5 Things That Make a Good Pilates Teacher

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1) Likes Working With People:  Let's face it, 90% of being any kind of teacher is interacting with those your teaching.  Even more so being a Watson Method Pilates teacher, because many of our clients are coming to us for rehab issues and you need to be able to communicate about what feels good and doesn't to their body. 

2) Is Flexible:  Not Literally.  In our job, we constantly have to adapt and roll with different situations.  For example, I once had a class when 3 out of 5 people arrived with three totally different injuries.  One had a knee injury; one had a shoulder injury, and one had a bulging disk injury.  In the Pilates teacher world, that is your worst nightmare because the people with lower body injuries can do arm and ab exercises, but the people with back and shoulder injuries can't.  We got through the class with surprising ease, but only because I could adapt really quickly with the knowledge base I had to make a full hour class.  All of our awesome trainees and teachers in the Watson Method are taught and have to memorize hundreds of exercises so that they can switch gears in just a few seconds to accommodate everybody.   

3) Is Accountable:  The Watson Method Pilates training is a full 500 hour program, 450 of those hours (observing, student, teaching, and assisting hours) are on your own time.  So you have to be dedicated to complete the program.  This carries over into your teaching skills because you develop into an individual teacher that forms personal relationships with the clients.  And you want to see your client succeed.  

4) Likes (Maybe Even Loves) Anatomy:  We are not Physical Therapists, but we are helping people that have injuries.  In some ways that is more of a challenge because we have to use words to help people understand the movement of their own bodies since we can't manipulate them like a Physical Therapist.  Our trainees and teachers have to take a lot of anatomy.  This enables them to be fully equipped to communicate those actions to clients.  Some of our teachers go on to work with health insurance patients so we need to be able to communicate intelligently with health care professionals.    

5) Is Creative:  Pilates teachers design their own classes, so you have to have a creativeness to make it interesting for your clients.  Teachers have several hundred exercises that they must piece it together in a way that is organized and fun for clients.

P.S. Our Trainees and Teachers are some of the best trained and most awesome in town.  We fully support each other's success and become like a family.  If you're interested in becoming a Watson Method Pilates Teacher, we invite you to learn more about the program from any of our trainees and teachers.


Author: Vanessa Croessmann at VeganFamilyRecipes.com

PREP TIME20 mins        TOTAL TIME20 mins

Serves: 8


  • 4 Medjool Dates
  • 1 cup Macadamia Nuts (raw, unsalted)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 cups Coconut Cream (see notes)
  • ⅔ of a cup Cashews (soaked in water for 10-15 minutes)
  • 4 tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 2 Medjool Dates
  • 1 cup fresh Blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon Lime Zest (optional)
  • ½ cup fresh Blueberries (optional)


  1. Line a 7 inch springform with parchment paper.
  2. Place macadamia nuts, 4 dates and pinch of salt in food processor and pulse until a sticky mass forms.
  3. Press macadamia crust into bottom of springform and half way up the sides using fingers. place in freezer while you prepare the filling.
  4. Clean out food processor and place coconut cream, cashews, lime juice, and maple syrup in it. Pulse and process until mixture is smooth.
  5. Remove springform from freezer and pour lemon cheesecake filling into the springform. Place springform in freezer again until filling in slightly firm (about 10 minutes).
  6. Clean out food processor again and place blueberries and 2 dates in it. Pulse again until smooth (blueberry skin will still be present, this is OK). Carefully spread blueberry topping over filling in the springform.
  7. Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight until filling is firm.
  8. When cheesecake is firm and ready to serve garnish with fresh blueberries and lime zest.


1) Cashews can be soaked in water for 10-15 minutes first to make filling extra smooth. Make sure to dry off excess water from them before placing them in food processor. 
2) The cheesecake recipe calls for 2 cups Coconut cream. This can be store bought coconut cream. Alternatively, you can place 2 cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, then scoop the thick creamy part out of the can. Depending on the coconut milk brand, either 1 or 2 cans of coconut milk will yield 2 cups coconut cream.
3) Blueberry lime cheesecake can also be placed in the freezer to help firm the filling up quickly. I find that it takes a long time for it to thaw to the point of the cheesecake being nice and smooth. However, if you are planning on transporting the cheesecake then having it frozen works wonders. 
4) Cheesecake will keep in refrigerator for up to 4 days.
5) Crust can easily be made with other nuts as well. Almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts work well.


Serving size: ⅛ of cheesecake Calories: 343 Fat: 30.2 g Carbohydrates: 18.2 g Sugar: 9.1 g Fiber: 3.4 g Protein: 4.4 g Cholesterol: 0 mg

Greek Veggie Balls with Tahini Lemon Sauce (Vegan)


  • Veggie Balls:
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained (or 3 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs (may use gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup nut meal (i.e., almond meal, hazelnut meal, or peanut meal)
  • 5 large Medjool dates, pitted, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • Pinch sea salt (optional)
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • Tahini Lemon Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • Water, as needed
  • Smoked paprika

Makes 7 servings. Yield 28 veggie balls.

Per Serving (veggie balls and tahini sauce): 385 calories, 17 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 50 g carbohydrate, 12 g protein, 11 g dietary fiber, 70 mg sodium.

Prep Time:60 minutes

Cook time:30 minutes


  1. Place drained black-eyed peas in large mixing bowl and mash with potato masher to achieve a smooth texture with some lumps.
  2. Stir in onion, garlic, flax, breadcrumbs, nut meal, dates, tomatoes, parsley, fennel seeds, oregano, pepper, and salt, if using. Mix well.
  3. Add lemon juice to moisten and mix well to create a slightly moist mixture.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make Tahini Lemon Sauce. Whisk together tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and black pepper. Add enough water to make a smooth sauce, according to your desired texture. (A thicker sauce is preferable served on the side with appetizer veggie balls, while a thinner sauce is preferable served on top of an entrée serving of veggie balls.)
  6. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Roll veggie balls into 28 golf-size balls with your hands, and place in skillet. Cook balls, turning regularly, so that all sides are browned, for about 15 minutes. Remove, place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Add remaining olive oil to skillet and cook remaining veggie balls using same technique.
  7. Serve with Tahini Lemon Sauce garnished with smoked paprika.

About the Author
Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor.

Colon and Rectal Cancers Rising in Young People

Originally published by Roni Caryn Rabin  THE NEW YORK TIMES FEB 28, 2017

Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend.

The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with nearly 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But a new study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year found that colorectal cancer rates, which had dropped steadily for people born between 1890 and 1950, have been increasing for every generation born since 1950. Experts aren’t sure why.

Rectal cancers are rising particularly sharply, far faster than cancers in other parts of the large intestine or colon. The American Cancer Society estimates about 13,500 new cases of colon and rectal cancers will be diagnosed in Americans under 50 this year, with more than 95,500 cases of colon cancer and nearly 40,000 cases of rectal cancer in all age groups.

