Friday, November 21, 2014

Gratitude is Good for your Heart

Thankfulness can improve your spiritual and physical health and it may even keep you from having a heart attack. You may exercise faithfully and eat a balanced diet but the absence or scarcity of gratitude can interfere with your ability to experience life at its best.

Anger, resentment and sadness elicit the production of stress hormones which are known to harm the cardiovascular system. These feelings stimulate the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. Widespread inflammation is the basis for the development of heart disease, as well as chronic pain, cancers and depression.

Gratitude, forgiveness and love increase the production of beneficial chemicals, like serotonin, which result in a sense of well-being and can ease inflammation, allowing for a stronger, healthier heart. There is new evidence to show that thankfulness can improve blood flow to the heart as well as positively affect a portion of your DNA, the telomeres, that help you live longer.

Everyone experiences negative feelings but what you do when they crop up is up to you. Choosing to let go of the negative thoughts is a pro-active way to be rewarded with happiness and improved physical health. Don't worry if appreciating the goodness of life doesn't come naturally to you. The more you try to be grateful, the easier it will become.

You can journal your grateful thoughts, announce them to your co-workers and share them with your children. Make a game of it with your family, finding one thing to be thankful for each day. The result can be a healthier heart and body and a happier mindset.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Eat Fewer Cookies Without Even Trying

Researchers have noticed that "it's easier to change your eating environment than to change your mind". In other words, it's not you or your willpower. You can arrange your surroundings in a way that encourages you to eat less and eat healthier.

In a post-party experiment, researchers covered half of the leftover food with clear plastic wrap and half they covered with foil. Within two days, all the leftovers in see-through wrappings were gone, while most of the food in opaque wrappings were still there <10 days later. The good news is this works as well for carrot sticks as it does for cookies. If you can easily see them, you'll eat more of them. So the healthier a food is, the clearer the packaging should be.

Think ahead to Thanksgiving. Choose to arrange healthy appetizers in easy-to-see places. You can still choose a treat or two (I love Brie!) but make healthy choices accessible. Prepare a few low-fat, high fiber side dishes to accompany the traditional dishes. Make it easy to choose well.

Think ahead to post-Thanksgiving leftovers. Do you want second helpings of green bean casserole and pecan pie? Perhaps one serving on the special day is enough. Dispose of leftovers, give them away or freeze them to have at a balanced meal later in the month. If you can't see it, it will be less tempting.

Display the good stuff, hide the "bad" stuff and enjoy success this Thanksgiving while you Enjoy Your Food!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Burn Fat Before you Feast

Did you know? More Americans participate in races on Thanksgiving Day that any other day of the year! Join the crowd and start your holiday on the right foot by participating in the Burbank Community YMCA Turkey Trot. This family friendly 5K/10K race is open to runners, walkers and stroller-pushers. Costumes welcome! There is a Kiddie Run and Fun Zone for the little ones. In addition, you get a long-sleeved race shirt to exercise in all around town throughout the year.

The Turkey Trot is a great Burbank community day with people from all areas of city life coming together to get their sweat on before sitting down to dinner. It's fun to see so many friends gathered for the event. John and I will be power walking the 5K course. Don't miss my turkey feather headband!

See you there! Pre-register today to save $5 at

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pre-Holiday Boot Camp

The LAST mini-Boot Camp session for 2014 begins THIS SATURDAY November 8. The session includes a free personalized exercise and nutrition plan to help you work hard and stay healthy from now until the New Year without the dreaded 5 - 7 lb holiday weight gain. Partner with a friend and set yourself up for success this holiday season with a fun and energizing workout. Contact Ann now to sign up.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Soup Strategies

Fall is here (at least it is cooling down at night!) and that always makes me think of soup. Everyone who knows me understands I do not like to cook but I do like to eat healthy food. I have two easy "go-to" soups that I like to make every couple of months. They are very similar - I just change up the seasonings - and I can freeze them to pull out for simple dinners and lunches.

