Friday, September 25, 2009

Are You Still in the Feast or Famine Cycle?

Lately, I have been doing a great deal of research. I've been compiling information about the body's survival response and the way this can trigger a biological reaction to hoard fat stores. There are so many intricate layers involved that can trigger our bodies to want to hold onto fat, but if we dig deep and get to the root of the matter, at the core is one common element in every scenario... the feast or famine cycle. If we are in a feast or famine cycle our body will adapt, storing fat during the feasting phase to prepare for the hardship of the famine. It is impossible to release excess fat when you are locked in this cycle. Quite simply, you can't out-wit Mother Nature.

Oh... you can try. You can mistakenly believe that you are more clever. You can try to control what you eat. You can try to be 'healthy', but all the while, you will be activating your body's adaptation response. In fact, I will boldly state that any weight lost through trying is sure to be found. It will be a flash in the pan success. Most likely, any weight released was not fat, but precious metabolically active muscle tissue or water weight. It bears repeating that we are genetically designed to preserve fat stores. Your body's job is to survive. A lot of unnecessary blame gets pinned on the body, but it is sorely misplaced. Our bodies are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They are merely responding to the stimulus we give them. It is our responsibility to create a safe environment where our bodies can feel secure enough to let those fat stores go. If we find ourselves locked in a holding pattern, remaining plateaued, in some way we are creating a threatening atmosphere where our bodies are quite literally fighting for survival. The threat may be self-imposed, but your body can't discern this.

Likewise, if you are a scale watcher who is proudly beaming that you dropped 15 lbs. in the last month, you are also creating a threatening environment for your body. You are currently in the famine cycle, albeit unconsciously, and sooner or later that pendulum will swing and you will find yourself immersed in a feasting phase. The biological drive to eat will be so overwhelming that you will not be able to control it. Your appetite will become a runaway train as all the weight you lost, plus some more for added insurance, finds its way back onto your frame. Don't feel hateful toward your body when this happens. It is not your body's fault. It is only reacting the way nature designed it to respond.

Here at, "The Big Fat Lie", we do not focus on the weight. In fact, we are firm believers in taking a sledgehammer to your scale. Our starting stats were presented in an effort to have our intuitive eating project be comparable to other obesity studies that have been conducted, thereby ensuring the legitimacy of the work we will be doing here. In fact, you will not see the posting of anymore stats until the close of this project in August 2011. However, for the sake of discussion it's important to note that it is impossible to release more than 2 lbs. of fat a week, no matter how much you exercise or what you choose to eat or not eat. This is a scientific fact. If you are releasing more weight than this, you are harming your body and it will backfire.

Most of you are probably thinking right about now, "Well, this doesn't apply to me. I'm an intuitive eater. I eat when I am hungry. I have freedom to eat whatever I like. I don't diet anymore. How could I be trapped in a feast or famine cycle?" The answer is quite simply, very easily. I will be covering this information more in-depth over the coming weeks, but will hint that the feast or famine cycle can be activated by eating around your body size and having a generalized fear of eating. The body's adaptation response can also be triggered by something as simple as stress, or bodily needs going unfulfilled. Again... there are many layers involved and we will cover all of them here in the weeks to come. For now, begin by answering the questions below to determine if you are still on the merry-go-round of the feast or famine cycle...

Let's Play 21 Questions... Are you stuck in the feast or famine cycle?

1. Do you experience hypoglycemia or symptoms of low blood sugar?

2. Do you find that you experience frequent ravenous hunger?

3. Do you crave lots of sweets, or fatty foods?

4. Are you a nighttime eater who often noshes in the evening without truly being physically hungry?

5. Do you find yourself overeating at special occasions such as birthdays, parties, holidays?

6. When you overeat, or eat particular foods, do you feel guilt?

7. Do you experience fear in relation to eating?

8. Do you feel you need some kind of structure around food to feel safe? For example, do you try to keep certain foods out of the house? Do you feel more at ease when you have eating guidelines in place?

9. Do you consume a high quantity of highly processed foods?

10. Are you worried about your weight or the size of your body? Do you body check yourself by frequently looking at your body in the mirror, weighing in, or taking your measurements? When in the presence of others, do you find yourself adjusting your body so you appear slimmer by sucking in your stomach, changing your body positioning, or holding your sweater or handbag in front of your tummy?

11. Are you like Old Mother Hubbard, often finding your cupboards bare?

12. Do you find that you never want breakfast and often don't reach for food until later in the day?

13. Do you frequently think about food? Do you find yourself mentally reviewing the food you ate for the day? Are you constantly thinking about the next meal?

14. Are you often impatient or irritable?

15. Do you exercise in an effort to slim down?

16. Do you feel that your body is working against you?

17. Do you lack trust in yourself and your decisions when it comes to eating experiences?

18. Do you have a high level of stress in your life?

19. Is your sleep suffering?

20. Do you contemplate going on one more diet, cleanse, or otherwise structured eating plan?

21. Do you feel safer in a larger body? Are you scared of what it would be like if you were fit and trim?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you are still in the feast or famine cycle. The more yes responses, the more deeply entrenched in the feast or famine cycle you are. I have come to realize that after three years as an intuitive eater, I am still in the feast or famine cycle. I have made a great deal of headway and have a lot of healing under my belt, but I have more self-recovery to do.

Beginning next week, I will be writing installments here at, "The Big Fat Lie". The approach I will be outlining will enable us to establish a high level of safety for our bodies, freeing us from the feast or famine cycle and subsequent adaptation response, so we can return to a state of balanced health. In the meantime, contemplate what it would feel like to let go completely. What if you released all guidelines, including the guidelines of intuitive eating, and simply ate? How would your eating look if you had no concern about the size of your body? Do you even know? Sit with these questions and see what it opens up in you. We will continue this discussion next week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall-ing in Love with the Season

Since we kicked off our seasonal focus here at, "The Big Fat Lie" I have been carving out more time to go on walks to connect with the natural world around me. It's been regenerative for my soul. I'm always sure to have my trusty camera in tow to capture the images of autumn emerging. I wanted to share these pictures with all of you. Feel free to click on the thumbnails for an enlarged view. Some of the images are really striking.

These are photos taken of my yard. As we travel through the seasons I am going to chronicle the changes in my garden photographically...





I love taking in the changing beauty of the neighborhood gardens. My mom and I used to go on evening walks together to admire the neighbor's yards throughout the year. I always enjoyed watching them change with the seasons. It's almost as if four times a year you get to see a completely different garden. They go through quite a transformation. I still enjoy strolling through the neighborhoods and taking in the beautiful yards. These photos are from one of my recent garden tours...





A wise hawk kept a watchful eye on me as he posed so patiently for this shot...


It's wonderful to see the bees have returned. They were scarce for awhile...



I'm very blessed to live just down the street from Ragle Ranch State Park. It is a place of tranquility. There are some peaceful trails to wander. I like to get lost in the natural wonder of it all...





Along the way, snake decided to pay me a visit in his autumn best...


Butterfly also appeared...


I'm really going to enjoy capturing the seasons as they flow one into the next. Nature is such a precious gift.