“People born in 1990, like my son, have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer” compared to the risk someone born in 1950 faced at a comparable age, said Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society and the lead author of the new report, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Tuesday. And though the absolute risk is still small in younger people, she said, “They carry the risk forward with them as they age.”

It is the upward trend that is worrisome: The risk of colon cancer for individuals who were born in 1990 was five per million people in that birth group, up from three per million at the same stage of life for those born in 1950. And the risk of rectal cancer for those born in 1990 was four per million, up from 0.9 per million for those born in 1950.

Dr. Thomas Weber, a professor of surgery at SUNY Downstate Medical Center who has served on the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and who was not involved in the new study, said the latest research confirms the problem is real and increasing. “There is no mistaking these dramatic increases, especially for rectal cancers,” he said, noting that the number of new colorectal cancers among people under 50 each year exceeds the total number of new cases of less common cancers like Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Young people with colorectal cancer run the added risk of getting a diagnosis later in the course of their disease, when the cancer may be less treatable, because doctors typically don’t consider the diagnosis at such a young age. Kirsten Freiborg, who is now 27, complained to doctors repeatedly about having blood in her stool when she was in college, but was told she had internal hemorrhoids. She was finally given a diagnosis of advanced colon cancer a month before her graduation, when she was 22.

Ms. Freiborg’s mother, a registered nurse, “kept pushing” for more testing, Ms. Freiborg said, and eventually convinced physicians to send her for a procedure called a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which detected a large tumor in Ms. Freiborg’s colon.

“I still remember getting the phone call from the doctor who did the procedure, who was completely shocked, and said ‘I would never have guessed that a 22-year-old would have had cancer,’” said Ms. Freiborg, who was treated with surgery and chemotherapy and is now cancer-free.

Most colorectal cancers are considered a disease of aging, so any increase in young adults, especially when rates of the disease are on the wane in older people, is both baffling and worrisome, experts say.

Colorectal cancer rates have declined over all in recent years thanks to widespread use of screening tests like colonoscopies, which can detect precancerous polyps that can be removed before cancer develops. These screening tests have not been considered practical for a younger population, and while other less invasive screening tests exist, doctors are hoping improved methods that will be easier to administer will be developed.

Experts also attribute lowering cancer rates to changes in risk factors, particularly lifestyle changes like smoking cessation and healthier diets. Diets that include more fruits, vegetables and fiber and less red and processed meat are linked to lower colorectal cancer risk.

Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are also associated with colorectal cancer, as are heavy alcohol use and chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and Type 2 diabetes, all of which are on the rise. But experts are not entirely convinced these are the only reasons colorectal cancer is increasing among young people. While rates of cancers tied to human papillomavirus, or HPV, have been rising in recent years, that virus causes mainly cancers of the cervix, anus or the back of the throat, and only a small number of cases of rectal cancer.

“The honest truth is nobody knows 100 percent why there is an increase,” said Dr. Mohamed E. Salem, an assistant professor at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. He said that he is older than about 60 percent of his patients — and he is 42. “It’s hard to blame it on obesity alone. We suspect there is also something else going on.”

Dr. Jason A. Zell, an associate professor of oncology at the University of California, Irvine, who did a study in 2014 that found increasing rates of colorectal cancer among adults ages 20 to 39 in California, said the big challenge is how to shape health policy. “By now we know the rates are going up, it’s been reported several times,” Dr. Zell said. “Now the question is, what do we do?”

The latest analysis is the largest and most detailed to date, looking at large cancer registries reporting on nearly half a million cases dating back to 1974 to assess rates by five-year age groups and birth cohorts.

It found that in adults ages 20 to 39, colon cancer rates have increased by 1 percent to 2.4 percent a year since the mid-1980s, while rates declined over all among those 55 and older. Rates among adults 40 to 54 increased by 0.5 percent to 1.3 percent a year since the mid-1990s.

Rectal cancer incidence rates among adults in their 20s increased even more sharply, rising by 3.2 percent a year from 1974 to 2013. And while rectal cancer rates have declined over all among people 55 and older since 1974, rates in people 50 to 54 increased between 1989-90 and 2012-13.

By 2012-13, nearly 30 percent of all rectal cancers were being diagnosed in people under age 55, compared with 15 percent of all rectal cancers being found in this age group in 1989-90, the study reported.

Many patients are so young at the time of diagnosis that they have not been screened by colonoscopy, which is recommended beginning at age 50 for people who are at average risk. The risk is higher among African-Americans, and the American College of Gastroenterology recommends they start screening at 45. Those with colorectal cancer may experience warning signs, but the symptoms are typically vague, including general digestive complaints like diarrhea or constipation, cramping and abdominal pain.

Tara Anderson, a 40-year-old mother of four from Bowie, Md., had chronic constipation for years before seeking help at a free-standing emergency room clinic in 2015 because she was in so much pain. There, a scan detected a tumor in her colon “the size of a tennis ball,” she said.

A gastroenterologist who examined her a year earlier merely told her to increase her intake of dietary fiber to ease her constipation, she said. Fortunately, she said, her disease had not spread.

For Chris Roberts, who was 29 when he found out he had colon cancer, the first symptoms were weight loss and loss of appetite.

“I lost about 20 pounds and I wasn’t really trying to lose weight, but I just didn’t enjoy eating,” said Mr. Roberts, now 30. He had just moved to New York City and did not have a regular doctor, but was fortunate enough to find a doctor who was determined to make a diagnosis quickly and ordered several blood tests and an ultrasound scan that found tumors that had already spread to Mr. Roberts’s liver.

He has been treated with chemotherapy and had surgery in January to remove parts of his colon and liver. “I definitely want to get the word out: If you have symptoms that may be linked to cancer, colorectal cancer or any kind, get it checked out,” he said.


Short Meditation to Savor Every Piece of Chocolate

As you select a piece of chocolate to enjoy, notice what flavors and textures you are craving.

Become aware of any feelings of guilt. Set guilt aside so you can be fully present.

Sit down to savor your choice without distractions.

As you unwrap the chocolate, listen to the sounds and notice the aroma.

Take a small bite, then pause. Become aware of the textures and flavors on your tongue.

As you begin to chew, notice how the flavors, textures and aromas change.

Notice pleasure.

When you have fully experienced your bite, swallow, then pause to notice how long the flavor lingers.

Slowly repeat until your treat is finished.

Flourless Red Velvet Cake with Beets (Paleo)

Gluten-free and paleo, this honey-sweetened flourless red velvet cake gets its color from a surprising source: beets!

 Prep Time 10 minutes

 Cook Time 27 minutes

 Passive Time 30 minutes


  • 8 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate melted
  • 15 oz can beets drained (can also use steamed beets)
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (+ 1 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 cup raw honey divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup mini Enjoy Life! semi-sweet chips
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups fresh berries
  • 1/4 cup crushed walnuts (or pistachios or marcona almonds)
  • 1 bunch Fresh mint (for garnish)


  1. Heat oven to 350ºF.

  2. In a blender, combine 6 oz. melted unsweetened bakers chocolate, beets, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, vinegar, 2/3 cup honey and salt. Blend until pureed. If adding in chocolate chips, fold into batter.

