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05/28/2008

Beautiful Readers,

Like all good business owners with an interest in growth and a deep respect for companies who have made it big already, I am doing something in this post that I have never done before. I am reviewing a product (or products) provided to me for promotional purposes, in exchange for the promise of some good corporate booty next month.

In this post I'll be writing about Lipton White Iced Tea, baited by a Fuji bike to give away to you all (stay tuned–comment based contest for great Fuji bike coming up in June unless I totally alienate our potential sponsors with the content of this blog! )

First, I applaud the folks at Lipton, and the person at the ad agency that contacted me, for being willing to  put their money (or bike rather, and product too) where their mouth is in terms of really being interested in an independent reaction to the tea. They bravely and knowingly opened their new product up to possible criticism by the sometimes loose-cannon-like, and occasionally quite-snarky-for-no-good-reason-except-that-maybe-they-weren't-the-most-popular-girl-in-high-school, blogger. And that takes guts.

Having said that, I didn't like the tea much. ( I wanted to. I wanted to. Can I have the bike now please?) Though, because of the portable size, and wide variety it comes in, I can imagine some situations where it could come in handy (ok, just one, really, but it's a good one). So here's the frank, candid, and 100 percent honest story about how we got turned on to Lipton White Iced Tea. 

About a month ago we received a call from one very nice person at an ad agency (ah–the power of the blog…do they want me to name their agency or not, hmmm….) who offered to send us a batch of Lipton White Iced Tea to sample, hand around among clients, etc, and review. ..in exchange for a Lipton-Fuji bike that we could  use to give away as part of a contest on the blog next month. I was psyched. I love tea. Green Tea. White Tea. High in antioxidants, refreshing, and, in this case, free.

We received Lipton White Tea in several forms–

White Tea to Go http://www.liptont.com/our_products/iced_tea_to_go/index.asp, a small box including ten .04 oz packets of Raspberry flavored Splenda sweetened tea crystals (think powdered lemonade, or Jello), to mix with water-about the right size for an average sports water bottle.Lipton 005We also received two 20 oz. bottles of Diet Peach Papaya Lipton White Tea. http://www.liptont.com/our_products/iced_tea/ice_diet_peach_papaya.asp Lipton 010

 
And a box of Lipton White Tea with Island Mango and Peach Flavor (with other natural flavor) made with real orange leaves and lemon grass.Whew! that's a lot of ingredients!http://www.liptont.com/our_products/pyramid/pyr_white_mango_peach.asp

Lipton 009

My initial reaction was that as much as I admired the packaging (colorful, uniquely shaped, without being too childlike), and the smell of the stuff (strong, sweet),  this kind of product was just not for me–nor something I would likely recommend to my clients.

It is artificially sweetened-which already puts it in a category of things I do not drink. It has been a long time since I bought something that was sweetened with anything besides honey (yes, I am that crunchy, and I do live in that insular a world of health-heads.). It also had too many blended flavors for my taste. I personally enjoy, and also encourage our clients who are interested in weight loss to learn to appreciate, a single taste, over a mix or blend. The idea being, that after years of regularly consuming masses of untraceable, or unrecognizable, flavors, that coming to slow down and enjoy less mouth stimulation, instead of more, can sometimes help people get a handle on their eating.

And finally, the packets of crystallized tea add flavoring to one of my favorite beverages, water, which I am on a life-long campaign to have clients appreciate as the plain and unadulterated delight that it is, or occasionally with lemon, but always unsweetened. (wow–I sound like I should be wearing a high collared blouse and long black skirt-no drinking, no dancing folks!)

But Lipton gets real props for trying to sexy-up a beverage that isn't soda and that's got antioxidants. Tea has long clung to it's somewhat frumpy Victorian image–and that image is hard to shake. Getting skateboarding teens, kids, and other fitness types to feel psyched about buying something long associated with white gloved old spinsters (and proud of it!) is no easy feat–and if the folks at Lipton can wean one person off cola and onto tea–then that rocks. In fact reading through some other feedback about the tea online I ran across a handful of reactions from people saying that they found they were consuming less soda since they had started drinking it (suck up, or sincere?–you decide!). I can see that. If awesomely sweet beverages is your thing–this stuff sure beats soda or your average sports drinks.

Ok–so I wasn't loving the tea and wouldn't likely buy it (unless they de-sweeten it ((or sweeten it only very lightly)) and add some far more pretentious ingredients like Basil, Peppermint, licorice, or Clove, and promise me even more health benefits, making it more like an elixir, less like good old iced tea). The good news though, is that I did discover a use for it. I found I was able to drink more water (several more glasses) with some of the powdered Raspberry Tea mix in it than I could have without it. If you exercise frequently, then you are probably familiar with the feeling of knowing that even though you may still be dehydrated you just can't drink any more water without feeling like you are going to puke. Adding just a little of the powdered tea to my water bottle helped with that…and I was able to chug down at least 40more ounces ( no small thing when you are often battling dehydration).

