Archive for September, 2008

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Book Review: The Brain Trust Program by Larry McCleary, M.D.

September 29, 2008

When I was asked to write a review on this book, I jumped at the opportunity- not only did it come at a very opportune time (learning about the brain and how this book offers to “improve memory, enhance attention, and boost mental energy” is very useful to study at the beginning of a new school year!), but we are also sorely lacking in the topic of brain health around here at Living Healthy in the Real World. The brain is not something which I have studied very much and so I was intrigued to learn about it.

Random & interesting tidbits to tease you with (including side comments by yours truly):

– “the brain requires a glucose fix of about 100 grams a day- the equivalent of slightly more than a 1/2 cup of sugar- to meet its demand for energy.” Take a look at the nutrition stats for a slice of angel food cake or a PowerBar- at least 20g of sugar per serving!
– “a poor-quality, junk food diet increases the risk of memory loss… excellence in nutrition [is] at the head of the list in improving and maintaining optimal brain function.” But we all knew that one already, right?
– 20% of Americans are lacking in a sufficient amount of sleep (National Sleep Foundation): “…going without sleep for 20 hours impairs reactions as much as alcohol levels considered illegal in most states.” Translation? Make sure you’re getting a quality sleep as many nights as possible!
– one study showed that after 6 years of following a group of people, the researchers discovered that those who had engaged in the most physical activity at the beginning of the study had the sharpest minds by the end of the study. (If you take a break from school work and go for a walk can you still count that as a form of studying?)
– men can also suffer from hot flashes! …no comment necessary.
– migraines are caused by the brains inability to feel pain (figure that one out!)

Great aspects about this book:

– there’s short, quick quizzes to take to test your brain power and see if you’re at risk for dementia!
– McCleary stresses that there are many different factors contributing to a person being at risk for brain health problems (both our genes and our environment will affect our risks), and it is important to remember that just because you have a family history of getting Alzheimer’s it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get it- you just need to do what you can with your environment to protect yourself. He’s very positive and encouraging about how we all have the ability to do an enormous amount to protect ourselves from developing brain problems down the road.
– this is the basics of everything you ever wanted to know about the brain, its parts, how it works with our senses, and how everything about our lifestyles can effect it.

Things that I disliked:

– the insistence that supplements are necessary for a healthy diet
– the very strong promotion of ketones. You all know how much I love carbs, and how very important I think that they are for the purposes of fueling our bodies, so the idea of a low carb diet is not one that I agree with at all (unless you have a specific medical condition, that is). I am a firm believer that we need a very balanced diet, with good amounts of each carbs, proteins, and fats. McCleary says that ketones “provide a ready supply of alternative fuel to the brain”: this is true, that is exactly what ketones do. However, ketosis only takes place when the body is incredibly deprived of carbs; it is essentially the stealing of your own muscle for fuel (and why would you want to put your body through that? Sure, it’s natural… in times of starvation or severe carb deficiency!). Ketones are a highly controversial subject and it seems to me that people are either very pro-ketones or very much against the idea of self-inducing ketosis, so it’s probably best not to get into too deep a debate about it now, but suffice it to say that I personally believe that it is best to have a balance of the macro nutrients and to supply your body with the carbs that it needs.

And overall…

McCleary lists a number of supplements in Chapter Five and is adamant about our need for supplementing our poor diets. I do not take nutritional supplements of any kind (not even a multivitamin), because I am still very wary about supplements. But it is understandable that he would be so pro-supplementation, because he writes that he created his own product called Lucidal. Reading that caused alarm bells to go off in my head but even though hearing that someone has designed their own product like this, I was pleased to read McCleary’s statements that it is very important to be careful about what you take in conjunction with other supplements and to only obtain these supplements from reputable companies (and even then, to question them and get lots of information on the supplements). He also offers recommended dosages and forms for each supplement, and details which supplements are best not to take.