I really do not like to follow a recipe. I guess I just feel like it takes too much time to measure everything. Here is how I make lentil or split pea soup.

1 bag gray green lentils OR split peas
1 potato - leave the peel on if you use organic
1 onion, sliced in chunks
Some chopped garlic
a handful of baby carrots
salt  - about a teaspoon

I fill the big pot about 3/4 full of water and dump everything in. I know the cooks out there are gasping in horror. But you like to cook and I don't and this actually does work.

I bring it to a boil and simmer it for about 40 minutes. You just want to make sure the vegetables and lentils are soft.

Then I add seasoning. Sometimes I want a curry flavor. Last time I had fresh savory. You could try sage or thyme. What flavor does your family like? I always add fresh ground pepper.

Put a couple of cups of the soup in a blender. Put the lid on, leave the center section off and cover with a clean cloth, then blend the soup. Pour into a second bowl or container. Do this until all the soup is smooth. If you have an immersion blender, use that.

Divide into BPA-free plastic containers according to how you will use it. I usually fill one large container for a dinner and then divide the rest into single servings for lunches. Label the container. It might not be recognizable in the freezer.

To use, take it out of the freezer the night before, thaw in refrigerator. Pour/dump the soup into a saucepan and heat on low. You can microwave, if you want. You might want to add more water if it seems too thick. Taste it to see if it needs more salt. Easy dinner prep! Serve with whole wheat pita, rolls or cornbread.

Vegan, no cholesterol, no oil, low sodium, gluten-free, dairy-free - and easy. What more could you ask?

Happy Autumn and Enjoy your Food!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boot Camp Bounce

Great fun and exercise last Saturday at Fall Boot Camp!

This week at Fall Boot Camp I added a rebounder mini-trampoline to the circuit. Participants bounced, or rebounded, during the first circuit section. Then I tilited the trampoline up sideways and we used it as a total body cardio/strength tool by twisting and throwing a medicine ball against the flat surface. By using different equipment and movements each week, we "confuse" the muscles causing them to work harder, burn more calories and develop faster.

Check out my blog from April 18th on rebounding. Urban rebounding is a unique way of jumping on a mini-trampoline. It is a fabulous workout that can add high intensity to your exercise program without high impact. In addition, this form of exercise can stimulate the lymph system and challenge your core strength as you balance on the trampoline.

Next Saturday we will rebound again and add unique strength moves with the jump box. Join us next week for the second session of the two-week Fall Boot Camp.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Hiking in the Foothills

We have a fabulous, free resource right in our hometown. The city of Burbank maintains two wonderful hiking trails in the foothills which connect to longer trails that can challenge all hiking levels. Now that the weather is cooling a little bit, it is the perfect time to explore the heights of the Verdugo Hills and become familiar with Stough Canyon Nature Trails and Wildwood Canyon. Always hike with a partner and carry water.

My post from January 18 gives you an overview of the two main trails, directions and hiking suggestions. Today I want to share three group events centered on our local trails. It's been proven that people imitate the behaviors of the groups they spend time with. What a great idea to spend time with people who model healthy lifestyles.

The Verdugo Hills Community Hike and Trail Run is November 8 at 8:00am. This annual event offers two different starting points and challenge levels. Partner with a friend or two, enjoy a morning hike and breakfast refreshments at Ridge Trail Summit. If you would like to join my walking group, Smilers, for the hike that morning, email me here and I will send more information. For general information and to sign-up for the community hike visit

Weekly Fitness Hikes leave from Stough Canyon Nature Center every Tuesday at 6:30pm. Hike length and difficulty may vary and usually lasts 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Call to confirm. 818-238-5440

Full Moon Evening Hikes celebrate our skies and our hills. Since the moon's cycle is a little different each month, the date, time and location of the hike may change. This would be a wonderful family hike that could provide an opportunity to teach your children a little about astronomy. Call to confirm. 818-238-5440

Have fun hiking in Burbank!