The other good news about the Lipton White Iced Tea is that they are running an awesome campaign called Free Your Y ('Y' being 'youth') http://www.youtube.com/liptonfreeyoury, encouraging people at home to post videos of themselves fearlessly doing something, that they are proud of, that makes them feel young.  

The contest is over, but the entries are great, charming, inspiring and funny, and I urge you all to go check them out and vote for the winner who will receive $25,000 for first prize, or $10,000 for the second prize. You'll get to see someone assemble a Lego structure in the original bag (amazing), some folks jumping out of an airplane, skateboarding tricks, some clever BMX stuff, and an independent rap video for Lipton White Iced Tea. I was totally charmed by Lipton's willingness to reach out to the general public as a source of inspiration. Ok, maybe I will buy the tea sometime.

And for all of you just dying for a new bike–we'll let you know whether or not this was what they had in mind when they said 'transparency is fine.' Stay tuned…

Thanks for reading.

Yours truly,

Alix 

President - Beautiful Fitness

Beautiful but not the Best

05/16/2008

Beautiful Readers,

The theme of today's post is not the usual inspiring tale about excellence despite adversity, nor a heart warming anecdote about how the pluckiest among us can rise to the very top, it is meant to be an inspiring message about trying hard to achieve an impossible seeming goal and not quite making it, but being just as stoked as if you had-and damn proud that you even tried. In other words–Embrace failure. You're going to see lots of it.

Now in case you find the thought of cosying up to failure depressing, let me share a few facts with you:

1) People who agree with the statement that "success is possible for almost anybody, and that it is a process that involves repeated goal setting and corresponding repeated failure." tend to be much more successful than average folks who hate to fail. Tiger Woods agrees with the above statement.

2) Failure suggests that you have tried something. There is a high correlation between people who try to do things and people who succeed at those things (Duh. Just checking to make sure you're awake.)

3) Setting goals and failing at them is known as practicing, and there is no doubt that the only way to improve at anything is to practice.

4) People who try new things often–who strive for innovation and challenge all their lives tend to live longer, tend to be more optimistic, and suffer from age related diseases, like Dementia, less.

This idea that failure is ok was new for me. I was raised in a somewhat short sighted way, believing that if a thing was not perfect, or a goal was not met, it was a source of shame. Now, I'd feel more self-conscious sharing that with you all, but I know it is true in many many households. Two things forced me to see failure differently. Beautiful Fitness, and exercise. Best damn things that ever happened to me.

Let's start with the business–for those of you who haver never done any reading about being an entrepreneur, and have always ignored the business section of the bookstore–want to know a little secret about it? Aside from the specific guides on Incorporation, or How to Start a Childcare Business at Home, it's really just a big self-help section. Every business book there starts out with the same advice. Amass as much money as you can up front, and make friends with failure. You can't fight it, but you can move on way fast once it's obvious to you that that's what you've got.

Half of the books in the business section are personal stories of rearranging your perception of failure. The young guys who opened two stores when they should have opened one, and ran out of money…and went on to crawl out of the hole they were in, and in the end did ok. The small fitness company that wanted to do too many services all at once, and then realized that everyone perceived them as being mediocre at everything (even though they were really really great at everything…hmmm….), and went on to do ok. (actually they went on to do great.) Thank you for your patience with my self-centeredness.

Now for exercise. Exercise is a perfect source of failure. In fact, ideally, if you want to get in shape, you work your muscles to failure. Literally. If you really want to know what the optimal weight and number of reps for a given exercise is–stop counting. Just do it until you can't do it anymore-literally. Eventually you will drop the weight on the floor because the muscle group you are using won't hold it up anymore, and then you know you're done.   

Exercise also gives you many chances to try new things and fail at them with few consequences. In fact, one of the things that I have seen make a difference between folks who meet their fitness goals versus people who seem to just be spinning their wheels is a deliciously delicate balance between "going for it" as they say, and realizing that "it's only exercise." It's that "It's only exercise." part that I think is really the key to getting where you want to go with fitness, or most things in life. Some categories are harder to have this attitude about like "It's only money.", "It's only a guy." or "It's only my job." but with time and practice I believe that perhaps one can get those into perspective too.

A quite accomplished political and TV writer friend of mine once gave me a piece of advice that at first I did not understand. I had asked him how he had managed to have had overall so much success at the things he had done, to which he said "You have to want it–but not that bad." Now I happen to know that this Emmy winner has wanted some things very bad–but after years of seeing new writers "flame out" under the pressure of their own desires and anxiety over their own expectations of themselves, he had learned something valuable. The art of managing a balance of engagement and detachment.

