time and energy to digest meat. Beans contain high protein and fiber without all of the bad fats. Here is a quick and easy recipe for you to try:

Vegetarian Lentil Savory

1 lb. dry lentils, 2 diced medium tomatoes

8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic

1 large carrot, peeled, 2 stalks celery

1/2 large white onion, 1/2 cup bell pepper (all colors) diced

1 teaspoon sage, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper

3 tbsp. olive oil, 2 tbsp. chili powder

sea salt, water to cover

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Chop all vegetables and combine with beans and seasonings. Bring soup to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Serves 8. Enjoy!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Commit to Be Fit in 2009! -Your 30 Day Checkup

Are you keeping your New Year's resolutions? The end of January is days away and some of us have yet to move off the couch and do something to improve our health and quality of life. Why? Consider the following:

1) Did I set a realistic goal?
2) Did I really commit to it?
3) Did I adequately prepare?
4) What was my motivation?
5) What am I waiting for?
6) Do I believe that I can achieve my goals?

Tomorrow is not promised. To enjoy every moment of your life, you must be present and actively participating in it. So, don't punish yourself for what you didn't do. Start today. Right now. Do something good for yourself. TODAY.

I'll leave you with some inspirational thoughts in the hopes that you choose a better path for you life. The clock is ticking...

"The big secret in life is there is no secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you're willing to work." -Oprah Winfrey

"I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying." -Michael Jordan

"Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." -Lou Holtz

"To be a champ you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will." -Sugar Ray Robinson

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Power of Self-Talk

Self-talk is the conversation that man has with himself. It is the internal feedback that he conveys to himself based on his thoughts and feelings about his appearance, intellect, emotions, health, morals, and actions. Your perception is your reality. It shapes every decision that you make and everything that you do. It can help you to move your mountains or cause you to trip on speed bumps. Mary Kay Ash said that, "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right." It is possible to convince yourself that you cannot do something before you even try once. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Simply put, you are what you think.

The human being is the highest life form on earth. He has free will. He can do whatever he wants to do. Birds fly, lay eggs, and migrate with the seasons. Bees pollinate flowers and make honey. Dogs bury bones, scratch fleas, and chase cars. Every other creature is born knowing its purpose. Each has innate instincts that govern how it will live and survive. Free will can be both a blessing and a curse if one's thinking is negative. Having the ability to define who you are is pointless if you place more energy into the power of "can't" than you place into the power of "can".

Where does all of negativity come from? FEAR. It comes from the fear of failure and the fear of rejection and the fear of losing. It also comes from the fear of success and the fear of acceptance and the fear of winning. It comes from the fear of change. It comes from the fear of the unknown. I read recently a quote that said, "Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of." The bad things in our lives that we have grown accustomed to like excessive debt, obesity, poor health, unhealthy relationships, underpaying/unsatisfying jobs, and unresolved feelings are comfortable. We know how they affect us. We know that they are not good for us. We don't like how they make us feel about ourselves, but yet we hold on to them because they are familiar and predictable. They don't require any change in our behavior or interruption in our daily routines. Overcoming the negative self-talk that arises from fear requires us to challenge it. Positivity and negativity are powerful forces in our lives. To remove one and replace it with the other requires work and courage. We must accept the challenge to change.

If you have never kept a journal in your life, I suggest that you get into the habit of examining your thoughts on paper. Write down your honest opinions, thoughts, values, and feelings about the events that occur daily in your life over the next 30 days. Focus on one aspect of your life that you want to change and/or improve and detail your thoughts. On day 31, re-read your journal. Pay close attention to the words that you use to describe people and events including yourself. You will discover patterns in your behavior and begin to recognize the content of your self-talk. When you know better, you will do better. You may discover the true reason why you are sabotaging your opportunity to have a great life. You may decide to make a change in your life. You might start to appreciate the power that you have to win. You might realize that you deserve to be happy and successful. You might start living again... Now would that be so bad?

Be good to yourself. More next time...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What's On Your List? The Importance of Goal-Setting

Some people work really well from lists. I am one of them. Generally, I start my days early because it affords me uninterrupted planning time. In our daily lives, there are many mundane yet necessary tasks that must be accomplished just to keep life moving. It is easy to get caught up in chores, errands, and work. These tasks often dominate one's "to-do" list and they take the attention off the big picture. Days and weeks can go by without any significant progress being made on weight-loss, increasing savings, paying off debt, home improvement, continuing education and more.

One of the most important things that you can do for yourself is to set goals. Doing so will give you some direction in life. Goals should be written down, precise, and include measurable steps to achieve them. The first step in goal-setting is to decide what you want to do. Inaction often results from the failure to first make a decision. Making changes and improvements to your life requires some introspection and honest self-talk. You have to "pump the brakes" a bit and take some time to consider the direction that you want your life to take. It requires work.

