Zoe Alexander

Archive for January 2009


I’ve been obsessed with Jackie O and the White House “Camelot” years since I was a little girl. Watching Michelle and Barack move through the throngs on their way to the Pre-Inaugural festivies gave me chills. It was like watching royalty but instead of in-bred British people the beautiful, bronze Obamas held court as the best and the brightest stars of our generation danced, sang and entertained everyone.

The Obama Girls looking lovely and taking it all in.

Thousands gathered to watch.

I kept waiting for Beyonce to bust out of her coat and sing “Single Ladies” but she didn’t.

Bono worked it pretty hard for an old guy. I thought he was going to pull a hamstring.

It wouldn’t be official unless The Boss was there with his choir.

Advertisements

Recently, I was having a conversation with some random girl and when I mentioned that I was into nutrition, she asked me to give her my five rules of nutrition, the five things she needed to know to eat right. I managed to come up with three off the top of my head and told her that basically covered it, then later realized that one rule is all that’s needed. You must follow this one simple rule to put yourself on the road to top-notch health.

Ready for an epiphany? It’s…

Eat real food.

Now, I’m not a genius that just broke the code of the universe. Jack Lalanne said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” Michael Pollan broke it down to “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” It really is that simple. So many nutritionists want to make it difficult; confusion keeps them employed. Look at the Food Pyramid, which was at least an attempt to get people eating right. Too many rules, too many gray areas. We can argue that the Food Pyramid is a convoluted mess of ill health, but the pertinent fact is that it’s too difficult to figure out, even if it was any good. What exactly is a serving? And how do I decide if I need 6 or 11 servings of grains? Is that pork chop “lean”? And then there are all of the rules about saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, total fat, sodium, and sugar intake. How can you make heads or tails of anything this complex?

We can argue about low carb, low fat, The Zone, Ornish, Atkins, and Weight Watchers until we’re blue in the face. But civilizations have thrived on diets of varying macronutrient proportions throughout history. The Inuit ate a diet of almost no carbs and mostly fat with no ill effects. The Masai drank cow blood and milk and ate meat like it was going out of style. As the nutritionists gasp, I’ll mention that the Masai achieved prime health too. The diet on the island of Okinawa is heavily weighted towards vegetables and rice with some fish and little meat, high in carbs, low in fat. Again, very good health; Okinawans have excellent longevity.

So it’s not so much about the macronutrients, as long as you’re getting enough protein and fat to allow the body to function properly. It’s about the types of food being consumed. Dr. Weston Price noted that traditional civilizations thrived until they were introduced to processed grains and sugars, at which point, health declined markedly. We all know someone that follows a low-fat diet or low-carb diet by eating every processed product in the store that excludes their chosen macronutrient (”Angel Food Cake is a fat-free food!”). They rarely make the progress they’d like to. Why? Because before you can worry about macronutrients, you need to focus on food. You don’t eat nutrients. You eat food.

Let’s keep it simple: Eat real foods, preferably in their natural state. I think it’s pretty easy to figure out what is “food” and what isn’t. A few things to remember:

Food grows and dies. It isn’t created.

Food rots, wilts, and becomes generally unappetizing, typically rather quickly.

Food doesn’t need an ingredient label (and probably isn’t in a package either).

Food doesn’t have celebrity endorsements.

Food doesn’t make health claims.

Let’s give some foods this simple test and see if we should eat them:

Broccoli – Most certainly a real food

Steak – Deliciously real food, straight off the cow

Oreo cookies – Hold while I read the ingredients. Are you serious?

Eggs – Bingo

Walnuts – Check

Spaghetti – I don’t recall seeing a spaghetti tree on my last hike

Pop-Tarts – Just seeing if you’re paying attention

Pasteurized/Homogenized Milk – Nope, not in its natural state

Raw Milk – Yep, real food, naturally

Sure, there are still a few gray areas. That’s the life of an omnivore. For instance, what about oatmeal and other whole grains? Those are things you will have to decide for yourself. My guidance is to keep grains to a minimum, if included at all. Cheddar cheese from raw milk? Probably okay. Velveeta? Not so much. Lard? For sure. Olive oil? I say yes, though it could be argued both ways. Crisco and margarine? Not a chance.

What you notice is that few of these foods, with the exception of cooking oils, come from a factory. They just exist. There’s no secret formula to create them. Even olive, coconut, and palm oils, while requiring extraction, require no special knowledge. Just press really hard and you get oil. Nobody has a patent on the flavor of an apple. The ingredients in zucchini can’t be tweaked to ride the current nutrition wave.

Eating real foods virtually eliminates one of the hardest parts of maintaining your weight: counting calories (or carbs or fat). Real foods have a built-in feedback mechanism to keep you from overeating. Protein and fat stimulate appetite-suppressing hormones. Fruits and vegetables tend to be bulky for their caloric content. Some may want to argue about Glycemic Indexes and other fun things, but no one gets fat by eating carrots. People get fat by eating fake foods. Just eat real ones and I guarantee that you’ll shed fat and feel better.

That’s not to say that there’s no place for managing your carb, fat, and protein intake. But before embarking on any road that gives you a set number of carbs or fat to eat, you must decide to eat real food. Until you start with real food, you will struggle. Once you start down the path, you may need to tweak if you’re going to try to build muscle or compete in marathons, but for health, just eat real food! Your body, which is significantly smarter than your mind, knows what it needs and if you feed it real food and then pay attention, it will give you feedback.

What do you think? Is eating real food enough to achieve top health or is there more to it

Here are 10 things you can Tweet about- drag this list out when your mind runs blank.

1. @Replies

The best way to develop relationships with people is to respond to their posts and conversations. Key in the @ sign followed by the person’s username (no spaces) with your response. Give support, laugh, share a similar experience… do what you can to show others that you’re interested in what they are Tweeting about.

2. Retweets

Second to @Replies are Retweets. When you see shareworthy posts, key in the letters RT or the word Retweet then @TheirUserName. If you use applications like TweetDeck or Twhirl, it makes this very easy. Retweeting is good karma 2.0!

3. Countdowns

You can fill an event and build anticipation by counting down to start time. 1 day left, 1 hour left, 5 minutes left… this strategy has worked incredibly well for live video casts, podcasts, teleseminars, and even in-person Tweet Ups!

4. Blog Posts

If you’re a blogger, let folks read your latest post by Tweeting the title and a link. Better yet, make it really simple by using a site like Twitterfeed.

5. “As-It-Happens” Updates

Whether you’re wandering an Expo Hall, attending a webinar, at a conference, or listening to a teleseminar, you can create a live newsfeed with your Tweets.

6. Photos

Use a site like TwitPic to upload a photo and send a Tweet simultaneously. What’s great about TwitPic is that when people leave comments on your photos, it will send those out as Tweets too.

7. Questions

This is a favorite of mine. Simply ask a question and watch your friends and followers respond. Great for impromptu market research or quick feedback.

8. Maladies

It’s OK if your Tweets aren’t all rays of sunshine and optimism… sometimes we need to commiserate in the public stream. When you Tweet about your sore throat, computer crash, lost cat, or stressful day, you’ll be amazed at the outpouring of expert support.

9. Celebrations

Tweet about getting a new client, finishing a big project, meeting a deadline, achieving a milestone, or whatever else merits a bit of festivity.This is a great way for others to learn about your achievements in a non-boastful way.

10. Trivial Touchpoints

Believe it or not, profitable contacts have been made on Twitter simply by sharing what you’re doing at the moment. Whether it’s drinking coffee, watching the Sopranos, standing in line, or waiting out a toddler tantrum, the mundane can turn itself into an avenue for real connections.

Twitter is no great mystery, it’s simply digital small talk. Small talk opens the doors to bigger, more profitable conversations. Use these 10 Twitter techniques to break the ice and make valuable touchpoints.

I’d love your favorite ways to use Twitter, drop a note below!

Today I am reviewing new books I read over the holidays.

Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs. For the past two years, Leo Babauta’s exploration of productivity and simple living has helped me make the most of my time. (Plus sometimes, like yesterday, he just hits it right on the head.)

Babauta recently published his first book, The Power of Less, which seeks to help readers become more efficient — and more relaxed at the same time — by limiting themselves only to the essential.

Six lessons
The Power of Less is divided into two sections. In the first, Babauta explores the six guiding principles of his philosophy, “the ideas that will help you to maximize your productivity while simplifying your life”:

  1. Set limitations. By setting limitations, we must chose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.
  2. Choose the essential. By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.
  3. Simplify. Eliminate the nonessential.
  4. Focus is your most important tool in becoming more effective.
  5. Create new habits to make long-lasting improvements.
  6. Start small. Start new habits in small increments to ensure success.

The second section of the book offers practical tips for applying these six principles in various parts of your life: goals and projects, time management, e-mail, filing, daily routine, etc.

The power of less
The first section of this book disappointed me. Babauta’s six principles are good, but the chapters describing them are too long and the examples vague.

Babauta writes, “These days we consume information, food, and media at a breakneck pace that was unimagined two hundred years ago.” Maybe so (that’s my impression too), but I want a bit of research to back it up. This sort of book lends itself to facts and figures. There’s no research cited in The Power of Less, and that frustrated me.

But I think the second section of the book is great. It’s filled with ideas that I can use in my own life. As one who is completely overwhelmed by his work, the idea of doing more by working less appeals to me. As I read, I jotted down some techniques I can use to improve my own life today:

  • Have only three active projects at a time, with all others waiting “on deck”. Finish all three projects, and then move three more projects to the active list.
  • Every evening, create a list of three Most Important Tasks for the following day. Try to complete these as soon as possible, before you get distracted.
  • Limit e-mail. Check only twice per day. (Babauta recommends 10am and 4pm.)
  • If you’re leaving e-mail in your inbox because you need to do something, move the task to an external list. Get the task out of your inbox.
  • Limit the length of your replies. Kris has been trying to convince me of this for months. When I reply to reader e-mail, I often want to write long, personal replies. This takes time. Although I’d like to write more, I’m going to try to limit myself to 3-4 sentences.
  • Create a simple filing system. Get rid of stacks on your desk. I’m a “stacks” kind of guy, and often feel overwhelmed by them. I bought an accordion folder, and have been working to move my stacks to this.
  • Learn to say “no”. This is a difficult one for me. For the past two years, I’ve been a proponent of the power of yes. I’ve achieved a lot by accepting the offers that have come my way. But now I’m finding I don’t have time to say “yes” to everything.

More or less?
As you might expect, The Power of Less is very much like a refined and extended version of Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits. This alone may tell you whether you’ll enjoy the book. I liked it, but do have some reservations.

For one, the book is tech-centric. The examples are great if you’re an office worker, but much less relevant if you have a blue-collar job or are a stay-at-home parent.

Also, at times the book feels like a group of unrelated parts instead of unified whole. For example, in one chapter Babauta encourages readers to focus on only one goal at a time. But in the next (and in the rest of the book), he writes of having multiple goals. Which is it? One goal or many?

Quibbles aside, I’m glad to have read The Power of Less. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m questioning my priorities. Do I really want to spend 60 hours a week writing? How important is money relative to fitness and relationships? How can I find balance?

When I read The Power of Less on Christmas Day, it had quite an impact. Over the past two weeks, I’ve used its lessons to help me re-structure how I organize my time. I’m pleased with the changes. I have embraced the power of less — and so far it seems to be working.

Learn more about this book at the Power of Less website.

Today I am reviewing a new book I read over the holidays.

Zen Habits is one of my favorite blogs. For the past two years, Leo Babauta’s exploration of productivity and simple living has helped me make the most of my time. (Plus sometimes, like yesterday, he just hits it right on the head.)

Babauta recently published his first book, The Power of Less, which seeks to help readers become more efficient — and more relaxed at the same time — by limiting themselves only to the essential.

Six lessons
The Power of Less is divided into two sections. In the first, Babauta explores the six guiding principles of his philosophy, “the ideas that will help you to maximize your productivity while simplifying your life”:

  1. Set limitations. By setting limitations, we must chose the essential. So in everything you do, learn to set limitations.
  2. Choose the essential. By choosing the essential, we create great impact with minimal resources. Always choose the essential to maximize your time and energy.
  3. Simplify. Eliminate the nonessential.
  4. Focus is your most important tool in becoming more effective.
  5. Create new habits to make long-lasting improvements.
  6. Start small. Start new habits in small increments to ensure success.

The second section of the book offers practical tips for applying these six principles in various parts of your life: goals and projects, time management, e-mail, filing, daily routine, etc.

The power of less
The first section of this book disappointed me. Babauta’s six principles are good, but the chapters describing them are too long and the examples vague.

