Monday, December 29, 2014

Ready to Start Again?

Don't you find just the thought of January exciting? Time to bid farewell to the past year with it's blessings and challenges and turn the calendar to a new page full of invitations and opportunities. 

Healthy living is a wonderful foundation for accomplishing life's goals in a myriad of areas. You are just able to focus better and accomplish more when you are taking good care of your body.

Why not find someone that inspires and encourages you and enlist her to partner with you for our 8 week healthy living competition? 

For details read (or re-read) the FAX and RULES tab above and hop on for 2 months of healthy living. We would love to have you aboard! 

We begin our 8 week challenge January 7. In order to join us you need to:
1. Read the FAQ and RULES tabs of this blog
2. Find a (female) partner
3. E-mail me at with the contact info for you and your partner (e-mail address, cell phone #, snail mail address)
4. Mail me your $40 entry fee at Sandee Spencer 1290 Northridge Drive Longwood FL 32750 (or send it by paypal to 

Note: I spend $50 of the entry fee's as a little bonus to our tech expert. I also keep 10% of the entry fees as my own little reward for running the competition. ALL of the rest of the entry money is used for prize money for participants. I award prizes to the most outstanding duos, the most outstanding individuals and I have a separate category for any stand outs that have less than 10 pounds to lose but are stellar in forging healthy habits. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

8 Tiny Dietary Changes That Can Make A Difference

This week's challenge is coming straight from one of the blog posts of one of my favorite nutrition writers Monica Reinagel. One of the reasons I love Monica’s tips as “Nutrition Diva” is that she is actually a credentialed dietician. In fact my daughter (the dietician) was excited to run into Monica this month at the National Dietetics Meeting in Atlanta.

This particular topic from Monica features easy ways to upgrade the nutritional quality of your diet. She says “I'm not talking about curing your own wild game or grinding your own sprouted flour.”Instead she shares 8 simple tweaks to regular foods and meals that, when practiced consistently, can really make a difference in your overall nutrition.

Let’s look at Monica’s suggestions and see how many of these we can incorporate into our regular routine? Don’t think “weekly challenge” but instead consider “permanent life changes." Personally I actually follow 6 of these all of the time and one often. Guess which one I don’t participate in!

Easy Upgrade #1: Spread Your Bread with Protein
I don't usually eat bread for breakfast but if I do decide to have toast or a bagel, I try to spread it with nut butter instead of butter or cream cheese. That way, at least I'm getting some extra fiber, protein, and healthy fats for the same number of calories.

Easy Upgrade #2: Go Greek
Choose plain Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt and get twice the protein, which usually translates into more time before you get hungry again.
I know Greek yogurt is more expensive than regular yogurt, but because it saves me from needing a mid-morning snack, I figure it all comes out in the wash. 

Easy Upgrade #3: Grate Your Way to Greatness

I don't make muffins or pancakes as often as I used to on the weekends because I'm trying to regulate the amount of sugar in my diet. But when I do haul out the griddle or muffin pan, I also get out the vegetable grater and grate a raw carrot or zucchini or two into the batter for added moistness and a little extra vegetable nutrition. 

 Easy Upgrade #4: Milk it for All It's Worth
If you're making oatmeal or any other hot cereal, use milk or soymilk (personally I prefer hemp or coconut milk) instead of water. Alternatively, you can also stir a scoop of powdered milk or whey protein (and I prefer Pea, hemp or cranberry protein) powder into water. Not only does it make the cereal extra creamy but you also up the ante in terms of protein and calcium. 
 Easy Upgrade #5: Look for Greener Pastures

When choosing salad greens, zero in on the darker varieties. In addition to being more flavorful, they are more nutritious.
I often buy hearts of romaine lettuce - I'm sure you've seen them in the grocery - because they seem to keep so well in the fridge. But if you look at a few packages, you'll see that the lettuce ranges from almost white to dark green. Go for the darkest ones you can find. Likewise, at the salad bar, skip the pale, flavorless lettuce and go for the spring mix, mesclun, and baby spinach. 

Easy Upgrade #6: Roll in the Green
Ordering from an Asian restaurant? Instead of the deep-fried egg rolls, choose lettuce rolls instead. You can also use large leaves of lettuce instead of torillas to make sandwich roll-ups or to stand in for the top slice of bread on a sandwich.

