Is Defeat Sweeter Than Victory?

Do you reach for ice cream or chocolate when feeling blue?  Well you’re not alone.  Turns out even elite athletes may crave the sweet stuff after a loss, according to a new study from Cornell.

Victory was certainly sweet for the U.S. Women’s World Cup team 5-2 victory this weekend – but it’s a safe bet that the vanquished team from Japan was reaching for actual sweets after the stunning upset.

Research by Cornell food scientists reveals how a person’s emotional state – particularly in the competitive, wide world of sports – affects the perception of taste. In particular, people in negative emotional states tend to crave sweets more than those in a positive frame of mind.

“We determined how emotions arising from the outcome of college hockey games influenced the perception of sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami (savory) taste, … in addition to hedonic responses ­– or how much they liked or disliked the foods,” said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dando, who with Corinna Noel, a doctoral student in food science, published “The Effect of Emotional State on Taste Perception” in the journal Appetite, June 27.

“Emotional manipulations in the form of pleasantly or unpleasantly perceived real-life events can influence the perception of taste, driving the acceptability of foods,” said Dando. “These results imply that such modulation of taste perception could promote emotional eating in times of negative emotion.”

The study shows that emotions experienced in everyday life can alter the hedonic experience of less-palatable food, implying a link to emotional eating, according to the researchers. Dando explained, “In times of negative affect, foods of a less pleasurable nature become even more unappealing to taste, as more hedonically pleasing foods remain pleasurable.

“This is why when the team wins, we’re okay with our regular routine foods, but when they lose, we’ll be reaching for the ice cream.”

An occasional indulgence isn’t going to hurt anyone’s performance.  The key is occasional. Let yourself have a sweet but then get back on track. For quick tips on squeezing fitness into your day, check out these three weird ways to exercise at your desk.



20150515_152959_resizedThis is a story of silly putty, a small inflatable ball and a flex band.  These little ditties are cheap, easy to stash at your work station and handy little fitness objects. Two of the three you can use without anyone knowing in case you want to be stealth about the whole thing. The use of the flex band, however, is not so easy to hide. But I say be loud and proud of your creative fitness initiatives. You could inspire a whole movement!

I have had this fantasy of all the desk workers of
American rising up at noon to stretch with their flex bands.  Why not?

  1. Silly Putty.  I have this habit of wanting to crunch and munch on stuff while writing and reading at the desk. If not that, my hands are on my face/chin – not good for the complexion.  I had some silly putty around so started playing with it. Soon my fingers were really getting into it  — stretching, squishing and popping the bubbles (almost as satisfying as bubble wrap) I realized wow what a great hand/finger strengthener!  It’s a great way to de-stress, too.
  2. Small Inflatable Rubber Ball. Hello inner thighs!  I got this idea from my new recent lunch time activity – swimming and squeezing a small buoyant board so I can work only my arms. The next day I could totally feel my inner thighs. It wasn’t hard to do but holding the board with sustained effort for 10-minutes+ and voila. You can do the same. Gently squeeze a small rubber ball — just enough to hold it there will make your thighs happy.  Check out these balls and you can get some for you office pals.
  3. Flex band.  Get up, stand up, stand up for your right to stretch! Flex bands offer many, many fitness opportunities. To counter balance all that sitting, hold it behind you with your hands together and pull it apart. Hold the band above your head pull it apart and stretch side to side. I’m sure your body will make suggestions too — follow your innate wisdom. Different colors offer different resistance levels.  Power-systems is a fun place to shop for bands.

So there you have it. Three easy ways to fit a little fitness while at your desk.  For more ideas on fitting exercise into your day, click here.

Get fit faster. Hire a personal trainer.

A groundbreaking new study from UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine reveals that personal trainers can have a dramatic impact on fitness levels. Here’s how self-directed exercisers compared to those coached by personal trainers:

  •  Increased their lean body mass by 3.3 pounds, while self-trained group saw no change.
  •  Increased muscle strength by 42% vs. 19% in self-trained group.
  •  Increased muscle power by 10% vs. 0.1% in self-trained group.
  • Increased VO2 Max by 6% vs. a 3% decrease in self-trained group.

