This conference is a beast.

Want to know what’s new and noteworthy in the exploding universe of consumer products and services all geared toward the health-minded shopper? Me too. And not just because I’m one of them.

I spent last weekend at the famously gargantuan Natural Products Expo West out here in Anaheim, CA–I’ve been coming here more years than not for the past eight. Which means I should have known better than to wear heels the first day. Anyway. Moving on.

This place is like five airplane hangars long. It’s hall after hall of food, beauty, supplements, ingredients, gadgets, remedies, hype and of course all the different companies trying to find your attention with loud colors and a big trade show banner. It’s geared to industry folks: retailers, buyers, marketers, sales reps, journalists, editors, etc. Big decision makers, big characters, even some big celebs, have walked its endless carpeted floors.

It’s essentially an organic products Disneyland (which is about right given it’s in Anaheim),

Dr. Andrew Weil caught unawares outside the show floor.

where the products you know and love from the shelves of Whole Foods come to life: You might spy Annie Chun of the just-add-water boxed noodle soups, in the flesh, or Burt of Burt’s Bees in a sales meeting. I spotted Dr. Andrew Weil in a low profile moment, just standing amongst the crowd with his totebag of stuff. I even got my pic taken with Bob of Bob’s Red Mill in his standard red jacket. There are models and fitness pros and people dressed up like pandas. Don’t even ask.

Rather than overwhelm YOU now with too much info, I wanted to distill down some of the interesting products and trends that caught my eye.

I have also rated some of the newer products according to my totally made-up rating system of 1-10, 10 being great.

Here’s a quick visual tour of some of the stuff I saw:

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Gluten Free Everything

Gluten free was THE buzzword in food (even in some beauty products) this year. I mean, I’ve seen the g-free train coming, but man, did it roll through in flying colors.

Two brands worth noting:

Purely Elizabeth, a brand I like and a woman I like! I’ve had Elizabeth on my show and am a big fan of what she’s doing. Her products, quite simply, rock the g-free house.

1-2-3 Gluten Free Family owned–a g-free family that is. I was impressed with taste and texture of their baked goodies.

Water, Water Everywhere

Coconut water? Please–that’s so two years ago. Though the heavies and the newer coco brands were there in force, they made their biggest splash in previous shows and we are all saturated in it. Moving on from that.

A few other new brands are really working the water angle, though–big time. I mean, not just any old water, but water infused with everything from antioxidants to other vitamins and minerals like potassium as well as electrolytes. A few were crazy enough to get a second look–either in their approach, or in their branding. Including:

Blk water (pronounced, as you see it B-L-K), touted as “The Dark Side of Water.” Oooh. Sexy. And the packaging IS sexy and intriguing. And while it looks like it’s going to do crazy things to your tongue, well, don’t get too excited. What makes this water the color of Coke, essentially, is its infusion of electrolytes, antioxidants, and 77 trace minerals, which, I’m told, change the color of the water naturally. Even the guy working the booth admitted that it was a buzz kill. You raise the liquid to your lips and you can’t help, from years of soda-instilled training, to think it’s going to be sweet and zippy. It’s water. You just have to take them at their word that there’s something special there.

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor (would I really buy/use this): 4

Victoria’s Kitchen Almond Water I appreciate a no-gimmicks, straight-up approach to product. (Though I also appreciate a good gimmick.) This does play up the “trust me my grandma made it” feel, but I liked it–and think the taste was quite refreshing. The company says it’s just almonds, pure can sugar, and “100% pure Grandma love.” If you’re not a fan of coconut, or want something different, I’d recommend checking it out…also think it’d be FAB in cocktails.

Cool factor: 6

Reality factor: 8

Mayesa All Natural Premium Cacao (drinkable chocolate). You may think this is some kind of chocolate milk, but it’s not chocolate flavored anything. It IS chocolate–in drinkable form. Lactose, dairy, and gluten free, and loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, theobromine, even fiber. AND the tetra paks they use are constructed of cardboard from a managed forest, making it more sustainable than most. This is about as guilt-free as it gets.

