You know those times when you are forced to stand back and watch someone make a mistake? And you really want to jump in and diplomatically say something to help them out? And you don’t because you’re scared that they’ll kill you for piping up? Oh, sure you do.
I found a way to use constructive criticism and it came from the most unlikely of places: a wedding themed reality show.
Before My Fair Wedding came out, I had no idea who David Tutera was. The tag line of one person coming in three weeks before a wedding and throwing things into chaos by torpedoing a bride’s decisions seemed petty and a formula for cat fights and catty comments.
So I didn’t watch David’s show for weeks until I stumbled across it one night. Boy, was I wrong about him. David’s a wedding planner who has designed weddings for celebrities for years, and he’s learned a thing of two about diplomacy.
On one episode, the bride was careening head first into wasting thousands of dollars on ill fitting bridesmaids dresses. You could feel the women grimacing in pain at being forced to wear the dresses, but in one of the most emotionally charged social situations in existence for women, they wisely kept their tongues and refused to criticize the bride for fear of hurting her feelings.
That’s when David popped out one of the most insightful things that I’ve ever heard. “It’s not that I don’t like them—it’s that I think I can find something I like better.”
I sat there, mouth agape, because with those few words, he said a lot. In effect, he was saying:
- I refuse to criticize you because I think there’s a way to improve on what currently exists.
- You deserve better, and I’m confident that it’s possible to find “better.”
- I know how to make a win-win out of this awkward situation.
- Don’t think of things in terms of “a loss” (time and money spent on the existing dresses), think in terms of constantly improving.
- I care enough about you to want you be as happy as possible.
- I don’t waste time thinking about “what I don’t like”—I prefer to think about things that I do like.
That last insight hit hard for me, because I had to admit that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about things that I don’t like, why I don’t like them, or how I’m “stuck” with them. David’s approach was a simple, solution oriented way to look at things. And thanks to him, I’ve reordered the way that I think about things. I consciously stop saying or thinking “I don’t like.” I think about what I could possibly do instead that I would like.
And when I’m in a group and we’re evaluating something, I never say that I don’t like something. I don’t criticize it. I simply come up with how we can make it better, or something that I would like us to do or try that would help us out and make things better.
I’m dying to hear from you: have you ever had someone utter something so mind blowing simple that altered the way that you looked at life? How did it affect the way that you deal with problems, or interact with others?
Nutella is currenty being sued by a California woman who claims that the company makes false claims about it’s nutritional value. I’ve noticed a uptick in the amount of Nutella commericals on TV lately, so I guess it’s the company’s way of battling the bad press.
I’ve never tasted Nutella, which the commercials say is a hazelnut based spread with cocoa, kind of like peanut butter with chocolate. Of course, I’ve had tons of peanut butter, and I love eating almond butter on graham crackers as a dessert.
So, I just had to ask: What the heck is Nutella?
For starters, it’s packed with sugar, but to be fair, so are peanut and almond butter. In Nutella’s case, each serving has 21 grams of sugar, (about 55% of the entire product) which makes it a diabetic’s worst nightmare. And skip it if you’re planning on losing weight- each serving has at least 200 calories.
ngredients as sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.
I had a ballet teacher in college who said that women have a larger range of motion in their hips due to how our bodies are equipped to work during sex and childbirth. That “usually” is a pretty huge word, because like many women, I have tight hips and as much as I’d love to swivel them, at least on the left side of my body that’s a difficult thing to do.
Lucky for my fellow tight hip suffers, there are a number of stretches and yoga poses that can relive the annoyance of having tight hips.
In a previous post, I mentioned that tight hips and knee problems are often related, so many poses that are good for strengthening knees are also great for hips. To see additional poses for both knees and hips, check out the poses in the previous post.
This pose is also a great stress buster, and it is great not only for your hips, but your entire spine as well. It’s also good for relieving stress and muscle fatigue at the end of the day.
Another great restorative pose to do while lying down (or standing), this pose is great for extending the range of your hips and beating stress
This is a beginner’s seated pose, and an easy one to use post run or after a weight training program. If you’ve attended a dance class, particularly a ballet class in the past, this one will look familiar.
Double Pigeon Pose
This another one of those poses that few people can manage to do in its full form, but even the smallest amount of effort will give you an incredible amount of relief to your hips.
Even if you don’t count yourself as one of the “bendy types,” there are easy ways to keep your hips flexible, even at your office. One is to get up every fifteen minutes to take a walk, which will stretch your hips in the most natural way possible.
Another way is to roll your desk chair back until you can grab the edge of your desk with your fingertips. Then put your forehead as far to your thighs as possible as you exhale. If you can’t get up from the desk, this is an easy stretch, and one that will also help to cut your stress.
