PostHeaderIcon Why Some New Years Resolutions Don’t Work According to Benjamin Franklin

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I remember the beginning of 2019, before the quarantine; when I was still meeting with friends and one of my friends asked me what my resolution was. I said something along the lines of overcoming my fears and learning to take more risks. He scoffed. I think he wanted me to have a more specific goal in mind. Yet, that year I accomplished so many things I never thought I would just because I resolved not to let fear hold me back. I have other friends who say that new years resolutions are dumb because most people fail at keeping them. I did some research and found that many resolutions are successful after they are first initialized but by the very end of the year, many people do forget about it.

I wonder if the failure rate has more to do with the types of resolutions that people make. I have noticed that people don’t make resolutions; they make goals such as, the goal to lose weight, to save money, to get a promotion or to find love. Over the years, I found that these type of goals don’t serve me well because they focus on the goal itself and not on how I can achieve them. So I started focusing on character resolutions, because if I don’t have the character I need to reach these goals, I can’t achieve them. For example, if you lack courage, you will be too afraid to tackle that promotion or find the love of your life. If you lack discipline, how will you lose the 10% body fat you seek to shed? So if you’ve been unsuccessful in these goals in the past, perhaps make your focus all about finding courage instead.

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most accomplished people in history. He made scientific discoveries, was one of the founding fathers, owned a publishing house, published many papers, started the first American library and fire brigade and much more. When I read his autobiography, I found it interesting that his resolutions focused on character, not goals. While he did have an excellent diet, quitting alcohol or certain foods was not on his resolution list. Instead he focused on “temperance,” so he would be able to eat healthier. Though he was so accomplished as an intellectual and statesman, none of those goals were on his list. His resolution list looks like this as copied from his autobiography:

  1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary
    actions.
  7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak
    accordingly.
  8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they
    deserve.
  10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the
    injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Benjamin Franklin resolved to focus on each virtue for one week at a time and cycle through them. He marked them on his calendar. He had clearly thought through these virtues. For example, he chose “temperance” as his first resolution because it would keep his head cool and clear, thus making it easier for him to reach other goals.

He chose “silence” because he realized that if he listened more than he spoke, he would learn more. He was aware that he was too much of a wise-ass, always interrupting people with jokes which didn’t make him the best company to certain types of people.

Benjamin Franklin intended to have only 12 virtues but he added “humility” because people were telling him that he was too arrogant and he realized he needed to work on that.

I learned from Mr. Franklin that to accomplish the kind of feats that he did requires great character and that I should work on that if I want to be strong enough to be better in other aspects of my life. When I resolved to tackle my resolutions in this way, many years ago, I started seeing success in every aspect of my life, from relationships and career, to money and sanity. Everything started to affect each other positively due to my growing resolutions to simply be a better person.

Unlike Mr. Franklin, I only tackled one to three character traits at a time, like the year I tackled perseverance and punctuality; two traits that improved my relationships and career tenfold. Like Mr. Franklin I tried to find books and quotes relating to these goals which is much easier today than it was back then because we have the internet. The year I made “humility” my resolution, I found these great quotes by Mike Tyson, who really struggled with humility earlier in his life:

“Fighting is a sport; if you’re not humble it’s going to bring humbleness to you.” –Mike Tyson

“I had it in my mind: to be confident, and to keep saying that until the confidence appeared. But I took it too far. Confidence did help make me champion, but, man, I took it to a whole different level. I was a megalomaniac. I was not humble and it eventually came back on me. So I want my kids to know, keep humbleness and kindness in their hearts. It will prevail. –Mike Tyson

Benjamin Franklin really struggled with humility, saying that once he had achieved it, he would probably be proud of achieving it which is so much like Mike Tyson saying that if you say you’re humble, you just contradicted yourself. Hahahaha.

Mr. Franklin also struggled with order which made me feel better about my own tendency towards disorder. He said that tackling these resolutions made him realized where his faults really lie and though he didn’t succeed in becoming as orderly as he wanted to, he ended up much better than he would have been, had he not made the resolution in the first place. So this experiment with resolutions made him understand himself more and create more resolutions to work on in the future. He also created prayers to help him with each resolution, something I never thought to do.

I learned that working on deeper character resolutions forces us to take time to really reflect on ourselves and who we truly are. This helps us to verify if what we want is really what we want and it helps us to find flaws in ourselves which we would otherwise overlook. Just spending time once out of the year to do this can lead to great improvements. Steve Jobs made it a point to take time off every year just for self reflection.

If you have been making the same worn out resolutions that everyone makes such as to lose weight or save money, maybe take a look at the goals you didn’t succeed in and ask yourself why. Is it because you lack responsiblity, resolve, punctuality, courage or perserverence? Maybe if you worked on one character flaw that has held you back, it would lead to more progress.

Once you have looked within to find where you’d like to strengthen your character, start a journal to track your progress. Do a google or library search to see if there are any books on the subject. Learn from others who have struggled with or achieved similar resolutions.

If that is too overwhelming, try picking a resolution from Benjamin Franklin’s list above and just work on that.

I like to add more books to my reading list every year and for this year, I highly recommend “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,” by Benjamin Franklin

Happy New Year Everyone! Sending all my love, support and blessings

For more tips on succeeding in your resolutions, check out my blog on accountability here:

PostHeaderIcon The Pros and Cons of Wearing a Mask During Exercise

Now that the mask ordinances are back in place, a lot of my students are concerned with the ramifications of working out with a mask. Training with a mask is nothing new and has been done for years in elite training circles to increase cardiorespiratory capacity. 