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 8

Crazy Woman Water The only that stopped me cold was the name–of course. Who wouldn’t. There’s absolutely nothing I can say that made this water any better than any other, except that it’s good tasting water, named for the mountain in Wyoming’s Big Horn National Forest where the water comes from. And that the charming piece of folklore behind the name is one in which a woman watched her family murdered by Sioux warriors, murdered four of them with an ax, and then put their heads on stakes to keep the others away. Isn’t that sweet? I also found it interesting that their booth at the show was manned solely by men.

HOT GREEN HOME PRODUCT

Common Good and Co. This simple, beautiful line of housecleaning products was started by former prop stylists (one of whom turns out had worked with at Martha Stewart) with a passion for eco-friendly goods. Their goal: to help people pare back on plastic and toxic chemical use. So the mission of this brand is quite apparent: Clean, simple, waste-free, biodegradable packaging and house cleaners that are free of toxic junk. What makes this whole system special is that it can be dispensed in bulk from the place where you buy it. Meaning: Once you use up your soap, you bring the bottle back where you bought it to fill it up again. LOVE THIS.

Cool factor: 10

Reality factor: 8

COOL NEW BEAUTY LINE

Broo Shampoo A line of smart-looking, all-natural personal care products created by a sweet Asheville, N.C. couple, Brad and Sarah, who wanted a better all-natural shampoo. At first, they poo-pooed the idea of brew for their do’s, but have created what I thought was one of the most interesting beauty products at the show–not just in their approach but in their striking brand look and appeal. It’s not girlie, and it’s not gross–it doesn’t smell like a barroom (and neither will you). But it has all the good-for-your-hair ingredients without the pthalates, sulfites, and preservatives of conventional shampoos.

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 7

HOTTEST PRODUCT. PERIOD.

ON: Natural arousal oil for her This stuff is bound to set people abuzz in more ways than one. A proprietary blend of natural ingredients gives On its unique sensation. It’s not one of those warming lubes–and in fact, is not a lube at all. It’s meant to increase a woman’s sensitivity in her sweet spot and stimulate natural lubrication–and you only need a tiny drop, which I put on my tongue, as instructed (since for obvious reasons you can’t try it out the way it was designed to be use, right there at the booth). And holy banana. My entire mouth began to tingle and, as they say, buzz. Don’t ask how they do it. I am kicking myself for not buying a bottle at the show. But you can buy it on their site. I believe it’ll be available at GNC soon. (In fact, my only concern is that their website could use some work–the content, the voice isn’t quite there yet, and doesn’t capture or resonate with what an amazing product this is.)

Cool factor: 10

Reality factor: 11

NATURALLY NEUROTIC

Travel Bed Bug Spray from Nature-Cide. Paranoid travelers, set your hearts and minds at ease. An all-natural, nontoxic solution for killing AND warding off bed bugs, wherever you may be. The question is, if you find yourself in a hotel with bed bugs, are YOU going to feel fine just spraying them and laying back down or would you rather have a steam cleaner at hand to deal with those bugs? And if you spray as a preventive measure, well, will it matter if you’re only there a night or two and the only one who could bring them in is you? That’s a practical issue that I haven’t had answered. Suffice it to say, I imagine that you just feel good knowing you go in armed. (If you want to really gross yourself out, watch this demo video of bed bugs killed on contact. )

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 6


STRESS SOLUTION

C3 For Stress C3, which stands for Calm, Cool, and Connected, is a supplement powder that you add to water and it effervesces into a very drinkable tonic to help you soothe and support your stress-addled body and mind (note: it does create a slight numbing sensation on the tongue, but this is perfectly natural and subsides). The effect it has can be compared to CBD (I saw an intriguing new CBD vape cartridee for sale too, which is the product I’ve been waiting for since finally switching from smoke cigarettes to vaping), which is also classed as a non-invasive yet still effective herbal remedy. This herbal cocktail contains a range of vitamins and minerals, as well as kava root, jujube seed, white peony, and milk thistle to name a few. We’re just starting to get the idea that we need to actively support our systems to become more resilient against stress–and while I don’t think the answer to coping comes in a pill, bottle, or packet, I do think that tools like this can help enforce other positive lifestyle choices.