The place that helped me learn this best was yoga class. Years ago when I took my first class, I was very much of the high intensity workout mindset. Yoga seemed more for like, well, let's say, the truly boring, aging hippies, people who were in terrible shape, and the elderly. Let's just say– I didn't get it.

At first I was convinced that the reason the poses were so difficult for me was likely because they were stupid. (not an uncommon thing to think when confronted with something that one is not so naturally talented at–where one's ego has to tolerate a great deal of failure). But wanting to believe that I would be able to master anything physically I continued to show up for class and try to do things that my body was not prepared for.

But once I stopped rolling my eyes over the airy fairyness of the experience, I started listening to the things the instructor was saying about how to best approach a yoga practice. The instructor (the same one who works with Beautiful Fitness now–who is honestly the best instructor that after many years of classes now I have ever seen)  kept talking about how the goal was to focus on your breathing and try to relax. This was very hard to do.

Well after relatively regular attendance over the course of several years –it finally all came together. There I was, in totally agony in an extremely difficult and uncomfortable pose that I had always hated and had always been embarrassingly difficult for me– I finally let go. I detached. Now I won't say that I was relieved of all pain or discomfort at that moment–I definitely was not, but all at once, for whatever reason, I was suddenly able to focus on something other that the difficulty (and my natural anxiety about it) and think about the regularity of my breathing, and to feel, somehow, that even though, my body was cuing all kinds of angry and anxious feelings, I could acknowledge them, and ignore them, until it was time to change poses.

Now, apply this to other stressful or anxiety producing experiences in life–and you have a very powerful thing. To be able to conquer (or more–ignore) your fear of failure or your own anger at the potential for it is almost as if to conquer fear itself.

Fondly,

Alix–President, Beautiful Fitness      212-380-1277

www.beautifulfitness.com

Beautiful Burn Out

05/06/2008

Beautiful Readers,

It happens to everyone. One minute you are riding high on adrenaline, everything you want seems to magically fall into place, worlds seem to move because of your conviction alone, you’re juiced for days, sleep seems irrelevant, and then, next thing you know, it’s over.

That incredible burst of energy has fizzled. You’re tired–very tired. You lack optimism, exercise seems like a chore, or just doesn’t happen at all, and all the bravado you felt before is gone–In fact it’s hard to imagine that you were ever that excited about anything. You start to worry–could this be permanent? Could it be that for the rest of your life all you will ever want to do is read catalogs? Will showering seem too ambitious for ever?

Hello burn out. Now don’t panic. Burn out is not exactly the same as depression, though it sure feels the same. But Burn out can usually be traced to a cause–too much work and activity, too little sleep. And burn out can be fixed. And since by now I am a pro at this, I will share with you my ten steps for curing it.

1. Assess what led to your personal burn out, some common themes are:

lack of sleep, too much energy expended in too short a time, a prolonged period of high stress, too much work, too little play, being slightly sick (ie. allergies, sinus problems, mild injury, headache, mild gastrointestinal issues), mediocre diet, too much time with needy or demanding people, too much time alone, too much time with other people.

Trouble is, all of the above are easy to ignore, and quite common. But a sustained dose of just one or two of these pretty benign seeming items, is enough to knock you out for awhile. Obviously, it’s best to avoid them all, but that is sometimes impossible.

2. Accept and acknowledge your burn out. Don’t just ignore it and try to persevere. It will only require more time to fix it later on. Also avoid a tendency to panic, wallow, or feel helpless. You are not helpless to fix burn out, and it is well worth using your last bit of energy to do it.

3. Stop everything! You know what I like about guys (yes, yes, I know, guys are not all the same, blah, blah, blah…) when they get sniffles, they take to bed (or couch, usually) like they have tuberculosis. As much as people say that guys are bad at taking care of themselves or dealing with their emotions. I would say that over all men tend to be much better at dealing with their emotions about burn out. They are petulant, irritable, and they lie on the couch and refuse to get up. They feel sorry for themselves much more (in my experience) than women do, and not guilty at all about doing nothing for awhile.

Women, on te other hand, often seem to feel that there will be some kind of prize for pluckiness and perseverance when they are burned out.

4. Once you stop everything, focus on not feeling guilty at all about doing nothing. If taking a break is making you feel anxious about all the responsibilities you are not meeting, make a concrete plan for when you will be getting off the couch to address them again. But you will need at least several hours (ideally 24) in which you will not do a single thing that is of benefit to someone else. If this is hard for you, think of it as an exercise. Practice. Try an hour at a time.

