Five Tips for Creating a Kick-Ass Vision Board

vision board 2014Ever heard the term “you’ve got to see it to believe it?” For so many people, visualizing a specific pathway, goal or dream is the first step in making it a reality. A really helpful tool in this process is the vision board, which is a visual representation of the elements you’d like to create, focus on and attract into your life. Here are five tips for creating a kick-ass vision board that helps you claim your heart’s desire:

 

1.  Determine your main themes. Is it love, financial prosperity, better health or increased fitness? Think about your main goals and interests for the year or whatever time period you are focused on for the vision board. If possible, come up with an overall theme or focus that will land in the middle of your creation too. Need an example? I’ve posted a photo of my vision board above. Nestled in the center is the phrase “Inspire…Be Inspired” which really sums up my focus for 2014, while the other themes represented in clockwise fashion are healthy eating/fitness/wellness, how writing my book inspires me, love, resourcefulness, success, financial prosperity and fun (represented by the minion from Despicable Me).

 

2.  Select images. Flip through magazines for inspiring photos and headlines that belong on your board. This year, I found most of my images online and printed them out, adding personal photos and phrases that resonated strongly. Like the photo of Sandra Bullock from her role in the movie Gravity that appears in the bottom right hand corner of my board…I chose that image because it shows that no matter what comes up, I can be resourceful (like an astronaut lost in space who saves herself – sorry for the spoiler!) and because the movie was so creative and unexpected that it redefined filmmaking this year. Make it three dimensional if you like…I’ve seen people cut out greeting cards, sentimental trinkets and adhere a light bulb on some cool vision boards. If you have natural artistic ability (which doesn’t exist in my DNA at all), consider drawing, painting or sculpting the visuals that invoke your passions. Heck, go crazy and repurpose that old “glued-on macaroni spray-painted gold technique” used so effectively in the second grade to decorate a candle holder for mom. There are no limits!  

3.  Craft a “canvas.” My vision board is simply a large white poster board with photos and images glued or taped down in different quadrants. Easy-peasy, right? But I know people who create vision boards in the form of a PowerPoint slide show, computer screen saver or another surface that beautifully hosts their vision for the year. Figure out the best home for your vision and pull it all together in that space/surface.

4.  Share with others.  It’s perfectly fine to keep your vision board to yourself. But think of all the positive energy that is churned up when you talk about it and share your enthusiasm with others. During the first weekend in January, I had a dozen super cool ladies over to make our boards together. Sure enough, we did a “show and tell” at the end that was fun and reinforced our goals.

5.  Check it out daily. The most diligently crafted vision board isn’t doing you any favors if it languishes in a dusty corner. Display your creation somewhere in which you’ll easily see it several times a day. My friend Terri hung her vision board in her walk-in closet, ensuring she engages in those positive images every morning and night. Mine is displayed at eye level across my office so I view it several times a day when leaving my desk. You can always take a photo of it for your smart phone or tablet screen saver too for easy reinforcement.

I hope you enjoy creating this art project with a purpose. Have you ever created a vision board before and if so, how did it work for you? If you were to develop one for 2014, what would some of your themes or images be?

 

Three things the government shutdown can teach us about healthy living

iStock_000020563722Small (1)Remember the game of “chicken,” portrayed in movies ranging from Grease to the Fast & Furious (all seven times), where two dudes pumped up on testosterone drive hot rods at each other at blinding speeds until one blinks first and swerves to avoid the collision? Unfortunately, it felt like politicians on both sides of the fence just did that with the well-being of our country with the government shut down. That 16-day pissing match finally ended yesterday, and in the tradition of making lemonade from lemons, or at least a better-for-you version that foregoes copious amounts of sugar, I’ve identified three things that the shut down can teach us about healthy living:

