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Things I’m Grateful For

09/22/2010

Beautiful Readers,

In my last blog I mentioned that you can’t process fear and gratitude at the same time. Apparently, your brain won’t let you. Therefore, I recommend that you pick your favorite one of those emotions and focus on that.

But sometimes when your dog rips up your couch and you’re sure you’ll never find a new one that fits in your apartment, or the dress you were planning to buy for weeks, suddenly isn’t in the window anymore–or something worse than either of these, arises–it can be hard to think of things to be grateful for.

Counting your blessings when you’re deep in it is an art, for sure, but if you have your list at the ready and you practice refocusing your panicky nature to things you enjoy more, I know from personal experience that you’ll get better at it.

So just to get you started, here’s my abridged list of things for which I feel grateful:

All kinds of dance classes
Living near the subway
Healthy and reasonably well adjusted children
That womens fashions have changed in such a way that I don’t have to wear a corset or girdle and that sweatpants, sneakers, and sweatshirts can be worn outside of the gym
Rain
Snowflakes
Salsa playing out of car windows
Steel drum in the subway (far more rare now than it was in my NY childhood)
Oil painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Coffee (even bad coffee)
My imagination
The bond humans share of tirelessly wanting to have their world improve
Romance
Poetry
Really good indie rock
Netflix
Money (having some–no particular amount of it-just like the stuff overall)
People who give well meaning advice
The awesome variety of opinions and points of view about what matters in life.

Now you try!

Thanks for reading,

Alix Florio
President; beautiful fitness

What, me worry?

09/16/2010

Beautiful Readers,

worry. Fret. Stress. Panic. Fear. Concern. Consternation. Agitation. Anxiety. Angst. Nervous. Tense. Like Eskimos have words for snow, we have a whole vocabulary of words to describe different ways of feeling uptight. This means one of two things. Either we love this stuff so much we preoccupy ourselves with it, or we spend a whole lot of time this way and we are hoping that if we can define it, name it, and tell others about it, we might get some help.

I’m guessing it’s both. We love the rush of instant energy that nervousness brings because it makes us feel powerful in situations where we feel powerless or afraid of something or someone. It’s the juice that gets us mammals going when we need to flee- so really stress is our friend in many ways. And since I always Ike to try to help a little in this blog- that’s my first bit of advice. Accept that stress is totally natural and that a healthy stress reaction is 100 percent normal, and not something you should try to eliminate. (as an aside, there are NO parts of you that should be eliminated).

Next, I’d wager that unless you are on an active campaign to keep your stress situation-appropriate, I’d bet that yours is getting play in circumstances where it may not belong. Late for work? Stress. Said something dumb? Stress. Those are examples of situations where stress is common but inappropriate.

Obviously a fight or flight reaction doesn’t help you apologize to your boss any better, or take back something you’ve said more effectively, if anything it leaves you tongue tied and floundering. But yet, it feel so right at the time.

Could it be that your feelings are betraying you in some situations? Im afraid they are. If you remember that our instincts are designed for much more primitive environments than 2010 would allow for, it makes sense. Our experiences may take place in Gogo Sushi but out instincts were honed in primordial jungles.

The real life stress situations like the examples mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg too. Humans are remarkable relative to other mammals in many ways, and one of the coolest ways is that we have supurb imaginations about the future. Its the thing that allows us to build rocketships and mix chocolate and mint in gelato.

So guess where most people spend most of their stress-energy? In total fantasy. Sure, if you have this big brain and a highly sensitive escape response why not have some fun? Bored at home? Why not worry about whether or not you’ll have thighs like your mom? Bored at work? Hmm….maybe you’ll get downsized. Or maybe no one likes you. Or maybe you blew your chance at promotion when you told that slightly off color joke last week? Not so bored anymore, right?