  3. Pour into two 8-inch round baking pans, which have been lined with parchment paper.

  4. Bake for 25-27 minutes, or until the center of each cake springs back when touched lightly. Cool completely.

  5. Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in 2-3 tbsp of honey, or to taste.

  6. Spread onto cakes, creating a 2-layer cake with cream between the layers and on top. Decorate with fresh berries, nuts and mint leaves.

  7. If desired, melt together remaining 2 oz chocolate, 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1/4 cup raw honey, and drizzle over cake for extra chocolate flavor.


To make this dessert dairy-free:

Place 4 cans of full fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When ready to make cream, remove coconut milk from fridge, open and gently scoop the coconut cream from the top of the can. Discard the watery remains or the better option—use them in a smoothie later.

Transfer coconut cream to a stand mixer and whip on high until light and fluffy. Add honey and whip until well mixed.

Frost cake with this coconut cream, instead of heavy cream. And enjoy!



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 7 bell peppers, 1 cored, seeded and chopped; tops removed and reserved from remaining 6 then cored and seeded
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 pound baby spinach
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions 
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add carrots and chopped peppers, cook until just softened, then add parsley and spinach (in batches, if needed). Let spinach wilt then stir in cinnamon, cumin and cooked quinoa and toss gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and cashews and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Set aside to let filling cool until just warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking pan; set aside.

Divide quinoa mixture evenly among remaining 6 bell peppers, gently packing it down and making sure to fully fill each pepper. Top each pepper with its reserved top then arrange them upright in prepared pan. Cover snugly with foil and bake, checking halfway through, until peppers are tender and juicy and filling is hot throughout, about 1 hour. Transfer to plates and serve.

Nutritional Info: 

Per Serving: Serving size: 1 pepper, 260 calories (90 from fat), 10g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 150mg sodium, 36g carbohydrates, (7 g dietary fiber, 6g sugar), 9g protein.

The Single Best Way to Lose Weight (Psst...It Is Not a Diet).

It's scientifically proven: The key isn't just what you eat, it's what you write.

If you're anything like me, you have no idea how much food you inhale on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to multitasking, grabbing grub on the go, parking myself in front of the TV while munching, and various other weight-loss crimes, I often barely register that I'm eating. Take this weekend: I was totally oblivious that I was making birthday cupcakes for my mother-in law and am guilty of licking all the spoons, bowls, and every last drop of cake batter and frosting...ok Zabella helped, but just a little.  It's tough to watch every mouthful you eat, even if you're an expert. Researchers at Louisiana State University asked dietitians to estimate their daily caloric intake — and even the professionals lowballed the number by 10 percent. That may explain why it's so hard to shed pounds, no matter how good the plan is.

But there's a simple solution: Keep a food diary. Studies show that a journal doesn't just aid weight loss — it turbo-charges it. When researchers from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research followed more than 2,000 dieters who were encouraged to record meals and snacks, they found that the single best predictor of whether a participant would drop weight was whether the person kept a food diary. It trumped exercise habits, age, and body mass index. The number of pounds people lost was directly related to the number of days they wrote in their log. (It's no coincidence that Weight Watchers, one of the most successful diet programs, asks participants to track what they eat.)

Here are five more reasons to start a journal today — even if you swore off diaries in middle school.

1. You'll get a reality check about how many calories you consume.

Americans typically underestimate their daily intake by about 25 percent, reports nutritionist Carrie Latt Wiatt, author of Portion Savvy. The situation gets even more complicated when you eat out. In a 2006 study led by Cornell University, 105 diners in fast-food restaurants were asked how many calories were in their orders. For the small items, almost everyone guessed correctly; for the larger orders, the diners underestimated the calories by a whopping 38 percent. It may be an issue of perception, says study author Brian Wansink, Ph.D. The larger the quantity, the harder it is to make an accurate guess — the same is true for distances and heights.

Even professionals can be tricked by hefty portion sizes. When an NYU researcher asked 200 dietitians to estimate the calorie count of four popular restaurant dishes, the experts lowballed the number for each by a whopping 250 to 700 calories.

So stop assuming and start calculating. A good manual, like the classic Calorie King Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, makes it easy by giving you the calorie counts and fat grams for a huge number of foods. Or try nutritiondata.com, which also lists the stats for many foods.

2. You'll cut back on between-meal munching.

Make a mental checklist of what you ate yesterday. Sure, you can probably remember breakfast, lunch, and dinner — but what about that mini Snickers you snatched from your coworker's stash? Or that spoonful of mashed potatoes you took off your husband's plate?

It's easy to overlook bites, licks, and tastes (known as "BLTs" to professionals). But that's a huge mistake — there are 25 calories, on average, in each mouthful. Translation: Six little bites a day add up to around 15 extra pounds a year.

"I remember one client who was keeping a diary and couldn't understand why she wasn't losing weight," says Bethany Thayer, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "We were discussing the problem when she took out a peppermint. I asked her how many she ate every day, and she said, ‘A bag.' They're nine calories each, but the whole bag is several hundred."

Writing everything down can also help you make smarter food choices. If you often order a Starbucks Grande Dulce de Leche Latte, entering the data will bring you face-to-face with the fact that your beloved drink packs 440 calories, versus 23 calories for the same-size regular coffee with milk.

3. You'll discover where your diet detours.

"I thought I ate a lot of vegetables — it seemed like I was constantly cooking spinach, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts," says Melissa Smith, a 32-year-old mom from Omaha who's been keeping a food diary for the past 18 months. "But looking back over a few weeks of my journal, I was surprised to realize that I was only eating veggies once or twice a week." So she made salads a regular part of dinner and noticed that it helped her eat less of her entrée. Her analysis and follow-up action paid off: She's lost more than 27 pounds.

A balanced diet is the key to weight loss, says Suzanne Farrell, R.D., who owns Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver. "Whole grains, low-fat dairy, green vegetables, orange veggies, beans, nuts — science shows that we need to eat these regularly to reach a healthy body weight. So when I flip through my clients' journals, I always look for what I'm not seeing."

To find out how many servings of each food group you should be eating, go to mypyramid.gov. This tool will calculate the correct portions based on your age, gender, height, weight, and level of physical activity. It'll also tell you the number of calories you should aim for daily to lose weight.

4. You'll learn why you pig out.

Experts suggest that, to help break bad habits, you record not only what you eat, but the circumstances that prompt you to eat. For example, maybe you indulge in more sweets at work because you sit close to the vending machine. Maybe you have a milkshake several times a week because you pass Wendy's on the way home. Or maybe every time you worry about money, you retreat into the kitchen for chips.

