This category contains 4 posts

Why I Haven’t Jumped on the Smoothie Bandwagon

Smoothie og kaffe

The smoothie bandwagon, green or fruit, is a trend in wellness and weight loss that this Mean Nurse simply cannot get behind. Why? Sugar and calories. While there is no calorie counting on the Mean Nurse plan, you still have to be a bit mindful so you don’t overdo it. Any time you drink your calories, you are going to consume more calories than you probably intend because liquids never give you that “full” feeling that comes from the fiber in whole food. Sure, you can add a scoop of fiber to your smoothie, but why would you choose a pulverized and dried vegetable that has to be rehydrated to expand? Just eat the damn food! And if you say, “it’s more convenient….,” uh huh. Convenience has caused a lot of obesity and fat pockets of the food companies at the expense of our health and to the delight of the food companies and your doctor (well, maybe he’s not that delighted, but he is getting paid).

We think way too much about how to make food faster and easier to eat in the U.S., instead of enjoying our food the way it was meant to be enjoyed. The food companies compete by making their foods faster and easier to eat and sway the consumer with attractive and convenient packaging (Nutella sticks, anyone?) and empty claims of “natural” products. There is nothing more natural than a farmer’s market (that hopefully carries organic produce). Smoothies can be made fresh at your gym, health food store deli, or at home. Many consumers buy them already mixed at the store (processed with artificial ingredients). If you’ve ever made a smoothie at home, how much stuff do you put in it? A whole apple? Half a grapefruit? Some strawberries? A bunch of kale? Any protein powder added to that? What about some plain greek yogurt? Ever figured out the sugar content of what you’re consuming? You might wind up with a couple pieces of fruit, some vegetables (those are fine), and sugar in the protein powder (go read the label and look for words that end in -ose or any other form of sugar, malt, syrup or grain). The yogurt, if you use it, contains lactose, a milk sugar. Again, just eat the damn food!

From an environmental standpoint, many smoothies cause a lot of waste. A lot of people juice the vegetables and fruit and then add the yogurt and ice. Unless you are making muffins every day from the scrapes (like my local coffeehouse), you’re wasting a lot of food that you paid for and a lot of fiber that could benefit your digestive tract. Your grocery bill is also higher than it needs to be.

So, sorry, I’m not on the smoothie bandwagon as much as an unpopular position as that may be. I’ll live with it. I also don’t indulge in frappuccinos or any other frozen-style drinks unless it’s got alcohol and an umbrella in it. If I’m going to drink my calories, I want it to be with friends on a night out, so it’s an occasional indulgence, not an everyday thing because I’m on my way to work or coming home from the gym; then there’s no spare room in the calorie budget for chocolate. And that’s DEFINITELY a bandwagon I’m on!

Eight Tips for a Stress Free Holiday

Christmas gifts.

The mere mention of “the holidays” can cause a stress reaction. What does that mean?  It means the body reacts with a “flight or fight” response, which causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol, and that wouldn’t be so bad if they also didn’t cause our heart rate and blood pressure to rise and our digestion to slow down. Some studies link excess cortisol to abdominal fat. Who wants to fight the battle of the bulge without at least eating something decadent to deserve the flippin’ muffintop? Stress tears down your immune system causing you to be susceptible to every bug going around, including the nasty yearly flu. (Read The Mean Nurse’s Flu Prevention Tips and What You Don’t Know About the Flu Vaccine Can Hurt You!) Stress ages your body and your face. Ack!

Too many parties to attend, gifts to buy, kids home from school, relatives, food, and noise take a toll and at the end you collapse from exhaustion and wonder: “where did the spirit of the holidays go?” You’re exhausted, cranky and OH LOOK… Santa gave you an extra five pounds in your stocking! The bastard.

If you don’t want the stress, exhaustion and the extra weight, try some of the following strategies. You might have a shot at keeping the holiday spirit alive without needing to drink so much of the holiday spirits!