Statistics suggest that 90 percent of the stuff that we worry about never really happens at all. So why worry? Because we don’t believe that statistic. Try this exercise- for a day or two try writing down anything you worry might happen…and see if it ever comes true. I’d bet most of it doesn’t, and as much as our brains may prefer the comfort of the dark ages, I also think they can be trained and taught-so maybe a little proof on paper that a lot of that future negative outcome predicting is just, well, wrong, can help.

Also, I recently read that the part of your brain that is responsible for fear does double duty as the center for feelings of appreciation-and here’s the trick-it can’t do both at once. So maybe next time you find yourself thinking through some unlikely disaster try to refocus to something you feel grateful for. Aunt Linda’s apple pie instead of monsters in the closet.

Unless you’re in the mood for monsters, and then, run with it. And in some ways, which is scarier? The idea that there are monsters lurking, or the idea that the world is monster-free and that you are creating most of the monsters yourself?

Thanks for reading,

Alix Florio
President
Beautiful Fitness

Eat Like You Mean It

09/01/2010

Beautiful readers,

Quick, what’s the difference between snacking on Potato Chips during your commute and snacking on take-out Chana Masala?

Twenty two dollars and seventy five cents. And maybe a ghee stain on your shirt. And about 30 percent daily value of iron, vit. A, vit C and protein.

If 10 dollars more for chick peas instead of Lays and a potential 12.75 for dry cleaning instead of brushing a few crumbs off your blouse seems like a lot of extra effort, then the rigors of eating well will shock you, because the extra cash and mess is just the tip of the iceberg.

But then, you knew that clean living would require commitment. Nothing in life worth having is free, and eating wholesomely, is no exception. The rewards? More consistent energy, better skin, and maybe a longer life with fewer diseases. Net, worth it.

Though if you have ever been on a road trip in the United States and tried to avoid white flour– you probably lost, involuntary, anywhere from 8-20 pounds depending on the duration of your trip. Or if you have ever been to a mall food court looking for a lowish calorie, low fat, low sodium, nutritionally balanced-ish meal, you may have ended up buying “sides” at more than three different purveyors and may have totally forgone protein.

In a recent class I took, full of pretty normal people, I realized that in a consistent effort to eat well I had truly become one of those food freaks I used to make fun of. The morning of the first day of our 8 hour class I unpacked my snacks. Yogurt, green tea, nuts, dark chocolate, and put them where I could get to them easily. So from day one, my desk area looked like an outpost of Whole Foods.

On our first break, I’d return from down the block with hummus and roasted vegetable sandwiches on seeded multigrain rolls or messy whole wheat tortillas with eggs with spinach, while tidier others neatly enjoyed compact little egg mcmuffin like things and granola bars. I dined like Falstaff in a room full of Laura Petries.

I even risked ostracization for my dietary convictions. During a break some of the ladies bonded over their interest in different brands of popular cupcakes, but when it was my turn to share my girlish love of creamy white frosting, I admitted that I had never bought one, nor wanted to, nor craved them. I was instantly ashamed of my food geekyness. I was not invited to lunch.

But then, as a good friend recently reminded me, eating well, though challenging, is like camping as opposed to sitting in your climate controlled home…one involves bugs, dirt, carrying things, building things, and vulnerability to weather, whereas the other is easy and effortless. But yet, because of those challenges, not despite them, people still like camping, even though they may not be absolutely sure why.

Eating wholesome food, like camping, just feels good, and thats a good enough reason to do most things in life. Perhaps it allows us to connect to our more primitive nature, which we are frequently asked to deny, allowing us to revel in the disorder of an authentically un-mcmuffiny world.

And despite a little fleeting social friction, my dietary vigilance shares good company with two groups of people I really admire for their burning desire to live well: old folks working to prolong their lives so they can do more of whatever they like to do, and the grateful survivors of various diseases who have honestly faced their own mortality. People who, like really, want to live as much as possible. Just try to tell them that their lunch should be neater.

 

Thanks for reading,
Alix Florio
President
Beautiful Fitness