Recently, I took the liberty of researching the medical journals to see what studies and experiments have been done on this subject; so this blog is about the pros and cons of wearing a mask during your workout and tips on how to deal with any discomfort.

Me with Leo Fong (Bruce Lee’s old sparring partner)

Pros of Wearing a Mask

Improves aerobic performance

According to a study done by Porcari et al., cardiovascular performance increased after training with an elevation training mask for 6 weeks. According to this study, participants who wore the mask had an improved ventilatory threshold and power output.

You can view the article here: https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2016/05001/Effect_of_Wearing_the_Elevation_Training_Mask_on.3125.aspx

One hypothesis is that athletic performance increased due to more activation and strengthening of cardiovascular and breathing muscles.

Not all studies on cardio performance and mask wearing led to improved VO2 max. This is due to different variables such as the fitness level of participants, the duration of mask training, etc.

Activates more breathing Muscles

Using devices that decrease the amount of oxygen you intake in order to boost athletic gains or get athletes ready to compete in environments at higher altitudes has been a common practice for years. Studies done on these devices have shown that hypoxia (a decrease of oxygen in the body) is not a result of this practice. Instead, the body adapts biologically in order to be able to absorb more oxygen.

One of the ways it does this is to increase activation of the breathing muscles, much like lifting heavier dumbells can increase activation of the skeletal muscles. When wearing a mask, people breath deeper, activating the lungs, diaphragm, and intercostals. This greater activation strengthens the cardiovascular muscles which can increase athletic performance in the long run.

This study by Cheshier et al, shows improved lung function when training with an elevation mask: https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2020/07001/Effects_Of_Elevation_Training_Mask_In_Conjunction.3025.aspx

More information on mask wearing during aerobic exercise can be found here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0237010#pone.0237010.ref011

Get’s you used to training in high altitudes

A friend of mine once had to test for his 4th degree black belt (or some degree). But he was from California and the test would be in the mountains of Colorado where the air was thinner. He trained with an oxygen mask so when he ended up taking the test, he did very well and the thin air didn’t bother him. This is a common method of training when preparing for competition in higher altitudes. I did some research on this and found that how well this works depends on how often you use the mask and how long and the outcome varies between the level of fitness a person has, and other factors.

Protects against viruses and bacteria that can cause lung damage and disease

Oxygen masks have been used for ages to protect doctors and patients from contagious diseases. It filters out particles of moisture in the air that contain viruses and bacteria that cause contagious diseases.

Wearing face masks also reminds people that we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic and it makes us more aware of our need to social distance.

Protects against allergens that can cause asthma, and breathing problems

Masks are often used by people who suffer from asthma to protect them from dust particles, pollen and pollution. It filters out these triggers that can cause asthma and hay fever

More miscellaneous advantages:

Having a face covering keeps you warmer on cold days and can moisten the air you breath when its dry. Wearing a mask has come in really handy when using public restrooms. It sure does help with the nasty smell. It protects us from the fumes of disinfectant spray and dusting.

Cons of Wearing a Mask

Its hot and stuffy

On a warm day, wearing a mask can make it feel sweltering.

Maskne, ewwe!

This can be a real problem if you wear makeup or lip balm. The oil from your lips can spread to the skin around your face from contact with the mask and you end up with acne. For me, I’ve only had a small pimple here and it doesn’t seem to be a problem that all people face. I’ve learned to wash my face more. The good news is, its not a major skin issue. Current research shows that wearing a cloth mask produces less skin problems than wearing a surgical mask. More on this here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33084483/

Its just plain uncomfortable

You don’t have to read a research study to know that wearing a mask is just plain uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. There’s something on your face that wasn’t here before. While many people can easily get used to it, it can be annoying at first.

If you are out of shape and just getting back into working out, wearing a mask can be difficult. You have to breath deeper and more forcefully through the filter and its hot. Workouts seem much harder. You might have to ease into your exercise regimen with less intensity or take frequent breaks. From what I’ve experienced from having to wear a mask and from seeing students, collogues and clients workout with a mask, you can get used to it.

All of the medical studies on wearing a face mask has shown that it does not decrease oxygen supply to our organs. Many of the studies show very little change in blood and oxygen levels. Even heart rate doesn’t seem to change.

Most studies conclude that if you feel like you’re suffocating, its because you are not used to wearing a mask. A surgeon who is used to wearing a mask notices no difference at all. If you’re used to working out in a tank top and now you have to wear a sweatshirt, you are likely to feel discomfort compared to someone who always works out with a sweat shirt. Discomfort can cause anxiety which can change how we breath but all the physiological studies show that if you do feel strain, its not from the mask but from your discomfort and association with the mask.

These days, we have many reasons to feel anxiety but we can reduce the prevalence of panic attacks by learning proper breathing techniques. You can read more about proper breathing in this blog (proper breathing can be done with or without a mask) https://heroestraining.com/?p=318

You can’t see people smile

But they also won’t see you grimace while you try to execute your personal record bench-press or that last rep of squats.

Myths

Wearing a mask can cause hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the body)

So many studies have been done on this subject and all of them show that there is no lack of oxygen in the organs caused by mask wearing: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33153145/

More here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34599253/

Helpful Tips

Practice breathing with the mask on first

So you’re new to wearing a mask while exercising and you don’t like it, but your fitness facility requires mask wearing and so does your county lawmakers. One thing you can do is put the mask on before your workout and practice some deep breathing on your own. just breath through the mask and eventually, you will find that breathing is possible. You can even breath through your mouth and still get the kind of filtering advantage as you would when breathing through your nose. This is a great way to alleviate any anxiety you might have about wearing a mask before your workout.