  1. Strive for long-term changes. One of the saddest things about the “compromise” is that it expires less than three months from now, potentially setting the scenario up to happen again per this analysis from Time Magazine. You know, kind of like when you decide to lose some extra weight, eat a ridiculously low amount of calories for five days, become surly from the intense deprivation and then blow it all on a large pizza out of frustration on day six? (Can you tell I went through that cycle a lot back in the day?) Taking a more measured, deliberate approach to healthy living for the long-term is going to increase your chances of success rather than a short-term fix.
  2. Be willing to make uncomfortable choices. Let’s say that you are not thrilled with your current wellness. If the closest you come to weight training is placing the extra large frozen lasagna dish from Costco into your grocery cart, and your nightly TV watching routine is incomplete without a heaping bowl of buttered popcorn, then you need to make some changes to your habits. And some, in fact many, might not be comfortable at first. But focusing on one shift at a time or keeping your motivation strong (through means like journaling, setting up a vision board or getting support from an expert or friends) can really help. I went cold turkey giving up caffeine in 1992 in light of my six to twelve pack a day diet coke habit at the time…and it sucked for a while. But the headaches passed and drinking water and adding in exercise helped wake me up in the morning better than a soda ever did, and after a week or two of being uncomfortable, I was fine.
  3. Do put yourself first. America politicians certainly focused on their self-preservation, albeit at the expense of the public they serve. But when it comes to your own wellness, taking care of yourself first can enhance the well-being of your entire family.  Think about it. Mom or dad adopts healthier eating habits, starts exercising moderately most days of the week and sheds 40 extra pounds that was causing knee pain and shortness of breath whenever they used to climb one flight of stairs. Chances are good that those closest around you, impressed by your increased energy and better self-esteem, will also be more interested in their wellness. Perhaps your spouse joins a gym or the family tradition of going out for ice cream after dinner is replaced with a vigorous walk around the neighborhood where you actually talk to each other for more than 10 minutes at a time. Caring for your health can have a really positive domino effect with those you love the most.

What other lessons do you think we can learn from the recent government shut-down? Have you or someone you know made healthier living changes recently that impacted others in a positive manner?

 

 

Seeking great stories of people who got “unstuck”

Woman in a Carboard BoxMost of us have been “stuck” at some point in our lives. I’m not talking about being in rush hour gridlock with squabbling kids or wedged in the middle seat of a packed concert venue when you realize a trip to the bathroom is in order, neither of which is particularly fun. What I mean is that point where you feel overwhelmed or practically paralyzed when facing a circumstance contrary to the life you want to lead. You know, like desiring financial freedom but feeling trapped by a mountain of debt; wanting to meet the love of your life but feeling too scared to check out online dating or other options for meeting suitors; wishing you had a healthier body and lifestyle by lacking the momentum to ever hit the gym, and so on.

As you might have guessed from this blog post title, I’m working on a book project to help people get unstuck and create the life of their dreams. Through my networks and social media, I have been interviewing some wonderful individuals whose stories will motivate and inspire you. Now I’m looking to include insight from a few others who fit the descriptions below (and the more dramatic example they have to share, the better):

  • Someone who forgave themselves for past decisions or behaviors, and it helped them get unstuck and move forward into happiness.
  • A person who suffered major financial set-backs like crushing debt or even bankruptcy, overcame that situation and now enjoys strong prosperity.
  • A subject matter expert (psychologist or coach) to discuss what role gratitude plays in getting unstuck.
  • A long-term weight loss/healthy living success story who can discuss why understanding that “self-care” didn’t mean “selfish” helped transform her life.

Thanks for spreading the word to your friends and networks! Anyone interested can contact me directly. Meanwhile, have you ever been stuck? If so, how did you overcome that obstacle?

 

Four Ways to Get Ready for Fall Wellness

With the high today in Atlanta topping 82 degrees and triple-digit temperatures forecast for my impending trip to Tucson, Arizona, it does not feel like summer has relinquished its grip yet.  But on September 22, fall officially begins – and here are four ways to help you get ready for wellness this season.

