Category Archives: Inspire Your Spirit


We date online why not diet online?  More than one of my clients have credited various apps for helping them drop a few pounds, improve their food choices and get fitter faster.  And now Greatest Loser guru Jillian Michaels throws down another challenge by partnering with Dietbetter.

Dietbet is a four-week social dieting challenge. According to the company 96% percent of DietBetters lose weight, with an average of over six pounds in four weeks. You could drop those pounds and pick up some cash in the process.

Michaels’ DietBet starts on September 24 and runs through October 21.

The rules for The Jillian Michaels DietBet are simple. Players all bet $30 into the pot to begin. Everyone who loses four percent of their starting weight over the course of the four-week game splits the pot equally at the end. Dietbet is not winner-take-all; everyone who reaches the finish line is a winner and receives an equal share of the pot. To validate weight loss, players submit multiple photos of themselves on their scales to DietBet’s human referees.

Find DietBet on Facebook and Twitter. An iPhone mobile app is also available.

Good luck and let us know how you do!




Last week, I came home from a lovely bike ride along Lake Michigan to find several news trucks lined up at the end of my block.  A woman had been grabbed and “assaulted” at 6 a.m. Tuesday August 8 on Howard, a very busy Rogers Park street which separates Evanston from Chicago.

My first reaction was to tell everyone in my neighborhood – knock on doors.  Instead, I told the woman walking down the street with her dog and posted the event as a HIGH ALERT on Facebook and Twitter.

My emotions were mixed: fear and anger.  Fear that now I couldn’t leave my home to go dance tango because I’d have walk through a dark backyard from my garage. So there I sat frozen on the couch texting my boyfriend who’s out of town and encouraging me to stay home because they didn’t catch the perpetrator.  Just a few weeks ago in a nearby neighborhood, a man had broken into a woman’s home, midday and assaulted her. Not the same guy.

Yes I live in a big city.  But this is all very too close to home. I close and lock my windows at night, lock my screen doors during the day, despite the fact that I have a Great Dane mix. Woof.

I also thought about what I could do: organize a self-defense class, check in Alderman Silverstein and the Ward’s police to see what could/should we do? Might be a good time to try Krav Maga.

I feel anger because I am controlled by an unknown brute. I think about how women have to jump through hoops to stay safe. We have to consider where we walk down a street, how we dress, take precautions in hotels. Things men don’t have to give a second thought to let alone a first. I just want to go dance and socialize!

Then I told a tango friend I was feeling spooked and didn’t want to go out. He offered to drive and I accepted his graciousness to shuttle me to the Milonga. I realized the best of human nature often arises during crisis big and small.  As an introverted and fiercely independent woman I want to fight it alone, rant at the injustice. And I do. Speaking up and altering neighbors is the right thing to do.

But I also discovered that the right thing for me to do is soften and allow the genuine kindnesses offered to me to dissolve the fear.

I opted out of Krav Maga for now and instead went to a meditation about becoming a Buddhist Warrior.  An amazing meditation by Heartwood Center’s President Nancy Floy.  A place of peace, a meditation in gently setting personal boundaries led by a woman with power, vulnerability and wisdom.



“Quitting is easy,” said Mark Twain, “I do it all the time.”

If you smoke or have a loved one that does, how many times have they quit?  Bunches right?  Well I have a predicament now – how to help my new man stop smoking.  Yes,  Me health writer, fitness instructor and all things wellness is dating a smoker.  He said he smoked “casually” but as we became more comfortable the rate of lighting up increased. And frankly at nearly a pack a day, that ain’t casual.

Fact is it takes people MANY times of quitting before it finally sticks.  But people do succeed. It is possible.

It’s not the second hand smoke that bothers me so much because he’s steps away outside. It’s his cough.  It is my father’s cough.  My father who died of lung cancer. This is the cold hard fact.  Heavy smokers will die sooner because of their nasty habit.  This makes me sad.  He’s got young kids and well, there’s this lovely budding relationship… American Lung Association - Fighting For Air

The American Lung Association has a program that might help and I will offer it up to him.  Here’s one testimonial:

“The program was there when I was ready not to smoke.  I had something to reach out for.  Not to take away from the program’s content or research but I just wanted to give [smoking] up. I went to the program every week. I enjoyed that there were people to talk and to listen to. I even went to follow-up meetings and tried to give back, to help at the hospital.” – Steven, 58

Some say acupuncture. I just want him to pick something and start the process.  But only he can do this. In the meantime, I offer my love and support. And will incorporate these tips on helping others quit.

Comments from quitters and those who love them welcome!




What’s your reason for quitting smoking or overeating or acting out in anger?  The answer is an important one because the rationale has to be strong enough to keep you on the path.  Sure it could add years to your life, but what are you living for?

As a Pilates Instructor, weight-loss is often popular goal for clients.  I could recite all the health reasons why losing weight is beneficial but like quitting smoking, I think most people already know why excess weight is bad for health. When I pushed them to be specific about why they wanted to lose weight, here’s what I heard:

  • I want to be a better role model for my daughter
  • I want to hike in Vietnam and keep pace with the front of the group
  • I want to look/feel better naked

Specific, personal, and self-determined – that’s a golden combination.

