Do you have the travel bug?!

Have you ever sat at a desk and wondered, when was the last time you were away from everything that surrounded you? Or, have you looked at a calendar and realized, the last time you were away was for someone else’s reason, and not your own?

Traveling the world is a big part of making you who you are. It shows you the way other people live, what they drink, what they eat, how they live.

Taking time away from your normal life a few times a year is important for overall health and wellness, because it allows your mind to break away from its everyday routine, whether that time away is fast-paced – trains, planes and automobiles – or a week at the beach, reading a book and never worrying what time it is.

A break away is a reset.


Many people get so caught up in their everyday lives, their work, their significant others, and their children, they forget about the importance of giving their mind and body a break – experiencing something new. Even though you might think you are not stressed, and you feel you are at peace, you might not be, and you might realize that when you do go away and have no connection with the world via social media, work, and the people you are not with. Sitting somewhere else gives you the sense of feeling calmness and relaxation – trying to get your brain to step away from its daily activities is hard for many people.

There are so many beautiful places in the world, sea or mountains, warm weather or cold, the diversity across the world – it’s a universe of which you can be unaware. You learn about other cultures and places. People in Spain eat late, Italians enjoy a siesta after lunch … people in the U.S. don’t take all of their allotted vacation time!

You can say to yourself, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time – there are always excuses.

My father gave me the best advice in the world: “You do not go on vacation to save money,” he once told me, “you go on vacation to experience new things and places.”

Traveling teaches you a sense of independence. It teaches you that you can rent a car, book hotels, exchange money, not speak the language, and have one of the best experiences of your life.

Driving on the wrong side of the road, pulling out a map, the moments you spend in new cultures – these make up the sights, the sounds, the voices, the colors, the tastes you will remember and never forget. You might sit in a restaurant and find yourself talking with someone new. In New Zealand, I met a grandmother who had just done a six-month kayaking trip on her own around Australasia. You sit there and start to develop a sense of where you want to go next.

My best friend’s brother always says to me, “Why are you starting to think about your next adventure? Just enjoy the one you are on.”

What may happen when you are on vacation is that, at some point, you know it will come to an end, you will go back to your everyday life, which may not be too bad, but sometimes you just need a break … the next break.


My suggestions about planning travel – which I’ve been doing since I was 12 -- are: sit on a couch, pick a place, research the heck out of it, and plan what’s best for your group. There are deals to be found, and so many beautiful places to go. Or, have a friend take a map, spin it and wherever his/her finger lands is your destination!

Traveling is about the experience, it’s not to say you’ve been to a place, it’s to say, this is what I saw.

Put simply, travel makes you wealthy.

Are you sure you are eating an energy bar and not a candy bar?

When looking at the ingredients of an energy bar, have you ever wondered what some of them are?  

There’s a reason that each of my top-three bars has a list of ingredients you KNOW AND RECOGNIZE.   You need to look for real-food ingredients, things you can pronounce, things that would make your grandmother smile. 

8 To The Bar

8tothebar-IMG_3513 copy.jpg

Organic Gluten Free Oats, Almonds, Raw Unfiltered Honey, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Organic Pepitas, Organic Coconut Sugar, Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Dried Figs, Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil, Organic Coconut Butter, Dried Cherries


LARABAR Organic Superfood (hazelnut, hemp & cacao bars)

Dates, Hazelnuts, Cacao Nibs, Hemp Seeds, Almonds, Cacao Powder



FlexxIMG_9708 copy.jpg

FlexxBar (peanut butter fantasy bars)

Gluten-Free Oats, Peanuts, Peanut butter, Agave, Shredded coconut, Coconut oil, Chocolate chips, Raisins, Chia seeds, Vanilla extract

Ingredients in my not-top bars include …

1.   Soy lecithin, whose side effects can include diarrhea, nausea and inflammation

2.   Erythritol, which can cause digestive issues

3.   Palm kernel oil, high in saturated fat and therefore risky to overall health, andenvironmentally toxic

4.   Glucose syrup, which can correlate to weight gain

5.   Natural flavoring … for instance, beaver butt– one of more than 100 questionable substances that manufacturers use to enhance flavor under the guise of calling them “natural” < See me! ;) >

By contrast, my less preferred choices, below, ARE BARS YOU SHOULD AVOID. THEY ARE TOXIC.  NONE OF THESE ARE FREE OF ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS THAT CAUSE SEVERE INFLAMMATION.  (If you have no other choice, and need to fight off hunger pangs, grab a handful of raw, organic, unsalted nuts.) 


