is not good for our . We know that. Studies show that diet sodas contribute to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. Some say that regular soda is preferable despite the increase in calories because it doesn't contain the artificial sweeteners. There are many health warnings about aspartame, the sweetener in and many other diet sodas. It is believed to cause side effects like headaches, dizziness, mood changes, loss of memory, and skin reactions. In addition, soda consumption has been linked to lower bone density, since it can block your bones' absorption of calcium.
We may kick the soda habit for health reasons, but it doesn't mean we don't miss the caffeinated, fizzy, sweet pop every now and then. I reached out to the online 4QL community and got some great ideas from all of you! Here are four of my top choices.
1. Unsweetened iced tea. Two good choices are Tejava and Trader Joe's Green & White Tea with Mint. Both are unsweetened with no artificial flavors, and are great plain or with a squeeze of lemon. For those that like the caffeinated jolt of soda, iced tea fits the bill since it contains caffeine.
2. Sparkling water with lemon, lime, or orange slices. For those that like the fizz of soda, the sparkling water gives the drink a little extra something.
3. Sparkling water with a touch of pure fruit juice, like cranberry juice. For those that like the sweetness of soda, the addition of fruit flavors does the trick.
4. Fruit and vegetable flavored water. Add fresh cucumbers, strawberries, mangoes, or lemons, and let them naturally flavor the water.
Being healthy doesn't have to mean depriving yourself of the tastes you like. It just means being creative and finding healthier alternatives. When the urge for a soda strikes, try one of the ideas above and see if it fits the bill.
Do you have a soda that you are trying to break up with? If so, which one and what works for you?
Please share your comments and questions below.
Kick the soda habit for good!
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The end of year is a great time to reflect on the year behind and look forward to the year ahead. A great way to do this is with The 2-0-1-4 Plan. Last year, I created The 2-0-1-3 Plan and it resonated with so many of you! It was fun to share our plans for the New Year, so it's time to do it again. Be sure to comment below with your plan. For those of you who did it last year, you can see your plans here at the bottom of the blog.
The 2-0-1-4 Plan is about starting off the New Year with intention, motivation, and accountability for health and happiness. It's okay if some of your items from last year are still on the list this year. I didn't quite master one of my "2" items from last year as you can see in the comments below, so I'm putting it on my Plan again this year.
Forward this on to your friends and family and let's see how many people we can get on board to join in. Here's how it works.
2 Come up with TWO actionable and doable healthy living ideas. Be specific. Make them very customized for you. Think about your weakness areas. How do you do in the areas of stress management, having fun, sleeping well, eating healthy, exercising, having nurturing relationships, and living in a nontoxic environment (this can be related to your emotional or physical environment)? Are you pretty good about working out, but don't take any time for stress management? If so, don't put exercise on your list, but rather, put something that will reduce your stress. Commit to work on the areas that receive less of your focus. You will see in the examples below that the ideas are both manageable and quantifiable. Try to be as specific as you can, and don't over-commit. You can always over-deliver.
Here are a few ideas:
- Meditate for five minutes three days a week first thing in the morning to start the day grounded.
- Spend less time with those people in your life who make you feel worse about yourself (you can be specific with names, if you want).
- Do not drink alcohol during the week, only on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Get 7,500 to 10,000 steps at least four days a week (wear a pedometer to track it).
- Go to bed by 11pm every night so that you get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Make one fun plan a week that makes you happy.
0 Commit to doing the ZERO "do it now" item. What is the one thing that has been on your list to do for years that you know would benefit you in some way—career, health, relationships, personal—but you just have never done it? Commit to it to do it this year.
This one is really important! So many of you reported in that you did your "0" from last year. Way to go! Mine was to join Toastmasters which I have wanted to do for TWENTY YEARS! I finally did it this past August and it has been one of the best things I've done. Setting the intention of doing it at the beginning of the year and stating it publicly helped to finally make it happen! Trust yourself. You know your "0". Let's make it happen this year.
Here are a few ideas:
- Get out of a toxic relationship that has been bringing you down.
- Make a change in your job if you feel miserable every day. (Sometimes this may not be possible due to financial constraints, but oftentimes even if we believe this to be the case, we do have choices that we have not allowed ourselves to believe in. Now's the time to believe in them and explore them.)
- Go on the trip you've been talking about taking for years. If your spouse doesn't want to join you, go with a friend, by yourself, or an organized group.
- Hire a health coach and lose the weight for good.