California Coastal Clean-Up Day 2009


I decided to participate in the annual California Coastal Clean-Up Day to fulfill my reconnection with nature focus for September. My husband David joined me in this effort along with thousands of Californians who gathered together to show our love and appreciation for the blessing of nature. The volunteers involved in last week's event gathered more than a million pounds of trash from our wondrous coastline. Why would anyone want to liter such a magnificent natural resource as this?...

Ocean Cove Sunset


Our clean-up site was Schoolhouse Beach on the gorgeous Sonoma Coast, just minutes from Bodega Bay. It was most disappointing to see that such a large amount of garbage was collected mere feet from trash bins. Conversely, it was inspiring to see how many came out in a display of stewardship for Mother Nature. It was encouraging to see the number of children who participated. What a wonderful practice to pass on to the future caretakers of our little blue planet!




David took the plunge and stepped on the scale to determine the weight of the garbage we had collected. One of the few times in life when weight really counts. All in all, the two of us had gathered 10 lbs. of trash from our local shore, including a large amount of rusty nails. Please don't use pallets to start your fires!


Aside from the nails, a great deal of the trash we gathered was related to cigarette smoking. Kindly dispose of your smoking paraphernalia... no ifs, ands, or butts! As you can see from our list, people leave behind a lot of garbage. Let's not burden the environment with this legacy.


Liter affects the balance of our ecology and can prove harmful to both wildlife and visitors to our coastal shores. Do your part. Pay your respect by picking up after yourself. It would be a shame to lose the gift of this precious resource out of neglect.


After three hours of clean-up all the volunteers gathered at Bodega Dunes for a barbecue put on by Whole Foods.


I always love a good dog!


It was a special day that made me realize what a beautiful world we live in. There are a lot of people out there with compassion who want to give back and this renewed my hope. The truth was evident that if every one did their part, no matter how seemingly small, we could make a big difference. I was proud to be a part of this effort and have decided to participate every year in this event.

ocean goddess

The ocean is my sacred space. It is my cathedral... my place to go and feel my connection to the limitless All. It centers me, grounds me, washes away my worries with its murmuring tides... giving me great peace and a sense of belonging. It made my heart full to physically demonstrate my reverence for my seaside sanctuary. The experience has inspired me to step up to the plate and be a true guardian for our coast. If others feel moved to do their part to care for the ocean, follow the link below and take the Coastal Stewardship Pledge. The change begins with us. It is in the giving that we receive.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Merry Autumnal Equinox!

Behold the beauty of the season...



Saturday, September 12, 2009

Storm Clouds Clearing...

I laid in bed in the wee hours of the morning listening to the season's first storm. The soothing sound of the rain kissing the thirsty earth was disrupted by the sonic boom of rolling thunder and bright flashes of lightening casting shadows across my bedroom walls. It was one of those balmy storms that come at the tail-end of summer I used to experience when I was going through college up in Washington state. It's very rare to get a storm like this in California and I was immersed in the cacophony of nature's dramatic symphony.

Hearing the storm break up the quiet spaces of the twilight hours felt cathartic. I've never been able to sleep through a thunder and lightening storm. I can feel the prickly energy infusing the air and the electric buzz keeps me wide awake. No bother... my mind was full of the events from the past couple of days. The storm seemed an appropriate soundtrack for the feelings welling up in me. After all, I had just experienced a release after years of built-up tension.

This last month has been very challenging for me health-wise. The month began with digestive distress that quickly downward spiraled into a medical crisis. I was exhausted, depleted, and extremely dehydrated. I have spent the past couple of weeks in and out of the hospital going through various tests and having my blood drawn. There are still no certain answers regarding my digestive issues, but treatment is being put on hold until my thyroid is stabilized.

As a result of the blood work, it was discovered that I have hypothyroid. The thyroid is the master gland. It is the control center of the body and when its fire snuffs out, a whole slew of bodily systems go haywire. Most commonly the metabolism suffers and weight gain becomes an inevitability. However, my doctor explained that the digestive system can also be thrown off kilter. Until we get my thyroid stabilized at an optimum level, we won't really have a clear understanding of what has caused my digestion to head south.

I would be lying if I was to say that I didn't feel a twinge of disappointment at my medical visit this Friday when the scale registered 10 lbs. higher than my last weigh-in at the doctor's office six months ago. It felt particularly insulting, like a smack across the face, after all the concerted effort I have put into my training over the past couple of months. At first I retained optimism, hoping the increase was in muscle mass, but my body fat reading told me otherwise. Nutritionally, I have been on-point. That is, with the exception of the past week and a half that my body has been adjusting to the levothroid medication my physician prescribed.

Initially, my energy was so freed up that I found my sleep cycles disrupted. I've had difficulty making my way to the comfort of my bed until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. As a result, I have been sleeping in until 11:00 am, missing my first hunger call that usually comes like clockwork between 6:00 and 7:30 am each day. The pattern that has emerged in response to this deviation in schedule is rather par for course. When I miss my first hunger call, my appetite becomes blunted all day. I'll pick a little here and there out of necessity, but find it difficult to eat solidly until it hits evening time. By then, my body is raging for order, demanding carbs and lots of them, usually in the form of quick-absorbing sugar. By that point, it's all she wrote. It's near impossible to register satiety.

It's been a mixed blessing because while it has been a great relief to feel my energy return, it has been equally disconcerting to feel so abruptly severed from my body's communication. My signals of hunger, fullness, even what foods my body is longing for, have become rather murky where there was great clarity.

Slowly, I am finding the balance. My sleep cycles are beginning to normalize and I made that early morning hunger call the past two days. My bodily signals have resurfaced and I'm starting to get back into the flow of things. I'm beginning to feel like my old self... the me I lost track of many moons ago.

I have been battling chronic fatigue for years. I spent a large portion of my early twenties and thirties dragging myself one moment to the next. I was completely zombified moving through my daily routine on triple espresso cruise control. I had been to countless doctor's offices in a desperate plea for some answers. I didn't understand why I was so exhausted all the time. I knew something was off in my body. I could feel it down in my bones. I just couldn't put my finger on it and apparently, neither could the doctors.

My weight had escalated dramatically in my mid-twenties. Virtually overnight, I went from being in a perfectly healthy body, to piling on 50 lbs. on my small frame in the span of a month. This trend continued over the years. I remember watching the needle on the scale rise higher and higher as if by vendetta. Eventually, binge eating disorder played a role in my ever-growing amplitude. At first it was a virtually unexplainable fluke that defied all natural order. It was like I was cast in a true life fairy tale... put under a spell by a crafty sorceress who deemed I pay a heavy price for my vanity with every pound mercilessly piled on. I was the, "Fatter" to Stephen King's, "Thinner". I often dreamed of waking up to discover that it all had been a horrible nightmare. Yet day after day I woke, still trapped in what was quickly feeling like a fleshly prison. There was no escaping the reality that I was a plus-size woman.

My medical visits felt like an exercise in futility. I frequently left doctor's offices in tears... my voice lost in the shuffle of bureaucratic red tape. My request for assistance with my mounting fatigue, weight gain that didn't budge no matter what I did and in fact had plans for expansion on the horizon, and repeat illnesses and infections due to what I could only assume was a struggling immune system, were met with the same rehearsed lecture... 'Lose weight, you'll feel better'. "Of course!", I would think dripping with requisite sarcasm, "Why hadn't I thought of that?! I finally have the answer I have been searching for. It's all clear to me now." Each visit blurred into the next, a collage of dietary pamphlets being thrust into my hands by well-meaning physicians along with directive to set up an appointment with a registered dietitian.

