Chosing fulfillment from the start

While most of us spend our days the stuck in the office, Nicole is busy wearing flip flops, getting covered in whip cream or running a cookie business.

No, she’s not your typical NYU grad.

When Nicole graduated college one year early, summa cum laude, with a pocket full of job offers from prestigious New York corporate companies, she headed west to take her place as camp director.

Faced with the crushing pressure to be awesome (and to pay off student loans), Nicole listened to the advice of her favorite professor–always make room for fun. She chose fulfillment from the start.

“I couldn’t do the same thing for 365 days of the year,” she said. “I couldn’t do it. I would be bored out of my mind. I think I’m lucky in that I recognized that pretty early about myself. I graduated a year early because I paid for it myself and because I was bored.”

Well there’s nothing quite like running a day camp and managing a brand new cookie shop to keep things from being boring! Whether it’s making a presentation to the city counsel, fixing the cash register, or helping a 5 year-old who misses her mom, being in charge means that Nicole is problem-solving all day long.

“I want my career to entail not just being successful but being fulfilled. I think that often times those things are confused,” said Nicole. “I want to know that when I go home from work everyday that I have done something that makes some kind of difference to someone, that it’s not just me earning my paycheck.”

As Nicole crafts her place in the world, she knows one thing for certain: it’s not just about where she is going, it’s about how she is getting there.

Nicole’s 3 tips for finding balance:

1. Admit your limitations

2. Find a job that fits within them

3. If you’re not having fun, something has to change!

What are your tips for staying sane and preserving your quality of life? Share it in the comments.

Hula hooping my way to fitness

Six years ago you might not have recognized Christabel, the now famous ‘Hoop Girl.’

If you had bumped into her on her campus, you would have seen a young woman well on her way to a career as a university professor, a serious student who had received her master’s degree in cultural anthropology. You would have also seen that Christabel was wearing baggy unflattering clothes, uncomfortable with her body, and tipping the scales at 180 lbs.

According to her, she was the product of living in a college culture that considered eating and partying a popular pastime.

All this changed when Christabel attended a conference on sustainability in Los Angeles. “They had this icebreaker exercise involving hula hooping, so everyone went out into the streets and had hula hoops. I was one of the few people in the group who couldn’t keep the hoop up at all. It was intimidating, but fascinating to me, so I decided to buy a hula hoop and take it home so I could practice.”

Christabel found renewed health and well-being through hula hoping, virtually by default. “It wasn’t like I told myself, oh I am going to work out now with my hoop. I was more like, now I have some time to go hoop in the park. That’s literally why I did it, because it felt good and I wanted to have fun with my friends, turn on the boombox and have an excuse to hang out together, but also stay active and be inspired by the different dances we were each doing.”

“I think it’s about creating a lifestyle, it’s about creating a way of living your life that feels good. It feels good learning to re-educate yourself about what’s really good for you.”

The self made ‘Hoop Girl’ soon began performing for movie openings, galas, concerts and guest starring in commercials. She was satisfied with her love of hooping, but was concerned that it wasn’t fulfilling a higher purpose in the world. “I was becoming aware of the obesity epidemic, and people needing ways to be physically active, and I realized I had to take something that I love doing for artistic reasons and find a way to tie it to a larger purpose—wellness.

Christabel created a company called Hoop Girl and began providing teacher training certifications, classes, hoops and instructional DVD’s to men and women all over the world. “What makes hoop dance today different from what people look at as hula hoping of the 50’s era is that it is a true dance form. It’s almost like crumping or breakdance, but it’s more fluid and less intimidating. It’s sexier, but also more accessible.”

Christabel is a proponent of what she calls body-mind fitness, a state of being that combines the physical body and the emotional body, the spirit. “Hooping gives people a way to bring wholeness and well-being to every part of their lives. It can be a spiritual experience for those who are able to make space in their mind and connect with a larger sense of the universe, than they might otherwise allow themselves to do. And it’s all through this very unassuming plastic ring that is accessible to anybody.”

Check out her website and get hooping!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Hoop It Up
Find hoops, DVDs, classes, clothes, performances and everything else you need to wrap your mind around the Christabel Hoop Girl phenomenon.

Spin Me Right Round
Get more Christabel – in dramatic performances, how-to videos and playing around – at her personal video page on YouTube.

Get Physical
Featuring personalized programs and support, Women Fitness shares healthy recipes and gives you access to the weight loss experts.