Find a door or window for mask breaks and take water breaks

Many gyms have a open window where you can go to take of your mask and take breaths. You can also go to a door for breaks. If you are taking a fitness class, let the instructor know ahead of time that you might have to walk out to take a break. Instructors are understanding, especially if you are new and you may not be as fit as the seasoned classmates who are already used to exercising with face masks on.

Also, take frequent water breaks away from others. This gives yo an excuse to take the mask off.

Start light

Starting light is great advice for anyone who is trying to get back in shape. Give yourself time to get fit and try not to go hard and burn out at the get go. This will also give you time to get used to wearing the mask if you find it uncomfortable.

There will be others who embrace mask wearing, like some of my hard core fitness enthusiasts who are always trying to make their workouts more challenging. I have some friends who have worn thicker masks to make their cardiovascular workouts even more challenging. I know others who just can’t stand the mask at all. Whatever your make up, its best to know yourself and do what you feel is right for you in this situation. Where I live, indoor gyms were shut down for almost two years and now people are happy to come back, but need to get used to wearing a mask. Slowly, I see the numbers of gym goers going up. Many are hesitant at first because of the mandatory facial covering, but I have witnessed people get used to it over time.

Also, if you still can’t stand wearing a mask, come to my online classes. You can view the schedule here: https://heroestraining.com/?page_id=218

PostHeaderIcon Be the Peer

I was reading the biography of Nelson Mandela, “Long Walk to Freedom.” There was a part in the book when he was an outlaw. He snuck out of the country to go to a meeting with other political groups who were fighting for equality in Africa.

He said that he felt a strange sensation. He saw that the pilot was black. He actually felt like he shouldn’t trust a black pilot. He had to stop himself and realize that even he, a lawyer who put every ounce of his being into freeing blacks from oppression was hypnotized by the negative conditioning of his culture. Blacks weren’t inferior, it was their oppressors who brainwashed them to believe it.

Hold on a second, Nelson Mandela, one of the most impenetrable persons who ever lived, someone who went to jail for years and came out being the president of the country that tried to oppress him, almost fell into the negative mentality that his people were inferior?

I had to ask myself if I have fallen into this trap, besides my ideals and commitment to mindfulness, and maybe I have here and there. I was told being a girl means I should never lift heavy weights or exert myself too much. At a ripe age of 8 or 9, I was told I could never be a dancer. When I hurt my back, I was told I may never run again. I was told I could never spin a quan dao (ancient kung fu weapon) behind my back because I’m lacking fingers. I was also told I could never do a pull up.

What saved me from succumbing to these attitudes of inferiority was something my father once told me. He told me to “be the peer.” He said that a lot to my brothers and me growing up. We didn’t really understand what he meant until we were older because the word “peer” wasn’t used much where we grew up in Australia at that time. So my older brother thought he said to be the “pear” and that he just had a strong accent.

Photo by ŞULE MAKAROĞLU on Unsplash

But as we got older he started to emphasize the meaning of this term. He said that no one ever pressured him to do anything growing up. Yes, he was a bad boy but he took responsibility for everything he did. He was never swayed to do anything bad. If he did something bad, it was because he wanted to. He was the one who pressured his friends to do things like go to bars or strip clubs. He was the peer, not them.

Granted, my father is not perfect but what he said resonated with me. Whatever you do, take full responsibility for it. Don’t do something just because your friends made you do it. He was telling us to be a leader not a follower. If we do something wrong, we can’t blame others for it because we are the “peer” not them.

When I looked back at everything I accomplished in life and every mistake I made, I take full responsibility. I wanted to do those things. Many of the things I’ve done (like succeed in doing pull ups) I was told could not be done but I didn’t listen. I was pressured to do unhealthy things too, like smoke. I was 7 years old when my friends stole their dad’s cigarettes and started lighting up. I was the only one who didn’t do it, even though my dad smoked two packs a day at the time. But seeing how dependent he was on this bad habit made me wonder why my friends wanted to do such a thing.

They wanted to be like their parents. I knew better. Years later, I got to witness the hell my father went through in the process of quitting the habit. “Don’t be like me” he’d often say, especially when it came to drinking and smoking. “Do what you know is right for yourself.” This is not an easy way to raise a child, not by example or by demands but by teaching me to think and take responsibility. It made me into a very sophisticated individual who questioned everything I did. It made me always ask myself if what I was doing was right, even if it was something everyone else was doing.

My dad also made life very difficult for me. He told me I couldn’t do many things (mostly because of my gender) which frustrated me. But one day he said that he wanted to make things hard because life was hard. He didn’t want me to back down just because there was an obstacle in my way. There are a lot of things I resented growing up, about the way I was raised. Much of how I was raised could never be understood at the time, but now I understand how these tough lessons made me what I am now.

Fighting for the right to be who I am took an emotional toll growing up, so when I have to stand up for myself as an adult, its not anywhere near as difficult as what I had to go through to stand up against my father. I don’t take for granted the fact that there will be obstacles and I don’t look to others to give me validation whenever I choose to do something. Most people don’t even try to talk me out of anything because they know I’ll do whatever I want anyway.

Why am I writing about this now? Because its a scientific fact that most people go with the crowd. Overweight people tend to be more overweight when they spend their time with other overweight people. We eat, drink, and take on the lifestyle of the people around us. Our culture tries to control our interests and our behavior through the media and we often blame society, our family, our friends or our jobs for our own short comings. But if this is so, there is no hope. That’s like saying that if all your friends are fat, you can never be thin and toned so just give up. But that’s not true. There will always be outliers.

If your family succumbs to an unhealthy lifestyle and you don’t want to be like them, you can’t just disown your own family. I don’t think that’s right, but you can take on the attitude of being the peer.