I will never be able to erase a particularly humiliating episode from my memory bank. Even now I can recall the way my heart beat forcefully within my breast like a bass drum with such reverberation I thought it would surely explode from my chest and lay quivering helplessly at my feet. I can feel myself losing the battle to hold back the tears burning a salty trail down my flushed cheeks. The visit started as routinely as its predecessors with me listing off the bodily concerns that had been left untreated for 10 years, along with a newly developed debilitating back issue. The doctor buried his face in the computer screen, never once lifting his head to face me directly as if sight of me would burn out his retina. To him, I was an afterthought... an imposition... when he could be attending to patients he felt more worthy of his care and concern. In one fell swoop he trivialized my malady. I can still hear him mocking me with cold tone... "I mean look at you. Look at your belly. It's huge! That's why you have these issues. I say do whatever you have to. Lose weight any way you can." He didn't even look at my back. He wasn't about to lay his hands on me to perform a proper examination. He treated me as a leper who could spread obesity to him like some kind of infectious disease if he were to come into direct contact with me. The look on his face when he handed me information about eating disorder specialists when I explained that I had to approach weight loss with sensitivity due to my history of anorexia and bulimia, was one of disgust. I felt completely dehumanized sitting in that cold sterile office in the presence of this man who lacked as much warmth as the uninviting surroundings. I think the stethoscope dangling around his neck had more compassion. This inanimate object could register the beating of my heart, unlike him who disregarded me as just another thing taking up too much space in his schedule.

Despite how shamed I felt, I wasn't about to let this slide as I skulked away in mortification. I reported the incident to patient relations at Kaiser and filed a formal complaint. It was one of the first times in my life that I owned my body and demanded the respect I deserve. My boundary lines had always been fuzzy. This was a pivotal point when I drew my line in the sand. I had enough... of the abuse, discrimination, and utter dismissal. The doctor was brought up for review by the board. My hope is that this doctor received a wake-up call and now practices more conscientiously. Patients deserve dignity, no matter their size.

My doctor visit this past Friday was like coming full circle and arriving at redemption. There was an insecure part of me that feared a lecture for the 10 lb. weight gain, but instead, I received a reprieve. My sleep study results were in and I have sleep apnea. My doctor explained that this rise in weight was predictable. She went on to elaborate that in order for my body to be able to release the extra weight I am carrying the right internal environment needs to be created. The combination of a blown out thyroid and oxygen-deprived body lacking restful sleep is a recipe for fat storage. Then, like music to my ears came the words that confirmed what I had always known... "It's not your fault Shannon. Your body has been resisting your efforts. Your holding pattern is not imagined, but very real. The good news is, we can treat this. Once we get you stabilized you will find that you should be able to reach a healthy weight with relative ease. Your body will start working for, rather than against you."

I sat astonished at first as this statement of validation hung like an exclamation point in the air. I then let out a long sweet breath of release. The missing pieces of the puzzle fell neatly in my lap. I know I have healing work ahead of me but I feel a direction has emerged. I'm no longer drifting aimlessly on the waters of uncertainty. I had been perplexed by my now year-long plateau. Lately, I had begun to feel that maybe this was as far as my journey was going to go. Now I know it is not the end, but a new chapter opening in my healing saga. I feel optimistic because I believe the work we will be doing collectively as a group at, "The Big Fat Lie" is going to tie it all together. The storm clouds are clearing and if my eyes aren't failing, I swear I see a sliver of sunlight peeking through.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Web of Life


The natural world is a balance of coexistence. The web of life has many threads; all of them connected. Nature is not based on separation, but connection. This energy of kinship is all around us. All we have to do is open our eyes and we can see the dance of life unfolding before us. It is evident in the relativity of our surroundings. Take something as simple as a bowl of fresh seasonal huckleberries. When you think of where these huckleberries came from, what comes to mind? Is your immediate thought that they came from the grocery store?

If we were to trace the origin of those huckleberries, we would realize that many hands and forces of nature had to come together to make this luscious fruit available to us. Not only did the grower’s hands play a role in bringing those huckleberries to our table, but also the field workers who picked the ripe, ready fruit, the people who cleaned and packaged the huckleberries, the distributors who delivered them to our local grocer, and the produce employee who received the shipment and put those huckleberries out for display. Even in this simple example, you can see the thread of connection, but it’s deeper than that. Let’s trace the line back a bit further.

In order for those huckleberries to even exist, the earth itself needs to be present for its birthing ground. Otherwise, how would the berries grow? To burst with nutrients, the fruit is dependent on earthworms and other micro-organisms; a virtual unseen cosmos; to nourish their life. Huckleberries rely on the sun to supply them with nourishing rays for the process of photosynthesis to take place. This also means that the berries are reliant on the sky. Without the sky, there would be no sun to provide sustenance, or clouds to pour forth quenching rains to feed the thirsty crop.

Let’s get really expansive. The huckleberries depend on the entire universe in order to simply ‘be’. Like everything in existence, including you and me, berries are nothing more than a pattern of energy… atoms… a swirling of positive, negative, and neutral energy that provides the basis for life as we know it. It is this energy that is the common thread in the pattern of life. “It’s all one” is not an abstract sentiment. It is a reality. In a tangible sense, when you dive into a bowl of juicy sweet huckleberries, you have dished yourself up a serving of the universe.

I share this not to numb your mind with rhetoric of physics, but to demonstrate that life is about connection. It is important that we are mindful of this connection because when we view ourselves as separate entities from the rest of existence, we become imbalanced. I think that the imbalance of humanity as a whole is evident. We are out of sync with the natural world. We’ve lost our sense of connection and in turn, have favored a more virtual existence. We’ve sacrificed our reverence for life and in the process we have suffered. Due to the collective reality, all of creation has suffered right alongside us.

I see that a primary focus of healing is going to involve addressing this state of disconnect. I believe that reconnection is a vital ingredient for finding wholeness. Without it, we will never be able to bridge the divide. We need to reconnect with our authentic selves, each other, and the natural world around us. This seems like a lofty pursuit, but it can easily be facilitated by moving into the harmonic flow of nature. This is an element that will be an integral part of the work we will be doing throughout this two year project. The path to healing I have formulated has a seasonal focus. All in existence bows to the wisdom of Mama Nature as she goes through her cycles every fall, winter, spring, and summer. When we align ourselves with this natural flow of life energy we find the path to healing welcomingly unfolding before us. We no longer create barriers for ourselves by fighting the natural current, but find we are supported by taking the path of least resistance. We enter the dance of life with all of nature as our partner on the grand ballroom floor of creation.

Every month here at, “The Big Fat Lie”, a group focus will be presented within the first week. This focus will provide a template for bringing yourself in alignment with the season. There will be suggestions for how you can integrate the harvest of the season into your meals. There will also be advice on how you can exercise in a way that will connect you with the energy prevalent during the current cycle. One of the primary benefits of designing your workouts in this manner is that you will have automatic periodization with your training. This will give you longevity on the path of fitness, preventing burnout, the risk of overtraining, and injury. We are working toward creating a life practice that honors both health and fitness, so this will be crucial.

Additionally, our monthly focus will nourish our spirits and help reconnect us with the natural world. The approach I am presenting is whole-listic. It incorporates nurturing mind, body, spirit, and our connection to the earth. Through this path, we will realize that it is all one and our very beings are woven into the tapestry of life.

I know that many of you are participating because you are ready to move forward on your healing journey. You are ready to reclaim your health and your life. The path I am outlining can certainly lead you to this place of metamorphosis. However, it is my hope that by the end of our two year experience together, you will have taken away something so much richer and deeper. I must say, I look forward to the day when we all share the stories of what this experience has brought into our lives. We are sowing the seeds of transformation in this moment and when it comes time to reap the harvest, our cornucopia will overflow.

I would like to add that I welcome all followers of, “The Big Fat Lie” to participate in our monthly focuses if you are moved to. I’m a firm believer in the spirit of community and I encourage those who choose to get involved on their own terms to feel free to comment and share their experiences with the participants. You are also all cordially invited to take part in the, “Big Fat Lie” live chats which will be hosted seasonally. The schedule for chats will be posting here, so stay tuned.

Welcome to a true in-body experience. The journey begins…

“The Big Fat Lie” September 2009 Focus:

Greetings participants and welcome to our September 2009 focus. Consider the focus the cliff notes for what we will be working on each month. Posted below, you will find many writing pieces that will expand on our autumn focus that will be extending over the months of September, October, and November. The writing pieces are presented as a source of knowledge for ways you can move in harmony with the seasonal rhythm. Listed in the various posts are approaches you can pick and choose from as you so desire to embody the energy of this season. The monthly focus however, includes specific exercises that we will be working on as a group. Please post your experiences with these exercises, as well as any additional seasonal focus suggestions presented that you choose to implement. This is a collective journey we are embarking on and sharing our experiences and stories fosters a sense of community.

The following exercises are our mind, body, spirit, and nature focuses for this present month of September 2009. Enjoy!


- Read one of the books or watch one of the films presented in the, “What’s up with This Whole Foods Stuff Anyways” post.


- Begin your gentle exploration of whole foods as outlined in the, “What’s up with This Whole Foods Stuff Anyways” post.

- Sample one of the seasonal fruits or vegetables from the, “Savoring the Season – The Feast of the Autumnal Harvest” list that you have never tried before. If you are a true foodie and have savored every fruit and vegetable listed, enjoy one of these seasonal delights in a new way. Try a new recipe. Treat yourself to a meal out and select a menu item that features seasonal produce as the shining star. Explore creative ways that you can enjoy the harvest of the season in fresh new ways.

- Begin your physical training as outlined in the, “Moving Your Body to the Rhythm of the Autumn Season” post.


- An important aspect of autumn’s energy is to be grateful for the blessings we have received. Fostering gratitude in our lives increases our potential to receive abundance and helps us develop an optimistic mindset. When we focus on the good in our lives we open the doorway for more positivity to flow in and nourish our beings. In the space of thankfulness, we feel loved and this nurtures our souls. To help you connect with the energy of gratitude, begin a 'Gratitude Journal'. Every night before you go to bed, take a few moments to reflect on your day and list three things in your journal that the day offered that you are grateful for. Life’s gifts come in many forms. Expand your vision to see the good around you. Maybe someone let you step ahead of them in line at the bank. Perhaps a stranger shared a warm smile and a friendly ‘hello’. Then again, as you sipped your morning tea, you could have witnessed the most breathtaking sunrise. Open your heart to appreciate the blessings life has gifted you with and you will create a space of receptiveness that will invite more of the good things in life to come your way.

Feeling Your Connection to Nature:

- Enjoy a walk in one of your local or state parks to observe the changing cycles of nature. Pause during your walk to sit and reflect. Breathe in the crisp autumn air. Tap into the energy of the season approaching. Wrap yourself in the surrounding beauty of the changing fall foliage. Speak a silent thank you from your heart for the gift of nature and the honor of being blessed to have access to this healing resource. Pay your respect by bringing a small bag with you. As you notice garbage strewn on the paths and trails, pick it up to dispose of later. These seemingly small acts of care and tending deepen our connection to the natural world. If the earth mama in you moves you and you live in the state of California, Saturday, September 19, 2009 from 9:00 am-noon is California Coastal Cleanup Day. I can’t think of a better way to show appreciation for the blessing of nature than donating our time and energy to show mother earth our care. If you would like to volunteer in this effort, visit to find a site in your community.

- At least once this month, purchase or fresh pick a fall bouquet to grace your dining table.

What’s Up With This Whole Foods Stuff Anyway?

Many people have questions about whole foods. I recognize that some of our participants are currently involved in the SLOW foods movement. However, for other members and followers of our project, this is all brand new and they are about to set sail on uncharted waters. It is important to me that, “The Big Fat Lie” serves as an educational resource. I believe that knowledge has the ability to empower people to make more conscious choices in their lives. It’s these choices made with awareness that can have a positive effect not only on the life of the individual, but the lives of their loved ones, friends, co-workers, and everyone they choose to share this information with. Inevitably, it’s a trickle down effect that can eventually impact the greater good of all. Who knew we had so much power to effect positive change?

So, what are whole foods and why are they preferable to the Standard American Diet? Note the acronym for the current state of America’s plate… SAD. Coincidence… I think not. One thing’s for certain when looking at the dietary habits of Americans. What we are doing isn’t working. Have you ever thought that it doesn’t make much sense that a country so fitness and diet obsessed would be so incredibly unhealthy and obese? It doesn’t compute. Facts are facts and when taking an honest view of the current reality, it is obvious to see that it is time for change. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing while expecting to get a different result. Collectively, we are going out of our minds the further we remove ourselves from the wisdom of our bodies and the natural balance of life. It’s time we burned the bridge and left the old way in the dust. We are not failures. The route to health that has been crammed down our throats by the diet industry, ‘Big Food’ corporations, and media has failed us. We have been duped and it is time that we end this foolish game in which our health is the pawn and take our power back. How do we do this? By adventuring off the beaten path and navigating a new route to wholeness through education and personal empowerment.

Whole foods are the simplest place to start, so this is where the journey begins. Organics definitely have merit, but for the sake of presenting this information in a manner that is approachable for everyone, we will save the in-depth organics discussion for a future topic. I also want those who are new to the world of whole foods to take this at a comfortable pace and not be hit over the head by everything all at once. It is a myth that you have to change everything in one fell swoop in order for it to have a beneficial influence. Take that mentality and throw it in the dust bin. Small changes lead to big results. In order to stay connected with the wisdom of your intuitive eater, mindfully check in with yourself as you integrate these changes. Set the pace at a rate that is comfortable for you personally. This should be a pleasurable experience… a journey of exploration. If you begin to feel any level of stress as you investigate the area of whole foods, consider it a red flag. This is a gentle process. You should not feel jarred or flustered. If you do, honor your feelings, pull back a bit, and recognize that in your excitement to push forward, you may have bit off more than you can chew. Take a smaller bite next time.