As any good runner—newbie or not—will tell you, maintaining strong, healthy knees is an absolute must. As you run, the majority of stress falls on your ankles and knees. If you aren’t mental enough to become a runner, you’ll find that you use your knees so much in the course of your exercise program so much that keeping them strong is must.
Knees are tricky to rehab because while they’re easy to injure, they are also difficult to operate on and comparatively slow to heal. And as anyone who’s suffered from a knee injury knows, they’re vital to daily life.
Two of the best ways to keep your knees healthy are by weight training and stretching them. Even if you’re new to yoga, there a several stretches targeted to keeping your knees in top shape.
This pose is usually part of a standing sequence, but you can easily insert it in your stretching routine. This one also requires a bit of balance, so this is a good time to grab a block.
Warrior 1 Pose:
Believe it or not, there are three poses labeled, “Warrior,” but today we’ll be looking at the benefit of Warrior 1.
Pigeon is one of those poses that makes new yogis wince in fear. If your hips are tight, this can be a challenge, but even if you’re terminally inflexible, even the slightest bend is good for your knees and your spine.
Forward bend is also pretty popular, usually appearing in the Sun Salutation sequence. So if you’re in a yoga class, count on doing it several times during the class. It’s also a good stress buster if you want to just hang out for a few seconds. If prolonged standing is hard, there is a seated version.
Chair pose not only strengthens your knees, it also works most of the lower body. If you have weak quads, this is a great way to make them stronger since they’ll take a lot of the weight of your body during the pose. A word of caution; this is one of those poses that looks deceptively easy.
Hero is one of those poses that’s always been uncomfortable for me, because it feels as if it puts more pressure than relief on my knees. I put it in because, as with all yoga poses, each body is different and what is uncomfortable for one person can be the pose that gives you the most relif.
A word about those suffering from knee pain:
Many people turn to yoga as a way to rehab after an injury or if they’re already suffering from pain in some area of the body. And most knee injuries are due to injury or over use from daily life.
If you’re already suffering from knee pain and either haven’t seen a doctor or haven’t been cleared to do light exercise, by all means don’t try to do any poses. You’ll most likely do more harm than good.
Also remember that knees don’t exist in a vacuum. For many people, weak knees are a symptom of a larger problem—namely, tight hips. (full disclosure: my hips have always been tight, so I can totally relate).
The most common reason for tight hips are the long hours that many of us spend sitting in an office chair, plunking away on a computer keyboard.
If you suffer from tight hips, the muscles in your hips don’t allow you enough rotation so that you are able to bend forward in a seated pose. As a result, your knees will try to overcompensate by rotating in a way that it unnatural for them.
If your “knee problem” actually originates in your hips, don’t worry. We’ll look at ways to help loosen your hips in an upcoming post.
Image courtesy of Oude School via Flikr
Black Swan has reignited an interest in ballet themed workouts, and these days it’s not that hard to find a place to learn the basic moves. Many gyms and YMCAs are adding ballet workouts to their schedules, and if you’re lucky enough to live close to a professional company, most of them offer classes to the general public.
But if you would prefer to get your ballet fix at home, there are some DVDs that will allow you to learn at your own pace. The New York City Ballet has a two DVD series that was popular long before Black Swan hit the theaters.
I’ve done both of the DVDs, and to be totally honest, I think that they’re horrible. The first NYCB DVD has some kind of awkward mood lighting (that’s the best thing I can think of to call it), that for some bizarre reason leaves the dancers’ feet in the dark. Now, I don’t know about you, but any time I’m looking at professional dancers, the first thing that I look at are their feet and I have no idea why a self respecting cameraman would want to hide them in the shadows. But practically speaking, it means that if you’re trying to learn the moves, you have no idea what they look like since they’re shrouded in darkness. Oh, and did I mention that most of the male dancers are wearing black shoes? Boneheaded all around.
On the second DVD, they got the lighting problem fixed, but the cueing is so bad that in the middle of doing a pas de cheval, you hear the announcer telling you do de a pas de cheval. Good luck with that.
That’s what makes the DVD that I do recommend, Ballet Conditioning by Element, such a great workout. For starters, the workout is performed in the middle of a lush, sunny coastal yard with plenty of light on the instructor Elise Gulan. Even better, the camera focuses on her feet and her full body at appropriate times, which means you can not only get an idea of how the moves look, but how the entire carriage of the body should look when you do the move.
(For ballet newcomers, one of the most important things to remember in ballet is to get the proper carriage of the body. It gives dancers the lean, graceful appearance that we all envy them for.)
