By Joe Wilkes

Put a little Halloween cheer into your Shakeology this season. In addition to all the amazing Shakeology ingredients, you'll also get the nutritional benefits of pumpkin, which contains lutein, fiber, and alpha and beta carotene. Plus the healthy polyphenols in cinnamon help regulate blood sugar levels. You'll get the yummy taste of pumpkin pie . . . without turning your butt into a pumpkin.
  • 1 scoop chocolate Shakeology
  • 1 cup rice, soy, almond, or low-fat milk (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • Ice (optional)
Combine all ingredients in blender and whirl until smooth. You can substitute pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and nutmeg, or add more pumpkin for a thicker shake. Makes 1 serving.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Nutritional Information (with low-fat [1%] milk):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
284 27 g 7 g 40 g 3.5 g 2 g

By Omar Shamout

Ghouls and goblins and ghosts, oh my! That's right, folks—Halloween is just around the corner, and if you're not careful, you might have to add another "G" to that list: gastric bypass. Okay, maybe that's a little extreme, but we all know how tempting it is for you adults to gobble down those sweets before, during, and after All Hallow's Eve, which is nothing compared to the blitzkrieg of sugar your kids have in store for them. So take a minute to rethink some of your holiday traditions, learn some interesting ways to avoid the "scary" dietary pitfalls October brings, and rediscover what the spirit of Halloween is really all about! Trust me, the parents of the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood will thank you too! (Sugar tantrums are terrifying.)

  1. Candy is candy, no matter how you sweeten it. Whether it’s dolled up with HFCS or agave syrup, candy will still rot your children’s teeth, mess with their blood sugar, and add to their waistlines. "Sweet" doesn't have to come from a factory, though. There are many tasty, less processed, more wholesome foods that will satisfy that sweet tooth just fine. Fruit can be made into a variety of delicious treats, and is loaded with vitamin C to help your immune system and fiber to aid your digestion, as well as a host of other nutritious vitamins and minerals. Many dried fruits, like raisins, come in small packets ideal for tossing into trick-or-treaters' bags. If you're willing to put in the effort, fresh fruit can be carved into many fun, devilish designs that will add more to the Halloween mood than the calorie count. Although safety dictates that not many trick-or-treaters accept fruit, particularly cut-up fruit, your ghoulish creations should be a hit at any Halloween party—even the grown-up ones.Think of all the possibilities with just these simple ideas: an orange as a mini-pumpkin, grapes as eyeballs, a melon as a brain, and either carrot sticks or string cheese as fingers. Okay, so string cheese isn't exactly a fruit, but you get the idea. Be creative!
  2. Go nuts! If you don't have the time to indulge your inner artiste in the kitchen and create some spooky snacks, then consider handing out individually wrapped packs of almonds, pretzels, or trail mix to the kiddies. Pretzels are pretty low in calories, and almonds are chock-full of healthy fats and protein. Trail mix can be high in sodium, so keep an eye on the nutrition label, but all of these options are much healthier than candy.
  3. Don't be scared of the dark. If you or your kids just can't live without a chocolate fix, opt for dark chocolate over milk chocolate, because it's far less sweet, has fewer calories, and contains more iron and antioxidants. And without milk as an ingredient, you'll be consuming less saturated fat. Dark-chocolate-covered almonds are a personal fave!
  4. Become the Crypt Keeper. There was no better master of ceremonies than everyone's favorite cheeky little skeleton, so why not follow his lead, and host your own party or event for your friends or your kids' friends? That way, you'll know exactly what's going into their hungry mouths. Get those crafty-yet-healthy snacks ready, and continue the creativity by having a costume-making party, scavenger hunt, ghost story session, or scary movie night. Just pop in Adventures of Pluto Nash or Stop or My Mom Will Shoot! and the younguns will be terrified! No? Well, I suppose you know your kids better than I do, but I left the theater shaking . . . Getting back to the matter at hand, shouldn't Halloween be more of an activity (with an emphasis on active) than just an excuse to eat as much candy as possible? Besides, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and even Festivus will be here before you know it, all of which will provide plenty of time to celebrate the wonders of food. Keeping your kids occupied with fun things to do during Halloween is something they'll enjoy far more than a candy bar, one they'll be sure to look back on with a smile rather than the memory of an upset stomach.
  5. Take a hike! No, really. If your kids are restless and insist on hitting the pavement to beg for candy, why not find a nice big hill for this year's trick-or-treating trip? This will really separate the truly dedicated costumed adventurers from the mildly amused. If your group manages to make it all the way up the hill, then at least they've gotten in some exercise to balance out the chocolate overflowing from their bags. On the other hand, if they poop out halfway up, all the better for you—and their blood sugar! Plus when they pass out early from exhaustion, you can toss out all the really bad stuff they acquired without their ever knowing!
  6. Coins over candy. It's never a bad time to teach your children about compassion, so try cutting candy out of the equation altogether by convincing them to trick-or-treat for UNICEF. In addition to being able to get coin boxes from UNICEF through the mail, you can also pick them up at any Toys "R" Us® or Babies "R" Us® store. By participating, your kids can collect money to help children around the world receive clean water, healthy food, and life-saving immunizations. What better reason could there be to put on a costume?
The bottom line is, the last thing we need in life is another holiday dedicated to unhealthy food. (Plus with the amount of artificial ingredients, chemicals, and highly processed sweeteners in candy these days, most of it can barely even be classified as food.) The fun of Halloween has always been in the mood, the atmosphere, the thrill of the scare, and the excitement of planning and dressing up in a costume, so focus your attention on those things, and you're bound to create a memorable experience for everyone. And remember, keep it active!

Exercising To Relax

Saturday, August 13, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

The therapeutic benefits of regular exercise are well documented. Study after study has shown that it increases health and general well being. It’s been said that if exercise were a drug, it would be the most powerful medication on earth. However, it still seems difficult to get people to workout on a regular basis. When life gets hectic, it’s generally the first thing that gets crossed off the “to do” list. In reality, it should be the last. It’s an industry standard to tell people that they should consult a physician before beginning an exercise program. Based on the scientific evidence, it would be more appropriate to consult a physician before parking yourself on the Laz-E-Boy for a session with the TV.

"Often times, my clients say they are too stressed to find time to work out, however the fact is, they are probably too stressed not to work out,” says triathlete and LA-based fitness trainer Erica Nemmers. “Exercise releases hormones into the body that allow people to bring balance into their lives and focus better on everything they do. It is the natural remedy that brings the body into homeostasis in a hectic world that constantly threatens to throw us out of that balance."

The evidence is clear; there's no doubt that physical exercise has a positive effect on stress and can calm the mind and relax the body. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s “feel good hormones,” and in as little as 20 minutes a day, can change your entire outlook on life.

What type of exercise is best?

So, okay, exercise relieves stress, but what kind of exercise is the best? That depends on the individual. People have different environments that cause stress: work, home, traffic, etc. For example, if you work on your feet all day you might benefit more from a stretching-based workout, like Ho' Ala ke Kino, yoga, or Debbie’s Slim and Limber video, because you are constantly contracting your muscles, which makes you tense. But a person that is more sedentary and, say, sits in front of a computer all day might need more of a strength-based program to keep your muscles from atrophying. The bottom line, however, is that something, no matter what, is almost always better than nothing.

How long is long enough?

This is another variable situation but, again, any exercise at all is a million times better than none. After 20 minutes of exercise the brain starts releasing epinephrine and endorphins into the system, which lower tension and help stress stabilization. But even if you can’t take 20 minutes or more, you shouldn’t just throw in the towel. Even a 5 minutes stretch and breathing session can provide a calming effect that can last for hours.

Not sold yet? Here is a list of 10 ways that exercise will de-stress your life.
  1. Detoxifying: During the stress response, nearly 1,500 biochemical reactions occur in the body. Neurotransmitters (also known as “brain signals”) are activated, hormones are released, and nutrients are metabolized. Some body systems, like the cardiovascular system, accelerate their functions while others, like the gastrointestinal system, slow down their operations in response to stress. This is commonly referred to as the fight or flight response, meaning that regular exercise allows the body to return to homeostasis faster and reduce the physical impact of psychosocial stress.
  2. Anger Management: Research has documented the important role that expression or repression of anger and hostility plays in disease progression. Physical activity can be a healthy catharsis for this most caustic of emotions. It can provide a socially acceptable means of physically releasing negative energy. No matter what you do, be it kickboxing or yoga; the physical release of energy appears to dissipate feelings of anger in a positive way.
  3. Moving Meditation: Certain exercises require a fairly consistent repetitive motion that can alter one's state of consciousness. Such as the Zen practice of walking meditation, the physiological effect is similar to what happens during meditation. Breathing and movement act as a mantra and may be responsible for the feelings of calmness and tranquility.
  4. Introspection: Exercise can be a solitary escape from the daily toils and pressures of a stressful society. It can provide a mini vacation that allows one to recharge their energy levels to deal with conflicts when they return. Others use this time to self reflect on issues of importance, or to stimulate creative problem solving.
  5. Reduction of Muscular Tension: During stress, muscles contract and lose their normal resting muscle tone. Bouts of physical activity allow muscles to work, thereby releasing stored energy and allowing muscle groups to return to their normal resting potential. This action also reduces discomfort associated with muscular tension, like tension headaches, arthritic joint pain, backaches, etc.
  6. Endorphins: As stated before, endorphins have been shown to increase during physical activity of twenty minutes or more. Chemically similar to opiate compounds, this morphine-like substance has been shown to provide a pain relieving effect and promote a sense of euphoria – and it’s legal! The actual way endorphins work on the body is debated. Most of the controversy has to do with our inability to measure chemical changes that occur on the other side of the blood brain barrier. Regardless of the neuro-chemical reaction or other mechanisms that initiate changes in emotional status, this phenomenon does seem to exist. The positive mood states associated with frequent exercise are so significant that some have suggested that this is a more effective treatment for clinical depression than either psychotherapy or the use anti-depression drugs.
  7. Increased Awareness: Physically fit individuals tend to develop an increased sense of somatic awareness, meaning that they become more in tune with their bodies. Thus, they are able to detect subtle changes in their physiology that they were previously unaware of, such as breathing patterns, reactions to diet and exercise, quality of sleep, etc. This new awareness allows people to be able to circumvent the physiological process of stress before it can cause problems.
  8. Decreased Boredom: Too little stress in one's life can be just as upsetting as too much stress. It is natural for humans to seek out stimulation and excitement. For some, the opportunity for physical challenges is the most interesting part of life. At the far end of the scale are those who practice high-risk activities such as extreme skiing, skydiving, and rock climbing. By constantly testing themselves, individuals learn how to take on higher and higher loads of stress. The learning that ensues transfers over to stress that is experienced in daily life. All exercise accomplishes this to some degree.
  9. Improvement in Sleep: A symptom of stress overload can be the inability to get adequate rest. A fatigued individual is less able to perform at a high level. Exercise has been shown to be very effective in helping some people fall asleep easily and sleep more soundly.
  10. Stronger Immune System: The better shape you’re in, the stronger your immune system will be. When fit people become ill or injured, they will demonstrate more stamina and greater resiliency to fighting the discomfort. They will also recover more quickly.
Exercise Tip: The 2-minute De-Stressor

If you’re fed up and need to reduce your stress in an instant, here’s something you can do when you can't "press play." Take 2 minutes to bring your body into focus. This quick and simple stretch and breathing exercise may seem similar to how you start any Beachbody™ workout, but can be effective on its own to re-focus your mind and body.
  1. Standing tall, lift your head up so that you stretch your neck. Take a deep slow breathe in through your nose, pulling it down deep into your lungs.
  2. Slowly exhale while turning your head to the right and then to the left. Dip your head and return to looking straight ahead.
  3. Keep breathing with this deep, slow pattern and slowly rotate your head in a clockwise and then counter-clockwise direction, keeping your chin to your chest and shoulders.
  4. Take your shoulders back as far as they will go. Lift your left shoulder and relax it down again. Now swap and lift and relax your right shoulder.
  5. Swing your right arm slowly in a full circular movement to free the shoulder. Swing your left arm in the same way.
  6. Raise and relax both shoulders. Keep breathing slowly.
  7. Put your right hand over your right shoulder and touch your left shoulder blade. Repeat with your left hand to your right shoulder.
  8. Repeat 10 times, focusing solely on your breathing the entire time.

By Debra Pivko

Ever wonder how you gained 5 pounds overnight—even when you're cutting calories? The usual culprit is water weight.

If your stomach feels bloated, your face looks puffy, or your hands and feet swell, it's likely that your body is retaining water. And this may show up on the scale as a few extra pounds. Not fun.

Here's why it happens. Your body is constantly trying to rid itself of the salt you consume. When it can't purge all the extra salt, your tissues react by holding on to water, so the ratio of salt to water is always at a safe level.

But if you want to determine your real weight, see how close you are to your fitness goals, and button up those old jeans with ease, follow these quick tips to lose the extra water weight—fast.

Drink more water.

It may seem counterintuitive, but not drinking enough water every day can actually make you retain more water! Dehydration causes your body to go into panic mode, and it'll hold on to water the next time you take a drink. Diuretics like alcohol, tea, and caffeinated soda can actually have a dehydrating effect on your body since they flush water out of your system.

What to do? Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water each day so your body will maintain its fluid balance, and you won't gain those extra pounds. Water is the best diuretic you can give your body and it's all natural, and usually free! If looking thinner and feeling less bloated isn't enough motivation, here's some more. Drinking water before each meal has been shown to help promote weight loss and even to help keep your skin healthy, which is particularly useful if you don't want your skin to sag once you lose weight.

So keep a water bottle at your desk, send yourself "drink water" reminders if you have to, track your water intake for motivation, or do whatever it takes to remember to drink enough water. The extra hydration will prevent those false pounds from showing up on the scale.

Sweat it out with exercise.

When you sit in one place for a long period of time, your circulation slows down and your body can begin to swell. Exercise promotes blood flow and circulation (not to mention sweating). So when you get in some serious cardio, you'll literally sweat out excess fluids and pounds. Make sure to get your daily exercise to help rid your body of water weight.

The exercise program that leaves my workout clothes most drenched in sweat would have to be Chalene Johnson's TurboFire®. When I eat too much salt or just too much food and feel extra bloated, Chalene's latest program is my savior that helps me get my stomach looking flat, fast. I just pop one of the high-intensity interval training or cardio kickboxing discs in the DVD player to work up a serious sweat and burn major calories. I think it's the awesome music remixes that keep me going through the intense cardio conditioning. After big holiday meals, like the annual Thanksgiving feast for example, I can expect to find my coworkers ready for some TurboFire to fire up our weight loss and sweat it all out.

Limit the sodium in your diet.

To give your body a break from retaining water and working hard to eliminate sodium in the first place, try to keep your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day and avoid adding salt to foods.

Watch out for sneaky salt in boxed or packaged foods by reading nutrition labels carefully. Some of the foods where sodium is often hidden are canned soups, fast foods, pickled foods, processed/deli meats, cheeses, frozen meals, and soy sauce. Make sure to look for labels that say "reduced sodium" or "sodium free." You may also want to choose fresh vegetables over canned. While canned veggies can be a handy substitute for fresh, they're typically laden with preservatives or sauces and seasonings that add extra sodium. A cup of canned cream-style corn, for example, contains 730 milligrams of sodium.

Also, food at restaurants and fast food establishments often contains high amounts of sodium. Eliminate all table salt and try using pepper or other spices on your food instead. Or, maybe try nothing and remind yourself what the food actually tastes like.

Another great way to keep track of your sodium intake is by getting your own customized nutrition plan with Team Beachbody's My Meal Planner. It's an awesome new benefit of the Team Beachbody® Club membership. You'll get a week's worth of recipes that include low-sodium options, or you can modify and make substitutions to the recipes for even lower sodium options. I use it to track my progress throughout the week so I know all my nutrition stats. You can even use the food analyzer to search any food and get the nutrition information for it. I'm obsessed.

Eat more protein.

Deficiencies in protein, along with vitamins B1, B5, and B6, can lead to water retention as these nutrients assist with fluid balance functioning. Some good sources of these nutrients include lean beef, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. You should try to eat two to three appropriate portions of lean protein per day.

Don't starve yourself.

Undereating can also cause you to gain water weight. Eating fewer than 1,200 calories a day may cause your body to retain water and, ironically enough, cause you to gain more weight.

Limit your sugar intake.

Having too much sugar in your body can cause your insulin levels to rise. High levels of insulin may make it harder for your body to get rid of sodium, which in turn causes water weight gain.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fresh fruits and vegetables—especially those naturally rich in water, such as watermelon, onions, celery, and cucumbers—can make you urinate more frequently, reducing water retention. Fruits and vegetables also provide ample sources of potassium, which assists with fluid balance within body cells. I love going to the farmers' market on Sundays and picking up fresh fruits and veggies, but let's face it—making constant trips to buy fresh produce doesn't always fit into my lifestyle. Thank goodness for Shakeology®. It's an easy way to get my fruits and veggies without having to set up shop in the produce section of the market. And that way, my veggies come in the form of a delicious chocolate-flavored treat. I sometimes toss a mini banana into my shake for some extra potassium, which also helps discourage water retention and keeps my muscles from cramping up during workouts.