If you arrive in this emotional space, don’t beat yourself up over it. Check your put-downs at the door, please. You haven’t blown it. If this is new to you, it will take time to get acclimated to these fresh surroundings. When someone has struggled with food and body image issues, it is common to experience changes in eating experiences as unsettling. Often there is a fear that you will be tempted to revert back to your old ways of dieting and restriction. Give yourself some credit for all the growth you have done. You are stronger and wiser now. You know all too well that diets are no longer an option. You are also aware that in order to reach a place of health and vitality in your life that it is important to honor your body’s deeper needs. You don’t have to fear restriction as you implement whole foods. This is not about taking anything away. This is about adding something in that will enhance your life in numerous ways. When I think of the best way to describe the path of whole foods, I would say it is about experiencing the highest level of quality and pleasure with food. It is about loving yourself and your body so much that you want to provide yourself with the very best. Whether it’s a meal of roast chicken paired with a gorgeous green salad and baked potato with all the works or a luscious slice of red velvet cake with rich cream cheese frosting, only the best will do for you. Whole foods are very pleasure-oriented. It is not a path of denial. So take a nice deep cleansing breath and let all that tension and worry go. All of your favorites will remain on the table, so to speak. You will never have to sacrifice a single thing you love.

This experience is all about you. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to explore whole foods. This is not an all or nothing proposition. Even replacing one or two of your more heavily processed food items with whole food selections is a fantastic starting point. This is not a race, or a competition. This is about you finding the balance that serves you best in your life. The journey, though shared, will be highly individual.

So… what are whole foods? Inquiring minds want to know. Whole foods are unadulterated by man. They are foods found in their natural state, devoid of processing or refining. Whole foods are:

Meats – Beef, buffalo, lamb, veal, venison, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, protein alternatives such as, tofu
Dairy – Whole milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream, cream cheese, kefir, alternative milks such as, soy, almond, hazelnut, rice milk
Eggs – Whole, including yolks
Grains – Whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, oats, millet, sprouted grain products, pure durum semolina
Nuts and Seeds – Including natural nut butters
Beans and Legumes
Fruits and Veggies – Including 100% fruit and vegetable juices
Oils and Fats – Extra-virgin olive oil, 100% pure canola oil, peanut oil, walnut oil, sesame oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, butter, olives
Sugars – Honey, agave nectar, cane juice, succunat, turbinado, demerara, brown rice syrup, pure maple syrup, raw brown sugar
Spices and Condiments – Those made with whole ingredients

At this point, some of you who are just starting to explore whole foods may be thinking, “This is all well and good, but I have a jam-packed life. I don’t always have time to cook from scratch. Are there any convenient options?” The answer is yes.

There are a category of prepared foods that fall under the whole foods umbrella. Any processed foods you are currently eating have a whole foods alternative available. From, cereals, pizzas, and sausages; to cakes, cookies, frozen entrees, chips, and other snacks; there is plenty variety available to you. A whole foods lifestyle doesn’t limit you in any way. Convenience does not need to be compromised. This is not about restriction or exclusion and that includes pre-made foods which make the busy days of your life easier.

What categorizes a prepared food as a whole foods option? This is an area where you will have to become a savvy label reader if you do your shopping in a conventional grocery store. Investigating the label has nothing to do with gathering information about portion size, calorie count, or any of that other dribble. As an intuitive eater, you do not need to be concerned with such information. Your body has its own built-in form of portion control. It’s called fullness. The information you want to look for is the ingredients. What’s in your food? It’s a worthwhile question to ask and you have the ability to find the answers, so why not use this to your advantage? A good clue that a food does not fall into the whole foods category is if the ingredients list reads like a science experiment. If you cannot recognize the ingredients, that’s a sure tip-off. If chemicals are listed that are difficult to pronounce, that’s another clue that the product in your hands has been adulterated. The list of ingredients should not be a mile long. If the information on the label reads more like a novella than nutritional information… buyer beware. Products like these are highly processed and will do little to nourish your body. They may be tasty and tickle the tongue. They are designed that way. You may enjoy eating these foods and choose to have them as staples in your pantry. These are your choices to make. I’m simply guiding you along so you can make an informed choice. Own your decisions. That is an important part of your path. Remember, this information is being provided solely for your knowledge. It is up to you to choose how you approach what is being shared here. Do be aware however, that highly processed foods are more akin to play foods than they are a meal of true sustenance.

This is where it can get tricky shopping in a conventional grocery store because the ‘Big Food’ corporations are sneaky and they use a lot of appealing buzz words to make you think a food is nutritionally sound, when it is not. Simply because a product boasts, “Made with Natural Ingredients” does not mean it is healthy. Notice this claim states nothing about how much of the product contains ‘natural’ ingredients. For this claim to be true even a meager 1% natural contents would constitute a factual statement. Let’s also remember that even plutonium is natural, so the word ‘natural’ is not necessarily synonymous with being healthy. The ‘Big Food” corporations may be crafty, but you are going to be craftier. They won’t be able to pull the wool over your eyes.

A big catch phrase to look out for is on the face of many cereal boxes lining the shelves of supermarkets. It is also commonly seen on bread products… “Made with whole grains”, or, “Contains whole wheat”. Again, there is no stipulation regarding the amount of whole grain used. This is a common way that sugary breakfast cereals are marketed to mothers as a ‘healthy’ option for their children. Read the ingredients. If you see the word ‘enriched’ anywhere on the label, it is not a whole grain product and contains refined white flour which has been stripped of its nutrients. This is why they have to enrich the product in the first place; to add the vitamins and minerals back in. A cereal or bread that is a true whole grain product will not bear the word ‘enriched’ anywhere on its label, will have over 2 grams of dietary fiber, (preferably 4 grams or more for cereals), and will state clearly, ‘100% whole wheat’, or ‘whole grain’, in its ingredient list panel.

In order for a prepared food to be considered a whole foods option, it needs to be made with all whole food ingredients. Here is a list of ingredients you want to be on the lookout for when selecting whole foods. If the label lists any of these ingredients, it is a highly-processed, not whole foods item:

- Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Trans fats, also labeled as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
- Damaged fats in the form of fractionated fats
- MSG, also listed as hydrolyzed protein

Checking the ingredients label can be time consuming especially as you are learning the ropes. With practice, it gets easier as you learn what your go-to brands are. This allows shopping to be carried out with greater ease. Fortunately, more and more whole food prepared products are making their way to our grocery store shelves. The consumer has the power to determine the selection we are offered. The public has been making their voice heard loud and clear. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired from being force fed foods that are making us ill. Our dollar is our vote and every vote counts. Corporations have begun to respond to the demand and it is becoming quite common to see the development of whole food alternatives to a company’s standard offerings. Some good examples of this are Quaker ‘Simple Harvest’ oatmeal and granola bars, Pillsbury’s new ‘Simply’ line of cookie dough, Haagen Dazs ‘Five’ ice cream which contains only five whole ingredients, and Orowheat who have removed the high-fructose corn syrup from many of their whole grain products, replacing the maligned sweetener with honey as a more wholesome substitute. Our options are expanding and that is a positive step in the right direction.