Here’s an example: My husband was gaining a lot of fat because he had an office job where people brought donuts and other unhealthy foods to work. He just didn’t want to keep gaining weight so he started bringing vegetables to work and making his own salads at the work kitchen. He lost 20 pounds and his co-workers were so impressed by the results, they started changing their diet as well. This is what my dad meant by “be the peer.” Whether its right or wrong, what you do should influence others and not the other way around. My husband wasn’t trying to be a leader. He was just doing what was right for himself.

Another example is Old Age Stereotype Bias and the fact that negative stereotypes about aging have proven to have negative affects on people’s lifestyle, cognitive ability and overall health. Knowing this, I have created my own bias about aging, one that has served me well. My belief is that as I get older, I get better because I continue to learn and experience more. This leads to greater skill and wisdom. Cultures that have this stereotype tend to have older populations that are happier, healthier and live longer.

When I train older adults, I try to influence this positive attitude on them, rather than letting their negative biases about aging influence me. The result is that my older clients are improving, not regressing. Their balance has improved, their bones and posture has strengthened and their quality of life is better. Rather than deteriorating, they have gotten better. Also, I choose to be influenced by the many fit and healthy seniors I have worked with over the years. They have taught me that you can be older and still be very fit.

You can read more studies on health and aging stereotypes here:

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jger/2015/954027/

In conclusion, I just want to say happy belated father’s day to all the dad’s out there. And happy independence day. Embrace your individuality. Remember that your attitudes and beliefs make you what you are. Society will always try to put you down with their stereotypes and negative beliefs but you don’t have to be influenced by it. You be the influencer.

“Be the peer,” Rolando David Morales (my dad)

For other paradigm shifting motivational blogs, check out

Due to the quarantine, the average person gained about 20 lbs. in the past 2 years. So just updated my blog on calorie burning for those of you who need to burn off that excess fat:

PostHeaderIcon Meditations and Tips for Emotional Eating

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Mindfulness

Let’s face it. Most of us know how to lose those unwanted pounds. We have to change how we eat. We have to shift our habits We know those cookies and that ice cream won’t help us lose weight but why do we eat it? Well, humans aren’t as rational as we think we are. We’re emotional and eating is often an emotional act. And yes, this has been a stressful year.

Recent studies on psychology point to one personality trait that is most successful in helping people lose weight and maintain it. This trait is awareness or mindfulness, a trait we strive for in our yoga practice, but what does it mean?

Thich Nhat Hanh once said:

“When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us. We have to be there for it.

“Eat with gratitude. And when you put the piece of bread into your mouth, chew only your bread and not your projects, worries, fears or anger. This is the practice of mindfulness. You chew mindfully and know that you are chewing the bread, the wonderful nourishment of life. This brings you freedom and joy. Eat every morsel of your breakfast like that, not allowing yourself to be carried away from the experience of eating. This is a training.”

Breaking Childhood Patterns

Much of how we eat can stem from how we were raised. Some of us were given foods as a reward or punishment and the food represents our failures and our achievements. Unhealthy treats may be something we feel entitled to if we think we are acting in accordance with society’s laws. Food symbolizes issues that have nothing to do with health.

If we come from a place of poverty, we might want to eat any type of food as long as we can get it. It doesn’t matter the quality of the food. Sometimes we’re taught to eat everything even if we are no longer hungry for fear that there might not be food tomorrow. However, if you are over weight, this is not a good habit. The food will keep getting stored as fat. These mindsets happen beneath our conscious awareness. By bringing our mind to the present moment and really appreciating what is right in front of us, we can change these habits.

I suggest thinking like Thich Nhat Hanh, when we go grocery shopping or when we read a menu at a restaurant. Look at the food. Take a moment to reflect on what its made of. Look at the ingredients. When you by a fresh vegetable, reflect on how it was grown. Notice the sun and rain that went into the growth of that vegetable. Ask yourself how your body will feel when fresh food is inside you.

When you buy something that is processed, think of all the ingredients that went into the making of the food. Imagine what the preservatives, artificial colors, added sugars and salts will do to your body when it is inside you. Really imagine how those ingredients will make you feel over time. What kind of food do you truly deserve? Are these chemicals, added sugars and fats really a treat? Perhaps its time to change our perception.

Since I became a nutritionist and really started to understand food, I’ve been doing more of this type of meditation and it has helped me a lot. I don’t struggle with my weight like I used too. When I eat fruits, I really relish the hydration I’m getting from it and I am grateful to live in a place that has fresh fruit. Because of this, I have decided to always choose fresh fruit over dried, canned or processed fruit as long as I have that choice.

When we eat out with friends and family, it is time to focus on them. I once new a girl who lost a lot of weight and looked incredible. I knew her for many years as she went to my high school and she never looked so healthy and attractive. I asked her how she did it. I thought she would have some kind of beauty secret. I thought she would tell me she was seeing an alternative doctor. But I’ll never forget what she said. She said that all her life her mother made her feel like food meant love. Because her mother cooked, she had to eat all she could. When she realized that its just food and didn’t represent how she felt about her mother, she was able to lose weight.

I often think about what my friend said. I now realize that when I go out to eat, I don’t have to gorge myself. I can nibble. I can choose small servings and say “no” when offered a lot of food. As an adult, no one can force me to eat or make me feel bad for not eating. They will appreciate it more when I focus more on them than on the food. Once we come to terms with why we see food the way we do, we make huge breakthroughs.

The Regret, Shame, Guilt Eating Cycle

Most of us are aware of the regret, shame guilt cycle. We feel guilt so we eat. We regret eating so we feel guilt. So we eat.