Cool factor: 7

Reality factor: 7

TV NETWORK LAUNCHES BEAUTY LINE

Veria ID Innerdosha Natural Hair, Skin & Body Care I checked out the new line of personal care products from–and this is interesting–the lifestyle channel and site Veria Living (and Veria TV). I liked the clean, friendly look and feel of the line–they smell and feel great too. The idea behind Ayurveda, which hails from India and is the oldest system of health care on the planet, is that we all have a dominant dosha or type, (vata, pitta, kapha). When we know it, we can then take measures to help balance our constitution–through food, exercise, and yes, personal care. I thought the kapha line in particular smelled divine. Take the quiz to find out your dosha.

Cool factor: 7

Reality factor: 6

Natural Products Expo East will be held in Baltimore in September and Expo West, in Anaheim usually in March.

Would you date this bread-eating man? Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Ambro

I was just featured in a story (“Single, Sexy, and Gluten-Free”) that made the front page of DNAinfo.com for a spell (second to the breaking news about the prostitution ring) on a topic so seemingly miniscule that I can’t even believe it merited a whole story: Gluten-Free Dating. I was like, is that even a thing? Turns out, it is.

Simply put: There are lots of single people out there. And, incidentally, lots of them have pinpointed gluten as the culprit of their digestive and other woes. But just because you opt out of some choices on the menu doesn’t mean you can’t go out to dinner with a dude, right? Of course not.

But the reason this is a thing, if it even is, speaks to a larger trend and its ensuing questions–what role do the (massively growing number of) food sensitivities play in our lives–not just in the kitchen, but out on dates? What do they say–and not say–about us?

What’s the problem?

Some of the women DNAinfo reporter Serena Solomon interviewed (and some I’ve spoken with) say yes, they are concerned that if they’re on a date with a gentleman (or lady) and they break out the roster of “foods I can’t eat” at a restaurant, the eyes will roll. But remember how people used to roll their eyes at vegetarians 15 years ago? Now, it’s just a fact: Some people don’t eat meat. And nowadays some people don’t eat bread, pasta, beer, or any of its yeasty cousins.

Truth be told, I have not found that this has put any kind of dent in my social life, and hasn’t so much as raised an eyebrow from any of the gents with whom I’ve shared a meal. (In fact, one even went out of his way to seek out gluten-free restaurants, which I assured him was not necessary, since I’m a voracious carnivore and can find a dish on practically any menu. But the sentiment was sweet.)

G-FREE ADVICE (which I use myself)

Look at the menu beforehand. Ok, this is obvious. But since you can, why not? It takes the anxiety out of wondering if there’s anything you’ll be able to eat. My friend Sloane Miller, author of Allergic Girl, recommends to her clients that they call ahead if they’d feel more at ease, and ask about their gluten-free options, or, if your allergies are serious, talk to the chef.

Don’t make it a thing. You’ve made a simple choice to skip gluten–just as you may choose prime rib over halibut. You don’t have to spend the first 10 minutes of every meal defending your choices or apologizing for your intolerances (in fact, I’ve long believed my digestive tract should apologize to me).

Leave your bowels out of it. Your date may just be curious, as I said, and ask you why you’ve opted out of wheat. You don’t need to discuss bloating, diarrhea, or any other unmentionables. If you’re Celiac, well, you have a pretty sound medical reason. For the rest of us undiagnosed masses, you don’t need a doctor’s note to prove your point! You just say, simply, that you feel better when you’re not eating it. The end.

