Apr 262017

I made another batch of Kitchari for tonight’s dinner. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to detoxify and restore gut health, kitchari is basically a vegetarian stew with moong dal (split mung beans with the skin removed), basmati rice and vegetables. A 1 cup serving is only 300 calories. It’s also packed with protein, dietary fiber, and minerals. Because kitchari is rich in dietary fiber, it gives you a sense of fullness that lasts so you’re not craving more food an hour later, which makes it a perfect food for people trying to lose weight. It’s also very easy to digest. If your belly is still bloated from that pizza that was served at today’s lunch meeting, a bowl of this will send you to bed feeling good instead of needing to pop an antacid.

I follow the recipe from Kate O’Donnell’s The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook. You can choose from a long list of recommended vegetables, but tonight’s concoction has cauliflower, spinach, leeks, and artichoke. After simmering the mixture, I warmed some cumin, coriander and fennel seed in ghee to add some spicy flavor to the stew. Now I’ll simply add a few sprigs of raw cilantro as a garnish, wait till my husband gets home and then we’ll sit out on the back patio and enjoy this simple and healthy meal. Preparing kitchari took less than an hour and is much more nutritious than anything we would get dining out.

Mar 312017

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond.

I know fitness and how the right balance of training, mindful exercise and good nutrition can transform your life. Rewrite your script of making resolutions and quitting them and start living a healthy lifestyle today. Fitter Than Ever offers an easy-to-follow activity and eating plan and is packed with Slim for Life Secrets to keep you on-track and motivated. This book will make your journey of losing weight, exercising and eating healthy fun and empowering.

The e-books are available now. A paperback print edition will be available by April 30.

Order From Amazon

Order from B & N, iBooks, Kobo and more

Add to Goodreads reading list

Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond


Oct 152016

Many people open the medicine cabinet the instant a joint or muscle aches or the stomach hurts. Many over-the-counter and prescription medications  wreak havoc on the body. What helps your joint pain might make your gut scream hours later. Plants and herbs such at turmeric, ginger, and triphala, can offer relief without unpleasant side effects. I have been amazed how much better I feel now that I’m integrating them into my daily diet. Studies show they can improve health and reduce long-term suffering. It is very important to consult with your physician before taking herbs or stopping any current medications.

Three of my favorite herbs are turmeric (curcumin is the active ingredient), ginger, and triphala. I take triphala almost daily in tablet form and make tea with a blend of powdered turmeric and ginger.

Turmeric is an excellent anti-inflammatory and can be taken in a tea or in warm oil when joint or muscle pain strikes in lieu of taking medication. Some studies have even shown it can help alleviate arthritic pain and is protective against cancer.

Ginger is the perfect remedy for an upset stomach. It can ease nausea, morning sickness, and even reduce the misery of motion sickness and menstrual cramps. People often report it reduces post-exercise muscle soreness. Studies show the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger often reduces painful symptoms of osteoarthritis when taken internally or a paste including ginger is applied to the painful area. Ingesting ginger regularly may also lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimers.

Triphala contains three fruits found in India: Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki. It is a gentle bowel cleanser that helps improve digestion, reduce stomach discomfort and contributes to regular bowel movements. Because it helps with food absorption, taking it regularly while eating a well balanced diet can ensure the body is getting adequate nourishment. Many regular users of triphala report healthy weight loss once their digestive systems get to a state of balance. Triphala is also a powerful antioxidant, which helps protect the body from free radical damage. Triphala can be taken in a tea or in tablet form.

Before going beyond sprinkling some of these on your meals, consult with a trusted physician or licensed naturopath. That person can ensure whatever herbs you’re taking won’t adversely interfere with any medications your taking. Once you’ve been given the green light, you’ll find your body will respond much better to natural herbs. They improve health instead of simply putting a temporary bandaid on symptoms.

