Archive | November, 2011

Fashion Tips to Keep you Young at Heart

29 Nov

“I can’t wear that, I’m 40.”  If I had a dime for every time a woman said that I’d be a very rich person.  Society has convinced us that as we age we are limited to what we can and cannot wear with regard to fashion and style. It’s easy to get into the trap of thinking we can only pull off certain styles, regardless of how we look, because of our age.  Below are some frequently asked questions about age and style to help you keep your wardrobe young at heart. 

Question? Should a woman at age 40 be running around in daisy dukes and a half shirt? 

Answer: No, nor should most 20-year-olds for that matter. 


Question: Does my age prevent me from wearing certain styles? 

Answer: Well, how do you look when wearing it?  The key here is to focus less on your age and more on how you wear the outfit.  Does it flatter your figure?  Is it appropriate given your setting? These are the questions you should ask yourself when selecting clothing. 


Question: What clothing trends can I follow that will make me feel young despite my age?

Answer: Fedoras, feathers, and ribbons in your hair.

1) Fedoras:  True, nothing screams style confidence like a cute hat.  Stop saying you don’t look good in them.  Chances are you are just not used to wearing one. 

2) Feathers: They are all the rage right now and they are very versatile.  You can wear them in your hair, as part of a necklace, attached to a scarf, or even as earrings.  Choose muted colors rather than bright colors to ensure you make a statement without overdoing it. 

3) Flowers or ribbons in your hair: Every once in a while I tie my hair up in a ribbon.  It’s classy, cute, and pushes the age boundary.  I love it!


Question: What’s the biggest mistake women over 30 make when shopping?

Answer: Hands-down it’s the idea that at age 30 you should stop shopping at “the teen stores” and stick to Banana Republic.  Don ‘t get me wrong, I like Banana Republic and own a few things from there. However, diversity in your wardrobe is key.  Often times, stores for younger shoppers offer fun accessories and mix and match items anyone can wear.  Best of all, the items are reasonably priced!


Question: I’m out of touch with younger styles.  How do I figure out the current fashion trends?

Answer: Go to the mall, spot some shoppers at least ten years younger than you, and watch the stores they visit.  Check out the Juniors section in any major department store.  Subscribe to blogs about fashion and read articles.  Pick up the magazine, Seventeen, just for fun and flip through the pages.  Just as you can adapt different runway styles for real-life, you can adapt teen styles to fit your age and personality. 

Fashion is about expressing yourself.  What do you want to express?  For me, it’s that I feel young at heart.  I’m fun, I like trends, and I like to push the boundaries a little.  I’m a mom but that doesn’t mean I need to run around in baggy, high-rise jeans and a t-shirt.  Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says you are too old. Put a feather in your hair and I’ll guarantee you one thing, you’ll get noticed.  Wear a fedora and someone will comment on how cute you look. Paint your nails with something that sparkles, and if you’re really daring, you might even consider my next young-at-heart purchase… leg warmers.   Take a fashion risk.  I dare you.


Diaries of a Bikini Competitor: What I Learned From the Journey

22 Nov

Bikini competing is a unique sport, one that requires persistence and dedication.  I have to admit, I really had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into when I signed up.  I underestimated the subjectivity of the sport.  I overlooked how much of a challenge it would be to express myself and my personality to a judge without saying a word.  Being willing to step on stage and be scored on your physical appearance is a huge risk.  There are the elements of swimsuit choice, posing and confidence, but at the end of the day, it primarily comes down to physique.  Did you fit the image the judges had in their mind of what a bikini competitor looks like? 

A successful competitor often needs to master dieting.  This is by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever undertaken.  People constantly told me they could never give up certain foods.  Surprisingly, that wasn’t the hardest part for me.  I had the will power to resist food.  I wanted the goal of getting on stage and knowing I did everything I could to do well more than I wanted food.  What I didn’t anticipate was that severely restricting my diet would take a toll on my mind.  My moods shifted, I eventually found myself losing energy and motivation.  I struggled every day the last month to stay the course. I stuck with it and learned a lot about myself in the process.  So in the end, what did bikini competing really teach me? 

…It taught me the balance is paramount.

…It reminded me that sometimes you have to give up something up in order to get something even more valuable.

…It showed me that you don’t have to win a contest to win the hearts of others.

…It proved to me that age is just a number.

