Monday, September 28, 2009

Who's Your Real Friend Baby?

 By Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC
“America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”

I’ve decided food is overrated
as a caretaker;
exercise underrated as friend.

I tweeted that message on twitter last week and got quite a remarkable response to it!

For many of us, food has evolved into a common caretaker for feelings, an alternative response to difficult situations.  Encounters with unwanted or uncomfortable feelings can send us hurtling towards a bag of chips, to the nearest bakery or through a drive-thru.


In our abundant society, we use food for many reasons other than its intended purpose.  When I ask my seminar audiences to name the ONLY legitimate use for food, it’s not unusual to see them blankly stare back at me.  In a world using food for medicinal purposes, reward, entertainment, distraction and a container to hold uncomfortable feelings, it’s easy to forget there’s only one purpose for food: FUEL!

So, how did food evolve to best friend/caretaker status?

Definition of “Friend”: 

patron; supporter; comrade; chum; crony; confidant;
backer; advocate; ally; associate;
one who assists, helps and is attached to another
by feelings of affection or personal regard.

Food can masquerade as friend since it is easily accessible, ever-available, and supremely controllable when much of life is out of control.  Unlike flesh-and-blood friends, who might not agree with us, who lose patience, or simply aren’t available 24/7, food doesn’t talk back or tell us to “shape up”!

This might seem like powerful evidence it works!  Take Lisa, who tweeted me with this response:

Food is the only thing that’s always been there for me. 
It never lets me down!

While I understand and empathize with Lisa’s attachment to food as friend, my job as a coach is to look beneath the surface for truth.

Is food really taking care of her?  As many of my clients realize when they look deeper, food doesn’t taking care of anything you can’t handle better yourself.  In fact, food robs us of the ability to truly care for ourselves with its fa├žade of friendship.  It also destroys (yes, destroys!) our bodies and our health.  If it’s a friend, it’s the friend who robs you blind behind your back.  Or the bully who speaks kindly to your face, then cuts you down viciously when your back is turned.

None of us would accept the things food does to us from a human friend!

Food is no friend.  It cannot care for us.  Food can’t do anything more than distract us from reality, and increase the numbers on the scale.  What’s friendly about that?  Food eaten to soothe emotions actually takes us away from ourselves and what’s present in our lives at the moment.

The irony is that we all desire the nurturing that comes from deep connection in our lives – to ourselves and others - and food consistently prevents that from happening.

Here’s the truth…
Food deceives.
It lies.
Excess food always diminishes us, our emotions, our health and our future.

It also leaves us with excess body fat, which is a forecaster of every major illness and all cancers on the planet.  Some friend, eh?

On the other hand, there’s exercise…

Although I remember being the ultimate excuse maker in gym class as a teenager, my relationship with exercise has evolved through the years.

Exercise goes the distance… unlike using food as a friend, exercise offers incredible positive perks and really takes care of a body.

Exercise can soothe jangled nerves and ease stress – not momentarily but for good - research shows aerobic exercise is the ONLY thing that actually rids the body stress hormones and toxins.  (Use food for stress and you’ve got more problems and triple the stress you had before you overate!  For example, you’ve (1) still got the problem you originally had; (2) stress increases with guilt over the eating behavior; and (3) the body is now negatively impacted as it has to digest and make fat of the excess food.)

Exercise builds us up, as any good friend would, by giving us strength, courage, patience and confidence. 

Never underestimate the self-reliance that comes with being strong.  In fact, the entire time I was losing over 70 lbs., my entire focus was on the word “strong.”

I love being strong.  Once, when I was 46 years old, I asked a guy in the gym to spot me because I was bench pressing 165 lbs.  “Oh,” he said apologetically, “You better ask one of the big guys to do that.  I don’t know if I can handle that much weight and I don’t want you to get hurt.”  I could feel my face freeze into an “Oh-you-poor-guy!” mask.

Even funnier, he came back the next week and told me, “I told all my friends about you!  I told them there was a lady at my gym who had to be 35 years old and she can out-bench press me!”

Muscle not only gives you curves (it’s a myth that is bulks women up), it slows the aging process.  Notice, my friend in the gym thought I was 35 when I was 46! 

Strength has many hidden perks too.  Muscle controls the metabolism, which determines how many calories the body burns every moment of every day, even when we’re not moving at all.  It powers all the fun things in life, helps fight off disease by boosting the immunity system, and promotes flexibility. 

As we age, strength and flexibility are two of the most important factors that determine quality of life.  Most falls occur because of lack of leg and hip strength.  Aging results from lack of muscle tone and flexibility.  Those bent backs and stooped shoulders you see among the elderly?  That’s the result of muscles not properly strengthened, exercised and stretched throughout the years.  Muscle atrophy starts around age 40 and ages the body quickly.  Wrinkles and sagging skin are the result of loss of muscle tone beneath the skin as well as loss of skin elasticity.