1)      Add warmth with functional, fashionable layers

Chances are good that the “go-to” running tank top and shorts look that so efficiently wicked sweat away this summer isn’t going to give you enough warmth during outdoor exercise in the upcoming months. No matter where you reside, you will also need something to wear post work-out before hitting the shower. I don’t spotlight many products in this blog, but here are two that I use for functional yet fashionable exercise cover-ups:

  •  At first glance, I don’t have much in common with Olympic Volleyball Gold Medalist and tall, blonde goddess Kerri Walsh…okay, make that a second and third look too. But we both dig BORELLI active performance scarves, which can be turned into wrap-around jackets and even sarongs depending on size. While some women “glow” after killer workouts, I am sweating hard and appreciate how this item wicks away sweat four times faster than cotton while helping me vie for the title of gym fashionista.  A triathlete herself, founder Marissa Borelli Casellini is passionate about creating products that marry fitness and style; you can wear her creations to ward off post-workout chills or as a chic accessory in daily life. Never very intrepid when it comes to geometry and angles, I found their demo video essential in figuring out how to wear this with flair.  Visit http://www.borellidesign.com/ to learn more.
  •  Then there is my lululemon hoodie jacket. Perfect to wear while driving home after an exercise class or running errands, I love its vibrant purple color and how it keeps my nicely warm before changing. Plus it lasts. I’ve had this jacket for three years now and it keeps on ticking.

2)      Embrace Seasonal Foods

If you’ll miss summer offerings like strawberries and watermelon, take heart with all of the seasonal foods options like cranberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apples, winter squash and much more. Here’s a handy guide to fall produce from Cooking Light magazine that spotlights selections and recipes. As for me, I’m all about the pumpkin, opting for smoothies over pies these days. Here is my favorite pumpkin smoothie recipe:

PUMPKIN PIE SMOOTHIE

Courtesy of Citron Nutrition, adapted from Tasty Yummies

¾ cup cooked pumpkin (you can use canned, but fresh is much better)

1½ cups unsweetened organic vanilla almond milk

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

2-3 Medjool dates, pits removed (soak first if they aren’t soft)

Clean additions:

1 scoop of vegan protein powder or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Directions: Add all of your ingredients to the blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. If your pumpkin and/or almond milk isn’t cold, you could add a handful of ice, although this may make it less creamy. You can also add a splash of water or additional almond milk if your smoothie is too thick. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg.

 

3)      Plan workouts to take advantage of seasonal changes

Consider changing up your exercise routine to enjoy the crisp fall weather. If you typically run on a treadmill or cycle city streets, head out to the countryside or mountains to experience these activities and more while savoring the beauty of changing leaves. I found great resources such as Hike New England and Autumn Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains with a quick online search and am sure you can do the same for your own area.  

4)      Focus on blossoming internally

There might not be flowers outside, but the fall is a wonderful time to start blossoming internally through personal growth. You don’t face the stupid pressure of New Year’s resolutions and with school back in swing, it feels like the season to learn something new. Last fall I took swimming lessons to combat a long-time fear of being in the water. While I’m never going to be Diana Nyad – and have no desire to ever wear a jellyfish-proof mask or adopt a distance swimming-friendly hairstyle – I can now get in a pool with a kickboard and sometimes no accessories at all without freaking out.  Or maybe you really want to meet your soul mate and it’s time to push yourself to put up an online dating profile to start getting out there. Whatever the case, nurture yourself and see how the happiness grows within.

What is your favorite part of fall? How do you plan to challenge yourself or grow during this season?

Five Things I’d Like to Tell My “Heavier” Self

Call me sentimental, but this time of year always prompts me to reflect on my wellness journey. After all, I consider September 4, 1992 as the start date of the healthy habits that have also provided me with a happier, more fulfilling life.  In lieu of an official time machine, I’m going to close my eyes, click my ruby slippers – okay, cute blue flats – and turn back the hands of time to tell my heavier self, circa 1992, a few things:

  1. Just because you heard “but you have such a pretty face…” with the implied disappointment at the rest of your size for many years, it doesn’t mean that the rest of you can’t match.
  2. Eating better and exercising is a beautiful way to show how much you love yourself, even during the most difficult of times.
  3. Aim to feel better in body and spirit. Don’t give a damn about changing to make yourself more appealing to others.
  4. Thank you for slathering on the sun screen and accepting the Casper the Friendly Ghost jokes with ease. Your 46-year-old skin is very appreciative!
  5. Sure it’s 1992 and fashion sucks. But do you really have to wear shoulder pads like a linebacker while making your hair as tall as a lamppost?

And to mark this occasion, here are some before shots and an after from now, 20 years later. Yes, I finally dropped the shoulder pads and excessively big hair along the way!

