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Be Like Me

09/26/2009

Beautiful Readers,

There are a lot of things I don’t know much about. And even more things I’m not that good at. But one thing I do know a lot about, and am good at, is taking pretty darn good care of myself while still leading a normal, fast paced life, with limited time, and not a lot of head space for considering my overall state of wellness. I could be a model of sorts for how I recommend you start (or continue) to take care of yourself.

After all, my blood pressure is below average, my skin is good, I sleep well, I eat right overall without any obsession, I work out often enough (though I did just take a month off–which I don’t typically recommend unless you really need it to keep going in the long term), I take time to relax, my fat percentage delights me (slightly lower end of average), I am mostly properly hydrated and know what to do when I’m not. You should emulate me or better me. And no, I’m not a total egomaniac. I just have this thing a bit figured out and want to share it with you.

Here are some quick bits of advice to get you on the path to being more like me:

Count:Learn how many calories are in foods you eat. How are you supposed to keep track of your daily calorie intake unless you know how many (or at least approximately) are in the stuff you are eating? This may be my biggest secret. I can give you a pretty accurate count of anything you are eating–even in restaurants. Yes, it requires a certain amount of memorization (ok-a lot of memorization ((just buy a huge book that lists calories counts))–but it’s well worth it. It gives you absolute control of weight gain and loss.

Cheat:Find ways to consume quick vegetables, fruits, and other kinds of antioxidants and vitamins, so that you can eat them regularly. Use green tea shots (little cans in delis), cans of V8, frozen spinach pie, Amy’s Frozen Indian Food, drink a glass of red wine everyday, take calcium supplements, vitamin C, fish oil or other Omega 3 and 6 supplements (take the fish oil unless you are a vegetarian-may have advantages over flax), take a multiple vitamin, and I personally, like to take natural estrogen supplements (mostly Soy), I’m 40 and hoping to smooth out my impending menopause, but that’s just me, and my research is limited. Drink coconut water when you’ve been sweating a lot or can’t drink enough water.

Check: Check the color of your pee all the time. Really. I know of no more accurate way to assess whether or not you need to get more fluids. Pee should be nearly clear. Bright yellow is really no good. Funny smell after asparagus is totally normal. ;-) If you’re quite dehydrated and drink a lot of water just before you urinate-your pee may be clear right after wards but will return to bright yellow later. A LOT of our clients seem to be almost chronically dehydrated. Do not let this happen. Your body can not thrive in a parched environment.

Charge it: I once heard a quote that was something like “If you want to know a man’s priorities–show me his budget.”. True dat about wellness. If you are spending more money on purses and shoes, or on eating out, than you are on making taking care of yourself easier, something is wrong. Spend the damn money. Buy the overpriced gourmet prune spread imported from France if that’s the only way you are going to eat any fruit. Buy the good looking tomatoes from Holland that cost twice as much, buy the grass fed beef, or the green tea that comes in fancy packages if that stuff floats your boat. Buy good lox if that’s the only fish in your diet. Taking really good care of yourself in the long term is hard enough without feeling guilty about making it feel like an indulgence.

Buy cute workout clothes. Buy comfortable apres-workout clothes that you only wear after you work out. BUY new sneakers every four months or so so that they will continue to work as sneakers–otherwise you may as well wear patent leather flats when you workout. Do not be cheap with these things. Buy fancy sports bras. Buy them in the right size. Buy weights for your home. Buy exercise equipment for your home if you can find the space. Buy a nice mat. Buy a fitness ball. Invest in your health as you invest in things that are less important.

P.S. We’re just about done editing the copy on the new site! Look for it in October!

Fondly,

Alix Florio President; Beautiful Fitness

What I Ate (and did not eat) on my Summer Vacation

09/09/2009

Beautiful Readers,

Now, I see you out there looking all glum– “Oh Alix, just as we were getting into the swing of reading your sage and kindly blog you pulled the rug out from under us and took off for several weeks.” And lovely readers, I am oh so sorry for that. I missed you too. Naughty ole August must have simply taken all the sense out of my head when I boldly decided to travel to London, Paris, Cairo, and Alexandria, all without bringing a laptop. Silly silly Alix.