For those who do not want to be bothered with routinely reading labels, a store like Whole Foods is a great resource. At Whole Foods, the name says it all and you can shop with confidence. Other stores that carry an abundance of whole foods are Wild Oats, Trader Joe's, and Hannaford stores, (an east coast chain that is climbing the ranks and is on Whole Food’s tail). Even major grocery chains like Safeway are beginning to jump on the bandwagon with the successful launch of their ‘O Organics’ line of products. I would say in respect to whole foods buyer awareness and shopping ease, this is where the certified organic label comes in handy. By law, certified organic products are not allowed to contain any artificial ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, high-fructose corn syrup, or trans fats. It really simplifies the entire process.

Throughout this month and as an ongoing project, we will gather information about where we are currently, and where we hope to go in terms of our food choices. Radical action is not being called for. Rather, I am encouraging you to seek information about what it means to live a whole foods lifestyle and to discern where you are presently in terms of the quality of the food that you feed yourself. Go through your kitchen. Peek at some of the labels on the food items in your pantry and fridge. Does the food you consistently feed yourself and your family contain a great deal of artificial ingredients? How many products in your home contain trans fats? What about high-fructose corn syrup?

In the bigger picture, these two ingredients are of primary concern in terms of the effect they have on our health and well being. There is a great deal of both medical and scientific support surrounding the idea that the induction of high-fructose corn syrup as the primary sweetener in our food supply has escalated obesity and Type II diabetes rates exponentially. Additionally, the combination of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats are wreaking havoc on our hearts; promoting metabolic syndrome which is a potent precursor to cardiovascular disease. A wonderful first step into the world of whole foods is to explore alternatives for some of the processed foods you currently consume that contain these two ingredients. It can have a major impact on your health. For those who struggle with overeating or binging, you will find that as you lessen your intake of high-fructose corn syrup, these imbalanced drives to eat will correspondingly lessen. High-fructose corn syrup dramatically increases appetite and the urge to consume sugar. Reducing its frequency on your plate will support your body in coming into its natural balance, while aiding you in releasing compulsive eating behaviors.

Some in their enthusiasm of opening a new chapter in their journey will attempt a complete overhaul of the contents of their kitchen. That is not the goal here. If this is fresh territory for you, diving in headfirst could prove ultimately triggering. Ease into these changes. You may be shocked to discover that the vast majority of foods you have been consuming are highly processed. Remember to notice, not judge. You are simply getting a clear view of the quality of your current food choices. In order to move forward and create change, you have to know where you are starting from.

Pick a couple of items with high-fructose corn syrup or trans fats. Open yourself to explore whole foods alternatives for these products. Remember the pleasure principle. It is important that you enjoy these new foods. You’re trying them on for size. There is no commitment to stick with something you don’t find satisfying. It has to feel good to you on every level. That’s what counts most. This is why I say to take it slow and focus on just a couple of items at a time if this is new for you. It may take awhile to find whole food options that you enjoy equally, or even more, than your usual choices. Keep what you love and ditch the rest. You are building a life practice of honoring health and your need for pleasure fits into that equation. It is additionally vital to note that your personal optimal balance of whole foods to processed foods will develop over time. This is not something you will have dialed-in by the end of this month. You will likely continue to explore this terrain for a number of months. Some of you will still be integrating whole foods when this project wraps two years from now. Stay true to your path and yourself. Explore these new foods on your own timeline. You may find that you really like the new foods you discover and are inspired to add more whole foods into your life. If so, go with the flow of what feels right to you. As long as you are enjoying the process, you are moving in harmony with your path.

There is also the option of purchasing whole food ingredients and making your own version of your favorite meals home-cooked with love. This is a bit more ambitious, but you simply can’t beat a home-cooked meal prepared with whole ingredients in terms of quality, and in my opinion, taste. It can be fun to experiment with new recipes for old favorites. Whether you decide to prepare meals yourself or purchase a higher quality of ready-made foods is entirely up to you. It’s nice to know that there are options and flexibility within this process.

Think of this as an educational experience. You are learning about the quality of your current food selections and discovering there are other options available to you that can be not only tasty, but supportive of your whole being. Our monthly focuses will also serve as a beacon lighting the way through this process with simple exercises that will help you integrate whole foods in a fun and meaningful way.

I encourage you to check out one of the films or books from the list I have compiled below. I think it can be very helpful to see a movie or read a book that can act as a catalyst for inspiration on your journey. It can facilitate connection with the intention of this project. Aligning yourself with purpose is a crucial component of success. The films and books I have listed are very informative and will provide a solid foundation for this path.

The following are wonderful documentaries on this topic which can shed light on the value of whole foods. I encourage you to check out one of these films for both knowledge and inspiration:

- Food, Inc.: Currently playing at select theaters all throughout America and Canada. European showings are forthcoming. To get information about when this movie will be coming to your area, check out the side bar links provided here at, “The Big Fat Lie” site and visit ‘Hungry for Change’ for a list of dates and venues. This is a very important film that I am encouraging everyone to see.

- Fresh: This is a new movie that is launching made by, Ana Sofia Joannes that is already receiving wide acclaim. While “Food, Inc.” inspired, “Fresh” is being touted as the movie that will call you to action. I have included the link in our side bar so you can check dates for when this film will be coming to an area near you.

- King Corn: A documentary about the American government’s involvement in the subsidizing of corn crops and how it is impacting our nation’s farmers and the health of our citizens. There is also a very revealing segment where the filmmakers obtain the recipe for high-fructose corn syrup from a corporation and whip up a batch in their kitchen. You won’t believe what goes into this stuff. Very eye-opening, indeed! (Currently available on DVD)

- The Real Dirt on Farmer John: The fascinating true story of one farmer who ditched the conventional farm practices of the family farm that was passed down to him and boldly stepped into the world of CSA’s (community supported agriculture) and growing food the way it used to be done back in the good ol’ days. This radical departure for the mid-west farmer initially raised as many eyebrows in his small town as his bohemian lifestyle did. His personal story is very colorful and deep. This film is well worth watching. (Currently available on DVD)

- Supersize Me: The cult classic documentary of one man’s experiment to consume nothing but McDonalds for 30 days straight and what he learned along the way. This film puts America’s current condition under a microscope. (Currently available on DVD)

For those who have an affinity for books, here are some fantastic selections to choose from:

- “Food, Inc.: A Participant’s Guide”, By, Karl Weber

- “In Defense of Food”, By, Michael Polan

- “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, By, Michael Polan

- “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, By, Barbara Kingsolver

- “Food, Inc.: From Mendel to Monsanto”, By, Peter Pringle

- “Fast Food Nation”, By, Eric Schlosser

- “Eating in the Dark”, By, Kathleen Hart

- “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health”, By, Marion Nestle
… Dr. Marion Nestle is a highly-esteemed professional in the field of education and nutrition. She has made numerous contributions for the sake of public benefit. If you are interested in a very clear balanced view, Marion Nestle has a phenomenal wealth of information to share.

Savoring the Season – The Feast of the Autumnal Harvest

The following is a list of the harvest of the autumn season. You have never really experienced a fruit or vegetable until you have enjoyed one that is fresh and in season. Grown local to your area is even better. Sample the harvest of autumn’s cornucopia. The fruits and vegetables listed below will be in season throughout the coming fall months.