By Sasha Papovich

The Greek poet Homer called it "liquid gold." It's mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud, and the Koran. Greek mythology includes the story of the goddess Athena winning great praise from Zeus for her useful invention of the olive tree. For millennia, the olive tree has been a symbol of peace, purification, and good health. And in recent years, we've all heard the good news that the high-fat oil of the olive fruit is actually good for you. Is it possible that olive oil merits the reverence of ancient Mediterranean culture and the respect of the medical establishment of the West? And if so, what's the real scoop on how to get the most benefit and enjoyment from it?

Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that is created simply by pressing the raw material—in this case, olives. Extra virgin is the best quality because it comes from the first pressing of the olives and is therefore the least processed, which matters to those of us interested in olive oil for its health benefits.

Recent research does indeed show that olive oil is a medicinal powerhouse. More than just an improvement over animal-fat-based oils, antioxidant-rich olive oil can actually protect against degenerative diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. The FDA has officially credited olive oil with decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Olive oil's role in the prevention of bone density loss, diabetes, and obesity is being explored.

And now a little more about those health benefits . . .

Olive oil is composed largely of monounsaturated fatty acids—sometimes called good fats. Monounsaturated fatty acids keep HDL—the so-called good cholesterol—levels up and LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, levels down. LDL is the main source of cholesterol buildup in the arteries, and HDL actually works to clear cholesterol from the blood.

The nutrition community is somewhat divided right now as to whether saturated fat and its effect on cholesterol is truly an issue. If you happen to be on the pro-saturated-fat side, olive oil still offers you a host of benefits, primarily because it contains natural antioxidants—polyphenols—which prevent the formation of certain free radicals that cause cell destruction within the body. Free radicals are linked to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and the general degenerative process of aging.

Recent studies show that olive oil's polyphenols also inhibit another one of the processes that contribute to heart disease. This means that not only do the monounsaturated fats in olive oil resist the plaque-forming process that leads to heart disease, but the antioxidants actually help to inhibit that process as well. When people with high cholesterol levels removed the saturated fat from their diets and replaced it with olive oil, their LDL cholesterol levels dropped by 18 percent. Another study reported that 2 tablespoons a day of olive oil added to an otherwise unchanged diet resulted in significant drops in total and LDL cholesterol. These impressive results can be understood as a by-product of the monounsaturated fats AND of the high levels of polyphenols that are present in olive oil.

But wait, there's more!

Research on olive oil and the symptoms of diabetes has also shown that a diet rich in olive oil helps to prevent belly-fat accumulation and the insulin resistance seen after the high-carbohydrate meals. Anti-inflammatory substances linked to the monounsaturated fats in olive oil can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms, and may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of asthma. And early studies reveal that the phenols in olive oil can lessen the inflammation-mediated bone loss involved in osteoporosis.

How much is enough?

So now that we're confident that olive oil is good for the heart and is likely good for many other degenerative or inflammatory conditions, we can look at how to go about adding this nutritional elixir to our diets. Experts agree that at least 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil a day is needed for any of these preventive purposes. While it's true that olive oil adds great benefit regardless of what else you're eating, you can benefit most by substituting olive oil for less healthy fats, rather than just adding more olive oil to your diet.

The most important point about usage, however, is not how much olive oil we consume a day, but what kind of olive oil we use and how we store it.

Olive oil shopping

All olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and phenols, but the amounts vary wildly depending upon the type of olive oil and how it is handled. Simply put: If you're interested in the health benefits of olive oil, don't buy anything less than extra virgin olive oil! All types of olive oil contain monounsaturated fat, but extra virgin olive oils are the least processed forms, which means that their phenol (antioxidant) content is the highest.

Just as important as the purity of the olive oil you buy is its storage both before and after you get it home. Olive oil can become rancid from exposure to light and heat, but even low levels of light and heat exposure that don't cause rancidity can cause the breakdown of phenols, thereby canceling out many of the health-enhancing benefits. Research has shown that consuming olive oil that has been degraded by light and heat is simply not as beneficial, so do your best to control for light and heat both before and after you buy the olive oil.

Look for olive oil that is sold in dark-tinted bottles, since the packaging will help protect the purity and nutritional value of the oil. (Research shows that after just 2 months' exposure to light, antioxidant levels had dropped so much the olive oil could no longer be classified as extra virgin.)

Ask your grocer how long the olive oil has been out; purchase olive oil that has spent the minimum time sitting on the shelf by checking the expiration date or by choosing the bottles at the back of the shelf, as the newest ones often reside there.

Buy your olive oil in smaller containers and store it in the dark.

How to care for and cook with your olive oil

Once you get it home, make sure the oil is stored in a cool area, away from any direct or indirect contact with heat. You can leave a small bottle out at room temperature, refrigerating the rest and refilling your daily-use bottle every week or so. (Refrigerated olive oil will solidify and turn slightly cloudy, but will become clear and liquid as it returns to room temperature.)

Add olive oil to foods immediately after cooking to get the most nutritional benefit. All cooking oils have a "smoke point" at which they begin to break down, thereby compromising taste and, in the case of olive oil, phenols. Although different sources report various grades of olive oil as having various smoke points, it's generally accepted that extra virgin olive oil has a much lower smoke point (anywhere from 200 degrees to the high 300s). If you do want to cook with olive oil (which is perfectly fine and, if done right, delicious), buy a separate bottle of regular or "light" oil, which has a much higher smoke point, upward of 400 degrees.

Instead of serving butter, fill a small condiment dish with extra virgin olive oil for use on bread, rolls, potatoes, or other vegetables. For more flavor, try adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar or a sprinkling of your favorite spices to the olive oil. You can also drizzle your daily serving of 2 tablespoons of olive oil over just about anything after it's been cooked: a morning frittata, your lunchtime salad (mixed with balsamic or a flavored vinegar), or your dinner vegetables, pasta, fish, or chicken.

Trendy superfoods may come and go, but olive oil has been here since the days of the ancient Greeks, and today's medical research validates its long-lived reputation. Whether you're primarily interested in cardiovascular health or protection against degenerative diseases, adding olive oil to your daily diet is delicious and healthful, so drizzle it into your nutrition plan today.

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Elvis Presley, the king of rock 'n' roll, pelvic thrusts, and peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, was rumored to have once heavily sedated himself for 2 weeks in an attempt to continually sleep and lose weight. While he might have removed the bags from under his eyes, Elvis' crash diet did nothing to help him cram into that jumpsuit, and he ended up gaining 10 pounds. As far back as the binge-and-purge bacchanalias of ancient Rome, people have been trying to lose weight in the fastest and sometimes strangest ways. With tactics ranging from subsisting on baby food to ingesting live tapeworms, crash diets promise quick and efficient weight loss, but at what price?

What is a crash diet?

A crash diet is any nutritional plan that severely reduces calories, is nutritionally restrictive, and is supposed to promote quick weight loss. Often the diet focuses on one food group or type, and is not usually intended for long-term use. Any diet that goes below 1,000 calories a day is considered extremely dangerous, and just one step away from starvation.

What is the benefit?

Do crash diets actually work? According to Dr. Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University, crash diets are (at least temporarily) effective for "disinhibited eaters," or those who are easily tempted by food. (That's all of us, isn't it?) According to her study, by dropping weight quickly, those who are easily discouraged by slow and steady weight loss get instant gratification, and therefore, results. The problem, of course, is that you can't maintain a crash diet forever. Donald Hensrud, chairman of preventive medicine at Mayo Clinic, said: "People could eat nothing but jelly beans and if they were eating just a small amount, they would lose weight. You might be able to get away with it for a period of time, but the more restrictive the diet is—and the longer you follow it—the greater the risks."

What are those risks?

The first issue is usually nutrient deficiency, as one cannot get all of the nutrients he or she needs from a bowl of cabbage soup. It is difficult to get a sufficient amount of calcium, vitamin D, or iron on a very low-calorie diet. You can do permanent damage to your organs by not providing them with their required fuel. If you lose too much fluid, you can damage your electrolyte level, and become easily dehydrated. We know low levels of potassium and sodium can cause cramping, fainting, and even heart failure.

The next thing you're looking at is a slower metabolism. Your body is an extremely efficient machine and will slow down its resting metabolic rate in order to survive longer. This is how our ancestors made it through famine, floods, and sometimes, just winter. Over time, you will lose lean muscle without the proper nutrients to maintain it, which will lower your metabolism even further. With that slower metabolism comes decreased energy. Not only will that affect your home and work life, it will destroy your workouts.