When you begin to notice these patterns, you can figure out ways to change them. If the vending machine is a constant temptation, stock your desk drawers with fruit and granola bars. If you can't resist a fast-food sign, MapQuest a new route to work. If you eat when you're under pressure, steer clear of snacks and take a short walk instead (it's a scientifically proven stress buster).

Another bonus: "When you increase awareness of what's going into your mouth," says Thayer, "you'll feel fuller sooner than if you were just mindlessly munching."

5. You'll see real results — quickly.

Your food diary can be as revealing as the one you kept in fifth grade. For example, to get a glimpse into how much you've improved your diet, compare the entries in week one (Twinkie-filled) to week four or five (ideally, veggie-filled). You can also discover which decisions translated into pounds lost — for instance, that week you had fish for dinner twice might've helped you lose weight.

Food journals also let you give yourself credit where credit is due (personally, I reward myself with a gold star each day I resist eating candy). And that positive reinforcement is essential for shedding pounds.

How to Write Off Pounds: A Cheat Sheet to Get Your Food Diary Started

Choose Your Medium

If you're using pen and paper, buy a regular spiral notebook. Or go for a pre-organized book like the DietMinder. Computer addicts should check out journal apps, such as myfitnesspal. 

Start Recording

The crucial info to write down: the time you ate, what you ate, and how much you ate. Make a habit of jotting notes right after you eat. "If you wait until the end of the day, it's too easy to leave things out," warns Suzanne Farrell, R.D. Tracking your diet online? Remember to take paper with you to restaurants, so you can write down every ingredient and calculate its nutritional content afterward.

You may also want to invest in measuring cups — they'll help you learn what a one-and-a-half-cup portion looks like (it's a lot less than you think) — as well as a calorie-counter book and a calculator. Armed with these tools, you can track your calories like a nutritionist would.

Get Personal

Customize your diary so it reflects the info that's most useful to you. For example, if you're someone who eats whenever food is in front of you, create columns in your journal to rate how hungry you were before and afterward. If you snack your way through hard days, add a column to describe how you were feeling when you ate. Trying to figure out when you're most drawn to junk food? Record where you were when you indulged and what was going on at the time. Also, if you're trying to break a specific habit, like scarfing down ice cream at night, create a column for that, so you can give yourself a star for each day you resist the urge.

Be Honest

Include every single bite, lick, and taste (anything larger than a crumb counts). And don't forget to keep track of your sips. Even the most diligent diarists often forget to include the glass of white wine they had at dinner (120 calories) and their 3 p.m. can of Coke (155 calories).

Find Your Favorites

Counting calories is easier for creatures of habit: If you have a bowl of cereal for breakfast almost every morning or a turkey sandwich three times a week, you won't have to look up the number each time.

Keep Your Diary Close

"I'm forgetful, so I always need to put the journal where I can see it — on my kitchen table, on my desk at work. I carry it a lot in my hand, too, as a reminder," says Melissa Smith, 32, of Omaha, who lost 25 pounds keeping a food diary.

You can also try this trick from Maryellen Mealey, 42, of Chicago, who lost big (188 pounds) keeping a journal: "I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't eat anything unless I wrote it down first. It's obsessive, but I'm a mindless snacker and putting everything in the book really helped me be more conscious," she says.

Examine the Evidence

No matter how diligent you are, a food log won't help in the behavior-changing department if you don't analyze it. At night, sit down and calculate how many calories you consumed. Tally up what food groups you're eating, and make adjustments. (A big plus of online tools is that they do a lot of the analysis for you, totaling everything with a click of a button and often giving you charts to show what you can improve.)

You may also want to consult a registered dietitian. A professional may see things in your diary that you don't (cost: usually $50 to $300 for an initial consultation). A two-year study from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle showed that participants who consulted a dietitian had better success keeping off weight than those who followed their usual diet.

Reward Yourself

"I read that it takes 28 days to build a habit," says Mealey. "So when I have a new goal — like eating veggies more often — I do it for a month, then treat myself by shopping or going to a movie with a friend. Rewards give me an incentive to keep going."

New Year Black Eyed Peas

  • 1 pound dry black-eyed peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (32 ounce) cartons chicken broth
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 pound smoked ham hocks
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 5 pepperoncini peppers
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Prep 20 m

  • Cook 3 h

  • Ready In 11 h 20 m

  1. Place the black-eyed peas into a large container and cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight. Drain and rinse before using.
  2. In a large stock pot over medium heat, cook and stir onion and garlic in olive oil until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and 8 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in soaked black-eyed peas, ham hocks, tomatoes, pepperoncini, bay leaf, garlic powder, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until peas are tender, ham meat is falling off the bones, and the broth is thickened, about 3 hours.

11 Things We Learned About Stress in 2016.

No one is immune to stress -- and science shows that how we react to it matters, too. A bevy of research has come out in the past year alone, illustrating how our dealings with stress -- whether it's how long we ruminate over a problem, or how exactly we react to a stressful event -- can affect our health. And not only that, new studies are also coming out showing the effect stress has on ourphysical health.  To properly grab stress by the horns, we must first understand it, so here is a list of 11 things we learned about stress in 2016.

1) Work Stress Is Bad For Your Body

A Lancet review of studies from last September identified a potential risk of too much work stress -- an increased likelihood of suffering a heart attack. The review, conducted by researchers at University College London, shows an association between having a straining job and a 23 percent higher risk of heart attack.  Plus, another study published last year in the Journal of Occupational Medicine showed that work stress could also take a toll on women's health particularly by raising their diabetes risk. And another study in the journal PLoS ONE found job stress could actually accelerate aging, as the researchers found an association between work stress and shortened telomeres(sections of our DNA which are linked with longevity).

2) Smiling Is An Antidote To Stress

A real, true, genuine smile could help to lower your heart rate after a stressful event, according to a study in the journal Psychological Science.  "The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment," study researcher Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, said in a statement. "Not only will it help you 'grin and bear it' psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!"

3) How You Handle Stress Matters

It's not just the stress itself, but the dwelling on it that could have health risks, according to a small study from Ohio University researchers.  Those researchers found that when a person is asked to think about a stressful event, their levels of C-reactive protein (which rise in response to inflammation) go up.  Similarly, a study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that perceptions of stress also affect health. Specifically, Columbia University Medical Center researchers found that people who believe that they are stressed have a higher heart disease risk (and heart disease death risk!).  And a study in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that people's reactions to stress could have a major impact on their health in the future. That research showed that people who were anxious and stressed about everyday life were more likely to develop heart problems, arthritis, and other chronic conditions a decade later.

4) Chronic Stress Could Raise Men's Diabetes Risk

Experiencing a state of permanent stress is associated with a higher risk of diabetes in men, according to a study in the journal Diabetic Medicine. Researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg found the association with permanent stress at home or work, versus periodic stress or no stress at all.

5) Millenials Are The Most Stressed

Millennials have it the worst when it comes to stress, according to a sweeping survey from the American Psychological Association.  The survey showed that people between ages 18 and 33 experience a 5.4, on average, on a 10-point stress scale. The national average, meanwhile, is 4.9.  The biggest causes of millennial stress? Job stability and work issues, according to the survey.

