Thursday, 29 March 2007

Fitku: Smoothie Love

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Anyone love a good smoothie as much as I do? Anyone crazy enough to write a Fitku about it? Yeah, that's me . . .

Vitamix churning
Cherries, mango, vanilla
Nutrients to go

Not inspired to create your own smoothie Fitku? Or even your own smoothies? Try some of these recipes for smoothies, and maybe you'll be writing some Fitku love in no time.

Americanized Chinese is full of unhealthy stuff

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Go to any town in North America and you're sure to find a Chinese restaurant with the same offerings: Stir-frys, fried rice, fried noodles, spring rolls ... the list goes on and on, and pretty much everything is battered, deep fried and loaded with salt. This is a far cry from traditional Chinese food, which is full of healthy stuff like veggies and tofu, but the unhealthy stuff is still wildly popular in the States and beyond.

Chinese food had been getting a lot of bad press as of late, and I think it's great to bring people's attention to the fact that a single dish usually has twice your daily recommended serving of sodium and fat.

So what can you do if you find yourself out at your local Chinese joint? According to this, order veggie and shrimp dishes, opt for things that are steamed, and choose stir-fried over deep-fried.

Forgot your fitness gear? Don't fret at Fairmont

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As the world moves toward becoming a healthier, more fitness-friendly place, Fairmont is hopping on board by offering gently-used Adidas fitness wear to guests who want to use the gym but forgot their gym shoes back at home. Mens and womens running shoes are available, as well as loose-fitting t-shirts and shorts. The catch? you need to be a member of the Fairmont President's Club. Sounds prestigious, huh? But don't worry -- membership is free. Fitness wear can be used in-room, in the gym, or even outside. I think it's a great idea ... what about you?

To sign up for a President's Club Membership, visit

FitBeauty: Pamper your piggies

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Whether you spend hours of your day pounding the pavement in shock-absorbent running shoes or standing in stilettos, you are probably putting your feet through a work out just by doing your daily routine.

If you add in ill-fitting shoes you had to have, socks with the tiniest and most irritating hole in the toe, a nagging blister, hot pavement, a callous that never goes away, not getting a seat on the subway, an extra long go on any given machine at the gym...well, face it. Your feet are cashed.

How can you expect them to carry you at all -- let alone with strength, power, endurance, grace, assurance, sassy steppiness -- if you don't treat your feet to some delicious down time once in a while? Strip off those stinky sweat socks, peel off your overworked pantyhose, flick out the lint from between your tired toes and baby your feet with DIY pedicure.

Here is a pedicure that'll get your feet ready for whatever they slip into this spring. Take your time and do what feels good. Happy feet are as easy as 1-2-...OK, 14 steps.

Tootsie tools you may want to have on hand (and foot):
Cotton balls
Nail polish remover
Emory board with a buffer
Nail clippers
Pumice stone
Hard-bristled brush or nail brush
Gentle soap
Exfoliating or foot cream
Cuticle cream and orange stick or cuticle stick
Moisturizing cream
Bowl or bath of very warm water
Two hand towels
One large towel

Prep your piggies:
Get clean. You'd expect your nail salon to be de-germed so spend a few minutes scrubbing and rinsing the tub. No need to get all Bree about it, just make sure that your not staring at a drain trap full of gunk while you're trying to make your feet sparkle. My Paula Abdul pick: I keep a bottle of Trader Joe's (eco-friendly and sandalwood-smelling) multi-purpose cleaner under the sink to prep for any kind of bathtub soaking. Next, soap up your feet, ankles and up your calves, then rinse and pat dry.

Get comfy. If your pedi palace is your loo, make it feel luxurious. Pad the edge of the tub or wherever you'll be sitting with a fluffy towel. Light candles, play music, spray a mix of essential oil and water for a fresh and inviting smell. Slip into your PJs or at least something that doesn't restrict as you bend over for major foot babying.

Get nakey. At least below the ankle (the rest is between you and your medicine cabinet mirror). Remove any nail polish completely. If your nails have a tinge of pink or yellow from polish, buff your nails lightly to slough off the discoloration (and next time, be sure to apply a base coat to keep your nails fresh).

Get hydrated. Turn on the faucet and fill the bathtub, a big bowl or your barely-used whirlpool footbath with water that feels wonderfully warm.

I also recommend hydrating yourself with a glass of fizzy water with lemon or perhaps a favorite vino for the occasion, just like you'd get at a much spendier (and less intimate) spa. Drink it all in -- the relaxation, the peacefulness and the precious you time.

Get to work:
Trim. Use clippers and cut your toenails straight across. No need to get all crazy like your hacking away at a brush path on Lost. Squoval toenails (square with a slightly rounded edge) look lovely and feel much better than filed-into-the-nailbed or rounded off Eartha Kitt imitations. Concerned about length (and aren't we all, really)? Place your finger straight across your big toe. If your nail is just shy of touching your finger, you've got a good length. Of course, your preference rules here and your length will vary if you wear cleats or other toe-annihilating footwear.