Muscle is also protective.  I can’t tell you how many times my big dog Dusty has taken me on a sled-less skid on the Wisconsin ice.  Not a problem for me!  My muscle protects my bones and joints and gives me the endurance to do just what I want to do in life.

Exercise is a good friend in terms of confidence too.  A true friend always builds us up and truly supports us from within.  Feeling strong boosts confidence and people who exercise report happier lives, better friendships and are more satisfied sexually. 

Other health advantages include lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and more balanced blood sugar levels.  Regular exercisers breathe more deeply and distribute oxygen better throughout their bodies.  They also put less stress on their hearts.  In addition, nothing takes care of the blues quicker than exercise.

Taking all this into consideration, exercise clearly supports greater well-being, happiness and health.
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I demand of a friend.

Pat Barone earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss.  Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success (minus 70+ lbs. over 9 years ago).  She's a well-known speaker throughout the U.S. and teaches permanent weight loss worldwide through her intensive teleseminar "enLIGHTen Your Life!"  Learn more at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wisdom from My Funny Folks

By Joyce Mason

I feel fortunate to have been raised by “older” parents, because they started young and had experience. By the time I came along, they had experimented and refined their parenting technique on my much older brother.  My folks were 35 and 36 when they adopted me. At more than 35, Dad in particular was considered so old back then; he almost had to get a dispensation from the Pope for Catholic Charities to let them take me home.  (Well, OK, it was actually a dispensation from some monsignor who knew my dad’s boss, who once had an audience with the Pope.)

In the 1950s, parents in their late thirties were considered quite elderly for the job.  How our ideas have changed over time!  For the better, I believe. I still say Mom and Dad rocked when it came to infusing my childhood with sage ideas, nearly from Day 1.

Mom had a significant auditory loss in one ear, which caused her to hear things in an unusual way.  Many of her wisest words were misconstrued, a fact that honed my sense of humor early on and caused me to realize something amazing. We say “out of the mouths of babes” when a kid says something profound, possibly without realizing it.  Mom did the same thing.  Sometimes she was just downright funny.  Often, her verbal “mistakes” made more practical sense than the original expression she was approximating.

Example of just plain funny: On our vacation through Wisconsin, we stopped at a rest area with a burn barrel for trash. “Louie,” she called to Dad.  “Throw the garbage in that insinuator over there.” (He would have, but he was afraid it would insult him.)

A better expression than the original: Mom was upset when my cousin took up “scoop diving.” She thought he was in terrible danger under water, even with a scoop/scuba tank. (They do scoop things up down there, right?)  On the other hand, he might learn new things on the bottom of the lake or sea.  You know, get the scoop.

Plain profound: “It takes two to tangle.”  Dad didn’t dance, so she knew well that she couldn’t tango without him.  She was Italian American, a dyed redhead, who—I’m afraid—was quite a hothead. I’m sure her fiery nature went up exponentially when she took on that red hair.  When I said, “I’m afraid” a couple of lines ago—I was! What a big temper for such a little woman. I’m quite sure mom thought “two to tangle” was the real expression. Only after I started my long spiritual journey in my late twenties, not to mention therapy, did I realize the wisdom in that mangled expression. If one person does not engage—or disengages—no tangle, no fight—but also, no dance.

I learned many interesting things from Mom, like the fact that medical professionals grocery shop at the feed store. (“These expletive doctors take their oats under false pretenses,” she said, when she thought her granddaughter’s medical treatment was substandard.)  Her host of verbal stumbles made everyone laugh around her—and she laughed, too, even if she wasn’t sure she got the joke! (After all, she said it like she heard it.) She wanted in on the fun, even if the joke was on her.

What a gift to learn so young, by example, to laugh at myself.

My parents were a team, and in many ways, a comedy team.  Dad had timing that would be the envy of any stand-up comedian.  One of my favorite examples involved Aunt Donna, Mom’s sister.  Aunt Donna was always on the prowl for a man, and she especially had designs on doctors.  (She should have tried the feed store.) If a person even mentioned a handsome man or actor (like “Gary Grant” or “Fred Aster”—yeah, it ran in the family), she’d roll back her shoulders, stick out her already large chest to its fullest extent, and bat her eyelashes.

“Donna, “ Dad said when some hunk came up in conversation at the family dinner table, just after her characteristic shape shift into a Sweater Girl Plus. “Be careful.  If one of those gets loose, it’ll kill us all.”

Dad would wait for his moment, and then drop the line when it was so unexpected, it was ten times as hilarious.  During a stage when the whole family kept tropical fish, we were waiting for my brother to come back into his living room when we’d gone over to his apartment for dinner.  Mom noticed that instead of the normal one Plecostomus fish to keep the tank clean, there were two. “Why does he have two ground feeders?”

(Two beats.)  “One does floors, the other does windows.”