- Find a workout regime you like so that you look forward to exercise rather than see it as a chore. For some ideas, read Movement by Gypsy.
- Join a support group (e.g. AA, Al-Anon, loss, cancer). If you need help, there are groups out there for you. Sharing your pain with others does help.
- Write your memoir.
- Take classes.
1 Choose ONE word for the year. Come up with one word that you want to represent you in 2014. Give it some thought because you want it to really encompass what you want for the year. When you have decided on your word, write it out in big letters and put it somewhere you will see it everyday. Put it on your bathroom mirror, by your computer, on your vision board, at work, in your wallet. Last year my word was "confidence". I still have my word staring at me on my vision board right next to my computer that I have seen for the past 365 days. (It was also pretty cool that my friend, Tracy, gave me a necklace for my birthday with my word on it, so I had it as an empowering reminder that I wore daily!). Now I've replaced last year's word with this year's word, "Openness".
Here are a few ideas: faith, love, forgiveness, dream, health, peace, strength, hope, play, truth, trust, imagine, and share.
4 Take FOUR minutes every day to ground yourself in the day. This one is a little different from last year. Last year it was to write 3 things you are grateful for every day. This year, I'm changing it because I've heard from so many of my clients about the importance of starting or ending your day with purpose. One of my clients said they feel that every day runs into the next, so we talked about creating a closing day ritual. Another one of my client starts every morning lighting a candle and setting an intention for the day. Whether you want to take the four minutes in the morning, afternoon, or evening, be sure to take them. Ground yourself in the day. You can do this by taking a few deep breaths allowing your mind to free itself from the mental chatter. Set an intention for the day (such as being mindful, grateful, open, strong, playful). Do a ritual if you choose (light a candle, share with your spouse one highlight from the day, write in your journal). I talk more about this in chapter 9, "Losing My Mind(fulness)," of my new book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life.
2-0-1-4 Take some time this week and think about your 2-0-1-4 plan. Be sure to comment below and let us know. It is helpful to share it with others to make it more real and to help hold you accountable. I've shared my 2-0-1-4 plan in the comments below. If you want to share some of your plan, but not all of it, that's perfectly fine. This year, I chose not to share my "0". Share what you feel comfortable with and keep private what you want.
I look forward to hearing from you. Let's make 2014 a year filled with health, happiness, and ... (insert your word here!).
And, of course, if you need help with making any part of your 2-0-1-4 plan happen, 4QL can help you!
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My "1" word for 2014!
I've seen quite a few clients lately who are unhappy in their marriages. Based on these sessions, I've noticed recurring themes and patterns in relationships. It made me think about what it takes to have a healthy, happy marriage. Here are five ideas.
1. Recognize that relationships take work. If you start with this premise, you are less likely to be disappointed in your marriage. We have an ideal that relationships should be pure bliss at all times. If you are with someone for the long haul, it is important to understand that there will be ups and downs based on a variety of factors that can be going on for either person in the relationship. Things like job stress, parenting issues, or loss of a loved one can change the dynamics of the relationship. Don't throw in the towel just because you are going through a rough patch. This is perfectly normal. Realize the influence that an event is having on your relationship and try to work with it, rather than against it.
2. Know your triggers. This one is so important that there is an entire chapter, "Trigger Happy", devoted to it in my book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life. What baggage are you bringing into your current relationship that comes from your past? Yesterday, I was working with a client who got so upset any time her husband talked about wanting her to work on the family budget. It has been a point of contention in their relationship for years. As we talked more about it, she realized that she was being triggered when he brought it up because of how she was raised by her father. Growing up, she had to log every amount of money she got from her dad, even money to take the bus when she was 10. Once we identified that she was being triggered, we brainstormed ways for her to change her mindset around working on the family budget.
Triggers don't just happen in our marriages, they happen with our friends, too. Just the other day, I was triggered and almost ended a special relationship. As soon as I understood what was happening and discussed it with my friend, it cleared the way to a stronger friendship.
3. Seek out others. Understand that your spouse is not likely to meet all of your needs. We are all unique and we have our own interests and desires. I see many clients who are disappointed because their spouse doesn't _______ (fill in the blank). One client was frustrated because he loves to travel but his wife doesn't. Another client was upset because her husband couldn't provide the emotional support she needed. It is important to accept this and find other ways to have your needs met so that you don't bring resentment into the relationship.