Make it a discussion, not a monologue (don’t preach). If your date DOES have questions about that choice, which he may, don’t freak out or clam up because you think he thinks you’re weird (unless, of course, you’re in 7th grade, in which case yeah you should freak out about this and everything else). And, it goes without saying: Don’t preach. Just because YOU have had a fabulous experience going off meat or gluten or soy or dairy doesn’t mean the other person cares to be converted. While dietary restrictions alone shouldn’t have to be a dealbreaker, you getting religion about a specific diet and annoying everyone with it can be.

Remember: Diets aren’t high-maintenance; people are. Please. I’m sure you know a few high-maintenance people who can eat anything at all and are still insufferable. And yet, many women do fear that they’ll come across as primadonnas because they won’t eat everything on a menu. Let me remind you that primadonnas make their choices OTHER people’s problems; you are simply taking responsibility for your own.

Why hide it? Many people are actually quite interested in other’s dietary choices and how they work for them, and may in fact be considering making a change in their own lives as well. This is why I don’t get the chicks who hide or lie about their food sensitivities. Why? Part of what makes a date fun is when people share things about themselves, and understanding someone’s preferences is part of it. I was asked about my g-free choice by a date recently, who then went on to offer some insight into his own choices: He had gone vegetarian two years ago, and lost 30 lbs as a result. I loved that he shared that–you can make a dietary choice a chance to get to know someone better, not hold him at bay.

Gluten is not a necessary ingredient to a great date. Trust me on this. Just because you can’t have a roll or a piece of chocolate cake doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you won’t be able to enjoy a date because of any of your dietary restrictions. The food and restaurant are the context, the circumstance, but they alone do not determine the quality of a night out or a connection. I’ve enjoyed plenty of great food with plenty of lousy people, and I’m sure you have to.

So bring on the g-free love, people. It shouldn’t matter one bit what you order–or what you pass on. And in the end, if your date has a very hard time with the fact that you can’t break down the protein found in wheat, then that in itself is a red flag–and I’d say the thing you should really pass on is him.

(Tune in to FM News New York (101.9) where my good friend and former radio producer Jennifer Sendrow did a series of short bits on the topic. Card that she is.) 

The Law Firm performs @ UCB

If you’re looking for a fun and unpredictable night of live performance, one in which there are no spoiler alerts or reviews because the show doesn’t exist yet, go see a professional improv group perform.

That’s what I did this past weekend, on a chilly, rainy night, pushing along with the crowd into the Upright Citizens Brigade (of course known by its way cooler insider name, UCB), a 152-seat theater on 26th street in Manhattan, and founded of course by Amy Poehler and three of her comedy cohorts. I went with a new friend to see a group called The Law Firm.

They start by asking a member of the audience to come up onto the stage and basically tell the cast about his or her week. This time, it happened to be a video editor from Slate magazine. You knew it was going to be a winner when he said that he had often ended up working from home because he tended to oversleep, and he had no time to get to work. The comedian who was interviewing him dug into his day, his week, and mined for all manner of quirky, memorable details (which of course escape me now) which the group gobbled up like an improv beast and then regurgitated in the form of a series of very funny skits.

So yes, I laughed a lot for the next hour or so–and it struck me that the reason these shows are so much more, I guess exciting is the word, is that in an entertainment world of prefab ideas, overly produced songs and movies and canned shit that we call programming, it’s rare to be part of the creation of an organically funny thing. Some of the jokes and situations the actors find themselves in are of course funny in their own right–but what they lack in polish and market-proven laughs, they make up for in the sheer fact that it’s happening right there, right now.

By design, every show has its own small and spontaneous universe of references, jokes, etc, and because we’re all there when it starts, everyone is in on the joke. Which always makes it funnier. And unlike when you’re at the movies, where there are also lots of people enjoying a mutually shared experience, the most you hope is that they shut up and don’t whip their phones out and start texting during it. But at an improv show, the audience is as important to the show as the actors are.