Vegetables in Season September-October-November:

Acorn squash
Belgian endive
Brussels sprouts
Butter lettuce
Butternut squash
Celery root
Chayote squash
Daikon radish
Jalapeno peppers
Sweet potatoes
Swiss chard
Winter squash

Fruits in Season September-October-November:

Grapes… Don’t forget the vino! Crush is right around the corner! Judging by the amazing sweetness of the grapes this season, it’s going to be a good year.
Passion fruit

The Season’s Crowning Glory… Gorgeous Autumn Blooms:

Baby’s Breath
Gerbera Daisy
Queen Anne’s Lace

Ways to Celebrate the Season:

- If you feel so inspired, step into the spirit of this time of year by seeking out a local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm and sample some of the delicious seasonal produce. CSA’s often offer educational tours. It is a great way to connect with the land, the season, and the source of your food. A tour can be a fun and informative activity for the whole family and may become a favorite seasonal tradition that you’ll all look forward to year after year. You can find a CSA in your area by clicking on the link below and then entering your zip code in the CSA search feature located in the upper right hand side of the page.

- If you really want to get into the feel of autumn, check out a pumpkin patch, choose your own pumpkin to bring home and prepare as a meal. You can make lovely fragrant pumpkin bisque by first roasting the pumpkin in the oven to seal in that fall flavor. Nothing spells autumn more than the taste and scent of freshly roasted pumpkin. Don’t forget to save the seeds to toast up later. The kids love them and it is a wonderful way to get the whole family involved in tracing the origin of their meals. Let them participate in bringing the food from field to table. Obtain a nice crusty loaf of whole grain artisan bread to serve alongside the soup for dipping. Bring in more of those autumn flavors by slicing the bread, spreading with a blend of extra-virgin olive oil and butter, minced garlic, and freshly grated parmesan. Bake the cheese toasts in the oven until golden brown. Accompany this dish with a glass of bubbling apple cider and a crisp green salad topped with slices of Granny Smith apple and you will feel immersed in fall’s golden glow.

- Explore some seasonal recipes that incorporate the harvest. If you feel inspired by the creative energy of this season, concoct recipes of your own. Dive into the spirit of abundance inherent in this season by sharing the wealth of autumn recipes you have discovered here at the site.

- Brighten up your dining table with a bouquet of fall’s rich blooms.

- Gardeners in our group can carve out some quality time during the coming weeks to connect with their gardens. Create some space to simply sit and take in the beauty of the colorful blooms of amaranthus, anemone, cosmos, hypericum, kalanchoe, protea, salvia, Star of Bethlehem, and zinnia making their grand debut. Enjoy the fruits of all your tending and care.

- Get outdoors and take a walk against the backdrop of the warm golds, crimson reds, and festive oranges of the fall’s turning leaves. If you find yourself in wine country, don’t miss the breathtaking amber display of the vineyards. It is something to behold.

Celebrate the harvest we have been gifted by enjoying the bounty of the season.

Moving Your Body to the Rhythm of the Autumn Season

The energy of the fall season is one of balance. It is a time in nature’s cycle when the earth comes into equilibrium. At the Autumnal Equinox we reach the point in the year where day and night are in equal measure… equal sun and equal moon, equal light and equal dark, and a balance of yin and yang; feminine and masculine energies.

Autumn is also a time of creativity. All around us Mother Nature is painting brilliant images of honey, gold, and fiery reds that light up when touched by the sun. The natural world around us becomes a canvas filled with dancing light in a rich spectrum of colors.

I have created a system of intuitive fitness that merges us into the harmonic flow of each season. This deepens our connection to both our bodies and the natural world. There is additional benefit in applying a seasonal approach to exercise. Our movement stays fresh. We work with, rather than against, the natural flow and order of things. We feel more supported and grounded. Our training becomes periodized and this allows us to engage our interest so exercise does not become stale, while safeguarding against injury and overtraining syndrome.

With the energy of the season being about balance, the strength training we will be focusing on during the months of September, October, and November will carry a heavy influence of core work and balancing strength-building exercises.

The core is the center of your body… your powerhouse. If your core is weak, the rest of your body will be compromised. I appreciate the symbolism of core training for this time of year. It’s about returning to your center. Resistance or strength training qualifies as any activity where your body is required to move against the resistance of weight. Most people think of weight lifting when they consider starting a strength training program. While it is a viable option, it is not the only one. I encourage you to bring some creativity into your strength training by exploring other forms of muscle-building activity. The following is a list of balancing strength exercises for you to experiment with. See what rings your bell. You may choose to incorporate a variety of these activities or devote yourself to one practice that really speaks to you. The choice is yours.

Strength Training Options for the Fall Season (September-October-November):

- Strength Training with weights utilizing compound movement exercises for balance and symmetry: Working within a range of 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise chosen and using a weight that is challenging to lift the last couple of reps. Examples of some basic compound strength exercises would be:

Quadriceps/Glutes/Calves/Deltoids –

- Squat with an Overhead Shoulder Press (When squatting, be sure to keep your spine long and do not extend your knees beyond your toes as you lower your body into position.)

Hamstrings/Glutes/Calves/Biceps –

- Lunges with Arm Curl (Avoid lunges if you have knee issues.)

Chest/Triceps -

- Push-ups

Back –

- Rows (Utilizing weights, resistance bands, or cables.)

Throw in some ab work and a program centered on these four simple exercises would be both effective and time efficient. It is a myth that you have to grind it out at the gym to achieve success. Our bodies actually build muscle while at rest, not while working. More is not always better. Respect your body’s need for recovery. Allow a minimum of one day’s rest between strength sessions for adequate regeneration. If you choose to work with weights for your strength component and have experience lifting, work in the range of 3 sets of 10 reps for strength and balance. If you are new to weights, you are also going to work in the 10 rep range, but will perform 1 set of each exercise for week one, 2 sets of each exercise for weeks two and three, and 3 sets of each exercise for week four of this current month of September. It is important to gradually build up to 3 sets if you are new to lifting weights. You will not regret easing in. The simplified workout outlined above is done so for the benefit of those new to weight training. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, enjoy creating a balanced program incorporating compound movements for intensity at a level that meets your current training needs.

If you would like the comfort of an outlined workout based on compound strength moves that incorporates both weights and a medicine ball, e-mail me. I will be happy to send you a file that includes a strength session that was designed with busy people in mind. The workout includes images of how to execute the movements with detailed directions. With minimal investment in a set of dumbbells and a medicine ball, this workout can even be done in the comfort of your home. For those looking for a quick, easy, no frills strength workout, this could be a good match for you. To learn how to execute the exercises I have listed above, it is quite easy to obtain tutorials and visuals by doing a search online. I also highly recommend the book, “Getting Stronger”, By, Bill Pearl if you are interested in a manual that provides clear and simple directions for every strength exercise imaginable. The illustrations are wonderful in their directive. This is a great foundational book for anyone interested in exploring weights as a route to strength.

For those looking to work more at their edge or seasoned lifters who are looking to inject some fresh inspiration into their strength routines, I recommend you check out the link below and allow yourself the treat of experiencing one of Mark Verstegen’s core-based strength workouts. These strength exercises would also be great for beginner’s to advance to in month three, (November), of our autumn training cycle. When you follow this link, you will find a strength workout that presents both verbal and visual instruction, including video streams.