The cueing on the DVD is also just right. If you still don’t have a clue what a pas de cheval is, you don’t have to worry. You’ll be doing actual ballet moves without having to wonder what the move is called in French. On the other hand, if you learn the moves with the DVD and later attend a traditional ballet class, you will be surprised to learn that you do know how to do a developee.
I think that the strength of the DVD is that it mirrors a traditional ballet class, without the jargon that can be intimidating. Ballet developed out of the tradition of royal court spectacles, so it has a well deserved reputation for being elitist and a little out of touch for the common person. And I think the program proves that it’s easy to make ballet accessible to anyone by getting rid of the jargon and pulling ballet off of its pedestal.
For Pilates enthusiasts, there’s a nice quick Pilates flavored segment to the DVD. Pilates grew out of ballet as a way to rehab injured dancers, so the connection between the two disciplines is stronger than you might think.
Overall, this is a great solid ballet workout, perfect for the total ballet beginner. It’s also a thorough workout, so be prepared to have sore muscles the next day. This isn’t Ballet for Wimps.
One aspect of the USDA’s new recommendations on nutrition that’s getting little fanfare are their recommendations for physical activity that will support a new healthy lifestyle. While few of us think of the Department of Agriculture when we think of exercise, the government knows what we all should know: healthy eating works hand in hand with a regular exercise program. Think of them as BFFs. Here’s what the USDA recommends in terms of a healthy exercise program.
1. 300 minutes of moderate activity:
You can break those 300 minutes down any way you like, in ten minute, fifteen minute, half hour or hour long bursts. What qualifies as “moderate activity?” Brisk walking (read: no strolling) , gardening, biking, canoeing, water aerobics (easy on the joints), and some forms of dancing.
2. 150 minutes of vigorous activity:
Don’t have 300 minutes in your week to set aside for exercises? If you up your intensity level, you can cut your workout time in half. The key is to sustain a higher intensity with vigorous activity. So what qualifies as “vigorous?” Jogging, running, jump rope, race walking, biking hills, swimming fast (no floating on an inner tube),or swimming laps.
3. Muscle building:
You’re probably heard it a thousand times: building muscle burns fat. And for women in their 30s, building muscle also leads to healthier bones. Go for pushups, sit ups, lifting weights that work all parts of the body. Yep, it’s time to pull out those old school exercises from P. E. class.
That’s the new guidelines in a nutshell. The easy part is making sense of it. The hard part is actually carrying them out. How are you going to start using the new guidelines in your workout routine?
Image courtesy of Krelic
Lifehaker posted a great short article today on knowing when to quit your job. I immediately clicked on it as soon as it hit my RSS feed, because the subject of when, how and why to quit anything is something that’s been on my mind recently.
And the post got me thinking- do I know when to quit? Does anybody?
It’s an understatement to say that quitting has a bad rap. I mean, in a country founded on the Protestant Work Ethic of work hard and you’ll get great results based on your efforts, quitting seems nothing more than self sabotaging. And who wants to be the loser slacker sitting on her parents’ couch?
A couple of years ago, when I sat in my bland cubicle and debated whether to quit my “cushy government job,” I came across Seth Godin’s book The Dip. It’s a small book, probably less than 100 pages, but those few pages pack a wallop.
What made the best impression on me was the idea that “quitting” a project, job, volunteer position isn’t about not giving something a fair chance, or even being lazy. It’s about looking within yourself and deciding where you want to invest your time and energy and what things are sucking the life out of you.
That’s right- I said “invest,” not “spend your time.” As my freelance career got off of the ground, I started to look at both my time and my energy as resources, and ones that I could allocate as I saw fit. And I realized that when I spend anything, whether money or intangible resource they usually fly out the door and I never see them again. But if I look at things in terms of investing- putting something out and fully expecting to get at least some level of return for them- then I make wiser choices about what I put my time into.
Ideally, something that you invest yourself into should give you an even return, possibly even a “profit.” And that leads into the idea of adding value. Before you decide to dole out your time or energy on something, ask yourself: Is this going to add any type of value to my life? Is it going to make me happier, healthier, improve my relationship? If it’s not, and especially if it’s going to make things worse, I’d advise you to run away from it like a thousand calorie desert at an ice cream shop.
So when do you quit? The easiest answer is when things are costing you more than you’re getting coming in. Does it cost you more to put gas in your car than you get in a monthly salary? Are you spending all of your sick or vacation time at the doctor’s office, recovering from some work related illness or begging for pills?