Diet Right
To better understand Christabel’s diet shift, check out Vegan Action, a website that shows you how to – and what to – eat if you’re thinking of making the change too.

Laugh It Off
Does the dumbbell phone sound as ridiculous to you as it does to us? Really? Because someone actually made it and tried to sell it. For money. See it and other silly gadgets at First Page Fitness.

A Heart to Heart with the author of Half Assed

Jennette Fulda, who recently published her weight loss memoir Half Assed. The minute we landed on her blog Half of Me, respect and admiration poured out of our fingertips and the rest of the workday was lost to her extensive archives.

Jennette has put her two-year weight loss journey out there for all to see, to show the good, the bad, the frustrated and the elated. (And she showed a rotating 360-degree view of it because she happens to be a savvy web technician as well as an extraordinary writer.)

Jennette recently chatted with us about the ups, the downs and the static middle of the road parts of weight loss. Interestingly, her biggest struggle was learning to cook, but now she’s got a recipe for stuffed chicken that’ll make 10 minutes in the kitchen taste like at least 30.

Chapter 2 of Jennette’s weight loss is maintaining, which she has done successfully for a year. She said maintaining is almost more difficult than losing because you don’t get the thrill of seeing that you’ve lost a pound in a week, but by keeping it interesting and bringing in new activities, she’s staying motivated to stay the same.

Jennette’s real life commitment to weight loss and her day-by-day attitude makes the process of shedding extra pounds seem possible. She’ll be the first to tell you trying to lose it in a day just won’t work, but losing it doesn’t mean being perfect. It means being aware.

The process of losing weight is a slow one that requires dedication for, well, basically the rest of your life. It forces you to choose between effortless indulgence or disciplined sacrifice, but, as Jennette knows, the lasting benefits to your health and your body far outweigh the instant gratification of that Honey Bun.

Jennette recently went on the Today Show to talk about her weight loss journey and her new book. She once again offered up that 360-degree view of weight loss, and in doing so, paints an accurate picture of a real woman’s weight loss experience.

To learn more about Jennette’s weight loss story, order a SIGNED copy of Half Assed from her website.

Lessons learned… thanks to breast cancer

The biggest lesson that I learned from breast cancer is probably the simplest one out there.
Stop and smell the flowers.

I can hear many of you now… “That’s it…that’s your lesson?” Yes, that is it.

Sure, I have some “try this for that side effect” wisdom and some “yes, that happened with my children” experiences, but when I sum up my whole cancer experience, the hardest learned lesson was the most basic.

I am and have always been a doer – doing, doing, doing and never really just being. Our house growing up was a constant chorus of “idle hands… idle minds…” I can do like the best of them, but it is the being that I was never taught… until cancer showed me how.

My tumor was growing for 7 to 9 years before it was detected, and while it was growing into a life-threatening problem, I was busy trying to cram 30+ hours into a 24 hour day. If there was not time to exercise, I did not. If there was not time to eat properly, I did not. If I was tired and I wanted to go to bed but there were still more things do, I did them. If my body was achy and I wanted to take a bath and soak (soak – what does that word mean???), I pushed on and did not take the bath. If I saw a pretty flower and I wanted to stop a minute to admire it and to smell it, there was no time. I was moving too fast, and these pleasures of being just did not fit in my schedule.

Getting a cancer diagnosis stopped time in its tracks, and then its partner in crime – chemotherapy – slowed my pace to a crawl.

My priorities went from doing everything to doing the very basics. I had to eat, I had to rest, I had to take a bath and soak, and eventually I had to exercise. All of these things were not optional anymore. They were not a matter of fitting them in if I had time but of necessity. I had to do them to get healthy, to stay healthy and to stay alive.

When I started to get some energy back and could start to take walks, I moved at such a slow pace that I was finally able to notice things that were a blur before. Stopping to rest after a few small steps gave me time to notice my surroundings — the air, the sunshine, the flowers. I could finally appreciate the individual beauty of each one because I was moving at a snail’s pace.

As I try to find my new normal after cancer, it is easy to forget this valuable lesson. I’m 29 months out from my diagnosis and finally feeling healthy again, and every day I have to fight the urge to make up for lost time. I want to fit as much in as possible in case I have a reoccurrence, and it’s easy to get busy doing again instead of just being. But I have learned the hard way that I must not go back to my old patterns. I must listen to my body. I must change my life so I can live my life.