5. OK, so far, you have ceased all of your normal daily activities, and by now you are hopefully feeling fine with that, this is where you need to really hone in on what kind of burn out we have here–mine is usually a combination. One kind is best described as Exhaustion, just plain tiredness. The other is more mental, let’s call it Overdoing It.

The Overdoing It thing is more complex than exhaustion, because, overdoing something can apply to almost anything. Even fun things. Hanging out at home, playing with your kids, being in the city, being in the county, exercising, travelling, running around, cleaning your house, seeing movies, working.

Now overworking is classic burn out fodder and usually the thing that kicks me in the butt. If you like what you are doing for a living, and it provides stimulation that is diverse and doesn’t always seem so work-like to you Overdoing It can really sneak up on you. If you worked in a factory, you’d know you needed frequent breaks, and occasional vacations, and you’d probably insist on getting them. But in the modern era a number of fortunate people have managed to arrange relatively satisfying careers for themselves and there can often be a little guilt attached to feeling that you have had enough of it and need to get away. "But my job is so multifaceted and great, why would I ever want to leave it, even for awhile?" and if you work for someone else, there is a good chance that they share this sentiment.

The whole "Working for the weekend" thing really isn’t considered cool anymore, once you have a mortgage, a family, or are in the top ten percent of incomes during a recession (yes folks, I believe we’re in a recession) in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And this can be really confusing. This confusion is why we find all those healthy, happy, relaxed, socially connected, wine drinking Europeans so incredibly troubling.

6. Item six is very practical. Make yourself do the physical things that you may have been lacking. Go down the list: Eating vegetables lately? No? Eat some. Protein? Iron? Eat those things. Gotten exercise lately? No? Get some now. Too little sleep? Take a nap. Sleep as long as you can, or go to bed ridiculously early. Oversleeping is as unlikely as getting over hydrated.

Now, the practical stuff is not going to fix your head, so don’t worry if you are not enjoying it much, or if you don’t suddenly come right out of your funk…just do it, as they say. Sunlight? Go sit in the direct sunlight for 30 minutes without slathering yourself from head to toe with sunscreen. (Then, after that,  go slather yourself from head to toe with sunscreen)

7. Now we’re at the fun part-where you should start to feel better. Start with your breathing. Try to relax, and forget about everything that you have to do. Sometimes I like to do a headstand (an awesome yoga parlor trick I learned years ago) while I do this, just so that my perception is changed. I find it makes it easier to "not think" about all of the responsibilities that I am ignoring.  You can certainly hang upside down off the side of your bed if you want to simulate the headstand experience. Or just sit wherever you want, but really try, consciously, not to think about anything you "should" be doing. Kinda like meditation.

8. From this place of relaxation and momentary freedom of responsibility (You should feel about the way you do when you are on vacation by now), focus on what you want to do. Anything. Do you want to go for a walk? Read a book? Read a bad book? Listen to music? Lie on your back? Cry? Watch TV? Buy something nice? Do a cartwheel? Go away for a day or two? Get a tattoo? Pray? Join a club? Go dancing? Arrange for some longer time alone? Get a massage? Visit a relative? See a friend? Draw a picture? Write a song? Write a poem? If nothing comes to mind, think of something you used to enjoy doing as a child, before you became so goal-oriented.

It can be surprisingly difficult to figure out what you really want to do with no external pressure. A military friend long ago described to me the way kids who came home from basic training, would get lost in the airport, because there was no one there to give them orders. 

Take the time to hang around doing nothing until something you want to do comes to you. Maybe just doing nothing, and feeling confused and unfocused for awhile, is enough.

9. Do the thing you want to do. Set a time (or day, if you can do this thing for multiple days) that you will have to get back to business (unless you have the luxury of doing this thing until you naturally want to return to your normal responsibilities) so that you are not worried that you will indulge yourself forever. If you can not do the thing you want right away or it requires a little planning, put a time and date on your calender to make sure that you will get to it.

10. Once you have done the thing you want and decide to return to your normal responsibilities, remember that there is very little in life besides a kind of general adherence to you own values, that is required. You can always change what you are doing every day. Really. It is easy to feel as if many events in life are unmovable, that really are not. Once you are conscious that you are electing to do the things that you are doing, and that at any time you can stop them or change them if you want, you should feel greater freedom (and more relaxed) in doing them.

"Never do anything you don’t want to do.", a friend once said. and of course, at the time, I thought that that was ridiculous. Most of my time was spent doing things that felt like obligations. But then I realized, that what she meant was not that I should only do things that offered immediate gratification, but that I should check to make sure that the things I was doing, even offered the kind of delayed gratification that I cared about. This way of judging things significantly changed my life for the better, but it is a challenge even now.

Hope this is helpful for someone! And now I am going to take a nap.

Thanks for reading,

Alix Florio – Pres. Beautiful Fitness