Fat, Sick, Tired... And Tired of It!

I'm the first to admit my healthy eating habits are fairly new. I was the high school kid who dumped three tablespoons of white sugar on her morning Grape Nuts. I’m the college undergrad who microwaved a Velveeta-Pace Picante Salsa concoction (hurl-worthy, I know), served with a bag of Tostitos, a beer and an episode of ‘Melrose Place.’ I was the professional dancer who ate a bowl of pasta AFTER rehearsal, engaged in a continuous and futile battle to lose ‘those last five pounds.’

Eating poorly for the greater portion of my life was neither deliberate nor rebellious. It was due to ignorance, plain and simple. I unwittingly bought shiny, processed food-like products because they looked good, not because they were good for my health. I spent most of my life ‘eating blind,’ baffled and bamboozled by the food industry, and despite my countless years as an athlete, I paid the price in weight gain, low energy, chronic colds and mood swings.

BUT TIMES, THEY ARE A’ CHANGIN’!

I can safely speak for us all when I say WE ARE SO TIRED OF BEING FAT AND TIRED! We are sickened, literally and figuratively, by the rampant disease in our bodies and the bodies of our children. We are coming to recognize the immense power of food on our well-being, and taking action against those who have heretofore cared more about their fiscal margins than those of us barely surviving in the bleak margins of health..

(this, my friends, will not do.)

Food Industry Giants?  Are you listening?

YES! YOU ARE!

The 3 articles below prove that America's food industry is stepping up to the plate:

Your Healthy Habits are Eating into the Packaged Foods Industry

Brands like Kraft, Kellog Company, Chef Boyardee and Swiss Miss have all reported falling profits, some by as much as 62%, because our eating habits are changing for the better. They must adapt, or perish.

McDonald's Chicken Gets New Standard: No Human Antibiotics

The consumption of factory meat treated with human antibiotics has rendered those same antibiotics less effective in treating human disease. Although not a perfect solution, McDonald’s has taken a step in the right direction by discontinuing its use of human antibiotics in their poultry. They are also phasing out dairy products manufactured with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH), which causes cows to produce higher volumes of milk at a faster rate but comes with deleterious side effects, both for the cows and us.

Nestlé USA to Remove Artificial Ingredients From Candy

Most countries in Europe have been free of artificial ingredients and colorings for years. We are just beginning to recognize the egregiously high level of synthetic colors and chemicals consumed by our children, and to understand its adverse effect on cognitive processing, concentration, hyperactivity and impulse regulation.

To wrap it up…

Am I implying that processed, packaged foods are now healthy? No.

Am I recommending you run to your nearest Micky D's and order a big helping of chicken nuggets? Uh, no.

Am I suggesting that fruit gummies are just as wholesome for our kids as real fruit, since the added color is now culled from natural sources? Nay, people.

As much as these articles reflect a positive change in our common desire to adopt a healthier American lifestyle, it is only the first step in a long journey back to our birthright. We are born to be vibrant, to possess an abundance of energy, to live a robust, disease-free and fulfilling life. We have the power to reclaim our health, but we have quite a way to go.

It is our personal responsibility to continue to push the needle by making the best nutritional decisions for ourselves and our family, setting an example the entire country can get behind.

I am simply happy that the journey has begun.

Xoxoxo - Lara

10 Things Fit, Healthy People Do Differently

I’m not too deep a thinker when it comes to why I exercise. As a Pilates instructor, I can precisely analyze the function of a muscle. But when it comes to deconstructing why I get up at 5am to run, why I go to yoga instead of out to dinner, why I always make time to work out, I don't think about it - I just do it.

Having started gymnastics at 6 years old, fitness was an integral part of my childhood and a practice I carried instinctively into adulthood. But many people are not exposed to fitness as children and grow up without an understanding of how exercise is critical to health, longevity and self-esteem.

So after some analysis, I've identified 10 distinct habits that fit, healthy people practice. I explore these habits in my latest MINDBODYGREEN ARTICLE, practices I invite you to nurture on your journey to becoming the best you can be:

10 THINGS FIT, HEALTHY PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY EVERY DAY

If you have any special habits that help you stay fit and healthy, I'd love to hear them! Feel free to comment and I'll share them in a future post....

Thanks, as always, for your support - Lara

How to Lose Weight without Dieting

There’s no getting around it - weight loss is 80% what you eat and 20% how you exercise. The older I get, the less I can get away with eating junky foods and thinking I can “work off” the calories by jumping around a little extra.

Cleaning up my act requires me to clean up my food choices, and I am so excited to share my time-tested strategies so you, too, can lose weight without going on some fad “diet” science has proven just doesn’t stick.