What messages would you like to go back in the past and tell yourself at an earlier time? Do you have any special milestones or achievements you are currently celebrating?

Walking on Sunshine

Think exercise has to involve complicated moves that feel like you are being deployed to a war zone, or prepping for a “Dancing with the Stars” audition?  You might actually get more bang for your buck by kicking it old school and taking a walk. It’s easy to get started as a newbie, and even hard core fitness types can sweat like crazy by putting one foot in front of the other.

For me, walking often gets overlooked as I head to the gym instead five or six days a week. Then after nearly a two week stint with bronchitis sidelined my regular exercise schedule, I decided to slowly get active again with a walk around the neighborhood. What I didn’t expect was how much that time outside in the sunshine clarified my thinking and improved my spirits. So I donned a heart rate monitor and did it again yesterday for over an hour, adding in an elastic band and bosu strength routine my trainer taught me afterwards. And I ended up burning up just as many calories as I would at the gym, but had more fun in the process.

Here are five tips to help you start walking on sunshine:

  1. Protect your feet. A supportive pair of shoes is critical for healthy fitness at any level. Rather than just buying the coolest looking sneakers on display, consider visiting a sports specialty store that can fit you into the right pair. I did this two years ago, and was surprised to learn my feet responded best to size 8 ½ athletic trainers, rather than the 7 ½ I’d incorrectly worn for years which probably contributed to past injuries.
  2. Dress to promote movement. If you want to roll out of bed in a t-shirt and sweats and stroll around the neighborhood, go for it! But as you increase your distance and intensity, investing in supportive active wear that wicks away sweat can improve your performance and motivation.
  3. Plan the experience. Warm-up and stretching is just as important as the walk itself.  Check out these helpful resources for creating a personalized walking, stretching and strength-building plan that have been developed by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in collaboration with the American Heart Association. The same is true if you’re looking to add something different to an established fitness routine. Plan ways to add strength training into the walk itself, or immediately afterwards. For ideas on effective moves that don’t require a visit to the gym, check out Workout Nirvana, Fun and Fit, Fitknitchick and these tips from Greatist.
  4. Partner with a friend. Ever take a walk with a buddy and because you’ve had so much fun gabbing, suddenly 45 minutes have passed and you feel a lovely surge of endorphins? Find someone who lives nearby with the same schedule that can join us, so you motivate each other. The American Heart Association shares these great tips for creating a walking club to ensure there’s always someone available to keep you company.
  5. Move to the music. Making walking fun increases your chances of stepping out into it! Load up on great tunes that motivate you while increasing your heart rate. Here’s a walking playlist that I’ve created just for you:

Shira’s Walking Playlist:

  • The Walker – Fitz & the Tantrums
  • Twisted – Usher
  • All Night – Icona Pop
  • Let the Groove Get In – Justin Timberlake
  • Yeah Yeah – Willy Moon
  • Turn Me Lose – Madcon
  • Run – Gnarls Barkley
  • Before We Fall in Love – Damato
  • Women’s World – Cher
  • Applause – Lady GaGa
  • All Things (Just Keep Getting Better) – Widelife & Simone Denny
  • Dancing the Whole Way Home – Miss Li
  • Merry Go Round – The JaneDear Girls
  • The Boots Were Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra
  • Take a Walk – Passion Pit

Do you incorporate walking into your fitness routine, or have you ever thought about it? Have any other tips to share with people interested in walking for exercise?

Additional Resources:

12 Week Walking Schedule from the Mayo Clinic

Overview: How to Start Walking – Runner’s World Magazine

Walk Off 10 Pounds – Fitness Magazine

Scaling back on self-judgment

So I have scaled mountains (the smallish-kind that don’t require oxygen tanks or Sherpa assistance) and as a Libra, regard the Scales of Justice as a pretty cool concept. But there’s one scale that has proven not to be my friend over time – the kind that measures your weight. During this summer of really clean eating, I’ve avoided calibrating my self-esteem by the number on a scale, getting in better physical shape in the process.