Should you continue on the super low-cal path, you are likely to suffer catabolic reactions. You would expect to lose weight as long as your metabolism uses up more chemicals and energy than it is replacing, right? In fact, weight loss may occur for a short period resulting not from fat loss, but from breakdown of cell structures, organ tissue, bone, and muscle. The body then uses up structural proteins in order to survive. So, yes, your body will begin to consume itself.

Your emotional state will usually alter with the lower number on the scale, which is not quite low enough to compensate for how yucky you feel. Irritability, depression, and lack of patience are very common with calorie restriction. Your sleep state will be affected, as severe caloric restriction often disrupts sleep patterns and can cause insomnia. Lack of sleep, in turn, will not assist in muscle recovery, your mood, or your energy. And eventually when you return to a rational eating plan, your body will be all the more likely to store everything you eat, as it thinks it has been starving for the last few weeks.

Why, why, why?

So, why on earth would anyone do this to themselves, especially if it means only drinking lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper? The quick fix. We are a drive-thru nation that believes instant gratification is our birthright. If we can get it in a pill or hire someone to do it for us, we will. We also live in a culture obsessed with thinness, and we seldom take into consideration how much lean muscle can actually do for us, and how much better it looks than "skinny fat." So we torture ourselves with the "path of least resistance" and end up right back where we started, often before that high school reunion or Christmas party actually happens. And we still can't fit into that darn dress.

What is the answer?

The answer is, as it has been for centuries, to make a decision to change your life, and then to have the motivation and discipline to stick with it. Eat a clean diet, somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 calories depending on your needs, split up over 5 to 6 meals a day with an appropriate balance of protein, carbs, and fats. Perform intense exercise that burns 500 to 800 calories a day, creating a greater caloric deficit, and speeding up your metabolism. Drink lots of water; get 8 hours of sleep; and try to avoid alcohol, refined sugar, and processed foods. Losing 1 to 2 pounds a week is not really hard to figure out, but it does take hard work and commitment to a plan.


Cyril Connolly, the famous writer and critic, once said, "The one way to get thin is to reestablish a purpose in life." And truly, that is the kind of commitment it takes. If weight loss were easy, everyone in the world would pop a pill, subsist on only bananas, and walk for just 30 minutes a day. If weight loss were easy, we would not be inundated with Jenny Craig® commercials and weight loss-based reality shows. If weight loss were easy, all of those New Year's resolutions would have come to fruition. But diets alone, especially the crash variety, do not work. So stay off the diet merry-go-round and stay committed to the control of your health and your appearance. Just because Elvis couldn't lose weight without extreme means doesn't mean you can't. Of course, you probably can't get paid thousands to wear a rhinestoned spandex jumpsuit, so it evens out.

By Amy Ludwig

Choosing a healthy lifestyle is not, unfortunately, one of those "set it and forget it" decisions. Don't we all wish it were? Instead, it's a result of many smaller choices we make every day—with every meal. Every snack. And every workout.

You always start the day with the best intentions. You eat a thoughtful breakfast. You pack a sensible lunch, and even remember to bring it with you to work. But then comes mid-afternoon, a dip in energy, and lowered self-control. If you're already in that weakened state and you hear that there are cupcakes in the office for someone's birthday, well, in the words of Donnie Brasco, "Fuhgeddaboudit."

Healthy habits only become habits when you do them more than once.

Instead of setting yourself up to fail, you can set yourself up to make good choices by planning ahead. That will give you a fighting chance to succeed. So where do you begin?

Identifying your weaknesses is the first step. Figure out where you're likely to slip up, and you can take action to prevent it. Here are 10 common problems that derail many of us, and suggestions for how to fight back.
  1. Avoid eating late at night. Your metabolism slows down when you sleep, so late-night calories are harder to burn off.

    Fight back: Eat small meals or snacks every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. Time your meals so that you stop 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed.
  2. Don't grab fast food on impulse. You're already on your way to avoiding this one if you're eating regular small meals and snacks. You'll keep your brain fed, so it doesn't shut down.

    Fight back: Pack healthy snacks and bring them with you. These can be simple—a small handful of raw almonds is a better choice than a greasy burger.
  3. If you shouldn't eat it, don't put it in your shopping cart. Seriously. If you put it in your shopping cart, it comes home with you. And you know it's there.

    Fight back: It's much harder to eat junk food in a moment of stress or weakness if it's not in your house.
  4. If you're tempted by junk food, look in the mirror. Think it through—those calories will go somewhere. And probably somewhere you've spent hours in the gym trying to slim and shape. So a bad choice now will just mean more effort later.

    Fight back: Reach for a piece of fruit instead.
  5. Don't eat for comfort. If something gets you stressed or upset, take a breath, not a bite. Knowing that you're taking good care of yourself, even when you're down, will help you to feel better more quickly.

    Fight back: Try calling a friend, taking a 10-minute walk around the block, or playing with your pet. Or working out.
  6. Find healthy versions of your favorite guilty pleasures. Stock your kitchen with those instead.

    Fight back: Craving ice cream? A creamy low-fat yogurt could hit the spot. Want the crunch of chips? Try snacking on fresh red peppers, sliced jicama, or baked kale chips (they're easy to make, and astonishingly tasty).
  7. Pay attention to portion size. You don't need to eat heaping helpings.

    Fight back: If you absolutely must have ice cream, grab a teacup instead of a bowl. You'll get the taste you crave, but in a much smaller serving.
  8. Make exercise a priority. It's easy to let it feel optional and get lost in the shuffle.

    Fight back: Plan your workout schedule for the week and stick to it. If that feels too daunting, start by committing to 1 day. Then try planning for 2 days, and build from there. When you start seeing results, you won't want to stop.
  9. Just work out—don't ask yourself if you want to. Most people (myself included) would answer "No."

    Fight back: Just commit, get in your workout clothes, and Push Play. You'll be sweating, happy, and proud of yourself before you know it.
  10. Must have chocolate? Reach for chocolate Shakeology®. It's made with real cocoa, so it hits that chocolate nerve—as well as providing essential vitamins and minerals to nourish your body, and cleansing prebiotics to gently eliminate built-up toxins from eating processed foods.
Overall, keep your larger goal in mind: to live a healthy, fulfilling life. Let that aim inform your individual choices. They'll transform from problems into stepping stones on your path to success.

A great way to remind yourself to make good choices throughout the day is to start it off with Shakeology for breakfast. Not only is it a nutritious, healthy meal, it will help curb your cravings and increase your energy.

11 Tips to Get Fit at 40

Friday, August 05, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Jeanine Natale

When I turned 40 this past February, one of the pledges I made was to look and feel much better than I had at 39, or at 38, 37, or 36, for that matter. I'd become pudgy and very out of shape through a combination of a badly broken toe that stranded me on crutches for months, terrible eating habits, and, of course, no exercise other than stumping around on those sticks.