I recently read a passage from the book Circle of Stones… Woman’s Journey to Herself by Judith Duerk that I carry with me now…

“If a woman is caught in overextended lifestyle and achievement-oriented values, depression or illness may offer the only opportunity to allow her to be with herself. As she ignores her own needs for quiet and self-nurture, the voice of the deeper Self may call through depression. If a woman cannot let herself hear her own needs, but continues to adhere fearfully to a lifestyle that denies her inner growth and deepening, the voice of the Self may manifest in physical illness as the only possible way to force her to take time to be with herself. Illness forces one to care for oneself at the most elemental level, that of matter itself. In illness, no choice remains but to care for the body, to be caring to the cells. In illness, finally, comes permission to rest, permission to treat with love and kindness the base matter of one’s own body.”

Mary Beth Volpini is a breast cancer survivor, an artist and the mother of two children. You can read more from her at www.marybethvolpini.blogspot.com.

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Why Me Wisdom
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Save the Ta-tas
Make funding a cure fun and fashionable with sassy t-shirts, skirts and sweat suits designed by Julia Fiske. Save the Ta-tas has used its two greatest assets to donate almost $100,000 to the fight against cancer.

Check Yourself!
The circle, the line, or the wedge? Health Central’s handy instructional video teaches you three ways to give your girls a thorough self-exam.

A Breast Cancer Lifeline
Understand symptoms, treatments, research and how to lower your risk. It could just save your life.

Mother of invention

As media sources began brimming with articles about the rising rates of obesity in children and the rising rates of behavioral problems in children, Nancy, a stay at home mom and former social worker, was convinced that there had to be a connection. Her own kids were 10 and 14, so she set out to study her suspicions from her kitchen.

In Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me, a portion of the film documents a school for adolescents with behavioral problems.

“This school had to have police officers in the building because the behavior was so bad,” Nancy said. “Then the school changed the food system to a system that was all natural, organic, and whole grain foods. As a result there was a complete turnaround in the behavior of the children at the school. The kids were calmer. They were learning. And the police were no longer involved.”

According to his case study, Nancy’s inklings had been correct. Food impacts more than one dimension of health. The systems of the body are all part of one body. If the body is starved from nutrients, it will fight back.

Hungry to learn more about this correlation, Nancy went to back to school to study holistic health and started implementing changes at home.

“We’ve always eaten pretty well at home, but my kids were more than happy to have junk food, sugary snacks and all of that,” said Nancy.

But as she started learning more about how a growing, changing body handles bad food, she started cutting out things like partially hydrogenated fats. This wasn’t easy.

“Partially hydrogenated fats are found in so many different foods,” she said. “It’s the ingredient that makes the food more shelf-stable, so we would find it in places that made no sense to me at all. Almost every baked good, every cookie, every cracker, every cake and basically anything and everything that is pre-packaged and put on a supermarket shelf had hydrogenated fats. This was not a good sign.”

Changing the way her kids consumed food took patience, innovation and a few sneaky tricks. Here’s what worked for Nancy:

1. Sneak vegetables into meals.

Insider tip: If Macaroni and cheese is a big favorite in your house, try cooking it from scratch and hiding zucchini in the cheese sauce! You can even peel off the skin first if your kids are vegetable detectives.

2. Keep experimenting.

Nancy said it takes almost 15 tries to get a new food into her kids, but she made that work to her advantage. “If they didn’t like it the first time, I still had 14 tries to go,” she said. “Not everything works. There have been spectacular failures and that’s fine. That’s the only way to learn.”

Let your imagination run wild! Nancy made Kale chips and to her surprise, her kids devoured the first batch in minutes… anything goes (especially if it’s salty and crunchy).

3. Get the junk out of the house!

The best way to stop eating junk food is to stop buying it. If it’s not in the house, it can’t be eaten. Nancy switched to healthier versions of her kids favorite junk foods, like organic mozzarella cheese sticks.

“I do understand they are kids,” she said. “They are going to be getting plenty of junk food when they’re not with me, but I’m not worried because they’re making a transformation in their thinking.”

4. Explain to your kids (or your husband!) why you are torturing them.

Kids respond much better to changes if you are honest with them. One of Nancy’s favorite examples of this is when she took a 12 ounce can of soda and asked her kids how much sugar they thought was in a single can.