6) Mindfulness Meditation Is Key

A study from the University of California, Davis, shows just how big of an impact mindfulness meditation training -- learning how to focus on being in the present -- has on levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. The findings are published in the journal Health Psychology.  Similarly, a study in the journal Stress and Health showed that art therapy and mindfulness meditation could help decrease stress among people with breast cancer, a group for whom stress is especially dangerous, as it can affect survival rates.

7) Stress Plays A Role In Drug Relapse

Brown University scientists got a better understanding of stress-induced drug relapse, as explained in a study in mice published this year in the journal Neuron.  Researchers found that it's possible to block a step that leads to stress-induced drug relapse, by identifying where exactly it is in the brain that this relapse occurs.

8) We Now Know Why Stress Is Unhealthy

Stress may be the harbinger of so many health issues because of its effects on inflammation, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests.  Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that long-term stress seemed to impair ability to regulate inflammation, which in turn could raise a person's risk of catching a cold.

9) Stress Could Affect Pregnancy Outcomes

Severe stress could affect the outcome of a pregnancy, an American Journal of Epidemiology study suggests.  Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that stillbirth risk is 2.5 times higher for women with major stressful life events, than women who experience less stress. However, researchers emphasized that the overall stillbirth risk is still relatively small.  Rather, the findings should just prompt doctors to "be aware of what's going on in their lives and that they try to get as much support as they can to diminish the stressor and help deal with it," study researcher Marian Willinger told HuffPost's Catherine Pearson.

10) Foolproof De-Stresser: Bring Fido To Work

Research published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management showed that bringing your dog to work can boost employee satisfaction and lower stress levels.  But "of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” study researcher Randolph T. Barker, of Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement.

11) Secondhand Stress

It’s possible to infect others with stress! A 2011 University of Hawaii study found that stress is as contagious as the common cold. Get tips for reducing stress in your life. Plus, E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork tests the Shakti Mat: A plastic bed of acupressure points meant to help release tension and induce a state of deep relaxation.



  • 1 large ripe but firm red or green pear, halved and cored
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1/2 cup drained silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal or hemp seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup ice cubes


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pear halves, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Turn pear halves over and continue roasting until juicy and meltingly tender, about 10 minutes more. Let cool. Pears will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.   

Combine pear, almond milk, tofu, flaxseed and cinnamon in a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice and blend again until smooth. Pour into 2 or 3 tall glasses and garnish with pear slices.

Nutritional Info: 

Per Serving: 150 calories (50 from fat), 6g total fat, 110mg sodium, 19g carbohydrates, (6 g dietary fiber, 9g sugar), 5g protein.



  • 5 ounces (2 bundles) whole grain udon noodles
  • 6 cups low-sodium bison, beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 bunch leafy greens such as kale, collards or Swiss chard, tough stems and ribs removed, leaves sliced (about 6 loosely packed cups)
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon hot chile sesame oil, plus more for serving


In a large pot, bring broth to a boil. Add greens, noodles and salt, and cook until greens and noodles are just tender, about 6 minutes. Add tofu and cook until just heated through, about 1 minute, then add green onions and oil. Serve with more oil on the side.

Selfie with an Elfie Contest

Selfie with the Elfie


I’M BACK from the North Pole,

I missed you all year!

Santa sent me again

to be his eyes and ears.

Every night I will fly to

give Santa advice,

whether you were naughty that day

or wonderfully nice.

The Rules are like this,

take a selfie with me.

Then post it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram

for everyone to see.

But no worries my friends,

there is fun to share.

You never know when Vixen

will show up somewhere!!


Contest:  Whoever post the most selfies with the elfie throughout the holiday season and either hashtags #jdvpilates or tags Joie de Vivre Pilates, will win a free UNLIMITED month of classes in January.


Contest ends noon 12/23.




  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles en adobo)
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 (14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 4 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


Remove zest from lemons and limes and place zest in a medium bowl. Juice citrus, and reserve juice and citrus shells separately. Add butter, adobo sauce, chile powder, oregano and salt to the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until combined. Slowly pour in about half of the citrus juice and beat until smooth.  

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Carefully loosen skin over turkey breast and thighs; rub some of the butter mixture between meat and skin. Rub remaining butter mixture over skin and inside cavity. Place reserved citrus shells in cavity. Tuck wing tips under bird and tie legs together with kitchen string. Place breast-side up on a rack set in a large roasting pan and pour 3 cups of the broth and remaining citrus juice into the pan.  

Roast until skin begins to deeply brown, about 30 minutes, then loosely cover withfoil. Roast, basting turkey with pan juices about every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh, without touching bone, registers 165°F, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.  

To make the gravy, spoon off excess fat from pan juices, and place the pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat (over two burners if possible). Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened. Strain gravy if desired. Carve turkey and serve with gravy.

Nutritional Info: 

Per Serving: 570 calories (260 from fat), 29g total fat, 10g saturated fat, 210mg cholesterol, 880mg sodium, 4g carbohydrates, (1 g dietary fiber, 1g sugar), 68g protein.

10 Ways to Sleep Better Tonight (No Sleeping Pills Required)

There is nothing quite like getting a full night’s sleep. 

How great would it be to wake up feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to conquer the world every morning? 

You know that saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead?”

Well, if people knew the benefits of getting enough sleep, they’d realize there would be a whole lot more life in their days if they made the time get enough Zs at night.

But that’s not happening: millions of people are seriously sleep deprived and/or suffering the debilitating effects of having a low quality night’s sleep. 

Sleep deprivation carries a host of adverse and chronic side effects including:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Increase risked of accidents
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suppressed immune system

And it doesn’t take much sleep deprivation to throw off your system. Research has shown that a single bad night of sleep can be a contributing factor in insulin resistance, which is a precursor for type 2 diabetes

This equates to you metabolically aging more quickly and storing excess body fat – compound that over a longer period of time and you can see that lack of quality sleep can become a serious health issue.

What is Sleep?

Sleep is vital for your physical health, emotional well-being, and mental sharpness.

And it’s not just how much sleep that’s important, but also the quality of that sleep – the patterns of your sleep matter.

I recommend at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to ensure optimal health.  

When you don’t sleep long enough or well enough, your body begins to release excess stress hormones such as cortisol, which has a huge list of health ramifications I’ll get into later.

But first, let’s explore the 5 stages of sleep. 


Stage 1 (light sleep) 

This is the initial stage of sleep, when your eye and muscle function slows down – you feel like you are floating, and your muscles begin to twitch.

Stage 2

During this stage your eyes stop moving and your brain function slows down, as you prepare to enter deep sleep. Nearly 50 percent of our sleep time is spent in this stage (4).

Stage 3

This is the first part of the deep sleep stage.

Your brain begins to make delta waves and it can be difficult to wake someone up during this stage. Human growth hormone – which is vital in helping your body regenerate and recover – is secreted during this stage. 