I don't love to ski. My husband does. I encourage him every ski season to get some friends together and go on a ski weekend (or two or three) without me. It makes him happy and it makes me happy (because I don't have to be in the cold and because I see how happy it makes him). If your spouse isn't as emotionally supportive as you would like, rely on your close friends to give you the support you need. If your spouse doesn't like to travel, go on a trip without them. Your relationship will be stronger if you let go of the expectation that your spouse needs to be everything for you. Do what you need to do to get your needs met in other ways with (or without) other people. If you continue to hold out hope and wait for your spouse to change, you'll likely be waiting a very long time—with mounting frustration.
4. Be equals and have a voice. I see this one a lot in my client practice. Many stay-at-home moms feel that because they are not earning money, they are not an equal contributor to the household. They feel that their husbands have more power with how the money is spent. One client recently said that she feels like she has lost her voice in the relationship. I explained to her that it takes two people to lose your voice in a relationship. I asked her to think about the role that she played in allowing this to happen. Work out an agreement about the household tasks and budget so that both parties feel like equals. Both people need to have a voice for the relationship to thrive.
5. Focus on the good, not the bad. If you find yourself being frustrated by every little thing your spouse does, remember what drew you to that person in the beginning. What was it about him or her that created the spark between you? Sometimes we get in the downward spiral of noticing every thing our spouse isn't doing to meet our needs, but instead we can try to focus on what they are doing to meet our needs. For example, a client explained how he was hurt because his wife didn't ask about a recent doctor's appointment that she knew he had. I asked him to list the ways that his wife does show that she cares. He said that she makes him his favorite meals, encourages him to have his buddy poker nights, and so on. Changing our mindset by focusing on the good instead of the bad can go a long way for a healthier, happier marriage.
As a child of a divorced family (my parents divorced when I was 3), I never understood while I was growing up why people would get divorced. As an adult, I get it. Not all relationships can and should last. We grow and change with time. My husband and I met when I was 18. We have been together for 27 years. We have been able to grow together, but I can see how sometimes people grow in separate ways that is no longer fulfilling for either party. With more life experience, I now realize that my parents lived much happier and healthier lives because they got divorced.
There has to be a fundamental connection between two people for a relationship to work—and a healthy dose of communication. There has to be respect and love; a true desire for wanting that person to be happy. My relationship has worked all of these years because my husband lets me be me. He gives me the independence I need. He has always made me feel like a partner and an equal. I fully trust that he has my best interest at heart and loves me unconditionally.
I'd love to hear from you. What are your secrets to a successful relationship? Which of the above ideas resonates most with you? Share in the comments section below.
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Paying bills, shuttling kids, working, cleaning, cooking, organizing... the list of "to-dos" goes on. Too often, it gets in the way of the "F" word. FUN!
I remember a chapter in Richard Carlson's Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff" that said, “Remind yourself that when you die, your ‘in-basket’ won’t be empty.” I think of this often when I'm saying too much "no" to the fun in my life because of the full in-basket.
Last month, we did the 4QL July Plank Party (Body quadrant) and had great success with it! We had dozens of people chiming in on our facebook page about their strengthening core. It was fun to see the photos people posted of themselves planking at work and at home.
This month we are nourishing the Mind quadrant with the 4QL August One-Fun-Thing-A-Day Party. Do one fun thing for yourself every day. Some days you might indulge in a few hours of fun and other days it may just be a few minutes. Sometimes it might be by yourself and other times with your family and friends. Try to make it happen. It's good for your health.
When my mom got the email with the subject line about the Plank Party, she told me she was excited because she thought the email was going to be filled with cedar plank bbq recipes. I can only imagine what she thought when she saw the subject line of this email!
For me, I know this month will be filled with bike rides on my cruiser, playing with my dog and snuggling with my cat, trail running with friends, "free" reading, going on vacation with my husband... What fun will your month be filled with?
Does this sound like a challenge for you or do you already make enough time for fun? Comment below!
Be sure to forward this on to your friends and family who you think need more fun in their lives!
Be sure to get your free eBook to find out how you are doing in each of the four quadrants, plus get practical tips including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home. Sign up in the box at the upper right of this page.
Is there something in your life that you've been trying to do but just haven't been able to get it done? Like losing those few extra pounds but just can't? Exercising more but it's not happening? Starting your own business but not getting it off the ground? Doing that new hobby but not making the time? Maybe it's time for an accountability buddy!