“Then I showed them. After I poured 12 teaspoons of sugar into a glass bowl, they were amazed,” Nancy said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go off to a party and not have soda. It means they’re aware that they are consuming that amount of sugar. They know it’s not just mom being nuts; it’s mom being concerned.”

5. Teach your kids to pay attention to their bodies.

Nutritional knowledge isn’t everything. What also matters is that you know about yourself. Some people can eat a pound of sugar and feel fine. Most people can’t. Have your kids try new things and note how their body responds to them.

“I think the kids have more energy. I think they feel better,” Nancy said. “My son was always bothered by eczema and allergies. Now the eczema is gone and his allergies are much better.”

6. Pick your battles.

The reality is people eat every day, all day. It’s a form of communication in a way. You have to find the right system for your family.

“When it comes to my kids, I don’t want to have to fight with them three times a day, every day,” said Nancy. “Despite all the times I shudder when I think about what they might be eating out there, it’s not something I want to fight with them about. We’re going to do it together. I decided it would be pleasant and it would be easy and, surprisingly, it’s worked out that way.”

The commitment to healthy eating that Nancy tries to instill on her kids has also brought them closer together, especially during the teen years. By starting the dialogue about nutrition, she opened up the lines of communication about other things, and her children came to respect that she is actually more knowledgeable than they are.

“I like to think that all of this knowledge has made me a better parent,” said Nancy. “Now I have the facts behind me, I have information I can use to show concrete examples. At the beginning of my schooling, they just were like, ‘Oh, great. What’s she going to try on us now?’ That’s gone away. Now we can talk. They may not like it if I bring some strange new food in, but they’re willing to talk about it, and that’s been great. We’re working together as a family and I feel closer to them.”

So, what’s Nancy’s best advice? Don’t start with taking things away from your kids.

You don’t have to make major changes. You don’t have to go and throw out every food. You start small and you just add things in. The easiest way to get kids to change their eating habits is to add new foods, offer them new choices. As you keep adding in the new foods eventually the old foods fall away, and you’re left with healthier, happier kids.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Supersize Me
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, rejected five times by the USC film school, won the best director award at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival for this alarmingly personal investigation into the health hazards wreaked by our fast food nation. Under extensive medical supervision, Spurlock subjects himself to a steady diet of McDonald’s cuisine for 30 days just to see what happens.

Slow Food Nation
Slow Food Nation is a subsidiary non-profit of Slow Food USA and part of the international Slow Food movement. It was created to organize the first-ever American collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair.

Local Harvest
The best organic food is what’s grown closest to you. Use the Local Harvest website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Kidnetic
The cool site for kids and their parents to learn more about health, fitness and nutrition through fun games, recipes and articles.

5 ways I’m saving the world

Meredith, director of marketing for Urth TV and a living green pioneer, believes that our planet is about to go through a monumental shift.

Toward the positive.

That’s right. Meredith is joyfully optimistic, even in the face of global warming, an oil crisis and dying polar bears, because the way society views environmental problems is finally changing.

“This is a very exciting time in our lives, and it’s going to be up to each individual person to take a look at their life and see how they can contribute to themselves and the community and to the planet,” she said. “Really, the question is, what does it all mean to you?”

In a quest to come up with a concrete definition for green living, Meredith sat down with lots of different magazines and cut out words, images and pictures of what it meant to her to be living green.

“When I started doing the research, I came across lots of pictures of surfing and of water and of healthy food, of wonderful groups of people connected and spending time together,” she said. “That’s my definition of living green, but each individual has to figure out what living green means to them. Everyone has a different piece of the puzzle, because green living is interconnectedness. Every single person’s unique take on green living is what makes our lives possible.”

Meredith’s journey to living green began when she started paying attention to what she was eating. By focusing on what she was putting into her body, she became aware of how she was affecting her environment. She became conscious of how her tube of toothpaste could be causing harm to someone half a world away, and she decided to change the way she lived.

Here are 5 suggestions Meredith has for cultivating consciousness and finding the value in living a greener life:

1. Tap into your body.
Taking care of her body is the first place that ecology started making a difference to Meredith. You can follow suit by using your body more, doing yoga or martial arts. Use your body more and you’ll appreciate its abilities.

2. Be conscious of what you’re eating.

One of the biggest improvements came when Meredith gave up caffeine, and discovered that without it in her system, her feelings of insecurity and butterflies started to dissipate.