I left there feeling lighter, as any good comedic experience will ideally leave you–not unlike what it feels like to have gone to a party with some funny and entertaining characters, and then left it on a high note.

(Also, just because we’re on the topic, there were a whole bunch of books that came out a few years ago about improv and real life, and how to apply the lessons of one to the other. Loved this idea and did a story on it at Body+Soul a while ago, if you wanted to check it out.)

Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder got me hooked on the green smoothie! (courtesy kimberlysnyder.net)

Want to do a little detoxing without doing a full-on cleanse? Try this smoothie from Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist to the stars, author of The Beauty Detox Solution, and all-around detox queen.

In essence, all you do is combine:
  • Greens of your choice: kale, spinach, a little watercress, anything you have around. Blend that up with a little water til smooth.
  • Apple cut up into chunks (I recommend organic since apples are one of the most heavily pesticide ridden produce out there-and if you want to detox, silly to take in more pesticides, right?) My favorite is green apple.
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice (this makes the whole thing zingy and delish–just squeeze half a lemon, more if you want)
  • Blend til smooth!
And that, my friend, is it. You can experiment with whatever you like: carrots, ginger, cucumber, romaine, etc. You can also add a squeeze of honey or agave nectar if you like. A pinch of cayenne pepper can give it some kick. You could also add a few drops of liposomal glutathione to make it even more detoxifying and to aid your metabolism.
Again, this is just a suggestion. You can’t go wrong–especially if you make it part of your daily regimen. Adding a detox into your life can help you when you feel like your body is becoming sluggish and tired and is need of a good boost. Some people who feel this way, may combine a fruit cleanse with a ion cleanse detoxification in the form of a foot bath, this can leech out the toxins that have built up in your body and need to be released.
Why is this detoxifying?
What I learned from about.com’s alternative health expert and nutrition expert Cathy Wong, N.D., is that while we think of detox as what we take out of our diet (namely excess junk, sugar, additives, and so on), it’s also about what we put in. And when you feed your body fresh, healthy produce, you’re helping your body do its job in eliminating the things it doesn’t need. For more, check out her book, The Inside Out Diet.
(I promise to show you more step-by-step instructions when my much-anticipated Vitamix blender comes in! I ordered it a few weeks ago and am currently waiting by the door for it.)

Rapt attention as Deepak, Agapi, and Arianna speak

The other night I had the good fortune of scoring a pass to a very special event: A book launch event for Agapi Stassinopoulos’s  Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, And Unconditional Love. Agapi, of course, is Arianna Huffington’s baby sister, and the two of them joined none other than Deepak Chopra on stage for what an intimate and lovely evening at ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan.

Why Deepak? Turns out he not only has known the two sisters for 20+ years, but was close to their mother Elli, a powerful influence for not just her two daughters but the many who knew her (Elli apparently stood down Nazi soldiers at one point. Tough broad). (Read more about Arianna’s relationship with her mother in this story in Success magazine)

(It was even stranger to see Arianna days after she was spoofed on SNL: Check out Arianna’s “appearance” on Weekend Update with Seth Myers.)

 

 

 

Agapi Stassinopoulos, author, "Unbinding the Heart"

Agapi, however, was clearly the star of this show–and she really owned it when, at the spontaneous invitation of Deepak, she stood up and delivered Jocasta’s monologue from Oedipus–COLD, mind you. Not a single stumble. She was absolutely gripping. You wouldn’t forget her after that for sure.

Two Sisters

Agapi and Arianna shared stories of their mother Elli, and got quite personal, sharing their mother’s heartbreak at their father’s endless philandering (and her powerful forgiveness of him in the end), and of their mother’s last day. Arianna became weepy several times, allowing Agapi to finish the stories, which she did with flourish.