There is a detailed list of resources at the end of the book, and an extensive 33 page bibliography as well! I found that to be most impressive. In terms of learning about the functions of the brain and how it works, and understanding the background behind various issues such as memory loss, migraines, depression, and aging, this book is really great. It is incredibly informative, providing a sample one-week menu and also including memory tests and simple calculations, which you can track over the period of a month (another one includes a 52-week mini “trail-making test”) to see how your brain functions develop over time. These are useful for improving memory and keeping your brain fit.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the brain and who wants to improve their memory and learning skills- like I said, this book came to me at a great time, right at the start of a new school year! I do not approve of the positive focus on ketones, nor am I particularly keen on the emphasis on supplementing the diet, but aside from those two aspects this is a very interesting and highly useful book. We need to keep our brains fit, just the same as we keep our bodies fit! The health of our brain is absolutely essential to living a healthy lifestyle.

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Life Lessons: Rhetoric

September 26, 2008

The other day in my Academic Writing class, we had to get together in small discussion groups and do a quick intro of ourselves before ripping each others essays to shreds (I mean, edit them). As I was talking with my 3 other group members, I noticed that one of the girls kept using the word “rhetoric”, but she was pronouncing it wrong, with the emphasis being placed on the second syllable rather than the first (the same way as you’d say “rhetorical”). I didn’t want to appear to be a know-it-all in the first five minutes of meeting this girl, even if I was about to (constructively!) criticize her essay, so rather than correcting her I instead used the word a few times, being careful to pronounce it the right way. I think she might have been under the impression that I was speaking incorrectly, because she started to use the word even more in her sentences, continuing to pronounce it the way she had originally done. As you can expect, I in turn did the same, with the result that we were both using the word “rhetoric” excessively and in no specific context.

This went on for quite some time, to no actual productive end.

After I left the class (and double-checked with the dictionary that I was getting the pronunciation right, myself), I began to wonder if I had done the best thing in not gently informing her of how to properly pronounce the word. After all, if she’s in the Rhetoric department at the university, she’s bound to use that word many times over the next few years, and likely with some important professors and other such people. So it’s probably a word that would be useful to know the correct pronunciation for.

I know that if I were pronouncing a word wrong and someone overheard me, I would want them to correct me immediately so that I would know for next time (especially because it’s really embarrassing, as a writer, to go on for some time pronouncing a word incorrectly!), and so that I wouldn’t humiliate myself in a more disagreeable situation. People in a heated argument delight when their opposition is grammatically incorrect and the like, and being able to speak clearly and correctly is absolutely essential for presentations and interviews.

However, I am also aware that other people might not be as concerned with pronunciation as I am, they might simply not care, or it might make them feel as though the person correcting them is just being a pompous . Which I also have no desire to come off as!

We all go through situations like this in life, where we are aware of our own preferences but are uncertain of others reactions and what they would like. And sometimes we need to make these judgment calls on our own, without consulting them first. After all, I couldn’t exactly say to her, “so, I’m pretty sure that you’re pronouncing a word wrong, would you like me to tell you how I think it’s supposed to be pronounced?”.

It’s something that is going to be case-specific, something that will be different for each individual. There is no one set of preferences that everyone is going to have, and you can’t make the assumption that everyone will want the same thing as you do. That’s the beauty of variety- its so accommodatig for all of us! But it can also be rather annoying when you’re unsure as to the best course of action to take.

At any rate, now I’m interested in what all of you have to say on the subject. Do you like being corrected (and I’m talking all aspects of life here, not just pronunciation!)? Are you quick to correct others and risk their wrath, knowing that they will appreciate it further down the road? Or do you go for the more roundabout approach and hope that they understand your hints?

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Today I turn 20!

September 24, 2008

There’s no better way to start off your birthday than with some grueling workouts at boot camp. And as an added bonus it was too cold for the mosquitoes this morning!

I celebrated my birthday last Saturday in conjunction with my housewarming party. It was a great time; about 30 people were there in total between my sisters friends and my friends, and there was much eating and drinking and catching up. Devin made me 2 kinds of cupcakes! White cakes with chocolate frosting and chocolate cakes with icing sugar sprinkled on top:

And because my sister works at a fine dining restaurant, her boss (the owner and chef of the restaurant) stopped by with 3 pizzas he had made and he also made creme brulee in our apartment. So that was very cool! At one point we had a little fireworks display outside as well that some of the guys put on for us- all around good times.

One of my friends brought me homemade wine- a fruity sangria wine! Normally I like classic reds but this wine was amazing. I love it. And my parents gift to me was boot camp for the next month (happiness!).

