Pray for Pastor Frank Sanders’ healing

My pastor at Spirit of Life Bible Church, Frank Sanders, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on January 21, 2011. He shared the shocking news with the congregation the next day at the church thanksgiving dinner.

Please stand with Spirit of Life Bible Church with prayer and fasting for Pastor Frank’s healing and recovery.

The Sanders family has created a CaringBridge site to help keep their family and friends informed throughout Frank’s treatment.

I love my pastor. He is a great preacher and a great man.

Here is an article I wrote about Pastor Frank that was originally published in Woodbury Bulletin on 8/30/2006.

Living the Spirit of Life with Passion

Anyone who visits Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury and hears Pastor Frank Sander’s messages is most likely impressed by what he/she sees and hears. Pastor Sanders is a man of stature, and more importantly, he is a man of passion.

At least that is how I feel as a former Chinese atheist, now a Christian and a new member of Spirit of Life.

I went to Spirit of Life in September 2004 because the Church was offering an 8 week study on “The 40 Days of Purpose.” I stayed with Spirit of Life because of Pastor Sanders. As a seek of many years, I have visited quite a few churches in my life before I came to Spirit of Life, but no other pastors have ever made a more powerful impression on me than Pastor Sanders.

At 6 feet 3 inches, Pastor Sanders is a tall man. He had a career as a professional hockey player and played hockey for over 20 years. His athletic talent, his passion, and hard work led him to the pinnacle of his dreams as an athlete on the 1972 USA hockey team when it captured the Olympic Silver Medal in Sapporo, Japan. He played one year professionally with the Minnesota Fighting Saints.

Yet the success in his professional life didn’t bring the fulfillment and happiness he was looking for. Even though he reached the mountaintop and experienced great success, he still felt emptiness in his life. What he had achieved was not satisfying. He walked away from the worldly pursuit of success and happiness, and turned his life in a new direction.

At the age of 25, he committed his life to serve the Lord. He went to seminary and became a youth pastor. He worked with young people for almost 20 years and was an associate minister for several years after that.

Then another change happened that brought his faith and passion for Christ to a new level.

In 2001, Sanders and 13 other people started Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury. It was a big step of faith for him and all the members, but their strong faith in God helped them take the risk and face the challenge.

Sander’s teaching and messages are always based on the truth from the Bible. They are practical and challenging. One thing is for sure. People do not feel bored when listening to his messages. His passion and excitement for God will infect, inspire and impress everyone around him.

His passion for Christ shows especially during his Sunday sermons. Psalm 100 says to “Shout for joy to the Lord” and that’s the way Sanders preaches – he literally makes a lot of joyful noises when he preaches. He can be as excited and passionate about Jesus as a sport fan is excited about watching his favorite team winning the Olympics.

A major focus of the church’s activities is the Children’s Program that includes the weekly Sunday School classes and fun activities throughout the year: monthly Children’s Church services, Cub Scouts, VBS, an annual picnic, Fall Harvest party and Christmas Program.

My two children love to go to Sunday school at Spirit of Life. They love the small class size and the dedicated Sunday school teachers.

In the four plus years since the Church started, God has blessed it tremendously and membership has grown exponentially. The current church facility at Wooddale Drive is getting too small.

With the big population growth in Woodbury, the congregation saw the need for a bigger church facility to accommodate the growth. “There is a hunger for God in this community. We see a big opportunity and a huge responsibility ahead of us.“ Sanders went on to say, “Moving into a new facility is another big step of faith, but we know that God will supply our needs. We are doing this for God’s glory. He will bless us again as He did over the last few years.”

The new church facility at 690 Commerce Drive is near Sam’s Club. First service will take place Sunday, September 3, 10 am. Everyone is welcome. For more information and to request a DVD about SOL, visit, or call 651-731-1900.

Breaking Free with Beth Moore

Starting today, the Women’s Ministry at Spirit of Life Bible Church in Woodbury is doing a 10-week Bible study based on Beth Moore‘s popular Bible study Breaking Free: The Journey, The Stories.

Beth Moore leads participants “through a study of the Scriptures to discover the transforming power of freedom in Jesus Christ. Themes for this study come from Isaiah, a book about the captivity of God’s children, the faithfulness of God, and the road to freedom.”

Beth Moore is a great Bible teacher. About a year ago I did my first Beth Moore Bible study “Living beyond yourself: exploring the fruit of the spirit” and I really enjoyed it. So I am looking forward to the next 10 weeks of studying and Breaking Free with Beth Moore.

The Tiger Mother and You

More articles, blogs, comments, interviews, talks, discussions about Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” She has definately spurred a national debate about how to raise our kids and touched a nerve with not only parents, but also people in all walks of life – education, finance, etc.

No matter whether one agrees or disagrees with Chua’s parenting methods, likes or dislikes the book,  one thing is for sure, it is a very successful book. I have never seen a book causing this kind of reaction and debate before.

Here is an article to share:

The Tiger Mother and You: Are We Preparing Our Kids for a Better Financial Future?

The Simplest Diet for Lean Fitness

The following post on diet was written by Leo Babauta. It’s worth sharing.

My own diet is pretty close to his. I eat beans, veggies, fruits, and nuts every day.

The Simplest Diet for Lean Fitness

Leo Babauta

Posted: 27 Jan 2011

I’m in the best shape in my life.

I’m incredibly happy to say that. For years (as many of you know) I was in terrible health — I was overweight and sedentary and addicted to junk food and a smoker and overworked.