And while you, like me, may have scratched your head at some of Deepak’s written works (it does get heady at times), the man himself truly couldn’t be more warm and playful and personable. And, dare I say, adorable? With his patent black clogs and thick black frames with bling on the sides? I wanted to hug him (but I didn’t get the chance). The three of them created a lovely dynamic, and there was as much laughing as there was were truly moving moments.

I had never, for instance, thought of Arianna Huffington as a person before (as opposed to a “force”)–and definitely not as a young Greek girl who, seeing a picture of Cambridge in England, said, “I want to go there.” And when other people told her it was not going to happen, her mother borrowed money to take her daughter there to check it out. It’s so sweet to think of a young Arianna walking around Cambridge with her mother, wondering if she could make a life for herself there. Which, of course, she did.

Arianna speaks with a fan after the event

When, later, an audience member asked how they all had learned to trust themselves, Arianna shared some personal insight into her long affair with one of the loves of her life and greatest mentors, Bernard Levin, and how, when she knew he would never have children with her, and she wanted to raise a family, didn’t  trust herself to stay away–so she left London altogether. And if she hadn’t done that, of course, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

“In life, the things that go wrong open doors for the things that go right,” she said.

Showing up to this was without question the best decision of my day.

Agapi's new book, Unbinding the Heart

(Special thanks to Beth Grossman!!)

Courtesy of aiwaz.net

If you’re not in hot, sweaty love at the moment, in the relationship of your dreams, or in a relationship at ALL, it’s easy use today’s date as another reason to do a self-loathing pile on and beat your esteem to a bloody pulp.

Let’s not do that.

The temptation is there, I grant you. The only thing Americans love even more than BEING in love, is torturing themselves over it in all its iterations (love that was, love that wasn’t, love that could be, may be, but isn’t).

But just because St. Valentine’s Day is named for not one but several Christian martyrs doesn’t mean you have to be one of them.

Let’s gain some perspective, shall we? Do we rail against the Fates because we don’t have the perfect Rockwellian family on Christmas? Do vegans weep because the most widely celebrated holiday in this country has a turkey at its center? (Well, some might.) It seems to me that faulting yourself or feeling bad that you don’t happen to have the ideal romantic situation on this specific date in the calendar year is, well, like being upset that you’re not Irish on St. Patty’s Day. (OK, not quite, but you see my point.)

I have seen all kinds of mixed-up, contradictory advice being handed out like pennies on Halloween–cheap, disappointing, WTF kind of advice. One blogger on yahoo shine recently said in one breath that she didn’t see single as being a problem (agreed), and then in the next breath warns singles not to hang out with other single girlfriends on Valentine’s Day because it will remind you that you’re single. ??!! What? What does she suggest—being a third wheel on someone’s romantic date, or staying at home and sobbing to “Someone Like You?”

Here are three things NOT to do today:

Don’t be a martyr. And by that I mean, don’t act tortured, fall on your sword, or walk around dripping your bleeding heart onto everyone. Just because you’re not partnered doesn’t mean your life is half-baked or somehow an utter failure. As I said previously, there are more single people than ever–more than half of the households in the U.S. are headed up by unmarried people. Playing the victim gets you nowhere fast–not with your fellow lady friends, and certainly not with the opposite sex. You’ll either make dudes feel bad for you, or, let’s face it, attract the wrong kind of dude altogether.

Don’t be a hater. I also don’t really quite get the need to be part of the whole anti-V-Day movement. What does that do but put yourself in the misery club (and in truth I think this is what that other advice blogger was getting at–that you don’t want to stand around in a hateful coven, stirring a bitter brew). It’s a day to celebrate love and romance in all its manifestations. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy it, just because you don’t happen to have some dude standing on your doorstep with dimestore flowers

Don’t confuse alone with lonely. There are many unsung benefits to being single—and last I checked, the status of being unmarried was not synonymous with being lonely. Hardly! Eric Klinenberg writes about the rise–and the appeal–of living alone in his new book Going Solo (which is excellent). (Check out the interview with Eric in the NYT).Cherish and embrace your solo-hood today. You are in complete possession of that delicious blend of total freedom and complete and utter privacy, and that, my friends, is what romance is made of.