Last night my sister gave me an assortment of fancy teas (20 of them, of course!), and she also made me dinner using some spices I’d brought back for her from Italy. Unfortunately the spices were so darn spicy that no amount of water, milk, or wine could comfort our burning mouths so instead we put it away in the fridge with the hopes that we’ll come up with an idea over the next couple days of how to dilute the spiciness. It’s really delicious; just too hot for our taste buds! Luckily I was making a big batch of my special split pea soup so we had some of that instead (after eating a cupcake each, that is). If you have any ideas at all about how we can fix our penne arrabiata it would be very much appreciated!

This afternoon I’m picking my parents up from the airport- now that the father’s retired he can accompany my mum on her business trips and read Plato/go hiking while she goes to seminars- so I expect we’ll have a nice family dinner tonight.

Hope you all have a wonderful day and have some fun for me:)

*Update: Just read this wonderful post about blogging over at a great blog which I think we’re all very familiar with, Cranky Fitness. Anyhow, I’m feeling the love today and so you should take a break from your workday, click on the link and enjoy a good read!

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Apartment Photos and Some Super Links!

September 22, 2008

Today was my first day back at boot camp! It is wonderful to be back with it again. I have the same instructor but everyone in the class is different. And it’s starting at 6am instead of 6:30 now, so it is pitch black out at the beginning of our session. It makes it all the more challenging and fun to dodge any lumps and bumps on the grassy field as we run and lunge and squat and shoulder press our way to fitness.

My sister and I finally succeeded in organizing our apartment into a livable space, so here’s some photos of our beautiful place:

My bedroom (in desperate need for pictures to be hung up):

Front hallway:

Bathroom:

Kitchen (and lack of proper counter space):

Hallway leading to Devin’s room and the dining room:

Living Room:

Dining Room:

And the closed-in porch area:

As you can see, I was extremely camera-happy. And now onwards to the good stuff!

Challenge challenge challenge

Because we all love a good challenge, right? Here’s a good one from the MizFit! 100 reps of any bodyweight exercise of your choice every day. Or on a random day when you’re feeling exercise-restless. This idea is wonderful. 100 is such a nice round number, don’t you think?

Grocery Shopping

SmarterFitter Blog is here to help with a template for healthy picks at the grocery store! Check out their site whilst your grocery list template is downloading.

Body Image: Things to ponder

This is a fantastic post from Breaking the Mirror asking a question which none of us really know the answer to anymore (this is a great indication of how messed up our society is!): what is normal?

In this same post from Breaking the Mirror, there’s a link to this article, entitled ‘Gossip’ Guy Badgley Thinks Thin ‘90210’ Gals Should ‘Eat a Double Cheeseburger’. Please, tell me that I am not the only one who sees something horribly backwards about this title. Okay, so some celebrities are on the thin side and really should probably gain weight to be healthier. But why is it that whenever someone starts looking thin, everyone around them begins suggesting they do things like eat double cheeseburgers? How is that going to help them? Clearly there are other issues involved here! The person is very likely underweight because of societal pressures, which in turn would indicate unhealthy body image, low self esteem, and some kind of disordered eating. For anyone who suffers from any of those problems, “eating a cheeseburger” is not the answer. It is infuriating that underweight people are encouraged to eat junk food. Sure, they’ll gain weight, but they will still be unhealthy. It doesn’t solve the problem; in fact, it likely makes things even worse. Your thoughts?

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Life Lessons: The teacher makes the class

September 20, 2008

It’s one of the first things you learn about in university. If you’ve got a boring, rude, or not-so-very-knowledgeable professor, then good luck with enjoying that class, no matter how interesting the topic might be! Professors have the power to inspire a passion for their subject… or kill a budding interest (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing- it can help us come to the conclusion early on that we want to explore a different interest instead).

In my first year of university, I entered it with the full intention of getting my degree in Psychology. I had taken a psychology course in high school which I adored, but my university professor was so dry that I found myself nodding off within the first 10 minutes of that first class. I didn’t care enough to really try because I didn’t have respect for the professor and consequently did not enjoy the class at all. I decided pretty early on that becoming a psychologist wasn’t in the stars for me and I ought to stick with what has been my steady passion since I could hold a pen: writing!