“Food became an experience for me because I was sitting quietly with myself every day for a little bit,” she said. “By being with my meal when I was eating it, I literally started to look up out of my skin and think, “Oh my, there’s this whole environment around me.”

3. Pay attention to what is in the products you’re buying.

“In order to feel comfortable in my body, I had to reconsider the products that I used in my home,” she said. “It was just another layer of choosing to take care of myself and surrounding myself with good things.”

4. Look for ways to cut back on consumption.

While recycling is something everyone should be doing, Meredith says reducing the amount of waste you create is even more of a priority.

“It’s not just about buying green labels, but thinking, how many pairs of shoes do I really need? How many times am I really running the washing machine every week? Can I make a gift instead of purchasing one?,” she said.

Take cloth grocery bags, for instance. Before you buy a dozen in your quest to help the environment, think about if you already have bags that will work? Can you find any at a thrift shop or garage sale before you buy a new one? Can you share with a neighbor?

5. Help your fellow humans.

“When I stopped putting so much attention on myself, I started helping other people out,” Meredith said. “I was like, ‘Holy cow. I’m living on this gorgeous, beautiful earth filled with bodies of water that are being polluted, and if I want my children to have a life here and my loved ones to be healthy, I better take care of it.'”

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Talk the Talk
Meredith plants seeds of green thought in her Living Green podcast. With interviews and a steady eye on the market, she helps listeners get to the root of the issues.

Watch This
Turns out, Meredith makes a great show host for Urth.TV too. She talks green with some of the most vibrant movement revolutionaries, all for your enjoyment.

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Seeing Green
Recipes. Transportation. Fashion. Oh my. Thanks to Green Living Magazine, it’s never been easier to show your true colors.

Just Do It Yourself
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Sit & Think
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Eco Bites
Bite-sized, affordable and convenient ways to make small changes to affect big change.

Cancer taught me how to live

Terminal illness has a way of awakening our greatest potential. When Cara was diagnosed with breast cancer the parts of life that had lay dormant began to bloom. She was reborn.

While studying to become a computer programming consultant Cara lost sight of everything else in her life–relationships, friendships, family–nothing mattered except getting that certification. “When you don’t lead a well balanced life, the parts that you ignore will come back to bite you, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Cara. “But I passed the exam. I was so excited—I was finally certified. I was going to have the career that I dreamed of.”

About a week later, Cara was home and having a lumpectomy and woke up in the recovery room to a crying surgeon telling her parents that the lump in her breast was malignant. “I went home and stayed there for the entire weekend and sobbed — just sobbed. I thought it was the end of the world.”

But when the doctors said, “We need you to have a biopsy,” Cara didn’t think about her recently passed exams, she thought, “I never took those tango lessons, I never read those books, I never did any of those things, and, I’m not going to have the opportunity to do that anymore–because I thought it was a death sentence.” She quickly learned that she had the ability within herself to turn the situation into something good if she would trust and be open to it.

“I had never known anyone before who’d had cancer, and I just thought that was the end of the world,” said Cara. “I decided I would make a list of all the things that I had never done, and during the recovery period between surgery and chemotherapies, I would do all those things.”

During her chemotherapy Cara went to live on her parent’s farm. She realized the impact your environment can have on every part of your life. It can inspire you, give you hope, and help you be more productive. But it can also fight you, become a source of stress, or take away your motivation.

“Because I had absorbed myself in my career, I had let my house go. I wasn’t decorating anymore. I didn’t even have a bedspread,” said Cara.

While recovering from chemo, Cara’s therapist gave her an assignment… to redecorate the bedroom. “I thought, ‘redecorate my bedroom?’ I don’t have time for that. But it was an experiment that changed my life.”

Cara discovered that “by going back and redoing that place—where I laid under the covers and sobbed for 72 hours, where there had been so much pain—by painting the walls, by redoing, taking down the wallpaper, I was healing the room. Somehow that healing of the room was healing me.”

This transformation got Cara thinking. She started a company called Spicy Spaces to share the joy of helping people see their environment with a fresh eye.

Among the many things on Cara’s list of things to do was catching up on all those books she had been meaning to read. Here are Cara’s 3 essential reads that helped make chemotherapy a bit easier:

1. Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel
2. Getting Well Again by O. Carl Simonton
3. Oswald Talked by Ray and Mary La Fontaine

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Cara’s Website

Think Pink!
The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website lends a helping hand to women coping with chemotherapy-induced side effects and shows you how to get involved.

Check Yourself
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