…It re-affirmed my opinion that the very best people I know believe in others as much as they believe in themselves. 

…It certified my belief that strong is good, every body is different, and they are all beautiful in their own way.

…It confirmed that people who have the ability to light up a room often do it with their smile and their inner beauty.  If you were to be left with one desirable physical asset, always choose a warm smile.

…It made me more fully appreciate the amazing people I know.  It lost friends in the process but it gained some that I’ll never forget.

…And mostly, it solidified that you should never be objective with yourself.   There are enough other people who will do that for you. Your job is to completely believe in your ability to achieve whatever goal you set for yourself, regardless of how far you have to go to get there. Dream big! If you want something, go out and get it! You CAN do it and you WILL.   And whatever you do, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!

If you ever consider participating in a bikini competition, or any type of body/fitness competition for that matter, do it for yourself.  Don’t let the score or the placement dictate whether you were successful.  Recognize that it takes courage to get on stage.  Surround yourself with a support network of people who believe in you.  Value the journey more than the actual event.  Finally, never doubt your ability to inspire someone simply by putting yourself out there.   

With that, I am going to go treat myself to a cookie.  Be well, live strong, enjoy life, support others, smile a lot and appreciate every moment.

Battling the Holiday Bulge: Tips to Help you Stay Trim, Fit and Focused

16 Nov

We all love this time of year. With the arrival of cooler weather, the holidays are upon us.  This is a time to relax and enjoy family and friends.  However, I think we can all agree that we dread the inevitable holiday weight gain and the work that comes later to get the weight off.  Here are some family friendly tips to help you stay fit and focused over the holidays.

Start a tradition: Plan an event on Thanksgiving morning such as flag football, kickball or basketball and invite your neighbors and friends.  What better way to kick off the holidays than by doing something active with the entire family.  Plus, these events foster a sense of community.  Use the time off to explore other local outdoor activities.  Whether it is cross-country skiing, hiking, biking, or jogging on the beach, get out and explore nature.  Sign your family up to participate in a race or other community activity that promotes healthy living.

Make an early resolution:  How many people list lose weight or get in shape as one of their New Year’s Resolutions? Why wait to start on January 1?  The perfect time is now.  Start your resolution early and beat the crowded gyms. You’re likely to receive better discounts and more personalized service prior to the New Year.  Many local gyms offer fun kids’ activities during the holidays, ensuring your children will enjoy going.  When January comes you will have already developed a well-established pattern and will be more likely to continue. Furthermore, being physically active promotes the desire to eat healthy. So, while you still might indulge in holiday treats, you will be less likely to “over-do” it.

Prepare for holiday parties and events: One of the greatest challenges over the holidays is resisting the urge to over-indulge in holiday treats.  If you’re like me, you often find yourself showing up to holiday parties hungry, and fighting off the urge to stand by the hors d’oeuvre table sipping wine, and munching on spinach dip and wheat thins.    Preparation is the key.  Always eat before you arrive.  Showing up at a party having not eaten is like grocery shopping hungry; you’re setting yourself up for failure.  Ensure you have a satisfying meal beforehand.  As soon as you arrive, pour yourself a drink of water with lemon.  Having a drink in hand from the start limits your ability to eat a lot.  You also might consider packing your own treats.  Dark chocolate almonds always feel like an indulgence to me.  They satisfy my sweet craving and are a better option than many of the treats I’m likely to find at a party.

So why wait?  Get a jump-start on managing your health over the holidays by establishing active traditions for the family, setting early resolutions, and being prepared.  Putting mechanisms in place to help you successfully navigate the obstacles of holiday weight gain will ensure you start the New Year in a good place.  Be active, eat well, and enjoy the spirit of the season.

Finding Balance: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

10 Nov

What qualifies me to discuss the ins and outs of fitness, diet, and nutrition?  I’m not a dietician, nor a nutritionist.  I’ve done a lot of research and reading on many aspects of diet, but no agency has certified me as an expert.  What I am is a real-life test case.  A wise mentor of mine said recently that sometimes living through something gives you the best perspective.  It’s much like parenting, once you live it, you feel like you have some helpful advice to offer on the subject.  Your thoughts don’t apply to everyone, but they might help someone.  With that, I’ll share my thoughts on health as it pertains to body competitions.