Stage 4

This is the second part of the deep sleep stage, when the brain is making almost entirely delta waves. Stage 4 is important because it’s the stage that leaves  you feeling revitalized and refreshed.

Stage 5

During this stage you experience rapid eye movement (REM). The REM stage should make up about 20 percent of your total sleep time.

When we enter the REM stage, we start to breathe more quickly and shallowly, our eyes move rapidly (hence the name), and our extremities become temporarily paralyzed. Meanwhile, our heart rate and blood pressure rise.

And this is also when we dream.

We normally enter our first REM period about 90 minutes after we fall asleep, and a complete REM cycle takes between 90 and 110 minutes. The longer we sleep, the longer the REM cycles become and the shorter the periods of deep sleep between them.

Here’s an important note about REM sleep: Deprived of it, your body will do what it has to in order to make it up.

That means if it’s disrupted one night, the next night, your body won’t follow the normal sleep stage progression.

What often happens is that as soon as you fall asleep the next time, your body goes right into REM sleep and goes through extra REM periods until you can catch up on the necessary amount of REM sleep.

10 Ways to Sleep Better at Night

1. Know the value of a quality sleep

Many people don’t prioritize sleep because they don’t understand the benefits. 

Sleep rests your body and your mind and if you aren’t getting enough rest, health problems can result.


Sleep is an anabolic – or rebuilding – process that enhances the growth and revitalization of the immune and musculoskeletal systems (1). 

Quality sleep can slow down the aging process, balance your hormones, boost your metabolismincrease your energy, and improve your cognitive function

2. Monitor you sleep patterns

In a perfect world you would be able to sleep until you awaken naturally.

To monitor your sleep patterns to get an idea how you actually sleep versus how you think you sleep, it’s a good idea to use a sleep chart and/or write it down in a journal.

Focus on the following questions:

  • What time did you go to bed?
  • Was your sleep uninterrupted?
  • How long did you sleep for?
  • Did you fall asleep quickly?
  • Did you feel fresh when you woke up?

Compare the answers to these questions over the first week of the monitoring process and you will start to observe a pattern.

3. Get more sun and daylight throughout the day

The hormone melatonin plays an important role in your body’s ability to get a restful night’s sleep.

This key hormone is produced in the brain’s pineal gland and its main function is to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.

How much melatonin you produce is related to the amount of both sunlight and daylight you’re exposed to daily.

Getting more daylight or sunlight throughout the day is a magic ingredient for a better night’s sleep due to the surge in natural melatonin levels. 

4) Cut Your Screen Time

This is probably one the easiest and best ways to sleep better immediately.

The artificial blue light your laptop and TV screen emits stimulates your body to produce more daytime hormones like cortisol, which disturbs your body’s natural preparation for sleep (6). 

I recommend removing your TV from the bedroom and, instead, reading a book before you go to bed. In addition, try to avoid using a laptop two hours before you hit the hay.

Another key tip: make sure you aren’t sleeping near your mobile phone, as the waves it emits can have a negative impact on your ability to sleep (not to mention your health).

5) Limit your caffeine intake

Caffeine is a powerful central nervous stimulant, keeping you alert and awake as opposed to relaxed and sleepy.

In fact, I recommend cutting caffeine out of your diet for a number of health reasons – not only does caffeine make it hard to sleep, but it also robs you of energy and creates a cascade of health issues.

6) Keep Your Bedroom Temp Just Right

During some sleep stages, your body isn’t as able to regulate its internal heating/cooling system as well as others.

Also, when it’s time to sleep, your core temperature drops slightly in order to facilitate the whole sleeping process.

That’s why keeping your room temperature just right – so that you are neither too hot nor too cold – will help stop your sleep from becoming disrupted.

Research indicates that the ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees F.  

7) Go to Bed on Time

To optimize the potential of your sleep, you can take advantage of your body’s natural rhythms by going to bed at the right time.

Research shows your body secretes the optimal amount of hormones and gets the best recovery benefits when you sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

This sleep-wake cycle is based on our hunter-gather days, when we went to sleep after sundown because our internal body clock (driven by hormones) instructed us to do so.

Constant exposure to artificial lights and the blue screen has interrupted our natural wake-sleep cycle.

8) Supplement with Magnesium

Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 bodily functions and is a superb anti-stress mineral.

It helps to improve blood circulation and blood pressure, optimises blood sugar balance, relaxes your muscles, and calms your central nervous system. 

Because it’s so widely used, your body’s stores of magnesium get depleted quickly, which is why magnesium deficiency is common. Increasing your magnesium load can instantly reduce the mental and physical stress – and also boost your sleep.

9) Limit the Booze

One of the most valuable and overlooked benefits associated with sleeping is a process called memory processing.

That’s when short-term memories get converted into long-term memories, and this predominantly occurs in the REM stage of sleep. 

Alcohol interrupts the REM stage of sleep, which has a negative impact on your mental and physical state because you haven’t fully rejuvenated.

You won’t feel revitalized after a boozy session, and this is one of the main reasons you feel crappy after a night of indulgence. 

To avoid this hangover scenario from happening, have a booze curfew and stop drinking around 8 p.m. to allow the alcohol to get out of your system properly before you go to bed. Obviously, this depends on how much alcohol you are drinking.

My recommendation: don’t drink to excess and always drink sensibly.

10)  Eat Cherries Two Hours before Bedtime

This is one of the more delicious ways to sleep better. Eat cherries!

Cherries belong to the ‘drupe’ family because they contain a stone in the middle (just like plums, peaches, and apricots).

They are particularly high in vitamins A and C, and are packed with antioxidants. In terms of minerals they are a moderate source of zinc, potassium, magnesium and copper.

But the important thing when it comes to sleep is the fact that cherries are high in melatonin, which can help to reduce irritability, calm down the nervous system, reduce headaches, and prevent insomnia.

Many nutritionists advocate eating a small handful of cherries before you go to bed to improve the quality of your sleep.

Try to eat them two hours before sleeping as this will allow enough time for them to be properly digested and for them to work their melatonin magic.

Ways to Sleep Better and Feel Better

As you probably noticed, most of the above tips are healthy habits that won’t just help you improve your sleep, but they’ll also help you improve how you feel.

That’s because sleep is a vital part of body’s recovery process. When you improve the recovery, you improve your energy, and that gives you more oomph and vitality to get through your days.

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms, Chickpeas, and Olives

From Cooking Light


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces sliced wild mushrooms (about 7 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red onion, vertically sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup organic vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 mixed olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup stone-ground polenta or grits
2 ounces grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), divided
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. To prepare medley, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms, garlic, onion, and thyme; sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add wine and vinegar; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add broth, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, olives, and chickpeas; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 6 minutes or until slightly thickened.

2. To prepare polenta, bring 3 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to low; cook 30 minutes or until thick and creamy, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 ounce cheese.