1)         Keep your regular routine. Whether you take a CrossFit or yoga class every Thursday night or go running, do not skip it just to attend an office party. Do both. Your presence will only be missed for a short while and you will keep your integrity and commitment to your health. Knowing that you have to work off whatever you eat or drink may prevent you from overindulging.

2)         Don’t accept every invitation. More parties with more food and alcohol means an ever-expanding waistline. Do you really want to spend an extra five or six hours of your life working that off?

3)         Make instead of buying. Homemade gifts come from the heart, and they can be as simple as a cookie mix in a canning jar to as complicated as a handmade china cabinet. Handcrafted gifts are imbued with your energy and love you have for the receiver. If you aren’t a handy person, visit a local holiday craft fair. You will find plenty of items for gift-giving.

4)         Recycle. We’ve all had something in our house that someone has envied and commented on every time they visit. So take the thing they love, wrap it up and give it to them. Chances are they will treasure it always, and you will get visitation rights! The Swedes actually have a holiday tradition of exchanging one personal item they no longer use with a loved one who chooses a similar item from their own household.

5)         Buy throughout the year instead of waiting until the end of the year. People’s tastes generally remain the same and you probably could have most of your holiday shopping done by the time the season rolls around. Shop throughout the year, and it will save you hours of frustration and stress later.

6)         Cut down on the number of gifts you buy for each person. In Italy, most families only give one, maybe two, gifts to one another and that includes the children. The time families spend together is more important than any gifts they receive.

7)         Only make the food you need. We have all come away from family gatherings with containers or plates of extra food. Again, think of that extra exercise time. Prepare and take less home with you.

8)         Ask people what they would like to receive instead of trying to guess. Consider taking them shopping with you and let them pick out the item they want. Adults especially care less about ripping off the wrapping paper than children, and would rather not have to stand in the returns line.

How do you make your holidays less stressful?

Any tips or tricks you’d like to share that streamline gift giving, baking or decorating?


Getting Started with Yoga


yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

I was recently asked by a fellow writer about my recommendations for getting started with yoga. This is a PERFECT question for the impending new year. Come January, many people will start out strong with a new exercise and diet routine. Who hasn’t made these resolutions? You know the best time to start reforming your lifestyle and getting healthy would be now, right? You know, BEFORE you set yourself back even farther with all the temptations of holiday goodies and lavish spreads in the workplace AND relatives’ homes. Yeah, you heard me, BEFORE. So that means now. Starting where you stand. Come on, given the plethora of food we are surrounded by this time of year, it’s easy to pack an additional 1000 calories into your day just by nibbling. Do you really want to do that? IS THIS YEAR’S SERVING OF AUNT JUNE’S GOLDEN CARAMEL CHEESECAKE worth the five hours it will take you to burn it off? (And that’s a conservative estimate — I wish I were kidding.)

Yoga Fact:  Yoga isn’t just stretching. It can be quite aerobic and challenging.

So, yes, this is a perfect time to get started with yoga. If nothing else, it can alleviate a lot of holiday stress! First off, you’ll need a yoga mat, which you can pick up at Walmart, TJ Maxx (I really like their selection), or even the Goodwill (just make certain you disinfect the heck out of it) for $10-20. (If you’re tall, get a 72″ one. I’m 5’10” and my feet still want to slide off the ends. The mat is about all you’ll need. If you want a DVD, go for one of the beginner ones from Gaiam. You can either buy them on their website at Gaiam.com or on Amazon. Stay away from DVDs by fitness gurus, such as Jillian Michaels. They are far too challenging for beginners. I like anything that Sean Corne puts out as well. I just love her energy and her voice isn’t distracting. I find Rodney Yee, although an amazing teacher, talks too much through his videos and that’s just annoying to me – or maybe it’s just because I’d rather look at him than follow what he’s doing. If you don’t want to invest in a DVD immediately — I RARELY work out with one and my daughter who has been a devotee of yoga for nearly a year has done a yoga video exactly ONCE — go to the YouTube channel of Tara Stiles. You may recognize her from the runway. She’s a former model turned yoga guru, and the girl quite possibly has the longest arms of anyone I’ve ever seen. Yes, she’s skinny, leggy and pretty, but she’s always completely kooky and doesn’t make yoga about judgment. I love watching her videos that just catch up her fans with what she’s been doing. You can follow her on Facebook as well. I LOVE her book Yoga Cures, which gives yoga poses for health and lifestyle challenges… like “Office Brain” where you’ve got too many things to do in too little time and don’t know where to begin!