There are other areas of our life besides the education system specifically, however, in which the teacher has some measure of control over your enjoyment and effort level. When I used to go to the YMCA, I would faithfully attend step classes and kickboxing classes almost every day of the week because I grew so fond of my teachers and the classes that they taught. All of the instructors were volunteers so they were there because they wanted to be there (not the case with many university profs, I might add), and this in turn caused their energy and enthusiasm to rub off on the rest of us.

And then we have my beloved boot camp class. The instructor was fantastic. So good, in fact, that I am very happily going to be attending another 4-week session of bootcamp starting on Monday! I think that if I had an instructor who was less friendly and encouraging I would not be so eager to return- especially because I have noticed that when I exercise on my own, its not the high intensity stuff that I immediately start doing. I prefer walking and lifting weights at an easy pace when I’m by myself. So in this case, it really is because of the teacher, I believe, that I love bootcamp as much as I do.

The same goes for lectures and empowering speeches by charismatic and influential people. Years ago, my mother thought that alternative medicine was the most ridiculous unscientific concept imaginable, but she had to go to a seminar all about acupuncture and by the end of the session, she had discovered her passion for alternative medicine and realized just how very scientific it is. And now she owns her own practice that specializes specifically in alternative veterinary medicine! I can’t help but wonder if she would have come to this conclusion if the speaker at this seminar had not been enthusiastic, clear, and so informative about their topic.

Have you had a teacher who wound up changing the direction your life went in? If so then make it a special appreciation day and send a quick note to them to thank them for what they did! Appreciation should never go unrecognized- but unfortunately, all too often it does. But just like teachers have the power to change our views on some things, we have the power to give people the recognition and appreciation that they deserve.

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Dealing with Stress

September 18, 2008

Last week I wrote this post about how we need to remember that someone else is always going to be busier than we are and that we have to take the time to be grateful for what we’ve got. Well, we all know how life does love to test us, and ever since I wrote that post I have certainly been tested!

After breaking dishes, shrinking expensive sweaters, putting my To Do list in the washer (…and then the dryer), writing 2 quizzes in a class for a book I haven’t been able to read (they ran out of books at all the bookstores in our city- not even joking- so about 1/4 of the class hasn’t read the book. And yet we’re still being quizzed on this. Fairness?), still not owning a dresser, and being unable to find a kitchen counter for the new apartment (I am missing cooking so much!), I have been very close to tears multiple times in the past few days. And yesterday after a cold bike ride in the rain on my way to work, I arrived at work to realize that my new white coat was covered in mud. Normally, I don’t mind the rain. But seeing my lovely little coat completely ruined caused me to break down and start crying (punctuated with lots of “but-I-know-I-have-it-so-good-and-this-is-so-ridiculous-to-be-crying-over-and-its-only-a-coat-for-goodness-sake!). It’s a good thing I work with my mum. No other boss would be able to give the much-needed hug that a mother can give!

So when I came across this page, 12 Ways To Simplify Your Life, I read through it with great interest. My thinking is that it is not so much that my life is so crazy right now, but that I’m not doing as good a job of time management as I could be doing.

And wouldn’t you know it, but I’m doing just about everything on that darn list already! Be that as it may, it’s a great list with useful tips. But if anyone has any other tips to offer, I think that all of us would welcome them eagerly!

Something that I have found that helps me deal with stress better is to take a break from my work entirely and spend a couple minutes learning about something brand new and interesting that I wasn’t aware of before. Like this: prosthetic ears! Medical research today is really wonderful. Do share if you’ve discovered something new lately!

Another thing that can help is looking at old photographs. Really. They are great for thinking about some good times we’ve had and can help us to relax a little more, ready to tackle the small irritations that come up during our day to test us. The pictures that made me smile? Right here (all of these are from the Italy trip- but were taken by one of the other people that I traveled with):

This one is just such a beautiful angle- taken from a museum.

In a botanical garden- a huge huge aloe plant.

Reminds me of a magazine! Baths at Pompeii (check out my sweet sweet hat!)

We climbed up onto the amphitheater in Pompeii- I don’t think tourists are supposed to go up there. But hey, we can’t spend our whole lives following the rules, right? We need some fun adventuring in our lives!