Once you’ve determined your strong motivator, the next step is figure out WHY you do what you do and put some strategies in play. Sometimes the answers can be simple.  For example, a client told me that she whenever she passes a fancy cupcake shop she can’t stop herself from going inside and eating a few.  When asked what she could do differently, she said, “I guess I could take a different bus route.”  Bingo.  She solved her own problem.  And that’s the key.  Good coaches/therapists can help you by asking the right questions so you can develop strategies that work for you.

I recently listened to a lecture by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. She talked about how patience is the antidote to so many of our struggles and certainly it applies to addictions of every kind.  If we can add the balm of patience – just wait before you eat yet another cupcake or light up another smoke – we are one step closer to making a permanent change.

When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. Pema Chodron.

It will take time.  But keep taking steps toward your goal. Others have done it and so can you.  The choices you make in this moment will and do make a difference.

What one thing can you do right now that can help you quit?

Define it and do it.



Addiction, be it to nicotine, cocaine, alcohol, obsessive sex or compulsive gambling is ultimately about self-soothing. The substance or behavior is done to calm nerves or take the edge off by numbing.  And to do that, you have to ignore and abuse the body.

To return to the body is therefore a crucial part of the recovery process. In a recent issue of Massage Therapy Journal, Clare La Plante details how massage can help people in addiction recovery.

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, exercise is increasingly becoming a component of many treatment programs and has proven effective, when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, at helping people quit smoking. Exercise, the experts say, may help by addressing psychosocial and physiological needs that nicotine replacement alone does not.  Exercise helps because it reduces negative feelings and stress, and by preventing weight gain following cessation. Research to determine if and how exercise programs can play a similar role in the treatment of other forms of drug abuse is under way.

That researchers are moving forward to “prove” the exercise benefit is a good, however, it’s also disturbing in my opinion that exercise as part of addiction treatment/recovery process is not yet mainstream. What are we waiting for?  In the most simplistic and obvious of terms, we have bodies and minds.  How can you treat addictions by focusing primarily on the mind and talk therapy?

Get people to feel their own innate power, the surge of blood coursing through their veins instead of cocaine, and you might reduce the high relapse rate.  Yes there are often gyms on site, but that’s extracurricular. What I’m talking about is integrating exercise in a more comprehensive and substantive way.

We know that exercise benefits the body and mind.  A simple search will pull up reams of data from the likes of Harvard, National Institutes of Health and Mayo clinic.  Exercise:

  • Improves mood
  • Relives mild depression
  • Increases cognitive function

The August edition of Scientific American features an article on exercise and its affects on the cell biology that point to how movement can reduce cancer risk, improve cognition in the elderly, and change how cholesterol moves through your blood system. in ways you may not realize. And guess what?  When it comes to kids, physical activity may thwart drug abuse altogether.

So if you’re trying to quit, in a program already, or trying to help someone you love, consider adding massage therapy and exercise of some kind.  It can’t hurt and it may very well help.  Certainly worth a try, don’t you think?



Age of Champions is the story of five competitors who sprint, leap, and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics. You’ll meet a 100-year-old tennis champion, 86-year-old pole vaulter, and rough-and-tumble basketball grandmothers as they triumph over the limitations of age. But when one character loses a spouse and another is diagnosed with cancer, they’ve got to dig even deeper to make their Olympic dreams come true.

The film is slated for a slated for a national broadcast and commercial release tonight July 9th, 2013 on PBS, iTunes, and Amazon.

senior olympics

Inspiring. Joyful. Loving.

The 2013 Senior Olympics, is held in Cleveland, Ohio July 19th – August 1st. The filmmakers have partnered with the AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, and National Institute on Aging to encourage viewers to share the film and lead a discussion about healthy aging with their friends, families, and communities.

Also check out Growing Older is Not for Sissies – an awesome book featuring athletes of all types from swimmers to runners to dancers.

In Pilates we say you’re as young as spine – keep it strong and supple and you’ll love your life and your body for a long time. I love Pilates, taking it teaching it and continuing to educate myself with as many masters as I can.  I also know there is more than one way to do anything.  Whether you dance, box, yoga, tai chi, ski or any and all in between – move it and you will be moved. 


p.s. This is Joseph Pilates at age 57! Looking mighty fine. Legend has it he used to run around New York in his skivvies in winter!


p.p.s My dear friend Richard Miller’s father, D Paul Miller is competing in these Olympics.  At 95, he’s qualified for 8 events including discus, cycling, and track.  Go D Paul!


In the July edition of Shamabala Sun I read an article by Norman Fischer titled, What is your body?  In it is that familiar concept of we are all one with the earth.  I’ve never been able to connect with that  – until now.