This is a very difficult puzzle to solve but I believe that the solution has a lot to do with self love. When I taught the chakra opening workshop, I addressed the 2nd and 3rd chakra; the chakras of creativity and will power. They are blocked by shame and guilt.

To help us let go of our shame we meditated that we were at the beach and written on the sand are all the horrible things people make us feel about ourselves. It might say, “lazy” or “fat” or so on. Then think of who you were before life has made you feel unworthy. We imagine that we wipe the words away with our feet. Then we watch as the waves come to the shore to wash away the sand. Those negative words no longer exist and they never have because we were the only ones who saw them.

Then, we walk on to see a lovely stone. We take a pick and write on the stone words that describe who we really are, words like, “talented,” “good,” “accomplished,” etc. We inscribe these words permanently on the stone. We become more confident about ourselves and the things we can create. We respect ourselves and others more because of this.

Guilt is another feeling. It’s similar to shame, but unlike shame, guilt is the feeling that we have done something wrong. Shame is a feeling that we, ourselves are bad. The best way to deal with guilt is to have the resolve to tell yourself that you are sorry for what you have done and once you have apologized, resolve to find a way not to make the same mistake again. Being able to do this takes some emotional courage. It means listening to your emotions instead of drowning them with food, drugs or any other addictive activity. But eating our way out of an emotion doesn’t end any cycle because it never addresses the issue.

“When we have a meal in mindfulness, we invest all our being in the present moment and are aware of our food and those who are eating with us. We can cultivate the energy of mindfulness while we walk , while we breathe, while we work, while we wash the dishes or wash our clothes. A few days practicing like this can increase the energy of mindfulness in you and that energy will help you, protect you, and give you courage to go back to yourself, to see and embrace what is there in your territory.”

“There are real, painful feelings, strong emotions and troubling perspectives that agitate or make us afraid. With the energy of mindfulness, we can spend time with these difficult feelings without running away. We can embrace them the way a parent embraces a child and say to them, “Darling, I am here for you; I have come back; I’m going to take care of you.” This is what we can do with all our emotions, feelings, and perceptions.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Overcoming Failure and Obstacles

A few years ago a controversial study was released that showed that positive visualization doesn’t always lead to the achievement of goals. This contradicted other studies that visualizing success leads to success. But it isn’t that simple. Visualizing that you lose weight is a wonderful fantasy that you may or may not achieve but there is one visualization that works better than any other.

Its when we visualize overcoming failure and obstacles that we are most likely to succeed. For example, I had a client who succeeded in losing 10 lbs. while training with me but her goal was to lose 10 more. She knew that whenever she goes to a party she over eats and gains weight, so we went over what she should do when she attended the party that weekend so she would not regress on her goals. We decided that she would not eat before the party, stay away from the food table and sip on a lot of water. Because she planned ahead of time, she was able to avoid inevitable failure.

So, for the final meditation, visualize something that always causes you to fall back on your healthy habits. Perhaps its stress at work, a party, or lack of time. Think about this obstacle before it happens and create a plan on how you will deal with it. This usually means planning how to make your meals, where to eat and what to buy ahead of time so we are driven by mindfulness and not by subconscious drives.

I hope these tips help end the cycle of emotional eating and help to bring some clarity and health to your day.

“Our minds create everything. The majestic mountaintop, brilliant with snow, is in you yourself when you contemplate it. Its existence depends on your awareness… The sights and sounds of the world are not your enemies. your enemy is forgetfulness, the absence of mindfulness. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

More blogs on mindful eating:

PostHeaderIcon Remember That Something Inside you is Stronger Than Your Circumstances

And Happy Holidays!

The holidays are coming up as we reach the end of what some would call the worst year ever! For this holiday season, I wish you peace and good health.

The fitness industry has taken one of the hardest hits from the lockdowns and quarantines. I have not been able to return to my jobs as the facilities have been closed due to government sanctions. Plus, dumbells and weights have tripled in price! Still I know that my industry is not alone. Restaurants, live events, retail and many other businesses have been shut down and or forced to spend much more for very little profit.

I do believe that one of the things that has kept me going is the knowledge that there is something deep inside me that is greater than my circumstances. This is why at the end of each workout, I encourage everyone to reach deep inside and find that bit of energy that helps us pull all the way through. Endurance is a strong mark of fitness and the greatest show of mental strength. As we reach the home stretch of this pandemic, tap into that one thing that keeps you going.

This something is what has always gotten me by during tough times. And I am always taking the time to tap into this strength and keep it going. Much of my reason for staying fit has to do with keeping my core strong. By the term “core”, I don’t mean my abdominals or torso muscles. I mean my inner spirit.

Exercise is my meditation. Sometimes, just going for a run or a walk, or hitting the bag helps me work through my thoughts so I can make the right decisions.

Strength training teaches focus, control and will power. I focus on my form and what my body is doing. It also keeps me strong and healthy so I’m able to handle the slings and arrows of fortune.

Yoga and stretching helps me relax my mind and body. it brings me softness and peace when I need to unwind and de-stress. It also teaches me to stay flexible and go with the flow when I am faced with events I can’t control.

Its because I practice these things that I can be strong for others.

Another thing that I have learned is how much I love what I do and how devastated I was when I realized I couldn’t be with you guys in person anymore. It has made me grateful for what I have. I promise that when this is all over, I will be more appreciative than ever of my students, my clients and for the entire wellness community for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.

I am also aware that this year has been very mixed for many of you. Many of you have confided that you have had to deal with illness or death. You have had anxiety, depression, money problems and difficulties finding ways to stay in shape and remain devoted to your health. While others have found the time to focus on things you never had the opportunity to before and really discover more about yourselves.