I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of pushing yourself.  Putting yourself in a situation where you are challenged, both physically and mentally; it is where you find growth.  It teaches you about who you are and for what you stand.  I put myself in that situation when I decided to participate in bikini competitions, and here is the most important thing I am taking away from it.

 The mind is as much a temple as the body.

I’ve come to believe that each person has an “optimal” health point.  This is the place where you push yourself hard and you hit a point where you mind, body, and soul feel complete.  Physically you have eaten right, appreciated food, and come to understand what your body needs to work most efficiently.  Your excellent health reflects in your attitude.  Your mind is in a good place, thriving off positive energy and peace.  The food and exercise that fuels the body allows you to handle what the world throws at you .  Your soul understands the depth of how these pieces are intertwined.  You feel invincible.  This is a place where people strive to be. 

This road should be carefully navigated though since excess in either direction can interfere with achieving your goals.  Much like a person carrying a lot of internal baggage and struggling to lose weight, being too thin and/or exceeding your physical limitations can be equally detrimental.  You may get a lot of positive feedback as your success is judged on looking good physically, but what if someone were to look internally and grade your mind?  Do you feel good inside, or are you empty?  Are both your mind and body in a healthy place, or are they unbalanced. 

Food fuels the body.  Eating right for your specific needs allows you to find the optimal spot where you thrive mentally and physically.  Paying attention to your mind and body as a guide to fitness and nutrition is paramount.  Much like the universe is balanced, so are we.  Think carefully as to how you navigate your health and fitness goals.  Push yourself hard physically but be vigilant about protecting your mind and spirit.

I recently asked a friend about her experiences running marathons and what she has learned over the years.  “I always remember going in that my body starts the race but my mind finishes it”, she said.  ” True grit is the perseverance and passion for long-term goals and the motivation to achieve them”.  This personality trait is what allows us to push our bodies far beyond normal levels.  It’s important to rely on our minds to help us realistically determine how much of that is healthy.  We should pay careful attention to how our fitness and nutrition goals allow us to achieve balance. While we rely on experts and coaches to help us, we should learn to trust and rely equally on our own intuition to make decisions based on what our minds and bodies tell us is right.  Push the limits, but don’t push so far that you lose yourself as a result.

A Picture’s Worth 1000 words: Prepping for Photo Shoots

5 Nov

Pictures last a lifetime, so you want to ensure you look your best.  Whether you are taking pictures for your portfolio, a special occasion such as a wedding or bar mitzvah or holiday photos, you want to spend some time preparing to insure you get the best shots.   There is a lot that goes into preparing for pictures. I enlisted the help of talented Arizona photographer Angela Dixon Cook, Owner of  Lights, Camera Love Photography,  to develop some tips you can use to help prepare for your next photo shoot. 

One week Prior:  

  • This is your opportunity to coordinate everything you need, including clothing, accessories, supplies, props, etc.  When in doubt, bring it.  Angela Dixon Cook often encourages her clients to bring props even if they are not sure how they might be used.  Photographers often think outside the box and can find ways of incorporating items.
  • Review the photographer’s website to get an idea of things they have done in the past.  This will help you gather ideas for your shoot. 
  • Follow-up with your photographer to find out if there is anything special they would like from you.  If possible, have clothing hung up with coordinated accessories to take with you and plan to change once you arrive.  Always bring a few extra outfits.  
  • Many photographers, including Cook, find it helpful if you pull out magazine clips or pictures you like to bring with you.  This will give them an idea of what you are drawn to and provide a starting point. 
  • Have haircut and colored if necessary. 
  • Schedule a trial run with your make-up artist and/or hair stylist.
  • Drink lots of water.  Water helps hydrate your skin and insures you have that healthy glow.

48 hours prior:

  • Complete any necessary waxing.
  • Spray tan if desired.
  • Focus on diet, particularly if you are shooting any fitness or bathing suit wear.  Avoid high sodium foods or other things that might cause bloating.  In addition, now is a good time to avoid alcohol.
  • A good microdermabrasion is helpful.  There are many at-home varieties you can use.  This will freshen up the tone of your skins and allow you to look your best on film.  If you panic because all of the sudden you have a pimple, leave it alone!  Photographers can touch up small blemishes easily. 
  • Practice, practice practice!  You might feel silly in front of the mirror trying on different smiles, but this will help you feel more comfortable.  Cook recommends you try a variety of different facial expression to see what looks good on you.  This will help you feel more natural on camera.