Pure Protein

Think Thin




Balance Bar

Power Bar



Pick up one of these bars and read the label side by side with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup – and see if you are really making a healthy choice. Probably not!

Yes, you will probably have to shop a bit harder – and more creatively – to find my top three.  Just do it!

Don’t get used to plucking a bar off the kiosk that is front and center at most convenience stores.  Your health should be worth more to you than simple convenience.



Laziness is a lot more widespread than it needs to be.

Never let unimportant things push away the desire to change.

It’s hard when you get to the bottom of a hill and need to pick yourself up and work your way back up the hill.  Everyone is looking for the easy way out, the perfect pill, understanding that it does not happen overnight, rather than following the slow and steady steps you need to pursue.

Outlining a balanced life for yourself is the starting point.  Without that, you likely will never be able to accomplish the goals you need to.


It begins with self-love.  There are times you need to sit back and look at your life, understanding that you have a good life.  Health, family, friends, a roof over your head, and food on the table -- cherish what you have.  Then, you can think about making a change.

We tend to constantly run at over 100%, without stopping to take a breath. Being busy does not mean you are not lazy.  Sometimes, you need to stop what you are doing to make a change.  Finding a sense of being on this earth is so important – realizing we all have a purpose.

I don’t think I have ever been lazy.  There have been times when I have given in to emotional eating; I would eat my way through my emotions.  I had to discover that running is my Xanax– it is what makes me tick, keeps me from sliding back into emotional eating and keeps me focused on my goals.

Not sliding back is the challenge for many of us:

·      One client has cut back on his passion for Chinese food, but still consumes it – in ample quantities – three nights a week

·      One good friend has learned to live without consuming so much televised sports … then will turn on a basketball game, and, before he realizes it, will have watched two hours

·      Running plays a similar role in the life of one colleague of mine, but she allows herself to go weeks, even months, at a time, without once hitting the roads

Anyone can work toward a goal.  You do so many things without even thinking – brushing your teeth once or twice a day, grabbing a train or bus to and from work, putting clean clothes on in the morning and placing them in your dirty laundry container at night.

Why can’t you dig in to those other things begging for your attention?

Would you like to talk about it some time?


With spring arriving and summer right behind – and the joy of warmth again – the idea of ice cream comes to mind for most Americans.

htop-IMG_4326 copy.jpg

When you walk into a local grocery store and see a container of ice cream on the shelf, with 280 calories in a one-pint serving, you think you have scored.  The Halo Top fad has been brought to my attention, again and again, by friends, family and clients.  Halo Top’s own site says, “We know it sounds too good to be true…”  And, IT IS!  

If you look at the details of what is in their product, you might question why the nutrient value is different – you might even wonder what some of those ingredients are.  I strongly believe Halo Top is not a real food item.  There is a trio of sugars -- or, sugar substitutes -- that have a low glycemic content, but are still not good for you.  Your digestive tract is the key to your immune system.  The chemicals in Halo Top can severely damage your gut flora, part of your digestive system.

Sugar # 1 is erythritol, commercially fermented sugar that the FDA nonetheless states is all-natural.  Erythritol has been shown to cause diarrhea and headaches, and a recent study shows it can create belly fat.

Sugar # 2 is Stevia, which comes from a plant, but, when chemically treated, can negatively alter your immune system, and your gut.  

Often, these sugar alternatives can leave you feeling unsatisfied, hence adding to the desire to eat an entire container.

The third one is cane sugar, the only one that is natural.

I live my everyday life based on eating real food:  YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.   Why eat something based on chemicals that are foreign to your body? Why not something real?  (Look at this ice cream recipe from my blog, you can’t get any more real.)

Everyone is so concerned with calories, and not with ingredients.  Halo Top encourages consumers to eat an entire container – only 280 calories in a pint of vanilla bean, for instance.   Fewer calories does not mean better nutrients.   In the words of one expert, there is never an argument for eating an entire container of ice cream.

Marketing an ice cream to be consumed by the pint creates a problem for our society, solves nothing.  Moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle.


What do you do if you feel the Winter Doldrums?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known to many as the syndrome you can experience . . . now!  The days are getting shorter, temperatures are dropping unpredictably and you feel other people snapping at you for no apparent reason.

Scientific research doesn’t agree on how widespread ‘SAD’ is.  However, researchers do agree it does exist.