Jun 252015

Foods sweetened with aspartame and sucralose seem to be an ideal solution for minimizing sugar and caloric intake. The sad truth is both are harmful chemicals that wreak havoc on your system. Even people who routinely avoid artificial sweeteners should beware of where these insidious ingredients lurk. Most know they are constituents of low-calorie carbonated beverages, but they are also found in chewing gum, chewable vitamins, yogurt and even the pickled ginger commonly served with sushi!

Tucson-based holistic neurospecialist Dr. Timothy Marshall, one of the world’s leading experts in nutrient delivery systems, nutrient optimization and low-dose lithium therapeutics is all to familiar with the harmful effects of these powerful and dangerous chemicals having suffered symptoms from consuming them himself. He educates readers about the dangers of artificial sweeteners in his book, Think Smoking is Bad? Try Aspartame.

“Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid,” he says in his book. The O-methyl group attached to the molecule breaks down into methanol with the remainder of the molecule generating the potent carcinogen DKP along with free-form amino acids that can harm the brain, eyes and nervous system. DKP, he goes on to explain, chemically resembles the tumor-causing chemical, N-nitrosea.

When consumed, the phenylalanine and the aspartic acid are highly stimulating, which keeps diet soda drinkers heading back to the refrigerator panting for more. Meanwhile, the methanol is in the bloodstream, reacting and eventually binding with oxygen. Once this compound converts to formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) and formic acid, it goes on a rampage.

“Formaldehyde binds to DNA and proteins and interferes with their function in the body,” says Dr. Marshall. This process is especially damaging to the brain and nervous system. Formic acid isn’t body-friendly either. “The primary pain-producing molecule in bee or ant venom,” it is a biological irritant with neurotoxic affects.

World-renowned authority in natural medicine, Dr. Joseph Mercola states on his health and wellness web site www.mercola.com that aspartame is “the most dangerous substance added to most food today.” In a blog post, he states, “Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA.” Among those reports are instances of seizures and death.

Although the EPA established safe limit for methanol is 7.8 mg/day, a diet soda contains 18 mg of methanol. Considering the numerous individuals drinking two or more sodas daily, the harmful effects of such consumption are difficult to quantify.

In addition to the more severe side effects, formaldehyde poisoning may contribute to metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, loss of insulin sensitivity, depression, fibromyalgia and an increase in inflammatory markers says Dr. Marshall. Some studies indicate a strong correlation between aspartame and brain tumors.

Health conscious individuals should read labels carefully to ensure aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) are not constituents. Dr. Marshall suggests sweetening foods and drinks with safe sugar substitutes stevia or lo han.

Apr 152014

If you’re feeling irritable and exhausted, excessive sugar may be the culprit. Recording what you eat for a week or two can help you evaluate your diet so you can make better food choices that will improve how you feel and your overall health.

Your brain demands a constant supply of sugar and energy to function. If it doesn’t receive what it needs, the body reacts to this crisis by releasing chemicals in an attempt to regulate this whacky situation.

Sugar, often a major constituent of processed foods, can make you irritable by causing spikes and dropouts in insulin and blood sugar. Here’s what happens when you dump four teaspoons of sugar into your morning coffee and drink it down. Insulin, responsible for maintaining normal blood sugar levels, soars dramatically as blood sugar jumps up to sweep excessive sugar from the blood. Unfortunately, it tends to overdo this task and leaves you feeling lethargic, irritable and craving another sugar high (a doughnut, perhaps). This then triggers the release of adrenaline, a stress hormone that triggers the flight or fight response. So if you ever wanted to hurt someone after your drank that sugar-rich coffee or soaked your waffles in syrup, now you know why. In many cases, the chemical chaos that ensues leaches the body of high quality nutrients, throwing you further out of balance.

The best way to stabilize mood and energy is to eat sensibly. Avoid eating simple carbohydrates, especially without the support of other foods, to keep blood sugar more level throughout the day. Candy, non-diet sodas, juices, and cakes are all examples of simple carbohydrates. When you consume refined sugar or products where it is a main ingredient, you dump empty calories into your body that have no nutritional benefit and often can compromise your health.