Even after I got off the crutches, it was several more months before I could really walk and move around normally again. Sick of how I was feeling and looking, I made up my mind that by the Big 4-0, I was going to be fabulous! Here are 11 tips that have helped get me to where I want to be.
  1. Favorite sports, new activities. My big transformation happened over summer, which meant I got to surf free of my wetsuit! Even without the effort of struggling into a suit, it takes good overall fitness, especially solid core strength, to carry that longboard over long stretches of sand, paddle, and master the all-important pop-up maneuver. If surfing isn't your thing, think about the kinds of activities and workouts that you loved doing when you were younger, or perhaps always wanted to do and never got around to. And if you've got kids, take a look at the kinds of things they like to do for fun. Okay, maybe learning to skateboard at 40 isn't such a bright idea, but playing basketball or soccer are both great workouts, as are ballet and martial arts.
  2. Solid workout. While trying new activities is always a thrill, it's also a good idea to have a solid, regular workout program for developing overall fitness. Programs like Power 90®, Slim in 6®, and Turbo Jam® provide an excellent system to get yourself back in shape if you've let yourself go, so you can get back to those activities you love to do without the frustration of struggling to catch your breath in the middle of a game, when everyone else around you is raring to go. Then, too, the workouts are challenging—and fun—in their own right! Remember, you're as young as you feel, and as aging causes us to start losing muscle mass and bone density, getting back in shape doing something you love is a great way to fight back.
  3. Take a hike and do some yoga. Getting back on my feet, I found that doing a daily low-impact walk was a great way to get rid of specific sore spots in my feet and knees from limping around on crutches. And warming up before and after any kind of walk or run is a good way to avoid undoing your efforts at exercise by just being stiff and sore for days after. There are several studies showing yoga to be one of the best stretch exercises around at any age, but especially for those of us 40 and over. Even my own mom and dad, who have NEVER been fitness buffs, have discovered yoga and stretching at the ages of 70 and 80 respectively. I've seen the positive changes especially in my dad, who suffers from osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, and now Parkinson's disease. My mom, recently recovered from a broken hip, makes a great yoga buddy for my dad, and as the two of them have been at it for the last 6 months, I see my dad up and taking walks now, and eating healthy (something he also never did before!). And my mom isn't limping anymore or getting stiff knees. They're smiling more, too. I took an informal poll, and I found that at least 85 percent of people I know over the age of 20 who are in good health and good shape do yoga on a regular basis.
  4. Get a little color in those cheeks (but not too much!). Taking a walk on a sunny day is one way to do that. However, it is crucial to be safe and smart about it. That baking-sheet-style, lie-out-roasting tan isn't good for your skin at any age! Wear sunglasses with UV protection and carry sunscreen with you at all times when you are out in the sun. Apply it liberally and often! If you are working up a sweat, or you're walking on the beach splashing in the waves, sunscreen washes off—even the waterproof kind. Also, if you're taking a calcium supplement such as Beachbody's Core Cal-Mag, a moderate amount of sunshine is one good way to get the vitamin D necessary to help your body absorb calcium. But I repeat, do NOT forget sunscreen!
  5. Moisturize! No matter what time of year it is, I'm finding that my skin really is more sensitive to humidity levels, and dries out much more quickly. Do some research and find the products that are suited to your skin type—you'll be able to tell pretty quickly which lip balms and lotions are right for you—and use 'em! For summer especially, make sure they contain a strong enough sunscreen. Keep a little sample-size bottle in your car, another in your backpack or purse, and don't leave home without it!
  6. Truly healthy juices, truly healthy shakes. And I mean serious juice—the kind with dark leafy greens, beets, ginger, carrots, etc. I do love my juicer. Why? Because it leaves all the fibery goodness in my cocktail and I can get a heaping plateful of summer-fresh fruits and veggies in one glass—I always replace at least one meal, if not two, with a big 16-ounce glass of juice. But if dealing with a juicer and prepping veggies and fruits sounds too time consuming to you, check out Shakeology®, the Healthiest Meal of the Day®. This is a new discovery for me, and it contains everything I love about my juices, plus so much more.
  7. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, supplements. Feel free to explore the vast world of supplements, vitamins, and minerals. I tend to have a very sensitive stomach when it comes to taking the pill form of some vitamins and herbal remedies, but recently a 46-year-old friend of mine, who is an excellent massage therapist and yoga buff, made me a juice with the following supplements: echinacea, goldenseal, ginseng, gingko, biotin, spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae, yerba santa, grapefruit seed extract, acidophilus, 5-HTP amino acid complex, and bee pollen. I washed down a handful of probably 20 pills and capsules with that juice, and was very pleasantly surprised that it gave me no trouble whatsoever and had me feeling good all day. Do your research and find the mix that works for you.
  8. Be nice to your body—it needs you. Pulling all-nighters, eating junk food, and hunching over the computer for hours moving nothing but your fingertips: Ahhh, the good old days! If you still love doing this and you've been out of college for more than a decade, at least trade in the junk food for a healthier choice. And your body will thank you profusely if you just stand up every half hour to move around and stretch, even for a couple of minutes. In all honesty, recovering from those late nights—whether you're out partying or fervidly working on an important project—becomes much harder to do as our bodies age. If you have to be at work in the morning after a rough night, it shows up under your eyes, in your back, in your knees, in the heavy fog coating your brain—you get the picture. You can't always be on an optimal stress-free schedule, but being mindful of your body really does help.
  9. Avoid late-night meals and midnight snacks. If you've been active on a beautiful long summer day, you'll be good and ready for bed. If you want the experience to be a restful one, avoid eating a heavy late-night meal. While there are many studies and opinions on the actual long-term health effects of this, the general consensus is that if you do eat just before bed, keep it light and simple. As Chris Idzikowski, Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, says, "A heavy meal can sometimes lead to heartburn-type or reflux symptoms as you're lying down with a full stomach."
  10. Get a good night's sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep needs change over a person's lifetime, and older adults may produce and secrete less melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep. Being active during the day and getting enough exercise goes a long way to not only keeping you healthy, but leaving you feeling more relaxed and, well, ready for bed.
  11. Be proactive and be proud of your active self! Whether you've always been in shape and are now beginning to feel the effects of aging, or were out of shape and reached 40 with more of a beginner's outlook on fitness, the fact that you are taking steps to get fit and get healthy both inside and outside is a major achievement that takes time, commitment, sweat, and effort. The payoffs are many, including less time feeling out of sorts and less time in the doctor’s office. With all the science and knowledge we have so readily available today, there's no reason to despair about old age. Age truly is just a number. In fact, a recent 2010 study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research showed that, overall, people aged 70 and older who had a positive mental attitude about aging and who were physically active reported feeling much younger than their years. Conversely, those who had a more negative attitude about getting older tended to be less active; and reported feeling at least their age, if not older; and reporting more health problems than the younger group did.
Way back when, a friend of mine commented that he just couldn't keep up like he used to on the volleyball court—that he was perhaps getting too old to do that sort of thing anymore. We were only 27 years old! It was probably the first time I had heard anyone my age mention something like that, and then—as now—I simply refused to accept it. Don't get me wrong, there is always the (unwelcome) possibility that some underlying health issue is a contributing factor, in which case serious medical attention must be sought. Fortunately, it wasn't so in this instance. But I remember being surprised by my friend's statement. He was in great shape—probably in better shape than I was—and at the time, I was riding at least 20 miles a day on my bike and was, indeed, quite healthy! Now at the ripe old age of 40, having "let myself go" only to make some much-needed and welcome improvements, I believe there's a lot to be said for being and feeling as young as you think you are, and there's no time like the present to be your best.

By Omar Shamout

While dating is technically supposed to be fun, in reality, it's kinda hard work. In the early phases, the stress of waiting for phone calls, the anxiety over what to wear or how to do your hair, the tension of awkward silences during the calamari appetizer—all can be brutal on the ol' ticker. Later on, trying to find fresh ways to keep the bloom of love alive can often seem like equally hard work. Plus all that wining and dining can be your wallet's worst enemy, not to mention your waistline's. With all this in mind, we'd like to suggest a few fun, healthy—and inexpensive—ways to incorporate fitness into your efforts at romance, whether with someone new you're trying to woo, or someone with whom you'd like to continually keep rekindling the fires of desire.

  1. The Sand-in-the-Toes Date. Yup, everyone's favorite romantic cliché is actually quite good exercise. Since we're used to wearing shoes, we generally don't engage most of the muscles in our feet for everyday use. Walking barefoot on sand will force you to use all the muscles in your feet, making it a surprisingly challenging workout that'll help prevent injuries in other activities. (And if you want to take things up a notch, running on sand burns 30 percent more calories than running on pavement does. Start out on wet sand—it'll help better acclimate your feet to the surface.) So after you've had your lovely candlelit dinner, you can walk off that dessert on the beach. If you get tired, stop, sit under the moon, listen to the waves and, well . . . you get the picture.
  2. The Check–out-Your-Town-on-Foot Date. Now that you've built up those foot muscles, use them to explore your city! Be it New York, where commuting on foot is a given, or Los Angeles, where walking is practically verboten, there are a plethora of walking tours designed to cater to a variety of different interests—gastronomic, historical, and everything in between. Whether you live in a sprawling metropolis or in Smalltown, USA, in this virtual age, it's important to remember that we live in actual physical spaces, each with a story all its own.
  3. The Great Outdoors Date. Next time you feel the urge for a romantic weekend getaway, consider sleeping under the stars instead of under the roof of a five-star resort. Sure, we all love room service, but sometimes it takes the vastness of wide-open spaces to create true intimacy. Guys, go from ordinary Joe to knight in shining armor as you protect your lady from lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). Gals, impress your beau with some dazzling tree-climbing skills, or with your ability to start a fire with a couple of sticks. Resourcefulness is very sexy!
  4. The Nine-Hole Date. Not only is walking (no cart, please!) nine or 18 holes of golf great cardio, it's also a good way to add some competitive spirit to a relationship. Public courses won't overtax your bank account, and you can usually rent clubs for a reasonable price, too. If the prospect of an actual round of golf seems too daunting, a driving range is also a great way to have some fun while being active. If things are a little tense between you and your significant other, it might actually be therapeutic! And if even a driving range seems beyond your skill set, there's always mini-golf. You heard it here first: chasing a ball down before it enters the wrong windmill door and falls in the moat counts as exercise.
  5. The Water Date. It's the end of summer, and chances are it's still pretty warm where you live. Too hot for a lot of clothes. So why not take your P90X®-toned bodies down to the local watering hole and go for a swim? It's a great full-body, low-impact cardio workout that's easy on the joints. Because you use more muscles 'n' limbs to move your body when you swim, you'll also be burning more calories. If you live near a beach, lake, or river, make a whole day of it and lounge on the shore as you discover new ways to get sand in places you didn't think it was possible for sand to even go. If you're feeling extra-festive, bring a portable BBQ and grill up some lean protein (ideally fish, maybe even fish you caught yourself!) and a few fresh veggies. Exercise and heart-healthy food—they just seem to go together, don't they?
If you put your mind to it, there are countless ways to have fun-filled adventures with your loved (or soon-to-be-loved, if you play your cards right) one that are good for your body, easy on your wallet, and conducive to helping you learn about each other in a setting that's slightly more imaginative than a dinner table or a movie theater. And from a wooing perspective, the further outside the box you think, the more it'll seem like you're really trying to make your time together special, which is never a bad thing. So give these suggestions a try, or use them as springboards for something that works better for you and the object of your affections. Remember, fitness can have a place in all aspects of your life—including your love life!