I just want you to know that I think about you and pray for you. I know we are all fighting some very hard battles.

The holidays this year will be much quieter and less about partying, crowded malls and travel. Think of it as an opportunity to focus on what is truly important to you and to stay with the true spirit of love, family, friends and giving.

With all my love, I want to say I miss you. I hope you are well, and please remember that there is something deep inside you that is stronger than your circumstances

I am still teaching online classes for those who are interested. It’s also a good opportunity to work out with me if you are no longer in the area. You can view the schedule on this page:

I am also teaching private personal training on zoom or skype.

If you are up for it, I have a studio where I can teach privates. I wipe everything with disinfectant and wear a mask. We would be the only one’s in the studio, though it does have security surveillance. I’m also willing to do outdoor personal training now that the weather is cooler.

I also picked up a job teaching outdoors at the Braemar country club in Tarzana. I’ve been getting about 1 or 2 people per class but the view is breathtaking. Feel free to check it out if you’re in the area.

I also have some full length yoga and pilates videos for purchase if you are interested.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions at: rhea.morales@gmail.com

PostHeaderIcon How to Cure Neck/Shoulder and Lower Back Pain Quickly

This is one of the most successful, yet simple mobility exercises for healing hunched shoulders, neck pain and lower back pain all at once. I can’t tell you how many people it has helped, including me.

The lower back will bend backwards in order to move your arms to the side or up if you lack shoulder mobility. Tightening the core can prevent this, while at the same time strengthening the transverse abdominal and correcting lower back compression. This also gradually stretches the shoulders for optimal alignment.

Also, if you feel pain while doing this correctly, use a massage ball to role out those areas against the wall or on the floor.

Here is the video:

PostHeaderIcon Why Does My Neck Hurt When I do Crunches?

For people who are not strong in their core, activating abdominal muscles may not happen automatically. For these people, you need to be taught how to do a proper crunch step by step, starting with proper core activation.

Core activation is important for protecting the spine from injury any time you move or carry something. Your abdominals are also responsible for keeping your internal organs from bulging out. A hernia (disorder where the intestines push through the weak parts of your abdominals) can be prevented with the right kind of core strengthening.

Please watch this short video on how to activate your core and crunch from your abdominals, not your neck. You can check out the link here:

PostHeaderIcon Is it More Expensive to Eat Healthy?

Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

COVD-19 has changed our culture quite a bit and it has made us look at how we shop and how we eat. This week, I’d like to challenge the popular paradigm that it’s more expensive to eat healthy.

Our attitude towards food is often the main cause of weight struggles; so if you can change your mindset, that’s a huge step towards changing your body, your health and your lifestyle. So I’m writing this blog with your financial, mental and physical health in mind. I want you to question this idea because, personally, I think its a false rationalization. However, if you keep reading, you might figure out how to save a ton of money and lose weight in a healthy way.

In 1997, I left my family in Los Angeles to attend school in New York and live on my own. I paid my own tuition and rent. I worked retail while going to school and depended on no one.

Living and studying in New York is one of the most expensive things you can do. I was spending $15 a week on food. I spent this money on pasta, vegetables, fruit, cheese and hummus.

From tomatoes, garlic, cheese and dried basil, I made my own spaghetti sauce on a hot plate. Pasta cost 99 cents a box. The tomatoes and garlic cost less than a dollar. I also had a $1.50 bottle of ketchup that lasted forever.

I had oatmeal for breakfast and made sandwiches and salads. I drank only water from the tap, using a Britta filter (water from NY tastes much better than L.A. water). I ate apples which cost me maybe 30 cents each at the time.

I ate healthy. So when people say eating healthy is expensive, I wonder what they mean by that.

The funny thing about budgeting is that its a lot like fitness. Budgeting takes awareness. If we aren’t mindful about how we spend and how we eat, we over indulge and often regret it.

For me, eating out less has saved me a lot of  money. 
For example, an order of French fries can cost $1 to $4. One potato costs 55 cents on average.

Snacking on a health bar costs $1 to $4 compared to 15 cents if you eat a carrot or a stalk of celery.

A dozen eggs costs $1 to $4 depending on which state you are buying it from. That’s good for 6 breakfasts.

I pay about $3.00 for a 42 ounce box of generic oatmeal that feeds my family for a month. That’s less than one serving of Starbucks oats.

A box of sugary cereal costs $3 to $6. It lasts about a week because it consists mostly of air and sugar, so how is eating healthy more expensive?

It takes one minute to cook oats. It would take at least 15 minutes for me to drive by Starbucks and have them make the oatmeal for me. Take into account travel time, waiting in line, etc. The Starbucks oatmeal costs $3.45 a cup. If I fed myself, my son and my husband Starbucks oatmeal for a month, it would cost more than $300, and I couldn’t choose how much sugar and additives goes in my oatmeal. Add the cost of gas to that and you suddenly realize how much more we spend when we choose to eat less healthy.

Speaking of Starbucks, a box of green tea costs less than $10 for 25 bags. It contains nearly no calories, but it does contain tons of antioxidents and compounds similar to caffeine that gives you energy but doesn’t have you crashing later on in the day. It’s also known to increase your ability to burn fat and lose weight.

Compare that with a Starbucks frappachino which costs $5.45 for one serving and contains 200 calories. Seeing how a box of green tea contains 25 servings; if I were to have one glass of Frappuccino a day for 25 days, I would be paying $136 in Starbucks coffee plus gaining an additional 5000 calories which adds up to almost 2 lbs of fat. In 5 months, that turns into an almost 10 lb. gain of body fat.

So if you cut out Starbucks and replaced it with green tea, in 5 months you could lose almost 10 lbs and save over $630.