Soak your feet for as long as it takes in your waiting pool of warm water.

Take it up a notch. Sure, a warm water soak feels super, but if you're going to do it, why not really do it? This recipe for a Minty Lime Pedicure by All Natural Me is deeeeevinely refreshing. If you want to keep it simple but would like a taste of spa-luxe, throw some leftover lemon slices, epsom salts, rose petals from your garden, oil or a few squirts of your favorite body lotion into the basin.

. Once your feet have floated into complete relaxation, gently wake them up by working exfoliating cream into your heels, toes and arches. Next, use the pumice stone to tenderly wear down callouses and cracked heels. Remember: tickling is fine, wincing is bad. Don't overdo this or tomorrow's walk to work or tennis class will not be pretty.

Stir. Once you've properly sloughed the rough skin, get the blood moving in your feet. Dip a hard-bristled brush especially for foot care (or, in a pinch, a nail brush will do) in your water a few times and then rub in circular motions over the top of your foot, around your ankle, up your leg to your knee, back down your calf, and giving good, scrubby attention to your heels, arch and ball on the underside of your foot. Next, give your toes a few good swipes. Don't forget to give the same attention to your other foot. One more gentle reminder: This circulation-stirrer should not be reminiscent of the scene in Mommy Dearest when Joan Crawford tries to scour the evil from her face.

Drench two hand towels in more warm water, then twist until they no longer drip. Wrap each foot in the damp towels. Take some deep breaths, sit back, sip your beverage and let a little more time slip on by. Once the towels cool, take them off and smoothe on some moisturizing cream. A couple of recommendations: Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Cream and St. Ives Aloe & Chamomile Healing & Natural Lotion are inexpensive, cooling, creamy and favorites for my own feet.

Now give yourself a good massage. A really good massage. Use your knuckles to put some (again, gentle) pressure in your arches. Place your fingers between your toes and loosen up the squished-together spaces. Rub your calves and lightly press your thumbs down the top of your feet. Finish up with some ankle circles and toe wiggles to loosen everything down there up. More than the polish, I truly believe pedicures are all about the rubbing, so be sure to spend the time and apply the pressure you need to really pamper your tootsies.

Put on the finishing touches:
Push back. First apply a stripe of cuticle cream across the bottom of each nail. Massage the cream into each nail. Use an orange stick or rounded cuticle stick to push the cuticles back a bit. If you don't have those tools, your fingernail will do fine. Don't even look at your clippers while you are working on your cuticles. It just isn't worth drawing blood or risking infection.

Pat down. Brush off any remaining bits and towel off any drippy bits. Give yourself one last lathering of lotion. Slip on socks or slippers to keep your feet clean and fresh.

Paint. Only if you're a polish kind of pamperer. Otherwise, you might want to buff a bit or rub a tiny drop of oil into each nail. Make sure your paint dries completely (which gives you time to finish up the crossword puzzle in your People mag and take a few last swigs of your chardonnay).

Put your feet up.
After all this good lovin', camp out on the couch or curl up with a book for a while, taking pause to take in your gorgeous, rejuvenated toes.

Let the serenity rise up from your southernmost tips knowing that you are fully ready for the onset of flip-flop season!

Have any pedicure how-tos you'd like to share? Fill us in on your tips for treat ing your feet well.

Daily Fit Tip: Don't quit coffee

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I don't know about you, but I'm pretty dopey without my morning cup o'Joe. I don't drink much coffee, but a cup in the morning with some soy milk is a major prerequisite for having a productive day. There was a time when I felt my coffee habit was bad for me, but nowadays, it's thought that coffee isn't all that bad for you. In fact, it's good for you! Coffee has been linked to lower rates of type 2 diabetes, and it has powerful antioxidants, which help slow down the aging process. It's important to keep in mind that this isn't a green light to drink 17 cups a day - 1 or 2 will do just fine.

Find your flat stomach (it's in there somewhere)

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So it's important not to get over-excited and over-work your ab muscles trying to get that elusive 6-pack we all dream of, but what if you're working everything supposedly just right and still can't seem to flatten things up? I guess this explains why a nice stomach is so highly prized, but unfortunately it's not that easy! Along with good toning exercises like crunches you also need to eat right and burn additional calories with cardio. You may even consider changing the way you eat by having your biggest meal of the day at lunch instead of dinner, and limiting starches and carbs late at night.

Seeing my stomach (without the excess flab) is soooooo my goal for this summer!

Why isn't finance taught in public schools these days?

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One of the great disservices to high school students these days is the lack of a base course in personal finance in the standard curriculum. In fact, learning about finance while you're young is quite a bit more important for future success than such a heavy concentration on history, yes? Money fitness can be just as important as physical fitness in many ways, after all.

Not that there are problems with the curriculum of most high schools in the U.S., but learning about finance can set a student up with a firm understanding of how to handle money -- and how not to as well. From a "healthy kid" standpoint, learning a little bit about money will easily be a life lesson that will be used in the future.

