Monday, August 30, 2010

A good stiff one

Sounds dirty, but actually I am referring to cleanliness. A topic that Joseph Pilates wrote about in Return to Life Through Contrology.  Regarding Cleanliness J.P. wrote:
"...the correct technique to use in accomplishing this highly desirable result is to bathe using a good, stiff brush with no handle.  This type of brush forces us to twist, squirm, and contort ourselves in every conceivable way in our attempts to reach every portion of our body which are otherwise comparatively easy to reach with a handle brush. The use of a good stiff brush stimulates circulation, thoroughly cleans out the pores of the skin, and removes dead skin too. Remember, the pores of your skin must breathe; they cannot do so unless they are kept open and freed from clogging. Your skin will soon respond most gratifyingly to this perhaps seemingly Spartan-like treatment and acquire in the process a new, fresh, glowing appearance.  It will also develop a texture smooth and soft to the touch. So brush away heartily and merrily!"

Here are two stiff bristled brushes I recommend.
The Body Shop $12
Earth Therapeutics

I also highly recommend an exfoliating scrub.  There are quite a few good ones on the market. I like L'Occitane Verbena Body Salt ScrubOrigins Ginger Body Scrub, and Alba Sugar Cane Body Polish, and . Or you can try making one of your own with these recipes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mind over Matter

Mind over Matter will make the Pooh unfatter.

How do you talk to your self? Are you gentle, kind, supportive, positive, encouraging? Or are you judgemental, derogatory, harsh, belittling, negative, and self deprecating? As Depak Chopra is quoted as saying "our inner verbalization creates our reality".

Simple Buddhism A guide to enlightened living by C. Alexander Simpkins PH.D. explains the Buddhist view on "Right Thought, Right Action".  
"Changes in our thoughts lead to changes in our feelings. The same is true of conduct. If we change our behaviour, our feelings and thoughts will change as well. The basis for the change is simpler than it seems. Behaviour, feelings, and thoughts are linked together in such a way that each affects the other and each can change the other."
If you dread or hate going to the gym, no matter what great workout you do, you are not going to get the most benefits.  Changing your inner dialogue and attitude will change the way your body processes and experiences the workout and be better for you.  The energy your mind is taking to create the negative thoughts is displaced where it could be use to help you get a better workout and burn more calories. When you are happy/positive your body produces endorphins :An endogenous opioid from the pituitary gland that blocks pain, decreases appetite, creates a feeling of euphoria (the exercise high), and reduces tension and anxiety. When your body is stressed/negative it produces cortisol: A hormone released by the cortex (outer portion) of the adrenal gland when a person is under stress. Cortisol levels are now considered a biological marker of suicide risk. Therefore your inner dialogue and thoughts could be holding you back from reaching your healthy goals. Change the thoughts and watch the pounds come off a little quicker.

"Perception is an active process, involving both objective and subjective experience.  The sensations we have from contact with the world lead to a desire to fill our wants. We desire pleasant sensations to continue and unpleasant ones to stop."
"False beliefs and assumptions create states of mind that bias and limit our perception." 

For example if you look at a plate of kale and think "yuck", no matter how good it may taste you have predisposed your taste buds and body to not like it.  What if you changed the thought to "looks healthy", "natural", "good for me", or "filled with nutrients" ?  It might end up tasting a little better than you expected. In fact you might even like it.  Same goes for your perception of yourself.  If you look in the mirror and talk to yourself with negativity and hate "I hate my sagging tummy and stretch marks" you are bias to only perceiving the negative in yourself. Why not change the perception and use your inner dialogue to praise and appreciate what your body does for you everyday? Your belly may have carried and nurtured your two most prized possessions, your children. Turn the negative to positive and your outlook on what your body has and can do will change how you look at yourself. Changing the chatter could be just what you need to make you unfatter.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Qualtiy over Quantity

With principles like control, precision, concentration, and centering, it is no wonder that Pilates is all about quality of movement.

Many forms of movement work off of sets and repetitions like 3 sets of 12 repetitions with increase in weight load.  These quantities of exercises are meant to exhaust or fatigue the muscle groups being used.  This is also why when lifting weights many trainers will work on one part of the body, i.e. Upper back, Chest and Arms.  Then the next day a different body part grouping, alternating the muscle groups but never focusing on full body development.