3. Divide polenta evenly among 6 shallow bowls. Top evenly with mushroom mixture. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 ounce cheese and parsley.

Want to Lose Fat? Count Your Hormones, Not Your Calories

By Jade Teta original post on the Huffington Post

Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. You can be burning calories and losing weight, but those calories and that weight may or may not be fat. In fact, the one-size-fits-all weight loss model of “eat less and exercise more” can result in muscle being lost as readily as fat.

The greatest health challenge of this century is the obesity epidemic. According to the 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, close to 70 percent of Americans are overweight and over 30 percent are obese. And here is the bitter truth: The “eat less, exercise more” model of weight loss has not worked. The reason? Calories don’t control metabolism, hormones do.

Eat less and what happens? You get hungry. Exercise more and what happens? You get hungry. Anyone who has ever “prepped” for a Thanksgiving dinner knows if you want to come hungry, a good strategy is to skip breakfast and lunch and make sure you exercise. The very thing we are telling people to do — eat less and exercise more — is making it far more likely they will do the reverse.

This is why a report in the April 2007 issue of The American Psychologist showed up to 66 percent of individuals following the caloric model of weight loss end up fatter two years later than they were when they started the diet. Any other model, in any other discipline, with a failure rate this high would have been discarded long ago and labeled as useless.

Stopping obesity means understanding hormones, not just calories. Hormones are the messengers that tell the body to burn fat or store fat, remain full or feel hungry, have cravings or not, enjoy balanced energy or feel fatigued. Hormones even impact your mood and motivation to exercise. You can think of hormones as analogous to computer software. They give the body instructions about what to do with the information it is exposed to.

So which is more important, calories or hormones? It is not a simple answer because calories impact hormones and hormones affect calories. The impact cutting calories has on hormones is recognizable and pronounced. The body slows its metabolic rate and sets into motion a host of compensatory reactions that make you hungry, crave calorie-rich foods, sap your energy and slow fat loss. A “calories-first” approach leaves you at the mercy of your metabolism and completely reliant on willpower. Anyone who has ever gone on a diet knows it is almost impossible to win a long-term battle of wills against your physiology.

A “hormones-first” approach is different. It reduces hunger, controls cravings, elevates energy, and increases metabolism, which all leads to an automatic reduction in calories without even trying. This is the perfect scenario for body change: A low-calorie diet in the context of balanced hormonal chemistry.

Perhaps you are still skeptical about the primacy of hormones over calories? If so, I have two questions for you: How many calories does sleep have? How about stress? Silly questions right? You can’t eat sleep and you can’t eat stress, but there is no denying that they dramatically impact how much you eat and what you crave to eat. They do this not because they are loaded with calories, but because of their negative impact on hormones.

So how do you switch your mindset so you can design a diet that takes a hormones-first approach? Here are five pointers to get you started.

1) Think fat loss, not weight loss.

There is more than one destination for a calorie. Decrease calories and you may lose fat, but you might lose muscle instead. Increase calories and perhaps you will gain fat, but you could alternatively gain muscle. The type of activity you do can determine which occurs. This is why weight training is so powerful in turning weight loss into fat loss. It is the only form of activity that pushes extra calories toward lean tissue growth.

2) Think of food as information, not fuel.

A doughnut and a chicken breast have the same number of calories, but one food will give sustained energy, decrease hunger and blunt cravings. The other will provide less consistent energy and speak more to your fat cells than your muscle. Quality of food matters.

3) Every action has a compensatory reaction.

Meals are not separate and distinct. What you eat — or don’t eat — for breakfast will impact how much you eat and what you crave to eat for lunch, which will have the same impact on dinner. Your choices at one meal directly influence your decisions at the next meal, and this determines fat loss or fat gain. Don’t eat less, eat smarter.

4) Shades of Gray

Nutrition is not black-and-white, but gray. There are individual reactions to food that may apply to one person but not another. The choice to have a diet Coke because it has zero calories may or may not be a wise choice for you. For you, this practice may cause cravings later, but for someone else it could kill the desire for sweet. The weight-loss model completely ignores individual reactions to food.

5) Forget what you weigh.

Gaining weight does not always mean gaining fat. What if you are gaining muscle instead? Realize that a pound of fat and muscle weigh the same, but muscle takes up less space on the body. You can look 130 pounds but weigh 150 pounds when you have developed a lean, muscular physique. Skinny and flabby is the look of weight loss. Lean and tight is the look of fat loss.

Always remember, you are as different on the inside chemically as you are on the outside physically. The weight-loss game is a one-size-fits-all approach to a completely individual practice. It’s a game you can’t win, because it is not built for you. Instead of being the weight-loss dieter, become the fat-loss detective. Spend the time to figure out your individual metabolic expression, psychological tendencies and personal preferences. Do that and it is not a matter of if you will change your body, but when.




  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms
  • 1 pound extra-firm silken tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch squares
  • 3/4 pound baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 bunches green onions, white and light green portions only
  • 3 cups low-sodium mushroom broth
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or miso broth
  • 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 ounces glass noodles
  • Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, plus more for serving


Cut any large mushrooms into bite-size pieces. If using enoki mushrooms, pull them into small bunches. Place mushrooms on a platter with tofu, bok choy and green onions.   

In a hot pot or fondue pot, combine mushroom broth, miso broth, ginger and soy sauce. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Place the pot on the hot pot burner or over a fondue flame and keep at a bare simmer.   

Place glass noodles in a large bowl and cover with cold water.   

To make dipping sauce, in a bowl, stir together soy sauce, sugar, chili garlic sauce and 3 tablespoons water. Divide between small bowls so guests can help themselves. Place more chili garlic sauce in another small bowl.   

Place the hot pot or fondue pot in the center of the table. Guests should use chopsticks or fondue forks to put food in the pot until heated through and tender, 1 to 2 minutes (they can hold food or let it drop into the pot and carefully retrieve it), then enjoy with dipping sauce and chili garlic sauce. If broth is not staying hot, reheat it on the stovetop.   

Toward the end of the meal, drain noodles and place in the pot until cooked through, about 5 minutes. If you like, chop any leftover vegetables, mushrooms and tofu and add them, too. Ladle broth and noodles into bowls and serve.

Nutritional Info: 

Per Serving: 230 calories (35 from fat), 4g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 1440mg sodium, 35gcarbohydrates, (4 g dietary fiber, 8g sugar), 16g protein.

The How and Why of Belly Breathing

The topic of belly breathing often comes with a lot of questions:

  • What on earth is belly breathing? 
  • Don’t we breathe with our lungs and not our belly?
  • Is this a type of pilates or yoga?

The term “belly” breathing definitely paints a funny mental image, so the questions make sense.

But as odd it may sound, belly breathing is actually an ancient technique that has been practiced for thousands of years by cultures around the world.

In fact, an entire yoga discipline is dedicated exclusively to pranayama – the controlling of breath – which includes belly breathing.

What Exactly is Belly Breathing?