Then there are the long term costs of not taking care of your health. Medical appointments and drugs needed to combat diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol costs hundreds of billions a year in the U.S. Such long term diseases can be prevented with healthy eating and regular exercise.

Most people who have told me that eating healthy is too expensive were people who struggled with their weight. This makes me feel bad because I know its just not true. To lose weight, you have to eat less and if you are eating less food, you are buying less food, therefore, losing weight should save you money.

So what is really going on when people say to me that healthy food costs more? Perhaps they mean that healthy food in restaurants cost more, yet whenever I go to a restaurant and look at the low calorie section of their menu, the dish is usually cheaper because it contains less food, thus less calories. Perhaps they mean it is more expensive to buy from health stores such as Whole Foods, but mainstream stores also stock organic and healthy foods so one no longer has to shop at more expensive venues for these items.

If you are ingesting processed carbs, alcohol, deserts and fast food, you’re poisoning yourself with more additives, preservatives and empty calories than you would by eating produce that isn’t organic; plus, an organic potato still costs less than a serving of French fries.

The truth is, we often rationolize the fact that we don’t want to change our habits. Habit change is very difficult which is why its so hard to change our body unless we are forced to due to a medical condition or a change in the environment.

Our subconscious mind knows that its just easier not to change, so we come up with excuses in order to avoid doing what we have to do. It’s just another form of procrastination. We tell ourselves that we’re too lazy or that its too hard or that our genetic disposition or personality just isn’t right to do what we have to do. We blame our financial situation, our friends, our family, our spouses, our jobs, anything to keep us from facing the music.

I’m not saying that losing weight and being healthy isn’t hard. I’m just saying its not expensive. When you make the excuse that its expensive, what you’re really saying is, “losing weight is hard.” You’re trying to come up with a reason, but you don’t need one. You just have to admit that its hard and come up with new attitudes, attitudes that you are brave, strong willed and that you will benefit from a healthy lifestyle change, not just physically but financially too.

That is the first step to success, letting go of denial and facing the truth. Once you’ve done that, you’re mind will open up and find ways to do it. If you find yourself making excuses or passing blame, and you wonder why you’re not making any progress, take a step back and examine how you are thinking. Perhaps, all you need is a paradigm shift.

PostHeaderIcon I’m Giving Away Free Fitness Videos!!!

This week, I was thinking that cardio might be harder for those of you who live in towns that have made wearing a face mask outside the law, so I have taken the time to create 3 cardio videos, one low impact video for beginners and older adults, one intermediate video and one advanced video. Links below.

I’m also giving away videos on proper push ups, one for beginners who can’t do push ups or aren’t sure if they know how to do proper push ups and one for advanced practitioners who want more variety and strength. Links below.

While the in person fitness industry is not considered an “essential” business, exercise is absolutely essential. I want to make sure that you are still getting your regular workout because exercise and proper nutrition is the greatest prevention against disease and mortality.

Whatever you’ve had to sacrifice for your country, whether it’s your freedom or giving extra hours as a medical or grocery worker, the most important thing is that we take care of ourselves and each other. I’m sending out these videos because I know its hard for some of you who are used to going out or to a facility to get your physical exercise.

Go here for the BEGINNERS cardio video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0-ft-Zf-rE
This is geared to older adults or people with joint or knee problems who can’t jump or squat without pain. It’s also geared to those who have never exercised before or who are recovering from any health condition but want to get started with fitness.

Go here for the INTERMEDIATE video:

https://youtu.be/5ixuDvQ6Ew0
This video contains squats, a few high impact moves (which can be modified for low impact) and some kickboxing moves. This workout had me sweating. 

Go here for the ADVANCED video:

https://youtu.be/Q1DBNmWyF24
This video is for more competitive fitness enthusiasts. It’s very challenging, but modifications are given. This workout had me huffing and puffing!

I hope this gift will help you bring variety to your workout during these crazy times. The videos are short, about 8 minutes long but they have enough variety that you can play them over and over again. For example, if you play the video 4 times, you will get a 32 minute cardio workout. 

The national guidelines for exercise says you should do at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, most days of the week. If you are doing very intense cardio, such as running or the one in my advanced video, 3 days a week is fine. Health professionals have been touting exercise as the magic pill that prevents most diseases and these guidelines are encouraged for people to maintain their health.

For more information on how exercise prevents disease, check out my blog, THE LIMITLESS PILL here:

https://heroestraining.com/?p=958

Here’s a instructional video on how to do proper push ups. That way, you can get strong without the need of equipment

How To Do a Proper Push Up (step by step guide)

https://youtu.be/Zg-DkPs-XnY

For those of you who already can do a proper push up but are looking for a more challenging way to strengthen, try this:

Advanced Push Ups For Strength and Muscle Gains

https://youtu.be/p-atLj35eSE

Strength training is important for maintaining muscle, protecting joint pain, osteoporosis and diabetes. For more information on the importance of strength training, here’s a link to my classic blog:

Why Women Should Strength Train:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=61

Please accept these videos as my gift to you. If you are interested in online personal training sessions or classes via zoom or skype, feel free to contact me at rhea.morales@gmail.com.



PostHeaderIcon Recipes That Fight Bad Microbes and Boost The Immune System

I really want to reach out and let you all know that I miss you and that I’m thinking of you, so I decided this is a good time to share some family recipes. This is what I eat when I feel under the weather and I never get anything worse than a common cold (knock on wood). I’m still quarantining with the rest of you. The gym industry has been temporarily shut down, so I have a little more time for cooking.

These recipes are a tasty way to get many foods that boost the immune system and kill invaders. Plus, they keep you well hydrated which is so important.