 Remember, not all carbohydrates are evil. Ingesting healthier carbohydrate, such as fruits and whole grain products, will provide your body and brain with a steadier energy stream. If you must consume items containing refined sugar, dilute them with other foods, such as meats and low-fat dairy products. Protein and fat delay the absorption of sugar into the blood and take longer to digest than carbohydrates. A blend of foods is most likely to leave you feeling more level and energetic.

Eating small meals with a mix of nutrients every three or four hours is another technique that works well to stabilize blood sugar. While small meals aren’t a chore to digest, very large meals draw so much blood flow to the stomach that you will feel lethargic.

Sugar induced weight gain and chemical imbalances, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can eventually lead to a host of health problems, including diabetes.  Tweaking your diet for the healthier can improve your energy level, mood and can positively impact long-term health.

Sep 252013

Many people embark on exercise programs with only one purpose in mind – weight loss. And when the pounds don’t melt off in a matter of weeks, they throw in the towel and say exercise didn’t “do me any good.” If that’s your philosophy, I’m here to give you some friendly advice…First, you didn’t gain the weight overnight, so it won’t come off that fast either. Second, if you’re only exercising to lose weight, you might not appreciate the other goodies that are part of the package!

I speak from experience when I say its easier to lose weight when exercise and healthy food are part of a wellness program to make you happier and healthier, not a punishment for overeating. Yes, I was guilty of dashing out for 8 mile runs when I was in college to “make up” for the previous night’s pizza fest, but most of the time, I found myself on a constant roller coaster of fasting and feasting and “punishing” myself with marathon workouts. Healthy isn’t a word that described my physical or mental state during that time.

In my mid-20s, I evolved toward a wellness philosophy. I threw the word “diet” out the window and bought some nutrition books. I cried myself to sleep the night I swore I would never again call Dominoe’s at 2 AM to order pizza (not really). Gradually, I phased out or reduced fried foods, sweets, junk food, and mixed drinks and added more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to my diet. And guess what? I lost a good bit of weight, but the other benefits thrilled me the most. And they’re the ones that keep me rushing out the door to the pool and the gym most days of the week. Here’s what else comes with that regular workout package…

1) Improved health. Activity and a clean diet can mean lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduced risk for a variety of illnesses and disabling conditions. Remember, you don’t have to lose weight to experience health benefits with exercise. Studies are demonstrating that.

2) Stronger bones. Regular activity (weight-bearing) will help you maintain bone density as you age and reduce your risk for osteoporosis.

3) Reduced Pain. Many people say they don’t exercise because they hurt too much. Always consult with your physician first, but in most instances exercise and an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce your discomfort. If you have arthritis, you will be better off avoiding impact activities. Warm-water exercise is also a great choice for people with a variety of painful conditions.

4) Improved Energy Levels, Mood, and Concentration. I have to say these three are the big ones that get me out the door and on my way to the pool or gym most mornings. I always feel such a sense of gratitude after a workout, being able to move and feel as good as I do and that carries me through the day, making it much more enjoyable. So if you feel tired, grumpy or can’t remember what you were planning to do next, it might be a good time to fit in a workout!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move. I’ll race you to the door!

Sep 062011

Are you one of those people that still believe if you do 500 abdominal crunches each day, that flabby middle will evaporate? If so, you are not alone. Many people still believe that over-exercising specific parts of the body will enable “spot” toning or the dissipation of fat from a preferred part of the body.

The harsh reality is that it just isn’t so. Aerobic exercise and strength training help you to burn fat, but your body makes the bottom line decision as to where the weight comes off. Face it ladies, the first place where weight tends to disappear is from the bust line! It’s not fair, but unfortunately the adipose tissue on the abdomen, hips and thighs is usually most unwilling to say a final farewell.