24 hours Prior:

  • Schedule your manicure and/or pedicure (but make sure they don’t exfoliate your legs if you have spray tanned).
  • Get a good night’s rest! 
  • Confirm with your photographer the location and appointment time.
  • If you exercise, get a good work-out in.  This will help you relax and feel fit, ready to be on camera.

The Day of the shoot:

  • Show up a few minutes early.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the photographer for directions.  Typically they have a good idea of what works best on camera.  In addition, if you want something special (a prop in the picture, a certain look to be captured) make sure you communicate that.
  • Most importantly, be yourself!  Don’t be afraid to be silly, laugh, and show your personality. Be confident.  You can do this, just relax and enjoy the experience.  Let the photographer worry about the details.

Whether you are a novice in front of the camera or a pro it always helps to be prepared and relaxed.  If you happen to be pursuing a career in something that will involve many photo sessions, do not get discouraged.  Practice makes perfect so give yourself some space to learn.  Finally, one more tip I have to throw in, if you are shooting with children bring something to bribe them with!  Trust me,  you’ll thank me for this later. 

Angela Cook, Owner/Photographer at Lights, Camera, Love Photography can be contacted at or visit her website at

Mindful Eating: How to Eat Less and Enjoy More

2 Nov

Freshly prepared meal made from fruits and veggies purchased at the Farmer's Market

What happens when you’re hungry?  For me, it’s easy to find the quickest and most convenient thing I can get my hands on and eat it.  That’s definitely something I had to retrain myself on when I set my goals for improving my health and losing weight.  The goal became not to find myself in a position where I was really hungry, especially in the presence of a fast food restaurant!  As I got better at this, the concept of mindful eating became more present for me. 

What is mindful eating anyway and how can it help you achieve your goals? Mindful eating, according to Center for Mindful Eating (  is, “Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom”.  What does that mean?  For me, it’s about fully enjoying the process and paying careful attention to what food does to my body.  In an effort to ensure I was being mindful of my eating habits, I developed a process of nourishing myself.  Here’s what it looked like: 

 Mindful Eating for Meal Time:

1) Prep for meals and snacks: Doing this rather than just grabbing food on the go allows us to develop a keener sense of our body, how to care for our health, and how to appreciate and respect food.  Look through cook books, find recipes or ideas, and subscribe to blogs or sites on food that give suggestions.  One of my favorites is  .   Shop local farmers markets and talk to the growers.  Think carefully about what goes into growing and raising food.  Pay attention to nutritional content.

2) Allocate time to prepare meal: This makes you more fully appreciate what you are putting into your body.  Even the art of buying bags of almonds and portioning them out makes me more aware of how much a serving is, what it offers me nutritionally and how much it fills me. When creating meals for my family, I occasionally take some time to concentrate on preparation, making eating an experience rather than just an act.

3) Savor the moment: When you sit down at the table, close your eyes for a moment.  Think about what you are about to ingest and how it will nourish your body. Are you eating empty calories?  If so, that’s okay, just be aware.  Does your plate have a variety of colors on it?  Is the food on your plate a blend of the vital nutrients we need to sustain ourselves?  Take a moment to truly think about what you are eating. 

4) Make eating a ritual: Start by having a glass of water to cleanse the palate.  Ensure you are not going into meal time over-hungry.  Breathe deeply and smell the aroma of the food.  As you eat, pay attention to the flavors.  Eat slowly and intentionally.  Pause between bites to allow your body time to take it in.  This will ensure you don’t overeat.  Before having a second helping, give your body time to digest.  

5) Reflect: After eating, notice how your body reacts.  Did the foods you ingest make you feel good, give you energy, or did they take away from those things?  Many people have food allergies or sensitivities and go years before they ever realize this.  Everyone is different.  You are the best judge of knowing what food works for you!  Some people avoid dairy, others red meat, some are vegetarians, others vegan; some can’t have gluten, some have sugar intolerance….I have seen it all.  You are the owner of your body.  Only you know what makes you feel good.  Pay attention to your body and figure this out.

Eating right and caring for yourself is a skill. Feed the body good whole foods , appreciate the moments of eating, pay careful attention to the process, love yourself, share your successes and tips, learn from your failures, and support others.  This will go a long way toward achieving your goals for optimum health.  Good luck in your journey.