 

Dr. Weil and Dr. Oz rap about holistic health

Recently, Dr. Andrew Weil appeared on Dr. Oz to share some of his expertise into the field he has arguably pioneered in this country: holistic and integrative medicine.

I’m a fan of Weil’s, of course–having worked with his staff at the now-defunct Self Healing newsletter, when it was a sister pub of Body+Soul (now Whole Living magazine). And while he knows pretty much everything there is to know about food, fitness, meditation, supplements, you name it–I’ve heard him say again and again that when people ask what’s the one thing they can do TODAY to improve their health, it’s always this: Breathe.

Not just any old breathing of course–mindful breathing. There are tons of different breathing and meditation exercises. And the fact is if you do any of them regularly you’ll be better off than you are now–simply because focusing on your breath brings you back into your body, out of your head, and with that simple act comes a host of physical, mental, and emotional benefits.

But there’s one exercise in particular he recommends that is worth trying. I do it (not as often as I should). It’s called the 4-7-8 breath.

What It Can Do For You

Weil says this simple breathing exercise relaxes mind and body; he calls it a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. However, unlike tranquilizers, which can knock you out first and then gradually lose their power, he says, this breathing exercise, while subtle at first, gains power and effectiveness as you do it more. Weil mentioned on the show that it can also lower your blood pressure and improve focus. Not bad for something that anyone can do. For free.

How to Do a 4-7-8 Breath 

(These instructions come directly from Weil’s site)

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Weil adds that you should not do more than four breaths at a time during your first month of practice, and to do it twice a day. You can gradually extend to eight breath cycles. He says it’s normal to feel lightheaded at first, and that it should pass.

Read more about Weil’s recommended breathing exercises.

Attention all the single ladies.

So you’re single on Valentine’s Day. Good for you. Fear not–I won’t patronize you with ridiculous advice that 1) presumes you need pity, 2) insults your intelligence, or 3) suggests that you need a bubble bath and a new pair of shoes because you don’t have a boyfriend.

Ok, so maybe some ladies LIKE to celebrate the holiday with a hot bath and a journaling session. Some seek to mark the holiday with a decadent meal or a pricey purchase. And still others enjoy belting out a round of “I Will Survive” before weeping soundly into a glass of Veuve Cliquot. But I think we can do better than that.

I think what bothers me most is that this cultural stance (not to mention the caricatures I’ve just drawn for you) presumes that single women should feel bad about Valentine’s Day, and worse, that we can do little to stave off the despair besides crying or consuming–or both.

Where Valentine’s Day Went Wrong

How did one of the most innocuous holidays become so completely polarizing? The holiday itself is arguably kept afloat to give consumer products (namely greeting cards, jewelry, flowers, and candy) a mid-winter boost. The long, yawning weeks between New Year’s and Easter could use something, anything, to break up the winter doldrums. Sex and chocolate isn’t such a bad idea.

But somewhere along the line we got the idea that the holiday was only “for” couples; that single people are second-class citizens, all hail the couple. Why you’d assume that anyone in a relationship is generally happier than someone who isn’t is beyond me–and assuming that having a partner on Valentine’s Day somehow makes your life better (than, say, being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day) seems just insane.

Single? You’re Hardly Alone

Need I remind you just HOW many people are single in this country, on Feb 14, as well as every other day of the year? The U.S. Census reported in 2009 that there were nearly 100 million unmarried Americans. And 53% of them were women.

A 2010 census shows that 51.6 percent of households are headed by unmarried adults–up from 44.9 percent in 1990 (source: unmarriedamerica.org). So if you have this image that you’re cutting a lonely silhouette against a world of couples, think again.