IMG_0673-burying copy.jpg

And I can tell you how to address it if you know you are

·      slower to get to the gym these days (assuming you actually even show up!)

·      lazier about taking the simple nutritional steps you can take to jumpstart your system, and

·      more likely to be that person snapping at someone else

In general, lay out the simplest possible goals for yourself, so it’s not hard to stick with them.  Here are five simple goals.

Regarding workouts, if you just don’t feel like running on the treadmill, then walk 30 minutes.  And, even simpler, when you are home procrastinating, do simple stretches to get your blood flowing.


In terms of nutrition, don’t drink any less water because it is a time of year when you don’t sweat as much.  Water is always good for your system, all day long.  And, each morning, have one tablespoon of my ‘Elderberry Magic’

… elixir for those possible early symptons of a cold you may not even know you have!

Finally, once or twice a day, do a random act of kindness.  There’s no formula here.   Just try to live in the moment and help someone in a small way when it strikes you, even if it takes a couple minutes out of your day.

Overall, when you are feeling depressed – and I’m not kidding – laugh through the belly:  find a really funny friend, and start laughing together!

Remember, the days start getting longer . . . 10 days from now!


Breakfast Every Day??

Yes... no... maybe...

Among the dozens of people I work with each day – not to mention all my friends – I don’t get an agreement how important breakfast is to your health.  However, I can’t imagine a nutrition advisor telling you it’s NOT important to start each day with a balanced breakfast.

Eating a “real” breakfast –

·      nourishes and fuels your body to give you energy to start the day

·      gives you a chance to collect your thoughts for the day

·      makes you less likely to start skipping other meals

·      even – according to some research – correlates to weight loss

In terms of what people actually do each day, there are three groups:

* One group believes in a daily breakfast, and NOT waffles or doughnuts.  This bunch favors healthy foods, including ones I have featured in my previous blog posts.  

* A second group does not feel the need, or desire, to have breakfast each day.  One journalist wrote in The New York Times­­ last year, “I’m not hungry at 7:30 a.m., when I leave for work.  In fact, I’m rarely hungry until about lunchtime.”  Usually the reason for this is they have eaten too late at night.

* The final third is inconsistent.   Sometimes breakfast happens – healthy or non-healthy.  Sometimes, it doesn’t.

May I please hear what you think?!

Happy 2017: Size 42 to Size 38 … and working to a 36!

Ben and Ivy 9/2015

Ben and Ivy 9/2015

One year ago today, I weighed 237 pounds, wore a size 42 trousers, loved eating and drinking beer, and said of myself, I’m 6 feet tall and “I am a big guy.”   

Today, I weigh 198 pounds, wear size 38 (sometimes 36) trousers, still love eating … and still say “I am a big guy” – and now that means something different. 

I’ve always eaten a lot. I never really watched what I ate. My wife and I did a lot of takeout during the week and went out to dinner on the weekends.  With this eating habit my weight always went up and down 20 pounds.

I have always bicycled, as I hate, hate running. Cycling is the only exercise I do for pleasure, especially on the weekends when I have more time to be outside. During the week I would take spin classes at work.  Still, I’ve never done enough cardio.  I’ve always done more weights. 

Ben and Briana 1/2016

Ben and Briana 1/2016

With our move to CT we joined NYSC and I started spinning with Briana eight years ago. My wife came into NYSC for a free class one night and met Briana. Briana told my wife she taught spin and was a personal trainer. My wife said, I bet you know my husband. She described me as a “big teddy bear” and Briana said “OF COURSE I KNOW BEN!”  My wife asked Briana if she would be willing to train the two of us on Sundays before and after spin. This is where my journey began. 

Ben 7/2016

Ben 7/2016

Over a year ago, I gained ten more pounds than I usually carried, and I started to think more about my weight.  My pants went from a size 40 to a size 42, and then the 42s got tight.  I looked at pictures of myself and I was not happy.  I made a New Year’s decision to do something.  I made a date with Briana to talk about it, she started to give me some good ideas, and we made a resolution – I would focus on losing 15 pounds.  Just that.  Nothing more.

Briana calls it “Ben’s Aha! Moment.  He came to me with a plan.  Every decision he made, he questioned, to make sure it was realistic.  He knew that every week we were going to talk about it.”