When I need to slim down for a video shoot, when I’m prepping for a tropical vacation, or when I’ve veered off the Health Highway and need to grab the steering wheel, I use the following 14 tips that always help me lose weight without feeling deprived. With these proven nutritional strategies, I guarantee you’ll feel amazing, your body will become a superhuman fat burning machine, and did I mention weight loss?

LARA’S 14 LAWS TO LIVE BY

1. DRINK 20oz OF WATER right when you wake up - add a squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of Grade B maple syrup and a dash of cayenne pepper. This mini Master Cleanse kick starts your metabolism and wakes up your digestive system.

2. DON'T DRINK CALORIES. Remove soda, sports drinks, fruit juice, alcohol, sugary coffee concoctions and added sweeteners from your diet. If you love coffee, get good quality joe at your local artisanal roaster, invest in a French Press, and drink 1 big cup in the morning, black.

(Perfect the art of mining your morning "Black Gold" with this tutorial.)

3. CONTROL YOUR ENVIRONMENT. Remove all processed and sugary foods from your cabinet. Donate or ditch the boxes, bags, cans and containers of food-like products. If it’s white, it ain’t right, so lose the pasta, white rice, refined flour & sugar, white bread, and any other food leached of its nutrients through processing.

4. EAT WHOLE FOODS. Organic fruits & vegetables, lean meats, eggs, legumes, organic yogurt, whole grains, nuts and seeds will satisfy your hunger and nourish your body!

5. BRIGHTEN YOUR PLATE WITH COLOR to get the full spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants. At each meal, vegetables should cover at least half your plate. Green is King, but yellow, orange and red veggies are awesome, too.

6. BUY ORGANIC, GRASS FED MEATS & PASTURED EGGS so you increase the pros of eating animal products (high protein content, fills you up) and reduce the cons (added hormones & antibiotics, highly acidic, less heart-healthy). Check out EAT WILD and LOCAL HARVEST for all the sustainable resources you need.

(This chicken is stoked! Happy chickens mean healthy eggs and meat.)

7. CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS to help support the brain and body’s many functions: almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, avocado, olive oil & coconut oil are great choices.

8. COOK AT HOME 5 days a week, where you can control what goes into your meals, you control portion size, and you get the satisfaction of making something delicious and nourishing, just for you. Use these inexpensive HEALTHY RECIPES and have fun!

9. BREAKFAST LIKE A KING, LUNCH LIKE A PRINCE, DINNER LIKE A PAUPER. Gradually reduce the size of your meals throughout the day. Finish a small dinner by 7pm. Make some herbal tea before bed to soothe your stomach and make you sleepy.

10. CHEW! Minimize distractions, give thanks, and chew each bite 30-40 times. Chewing promotes easier digestion, heightens flavors, and gives your body time to register when it’s full so you don’t mindlessly overeat.

11. BRUSH YOUR TEETH. If you’re not really hungry but tempted to graze, a minty fresh mouth usually crushes the craving.

12. EAT ONLY WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY. We often eat food to avoid, distract or procrastinate. Employ the H.A.L.T. Method: Am I Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Slow down and think about why you want to eat at this moment. If your reason is NOT hunger, write down your thoughts about why you might be using food for something other than nourishment. Often this is all it takes to re-focus.

13. SPLURGE ON A HIGH-QUALITY DARK CHOCOLATE BAR (at least 70% cacao) and eat 1 square after dinner. Dark chocolate is super healthy and enjoying a nibble every night feels like a treat!

14. BREAK A SWEAT EVERYDAY. Run, walk, bike, go to the gym, take a class, pop in one of my videos, play with your kids, dance in your living room. Get creative and move that body by doing something you enjoy!

Love "Lara’s Laws" and want more?

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Thanks for joining my Wellness Community, where we work together to take the absolute best care of ourselves, without taking it all too seriously!

Xoxoxo – Lara

The Beauty of the Bow

Take a moment, right now, and observe your posture. Are you hunched over your laptop, tablet or phone, slumped, a slowly collapsing "C", looking and feeling like a 100-year old Empress Dowager? Time to sit up straight and read about why you need more BOW POSE in your life!

Our socio-cultural environment is centered around the Screen, drawing you forward and down into its hypnotizing blue-iode dream.

This wreaks havoc on the spine, let's count the ways: 

- Reverses the natural, stable curve of the lower back, weakening the lumbar muscles and creating an environment for potential disc bulges or herniation

- Requires the hip flexors in the front of the thigh to overwork in its struggle to pull the lower back back into alignment, causing them to grow tight and rigid

- Increases the curvature in the upper back (Kyphosis), weakening the spinal muscles and shortening the front of the shoulder so that proper posture is greatly diminished

- The increased "C" curve in the upper back forces the neck to thrust forward in its effort to align itself properly through gravity, creating tension throughout the neck and shoulders

BOW POSE reverses all of these conditions! Bow is the King of Back Extension exercises and brings the neck, shoulders, spine and hips back into balance. Bow simultaneously lengthens the front of the shoulders, extends the upper back, returns the lumbar back into its natural position, and lengthens the hips flexors. OOOOH, BEAUTIFUL!