3 Reasons to Love Being Single on Valentine’s Day

Yes, Valentine’s Day celebrates romance–but it’s also about romantic ideals. That’s something we can all partake in if we want. Hating romance just because you don’t happen to be in one is like hating beaches because you’re not currently on vacation on one.

(And I’m pretty sure if you asked most couples if they are living a “romantic ideal,” at the moment you’d get a lot of laughing in response). Here are some reasons why being single on this great Hallmark holiday ain’t so bad.

1. Pressure’s off. Being single on Feb 14th, if you ask me, is a free pass. If anything, pressure is on for couples–if it’s a new relationship, it’s all about what the dude did to make or break this one day. If you’re in an older or more seasoned relationship, this holiday can sometimes serve as an unwelcome benchmark–what did you used to do that you don’t anymore, etc. I think there’s a lot of pressure on couples to prove something (to themselves, each other, or other people) and I don’t envy that one bit. Think I’ll pass this round.

2. We have the luxury of uncoupling romance from relationship. Last I checked, romance and relationship were not synonymous. Romance is not limited to being in a relationship, let alone being married. Some of the most romantic things I’ve ever done I did when I was single. The point is this: Your life is what your life is, and to take an occasion such as this to magnify your own misery and denounce yourself utterly unlucky in love is–well, it’s wasted effort if you ask me.

3. We singles have something that coupled folks don’t have: The air of romantic possibility. There’s something far more romantic about being single if you ask me–an air of mystery and potential that, let’s face it, people in 20-year marriages do not necessarily have (unless they have a special arrangement). How you view your life creates your experience of it, and so if you choose to see it as a tragedy, that’s probably what it’ll feel like. But view it as a romance–which by definition is a narrative filled with heroic deeds, pageantry, and romantic exploits–and the world opens up. You might take a risk, reach out to someone new, try something completely out of character. If you see your life as a romance, then you can assume that it can have a happy ending, whether you’re part of a couple or not.

 Want to read more? If you haven’t checked out this stuff, you should: 

All the Single Ladies by Kate Bolick, The Atlantic Monthly 

Single by Choice by Janelle Nanos, Boston magazine (full disclosure: I was interviewed for this one)

One’s a Crowd by Eric Klinenberg in the NYT (his brand new book is Going Solo)

Singled Out by Bella DePaulo, PhD (LOVING this book; really a must-read for singles)

Alone Again, Naturally by Dominique Browning (NYT)

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of walax.org

I hesitate to even tell you to drink green tea because you may fall immediately asleep out of boredom because you’ve heard people touting this beverage for at least a hundred years. Or so it seems.

But I’m sorry. Some things are just worth repeating. The research keeps piling up.

What you may know already is that green tea is packed with free-radical-zapping antioxidants, which means reducing your risk of all kinds of age-related conditions and diseases. It’s worth nothing that a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a large Japanese study, suggests that those older adults who drank the most green tea were the least likely to become “functionally disabled.”

Reuters reports: “Specifically, almost 13 percent of adults who drank less than a cup of green tea per day became functionally disabled, compared with just over 7 percent of people who drank at least five cups a day.”

They report though that it’s not like green tea alone is some magic juice: “Green-tea lovers generally had healthier diets, including more fish, vegetables and fruit, as well as more education, lower smoking rates, fewer heart attacks and strokes, and greater mental sharpness.”

The point is, if you drink green tea, chances are you’re doing a few other things right too.

Look, I love the stuff–from the roasted hoji cha to the toasted-rice-flavored genmaicha, to straight up sencha. But if you’re not used to green tea, it can be a bit of jump, especially the more vegetal flavors. There are, however, plenty of green tea makers out there that offer teas infused with fruit essences and what have you. There are enough kinds of green tea at Whole Foods to line an entire wall of your home.

So, experiment. Try a bunch of different ones–and in the name of staying spry, drink it. Often.