Belly breathing is also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing. 

It gets its name from the way it uses the diaphragm (which lies below the lungs) to fully saturate the lungs with oxygen. This has the effect of pushing the belly outward. 

Hence: abdominal breathing.

Belly Breathing vs. Chest Breathing

Now, you might be thinking, “Doesn’t this happen every time I breathe?”

Unfortunately, many of us get into the habit of breathing only through our chest, as we’re accustomed to the idea that our chest is where true breathing comes from.

On the contrary, too much chest breathing can result in something called “over-breathing,” which can cause us to feel breathless or anxious.

It also limits our ability to take in adequate oxygen and use our full lung capacity, which can result in even shallower breathing habits as we age.

Belly breathing can help correct over-breathing and chest breathing by training our bodies to breathe into our bellies instead of our chest when we take a breath.

This opens up the bottom portion of the lungs by expanding and contracting the diaphragm, allowing fresh oxygen to penetrate deep into the bottom of the lungs.

Benefits of Belly Breathing

Aside from allowing us to take fuller, deeper breaths, there are several other remarkable benefits of practicing deep belly breathing. 

And the best part? Cashing in on them is as easy as breathing deeply for 5 to 10 minutes a few times a day.

Check out the benefits of belly breathing, and then below try a quick belly breathing exercise you can do every day. 

1. Helps You Relax

One of the amazing benefits of belly breathing is its ability to help you relax – almost instantly. 

This is because of how it works with both our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system is essentially the “fight or flight” side of our autonomic nervous system. It responds to anything we see as threatening, giving us the energy we need to either escape or do battle.

Now, while this was useful before advanced civilization spanned the globe (if we were trying to escape the clutches of a wild animal), it can be damaging in our modern world. 

This is because our bodies can’t tell one stress from another, which can lead to a chronic stress response. 

For example, your body doesn’t know the difference between a stressful workplace and a hungry wild animal that wants you for dinner – it simply perceives a threat. 

So when you’re under pressure at work or elsewhere, you’re in a constant sympathetic “stressed” state. That leads to increased blood pressure, a slowing of digestion, and increased heart rate, among other effects.

That’s not a sustainable or healthy way to live – and that’s why we have the parasympathetic system.

The parasympathetic system is the opposite of the sympathetic. It’s also referred to as the “rest and digest” system, and is responsible for slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressurestimulating the digestive process, and producing a feeling of calm relaxation.

Belly breathing activates this system, which is huge news for those of us needing a relief from the constant stress of day-to-day life.

2. Improves Exercise Recovery

Studies also show that while belly breathing is great for overall relaxation, it’s also excellent at lowering exercise-induced oxidative stress levels. 

For instance, a 2011 study looked at 16 athletes after an exhaustive training session. Half of them practiced belly breathing after the workout. 

Researchers found that for the belly breathers, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased and the relaxation hormone melatonin increased. Researchers theorized that belly (or diaphragmatic) breathing could help protect them from the long-term adverse effects of free radicals.


2. Improves Glucose Levels

Typically, when people think about controlling their blood sugar, breathing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

However, studies are now suggesting that maybe it should be. 

These studies have discovered that diaphragmatic breathing exercises can help balance blood sugar levels and give better control to diabetic patients. 

Researchers theorize that breathing’s effect on glucose levels is related to its effect on the nervous system, as increased stress has been associated with a rise in glucose levels.

3. Improves Digestion

As I already mentioned, belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Along with helping us relax, this system is largely responsible for stimulating digestion.

When the parasympathetic system kicks in, saliva production is increased, while stomach movement and secretions that help break down food also increase.

This is one of the reasons why we’re often reminded to sit down and enjoy our meals in a relaxed state. Being stressed or keyed up activates the opposite nervous system response – the sympathetic nervous system – which halts digestion, causing food to sit in our stomach. 

This can be felt as a feeling of a “rock” sitting in our bellies. Luckily, doing a round of belly breathing before a meal can help ease us into the rest-and-digest state, which will lower our chances of dealing with indigestion.

4. Strengthens the Lungs

Considering belly breathing’s stretching and constricting effect on the diaphragm, it makes sense that it would help strengthen and open the lungs.

Studies have shown this to be true by showing an improvement in lung volume and respiratory motion in healthy individuals, as well as increased oxygen levels in COPD patients in response to deep breathing exercises.

5. Changes Gene Expression

It turns out that breathing is so powerful it can actually alter our genes. 

In a 2013 study that looked the body’s relaxation response which was stimulated using techniques such as deep breathing, researchers found that it enhanced expression of genes associated a variety of important functions.

Affected were genes involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function (which power our cells), insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance (which protect our DNA and play an important role in our aging process). 

It also reduced the expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.

In other words, the body’s genetic response to relaxation techniques like deep breathing was to improve energy efficiency, while also positively altering how our genes respond to stress.

The researchers also noted that most of the gene changes were related to the immune response and cell death, highlighting that techniques like belly breathing can also have a significant effect on improving our immune system.

As you can see, belly breathing is a truly powerful exercise that can affect our body in numerous ways, all the way down to the genetic level.

A Simply Daily Belly Breathing Exercise

This is an easy belly breathing exercise you can practice daily (or even multiple times per day) to strengthen the diaphragm and start receiving the multiple benefits of deep breathing.

1. Begin lying on your back on a flat surface, head supported by a pillow. Bend your knees (you can place another pillow under your knees for support) and place one hand on your belly and another on your chest to feel your diaphragm as you breathe.

2. Now breath in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach push against your hand as air fills the deepest point in your lungs. Note that your chest should remain as still as possible.

3. Exhale through your lips while tightening your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward.

4. Repeat for a total of 5 to 10 minutes every day. Aim for 3 to 4 times a day for maximum benefits.

Keep in mind that you may find it difficult to breathe through your belly at first, especially if you’ve never consciously tried diaphragmatic breathing before. Not to worry: your diaphragm will get stronger with time.

Eventually, you may be able to practice this technique sitting up, making it even easier to get in a session.

Try it Yourself and See

Whether you’re a beginner belly-breather or an experienced yogi looking for a deeper connection to your breath, this abdominal breathing technique will have you lowering your stress levels and on the path to gaining a stronger immune system.



  • 1 1/4 cup sprouted mung beans
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 6 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as oregano and flat-leaf parsley


In a medium bowl, combine beans and 3 cups warm water. Let soak 1 to 2 hours, depending on how soft you’d like the beans.  

Have ready four 1-pint (2-cup) Mason jars or other jars with tight-fitting lids. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar into each jar. Divide tomatoes evenly among the jars. Drain beans well and layer them in the jars along with cucumber and herbs. Salads can be refrigerated up to 3 days; shake well and enjoy.

Nutritional Info: 

Per Serving: 200 calories (15 from fat), 1.5g total fat, 20mg sodium, 33g carbohydrates, (10 gdietary fiber, 4g sugar), 14g protein.