The two recipes I want to share are: “Abuelita’s Ginger Tea” and “Rhea’s Killer Chicken Soup”

When I first got married, my husband told me that his Abuelita (Grandma in Spanish) swore by a family recipe that healed any sore throat. Abuelita is a strong woman, now in her 90’s. We attribute her longevity to the fact that she takes great care of herself and always does what the doctor says. She’s even outlived some of her kids and she’s had ten!

Here’s the recipe:

Photo by Dominik Martin on Unsplash

Abuelita’s Ginger Tea

Take some ginger root and slice them into thin pieces. If you can handle stronger tea, add more ginger. The more the better.

Add hot water, dried fruit and honey. I usually add raisins. But you can add dried apple, pear, cranberry or jujube. Whatever suits your taste.

I’ve also tried this with chamomile or other herbal teas. Lemon is a great additive, as is cinnamon. The great thing about making it yourself, is that you get to flavor based on what gives you pleasure.

Here’s what I do to guarantee that I don’t get sore throats. It may or may not work for others, but it always works for me.

First, I make sure to ingest the tea at the first sign of a sore throat. If I ever get a sore throat, you can bet that I probably didn’t bother to make this miracle tea.

Second, I chew on the ginger and eat every slice. To make this less harsh, I eat it with the dried fruit. I usually chew on some raisins and ginger at the bottom of the cup. The sweetness of the dried fruit counters the bitterness of the ginger. Then I gulp down the tea to help ease it down.

Even if you don’t have it in you to chew up fresh ginger, the tea will definitely shorten the duration of a sore throat or can cure it all together.

All the ingredients in this tea are high in antioxidants which help protect against disease.

Honey is an antitumor, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular potentiating agent.

A study on ginger found that it inhibits the main microorganisms that cause oral infections. References and links to scientific studies below.

The next recipe is like a delicious atomic bomb that kills foreign invaders. But the ingredients are all foods that will promote health and boost the immune system.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Rhea’s Killer Chicken Soup

For this soup you need:

a head of cabbage

chicken cutlets

1 onion

1/2 to 1 garlic bulb

2 inches of ginger

vegetable oil

I cup frozen veggie mix (your choice of veggies. I usually get a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and yellow squash from Costco)

1 can of chicken broth

pepper, turmeric powder, cumin powder, dried dill weed, or any other spice you’d like to add. Cayenne pepper is optional for a kick.

This should feed a family of 5, give or take, depending on how much your family can eat.

Chop up ginger, onions, garlic, chicken and cabbage.

Sautee ginger and vegetable oil in a pot. After about three minutes, add garlic and onions. Sautee for about three to five minutes in high heat.

Add can of chicken broth plus two more cans of filtered water (If you have hypertension, check the broth’s sodium content. Some chicken broths have a lot more sodium than others)

Bring to a boil.

Add cabbage. Let it simmer till cabbage has softened a bit.

Add frozen veggie mix and chicken

Add spices.

Simmer till cooked.

While there is no cure for the common cold and we still do not know enough about the corona virus to know if garlic helps, many studies have shown that garlic does kill infectious bacteria and can significantly shorten the duration of a cold.

Cabbage and broccoli are known to combat other disease causing microbes.

All the veggies in this soup have antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which help boost the immune system and slow down the aging process. All the veggies are rich in fiber and pre-biotics which help feed healthy bacteria in our bodies which also boosts the immune system and can help fight bad invaders. All the veggies help the liver function which can aid in metabolism and detoxification. All the veggies in this soup have cancer fighting properties.

The amino acids in lean chicken are the building blocks for enzymes and catalysts in the body which build anti-bodies which fight infections.

The warm water in the soup helps alleviate nasal congestion

For bonus vitamins, add an egg or two. Egg yolks contain vitamin D, which is known to boost the immune system.

If all these veggies are not enough carbs for you, feel free to add noodles or potatoes to this soup. Just make sure you do some cardio afterwards and burn off those extra calories.

I want to make it very clear that these recipes are not cures. They are suggestions on how you can eat healthier and be at a lower risk of mortality.

Please see references below.

That being said, I know we’re all going nuts due to the quarantines and lock downs. I just want to send some healing energy and (germ free) hugs. I miss you and I hope to see you soon. Hope you enjoy the recipes.

If you’d like some information on taking classes or getting quality personal training over the internet via skype, feel free to contact me:

rhea.morales@gmail.com

References:

Curcumin, an Active Component of Turmeric (Curcuma Longa), and Its Effects on Health

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26528921/?from_term=temeric&from_pos=1&from_exact_term=turmeric

Rapid Healing of Peptic Ulcers in Patients Receiving Fresh Cabbage Juice

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18104715/?from_term=cabbage%2C+ulcers&from_pos=4

Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum L.) From Traditional Uses to Potential Biomedical Applications

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26010662/?from_term=cumin&from_pos=1

Antimicrobial Activity of Broccoli (Brassica Oleracea Var. Italica) Cultivar Avenger Against Pathogenic Bacteria, Phytopathogenic Filamentous Fungi and Yeast

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29112318/?from_term=cabbage+and+bacteria&from_page=2&from_pos=5

Assessment of Antimicrobial Potential of 10% Ginger Extract Against Streptococcus Mutans, Candida Albicans, and Enterococcus Faecalis: An in Vitro Study

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24047828/

Preventing the Common Cold With a Garlic Supplement: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Survey

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11697022/

Vitamin D and the Immune System

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21527855/

Towards a Better Understanding of the Therapeutic Applications and Corresponding Mechanisms of Action of Honey

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29101693/?from_term=honey&from_pos=3