Have you ever taken a trip that has no destination? If your goal is to one day take a dream vacation, then you'll be dreaming about it until you pick the place. Once you've done that, it is now possible to calculate all of the costs associated with the trip. You can write a detailed budget and determine what your plan will be to fund the trip. Who will travel with you? When do I want to go? How long will I stay? What will I do once I get there? Do I need a passport? Once all of these questions are answered, it becomes a matter of prioritizing and setting deadlines for execution. This requires making a commitment to yourself to get it done. The sooner you begin this process and the more detailed your plan, the better your chances of realizing that dream.

Take a little time out of your schedule today and decide what single change you could make that would improve your life and go to work. You'll be glad that you did!

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Choose to Live 100 Years

"The difficulty of life is in the choice." George Moore

"Statistics are no substitution for judgment." Henry Clay

It is difficult to fathom that man once lived to be hundreds of years old. The oldest living person in the U.S. died recently at 115 years of age. Was it luck? Was it modern medicine? Why is it now such a challenge to live long, productive lives? Well, I believe that it has everything to do with the choices that we make in shaping our lifestyles. I believe that statistics are a direct result of judgment.

In a previous post, I offered to you the six dimensions of wellness. These are the areas of life that must be maintained and balanced to ensure an overall sense of good health and well-being. Here they are again: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and occupational. The degree to which we are considered "well" is a direct result of the choices that we make in each of these six areas of our lives. One key aspect in achieving balance comes through understanding that no one dimension operates independently of another. For example, students cannot focus solely on their coursework at the expense of proper diet, exercise, social outings with friends and family, proper rest, and/or meditation. Every dimension feeds the others.

At the start of the new year, many of us made resolutions to set new goals and/or to address some deficiency in our lives. We are almost two weeks in now--are you progressing? Ninety days later, our efforts may dissipate: If we choose to settle back into comfortable routines laden with tasks that don't necessarily fit with our plans we will lose sight of the big picture. How does this happen? We fail to be present in the moment. Many of the decisions that we make are mindless. We do what we have always done without studying the impact. We don't take a personal inventory of our activities and then actively find ways to correct imbalances. Many of us don't know how to assess ourselves, but where do we start?

I took an online assessment this morning called "The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator" by Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H. that measures the wellness dimensions in some detail. It will only take about 10 minutes to complete the survey and you will be provided with a projected age calculation with personalized feedback and tips to add more years to your life. (See you own physician for a complete health assessment.) Overall, you will come away with some action plans that will help you make more informed decisions about how will live your life. According to my assessment, I could make 8 simple changes that could make it possible for me to live to see 101 years old! Think that you can live 100 years? I challenge you to make the choice today!

More next time...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Commit to Be Fit in 2009!

With every new year comes thousands of resolutions to finally lose the weight. Every year there is a new diet or exercise fad that promises the instant results we didn't achieve the previous year. Every year we fall just short of the goal. For some reason, our plans don't get the results. Sooner or later something has got to give...How do we make 2009 the year to get fit and stay fit? We have to make a lifestyle change. Fitness is not a goal achieved in 30 days or 6 months. Consistency is the key to success and longevity. Remember, the race is not to the swift!

Let's Get Started! (As always, consult your doctor prior to starting any diet and/or exercise program.)

1) Set clear, measurable, and attainable goals. A good example of a goal is: "I want to lose 20 pounds in 5 months (about 1-2 pounds per week is normal healthy weight loss) by walking 2 miles a day 4 days per week. I will drink 10 glasses of water daily and give up fast food."

2) Make permanent changes in your diet. Commit to eliminating 1 unhealthy food choice each month from your diet--for life. Find a healthy alternative to replace the item that you are giving up. In 30 days, you won't even miss it.

3) Commit to physical activity at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes each day. Exercise improves the cardiovascular system, helps manage stress and appetite, improves sleep patterns, and boosts metabolism. Resistance training improves metabolism and bone density.

4) Give up smoking and alcohol. These two habits can cause irreversible damage to vital organs like the lungs, kidneys, and liver.

5) Assemble a group of supporters and share your goals and results. Enlist the assistance of your family, co-workers, close friends, and your doctor. A little honest feedback and encouragement can go a long way!

6) Keep a food and exercise journal. Document your meals and workouts in a small notebook and keep it with you. This an extremely powerful tool for revealing your actual eating habits and ensuring accountability for physical activity. Keep things interesting by trying a new healthy recipe and changing up your exercise routine with increased intensity or trying yoga and interval training.

7) Celebrate your wins and forgive your missteps. Once a month, you should consistently measure your results. Your goal might be to lose 1 inch from your waist every month, or increase your bench press weight by 10 lbs. each month. Choose the same day of the month (like the last Saturday) and be consistent. Take a picture of yourself on the same day and compare it to previous months. Generally others see a difference before you do, so this can be quite an eye-opening exercise. If you fall short, get back on the horse! Don't waste time punishing yourself because this is a lifestyle change. Be patient and stay focused on your goals.

8) Stay tuned to for more helpful advice on how to Commit to Be Fit in 2009!

More next time...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Nutritional Supplements: Are You "Clear" on What You Are Taking?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration website provides some enlightening, yet alarming, insights into the lack of supervision over the manufacturing and sale of nutritional supplements. Manufacturers of these products are allowed to produce, market, and sell these supplements with minimal government regulation. The following statement is posted on their website: (

“FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering "conventional" foods and drug products (prescription and Over-the-Counter). Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. The FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements. Manufacturers must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading.