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Reasses your Goals & Banish that Frown!

September 16, 2008

After coming home from Italy, I’ve found it difficult to get back into the strength training routine. I’m a cardio lover, but sometimes weights can get boring/tedious for me. And so I just kind of ignored all strength training (except for those push ups, of course!).

I’ve found myself facing a lot of mirrors since arriving home- no more than normal, but it seemed like a lot after never seeing myself in full length mirrors while I was traveling. And one of the things I couldn’t help but notice (with the critical eye that only we as individuals reserve for ourselves) was that my posture wasn’t as good as it could be, nor was my tummy as flat as it was just a few weeks ago. A few weeks with no strength training after doing it steadily every day or every couple days for months makes a huge difference on the body!

Thus when I saw this in the mirror I frowned- something that certainly is not a healthy habit to take up! But finally I did some abs exercises one day and the next day I paid special attention to my posture, and lo and behold within a day or two I could see my posture was improved dramatically, my tummy suddenly nicely toned! The miracle of some simple exercises.

I think its a lot easier to maintain a workout regime once you’ve got one going and you’re seeing results than when you’re just starting up or near the beginning of one. My heart just isn’t into exercising when I stop working out and feel un-toned. But I become amazingly more motivated and enthusiastic when the difference is visible (at least, visible to me).

Maintaining is a struggle because you know you’ve reached the point where you have to do this your whole life to keep it up, and that can be daunting. But even with that in mind, its easier to be at the point of maintaining and carrying out the workout than it is to be at the start or partway through your journey to your fitness goals. So bear that in mind, if you’re just starting out: it will get easier! If you are at the point of maintaining and then you stop exercising for a month, you can jump right back on board and notice results within just a couple of days. And the same stands for nutrition, too.

I know that getting to your goals can become addicting, in one sense. I was so pleased with the muscle I was building and the fat I was losing that for a long time I didn’t consider the idea that perhaps I’d reached the point of maintenance. That it wasn’t necessary to lose more. We need to really remember that the goal is to reach a healthy maintenance level that our bodies approve of (and its going to be a different level for every body). It’s not about losing or gaining, its about maintaining. The stress of life and focus on an endpoint can blind us, so every now and then, we need to reassess and reevaluate our goals- think about where we have been, where we are, where we want to be. We’re always growing and changing, always progressing, and so are those goals of ours.

What are some of your goals? Have you already reached them without your noticing it? Have you already stretched past your goals? Discuss!

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One Hundred Push Ups!

September 14, 2008

As of about ten minutes ago…

I successfully completed the One Hundred Push Up Challenge!!!


(Cue banners, streamers, balloons, flashy lights etc etc).

Wow. It’s certainly taken me a while to complete that 6-week program, considering I began it mid-June. However, I did take a 3-week hiatus in August for my travels, and it was necessary to repeat a few weeks in July. In total, I’ve done Week Five of the challenge 4 times!

This morning when I woke up, I had it in mind to do the initial test to see how many push ups I can do to determine my rank for Week Six (of which I’d already done once in early August). But once I got started, it occurred to me that I could keep going. I told myself that I could absolutely do this. I thought about it in groups of 20 so as not to be too daunting. Then my limbs got a bit shaky around the 60-70 mark, so I started doing it in groups of 10. I had to pause partway every 10 or so at this point because my arms were threatening to give out beneath me. Then I had to pause between every 3 or so by the time I got to 90, and at 99 push ups I could feel myself starting to give away and tumble over. But I managed to catch myself right before I collapsed and after a brief pause I did that one last, final push up.

Went and got a glass of milk to congratulate my body for its hard work (after flailing my limbs a bit, that is- they weren’t capable of doing much more than flailing for a short time after all that effort) and then rushed here to share the news with all of you! I am so excited that I managed to do this and I want to make sure I don’t lose any of this hard-earned muscle. I think that every second week or so I’ll do one of the Weeks from the Push Up Challenge to keep strong.

If you’re interested in doing the Push Up Challenge yourself, you can learn more about it here. Want to see who has completed it? Just click here!