So why isn't it taught? Beats me. But, if schools really want to best prepare students for the "real world", a little less concentration on other subjects and a little more in responsible money handling may be a decent move.

Will this allergy season be a bad one?

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With seasonal allergies in full swing in many states around the U.S. and many countries around the world right now, is the best or worst to come?

It's not even April yet and in my part of the U.S., it's like May already -- flowers blooming, trees growing, yards being mowed -- and allergies going crazy. Experts say it's hard to predict what this weird weather means for allergy sufferers, but I have an answer -- they are here early and are just as bad as I've ever seen them.

Here's hoping that the pollen shedding stops soon so myself and those I know can get a break from all the "natural goodness" i the air right now. It's not pleasant.

It's swimsuit season again -- choose what's right for your body

It's time to gear up for bathing suit season. Or, if your like me, it's already here as I gear up for a trip to Mexico on Saturday. Maybe this year, you will get your body lean, toned and totally bathing-suit ready. Or maybe, like last year, you'll end up with the same old shape when it's time to hit the beach. If that's the case, don't worry -- just make sure to pick up a suit that flatters your curves. Glee Magazine has put together this guide for choosing the right swimsuit, with handy tips on how to maximize or reduce your bust, make your butt look bigger, hide tummy rolls and much more. The most important thing, though, is to love your body, curves and all, and enjoy your time in the sun while it lasts. With sunscreen, of course.

Dermatologist shortage?

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If you have an important skin issue, like acne, an eczema flare-up, or even a suspicious-looking mole or freckle, good luck getting in to see a dermatologist. A recent experiment by researchers in California confirmed what many have suspected for years: there just aren't enough dermatologists available to meet the rising demand. The researchers called around to make appointments for a "changing mole," and in the vast majority of cases were given really long wait times -- upwards of one to two months. They attribute the shortage to a general increase in patients seeking care and treatment for skin issues (everything from skin cancer to Botox injections) as opposed to fewer dermatologists on the scene.

On the good side -- the health care field just keeps getting better and better as far as career opportunities go.

If you indulge in chocolate, use these wise choices

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If you are a chocolate fan, you're probably aware of those "cravings" you get from time to time. You know, ones that can wreck a diet and pack a pound or two back after a weeklong struggle to lose a few pounds.

A standard Hershey's chocolate bar packs 230 calories and 13 grams of fat -- not the best choice for that craving. But, there are some sensible chocolate choices that can get you some much-needed chocolate without crashing everything around you. Some choices from eDiets that feature less than 100 calories include:

1. 4 Hershey's Kisses (100 calories)
2. 1 cup diet hot cocoa and 1 chocolate graham cracker (80 calories)
3. 1 JELL-O fat-free chocolate pudding snack (100 calories)
4. 1 Quaker Chocolate Crunch popcorn cake (60 calories)
5. 1 cup strawberries drizzled with1 Tbsp. fat-free hot fudge (100 calories)
6. 1/2 cup fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt (100 calories)
7. 20 chocolate-covered raisins (80 calories)
8. 1/2 cup General Mills Cocoa Puffs cereal (60 calories)
9. 2 Snackwell's Devil's Food Cookie Cakes (100 calories)
10. 2 bite-size York Peppermint Patties (100 calories)

Facts to know about getting those brite pearly whites

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If you don't think that people want a bright cheery smile, then do a quick google search on your computer with the phrase "Teeth Whitening" and you will find almost 3 million website to visit. Teeth whitening is the number one requested dental cosmetic service these days and not just in the dentist's office. Americans spend more than a billion dollars on over-the-counter teeth-whitening products annually.

Factors to consider before bleaching or whitening your teeth are age, gum disease, and sensitivity. Teeth whitening is also not recommended in pregnant or lactating women. Some more important factors to know is that teeth whitening is not suitable for all types of teeth and you can over do it. Whitening will not help people with tetracycline staining stains and darkness in their teeth. If you have fillings in the front teeth the fillings will not change but the teeth will leaving you with patchy looking teeth. There have been cases where people have turned their teeth blue because they've gone past the point of using it regularly and they're using it way too much. It is important to follow the instructions on the packaging. With so many products on the market how do you choose what works best for you. You can always ask your friendly pharmacist and research which products are backed by the American Dental Association.

Having how many children makes you happy?

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Are you planning o having kids or already have one or two (or more)? Financially speaking, raising one or even two kids these days is anything but a cheap affair, and in developed countries where parents feel the financial pinch, birthrates have dropped accordingly.

Of course, having children is not about the monetary resources (although that should weigh in the decision, right?), but based on conventional wisdom, people become parents because children bring joy. But do they really?

A recent study looked at happiness levels in adult identical twins -- some of whom are parents and some who aren't. Conclusion: mothers with one child are about 20% happier than their childless counterparts and men enjoy an almost 75% -- and second and third children don't add to parents' happiness at all.