When practicing Bow Pose, keep your abdominals drawn in, keep your knees drawing toward one another, and think less of getting up high, but concentrate on GOING LONG, creating a circle from toes to crown of head and back around. Instead of looking up, focus your eyes forward and lift the base of the skull up and back. Practice Bow Pose three times, breathing in and out deeply for five cycles before lowering down in between each rep. Then finish in Child's Pose for a few breaths and let the endorphins flood your body before commencing with your day.

Enjoy the strength, the release, the breath and the Beauty of the Bow...

To Friends Old & New: The Magic of Transformation

It’s Lara here, reaching out to my amazing community from coast to coast and beyond. I’m plop in the middle of the country as I write these words, braced against the fierce winds of a bellicose Chicago winter, missing the crisp California sunshine and reflecting on the 2 years since my family and I transplanted ourselves to the Midwest. Here’s a musical expression of how I’m feeling:

In all seriousness and despite what’s turned out to be the worst winter in 30 years, my time in Chicago has been a necessary step in the evolution of both my teaching career and my desire to learn more, understand more, do more. Separating myself from the habits and history of 20 years spent in the easy arms of the West Coast has provided me a solitary period of introspection, a recalibration of who I am as a leader in and lover of All Things Wellness. My passion for the body and its potential has grown even stronger, and with it my means to share this passion has transformed to better suit this new and wondrous process of personal growth.

What I've learned:

• WELLNESS is so much more than just FITNESS (but don’t stop doing sit-ups, I beg).

• YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, and this message is critically important NOW (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, HELP!).

• CHANGE requires risk-taking, courage and self-trust. So get some grit and JUMP.

• KNOWLEDGE is life’s magic dust. Never stop LEARNING.

Welcome to my new blog, comprised of anecdotes and insights on topics spanning the vast spectrum of Wellness. These posts, sent lovingly to your InBox each week, are dedicated to the journey I’ve embarked upon as I transition away from my role as "Trainer" and toward a deeper role of "Teacher," with the aspiration that these words on the page help you with your own journey through the currents of continuous change.

(my home writing station)

I hope you find a dusting of truth, humor and wind-in-the-hair resonance within this, past and future posts, as well as a sense of identification with me as I take risks, crack jokes, and hold onto the ride of life. After communing with you as a Pilates instructor over these last 15 years, I can’t wait to see what the next 15 have in store for us.

Here’s to the Magic of Transformation! 

With immense gratitude, Lara

 

The Energetics of Food - Trip on This!

I'm knee deep in nutrition school, and we recently completed a course on the energetics of food. Food energetics stems from the field of macrobiotics, and is loosely defined as the study of a food's distinct energy and how that energy transforms within the body to either make us healthy or throw us out of balance. 

At first I wasn't too sure about this subject, as it sounded a bit hippie-dippy, but I promised myself to keep an open mind. And I was blown away by the hints that nature offers us, hints we can no longer see in our hyper-processed culture. Read on and may your eyes open.

Below is a photo of chard. What internal organ do these leafy greens remind you of?

Don't they look a little like lungs?  Amongst the other myriad benefits eating leafy greens provides, one of their primary functions within the body is to STRENGTHEN THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM. These lung-like plants directly promote lung health! Now let's take it a step further.

Green plants are, in essence, the earth's lungs. They draw in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, a perfect counterpoint to we humans, who do the opposite. Isn't is fair to say that we and leafy greens are each other's yin and yang? Leafy greens teach us how to breathe, they support us, they nourish us, they improve our ability to thrive in this world. Don't ignore the signs!

Okay, here's another trippy thing I learned. Below is a photo of a walnut. Doesn't the meat of the nut look like a brain?

For hundreds of years, before anyone analyzed its biotic compounds, the walnut was considered by many ancient cultures to be "brain food." Our ancestors looked at the characteristics of this little nut and knew instinctively that it would improve their ability to think. We only recently discovered that the walnut is the only nut that contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential to brain development and nervous system function. TRIP OUT ON THAT! How did our ancenstors know that this was the nut to eat? Have we strayed so much from our primal intuition that we can't see the signs nature provides?

I've now morphed into a frenzied food energetics investigator, working to peel away the layers of numbness so that I can see with my primal eyes all the miraculous connections between my body and the natural world around me.

  • Feeling anxious or ungrounded? Roast root vegetables, so strong they can grow underground without sunlight, and so centered they remain stable through the worst of storms.

  • Want to protect your eyes? Eat grapes, oysters, carrots, all possessing eye-like characteristics (shape, texture) and all promoting healthy vision while slowing down macular degeneration.