To celebrate, I am going to buy myself one of the Did The Hundred mouse pads that this site has to offer, a trophy I promised myself back when the merchandise section of the website was just being set up. I got my cute little laptop around the same time that I was doing this Challenge and I have been without a mouse pad this whole time. Time to splurge and get me one that reminds me of what I accomplished (and keeps me held accountable, too)!

I really urge any and all of you to try out this One Hundred Push Ups Challenge and have fun with it! I know that some of you are taking the challenge- hows it going? Don’t get discouraged if its taking a long time. You know that you are capable of doing this.

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Limitations

September 12, 2008

This was my first week back at university, and I have to say, it’s shaping up to look like a very full but fantastic term. I’m taking Investigative Journalism on Monday nights (taught by the managing editor for CBC), Reading & Writing Online (my first ever online course), Rhetorics of Gender, and Academic Writing: Humanities (in which we seem to spend all of our classes arguing. Sweet). So far I’m really enjoying all of them (disregarding my initial run-in with one of my profs) and although it’s been a chaotic week, I think I’ve managed to organize my time for them so that I can get everything completed as needed. It was a little overwhelming the first couple days but I can do it.

It’s been really difficult with the new apartment, because until yesterday, the painters were still in there. So it wasn’t until last night that I was able to move my bed and desk over to the new place. This weekend will be The Weekend That I Move, and also the one in which we buy a bunch of furniture which we are in rather dire need of (I promise to have pictures posted when our apartment is all moved in and beautiful!). It’s been really frustrating to live in limbo with boxes everywhere!

My father made an interesting point the other day, which made me think of Zandria’s thoughtful post (Making Goals: Say “I Will”), when he commented on how busy he seems to be now that he’s going back to university after retiring a few months ago. Then he remembered that when I was just a baby, he had taken a year off of work so that he could go to university. He had been taking 5 courses, commuting an hour each way every day to school, and also been taking care of 2 small children at the same time as my mum was working as a vet. And yet somehow, they had effectively prioritized so that it all worked out. And now he is wondering how he ever managed to do all of that when his current workload seems so daunting!

It’s really fascinating, the limits that we put on ourselves. We tell ourselves that we can’t do things or else we are doubtful of our abilities. Our lives are too busy to accommodate for anything else. No one else is as busy as we are!

This is the story that we tell ourselves. And yet. We are capable of so much more.

This year I’m taking 4 courses, working 3-4 days a week, moving into a new apartment, writing A LOT, and working on seeing if I can get into some editing business as well as work with some publications. I also want to fit in lots of cooking, exercising, reading, and playing into my life. To me, that seems like a rather full amount of things I will (thanks, Zandria!) do. But talking to loads of other people, I know that most people easily have the same amount of stuff on their plate as me and many others have far more things to do. Take for example my sister: she’s moving apartments, has become the Comments Editor for the school paper, works as a waitress, works as a receptionist, is taking a bunch of seminar courses at university, and somehow she manages to also have an awesome social life. And she organizes her time and money to accomplish all of this so she maintains high grades and can go traveling when she chooses.

What I’m really trying to get at is that you can do it. It might get to the point where you really believe that you are unable to do what you want to do, but with proper time management and a really careful look at what you want to prioritize, your options are endless, you can exceed your own expectations and go beyond your limitations.

The other thing I’m trying to get at? Be grateful that you aren’t as overloaded as other people! There’s always going to be someone who has more things to do than you, and they are able to do it. Therefore, you can do it too! I find people like my sister to be inspiring (and I swear I’m not just saying that to butter her up so that she’ll help me move boxes).

By the way- remember that confusing 2 lbs loss I was telling you about? Well, I weighed myself again today and I’m back up those 2 lbs. Considering that I have steadily been this weight since about April, I’m pretty sure that this is my body’s way of saying “This is the weight we like, and this is where you are staying”. Which is just fine with me. The body is so incredibly smart like that!

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Interview with Tosca Reno

September 10, 2008

You’ve read the review for her book, now its time to ask the author herself some questions! Tosca Reno was kind enough to agree to an interview with me, so here it is. Enjoy!

1. Your whole philosophy is eating clean, but sometimes its difficult to judge exactly what clean eating is. Can you tell us a little bit about your definition of clean eating?