Easy Upgrade #7: Sideline the Fries
Casual restaurant meals often come with a huge pile of fries on the side, because fries are cheap and filling and most people enjoy them. But most restaurants will, if you ask, substitute the vegetable of the day for the fries. Now, I'm not going to lie to you and say I never eat French fries. I do eat them occasionally. But about 80% of the time, I sub in a vegetable for those deep fried ...and that adds up to a lot fewer French fries in my life. 
Easy Upgrade #8: Eat Chocolate (Yes, That's Right)
If you're going to have some chocolate, choose the darkest chocolate you can enjoy. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it contains and the more healthy flavanols. If you're someone who enjoys super dark chocolate, such as those with 70% or higher cacao, that's great. If your tastes run more to milk chocolate, you can still upgrade by choosing a slightly darker chocolate than usual. Try one with 40% cacao. Over time, you might even find that you start to enjoy darker chocolates (and your waistline will thank you).

Our challenge for this week is to incorporate at least one of these healthy living tips into your life every day this week. For every day you do so you can earn 5 bonus points.  I had the questions "Does that mean we can eat chocolate even when it's not our sugar day?" I guess for this week the answer is yes. If you can fit it in your daily calorie allowance you can have a small piece of dark chocolate daily. But please don't have that be the only change you make.  Let's step up many of our daily habits for healthier eating!  

And note: I offer 5 additional bonus points for a total of 40 available this week if you determine a healthy living habit you have either adopted or want to adopt and share it in the comments section below! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Balance is the Key to Life

Just yesterday I was helping a friend pack her moving van and three times I tripped as I failed to notice her STEP DOWN family room (yes I am a slow learner). Luckily I was able to right myself and keep from falling to the ground and injuring myself.


Important for Fall Prevention

Each year many people incur injury due to falls. Fall-related injuries can have a serious impact on a person's life. Balance exercises, along with certain strength exercises, can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body's position, whether you are moving or still. 

To get all of the benefits of physical activity we need to make sure and incorporate all four types of exercise -- 1. Endurance 2. Strength, 3. Balance  and 4.Flexibility. This week we are going to work on balance.

Please read carefully through the entire post. I list the more challenging balance exercises at the end. Choose carefully something that will challenge you to increase your core balance. 

Beginner's Balance Exercises to Try

The 5 exercises that follow are aimed at improving your balance and your lower body strength. They include
  1. standing on one foot
  2. walking heel to toe
  3. balance walk
  4. back leg raises
  5. side leg raises

Anywhere, Anytime

You can do balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to if you become unsteady. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support will help you work on your balance safely. 
Balance exercises overlap with the lower body strength exercises, which also can improve your balance. Do the strength exercises -- back leg raises, side leg raises, and hip extensions -- two or more days per week, but not on any two days in a row. 

Modify as You Progress 

The exercises which follow can improve your balance even more if you modify them as you progress. Start by holding on to a sturdy chair for support. To challenge yourself, try holding on to the chair with only one hand; then with time, you can try holding on with only one finger, then no hands. If you are steady on your feet, try doing the exercise with your eyes closed.

Safety Tips

  • Have a sturdy chair or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
  • Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise.

Standing on One Foot

Demonstration of standing on one foot while balancing on a chair. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance by standing on one foot.
  1. Stand on one foot behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance.
  2. Hold position for up to 10 seconds. 
  3. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg. 

Walking Heel to Toe

Demonstration of walking heel to toe. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance by walking heel to toe.
  1. Position the heel of one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch. 
  2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. 
  3. Take a step. Put your heel just in front of the toe of your other foot. 
  4. Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance Walk

Demonstration of the balance walk. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Improve your balance with the balance walk.
  1. Raise arms to sides, shoulder height. 
  2. Choose a spot ahead of you and focus on it to keep you steady as you walk. 
  3. Walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. 
  4. As you walk, lift your back leg. Pause for 1 second before stepping forward. 
  5. Repeat for 20 steps, alternating legs.