By Elizabeth Brion

When you think, in a general sense, of fruit, what image comes to mind? A still life? A farmers' market? An orchard? The produce section at your supermarket? Probably not war, though. Or tanks. Or generals. I've done a lot of historical research over the last year or so, though, and guess what kept turning up? Wars. Tanks. Yep—even generals. See if you can guess which fruit is responsible for which colorful story.
  1. Apricot – Its mere presence is treacherous to military vehicles. It seems that in World War II, the Marines noticed that every time a tank broke down, Ration-C apricots were in the vicinity. You obviously don't want your military transport giving out on you, so a foolproof protection plan was put in place—to this day, you can neither possess nor mention apricots in or near an armored vehicle. I found a story of one WWII vet who flouted this rule and snacked on apricots constantly; other men refused to ride with him, considering him reckless. I consider him a genius; I imagine it's not easy to get any privacy when you're fighting a war.
  2. Cherry – Without this fruit, life simply isn't worth living. The Roman general Lucullus has gone down in history as a foodie as well as a military man. It's said that he spent the last decade of his life in madness and decadence, which is a robust environment in which to plant the legend that he committed suicide when he realized he was running out of cherries. I don't wish to downplay the obvious point here, which is that cherries are completely awesome, but do keep in mind that Roman generals were, as a group, much more gung-ho about suicide than we are today. This might have qualified as a wholly sensible reason.
  3. Rhubarb – Could the threat of its absence have prevented an entire war? Chinese Commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu, in his famous open letter to Queen Victoria regarding England's export of opium to China, contrasted England's addictive wares with China's wholesome ones with the dubious claim that the English could not survive a single day without tea and rhubarb. Unfortunately, it appears that the Queen never read his letter; had she been apprised of this threat to her people's existence, she certainly would have acted to avoid The First Opium War, avoiding many fatalities from both combat and (I assume) the rhubarb shortage that resulted.
  4. Watermelon – Makes an excellent weapon—and an excellent defense. Roman Governor Demosthenes was widely considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—orators of his time. Indeed, you'd have to be pretty quick on your elocutionary feet to handle having a watermelon hurled at you during a political debate with such grace; Demosthenes placed the watermelon hull upon his head and thanked the thrower for giving him a helmet to wear into battle against Phillip II of Macedonia (a foe he seems to have regarded much as Snoopy did the Red Baron).

By DeLane McDuffie

Don't you hate it when things don't go your way? Or when the weather forecast calls for sunshine, but it rains instead? That may have been on the minds of the people mentioned below, ranging from fitness/health icons to regular Joes. One minute, you could be shaking hands with Life, and then the next minute, it could be slapping you in the face. Wear a helmet. The following individuals got a taste of Life's ironic side. Match the man with the characteristic that best befits his unplanned exit strategy.
  1. Jim Fixx – Cholesterol roadblock. James F. Fixx was a key figure in America's jogging movement of the late 1970s. He authored the best-selling book The Complete Book of Running in 1977 and championed healthy dieting for living a long life. One morning in 1984, he suffered a heart attack while on his daily morning jog. His autopsy revealed that he had severe blocking in three coronary arteries.
  2. Jerome Moody – Premature celebration. Near the end of the summer of 1985, the New Orleans Recreation Department held a huge pool party to commemorate its first summer in memory without a single drowning. Two hundred people were in attendance, with more than half of them being certified lifeguards. There were also four lifeguards on duty. As the party began to wind down, the lifeguards checked the premises. To everyone's shock, there was a fully clothed man, Jerome Moody, lying at the bottom of the deep end. Moody, a party guest, drowned while surrounded by lifeguards.
  3. Jerome Irving Rodale – Bored to death. The other Jerome on this list is credited with establishing the organic food movement. He also was the publisher/founder of the Rodale Press, home of many wellness magazines, like Men's Health, Women's Health, and Prevention. During a guest appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971, Rodale boasted to Cavett during the interview, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run down by some sugar-crazed taxi driver." Within minutes, the 72-year-old slumped over in his chair, dead from a heart attack. In the original story, Cavett thought that Rodale was asleep and asked him, "Are we boring you, Mr. Rodale?" However, Cavett later rejected this account, and the show never aired.
  4. Sir Francis Bacon – Frozen dinner. An English Renaissance Man, Bacon was a philosopher, politician, writer, lawyer, and a scientist. His style of scientific investigation later led to the scientific method, and he's even been rumored to have penned some of Shakespeare's plays. In 1626, the man with the delicious surname wondered if snow could preserve meat. Unable to keep his curiosity at bay, he killed a chicken, stepped outside into a snowstorm, and spent several hours trying to jam snow into the chicken. He almost froze to death and later died from pneumonia.
  5. Tycho Brahe – Table manners. This 16th-century Danish astronomer and alchemist was instrumental in establishing the early theories of planetary motion, and also worked alongside German astronomer Johannes Kepler. It is said that during a banquet in Prague, after some serious drinking, the Dane continued to sit at the table and refused to go to the restroom to relieve himself. Back then, it was impolite to excuse oneself from a feast before the meal was concluded. Because of his steadfast dining etiquette, his bladder popped like a balloon, and he suffered unimaginable pain, meeting his maker about a week and a half later. Other theories have developed about his death, including mercury poisoning and murder.

Test Your Food Slang IQ!

Friday, July 29, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Chris Shinkus

Food has worked its way into bakers' dozens of everyday sayings and folksy colloquialisms, and most of us likely never give a second thought to being happy as a clam or comparing apples to oranges. But let's get down to the meat of the matter. There must be stories behind these expressions, right? Turns out there are. Some of these backstories are charming anecdotes, providing little glimpses into past times; others are fascinating explanations, full of details, which in reality have proven to be only myths. The truth is, finding the real origin of slang terms and expressions like these can be a tough nut to crack, but here are several common terms and their accompanying tales—some true, some not. Lettuce begin . . .
  1. True: "Piece of cake" refers to contest for fanciest ambulation around centrally placed dessert. This is thought to be an offspring of "cakewalk"—itself slang for a promenade common to the American south in the late 1800s. Couples would stroll in a circle around a cake, which was offered as a prize to the pair displaying the most elegant walk. (Not exactly the most arduous competition ever created.) Over time, "piece of cake" came to be used figuratively for anything that was stylish yet easily done, and first appeared in print in 1936 in Ogden Nash's book The Primrose Path: "Her picture's in the papers now, And life's a piece of cake." Clearly pre-paparazzi.
  2. True: "The apple of my eye" refers to the pupil of the vision-orb. Far and away the oldest expression in this list—and one of the oldest in general—this one shows up in the King James Bible and Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but actually pre-dates them both. In fact, it's nearly as old as the English language itself, with its first recorded use dating back to the works of King Alfred in the ninth century. In those pre-Google days, what we know now as the pupil of the eye was believed to be a solid object, and likely due to its shape, it was actually called the "apple." As a result, the phrase "apple of one's eye" at first was quite literally a reference to the pupil. Because sight was considered so precious, it followed that someone considered equally precious could be the "apple of your eye." Romantic to the core.
  3. False: "Bring home the bacon" refers to hanging valuable meat in the parlor to show off opulence. I wish this were true, because it's a good story. It goes that in Merry Olde England in the 16th century, pork was a luxury that was hard to come by and considered a sign of wealth. So when a man managed to score some for his family, some bacon would be hung on a special rack in the parlor when company was coming—a not-too-subtle sign that the man of the house could, in fact, "bring home the bacon." Sadly, this was one of many clever but false stories spread via an email titled "Life in the 1500s" that made its way around in 1999, and was subsequently debunked by the party poopers at
  4. True: "Humble pie" refers to disparity in quality between dishes served to rich and poor. Yeah, we all have a slice from time to time, but what's the story behind the term? Well, let's go back across the pond, to medieval England once more. It was common practice during that time to serve a pie made of deer parts to servants and others sitting at the lower tables in a lord's hall (what we now know as the "kids' table" at Thanksgiving, but I digress). The term of the time for those deer innards—liver, heart, intestines, and other leftovers—was umble. See where this is going? Take the umble pie served to lower ranks, combine it with humble (from the Latin humilem, from which came humility), add a liberal helping of medieval English pronunciation, and you've got a play on words fit for a king.
  5. False: "Spill the beans" refers to voting system involving different-colored legumes. Another one that's totally legit-sounding. According to the story, in Ancient Greece the voting system consisted of a basket or jar, into which each voter placed a "secret ballot" of either a white or a black bean. White was a positive vote, black was a negative vote, and the results were required to be anonymous. But sooner or later, "that" guy would show up to vote and manage to knock over the basket—"spilling the beans," exposing the results of the secret vote, and pretty much ruining everyone's day. The problem is there's one small fact that creates some doubt about this story: The earliest use of "spill the beans" as a term for giving up a secret is from an article in The Stevens Point Journal, June 1908, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, good ol' U.S. of A. But, hey, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