At first I thought it was some kind of act of heroism to leave the 50 states without a computer. A stand for people everywhere who are trying to get away from their pounding work ethic. I was counting on the fact that internet access might be challenging once I was there anyway, and that the laptop might stay in the bag. But guess what I found (perhaps a decade plus after everyone else already knew) wireless is ubiquitous–from The Elgin Marbles (British Museum), to the Pyramids (you know where those are) and no one but people who have all their money tied up in camels doesn’t have a laptop with them at all times. Next time I’ll know.

In the meanwhile–let me tell you some things I learned on my trip!

One. London is as dour during the recession as New York is. Simply gloomy–if somewhat more fashionable–though I bet the English are better at saving money than we are during an economic downturn. I can already see all those English mums using the decline as an excuse to dutifully sew their children all kinds of itchy sweaters instead of buying them at Harrod’s.

England has also really got our butt kicked in terms of family access to gyms. The last time I was in London I met with some folks over at Virgin Active and at the Merrill Lynch affiliated sports club. I was incredibly impressed by the level of seriousness and self-respect among the staff at those places, and also, frankly, by how smart they were about exercise and health. The other thing that was striking was how well Virgin Active had managed to incorporate activities for the whole family. Unlike the total diallowance of children in nearly all fitness facilities in New York–Virgin had classes for kids and swimming pool access for children that seemed to work pretty seamlessly with their truly suburb facilities for adults.

I honestly feel guilty sometimes about flitting off to the gym as my adrenaline filled children run around in circles or hit each other with sticks. On our trip my kids begged me again and again to come to the hotel gym with me so they could use the treadmill–and whatever kind of mayhem you might imagine would ensue if kids were allowed to go to gyms–for the most part (with heavy supervision) when I have snuck my children into a hotel gym they tend to work out pretty much the same way I do. Albeit with a little more excitement about what’s on the TV. In any case–even our small hotel gym in London had great kids fitness facilities.

One final interesting concept I ran into in England was on the back of a package of mixed seeds meant as a snack. the package recommended that the contained seeds would be a good thing to eat (exclusively?) on ‘dietingdays’ as if everyone in England knew what that was. I’m guessing that the term refers to the thing every reasonable skinny person I know in New York does–eat very very little from time to time either when the mood strikes or you feel that you might have gained a little weight. Kind of incorporating a permanent diet into your life. ‘Dieting days’ sums it up nicely I think.

Then we went to Paris. Paris is beautiful–as always. Though I must say that I sometimes I wonder if I am suffering from a kind of middle aged patriotism that keeps me from totally enjoying a city that reminds me a great deal of New York but is harder for me to navigate. The Louvre rocks and baffles me every time with the quantity of art fabulosity that it has there. No wonder the French are smug. The kids liked the pastry, but I’m afraid I might be a little over Paris–or at least the things that were doing it for me when I was an impressionable teeny-bopper, don’t impress me any more. Fine food, fine wine, great fashion sense all treated with the seriousness of a monk–seem to me now, well, kind of shallow, more than impressive. Though I am sure there is an adult world of Paris that is far deeper and more subtle and that I could not possibly understand on a quick family trip.

Paris exercise tip…the usual. Smoke a little. Walk a lot. Drink coffee regularly. Eat moderately. Skip some meals. Keep your cortisol level low by taking long lunches, frequent coffee breaks, and refuse to work in August like it is a sacred birthright.

Then there’s Cairo. God. Where do I begin. I could write an enormous post about the place. I spent some time there in college–and I have to confess I have no objectivity about it whatsoever. I love Cairo. In a way that seems almost eerie to me. And I don’t know why.

It’s noisy, dirty, crowded, and now much more conservative and serious than it was in the looser days of economic prosperity back when I was there so many years ago. It was also Ramadan during our trip–which made the atmosphere all the more sober. But as with people I love–all the things someone else might abhor-delight me. I like the way it’s dirty. I like the kind of ceaseless noise they have there. I love the humanness and imperfection of the oft divisive Muslim religion.