What you should not do when beginning yoga is sign up for a class immediately and buy blocks, straps, mat sprays, gloves, bolsters, etc. When you do yoga correctly (and I’m not talking about your form), you’ll know when you need anything extra, like blocks. I didn’t buy those until I was into yoga for a couple of months. I made my own strap by going to the fabric store, buying two yards of belt webbing and tying knots in both ends! Waaaaay cheaper than the stuff sold. I also made my own bolster, but I sew. Go to Walmart and find a sturdy neck pillow – instant bolster. Yoga is not about how well-equipped you are to get each posture perfect. It’s about what is perfect for you. In yoga, you need to let go of your ego because ego tells you that you must be perfect. And ego will stand in your way of gaining the full benefits of yoga.

One thing you should know about yoga as a beginner is that no two days will be the same. One day you’ll float right into a pose, and the next day you won’t be coordinated enough to bend or stretch or balance that way. Why? Because your muscles are changing. They are getting stronger. The muscle fibers will develop their strength unevenly, and one side of your body may be coordinated one day and the next day it’s a sloppy mess. When this happens, and it soooo will, calm your frustration. Let it go. Remember that this is a process and the next day or the day after, will be different. Your body wants to do what you want it to do, and it’s trying, but there are some internal changes taking place that you don’t know about just yet. Trust your body to do what it needs to do. It’s “workin’ on it!”

Congratulations on choosing to give yoga a try. It’s easy, and then it’s difficult too. It all depends on which poses you choose to make part of your routine. My favorite pose? Dancer. Because of its grace. Do I ever fall out of it? Yep. Because even after 20 years, I’m still not perfect and some days my mind wanders and ego gets in the way.

If you’re just giving yoga a try, let me know. I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have.

Or if you just want to tell me about your journey to yoga, what your favorite pose is, or how you’ve handled difficult poses, feel free. I love hearing funny, interesting and even frustrating stories!

Walk this Way…

English: Workout room.

I know it’s been awhile. I took time out to get involved in local theatre, see lots of productions, get my daughter on track to visit colleges, start my graduate degree application and generally just learn to relax a bit more.

Now that that’s handled, it’s time to be mean again. Well, I’ll ease into it anyway… I’m still all relaxed and mellow from a nice summer. But don’t expect it to last, my lovelies!

Let’s start with EXERCISE. Do you hate the word as much as I do? Yeah, probably. That’s why I keep a pedal thingy under my desk, so I’m always working without realizing it. BUT, if you don’t have one of those thingys, you can still walk.

When Christmas decorations start showing up in the stores, it’s time to get proactive about those holidays pounds that will surely creep up on you because God only knows that next month begins the feasting, and the easiest workout to keep the pounds off is walking. You’ve been doing it all your life, so you’re already an expert. Think of it that way.


It’s also the least expensive workout you can do, and the following links teach you how to do it better.

I like the easy, breezy tone, of this first one, and I’ll be incorporating some of the ideas into my walking routine.


For this next one, I’ve done the walking/jogging backwards thing and even the side gallops – note, start slowly with the side gallops until your feet get comfortable with the movement. But, this video take treadmill walking to a whole new level and it_is_awesome!

Bookmark this site to watch on your phone or tablet the next time you’re at the gym! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/08/treadmill-whole-body_n_4039718.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living

You’re going to be walking later today anyway, or even in a minute or two…. so take a longer one. Add a few minutes to it. See? You’re already working out.

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