3 Cool Soups for Summer

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

It's summer and the mercury is rising. The last thing any of us is in the mood for is a hot, steaming bowl of chicken noodle or miso soup—which is too bad, because for those of us who are keeping an eye on our calories, soup can be filling, nutritious, delicious, and most importantly, low in calories and fat. But cheer up, soup lovers—we don't have to wait for the first cold winds of autumn to bust out the soup bowls. By borrowing a couple of pages from the cookbooks of our friends across the Atlantic, we can keep a fridge full of refreshingly cool, healthy, soupy goodness.


Gazpacho is a traditional soup from the Andalusian area of Spain. It is generally made with a tomato base and can include onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and stale bread to thicken it. It was served memorably in the Spanish film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, where the suicidal heroine blended her gazpacho with a bottle of sleeping pills and accidentally served it with hilarious results. Gazpacho can be made in a blender (though we recommend omitting the sleeping pills), or for those with knife skills, it can be made chunky-style, with the vegetables diced into small pieces. The ingredient list can be as varied as both your imagination and your produce department allow. Try steering toward fresh vegetables and low-calorie ingredients. If you want to give yourself a protein boost, you can garnish the soup with some chopped boiled egg whites or diced lean ham.
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 6 whole tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup jicama, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Tabasco® Sauce (to taste)
  • Worcestershire sauce (a dash, to taste)
  • Chives, parsley, and/or cilantro, coarsely chopped (for garnish)
  • Bowl or pitcher
  • Blender (optional)
Combine all ingredients in bowl or pitcher, or whirl in blender first to desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Serve with chives, parsley, and/or cilantro as a garnish. Makes 8 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
91 3 g 3 g 14 g 3 g < 1 g


Borscht was a staple in my Russian grandmother's house. When I was a child, I was a little skeeved out by the fluorescent purple-white liquid with bits of egg floating in it, but as I got older, I learned to appreciate the great flavors and the health benefits of the soup. Now, you'll always find a pitcher in my fridge and a couple of bowls in my freezer filled with this tasty concoction. Borscht comes from Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine, and as with Spain's gazpacho, there are as many different ways to make it as there are cooks. Borscht generally uses beets as its base, and you can also add vegetables like onions, cabbage, and tomatoes to the mix. Beef broth makes for a heartier stock, and many chefs choose to garnish the soup with chopped egg. The coup de grace is usually a generous dollop of sour cream swirled into the dark violet broth, but come on—this is a Beachbody newsletter. We'll be swapping the sour cream out for nonfat or low-fat yogurt.
  • 5 to 6 medium-sized beets, julienned
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 16 cups low-sodium chicken, beef, or vegetable broth
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (for garnish)
  • Fresh dill, chopped (for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt, preferably Greek style (for garnish)
  • Large frying pan
  • Large stockpot
In large frying pan, heat olive oil, then sauté onion, carrot, and beets until softened. Stir in tomato paste and set aside. In large stockpot, bring broth to a simmer, then add cabbage and potatoes. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the beet/onion/carrot mixture. Add bell pepper, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper, and simmer for 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Place each serving in soup bowl or mug; top each with half a chopped boiled egg, a pinch of dill, and a tablespoon of yogurt. Makes 12 servings.

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 to 35 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
154 10 g 4 g 20 g 3 g 1 g


This rich, creamy soup made with potatoes, leeks, onions, and heavy cream is considered by many to be a French classic. Although some trace the soup's provenance to the Ritz Hotel in New York, where a French chef created a creamy, blended, cold version of his peasant mother's potato-leek soup, which he named after his hometown of Vichy, France. Wherever it comes from, it is the soup that renowned chef, Kitchen Confidential author, and Top Chef judge and haranguer Anthony Bourdain credits with launching his love for food. And it is the favorite cold soup for many a gourmand. Usually, it's off limits for those watching the bathroom scale, as the traditional incarnation contains loads of heavy cream. However, with a few adjustments and substitutions, a delicious variation can be made that is satisfying without being ruinous for your healthy diet. In fact, one of the main ingredients, the leek, is the vegetable that Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, credits as an important part of her slimming regimen.
  • 4 large leeks, white and light-green parts
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium potatoes (Yukon Golds are good), peeled and finely diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups evaporated skim milk
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Ground white pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped chives (for garnish)
  • Food processor or blender
  • Large saucepan
Rinse leeks well, removing all sand and grit. In a food processor or blender, chop the leeks and onions finely. In a large saucepan, sauté the leek and onion mixture in olive oil until vegetables appear translucent. Add potatoes and chicken broth and simmer until potatoes are soft, to the point of dissolving. Pour contents of saucepan into food processor or blender and puree. Pour into bowl; cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove chilled soup from refrigerator, stir in evaporated milk, and add salt and pepper to taste (we specify white pepper because it makes for a more appealing-looking dish). Ladle each serving into bowl or mug, top each with a tablespoon of chopped chives and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Refrigeration Time: Overnight

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
238 13 g 4 g 43 g 2 g < 1 g

By Steve Edwards

Those of you who pay attention to your diet probably hear a lot about something called the glycemic index (GI) these days. It's become another in a growing list of misunderstood buzzwords in the nutrition world. Today, we'll take a look at everything you need to know about the GI, which is going to take a lot less of your time than reading through the entire GI diet book.

That's not to ding these books, by the way. If you're bored you'll probably learn something by reading any one of them. But in my experience, the glycemic index is not the be-all and end-all of your diet concerns. So I take the opposite approach and say that if you learn to eat properly, you can strike the phrase from your vocabulary entirely.

Simply put, the glycemic index is a way to measure how carbohydrates react in your blood. It's measured on a scale from 1 to 100+, where products with a GI of 55 or under are classified as low GI, those with a GI between 56 and 69 are classified as medium GI, and those with GI of 70 and above are classified as high GI. A high GI number means that a food is quickly converted to glucose in the blood (in layman's terms, a "sugar rush"). The lower the number, the slower the food is converted to glucose. The scale was invented for people with diabetes, but the advent of processed foods becoming a cornerstone of the American diet and the rise of type 2 diabetes have given the average person a good reason to pay attention to the GI index of foods.

Essentially, if we ate nothing but natural whole foods, the GI scale would have little meaning for anyone who didn't have diabetes. Even then, the highest GI foods have low numbers in their natural state. It's the cooking and processing of food that alters it so it breaks down much more rapidly. Eating too much food that is converted to glucose rapidly can lead to type 2 diabetes over time. Pretty much the highest of high GI foods are processed junk foods. There are a few exceptions, which we'll get to, but essentially if we eat a balanced healthy diet with very little junk food, the GI index is far less important to us.

Sugar is the big villain in the GI world. In nature, sugar comes from plants, where it's surrounded by fiber. Fiber in foods slows digestion, lowering the GI number of even foods that are high in sugar, like bananas. Processing, as well as some types of cooking, break down or strip these plants of their fiber. This makes them sweeter to the taste, but it also makes them less healthy. And along with the fiber, processing usually removes a lot of the vitamins and minerals.