Removing fat from the body is a function of calories in versus calories out, nothing more. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will add fat; if you eat less than you burn, you will lose a pound for every 3500 calorie deficit. The most efficient way to reduce your body fat is to eat a healthy diet, engage in at least 200 minutes of continuous or aerobic activity per week (low-impact or step aerobics, walking, elliptical, cycling or swimming), and follow a regular strength training program. During continuous activity, the body burns fat which facilitates weight loss and increases caloric expenditure at rest. Regular exercise stimulates activity in muscle tissues and reduces the loss of muscle mass during a weight loss program.

People often set unrealistic goals for their bodies, which can be destructive to self-esteem and body image. You will be most content if you learn to make the most of what you have, since each of us was genetically designed to be a bit different. Ladies, forget about the Cosmo cover models; and gentleman, its OK if you have to wear a shirt along with your Calvin Kline jeans. Remember to set your sights on a healthy weight, rather than a perfect body. And exercise regularly, so you will look and feeling the best you possibly can every day.

Dec 272010

The first of every new year, many of us vow to suppress our vices and embark on a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Within a week or two, most of us shelve the newly purchased exercise equipment and the mineral water and take to the sofa, caloric drink in hand. Why do resolutions so often fail and what can we do to be more successful in 2011?

Let’s first tackle the first part: why resolutions so often fail. My theory, after reviewing hundreds of peoples’ resolutions and fitness goals is that they are formulated without an fundamental plan behind them, unrealistic, or not a true priority. For example, I can’t count how many times I see “I want to lose 10 pounds.” OK, that’s great, so does everyone else on your block, but how do you plan to get that fat to budge?

Expecting to succeed without a specific plan is like trying to drive someplace without your road map or GPS. You will be more successful in your endeavor if you outline a plan such as; “I plan to lose 10 pounds in approximately 5 months by increasing increasing my aerobic exercise to one hour per day five days per week (2 of those days will include 30 minutes of high intensity intervals 2 min hard, 1 minute rest) and hiring a personal trainer to design a strength training plan I can do twice a week. I will also consult with a nutritionist to look at what I’m currently eating to help me modify my diet so it’s lower in calories and more nutritious. I am going to do the cardio before work on M, W, and F and after work on T and Th. I will work with the trainer on T and Sa.” Your plan should always have a time limit on achieving the goal and outline in detail all the steps you will take to get there.

Now let’s talk about the unrealistic expectations and resolutions. If you’ve never exercised in your life and you are over 40, there is little chance you are ever going to have the lean muscular body of an athlete or look like the next Cosmo cover girl. I often am left speechless when someone says to me, a long-time competitive swimmer and fitness instructor “What do I have to do to have your body?” They probably don’t want to hear “Turn back time and start competitive swimming (or some other vigorous exercise) when you are 10 and then stay super active the rest of your life,” so I usually say something like “do a lot of exercise and learn to love it.” Even if you can’t look like a cover girl or an athlete, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. You still could dramatically improve your look and your health. Instead of comparing your body to someone else, compare it to the body you had before you started your weight loss plan. Notice how loose your clothes are fitting and buy a new outfit that flatters your new physique.

Finally, if it’s not really a priority, you won’t succeed. I read recently in a magazine that most people want to weigh less, but when asked various questions in a survey about modifying diet and exercise, most responded that they really didn’t want to weigh less bad enough to eat less and workout more. Be honest with yourself when constructing your resolutions. Are you willing to make changes and sacrifices to lose that weight, lower that blood pressure or fit into that slinky dress? Will what’s going on with your life right now support these life changes?

Remember, success in any area of life, including health and fitness, requires commitment and discipline. Think about anything you’ve ever achieved that was worthwhile. It took persistence and hard work, right? Well it’s the same with your health. But if you really want to be healthy and are willing to commit the time and plan a strategy to make it happen, it will. And next year when it comes time to make more health and fitness resolutions, you will be able to write down “Keep on doing what I’m doing!”

May 212010

Susan Dawson-Cook finishing the La Jolla Shores 5KIf you’re like most of us, you want to maximize the number of calories burned during each and every workout. That way, sampling a thick slice of chocolate cake at your neighbor’s luncheon or sharing a bottle of wine with your spouse at dinner won’t lead to guilt or extra weight around the mid-section. But how many calories do you really burn when you swim, run or lean on that weight machine and chat with your friends (if you do the latter, we need to talk)?