I decided to, 

·      weigh myself once a week, every week and keep a weight diary

·      allow myself two “cheat” meals a week

·      reduce portion sizes and focus on healthy, low density food

·      cut out almost all refined sugar

I found I enjoyed losing the weight.   When I achieved my 15-pound goal, I decided not to set a goal again, just to keep doing what I was doing, finding more little ways to cut back.  I finally gave up my BIG bowl of cereal I would have on weekends.  I learned to eat healthy at restaurants.  I didn’t miss dessert.  I got a Peloton to cycle at home – I love it and use it almost every night.  Often, I just have a nutrition bar and some fruit for dinner as I generally have a large breakfast and lunch. Briana taught me “eat during the day, not at night!”

I realized, “Bad habits are your worst enemy.  Good habits are your best friend.”

I found a lot of guys around my age (47) were doing similar things, and we provided positive reinforcement for each other.   I think we talk more about fitness and diet than our wives do!

It’s been all Briana and me, learning to eat right every day.  I want my health numbers to be good, my clothes to fit and my wife to think I look attractive.

Ben and Ivy 12/2016

Ben and Ivy 12/2016

For 2017, I would like to,

·      possibly meditate, learning to become more mindful

·      move up to a C+ level rider on the Peloton from C

·      eat more of a plant-based diet, and never order meat in a restaurant, only fowl and fish

·      drink more water


Says Briana, “Ben now gets it!”


Eating too much during the holiday weeks is a common problem for most Americans.

Signals this could be happening are familiar, as you,

·     grab a leftover sticky cinnamon bun first thing in the morning

·     have an unplanned milk chocolate bar or slice of cold pizza following lunch

·     scoop a few cookies off a big plate that appears in your office reception area in the late afternoon

·     down a bag of Cheetos half an hour before bed!

Dodging these traps does not have to be that hard.  

First, review my Nov 20, 2015 post (‘Cheating’ 20% of the Time).  Now is a good time to remember:  while you do not have to be perfect, you do have to visualize daily what your day will be like and how you will avoid many of the temptations that await you.  Focus on portion size:  you should know what it takes to leave you satisfied.

Second, keep in mind a couple small stumbles each day are okay.  If there is space in your life for two cookies from that afternoon cookie plate, do it.   Enjoy it.   Don’t beat yourself up.

Third, and perhaps most important, find time for an extra workout class:

·     something cardio

·     perhaps a hot yoga class

·     a new choice, with someone else – 100 B.O.S.U. burpees perhaps??

Find a friend who is experiencing the same challenges you are, and plan on comparing notes each day.   Isn’t that what friends are for?

Good luck!

Have a Healthy Halloween … Seriously?!

Candy corn, Kit Kats, M&Ms.  

A parent can’t help but be excited by the prospect of Halloween and can’t help but fear the candy that two hours racing around town in costume will produce.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  It is true, you won’t make the candy corn disappear, not when Americans buy 20 million pounds a year, the majority of it during the month of October.

But you can provide healthy alternatives to have with one piece of candy chosen by your child each night during the month of November. You can express to your child that he/she is allowed this tradition through Thanksgiving.

Here are five possibilities:  fun snack foods that will do more for a kid’s health than M&Ms.  Buy organic when you can.

homemade vegan pumpkin &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;ice cream

homemade vegan pumpkin          ice cream

·      Apples:  keep an array of colors on hand to increase their appeal

·      Tangerines:  easy to peel and convenient slices to nosh on

·      Dried fruit slices:  mango and apricot are popular

·      Small boxes of raisins

·      String cheese

Other ideas? Trick or treat!


As the dog days of August fade into leaves beginning to fall from the trees, drinking water every day is still very important.

If you are serious about your overall wellness, and especially if you enjoy your workout time, hydrating properly matters as much in any season, just as it did in mid-August.  Yes, that means half your body weight in daily ounces of water.

Some of you might not be sure it’s Briana if I didn’t have an oversized water bottle in hand (okay, often coffee in the mornings!) … regardless of the time of day and time of year.

Here are three folks who will never again mock my fixation on H2O.

·      One client thought he was following my advice and ended up getting rushed to the ER on a weekday afternoon for -- you guessed it -- dehydration

·      Another’s exzema cleared up once she started drinking more water -- and less Gatorade

 ·      A third owes her success in running her initial half marathon, in part, to better hydrating

Proper hydration means daily homework.  

Even I, in the midst of a non-stop 5 a.m.--to--8 p.m. day, sometimes need to remind myself:  hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Want to discuss H2O?