The main problem in the American, as stated above, is that we're eating too many processed foods. Although we seem to understand that desserts are mainly sugar, crafty advertisers have been pulling the wool over our eyes by hiding the fact that most American processed foods are not much better for us than sugary desserts are. Breads, cereals, some potatoes and pastas, some rice, crackers, chips, fruit juices, sodas, and condiments, plus almost anything that's ever received a "no fat" label or comes in a box or bag, is high in sugar and probably low in fiber and nutrients. When these processed, packaged foods are all you're eating, you cause your body's insulin response to work overtime. Do this enough, especially without exercise (the great equalizer in the sugar game), and you can wind up with type 2 diabetes.

Of course not every food in the categories I listed above is bad. There are companies that make healthy versions of pretty much everything. But marketers can be tricky. As a consumer, it can be hard to know what you're getting. Even reading food labels can be misleading, which is why every diet that comes with a Beachbody® program consists mainly of whole, natural foods.

So the very simple rule is to make sure your diet consists mainly of whole, natural foods and you will no longer have to pay attention to the GI index. There are some variables worth mentioning, especially since eating nothing but natural foods can be challenging in today's hectic world. Here are ten quick tips to help you understand the GI index:
  1. Desserts. These tend to be mainly sugar and/or fat, and as such, they generally don't try to fool anyone with health claims. If we could keep our desserts small and make them a once-a-day indulgence, we'd have no problems. My tip is to do just that: with desserts, keep a close eye on portion size and frequency. Also, fatty desserts lower the GI influence of the sugar, meaning that, especially if you're insulin sensitive, a richer, fattier dessert might actually be preferable to a "no fat" dessert that's all sugar. But either way, unless you're diabetic or borderline, if indulging in desserts is the only way you stray from your diet, it's not going to cause much harm in the big picture.
  2. Sports. When you're active, and especially when you're operating at your physical limit, your body burns up its stored carbohydrates (known as blood sugar) very rapidly. During and after hard or long bouts of exercise, sugar isn't bad for you—in fact, it's actually good for you. This is the only time this is true. Unfortunately, we often like to eat sugary stuff at the opposite times, like when we're watching TV, and no Wii Fit® game has yet been designed that'll burn off blood sugar unless you do it all day long. When you're not active, you should severely limit your sugar intake.
  3. Sports drinks are for sports. This may seem redundant, but Gator/Power/Acceler-ades et al are only good when you're playing sports that make you sweat. This is also true for things like P90X® Results and Recovery Formula®. These are not your standard foods. They're formulated for when you're playing sports vigorously. The difference between the "-ades" and Results and Recovery Formula is that the former only give you sugar and a small amount of electrolytes you lose when you sweat, whereas the latter uses its sugar (which gets absorbed rapidly when you're out of blood sugar) to transport all sorts of other nutrients to help repair your body after exercise. Oh, and also that the "-ades" market themselves as things you might want to drink all day long, exercising or not.
  4. Salads are your friend. Not only are they loaded with fiber, but many of the things we tend to put on salads, including vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice, as well as pickled vegetables, etc., tend to have acids that lower the GI index of other foods.
  5. Add protein to all your meals. Like fats, proteins slow absorption rates of high GI foods.
  6. Use semolina or whole wheat pastas. These have a much lower GI number (around 30 to 55) than pasta made from refined, enriched white flour.
  7. Use long-grain or brown rice. All rice is fairly high in the GI index, but long-grain rice can be fairly low (50 to 60), whereas white short-grain rice can be as high as 130.
  8. Eat crisp fruit. Fruit is not a real concern unless your diet has an inordinate amount of it. If so, the mushier—and sweeter—a fruit becomes, the higher its GI number. But even the sweetest fruits, like ripe papaya, are only around 60.
  9. Beware of fluff. Fluffy and puffy foods tend to have a high GI number. Cereals are a good example. When a cereal is chewy, that generally means it has more fiber and is less processed, as opposed to soft, fluffy cereals that have been excessively processed and injected with air (and sugar). Potatoes, especially white, fluffy ones, can have extremely high GI numbers, often in the 90s. Fortunately, we tend not to eat potatoes plain, and, as stated above, adding meats, fats, and acidic ingredients will bring the number way down. Oddly enough, sweet potatoes, despite the deceptive name, have a very low GI number. Yams, too.
  10. Some sugar can be OK. If you see a trend here, it's that sugar speeds itself into your system, and if this is your primary mode of eating, it's bad. However, sugars can also speed other nutrients into your system, so you'll sometimes see sugar as an ingredient alongside a lot of healthy nutrients to serve this purpose. A good example is Beachbody's Shakeology® meal replacement shake. It has around 10 grams of sugar (40 calories) in a serving that also contains a lot of protein and 70 other healthy ingredients. In lab tests, Shakeology scored a 24* on the glycemic index, as low as a lot of vegetables. So while sugar is generally the GI villain, you need to look at the entire profile of the foods you're eating before you pass judgment.
*Shakeology was tested by Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc., a premier facility for testing the metabolic responses to foods and ingredients. GI Labs is the only lab in North America recommended by the Glycemic Index Foundation. GI Labs follows a Determination Standard protocol of testing in vivo with ten human subjects. GI Labs' protocol exceeds the standards set by the World Health Organization.

By Valerie Watson

There are days when I wish I could transplant my brain, with its rich history of experience, memories, thoughts, and feelings, into a fresh, new body, with less back pain, fewer knee tweaks, and a lack of assorted other issues that may or may not be associated with aging. (I kinda don't want to think about it . . . or perhaps my brain is having memory issues.) However, the brain transplant remains a hypothetical procedure rife with bioethical concerns. Fortunately, the realm of pop culture has presented us with a variety of brain transplant scenarios to enjoy. Your job? Match the brain-transplant-related plot with the book, movie, or TV show in which it was featured.
  1. Original Star Trek – Ship's officer has brain removed and stolen by gang of hot, none-too-bright female aliens to serve as an organic computer to run their planet. In the ST:TOS episode "Spock's Brain," Leonard Nimoy suffers the indignity of first having his brain stolen, then of having his brainless body forced to walk around by Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) operating a primitive handheld remote control. Almost universally declared to be the worst Star Trek episode ever. Most memorable quote? "Brain and brain . . . what is brain?"
  2. I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein – Super-elderly billionaire whose body is on its last legs has his brain transplanted into the body of his beautiful young secretary. When wealthy industrialist Johann Sebastian Bach Smith arranges to find a younger body in which to transplant his brain, he never dreams that the body will be that of his beloved secretary Eunice, who is killed in an assault. Written in 1970, the book uses this plot as an opportunity to explore the differences between young and old, male and female, cranky and cheerful, chaste and promiscuous. (Especially promiscuous.)
  3. Friends – In show-within-a-show storyline, actor plays character who's the result of a scheming diva's brain being transplanted into the body of a male neurosurgeon. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) has an up-and-down history as an actor on the soap Days of Our Lives. He gets cast in and then loses the role of neurosurgeon Dr. Drake Ramoray, and is later brought back to the show to play a composite of Dr. Ramoray's body and the brain of prima donna–ish Jessica Lockhart, who was formerly played by fictional actress Cecilia Monroe (Susan Sarandon). While soap operas have a history of way-out-there storylines, including much reanimation of dead characters, this story may have either achieved new highs or sunk to new lows . . . depending on your perspective.
  4. Young Frankenstein – In classic horror film spoof, mad scientist's grandson finds old man's journals and recreates his attempts to reanimate dead body with transplanted brain. This classic Mel Brooks comedy wrings ample humor from the oft-told tale of the doctor obsessed with both brain transplantation and reanimation. Plus it uses period-appropriate black-and-white cinematography and many sets and props from the original 1931 film Frankenstein, and features an amazing cast headed by Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, which he insists must be pronounced "FRAHNKensteen." As the monster, Peter Boyle does more with a few grunts and sidelong glances into the camera than most actors achieve with pages of dialog.
  5. The Thing with Two Heads – Wealthy, ailing racist has head transplanted onto new body—the body of an African-American death row inmate. With the original head still attached. Ray Milland: classic actor in classic films like The Lost Weekend and Dial M for Murder. Rosey Grier: football legend of the L.A. Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" and author of the 1973 book Needlepoint for Men. Put them together (surgically!) and you've got one of the most truly awful (and most unintentionally funny) movies ever. Perhaps more presciently than one would expect, the trailer begins with the line "It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . "