Monday, January 24, 2011

'Tis the Season: Spread Good Cheer Throughout the Year

During the holiday season, I noticed many posts popping up on the various list serves I belong to asking about volunteering opportunities and how to get children involved. From food drives, to working at a soup kitchen and making meals for the homeless, there were lots of responses and many good suggestions. I was impressed by the interest so many people had in giving back to the community and wanting to get their children involved, even young children.  I have always been a huge advocate for volunteering in the community. Before motherhood, I volunteered quite often. Since motherhood, well I am sorry to say, the only volunteering I do is cleaning out the cat's litter box. Seeing all this interest in volunteering got me thinking (uh oh) about how much I miss feeling a part of the community. Just because I am a busy mom doesn't mean I can't be giving back to the community, and for that matter, the holidays are not the only time to be of service.  So, I called my friends at the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (a place I did a volunteer video project for way back when), and talked with Teri Brentis, Community Outreach Coordinator, to get their perspective on volunteering. She not only helped reinvigorate my passion for volunteering, she also helped me understand volunteering from the non-profit perspective. 

 Why volunteer and the importance of volunteering? (paraphrased answer)
The world has more jobs to do than the money, resources and people to do the jobs. Volunteering fills not only the needs in the community, it just plum feels good to help people, fix the environment, to give back. Volunteering helps connect people to the community. It's even been proven that the more people feel connected, the longer they live, the better they feel and the happier they are.
The Health Benefits of Volunteering:
My take away- volunteering is not only important to fill gaps in the community, but to fill gaps of the soul- good for self awareness. It's even good for your health too!

How to get involved? 
  • Figure out an area of interest- the environment, combating homelessness or domestic violence, animals, heart disease awareness, what have you. 
  • Research, research, research. Find reputable organizations that get the message out and have volunteer guidelines in place. That is, find places that make it easy to volunteer with understandable guidelines and an easy way to sign-up. 
  • Have patience. Teri really stressed this point to me. She mentioned that if you don't get a phone call or email back right away try to understand. Many non-profits are working under tight budgets and are stretched to the max. It takes time and money to implement volunteer programs and to manage them. Taking this into account, it's hard for many non-profits to return correspondence right away. Please don't give-up.
  • Be realistic about what you and your children can do. When getting children involved with volunteering, especially the younger ones, think of ways they can be of service with your oversight. Don't think of this as free babysitting. Find things your child can do, not be taught to do. For example, clean-up a park, family walk, make lunches for a shelter...
  • Make time to get involved. Whether it's a once a week, once a month, a once a year thing- get active! Be happy. 
Ways to get involved:

In the DC metro area there are tons of ways to get involved in your community. Teri gave me a couple of clearing houses for volunteering, as follows:
Another place to consider for professionals who are now stay-at-home moms is the Montgomery County Volunteer Center Pro Bono Consultant Program .

Here's to a prosperous year of volunteering!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Go Red For Women: Building Awareness to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease in Women

The American Heart Association (AHA) has declared 02.04.11 as National Wear Red Day to help in their campaign to build awareness and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in women. 
Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 3 killers of women. But did you know more women die of cardiovascular disease and stroke than the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer? Did you also know that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, which if controlled could reduce their risk?
[Source: Ralph L. Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, President, AHA]
It's personal for me. Not only do I have a genetic blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden,  causing my blood to have the propensity to clot which only increases with age, my paternal grandmother, for whom I was very close to, died at a very young age due to complications occurring after open heart surgery. She was only 58. I have come to find out that heart disease and stroke has afflicted many of the women and men in my family- most likely the No. 1 killer of the women in my family.

That's why it has become one of my missions in life to help spread awareness of heart disease and stroke, and to help fund research that fuels the development of treatments and recommendations to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well as medications and surgical innovations for my family and the countless other families out there suffering from this highly preventable disease.  It's also one of the reasons I started Joy of Fitness- to help women and children live active, healthy lifestyles, one of the major ways of preventing heart disease and stroke.

For the second year in a row, I have decided to join the ranks of thousands of individuals, organizations, businesses and schools across the U.S. to help the AHA help women!  I fully support and love what the AHA is doing to spread the word about heart disease and stroke as well as raise and fund cardiovascular research. In the past, AHA-funded research has contributed to such lifesaving discoveries as CPR, pacemakers, bypass surgery, artificial heart valves and microsurgery.

I encourage you to join me in leaving a legacy of health and wellness for our mothers and daughters, our sisters and grandmothers, our best friends, colleagues and women everywhere.

Ways to Go Red:
  • Get active. Stay active. Enjoy active. There are so many ways in this busy world we live in to eat healthy and exercise. You just need to make it a priority, a part of the routine, so it becomes a habit not a chore. See 10 Ways to Love Your Heart below.
  • Help spread the word by talking with your families. Find out your family medical history, write it down and keep it safe for future generations. Print out and use the AHA Medical Family History Tree template on the home page of this blog at your next doctor's visit.
  • Get an annual physical. Here's why: Let's Get a Physical, Physical.  Print out and use the AHA Questions To Ask Your Doctor template found on the home page of this blog at your next doctor's visit.
  • Purchase Joy of Fitness reusable bags and workout shirts at the Joy of Fitness Zazzle store.  I will donate all the proceeds from purchases made January through Febraury.  I will let you know end of February what the final number is and write a check out to the AHA. Promise! I can provide a receipt for tax purposes as well, just email me at
  • I am compiling recipes for a Go Red for Women Cookbook to be sold locally (DC Metro Area) at schools, churches, synagogues, moms groups, and so on. 100% of proceeds will go to the AHA Go Red Campaign to fund cardiovascular disease research. If you or your group is interested in sending a recipe(s) that contains red food or drink items (for example, 10 Foods In Red.), please email me your recipe(s) and story/tribute for the recipe(s). For more details:   
10 Ways to Love Your Heart (from the AHA website)

  • 1. Be active: AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day.
  • 2.  Eat smart: Enjoy a diet low in sodium, saturated fat and trans fat, and rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, and monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
  • 3.  Don’t smoke: Talk to your healthcare provider about smoking cessation programs in your area.  Many are free!
  • 4.  Know your numbers: Write down your blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and body mass index. Discuss with your doctor healthy numbers for you and how to help keep your heart healthy. 
  • 5.  De-stress: Stress can cause us to overeat, be sedentary or engage in other health-risk behaviors like smoking, all of which can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Take control of stress by meditating, writing in a journal or going for a brisk walk.
  • 6.  Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Losing even a small amount of weight can help to decrease your risk.
  • 7.  Evaluate your risk: Age, gender, race/ethnicity, family history and other medical conditions can all increase your risk of developing heart disease. Know which factors affect you and what you can do to reduce them.
  • 8.  Listen to your heart: When warning signs pop up, pay attention to them. By visiting a doctor early, your chances of avoiding a serious condition increase. 
  • 9.  Know the facts: Read up on heart disease. By knowing about the culprit, you will be better prepared to help prevent and fight it. Visit for more information. 
  • 10.  Follow up regularly: Keep track of your heart health and risk factors by visiting your doctor regularly for medical checkups. 
Be active. Be Happy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A New Year, A New You: Start the Day off Right!

We've heard it a million times: don't skip (or skimp on) breakfast, because it is the most important meal of the day. Yet, countless of us do. It's the 21st century, a modern age, with modern lives to live and those lives are hectic. The daily grind awaits us every morning once that alarm clock goes off, with thousands of decisions to be made, a trillion things to get done. Our attentions are short and pulled in all sorts of directions. It's no wonder we rush out the door every morning neglecting to fuel the body and brain, or better yet, eating junk that gives us a sugar rush and the oh so lovely sugar crash at the most convenient times (of course). So my challenge to you, mom, in this new year is to slow down and smell the roses. We know we should be eating a nutritious breakfast (I list the many reasons why, below, for a refresher), so let's make it happen! Let's take it back to the basics- make time for breakfast and make it a simple, nutritious one. You don't need fancy protein or vitamin bars, or shakes, (unless prescribed to you by your doctor) just a bowl of cereal (hot or cold) in skim milk, some fruit, water and your good to go. For more quick breakfast ideas see below. To top it off, make your kids eat breakfast with you- make breakfast the new family time meal. You'll be doing their body good! I know it sounds crazy, but it's a great way to send your kids and yourself into the world fueled for any challenge. It's the meal of champions, right. Okay I am a big cornball, but you get my meaning. It's also a great time to reflect on the day that is ahead. 

Some tips on how to make breakfast happen: 

  • Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
  • Prepare lunches and prep your breakfast for the next day in the evenings.
  • Set your clothes as well as the children's clothes for the next day out in the evenings.
  • If your a coffee drinker, prepare your coffee for brewing at night and use the timer on the pot so you wake up to the wonderful aroma of freshed brewed coffee. I know your imagining it, the Folger's coffee moment from the commercials...yeah, well as cheesy as it may be, it is a good feeling.
I think you'll find this a rewarding experience. I know your bodies will love it, even if your moaning and groaning. You'll get used to it, trust me.  Here's to eating and hopefully enjoying a good hearty breakfast every morning in the new year. Cheers!

Why eating an easy, simple, nutritious breakfast is important:

  • Improves Concentration and Focus
  • Weight Control (Why does eating breakfast help control weight?)
  • Better absorption of vital nutrients
  • Helps boost energy levels
  • Sustainable Strength and Endurance
  • May help lower cholesterol levels
  • Promotes a Positive Mental Attitude
  • Blood Glucose Management for everyone not just Diabetic
Quick, Healthy Breakfast Ideas: