Cycle For Survival 2013: Exercise Your Charity Muscle!

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a “rare cancer” is one with a prevalence of fewer than 200,000 affected individuals in the United States. Many rare cancers are drastically underfunded, leaving patients with limited treatment options. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the nation’s preeminent center for research and treatment, is committed to changing that. And they have invited us ALL to join the battle and make a difference in the fight against rare cancer.

Cycle for Survival is the indoor team cycling event that raises funds for rare cancer research. Co-founded in 2007 by Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband, Dave, Cycle for Survival has raised more than 22.4 million dollars for rare cancer research and has funded 53 clinical trials and research studies. Cycle’s direct funding has drastically reduced the time it takes for treatments to reach patients — in some cases cutting the span from years to months.

Cycle creates an opportunity for each of us to truly make a difference — 100% of the funds go directly to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and are allocated within six months of each event. The donations help fund the most promising research and clinical trials, and have led to better treatments for cancer patients worldwide.

Join the movement that brings hope to lives touched by rare cancers.  You can help by making a gift to my Cycle for Survival ride! You will have an immediate impact on those fighting cancer. THIS IS A FIGHT WE NEED TO WIN, because no one beats cancer until WE ALL BEAT CANCER. Together, we can truly make a difference.

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Click Here to donate a dollar and help make an impact. Lets do this together and beat rare cancer!

Thank you for your love and support! I know this will be our best Cycle for Survival Event yet – ONWARD AND UPWARD!

With gratitude,

Caroline

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How to Live In The Moment (and actually enjoy it)

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“Remember then:there is only one time that is important – NOW! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.” – Leo Tolstoy

There are two ways to live life: consciously or unconsciously. Conscious living, or “mindfulness” means being an active participant in your life, choosing the experiences you get involved with, and taking responsibility for the decisions you make. The opposite, living unconsciously, means allowing circumstances to dictate your life, remaining passive, and taking little to no ownership over what life brings. When it comes to living consciously or unconsciously, which one sounds more appealing to you in this one and only life? I thought so 😉

When you live consciously, you become intentional in the things you do. You put yourself in the drivers seat, and instead of waiting for things to happen, you MAKE things happen. You get more done, are more mindful of what you do, and are more focused. All of this gives you the ability to accomplish the things you set our to do and to be more successful in life. The best part is that holding yourself accountable for the life you have has a direct and positive impact on self-esteem, attitude, and belief in yourself.

Studies have shown that conscious living also provides numerous health benefits. It helps reduce and manage stress, chronic pain and blood pressure, and increases immune function and ability to cope with disease. Individuals who live consciously tend to be happier and have a more positive outlook than those who don’t. They tend to take themselves less seriously, are less impulsive or reactive, and accept their own weaknesses without self-judgement. Further, they’re able to take criticism more easily, and suffer less from depression and other emotional and behavioral issues.

Living consciously also means focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. In other words, you live life in the moment. This translates to experiencing more positive thoughts and feelings as most of our anxiety and fears are rooted in past disappointments or regrets and the worry we feel about the future.

Finally living a conscious life helps you develop closer relationships. You’re more in tune with your emotions, thoughts, and reactions which helps you to be more sympathetic and understanding toward others. And you can more easily understand the impact of your choice on you life as well as those around you.

Ready to be an active participant in your life and live in the moment every day? Conscious living encompasses all aspects of life. Everything from what you choose to eat at dinner to the way you treat people can involve intentional thought and action. Living consciously can occur at any moment, on any day, just by actively being present during your experiences and being aware of your feelings and emotions. All it takes to get started is a commitment to be present in your life. Here are my guidelines for living in the moment (and actually enjoying it!)

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Caroline’s Live In the Moment (and ENJOY it!) Suggestions For Success

  • Stop and Smell the roses. Throughout the day, take time to pay attention to what is happening around you. Become mindful of your environment and how you personally fit into it. Observe colors, sounds, light, smells, and textures. Savor moments by allowing all of your senses to fully experience them. Make a habit of noticing new things in every situation, even for those repetitive actions like walking to work and making breakfast.
  • Experiment: Every day find something new to try. Take a class. Attend a seminar. Read a new book. Play a new game. When opportunities present themselves, embrace them openly and look for the potential that they may bring. Say YES instead of no and do one thing a day that scares you. Trying new things keeps you engaged, youthful, and living to the fullest.
  • Stop Thinking: Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School tells us, “Ordinary thoughts course through our mind like a deafening waterfall.” Part of our inability to live consciously is that we let our thoughts overtake our minds, precluding us from living in the moment and experiencing life. Instead, allow yourself to “just be”. Focus less on your thoughts and more on whats going on around you at the moment. Actively take part in the present while shutting out negativity of the past or future.
  • Breathe: When you feel the urge to be impulsive of have a knee-jerk reaction to something, stop and take a few deep, cleansing breaths.  When it comes to building a conscious life, deep breathing helps you hit the “restart” button. Instead of reacting hastily or irrationally, you’re able to gain self-control and have more rational and appropriate responses to situations and circumstances. Best part is deep breathing is free, easy, and can be done ANYWHERE! Inhale, Exhale, REPEAT!
  • Accept Challenges, Pain, Worry: When something is uncomfortable, we often feel compelled to avoid it. Instead of pushing these feelings away, simply allow yourself to feel them and accept them for what they are. When we don’t acknowledge negative feelings, our minds deal with them in indirect ways. This can manifest in unhealthy behaviors, or worse cause us to do things we may regret. Accepting negative feelings, however, helps us understand our stressors, anxieties, and reactions, giving us the power to move forward and create new feelings and reactions so we can move past negativity instead of dwelling on it. I always say you have to FEEL in order to heal!
  • Switch from Autopilot to Manual: You know your inner autopilot is at work when you feel like time has passed you by, yet you have no idea what you did or what happened during that time. You are going through the motions instead of actively engaging in your life. Maybe autopilot kicks in during a commute or while running errands. Or maybe its at work for longer periods of time. To get the most out of life, its important to be an active participant. Shut off autopilot by increasing your awareness of your thoughts, actions, decisions, and experiences. Don’t defer to others to make decisions for you or allow circumstances to dictate your life. Doing so will only lead to disappointment and frustration. As pilot of your life, you have ultimate control of where you go and the direction you head. Constantly look for ways to engage in what life has to offer…. you never know what may come your way.

Studies have shown that when individuals take the time to enjoy the moments of their lives, they experience more joy, happiness, and positive emotions, and fewer of those that are negative or depressive. But you don’t need research to tell you that conscious living is worthwhile, being an active participant in your life just FEELS better!

How do you practice mindfulness and “live in the moment” on a daily basis? Heres to living and loving every second 🙂

Caroline

Information for this post provided by 52 Small Changes: One Year to A Happier, Healthier, You by Brett Blumenthal. Great read, check it out!

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Caroline’s Smart Size Portion Control Guide

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In a world of triple-stacked hamburgers, double-stuffed cookies, and super-sized cups of soda, many of us tend to overestimate appropriate portion sizes while underestimating the amount of food we eat. It’s no surprise: over the last twenty years, we’ve seen continued growth in portion sizes to a point where we’ve entered an era of “portion distortion”. At restaurants and fast- food establishments, super-sized portions are served in order to provide “super” value to the customer. At the grocery store, companies have super-sized packaging of their products, and even at home, we’ve managed to steadily increase the size of our dinnerware. Unfortunately, all this growth has had an impact on our waistlines: we think big, we eat big, and it shows.

At the start of a New Year and the common resolution to eat healthier, I thought it a good time to address portion control. Here are my portion control guidelines to help you practice portion control and reach all of your wellness goals.

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Caroline’s Smart Size Portion Guide.

The simple skill of knowing how much to eat is an important key to weight loss and weight maintenance. Eating appropriate portions enables us to eat to a point where we are comfortably full, yet not so stuffed that we regret it later.

Research has shown Americans often underestimate how many calories they are consuming each day by as much as 25 percent. The hard truth is: you can’t escape a bad diet. The effects of poor nutrition and over generous portions will catch up with you at some point!

In order to understand appropriate portion sizes of foods, there are three things you’ll need to learn: 1) You’ll need to understand how much of a typical food constitutes a portion size, 2) you’ll need to know what that portion size looks like visually, and 3) you’ll need to learn how to apply this knowledge in your life.

The following lists include a select number of various types of food, their typical portion sizes, and everyday objects that equate to portion size. Although there are a few exceptions, most of the foods listed are whole, as there are an infinite number of processed or packaged foods. Further, since eating whole foods is always recommended over processed foods, it seems more appropriate to focus on them.

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Portion Size Guide Of Whole Foods

Fresh Fruit* = 1 cup = woman’s fist

    • apple
    • apricots
    • blackberries
    • blueberries
    • kiwi (2 pieces)
    • orange
    • pear
    • plums (2 pieces)
    • raspberries
    • strawberries
    • tangerines (2 pieces)

*exceptions: banana, grapefruit, portion size = 1/2 fruit

Leafy Vegetables = 1 cup = Baseball

    • arugula
    • baby romaine
    • boston lettuce
    • mixed greens
    • red lettuce
    • romaine
    • spinach

Fibrous Vegetables = 1/2 cup = 1/2 Baseball

    • artichoke hearts
    • asparagus
    • broccoli
    • carrots
    • cauliflower
    • celery
    • cucumber
    • eggplant
    • green beans
    • onions
    • red cabbage
    • red peppers
    • snap peas
    • squash
    • zucchini

Breads = CD case

    • Bagel (1/4)
    • English Muffin (1/2)
    • Whole-grain bread (1 slice)

Meat = 3 ounces = deck of cards

    • beef
    • chicken breast
    • pork tenderloin
    • tofu
    • turkey breast

Fish = 3 ounces = computer mouse

    • cod
    • halibut
    • mahimahi
    • red snapper
    • salmon
    • swordfish
    • tuna

Grains, Legumes, and Starches = 1/2 cup = 1/2 baseball

    • barley (cooked)
    • beans
    • brown rice (cooked)
    • cereal
    • corn (cooked)
    • edamame
    • oats (cooked)
    • potatoes (all varieties)
    • quinoa (cooked)
    • whole grain pasta (cooked)

Dairy

    • Hard Cheese = 1.5 ounces = 4 dice or lipstick case
    • yogurt = 1/2 cup = 1/2 baseball

Fats

    • Avocado = 1/2 medium = deck of cards
    • oils = 1 teaspoon = 1 die
    • nuts – 1/4 a cup = golf ball

If you don’t already have measuring cups or spoons, it might be helpful to purchase them. You may even want to consider investing in a nutrition scale, which will allow you to weigh various foods. Spend a week measuring what you eat and comparing it to the visual cues so you can accurately understand typical portion sizes and what they look like. Display some of the everyday items in your kitchen so they are conveniently located. You may even want to take a couple of them with you when you go out to eat. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable assessing portion sizes without measuring cups, spoons, or props and will be able to do so no matter where you are.

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Knowing proper portion sizes is only half the battle in learning the art of eating the right amount. It’s what you DO with that knowledge that really counts. Eating out and busy schedules can make portion control more challenging. Here are my suggestions on how to use your portion control smarts in the moment:

 Caroline’s Portion Control In ACTION guidelines:

  • Before Eating, Divide The Plate. Here’s a simple rule to portion a plate properly: Divide it in half. Automatically fill one side with fruits or vegetables, leaving the rest for equal parts protein and starch. This way, you begin to see what a properly balanced meal looks like. Spaghetti and meatballs? Steak and potatoes? They’re only half a meal, incomplete without fruits and vegetables.
  • Pre-Portion Tempting Treats. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food and the bigger the package, the more food you’ll pour out of it. Measure out your food choices into a ziplock bag, bowl, or plate before you eat. Put the package or dish away and then sit down to enjoy your pre-portioned snack or meal.
  • Avoid Mindless Munching. It’s all to easy to keep eating food when it’s readily available. I call it the “see food diet”. If you can’t resist food when it’s around you, have it put away or leave the room. Turn off the television, computer, or any other distractions so that you can pay attention to what you are eating. When you are dining out, ask the server to have the bread removed from the table. In the office steer clear of your co-workers candy jar or the community food table. When you are mindful while eating its easy to avoid damaging your nutrition goals with munching.
  • Downsize The Dishes. If you’re part of the “clean plate club” and one of the 54 percent of Americans who eat until their plates polished, you’ll want to make sure your dishware is modestly sized. On a standard 8- to 10-inch dinner plate, a portion of spaghetti looks like a meal. On a 12- to 14-inch dinner plate, it looks meager, so you’re likely to dish out a bigger portion to fill the plate. Look for dishware that helps you in sticking with your healthy portion control goal. That way even if you eat until your plate is clean it wont do too much damage!
  • Limit Your Choices. The more options you have, the more options you’ll want to eat.  Look to limit your food choices to avoid the temptation to sample everything in sight.  When at a buffet or party with a large assortment of food, view all the dining options first and then fill your plate with portions of the foods that you want most. Avoid the temptation to go back for seconds once you are comfortably full.
  • If you have good food in your fridge, you’ll eat good food. You control 100 % of the food that is brought into your home. Use this power to your advantage. Stock up on foods that nourish you and if you know you can’t stop at just one potato chip, then don’t buy them at ALL.
  • Enjoy Dining Out with moderation and mindfulness. Eating appropriate portion sizes when dining out is especially challenging. Restaurant servings sizes are often enough for 4 people! To keep portions in perspective, consider ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée. If you are dining with others, you may want to split an appetizer and entrée with another person. If you order an entrée for yourself, evaluate how much of the food on the plate equates to a portion size and ask for the rest to be set aside. You can ask for a doggie bag or save the portion for another meal during the week. And always share dessert!

What is one way you practice portion control when dining out or cooking at home? It’s important to be mindful of the quantity of food you’re eating and hopefully the guidelines above will help you enjoy eating healthy, balanced portions. Eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy your company. Heres to a year of eating well, feeling well, and being unstoppable!

Yours in Health,

Caroline

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Lessons on living till 90 (and THEN some!) from Grandma Joan

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“Getting older is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wake up every morning rejoicing that I’m still here with the opportunity to begin again and be better.” –  Oprah.

On December 27, 2012 I joined together with 13 cousins and 6 aunts and uncles to celebrate the life of one woman: My Grandmother. Grandma stands as an inspiration to us all, the walking proof of a life well lived. She is  glowing, full of health and vitality. Celebrating 90 years of life with my family was a memorable, meaningful night for me. I set a new personal goal: to live to 90 (and THEN some) just like my Grandma Joan.

What can you do to age gracefully and increase your longevity? Luck and genetics are a piece of the puzzle, but you can’t control that. To increase your odds of reaching 90 and beyond, it’s about focusing on what you can do. Loading up on fruits and veggies, working out five days a week, and cutting down on stress are just a few habits to help you age well. Here are a few other suggestions from one woman who knows, my Grandmother!

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Lessons on living till 90 (and THEN some!) from Grandma Joan

Move Your Body. Regular exercise is one of the strongest predictors of a long life. Thats because being active is like turning up a car engine. It keeps systems running better so even if there’s a decline with age its less severe. Unfortunately, many of us are stuck behind a desk most days with a sedentary job, which can negatively affect longevity. To add years to your life, make exercise part of your daily routine. Even a little bit goes a long way: try walking 30 minutes a day and a few times a week add on something else like a dance class or lifting weights. Research shows that people who perform even the most basic movements (walking just 3 to 5 days a week) live longer than those who don’t.  Especially the older you get—stop moving, stop living.

Have Meaningful Relationships. Having meaningful relationships is critical to your health. Partly because the reverse – being isolated – can lead to depression and even dampen the immune system. My Grandma knows this all too well, she had SIX kids after all! Her one tip of advice? Just make sure to surround yourself only with people who can lift you higher. You want to be around those that positively influence your life and encourage you to reach your goals. Establish regular dates to be social with your those you love. Go to happy hour, visit a museum, savor a meal, enjoy life together!

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Set the Table and Share Home-cooked Meals. Making it a priority to share meals with those you love not only helps build meaningful relationships (see above) it improves your nutrition. Cooking your own food means having control over the ingredients, so you can make sure there are no chemicals or preservatives and no extra amounts of sugar or salt. Plus, using fresh vegetables and fruits from your own garden is a huge bonus. The more recently the produce was picked, the more nutrients it has, which means more antioxidants and vitamins to keep your body and brain young. My Grandma makes dining an event: the table is set and  we sit down (distraction free!) to enjoy a mindful, nutritious meal together.

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Have a Hobby. Having a pastime reduces stress and provides a sense of accomplishment. Its even more beneficial to have a hobby that allows you to be creative. Creative hobbies take you out of your daily patterns and ignite your inner spirit. Make a vision board, take a cooking class, and engage in a creative projects as often as possible. You’ll find that time spent in creativity heightens your happiness and gives you more energy for the other areas of your life.

Always dress as if you are meeting the Queen. My grandmother would never let me leave the house without brushing my hair at least 100 times.  Good thing too because research actually confirms that a little vanity is good for you. In a Harvard study, people who thought they looked better had an actual drop in blood pressure. And as much as I LOVE spending all day in stretchy pants, there is something to be said for getting yourself together. Feeling confident about how you present yourself will increase how you feel now AND later!

Maintain a Healthy weight. If you keep your weight in a healthy range for your gender, age, and height, it keeps your organs healthy, there’s less need for medication, and it enables you to maintain a healthy lifestyle longterm. Most health problems in America can be correlated to lifestyle and bad habits. Eating right along with exercising and not smoking are the key habits that slash your disease risk by 80 %. Choose good for you foods and aim to keep your weight in a healthy range (click here for a healthy weight assessment).  The healthier you are, the better you feel. The better you feel, the longer you live.

DRINK water, don’t smoke, and moderate your alcohol intake. Well you knew that one already!

Be in good spirits. I truly believe in the power of positive thoughts to heal, energize, and help us enjoy life. What we tell ourselves and the messages we take in from others affect our ability to live long, happy lives. They help the health of our mind, body, and soul. Recognize that you create your perceptions from the inside out. A person’s mood in the moment creates his or her experience; a person’s experience does not create his or her mood. Those who understand this live a smooth and stress-free life and do not play victim to external circumstances. Moral of the story: the quality of your thoughts creates the quality and longevity of your life! 

Make Downtime a Priority.  Skimping on leisure time can raise your risk of heart disease eightfold. Not to mention the very REAL negative health effects of stress and working too much. The simple solution? Schedule regular downtime.  I like to practice what I call Personal Protected Days (PPD). PPD’s are all about learning to take time for yourself and incorporate balance into life. When you don’t get enough downtime, then you can’t appreciate or enjoy the time you have with others.  Book leisure time into your schedule and don’t let anything else get in the way once it’s on the calendar. We all need different amounts of alone time based on personalities, schedules and family commitments. Even if you live with a friend, a spouse, a partner or kids its important to find some space for yourself. Do whatever it takes to find this space and protect it. Learn that taking  time for yourself is NOT selfish, but an essential part of living a long life!

Experience the World. Being engaged in the world gives life meaning. That is a good thing for your mental health and seems to lower your overall risk of dying. It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”  So take the trip, learn a new language, try something new and enjoy all that life has to offer. Even if you live till 100 life is STILL too short. Go for what you want and don’t wait to experience life!

Have an attitude of gratitude. Practicing gratitude can center you, help you live in the moment, enhance your relationships, help you overcome hurdles, improve your health, and motivate you to reach your goals.  Feeling grateful for what you have can produce the good feelings that keep you moving towards the happy life you want. Look around and count your blessings. Clear your head of all the little things that won’t matter down the line, when you’re looking back at all the times you cherished the most in life, and find a reason to make every moment one of them.

Thanks for teaching me how to live well just by being YOU Grandma. Looking forward to enjoying year 90 (and THEN some) with you!

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Is longevity one of your goals? How do you work towards living a life that is long and FULL? Leave a comment below with one habit you have that increases the amount of years in your life. Heres to enjoying a healthy, happy life and increasing our longevity simply by doing it.

Caroline

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“It’s not the amount of years in Your Life….but the amount Of LIFE in your years!”

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