The number of calories you burn depends on the type of activity in which you are engaged, your weight and how vigorously you engage in a given activity.

First, the bad news. If you weigh 200 pounds, you will burn more calories than a 150 pound individual during any given activity, even though both of you are doing the same amount of work. Yes, ladies—it’s an unpleasant fact of life that you can’t eat as many calories as your spouses without paying the piper.

The good news is that you burn more calories when you work harder, so you can make up for the calories you’re not burning by being female by exerting more or engaging in a more challenging activity. For example, if you walk at a 3 mile-per-hour pace, you will burn only 210 calories per hour, but if you step it up to a 4 mile- per-hour pace, you will burn 318 calories instead.* To increase calorie consumption even further, you could walk longer than an hour, faster or engage in a more vigorous activity, such as running.

Running receives the highest accolades when it comes to calorie consumption. According to the Fitness Partner Connection website (www.primusweb.com/fitnesspartner), a 140 pound individual will burn 572 calories per hour running an 11.5 minute mile and 891 calories running a 7 minute mile. Swimming (up to 700 calories/hour), jumping rope (636 calories/hour), the stair step machine (572 calories/hour), stationary rowing (540 calories/hour) and bicycling (up to 636 calories/hour) are other big calorie burners that are less traumatic on the body than running.*

Calories are most efficiently burned by performing continuous exercise for a long duration, such as running, swimming, cycling or walking. With running or walking, you can use miles per hour to calibrate calories burned. Fitness classes such as step aerobics, low impact aerobics, water aerobics and dance can also qualify as good calorie burning activities, but it is harder to estimate caloric expenditure during these activities since the amount of effort participants put into classes varies dramatically.

When you take a class, the number of calories burned is dependent on how quickly you are moving, how many risers are under your step, how much arm and leg motion is occurring with each step. So try to make the most of each class, focusing on each movement to maximize caloric expenditure within limits comfortable for your fitness level.

In addition to regular workouts, you can maximize calorie consumption throughout the day by merely choosing anything that involves motion over idle activities. Instead of watching TV, opt for pulling weeds in the back yard. Instead of dropping into a chair at a party, stand up and mingle.

Unless you have unusually high metabolism, exercise is not a carte blanche to head for the all-you-can-eat buffet table. In reality, the 500 calories most of us burn during an hour workout won’t allow for much extra food on the plate. However, if diet stays constant as activity is increased, this daily deficit of 500 calories can have a huge impact on weight over time. Burning an extra 500 calories per day (a 3500 calorie deficit is required to lose one pound) can lead to a loss of one pound in a week, four pounds in a month or a whopping 48 pounds a year!

As we age, maintaining a healthy weight or losing unwanted pounds becomes more challenging, but being overweight doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion if a proper balance of exercise and healthy diet is established.

* Calorie consumption examples are from primusweb.com/fitnesspartner and are based on a 140 pound individual.

Mar 242010

Susan Dawson-Cook in 2009 Tinfoilman TriathlonPeople are always asking me about the latest 5 minute exercise plan and wondering if it will be the magic bullet to help them lose weight without time and effort. If you don’t believe the latest guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (which say 300-400 minutes of aerobic activity per week is necessary for most people to lose weight), an Associated Press release, published in today’s (Wednesday, March 24) Arizona Daily Star, should get your attention.

Research on more than 13,000 middle-aged American women over a 13 year period showed an average weight gain of 6 pounds over the 13 year period, including those who were on calorie-cutting diet plans. Participants who gained little or no weight during this time (only 13 percent) consistently exercised an average of an hour a day.

What this means for you? If you’re a female over 40, start blocking out 60 minutes a day to exercise (and then get out there and do it) or be prepared to fight a losing battle with the bulge. I’m over 40 by a long shot and I’m doing it. With a little discipline and determination, so can you!