It’s hard to write about Egypt from a fitness point of view. There appear to be more gyms now, and our fancy hotel had separate facilities for men and women (you’d really almost have to these days–most women are really making their best effort to be veiled and covered up pretty much all the time which can really put a crimp in unbridled fitness.)

The one thing I did learn about though–was fasting. Now, my travelling party was divided into two camps. My son and I were both really interested in trying to do at least a modified fast (and also very interested in not tormenting everyone else by eating and drinking publicly ((most people don’t even drink water from sunup to sundown)). Whereas my boyfriend was much more of the “We’re not muslim so why should we fast” point of view and also felt that as caregivers to two sometimes difficult children, hunger-related crankiness on anyone’s part could lead to a rather explosive situation. I saw that too. My daughter, frankly, just seemed to think it was stupid to be hungry if you didn’t have to be (she’s the pragmatic one in the family) though I am sure she could have done it if she thought it was warranted.

So for a couple of days I fasted. In the morning we would order room service breakfast and I would watch the kids and bf eating all kind of yummy Egyptian food, Fuul (really good beans with Coriander common in Egypt), Taamiya (Falafel), good bread, cheese, ce rial, and Egyptian versions of European pastries. You’d think it would have been torturous..but it was actually kind of fun an made me feel additionally virtuous abstaining while everyone else stuffed themselves. Also, being in Egypt there were all kinds of fun distractions while they were eating. (Planning the day, figuring out what to wear…)

In fact all in all I would say that fasting (especially in an environment where things are slower paced and I was not asked to do anything requiring quick reflexes or powerful intellect) was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be. By around 4pm (about 2 hours before sunset) I’d start to get a little preoccupied with food–but I found that if I would relax and allow myself to space out in a kind of a smooth low blood sugar coma I could ride the last two hours before sunset pretty easily.

And then at Iftar (the breakfast meal around 6pm) we would feast on all kinds of delicious food..and of course, as anyone who has ever gone without eating for awhile..I felt remarkably grateful for it (sort of the purpose of fasting during Ramadan) in a way that I normally would not, and it all tasted really good. I also discovered though, that I really could not gorge myself after a full day of abstinence the way I thought I would. I may have eaten slightly more than I might normally have at dinner…but not much. Suggesting that the days I fasted would also represent a large decrease in calories. I ended up losing a fair bit of weight.

Frankly, for folks that are interested in losing weight and who can take a day or two off from work with distracting and mostly passive activities-daytime fasting might be a viable option. Obviously–there are health issues that would make this un advisable for some people–but for your average person who’d like to lose a few–I honestly think this might be worth trying.

My tips for anyone who might want to try a daytime fast.

1) Obviously do not do this unless you are in what you consider pretty pique physical health.

2) Be sure you are in places where you are able to sit down quickly and for a long time in case you find that you are dizzy

3) Eat a large protein filled meal just before sun up (called Sohour in Ramadan), have food at the ready to eat immediately at sundown.

4) Perhaps fasting days are not times to make big life decisions–though great for thinking philosophically-your perception will be slightly altered.

5) Screw tradition. Unless you are a practicing muslim, drink water, please.

6) It might be fun to try it with a buddy. Hunger is very bonding. Try not to fight with that buddy while you are fasting.

7) If you get only halfway through the day and are starving and miserable. Have a protein filled snack, or just call it quits. Half day fasting could be fun too.

So now we’re back in the country and right back to work focused on helping you to fit more wellness into your life. My kids are back at school and if you have kids–presumably yours are too. Hooray! Hopefully you have all enjoyed your summer to the utmost and are ready to get back at it–whatever that ‘it’ may be. We look forward to hearing from you! 212-380-1277

The new site will be up by the beginning of October or sooner! Come have a look at it!

Fondly, Alix Florio; President, Beautiful Fitness