Back Leg Raises

Demonstration of back leg raises. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Strengthen your buttocks and lower back with back leg raises.
  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly. 
  2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Try not to lean forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent.
  3. Hold position for 1 second. 
  4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg. 
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times. 
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Side Leg Raises

Demonstration of side leg raises. - Click to enlarge in new window.
Strengthen your hips, thighs, and buttocks with side leg raises.
  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly. 
  2. Breathe out and slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep your back straight and your toes facing forward. The leg you are standing on should be slightly bent. 
  3. Hold position for 1 second. 
  4. Breathe in as you slowly lower your leg.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times. 
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times with other leg. 
  7. Repeat 10 to 15 more times with each leg.

Yoga standing balance poses are difficult because they require leg strength and upper body flexibility in addition to the ability to balance on one leg. Balancing poses also require core strength, so you will also be working the abdominals with the series.

 - © Barry Stone

1. Awkward Chair 

1.  Bend the knees until the thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
2. Keep the butt low.
3. Bring the arms up towards the ceiling.
4. Bring a slight back bend into the upper back.
5. Hold 5-10 breaths
Beginners: Work on bring the thighs closer and closer to parallel to the floor.
Advanced: Try this variation: Bring the hands into a prayer position at the heart. Twist to the right side, bringing the left elbow outside the right knee. Stay low in the pose and keep the knees pressing together. Come back to center and then do the left side.
 - © Barry Stone

2. Eagle Pose

1. Shift your weight onto the left leg.
2. Bend the right leg, lifting the foot from the floor and cross your right thigh over your left.
3. Hook the right foot around the left calf.
4. Bring the arms out in front.
5. Cross the left arm over the right and bring the palms to touch.
6. Lift the elbows while keeping the shoulders sliding down the back.
7. Hold 5-10 breaths.
8. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: If you have trouble with the balance, rest your backside on a wall. If you can't hook the lifted foot around the calf, put a block under the foot instead.
Advanced: Start to come into a forward bend, bringing the elbows in front of the knees. Bring the thumbs to your third eye.
 - © Barry Stone

3. Tree Pose - 

1. Come to a standing pose
2. Feel your weight equally on all four corners of both feet.
3. Begin to shift the weight over to the right foot, lifting the left foot off the floor.
4. Bend the left knee, bringing the sole of the left foot high onto the inner right thigh.
5. Press the foot into the thigh and the thigh back into the foot.
6. Try not to let the right hip jut out. Keep both hips squared towards the front.
7. Focus on something that doesn't move to help you keep your balance.
8. Repeat the move while standing on the left foot.
Beginners: If you cannot bring the left foot high inside the right thigh, bring it lower on the right leg -- but be careful to avoid placing the left foot directly on the right knee.
Use the wall for balance if necessary.
Advanced: Bring the arms up towards the ceiling with the palms touching. Open the arms out to side.
Try closing the eyes and see if you can stay balanced.

 - © Barry Stone

4. King Dancer Pose - Natarajasana

1. Shift your weight onto the right leg.

2. Bend the left knee and grasp the inside of the left foot with the left hand.

3. Start to bring the left foot and the right arm up toward the ceiling as you bring your torso forward.
4. Hold 5-10 breaths.
5. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: Fix your gaze on something that doesn't move so that you don’t lose the balance.
Advanced: Go for the full version of this pose.
Shift your grasp on the raised foot so that your arm is coming straight up toward the ceiling with a bend at the elbow coming back towards the foot. This requires coming into a deeper backbend.
Once you have the foot grasped with one hand, move the other arm into a parallel position and take ahold of the same raised foot.
Balance and deepen the backbend.

 - © Barry Stone

5. Warrior III 

1. From Warrior I position, bring the hands onto your hips.
2. Bring your weight forward into your front foot as you gently kick up your back leg.
3. At the same time, bring the torso forward until it is parallel to the floor.
4. Keep the neck relaxed, as if it's the natural extension of the spine.
5. Keep both hips pointing toward the floor as you bring the back leg in line with your body.

6. Flex the raised foot and keep the muscles of the raised leg actively engaged.
7. Bring the arms back along your sides.
8. Repeat on the other side.
Beginners: Do the pose at the wall. You can either face the wall and bring your arms outstretched in front of you with your hands on the wall or turn around and bring the lifted back foot onto the wall.
Advanced: Try another arm variation. Bring the arms outstretched in front of you. 

So your challenge for this week is to attempt 5 different balance exercises each day that will help you to improve your balance. These exercises can be from the list above or others that you are familiar with. (And as in all exercise challenges you can only earn points 6 days of the week for a total of 30 challenge points)