Babauta writes, “These days we consume information, food, and media at a breakneck pace that was unimagined two hundred years ago.” Maybe so (that’s my impression too), but I want a bit of research to back it up. This sort of book lends itself to facts and figures. There’s no research cited in The Power of Less, and that frustrated me.

But I think the second section of the book is great. It’s filled with ideas that I can use in my own life. As one who is completely overwhelmed by his work, the idea of doing more by working less appeals to me. As I read, I jotted down some techniques I can use to improve my own life today:

  • Have only three active projects at a time, with all others waiting “on deck”. Finish all three projects, and then move three more projects to the active list.
  • Every evening, create a list of three Most Important Tasks for the following day. Try to complete these as soon as possible, before you get distracted.
  • Limit e-mail. Check only twice per day. (Babauta recommends 10am and 4pm.)
  • If you’re leaving e-mail in your inbox because you need to do something, move the task to an external list. Get the task out of your inbox.
  • Limit the length of your replies. Kris has been trying to convince me of this for months. When I reply to reader e-mail, I often want to write long, personal replies. This takes time. Although I’d like to write more, I’m going to try to limit myself to 3-4 sentences.
  • Create a simple filing system. Get rid of stacks on your desk. I’m a “stacks” kind of guy, and often feel overwhelmed by them. I bought an accordion folder, and have been working to move my stacks to this.
  • Learn to say “no”. This is a difficult one for me. For the past two years, I’ve been a proponent of the power of yes. I’ve achieved a lot by accepting the offers that have come my way. But now I’m finding I don’t have time to say “yes” to everything.

More or less?
As you might expect, The Power of Less is very much like a refined and extended version of Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits. This alone may tell you whether you’ll enjoy the book. I liked it, but do have some reservations.

For one, the book is tech-centric. The examples are great if you’re an office worker, but much less relevant if you have a blue-collar job or are a stay-at-home parent.

Also, at times the book feels like a group of unrelated parts instead of unified whole. For example, in one chapter Babauta encourages readers to focus on only one goal at a time. But in the next (and in the rest of the book), he writes of having multiple goals. Which is it? One goal or many?

Quibbles aside, I’m glad to have read The Power of Less. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m questioning my priorities. Do I really want to spend 60 hours a week writing? How important is money relative to fitness and relationships? How can I find balance?

When I read The Power of Less on Christmas Day, it had quite an impact. Over the past two weeks, I’ve used its lessons to help me re-structure how I organize my time. I’m pleased with the changes. I have embraced the power of less — and so far it seems to be working.

Learn more about this book at the Power of Less website.

 Now is the time to get focused on being even more fabulous than you were in 2008. 

The buzzword this year is: DISCIPLINE

Discipline is an activity, exercise or a regimen that develops or improves a skill. 
That said, here are some DIVA New Year Resolutions to help us accomplish even more health, happiness and prosperity in 2009.

 Now is the time to get focused on being even more fabulous than you were in 2008. 

The buzzword this year is: DISCIPLINE
Discipline is an activity, exercise or a regimen that develops or improves a skill. 
That said, here are some DIVA New Year Resolutions to help us accomplish even more health, happiness and prosperity in 2009.
1. Stop saying “Yes” when you really mean “No. 
You know this feeling ladies.  This means if you are agreeing to do something to the detriment of your “Me” time then just say no.  Don’t let any person or any job run you ragged.

2. Stop taking sh*t. Period.
 That means across the board (job, personal life). This doesn’t mean to become aggressive and angry. Instead of trying your hardest to make the other person wrong, focus on verbalizing your feelings in a nice way and if the person is reasonable they’ll understand. If not, extricate yourself from situations you feel are negative and aren’t serving you anymore.
3. Get Organized. (Really organized!)
It’s hard to build an empire if you can’t find your keys.  
http://www.realsimple.com is a good source for learning and implementing organizational systems for your home and office. 
4. Get a signature look.
Angelina Jolie has long hair and full lips.  Jackie O had her sunglasses and trademark hair-do.
Accentuate a part of your beauty in such a way that it becomes what you are known for or the first thing people think of when they describe you. 
5. Automate that Work-out.
Ladies, it’s tough to stay disciplined in the gym but none of us are getting any younger. Exercise can suck but get to the gym or get an exercise tape and do the damn thing. It’s SO worth it. Half an hour a day makes a big difference in skin, eyes, hair and and overall appearance.