If the numbers are coming up in the red, it’s time to start looking at your parachute and researching ways to get out. Yes, having a supposed “reliable paycheck” is important and we all know that the kids like to be fed and clothed. But you also have to have a heartfelt conversation with yourself and ask if the paycheck is worth what you’re paying out in terms of your energy and your quality of life.
Wrist pain is becoming more prevalent as more and more of us spend ungodly amounts of working hours in front of a computer. For yoga practitioners, who rely on their wrists and lower arms to support them during many poses, weak wrists are a hindrance. I use a laptop for work, and I quickly found that keeping my wrists in one position for a prolonged amount of time put some strain on them.
You can discover if you have a strong foundation for poses with a simple exercise. Put your hands on a wall. Spread your fingers out as wide as possible. Press the pads of each finger into the wall, then your palms. Maintain equal pressure in as much of your hands as possible. Use these cues when you practice weight-bearing yoga poses.
Wrist pain can be due to a variety of causes, from tightness of the muscles and tendons of the wrist, especially the flexor muscles of the forearm, to specific syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome to anatomical changes at the wrist, resulting from significant trauma or growth of ganglion cysts in the joint.
Not all wrists problems start with the wrists, however; shoulder misalignment are often the culprit, too. The first thing to do is to open and balance the shoulders through a variety of poses performed with good alignment.
The next step is to strengthen the flexor muscles of the forearms (the muscles on the underside, or palm side, of the forearm). Do this through isometric actions in basic positions, while bearing light weight on your hands. It is essential to place the hands on a firm surface, shoulder-width apart; and make sure the creases of the two wrists (where the back of each hand meets the forearm) form a straight line. The fingers and thumbs should be evenly spread. The four corners of each palm (the index finger mound, mound of the thumb, little finger mound, and outer heel of the palm) should be evenly anchored on the firm surface.
To build strength in the flexor muscles, make a claw on a firm surface so that the tips of the fingers and the four corners of the palms press down and draw back toward the shoulders. Keeping the finger pads down, bend the fingers slightly and lift the center of the palms up without lifting the four corners of the palms. The flexor muscles should firm as you attempt to move the head of the arm bone backward in relationship to the torso.
Keep in mind that wrist problems will be aggravated if:
- Your weight falls to the outside of your hands.
- Your index finger knuckle lifts away from the foundation.
- Your weight collapses to the heel of the palm.
t’s important to find an instructor who is experienced in finding variations to the poses that will be kind to your wrists. Blocks and foam wedges are an easy way to modify poses. Sometimes the hardest part of modifying a pose is a student’s reluctance to do anything less than a 100% full version of a pose.
Yoga pose variations for weak wrists:
- You can also try Half Downward-Facing Dog or Right Angle Pose at the wall, with the arms and torso parallel to the floor.
- Foam wedges can help reduce the severe angle of extension of the wrist in poses such as Upward-Facing Dog, Handstand, and many of the arm balances.
- For Upward Facing Dog, Cat Cow, and Downward Facing Dog, instead of spreading the palm on your mat, use fists instead.
- Use your knuckle pads and finger pads like frogs feet, suctioning onto and into the mat. At the same time, create what feels like a pocket of air at the point where the radius and ulna meet the bones of the wrist. Send breath under your palm, push the heel of your thumb and knuckle into the mat. The same way you create space in your shoulders in down dog, create the same space in your wrists, lift out of them. A great deal of pressure is released
- Wrap tape 1-2 inches below the elbow across the entire arm.
- To avoid all pressure on the wrists, substitute dolphin pose for downward facing dog. Keep your shoulders neutral and open during poses to help take pressure off of the wrists.
If you aren’t experiencing any limitation in your wrists, many of the basic poses are excellent for building wrist strength as well as general upper body strength.
Poses to strengthen wrists:
- Downward Facing Dog
- Upward Facing Dog
- Arm balancing poses (such as such as handstand, crow, scale and plank that require the arms, along with core strength, to hold the body off of the ground)
Wrist strengthening exercises.
When I had pain in my wrists, I found the exercises on Ergocise to be the most helpful.
In my own yoga practice, I’ve found that I’ve had the most success in using yoga and stretch DVDs that focus on the wrists or the upper body. Gaim’s AM/ PM stretch—which is my go to stretch yoga DVD–has a PM stretch program where the instructor has you to move your hand palm down, fingers pointing towards your feet. You then push your hips ever so slightly back towards your feet in order to give your wrists a slight stretch.
Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown focuses on developing upper body strength for through her programs. Jillian isn’t to everyone’s tastes, and I certainly don’t recommend her for an absolutely newbie exerciser.
Ready to empty out your pantry, everybody? This is going to hurt.