Like many health conscious women, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the scale since my teenage years. When I lost 50 pounds over 20 years ago, an important part of that was only weighing myself every two weeks or so to prevent any fixation with numbers.  But then I hit my forties and stuff slowed down a bit. Concerned with the regain of eight to ten pounds, I started relying on the scale more for measurement. After all, the National Weight Control Registry reported that 44% of their successful weight loss maintainers weighed themselves daily. So I tried that tactic…and it drove me batsh*t crazy. Didn’t lose any extra pounds, and gained a boatload of self-judgment.

Back in June, I told you about trying a 21 day “cleanse” created by Certified Health & Nutrition Coach Linda Citron. The title itself is misleading, as it was really a clean eating plan for embracing real foods and identifying items that weren’t so great for my body.  You weren’t allowed to weigh yourself during that time and in adopting many of the cleaner habits as my daily routine now, I wasn’t in any hurry to get back to it. The results included:

  • I dropped a clothing size and can now easily fit in those designer jeans that used to taunt me from the back of my closet.
  • As pictured below, this process helped me rock a form-fitting dress for my wedding celebration – without Spanx!
  • My energy, clarity and balance have significantly increased and stayed that way.
  • Eating clean diminished or completely eliminated mood swings, even during PMS.
  • It broke my sugar addiction. After years of all or (rather unsuccessfully) nothing, I lost the taste for it. I can eat one bite of chocolate and be done. In my world, this is a huge development on par with the discovery of electricity and indoor plumbing.

And even now, on this clean-eating journey for the long-term because it makes me feel so much better, I still don’t want to weigh myself and bring back tying my self-esteem to a number.

Clean eating helped me wear this dress without an assist from Spanx, after it had been too tight for months! And yeah, that’s my foxy new husband Justin in the shot too!

 

“It is important not to give your power to a number that is so arbitrary,” notes Success and Happiness Coach Michelle Goss, CPSC. “Moving away from the scale creates the opportunity to claim new measures of health and fitness.”

Moving forward, I’m going to stick with clothing fit to calibrate how I’m doing. How do you monitor your wellness? Addicted to the scale, or use other measurement?

Four things wedding planning can teach us about wellness

 

While some people associate wedding planning with Bridezillas throwing a tantrum when a dozen doves aren’t released at the moment of saying “I do,” I believe the experience can be a great metaphor for healthy living. When I married Justin, the love of my life, during the weekend of July 12, we focused on creating something meaningful versus massive. From that perspective, here are four things that wedding planning can teach us about wellness:

1)  Be true to your vision. We wanted something small and special, despite others who thought a larger, more formal celebration was in order.  (There’s nothing like a British mother-in-law perplexed by my decision to not wear a fascinator – think the fancy hat you often spot the royals donning in People Magazine – much less a traditional bridal gown.) Our actual wedding ceremony included just parents, siblings and a dear friend who got ordained online so he could perform the service. The party the next night was limited to just 75 friends and extended family members who were currently deeply important to our lives. We were true to ourselves instead of the expectations of others and for that reason, it was perfect. The same applies to your personal wellness journey. If you are focused on feeling great and building more muscle as opposed to a specific number on a scale, don’t let the beliefs and hang-ups of others take you away from your vision.

2) Be realistic.  Have a limited amount of time for exercise in your schedule? I hear you…mindful that our party only lasted four hours, we ditched old school traditions like the cutting of a cake, toasts and a bouquet toss to focus more on visiting with guests who came in from across the U.S. and abroad and then running rampant on the dance floor. Take a realistic look at your daily commitments to find ways to incorporate more movement without getting overwhelmed. Perhaps you carve out an hour for spin class in the morning at first rather than commit to a three hour bike ride that completely stresses you out.

3)  Less is more. These days, weddings can cost as much as a new home. That why our spending focused on great food, drink and music to promote as much fun as possible instead of other numerous upgrades. With your wellness, think about the two to three things you can do to become healthier rather than trying to implement a list of 14 new habits at once. Your chances of making long-term changes that stick will increase significantly.

4) Show appreciation. From hosting a bridal shower and brunch to constant support, a lot of people made our wedding weekend incredibly special. So we’ve been all about timely thank you cards, phone calls and have planned a dinner party to express thanks to friends who went above and beyond. Have others given you support on your wellness journey? From the neighbor who runs with you in the morning to friends on Twitter who applaud your latest weight loss milestones, show your gratitude and become a source of support for others interested in healthy living.