Pilates works on uniform body development. Working the entire body and all muscle groups in each session. The most amount of repetitions done for one specific exercise never exceeds 10 repetitions. There is no such thing as a set in Pilates, instead each exercise in the series flows from one to the next encouraging the entire body to become active, engaged, and developed.  The attention to form and quality is what allows Pilates to produce grand results without a lot of repetition and exhausting of the muscles. It also means that there does not need to be a rest period between workouts. When leaving a Pilates session many students comment on how "open", "tall", "free", and "strong" they feel.  There is not that feeling of not being able to move the next day that comes from other types of exercise.  Although you may feel an internal soreness from the deep connections of the work.  You can and should incorporate some amount of Pilates into your everyday routine.  This superior style of movement will allow you to lead a life full of quality and quantity.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Asparagus & Mushroom Polenta

An easy to make, fresh, and healthy meal.  Asparagus and Mushroom Polenta will take you about 10-12 minutes to prepare.


  • Asparagus
  • Baby Portabella mushrooms (or another local, seasonal variety)
  • Polenta ( I use pre made Organic Polenta from Trader Joes).
  • Chunky Pasta sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste.
  • Rosemary 

Cut Asparagus into 1" long strips and cut mushrooms into 1/4"slices.  Sauté Asparagus, mushrooms, rosemary, salt & pepper in olive oil over medium heat.

Sliced pre-made polenta into 1/2" think rounds.  Grill in a pan with a little olive oil. 4-5 mins/side or until golden brown.  Remove from heat and place on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

Heat 2 tbls of chuncky pasta sauce until warm.

Plate 2 slices of cooked polenta on plate. Top with sauteed veggies and sauce.
*If not Vegan top with parmesan or fresh cheese of your choice.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review and thoughts on "Women Food and God" by Geneen Roth

Recently I read the book Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.  Oprah had been promoting it saying that "it changed the way she felt about her body, her diet, and her life."  The book totes being the "anti-diet" book.  It speaks more to the self help aspect of your relationship to food and food to your feelings.

"The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship to food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation, and yes, even God."

Although the book speaks mostly from the perspective of compulsive eating or overeating.  I found a lot of the feelings described throughout the book also pertain to compulsive under eating and deprivation of food. Really the emotions are the same, it is how each of us chooses to use our relationship with food to mask or numb our feelings.

Personally I have struggled with bouts of anorexia. Hiding and numbing my feelings by depriving myself.  Feeling that while things around may have been out of control, I could control what or if I ate and how much exercise I did.  I felt that I was good at this and even was praised for my thinness at times in my life.  After years of therapy, I do understand my triggers into this disease and relationship. And this relationship was a direct mirror externally to my feelings. I felt unloved, alone, angry, fearful, unworthy, and empty. The emptier my belly felt was how I dealt with the spiritual emptiness I was feeling.  I have friends who feel the same things but instead of depriving and torturing themselves through withdrawal, they instead try to fill up the emptiness with food by binging and overeating. Same feelings, different response. "Feelings are in the body, reactions are in the head; a reaction is the mental deduction of a feeling. (And beliefs are reactions to that we've had so many times that we believe they are true.) In an attempt not to feel what is uncomfortable, the mind will often rant and ramble and tell us how awful it all is." (pg 105 WFG)

Roth speaks about our internal conversation and judgement as "The Voice". In describing this Voice she writes, " you believe that you need to hide your defects from other people lest they withdraw in abject horror. You believe that The Voice knows the truth and you don't want anyone else to discover how monstrous you are. How dark. How unredeemable. Hiding seems like an act of self-preservation. It seems like your only option if you want to have any kindness or love in your life. When you are in total agreement with The Voice, you convince yourself that your best and only recourse is to be ashamed of yourself and try harder to get it right. Be The Voice's idea of you. Be someone different, someone you're not."(pg 138 WFG)

My relationship to food now is much healthier. Although, I do still have brief moments that I fall into the pattern.  I am still controlling about what I eat or don't eat, how much, and when. I still do not enjoy eating socially or trying new foods.  I watch my portions and I count my calories. And I still do weigh myself almost daily, which is better than the 3-4 times a day on two different scales that I used to do.

Roth later comments on recognizing The Voice, "that awareness functions now to separate you from what is not you. From your story about how unredeemable you are. From your shame at being the stale, rehashed, familiar story of yourself. And because you've come to love life without the story, you without your past, you are less and less willing to endure the suffering of merging with The Voice. You begin to prefer simplicity over complication. Freedom over familiarity."(pg 138 WFG)

While I found the book very eye opening, I do feel that it is just a beginning to dealing with women and their relationship to food. It is hard when you are in this vicious cycle to really stop and listen to what you are feeling. I think the book is a good starting point to investigate what you are feeling, but therapy to deal with and uncover these feelings is necessary.  I recall several points in therapy when just hearing something come out of my mouth was such a surprise to hear. I didn't even realize I was feeling it. And hearing it spoken from my mouth to someone else somehow made it more real and validated.

If you or someone you know has or is struggling with food issues this book is a must read. At least to start the internal questioning and awareness to the emotions.  A good spark to ignite the journey into the the depths of discovery of you, food, and God.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My job is a pain in the __________ !