Accountability partners can be near or far. They can be friends or acquaintances. They can be for work, exercise, diet, fun—anything you are trying to make happen in your life but are having trouble doing on your own. For work, I've got two accountability partners. Varsha is my Monday at 1:30pm accountability partner and Kenn is my Friday at 11:30am one. Varsha lives in London and I live in California, but distance is not a barrier for us. We talk via Skype. If there is a time when we can't make it, we email our goals for the week. We are both trying to grow our own businesses (and I'm trying to get my book published) so we are helping each other stay on track with weekly tasks to move forward. Being in business for myself is great, but motivation for progress has to come from within since I am the boss. I set my own deadlines, so if I miss them, I only have to answer to myself. Varsha is a friend from graduate school and is in the health field as well, Illuminated Health, so it's helpful to have her to bounce ideas off of since she understands my business.
Kenn, on the other hand, is someone I just recently met and is not in my same field. He creates websites, Coaching Sites That Work. I met Kenn through a LinkedIn group. After a few exchanges, Kenn said he liked my vibe and wanted to know if I was interested in talking regularly to help each other stay accountable. There are benefits to having an accountability buddy where there isn't the familiarity of friendship. With Kenn, I feel a little more push to meet my deadlines. Kenn is not in my same line of work, bringing a different perspective to the conversation. I am enjoying having my two work accountability buddies that each bring something unique to our collaboration.
Kenn has been good about helping me see the value in the quick win. For example, last Friday I set my goal as, "I'm going to send my book proposal to five publishers next week." Kenn nudged me to break it down even more by identifying that day one of the publishers I would be sending it to. He then asked if I could commit to sending out one proposal on Monday. This way I would get the quick win of having taken a first step at the beginning of the week to get the momentum going rather than starting the week with the big lofty goal of five for the week. I had already identified one by the time I was off the call with him and today I know I have to send one out. These little wins help us get past the stuck spots.
For exercise, I have a few ways I stay accountable. On Thursdays, I meet with a group of women to run. We call it "RePeets" because we meet at Peet's coffee shop so that after we are done running repeats, we can enjoy a drink together. This run happens regularly every Thursday at 9am, rain or shine. There are enough people on the list so that on any given day, anywhere from two to ten women will be there. We're accountable to each other. You can set up a Facebook group to keep in touch or an email distribution list. I've created a group on Facebook for weekly Saturday trail runs I coordinate. This list has grown organically to 98 members just through word of mouth. If I stop posting runs, I'll get asked by others on the list about where the weekend run is. I have no doubt that if I didn't set up this group, I would have run half as much on the trails as I did this summer. The accountability encouraged me to make it happen. It was something I wanted to do, but I needed that push.
For diet, I've had clients who find it helpful to email me their food journal daily. Having the accountability of knowing that someone will be seeing what they ate helps them to make better choices. I have another client who uses My Fitness Pal, an online diet and fitness community, to track her food and exercise. She has friends who also use this online tool and she can see what her friends have posted and vice versa.
I mention all of these examples to emphasize the point that there are many ways to set up accountability for all areas of your life. It's about stating it publicly and putting yourself on the hook. In my recent blog post, See It. Say It. Do It., I mentioned that when I was training for my first marathon seven years ago, I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and it said to tell one new person every day that "I am a marathoner." It's about accountability and putting your goal out there. Every day I did tell someone new that I was training for a marathon and it made it more and more of a reality. It became a goal I was truly committed to.
Here are a few steps you can take to help get you started:
1. Identify the area(s) in your life that you want to move forward but have been unable to do so on your own.
2. Find an accountability partner. This can be a friend, an acquaintance, a group, or an online connection.
3. Set up regular check-in dates via phone, Skype, or email. This is a very important step to making this work.
4. Set weekly, manageable goals to help each other stay on track. (Remember to set up those quick wins too to get the momentum going).
I want to hear from you. What area(s) in your life do you need an accountability buddy and how are you going to make it happen?
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Death is an inevitable conclusion to life. We all die. Losing a loved one is heartbreaking. You can make this time easier on your family and friends by giving them one final gift—your wishes for when you die.
I know it's not an easy subject to discuss. You may even feel uncomfortable reading this blog. I thought twice about writing the blog because I know that many people do not feel comfortable discussing death. I feel strongly that it is a topic that needs to be more openly discussed. By having these discussions, we can make it a little easier for our loved ones during a difficult time.
In 2000, my father-in-law died suddenly from drowning. In 2003, my mother-in-law died in a week from pancreatic cancer. The deaths were sudden. With the death of my mother-in-law, my husband along with his brother and sister had to make funeral and memorial decisions. What kind of casket did she want? What did she want her epitaph on the headstone to be? Did she have a preference for how she wanted her memorial service? My mother-in-law already had her plot picked out, but there were still decisions to be made.