Even for those of us who are neither overweight nor obese, consuming too much sodium, solid fats, saturated and trans fatty acids, cholesterol, added sugars, and alcohol increases the risk of some of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. The USDA’s 2010 report took a hard look at saturated and trans fatty acids because, apart from the effects of saturated and trans fatty acids on cardiovascular disease risk, solid fats are abundant in the diets of Americans and contribute significantly to our over the top daily calorie intake.
Yes, the USDA says to lay off of the salt. Virtually all Americans consume more sodium than they need. The estimated average intake of sodium for all Americans ages 2 years and older is approximately 3,400 mg per day
The USDA recommends reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams. For the 50% or so of Americans who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease or are 51 or more years old, the recommendation drops to 1,500 mg.
For adults, and children, as sodium intake decreases, so does blood pressure. If you keep your salt consumption in the recommended rangers, you’ll significantly reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
Other sources of sodium include chicken and chicken mixed dishes (7% of sodium intake), pizza (6%), and pasta and pasta dishes (5%).
The USDA recommends reducing your salt intake by:
- Reading the Nutrition Facts label for information on the sodium content of foods and purchase foods that are low in sodium
- Consuming more fresh foods and fewer processed foods that are high in sodium.
- Eating more home-prepared foods, where you have more control over sodium, and use little or no salt or salt-containing seasonings when cooking or eating foods.
- When eating at restaurants, ask that salt not be added to your food or order lower sodium options, if available.
The USDA was extremely concerned when it came to the amount of fats and added sugars that Americans consume. In fact, the report dedicated a larger portion of its findings to fats and sugars than it did to sodium.
Saturated Fatty Acids
People therefore have no dietary requirement for saturated fatty acids. Major sources of saturated fatty acids in the American diet include regular (full-fat) cheese (9% of total saturated fat intake); pizza (6%); grain-based desserts (6%); dairy-based desserts (6%); chicken and chicken mixed dishes (6%); and sausage, franks, bacon, and ribs (5%)
Trans Fatty Acids
This one is a tricky one. Consuming fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products and lean meats and poultry will reduce the intake of natural trans fatty acids. Because natural trans fatty acids are present in meat, milk, and milk products, their elimination is not recommended because this could have potential implications for nutrient adequacy.
The major sources of cholesterol in the American diet include eggs and egg mixed dishes (25% of total cholesterol intake),chicken and chicken mixed dishes (12%), beef and beef mixed dishes (6%), and all types of beef burgers
Solid Fats and added sugars
Together, they contribute a substantial portion of the calories consumed by Americans—35 percent on average, or nearly 800 calories per day—without contributing to the dietary needs.
As a percent of calories from total added sugars, the major sources of added sugars in the diets of Americans are soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks (36% of added sugar intake), grain-based desserts (13%), sugar-sweetened fruit drinks (10%), dairy-based desserts (6%), and candy. Reaching for the water bottle yet?
How to avoid solid fats and sugars:
Focus on eating the most nutrient-dense forms of foods from all food groups.
• Limit the amount of solid fats and added sugars when cooking or eating (e.g., trimming fat from meat, using less butter and stick margarine, and using less table sugar).
• Consume fewer and smaller portions of foods and beverages that contain solid fats and/or added sugars, such as grain-based desserts, sodas, and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
Alcohol if you’ve read this far, you’re probably wanting a drink right now. I don’t blame you, but we’ve only got two more culprits to go at this point.
Alcohol made the list in part due to the high caloric count. An estimated 9% of men and 4% of women consume more than one alcoholic drink a day, with 29% of adults admitting to binge drinking within the past month. The report admits that a limited amount of achol is permissible, but not in the amounts that Americans are drinking on a regular basis. Anyone taking over the counter medications, or suffering from liver disease, hypertriglyceridemia or pancreatitis are particularly at risk.
Refined Grains Ah, bread. After reading the report I’ve started to look at bread as a dessert, instead of an appetizer. because many refined grain products also are high in solid fats and added sugars (e.g., cookies and cakes).
Major sources of refined grains in the diets of Americans are yeast breads, pizza, grain-based desserts, and tortillas, burritos, and tacos.
I went to Sam’s Club this week, and as I went past the aisles in the food department, I just winced at all of the things that countained refined grains or also have those solid fats and added sugars.
That’s the full list of “what not to eat.” As you can see, it’s more complicated than just cutting down on the salt.
And it’s not easy to avoid any of it. The USDA is fully aware that food prices, advertising and grocery prices are contributing to the problem. And then there’s the issue of reading a food label. Do you know how to read one correctly? Next time, we’ll look at how to do that and some other tips for following the new dietary guidelines.