Whether your job entails you sitting at a computer all day, playing chauffeur to your kids activities/running a household, or hauling products on sales pitch meetings; your job could be and probably is causing your body a lot of pain.  Many of the activities involved in our jobs are done under stress and create undesirable movement patterns. Since movement patterns develop over time and repetition the 7-12 hours (or more) on your job is doing you more harm than you may think.  Your good intentions of working out at the gym, pilates, yoga, or your personal trainer 1-2 hours a day, 5-6 days a week is a good start. However, in the grand scheme of things these good movement patterns are not enough to negate the undesirable patterns being reinforced in a greater time frame.

So if you are not fortunate enough to work in a field like mine, what are you to do?

First of all be aware. Notice how you are sitting at your desk, in your car, carrying your bags. Notice what happens to your body when you start to think about how you are sitting, where your shoulders and head are in space, the side of your body that is carrying your heavy bag.  Just the awareness will allow you to notice your posture, habits and notice where you are carrying your tension.  Become aware throughout your day. Not only when you are at work, but preparing dinner, bathing your children, washing the dishes, even reading or watching television.  I have caught myself several times sitting on the couch reading with my head and neck completely tensed up and forward. Awareness is the first step in breaking any pattern.

Second, try to send the positive movement patterns from yoga, pilates, your personal trainer into your workday.  Sit up tall lifting out of your hips. Create space between your vertebrae. Allow your shoulders to hang and rest gently on the spine.  Root down through your feet and lengthen out through the crown of your head.  Creating this internal conversation with your body throughout the day can create a lot of positive changes.  This is also a good time to reevaluate your work environment. Is your chair at the proper height for your computer? Is the position of the back of the chair causing you to slouch or enabling you sit up tall? I am a huge proponent of sitting on a large resistance ball when at my computer, forcing me to sit up tall.  There are many stores that sell ball and ball-like products for exactly this purpose.  Relax the back has stores all over the country, as well as being able to order online.  Make sure the angle of your computer and keyboard is ergonomic and not causing you to strain to see the screen or drop the wrists to type.  These small patterns may seem trivial, but you are doing this pattern for the majority of your day and these small movement patterns are becoming more and more ingrained into your body with every key stroke and email.

Lastly, take a desk break.  I like the ratio of 15 minutes of break for every 45 minutes of work.  Take the time to stand up from your seat or get out of your car. Take a short little walk down to the water fountain or a little stair work in your office. Stretch. Bend. Move. Try to counteract the movement patterns that you are in the most at your job.  Close the door and breath or meditate even for 5 minutes. This will allow you to continue to be aware, send positive messages to your body, and reverse the undesirable patterns.  It will break up the pattern and restart you each hour.

Link to the first segment of my Podcast Series: Desk Break. This is a 5-10 minute video of exercises specifically chosen to break the negative movements and can be done in your office, using only your desk, and chair. Note: You may want to close your door or better yet, invite your co-workers to join in with you.

Be sure to subscibe to piLALAtes You Tube channel for more Desk Break segments to come.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Veggie Lasagna

This is a favorite recipe that I found while I was back in college.  I have altered it over the years to include some of my favorites and incorporate more of a vegan lifestyle.  This lasagna has no noodles or pasta and no cheese.  Also I tend to cook to taste, so not a lot of measurements. Use as much of any ingredient to create the desired layer in the size of your casserole dish.

1 eggplant
1-2 zucchini squashes
kernel corn
black olives
diced tomatoes
brown mushrooms
16 oz firm tofu
fresh basil
fresh rosemary
Daiya mozzarella or cheddar cheese (or mix both)
olive oil

Feel free to omit any of the veggies that you feel undesirable (except for eggplant and squash) and/or add some of your favorite fresh seasonal veggies.  Also if you do not want to make vegan, substitute Ricotta cheese for the tofu and use regular cheese instead of Daiya.

Preheat oven to 350°

Grill eggplant and zucchinin with olive oil, salt and pepper. While grilling, combine tofu, basil and rosemary into food processor. Blend until a thick consistency.

Lightly grease casserole dish. Place grilled eggplant slices in a single layer on the bottom of the casserole dish until it is covered. Next layer tofu mixture over layer of eggplant. Continue to layer ingredients on top of one another until 3/4 of way to top of casserole dish. Layer the grilled zucchini on top of looser ingredients. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of zucchini and garnish or top with sliced black olives.  Finish with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place casserole dish in preheated oven and cook for 30-45mins until cooked through and cheese is melted.  Turn throughout cooking in 1/4 turns for consistent cooking.

I serve with a slotted spoon as many of the vegetables tend to be rather juicy.

Let cool and enjoy!