I decided that I wanted to ask my family ahead of time about their preferences if they died before me so that I didn't have to worry about making decisions during an emotional time. I am attaching a questionnaire that I created and had my family fill out. Even if you have a will (which is great!), these topics are not typically covered in it. The questionnaire is broken up into three parts: Documents, Burial or Cremation, and Memorial.
In the Document section, it covers questions about whether you have a will and Health Directive. It asks about life insurance policies and bank accounts. Have you made arrangements for your pet? In the Burial section, it asks if you want to be an organ donor and whether you want to be cremated or buried. If buried, do you want an open or closed casket? Do you have a certain outfit you want to be buried in? If cremated, where do you want your ashes scattered? The Memorial section asks about the type of celebration you want to have. Do you have certain songs you want played, is there a charity you want donations to go to, are there certain people you want notified? If there are areas where you don't have a strong preference, you can just put "no preference."
This is just a brief overview of some of the questions included. I am not an expert on these matters. I am just someone who has experienced loss and wants to make it a little easier for myself and my loved ones when death happens. I wanted to write this blog in case it could help you and your families too. Please feel free to edit the document to suit your needs. There are also resources online and software programs to help you with this process. Mortuaries typically have a booklet you can fill out as well with this type of information.
When I gave the questionnaire to my mother and sister, they both readily filled it out. My sister wants Led Zeppelin's Thank You song played during her memorial. She wants roses, orchids, and stargazer lilies. It comforts me to know that she will have the music and flowers she wants, not the ones that I want or the ones I think she wants. I know who my mom wants to conduct the funeral service and I know that she wants it to say "she lived with pizzazz" on her headstone. My dad was a little more reticent to fill out the form. He never actually did, so I asked him the questions and then documented his answers and sent it out to my family. It's about having the conversation in whatever way works for you and your family.
Some people feel that the survivors should make the decisions based on what they want because they are the ones alive and suffering the loss. For example, my husband wants to have a green burial, but the closest option is an hour away from where we live. Although this is his preference, he feels even stronger that he would want me to be happy. If I preferred to have his ashes scattered someplace I visit frequently or saved for us to be scattered together, he wants that for me.
It can get complicated to leave it up to the survivors without discussing it ahead of time in the event that they have differing opinions. Why risk creating more heartache during an already sensitive time when emotions are high and we need to support each other, not work against each other? Help your loved ones stay united by taking the guesswork out of it. By having the conversation, you can understand what aspects are most important to one another and have a joint plan that honors everyone's wishes.
Filling out the questionnaire or having a discussion about this topic is truly a special gift you can give to your loved ones. If you want to take it a step further, you can make arrangements ahead of time. My sister has prepaid for her cremation with Neptune Society. My mom has pre-paid for her plot, headstone, burial, and more with the mortuary of the memorial park she wants to be buried at. It is estimated that costs double every decade for burial services, so if you prepay, you can save money by locking in at the current rate. I am truly grateful that my mom has made all of these arrangements. It's not about the money, it's about making it easier for my sister and me when the time comes if she dies before we do. I can find comfort in knowing that where and how she is buried is just as she would have wanted it.
Some people feel comfortable talking about it and others don't. I called my mom this morning to ask her about her arrangements as I was writing this blog. She didn't miss a beat diving right into what arrangements had been made, where the documents were, what newspaper she wanted her obituary in, etc. My dad, on the other hand, doesn't seem to feel as comfortable with the topic and does not have any arrangements made. He said that making these arrangements is something he wants to do, but he finds it to be an unpleasant topic. He doesn't want to think about dying. My mom's boyfriend feels the same way. He hasn't done a will because he says, "I can't think about not being here."
I don't want to think about not being here either, but I love my family and I want to make it as easy as possible for them when I die. And, selfishly, I want them to make it as easy as possible for me when they die. Maybe it's because I love them so much and I know how devastated I will be when they die. I'm trying to help myself.
Death is a part of life whether we like it or not. Even if discussing it is something you don't entirely feel comfortable with, do it for your loved ones. It doesn't have to be something that you dwell on. You can do it now and then revisit it every five to ten years. By addressing the topic, it doesn't mean that you are saying you will be dying any time soon, it just means you recognize that you will die eventually. Personally, I think having my family tell me their final wishes is the greatest gift they could ever give me.
What are your final wishes and have you shared them with your loved ones?
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