“Our bodies too are the Earth.  They rise up from her, and are nurtured, fed, and illuminated by her.  Our bodies are in constant touch with Earth, and return to Earth, from which they have never parted…Even our most abstract ideas, like freedom, justice, and happiness, are nothing more or less than Earth’s urge, the thought of wind, sky, water, and light. Nothing we think or do could ever be more profound or true than these natural elements which are literally more or less than our own bodies.”

Soil = food, water = drink, air = breath. We literally sprout from the earth. I imagine us all as plants now with our roots deep into the earth, all of us, standing next to each other. Green. And reaching toward the sun.

To me, the earth is not a deity and my thoughts of god are fuzzy – can’t quite get solid with it.  What I do know is there is life consciousness within and of the earth.  Recently, the State of Illinois passed a bill to allowing fracking.  A process which fractures the earth, forces chemicals into in order to extract any found gas or oil.  Sigh.  It just makes me sad that with so many alternative methods available and in development that short-sighted, fearful politicians make such a poisonous choice. As resilient as nature is I don’t believe it can withstand our endless abuse.

I met a man recently who after 9/11 fled the mainland United States to live in pristine Kauai.  A few years later, one of his sons’ died there.  There’s no escaping our fates.

As I get older, I am challenged with keeping a faith in myself, my own ability to keep life interesting.  To not give in to complacency and cynicism.  Some days I win the battle.  Some days I do not.  What I find most helpful are the simple pleasures.  Brushing my dog, teaching him new tricks, listening to the birds while sipping coffee, feeling of warm sun on skin, enjoying conversations with old friends.



The other day I attended a very different kind of meditation which the practitioners called, Flowing with Musical Expression. Essentially it was people making all manner of odd sounds, chirps, whistles, hums, ooos and ahhhs – randomly and loudly for 30 minutes.  I thought I was in room with people who had Tourrents. It was distracting and uncomfortable. According to literature at the center, the founders said that Westerners always need to be “doing” something.  So their active meditations were a response to that.

There are of course, many different ways and reasons to meditate.

NOT DOINGBahaiTempleFacingNorth
I thought of a dear Baha’i friend who once said to me that meditation does not have to be formal.  It can be during a walk with your dog, a simple stopping to appreciate the beauty in a cloud, architecture or perfectly made crème brûlée.   For me, it is about the stopping. I think and do way too much as it is.

Poetry helps me to stop and to savor. One of my favorite poets is Mekeel McBride who I met at women’s conference just after I graduated from college.  I’ve memorized many of her poems; the pages of her book all dog-eared and yellowed now.  I’ve never been one to keep books pristine.  I underline, highlight, and bend the pages.

“… Just that some people love words
as much as a locksmith loves the machine
that duplicates keys, allowing the lost
to once again enter familiar rooms,
touch the chipped blue china cup,
stand quietly in the sun-drenched kitchen,
amazed that such return in this word is possible.”
From The Going Under of the Evening Land by Mekeel McBride



When it comes to achieving health and fitness goals, the buddy system has a proven success record.  It keeps you accountable, provides companionship on the journey, and gives rise to a little competitive spirit. Just yesterday a client of mine was talking about how she starting a walking program.  Her daughter, 14 years old, wanted to run but mom didn’t want her jogging around their neighborhood alone. They found a nearby outdoor track where mom could walk and keep an eye on her daughter. Within a short while, mom started running too.

Include both short term and long term goals to help you stay on task.  For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, set a realistic target weight loss date (say 2 months) then set mini goals along the way (about 1.5 pounds per week). Then work your plan with your buddy.  Hold yourselves accountable and perhaps include a challenge – the person who wins is rewarded with a professional massage, paid for by the loser.  If you both win, treat yourselves to a spa day.


Everyone has a reason for wanting to losing weight or get more fit.  Be specific.  And remind yourself often.  One person may want to lose weight to be a better role model for their daughter; another to more easily trek during the next exotic vacation; or just to look sleeker in a slinky summer dress.  What matters is that it matters to you. 

Purina and Jenny Craig have teamed to help people and their pets slim down. It’s called the Power of Two program. “The support of a weight loss buddy can be invaluable, and a four-legged friend fills the role without judgment,” says Purina Certified Weight Coach Heather Prendergast. She adds that exercising with pets can actually help boost both the duration and intensity level. According to researchers in Canada, dog owners walk nearly twice as much as people without dogs, and a University of Missouri study determined that walking speed increases 28 percent with a dog.

Among the special offers with sign-up is a choice of a free consultation from Jenny Craig, for up to 90 days (plus the cost of food and shipping if applicable), and a $15 veterinary visit rebate with the purchase of Purina Veterinary Diets® OM Overweight Management® Canine Formula, available by prescription only.

So grab a buddy, build plan and reach your goals, together.



Turns out the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness is not true.  Money CAN buy you happiness IF you know how and where to spend it.  In this Ted Talk , Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending makes a difference in your life and the lives of others.

Michael I. Norton,  is Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School.

For more on creating happiness in your life, check out the book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Life is what you make it.