When he wasn’t keeping us in stitches, Dad had another quality that served me all through life, but especially from midlife forward. He wasn’t afraid to admit when he was wrong.  If you can laugh at yourself and accept your mistakes, no amount of aging will ever daunt your spirit.

Recently, I had the opportunity to see an amazing documentary, Young at Heart.  It’s about a group of elders on the East Coast who are part of a chorus that travels the world making incredible music together.  Not old fogey tunes, either! Their average age is 80, and I was in tears by the end at the strength of their bonds, camaraderie, and life force.  They sang, laughed, and cried together—and they didn’t let a little thing like age get in the way of making their lives meaningful, significant, and full of fun.

Indigenous cultures are especially good at respecting the wisdom of age. I call that indi-genius.  Now we’re at an age where we can distill a lifetime of learning from those who taught us what they knew about making life work—our parents and other “cool saging” role models like the members of Young at Heart. They prove we can live, love, and laugh all the way to the finish line.

It’s our turn to pass it on.

© 2009 by Joyce Mason.  All Rights Reserved.

Joyce Mason is a writer, blogger, and astrologer who has been exploring the mysteries of life and how to live with passion for as long as she can remember.  Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights is her “spirited living” blog. The Radical Virgo is home to current and timeless astrology articles from over 20 years of stargazing.  Her Writer Joyce Mason web site integrates many genres of the Joyce’s writing. She welcomes hearing from readers:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Welcome to our newly redesigned website and blog. Thanks for stopping by!

While you’re here, please take a moment to meet the whole family, one by one, and sign up to have the Cartoon of the Week delivered to your inbox! Read “About Us” to find out how Perrie Meno-Pudge® was created. See the newly developed line of unique gifts for the midlife woman who’s not afraid to use her sense of humor. Take our Poll! Look at our “Favorite Links.” Follow us on Twitter and become a Fan on Perrie's Facebook page. Scroll through the Archives to read past cartoons you may have missed. Soon we will add an E-Cards section that you will be able to use to tell friends you are thinking about them.

In future blogs, we will invite the experts to answer questions and speak to you here about what they know best. But today we'd like you to get to know us a little bit better in hopes that you will share your story with us in return. Tell us what's on your mind. We're listening.

It all began because we think your health, and ours, is a laughing matter.

Well, think about it...we count calories, make sure we get enough exercise, fiber, fruits & veggies, water and calcium, so why overlook the minimum daily requirements of our funny bone? While the reason is not always clear, people who laugh more generally have a better sense of well-being and control in their lives. The power of humor has been recognized and recommended for centuries.

Don't get us wrong, we know how challenging the effects of midlife body changes can be and we respect the difficulties many of us must go through. We will address those serious issues in a serious way right here with advice from experts. We also believe we have a choice, we can make life’s lemons into lemonade and, at the end of the day, we will have benefited from a shared common experience that humor, laughter, encourages. If we can all do that, we are more likely to enjoy each day to its fullest and perhaps even spend a little less time at the doctor’s office.

We think your health, and everyone else's too is a matter of laughing....more.

In the beginning, Barbara hired Joanne as an Art Director for a New York City Design Studio she ran many (!) years ago. It was then that a long time friendship and true creative collaboration began. About four years ago, both baby boomer BFFs decided to relocate their homes and families to Florida, they built homes one house away from each other. Afterall, when the going gets tough, New Yorkers get to Florida!

With more than 30 years experience as a graphic designer and owner of a full-service graphics studio, Barbara Kimmel is a creative problem solver in production, branding and internet marketing. Over the years, clients have included Microsoft, Advil, PBS, The United Nations, Disney’s FamilyFun Magazine, to name a few. Barbara Kimmel lives with her husband of 22 years, son and four cats. She loves cooking and eating, obsessing, boating, buttercream, Pilates and everything Disney.

Joanne Fsadni earned a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY ('76). She lived and worked in New York City for more than 15 years where she met Barbara, before marriage and the adoption of her daughter prompted an escape to the suburbs on Long Island. A freelance graphic designer, she began creating cartoon characters at age nine in the margins of her notebooks during class and despite discouragement from her teachers, hasn’t stopped. She lives with her husband of 19 years, daughter and 3 cats.

The duo gets Inspiration from stepping back to take a look at their lives. Like the time they were leaving a store they’d driven to using the GPS, and again, could not remember where they’d parked the car. The frustration which inspired a wish out loud that the GPS came with a feature to get them from the store back to wherever they'd parked the car, also inspired a cartoon.

The Husbands are also a wonderful source of inspiration. Once, while standing in front of an open 19 cu.ft refrigerator, a husband  was cursing the fact that he “can’t find the bleepin' ketchup because it isn’t in it’s usual spot!!” Perrie’s suggestion…“If it doesn’t jump into your hands within the next 5 seconds, try looking on a different shelf”….became another cartoon. (Sound familiar?)

We hope you will come back to visit us often and see our musings about midlife...we won’t mind if you laugh!