I have two jobs: freelance writer specializing in health and Pilates instructor. Pilates is taught on the mat in group classes and as a private, personal training

courtesy balanced bodyexperience.  If you want to get the greatest return on your investment in time.  Do it one-on-one. If you want to avoid injuries, get inspired, and realize more of your own potential – hire an fitness expert to help you. Of course, you want someone that’s well qualified because sadly, a personal training and Pilates certification can be earned in a weekend. So look beyond certification acronyms. True pros earn the equivalent of a master’s degree and continue to earn education credits to maintain their credentials.

They should have some people skills as well as educational background. Don’t be shy, ask about their experience and their background. They too, should ask you some key questions.  To learn more about what to look for, what to ask, and what they should ask you click here

Anyone can bark out orders. I recently read about someone who felt ill, stupid and embarrassed after a session. Um, just no.  A professional will design a program that fits your needs, challenges you and also inspires you to believe in yourself.

When I first started in the fitness business more than 10 years ago, someone said to me, “personal trainers are just babysitters for people who don’t know how to work out.”

Oh yeah?  Tell that to professional athletes and Olympic champions who rely on their trainers for inspiration, motivation, and fitness know-how. And now those who have invested their hard earned cash into personal trainers can rest assured – with well qualified trainers – you will see better results.

Sitting is Bad for Your Health

By now you’ve probably heard how bad sitting all day long can be for you. As a Pilates instructor I see it people’s posture.  As a writer I feel in it my own. Mouse shoulder. Neck strain from looking down. And yet it can be hard to simply stand up and stretch every once in awhile because we want to get it all done – now.

But sitting has been linked to a lot more than bad posture and cranky attitude. Cancer. High Blood Pressure. Cardiovascular disease.  The Washington Post details it well in this infographic and article.

the health hazards of sitting

Look Better, Feel Better, Live Longer.

Go for 30-60 minutes of exercise daily. Do a walking lunch meeting, keep a workout bag handy for a quick dash to the gym, bike around the neighborhood. A mere ten minutes three times a day will make a difference in energy (you’ll have more of it) and less stress too. For more inspiration try something new like ballroom dance or hire a personal trainer for motivation. Try a Pilates session to balance out your body and efficiently stretch and strengthen at the same time.

While at work, grab a flex band to to stretch out. It feels great to just pull on something and flex bands are light and easy to keep handy. Use it to stretch and de-stress with Pilates focused breathing.

I have a fantasy that every day at noon workers all across America will stand up and stretch with a flex band. Let’s start that trend. Let it spread like a wave across your office whether your’re at home or in a cubicle. The simple act of moving around just might stretch out your life and make it a higher quality of life too.

Meditation Reduces Inflammation says new Study

A new study reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.  The study looked the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators. Researchers compared them to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities.

After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn leads to faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

The researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators after mindfulness practice.

Meditation Reprograms Your Mind

Each week I attend a Friday meditation class with the amazing Nancy Floy at the Heartwood Center in Evanston.  I attend to be in community with people of like mind and to create new neural pathways.  And I really need them. My thoughts get so stuck in a groove … an endless loop of drama going around and around like the proverbial broken record.  Those grooves are the neural pathways, and with meditation, we can form new ones so our thoughts can more easily slip onto another track. Easier said then done. But with practice it is possible.  Like putting money in the bank, regular meditation has cumulative effects.  In times of great stress and challenge, you can call upon this practice to more quickly bring relief. Having just gone through a deeply challenging situation, I was grateful to have this community and this practice.  What had previously taken months to bounce back from now took a few weeks.  Priceless.

Meditation by Many Names

Not falling prey to habitual patterns of mind is among the many benefits of meditation.  You can also pray, focus on your breathing, laugh or simply say affirmations that help you calm down your system.  You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it’s free.  Among my favorite teachers are Pema Chordon, Thich Nhat Hanh, and of course the Dali Lama, now on Twitter.

Have some favorite mindfulness practices or benefits in your life?  Please share here.



Turns out the old adage that money can’t buy you happiness is not true.  Money CAN buy you happiness IF you know how and where to spend it.  In this Ted Talk , Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending makes a difference in your life and the lives of others.

Michael I. Norton,  is Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and Marvin Bower Fellow at the Harvard Business School.

For more on creating happiness in your life, check out the book: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Life is what you make it.



Laughter as Medicine

If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the Reader’s Digest series, Laughter is the Best Medicine. Those days you had to read all about it on actual paper. Today a simple search brings you instant funny on a screen that’s touted as almost as good as paper.

It feels good to laugh.  But, come on, really? Medicine? Yes.  Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits. So say researchers from around the world … so it must be true.

Turns out it doesn’t even matter much of you make yourself laugh or if you spontaneously laugh at joke.  The brain doesn’t really care either way.  In this era of evidence-based medicine, laughter is now discussed in the realm of alternative medicine.  And if you want to self-medicate – it’s OK, there aren’t any side effects, unless you count your checks hurting from laughing too much.

The many benefits of laughter include:

  • Exercises face muscles (hey free cosmetic benefits)
  • Increases oxygen levels (can you say aerobics?)
  • Releases endorphins (non-addictive feel good body chemicals)
  • Reduces stress (no laughing matter)

It’s no wonder there are so many images of the Buddha laughing.

These days there are laughter therapists helping cancer patients; , laughter yoga;  and of course a ton of comedy clubs, jokes online, and on TV.  It’s easy to get your daily dose.  So go ahead. Laugh. Chuckle. Smile.

Just keep in mind:

  • On the other hand, you have different fingers
  • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
  • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
  • Support bacteria. They’re the only culture most people have.
  • OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

More here.




The other day I attended a very different kind of meditation which the practitioners called, Flowing with Musical Expression. Essentially it was people making all manner of odd sounds, chirps, whistles, hums, ooos and ahhhs – randomly and loudly for 30 minutes. I thought I was in room with people who had Tourrents. It was distracting and uncomfortable. According to literature at the center, the founders said that Westerners always need to be “doing” something. So their active meditations were a response to that.

There are of course, many different ways and reasons to meditate.

I thought of a dear Baha’i friend who once said to me that meditation BahaiTempleFacingNorthdoes not have to be formal. It can be during a walk with your dog, a simple stopping to appreciate the beauty in a cloud, architecture or perfectly made crème brûlée. For me, it is about the stopping. I think and do way too much as it is.

Poetry helps me to stop and to savor. One of my favorite poets is Mekeel McBride who I met at women’s conference just after I graduated from college. I’ve memorized many of her poems; the pages of her book all dog-eared and yellowed now. I’ve never been one to keep books pristine. I underline, highlight, and bend the pages.

“… Just that some people love words
as much as a locksmith loves the machine
that duplicates keys, allowing the lost
to once again enter familiar rooms,
touch the chipped blue china cup,
stand quietly in the sun-drenched kitchen,
amazed that such return in this word is possible.”
From The Going Under of the Evening Land by Mekeel McBride



From blisters to bunions, most of us will suffer from foot problems more than once during our lives. Some issues can be resolved with over-the-counter remedies, targeted Pilates exercises, reflexology and gently rolling your feet on a tennis ball.

But if the pain you feel is in your heel and it doesn’t go away within a week or so, Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Heel Painsee your doctor.

The pain is usually caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, also known as plantar fasciitis, a chronic irritation due to abnormal biomechanics. Wait too long and you could be headed to surgery. The pain often feels like you bruised your heel on a stone. It can also radiate through your arch.

The triangular structure of the feet allows the weight of our bodies to efficiently spread out over a broad base. The plantar fascia is a tight band underneath your foot. Its job is to prevent the foot collapsing out when you walk. When this band is overly stressed, it can tear, causing pain.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is faulty biomechanics (walking abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. It can also be caused by walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces; wearing poorly constructed shoes; or being overweight.

To learn more about heel pain and taking care of your feet, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association.