- Power Yoga, Ashtanga, or Bikram/Hot Yoga: These are more strength-oriented forms of yoga that will help you establish strength, grace, and balance, while building your connection to your body. Check out a class or DVD to explore these forms of yoga as your strength source.

- Pilates: A core-focused strength building and rehabilitative exercise system. Pilates was originally created to provide injury prevention and rehabilitation for gymnasts and dancers. It is also a wonderful system for helping you to become deeply in tune with your body. There are pilates mat and reformer classes widely available, as well as DVD’s.

- Physioball Training: Getting on the ball can be a fun way to get fit. It is also amazing for the core and will help you build functional strength. This is the kind of strength that makes the activities of day to day life easier. Watch the video below to view a demo of what can be done with a physioball. I also have a bare bones physioball routine file that I can e-mail to you upon your request. Physioballs are widely available, along with books and DVD’s for training with this useful tool.

Video Link -

- TRX Suspension Band Training: This is a form of training that utilizes bands that require you to employ both balance and activation of your core muscles. If your curiosity is peaked, check out the link provided below. This is your TRX resource. Here you can get information about this type of strength training, watch demonstration videos, and purchase total starter kits. I must say, after seeing the program outlined and talking to others currently using this system, I am setting aside funds to line up my own starter kit. I’m very excited to explore this form of strength training.

- Calisthenics: Calisthenics are simple body weight strength exercises. The beauty of a training program like this is that it is portable. You can take it anywhere with you, including on the road when traveling. The other benefit is that there is no start up cost in terms of equipment. In order to create a calisthenics routine that is in alignment with our fall training focus, choose movements that build both strength and balance, while challenging your core. Below, you will find a link to a 5 minute total body strength session that the master of core work, Mark Verstegen, has created. This could be a great training session for those limited on time, but wanting every minute they invest in their strength efforts to count. It is also a good foundation that you can build a more in-depth calisthenics training program upon.

You can also get your whole family involved in a calisthenics program like this and make it fun by taking it outdoors to your local playground. The link below includes a calisthenics-based playground workout that everyone can enjoy, no matter their age. It’s a great way to teach the whole family that fitness can and should be fun.

As you can see, there are many forms of strength training you can explore throughout our autumn training cycle of September-October-November. In order to continue progressing, switch up your strength training a little bit every four weeks. Whether it is selecting another strength option from the list above, changing the order you do your exercises, or mixing in a few new moves… keep it fresh. This will keep your body on its toes and your motivation engaged. This approach will also promote results that will be tangible in your day to day life.

For the month of September your focus is to fit in a single strength training session each week for weeks one and two, then progressing to two strength sessions a week for weeks three and four. Much like our exploration of whole foods, we are going to ease in to our training. Research has shown that for the purpose of building and preserving muscle tissue, no more than two weekly strength sessions are required. Those that focus on strength training three or more times a week are mostly doing so to achieve strength gains for their chosen sport. For our intents and purposes, two weekly sessions are a balanced way to meet our strength component. However, if you are a more advanced trainer and have athletic goals, you can adjust this training schedule to suit your preference.

It is very important that you properly warm-up your body before engaging in strength training. Many people falsely presume that stretching is the most effective way to do this. Never stretch cold! It is the perfect recipe for injury. Save stretching for the end of your workout as a cool-down when your muscles are warm and it is safe to increase their flexibility range. An ideal warm-up could be a simple as 10 minutes of power walking or other aerobic activity. Movement prep is also a superior warm-up created by Mark Verstegen. You can find a link to a solid movement prep warm-up below.

Just as it is important to warm-up our bodies before a training session, it is also important that we cool-down at the end of our workout to help our bodies recover. A great way to do this is to spend 5-10 minutes stretching all the major muscle groups of the body. For a simple total body cool-down stretch routine, feel free to e-mail me to request the file. Engaging in a series of gentle yoga asanas is another option. For those who are feeling adventurous and want more rehabilitative bang for their buck, you can’t beat foam rolling. Foam rollers are widely available online. To see if this is something you might be interested in exploring, check out the link below for a sample foam rolling routine.

Cardiovascular Training Options for the Fall Season (September-October-November):

Bring your aerobic training into harmony with the energy of autumn by infusing your workouts with creative and balancing energy. Some great options that will immerse you in the flow of the season are:

- Dance: There are so many varieties of dance to explore, including the free form movement of dancing freestyle in your living room to your favorite tunes. There are also a plethora of classes and DVD’s that are easily accessible. I believe there is a dancer in everyone just waiting to be invited out onto the floor for a twirl. Explore what peaks your interest. There are so many forms of dance to choose from… belly dance, Bollywood, salsa, African dance, tap, modern dance, hip-hop, ballroom, and jazz to name a few. She if dance tickles your fancy. It’s a great way to move into the rhythm of the season.

- Zumba: This is the latest hybrid workout and is offered in many gyms. It will continue to become more widely available with its popularity spreading. The class blends dance and classic cardio sequences with toning core work at the end. It is a world of fun and if you have never tried it, I encourage you to check it out.

- NIA: NIA is a blend of yoga, dance, and martial arts. It is the perfect mix of balance and creativity. To learn more about this healing form of movement and locate classes in your area, check out the link below.

- Power Walks, Runs, or Hikes in Nature: Getting outdoors in the surroundings of fall’s brilliantly colored natural canvas is a direct route to inner balance and calm. Breathing in the crisp autumn air and witnessing nature’s artistic expression in action in the changing colors of leaves is a great way to feel your connection and find your center.

Balance your strength training with some cardiovascular activity. There are many creative options to explore. You may discover a whole new side of yourself as you unleash the artist within and free your body through creative movement. A good guideline is to engage in three cardiovascular training sessions each week for a minimum of 20 minutes in duration. If you are new to exercise, build up to this level. Begin by fitting in 1 cardio session in week one, then advancing to 2 cardio sessions for weeks two and three. By week four, you should be at a level where it is comfortable to engage in three weekly aerobic sessions. Again, remember to warm-up and cool-down. If you are taking a class or using a DVD for your cardio training, this element will already be built into your workout. Otherwise, make sure that for the first 5-10 minutes of your cardio session you are slowly building up to the level of intensity you will maintain for the duration, (minimum of 20 minutes), of your workout. For example, if choosing to power-walk, run, or hike, begin with 5-10 minutes of gentle walking that slowly builds in speed and intensity to prepare your body for the next 20 minutes of steady state aerobic work ahead. Also, be sure to cool-down after your cardio sessions with some total body stretching.

As a final note…

If you are not used to moving your body it is very common for overweight and obese individuals to develop foot issues such as, plantar fasciitis in response to the increase of activity. It is common enough that it warrants discussion. The best way to prevent this painful condition is to be on the ball with your warm-ups and cool-downs. There are also some self-rehabilitative exercises you can throw into the mix that will support you in this regard and can even prevent an occurrence of this condition. Check out the link below for more information about plantar fasciitis and what you can do to both prevent and treat this ‘pain in the foot’.

Enjoy moving those beautiful bodies. Give them this quality time and care. Your body will thank you. Embrace the bounty of autumn as you reap the harvest of major returns in your physical health and whole-listic well-being.