  • Kidney issues? Replace animal protein with kidney-shaped beans, high in protein but much easier for the kidneys to process than animal protein (a by-product of which is uric acid which can lead to painful kidney stones).

I invite you to become your own food investigator - stroll the aisles of the produce section and ruminate on the shape, color, texture and energy of the whole foods around you. Get intimate - feel, touch, smell - and be open to the metaphors and the poetry of the natural world. Chances are you'll begin to better understand that profound turn of phrase "you are what you eat", and your ancestral intelligence will emerge to help you see the signs, read the clues, and make better food choices so that you truly thrive, body, mind and spirit...

 

Bathtime!!

This post is dedicated to all the hard-working moms and dads out there who, despite your best efforts, may resort to what I call the "2nd nanny", the television. Or the iPad. Or the smart phone. It puts children into "zombie mode" which is AWESOME, but probably not the best state of being in the long term. 

When the snow is falling and my kids have already watched The Nightmare Before Christmas all the way through (and then the opening song a second time), when leaving the tv on would be so EASY to do, I yell, "BATHTIME in mommy's tub tonight!!" and the kids come running!

Bathtime is a mega multi-tasker: 1. Kids get clean; 2. Bubbles = hours of entertainment; 3. Submerged bath toy scavenger hunt = 10 more minutes of entertainment; 4. Kids tend to get along swimmingly in the tub (warm water = comfort & contentment); 5. You get to hang out in the bathroom and read a magazine while your little fishies splash about happily (warning = guard your valuables, water spray imminent).

Suave Kids 3-in-1 Wash (watermelon a favorite) makes major suds so no need to buy additional bubble bath.

And did I mention mommy's bathtub has jets? INSTANT BUBBLE TSUNAMI.

So next time you're burnt out on craft-making and cookie-baking and book-reading and monster-trucking and tea-partying, next time it's cold outside and there's no chance of park-playing or bike-riding, get your little guppies out of their clothes and into the bubbles. Then close the toilet lid, sit your weary limbs down and say a little prayer of gratitude for the next few minutes of exuberance (them) and bliss (you)...

 

Dreaming and Doing

Do animals dream of rainbow futures and lofty successes? Humans certainly do, but how do we bring those dreams to fruition without feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared? With some easy, methodical tools and a positive attitude, we can transform dreams into goals and goals into achievements. Then voila! There's your rainbow!!

STEP I: CLARITY
Take a moment to write down some of your most inspiring dreams - dreams for today, this month, this year, 5 years, even 10 years from now. Don't leave anything ambiguous - be specific, create clarity around your dreams so that there is no room for inertia. Ambiguity is an Action-Killer, so place your intentions precisely.

STEP II: ACTION
Now that your dreams are crystal-clear, let's transform them into concrete, achievable GOALS. Try this:
Every night, write down a TO DO list for the next day, no more than 3-5 tasks that will help you move toward your goal. Breaking down larger goals into direct, manageable tasks is helpful in mitigating the paralyzing sensation of feeling overwhelmed. The next morning, commit to completing your TO DO list by the end of the day.

STEP III: ATTITUDE:
Now that you have created actionable tasks that will help move you toward your Goal, let's shift our perspective onto the POSITIVE:
Every night, take a moment to write down 3 things that you are GRATEFUL FOR. Reflect on the positive things that have occurred throughout the day - a person, an event, a place, or an action you took toward your goal - write down those moments and offer up gratitude for the GOOD in your life. Nurturing a positive attitude is a potent way to transform your inner life into one that attracts positive energy in your outer life.

The act of achieving your dreams is a process toward becoming your best self, and when you are your best self, inner happiness is born. So keep dreaming, keep believing, break it down, build it up, commit, be tenacious, move forward and go for it!

Salve for the Soul

It's been a rocky week, so today I took the long way to the coffee shop, breathing in the crisp autumn air, observing the beauty of the fallen leaves, and feeling immense gratitude as the radiant sun hit my skin. No matter how tough things get, the world offers the simple things to salve the soul. So when you're feeling stressed - even if you don't feel you have the time or even deserve it - step away from the worrisome and find a place that holds a quiet magic. You may just find a little bit of life's wonder...

HOLY BLOG, BATMAN!!

Hello to my Peeps!  It's a long time overdue but I'm happy to say my website is UP & RUNNING! Thanks so much to our web designer Stephanie Daniels for the beautiful site (http://www.linkedin.com/in/hellostephanie) and for building this blog platform for me.  I can't wait to share with you my insights - whether they be smart or silly, short or sickly verbose - and to hear your own insights about your journey toward health and wellness. Much like our continual efforts to be our Best Selves, this blog is all about PROCESS, a process to find my own voice and to hear yours. Thanks for your support, enjoy the site!  Xoxoxo Lara