Clean Eating is a way of nourishing oneself that encourages consuming more food and eating more frequently. Whether you wish to lose or gain weight the answer is the same. Eat more, eat better food and eat more frequently. Second to these principles is the need to partner lean protein with slow burning complex carbohydrates at each meal. Portions are somewhat smaller but you don’t go hungry.

2. How did you first get involved with eating clean?

I met my now husband ten years ago and he felt I had “something” that might work for Oxygen magazine. He suggested I compete in a bodybuilding show and that I had to do as he said to prepare – that meant Eat Clean until I got in contest shape. I did it and was amazed at how effective it was.

3. You’ve mentioned on your blog that you’re entering a fitness model competition- you must really enjoy it! What made you originally want to get into modeling? And what was it that inspired you to give it a shot again after you’ve already “retired” from it?

I did not so much retire from modeling as from competing. The reason this happened is because I wrote a book that became a best-seller in its category (The Eat-Clean Diet). Then I wrote another one – The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook – which also became a best-seller. I have been almost too busy to compete since I have now written another 4 books. You can’t compete a little bit. You have to commit 100%. I have still been modeling for Oxygen magazine, Woman’s World and other mags. It has been very rewarding for me especially at my age. The reason I am competing now is to inspire other women to get up off the couch and have a go at life no matter what the age. The W Network is following my journey and the series will air in January 2009. I will be competing on September 20th and again in November.

4. It can be hard to find a way to keep in shape, especially when you’ve got small kids to look after! What’s your secret?

My secret is my drive to be my best. The motivation is my desire to live a long healthy life with my daughters. My inspiration is my daughters. That inspiration drives me to be my best always. Now that I see other women responding to the message to Eat Clean and take care of themselves, they are also part of my inspiration to stick with it!

5. I loved reading your book, The Eat-Clean Diet for Family and Kids, even though I don’t have any kids myself. However, I do try to encourage my family and friends to eat healthy. It can be tough sometimes! Do you have any tips for persuading adults to eat clean?

The simplest thing in the world is to rethink what goes in your mouth. It is changing your mindset about food that is difficult. Ask yourself if the food you eat makes a difference to you? If the answer is no, you probably are not ready to change anything about your nutrition. However if the answer is yes, then the magic can begin right away. Start by opening your cupboard doors and your fridge. Clean out anything that is processed. Anything! Then go to the grocery store and really look at foods before you buy them. Most foods without a UPC code on them are Clean Foods. Make small changes first. Pitch white rice, eat brown. Eat only lean, range fed meats. Mix protein sources up with vegetarian or plant sources – nuts, beans, quinoa and so on. Eat more produce. Just ask yourself if the gas you are putting in your machine is high octane or garbage? Then go for it.

6. Many of my readers have small children of their own, so they can sympathize with the problems related to getting kids to eat clean. If there’s one piece of advice that you can give them regarding this issue, what would it be?

Be patient but keep trying. Parents play the role of a teacher for children. Put broccoli and spinach in front of your kids. Do it with patience and love. Do it ten times and pretty soon your child will learn to love something he or she did not like before. Parents need to lead by example. Don’t expect your child to pick up healthy eating habits if you don’t have them yourself.

7. What’s your opinion on philosophies that use the idea of trying to “trick” kids into eating healthy, such as books like “Deceptively Delicious”? From your experience do kids react better to knowing exactly what it is that they’re eating or does sneaking healthy food into their diet have a positive effect?

There is a place for “hiding” nutritious ingredients in foods if it is done with a goal of improving your child’s health. Sometimes a child’s unwillingness to eat a certain food is purely out of stubbornness without even having tried it. This may be the time to hide sweet potatoes in the spaghetti sauce. Kids don’t want to be bored with the details of why a food is good for them. They just want it to taste good. I will put foods in a dish that are a bit of a surprise to my family but they often like it in the end. Sooner or later they catch on and realize what they are eating actually tastes good and is good for them too.

Thanks so much for your time, Tosca!

If you want to learn more about Tosca and her books, check out her websites:

www.eatcleandiet.com and www.toscareno.com

By the way, I received the completed copy of Tosca’s book and it is really great. It’s a very beautiful, polished book (and the binding is much better than the half-finished version:)). The other night I tried her Crispy Chicken Bites as well as some oven roasted potato wedges and they were both delicious. I can definitely see how kids would like these meals!