 

What do you think wedding planning can teach us about wellness? Have any comments or thoughts to add to the list?

Can a nutrition “cleanse” help clean up your mind?

While many people wouldn’t blink at the thought of using a dry-cleaner for their clothes or a housekeeper for their residence, getting help to clean up their digestion and eating habits is another story.  Personally, I thought detox/cleanses were at best too extreme for my tastes or at worst, in the case of crazy fad diets, harmful to your body. But I just gained a big dose of enlightenment over the past week and now see how a cleanse can help clean up your mind.

The impetus was a conversation with my friend Ginger earlier this month, a beautiful redhead with a slender frame who spent most of her life as a total sugar addict.  Hearing her rave about the 21 day cleanse she completed with a holistic health coach was like witnessing a non-believer get religion. Yes, her very minor “muffin top”was gone, but more importantly, Ginger broke her craving for sugar, experienced an incredible amount of energy, had a level of clarity at work those bolstered productivity and just felt better overall. Color me impressed, but not enough to check it out further at the time.

That all changed eight days ago. You know that moment in Gone with the Wind, where a frustrated, post-Civil War Scarlett O’Hara dramatically hoists a turnip in the air and declares with God as her witness that she will never go hungry again? That’s the place I was – minus the ruined plantation and hoop skirt dress. I woke up tired of beating myself up about the eight to 10 pounds I regained several years ago, constantly counting calories and letting the number on a scale determine my level of self-esteem. Determined to get rid of this baggage and look and feel my best by my wedding next month, I knew it was time to take action.

So I opened my mind and investigated the cleanse, which is administered byCertified Nutrition Coach Linda Citron. I was surprised to see the 21 day plan let me eat proteins like fish and chicken, favorite foods such as avocados, steel cut oats and almond butter, whole grains and lots of veggies. Recognizing that support is essential, the process includes a 30 minute upfront planning consultation from Linda, a printed how-to manual with lots of recipes, thought-provoking questions to journal about and daily supportive emails.

I signed up for the experience and now, on day seven, I’m feeling wonderful. My clothes are fitting better and the sugar cravings are gone. What has also been great is how this cleanse has impacted my thinking. I’m happier, feel more balanced and have greater clarity about my career and passions.  After the cleanse ends in several weeks, I plan to share before and after shots and insight about how the cleanse helped clean up my life overall.

Have you made major changes in your nutrition or other areas of your life that lead to sustainable positive change?  Ever try a cleanse or detox effort and if so, what was the result?

 

When saying “no” too often triggers overindulgence

A few years back, Jim Carrey starred in a movie called “Yes Man” about a negative kind of guy who changed his life by saying yes to everything that came his way. Hadn’t thought much about it until now, when I realized that my constant efforts to say no to “treats” were causing me to crave them even more.   It made me wonder if carving out some room for regular indulgences can help maintain overall healthy living practices.

One of my goals this year is to embrace the best health and wellness of my life. I’m talking about the whole ball of wax here, with regular sleep and journaling for clarity getting as much attention as good nutrition and exercise. So at first, the food part of it sounded pretty simple. I would try to eat 100 grams of protein or more each day while keeping an eye on the overall calorie count. Avoid sweets like it is fashion advice from Christina Aguilera’s stylist.  Aim for five daily servings of fruits and vegetables while chugging down about 12 glasses of water during my waking hours.  While it appeared to be a sound plan, I forgot one very important aspect – the human factor. Trying to be “perfect” day in and out was causing me to crave some form of relief, usually in the form of sweets.

As nationally recognized Life Coach Michelle Goss explains, “The act of demonizing sugar or any particular food just gives it attention. Pressuring yourself to constantly say no can backfire, causing you to crave that item even more.”

So I chilled out a bit. Focused mostly on healthy choices while leaving the door open for measured indulgences – things like a quarter cup of trail mix with chocolate or a couple of chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels. And when I did that, things have slowly gotten easier. Most days I don’t eat those item. But having the option there quells the rebellion before it takes place.

What is your current nutrition philosophy?  How do you balance healthy eating with indulgences?