“FDA's post-marketing responsibilities include monitoring safety, e.g. voluntary dietary supplement adverse event reporting, and product information, such as labeling, claims, package inserts, and accompanying literature. The Federal Trade Commission regulates dietary supplement advertising.”

So, what does this mean?

According to the DSHEA, the FDA has the duty to provide evidence that a dietary supplement is "unsafe," prior to taking any steps to restrict its use or to remove it from the marketplace. These actions can only take place after the product has been marketed. Firms have the legal right to disclose or not disclose any and all information regarding nutritional content and product safety. FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) is responsible for the agency's oversight of these products, however, their role is limited to monitoring the marketplace for “potentially illegal products (that is, products that may be unsafe or make false or misleading claims) include obtaining information from inspections of dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors, the Internet, consumer and trade complaints, occasional laboratory analyses of selected products, and adverse events associated with the use of supplements that are reported to the agency.” The FDA does not analyze dietary supplements before they are sold because they lack the resources and by law, this responsibility lies with the manufacturer.

So what does the FDA regulate?

The FDA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services whose motto is, “Improving the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of America. Congress laid the foundation for modern food and drug law when it passed the Food and Drugs Act of 1906. This first nationwide consumer protection law made it illegal to distribute misbranded or adulterated foods, drinks and drugs across state lines. ( They approve and regulate products including food, prescription drugs, medical and farm equipment, and cosmetics. (I find it ironic that prescription drugs have harmful and potentially fatal side-effects, but that the FDA still approves them for sale in the marketplace. On the other hand, the FDA only takes action against supplement manufacturers once the damage is done and the consumer reports it. This raises some serious questions about the role and purpose of the FDA in the products that they govern and the ones that they don’t.)

What does this mean for consumers?

While the absence of government regulation may be great news for corporations, there are frightening implications for the average consumer. The lack of availability of quality foods and subsequent declining health often leads many of us to supplement our diets with these nutritional supplements. We can’t be sure of what we are actually taking and what the long-term effects these products will have on our health. Proving that the consumption of a supplement causes any kind of physical impairment can be a lengthy and expensive legal battle. Law firms advertise on television to inform consumers of pending class action suits against companies whose products have already harmed or even caused the death of those who used them. Even if the petitioners win, the physical and emotional damage done could be irreversible which makes the victory bittersweet.

How do we protect ourselves?

There are many safe and effective ways to supplement your diet. Until more measures are taken to protect the consumer, we must take steps to become more informed. We must see our doctors regularly and inform them of what supplements we are taking. I recommend that we buy certified Kosher or USDA-certified organic foods and whole supplements in reputable environments. These regulatory agencies are required to certify and document farming and processing methods to strict standards. Avoiding processed foods and fast food while balancing our diets with fresh fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains should curtail the need for supplements, thus minimizing the risk of injury. You might also consider herbal teas and tinctures. Avoid all supplements that contain stimulants such as ephedra and caffeine. And lastly, if you are a collegiate or professional athlete, contact the NCAA, USOC, or governing league official before you take any substance--failing to do so could lead to being declared ineligible for competition or being banned from your sport for life. Be informed!

More next time...

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Next Five Minutes

At the end of my 6th grade year, my elementary school principal shared with me a quote from Irving Berlin that said:

"Life is 10% of what you make it and 90% of how you take it."

Life is a fascinating journey of difficulty and ease, struggle and concession, victory and defeat, joy and pain, and errors and perfection. Whether or not you believe that your existence is part of a divine plan, I think that you would agree that your path is shaped by the choices that you make. The next five minutes of your life are not promised. If you knew the date and time of your demise, how would you spend it? Would you continue to procrastinate, hold that grudge, keep smoking or drinking, or put off changing your diet? Would you ignore your spouse, put off your children, harbor envy and jealousy, or be selfish? Would you do the opposite? In an instant, you could make the decision to do something that could greatly benefit your life and the life of others. You could do it in the next five minutes.

We have just ushered in a new year. Many of us have made resolutions to do something better this year than we did last year:

"This year, I am going to FINALLY lose the weight."
"This year, I am going to FINALLY stop smoking."
"This year, I am going to FINALLY get out of debt."

Finally... Finally... Finally...

Studies have shown that if significant progress isn't made in the first three months of the new year, resolutions fizzle. Generally the methods used lack clear, written, measurable goals coupled with a measure of accountability. The original thought of the need to make a change in our lives probably occurred months or even years ago. Why did we assume that we could put it off? Who said that the next five minutes were promised?

The way that we handle life's ups and downs makes the greatest statement about our strength of character. Do we make good use of every opportunity, or do we take them for granted? I believe that our success in life stems from finding our purpose, making a good plan, setting clear goals, setting well-placed priorities, working hard and smart, being diligent, being the most prepared, timing, and being kind to others along the way. If you are still reading this post, then you may have the opportunity to apply any one of these principles in the next five minutes. How will you take it? What will you do? The clock is ticking...

More next time!