Today after more than five years of living healthy I am about 65 pounds lighter. I’m leaner than I’ve been since probably high school with the same pants size as I had in high school (32) — while being much stronger than I was back then. More importantly I am fitter: I can run and play sports and hike and do activities of all kinds better than ever before.

How have I achieved all of this? Slow change. I’ve done no fad diets or quick weight loss. I’ve done nothing extreme. Everything is about living healthier and eating whole foods and being active most days. And about enjoying the journey.

Today I thought I’d share a bit about how I eat. It’s not meant to be copied exactly but to inform others trying to make a similar journey. Next week I’ll talk about my exercise.

Overall philosophy

My general philosophy of eating:

  • I don’t go for anything extreme. I’ve made small changes to my diet over the years and have found this works best: if you try for drastic changes you’ll hate it and won’t stick to it for long. But add a few extra fruits and veggies and it’s not hard. Change soda to water next month and it’s not deprivation.
  • I eat slowly. OK … not always but most of the time. Eating slowly allows me to fully savor the taste of the healthy food I eat and at the same time eat less while still feeling satiated (not stuffed).
  • I eat real foods. I try for veggies and fruits and raw nuts and seeds and beans and some whole grains. Sometimes my food is processed but mostly it’s just the stuff you’ll find in the produce and bulk sections of a supermarket (or farmer’s market).
  • I eat plants. I do that mostly for reasons of compassion (killing animals for pleasure doesn’t feel right to me) but I’ve found it’s also an extremely healthy way to eat. Sure it’s possible to be vegan and unhealthy (eat processed fake meats and sweets) but if you’re a whole-food vegan it’s hard to go wrong. And yes it’s easy to get protein as a vegan.
  • I enjoy myself. I look for healthy foods I love — berries for example — and savor them. I’ll eat sweets now and then but in small portions and truly enjoy the few bites I have. I have red wine and love it. I drink beer sometimes and it’s wonderful. I have pizza about once a week and it’s delicious. Eating healthy isn’t about deprivation but about finding ways to enjoy yourself while living a healthy life.

My Diet

This month I’ve cut my less healthy choices down to Saturdays — as inspired by Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body. That means I only eat pasta and pizza and sweets and beer and French fries on Saturdays. This has gotten me even leaner and I recommend this way of living.

The rest of the week I eat my own version of Tim’s Slow Carb Diet — the Leo version. That means I eat a little fruit and a few whole grains and I don’t eat the meat. I don’t eat fried foods or drink calories (other than red wine at dinner) or eat white carbs (pasta bread rice potatoes pizza).

What I eat:

  • Beans – lentils and black beans and kidney beans and pintos and soybeans.
  • Nuts and seeds – raw almonds and walnuts and seeds and olive oil and avocadoes.
  • Veggies – lots of greens like kale and spinach and chard and broccoli. Carrots and various bell peppers and sprouts and so on.
  • Fruits – berries and apples and oranges and a little dried fruits like raisins. In moderation.
  • Whole grains – steel-cut oats and Ezekiel flourless sprouted-grains bread and quinoa (not technically a grain). That’s about it — I don’t eat pastas or whole-grain muffins or the like.

My Meals

My typical day usually goes like this:

  • Breakfast: Every day I eat steel-cut oats for breakfast late in the morning (usually between 10:30 and 11:30). I cook it and then mix it with flaxseeds and cinnamon and blueberries and raw almonds and a few raisins and maybe a small amount of banana or raspberries.
  • Lunch: Typically a big-ass salad with kale and spinach and sprouts and avocados and beans and raw nuts and a little fruit with balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I’ll eat a tofu stir-fry with greens.
  • Snack: If I’m hungry in the afternoon I’ll eat some raw nuts and dried fruit or veggies and hummus.
  • Dinner: Beans and veggies or a tofu-stir fry or veggie chili with beans. This meal varies. Sometimes the beans will be Indian style or Mexican style. Usually the veggies will be greens like kale or broccoli or chard. Sometimes I’ll have quinoa. Red wine with dinner.

And that’s about it. Over time I’ve found I need less food than I used to. Eat slowly and you’ll find yourself full on less food.

The Results

I used to spread my “cheats” throughout the week — a whole-grain muffin here and some pizza there and beer more than I’d like to admit. But putting everything on Saturdays has helped me be honest the rest of the week.

I honestly enjoy eating whole foods. I enjoy being lighter and leaner. I’ve gained muscle eating these foods though I might focus on building more muscle later in the year.

I run faster than ever. I can do more intense workouts than ever before. I was tested for various health indicators recently and everything was perfect. Eating this way has absolutely changed my life.


A couple notes to answer potential questions:

  • Soy is not unhealthy. You might have read various scare articles on the Internet about soy (usually based on misleading articles from the Weston A. Price Foundation) but they’re misinterpretations of science. I eat soy in moderation and try for whole soy in natural forms (tofu, tempeh, edamame, some natural soy milk). I don’t have man boobs and I’m absolutely healthy. Instead of pointing to “scientific” explanations of why soy is unhealthy show me the actual peer-reviewed studies that show that moderate amounts of natural soy (not soy protein isolate) have caused health problems.
  • You can absolutely get enough protein and calcium and iron on a vegan diet if you eat whole foods and not junk.
  • Sugar is junk and that includes white flour pasta and breads and French fries. It’s worthless calories. Whole grains in moderation provide nutrients and fiber.
  • A little meat in moderation is not unhealthy — especially if you choose grain fed and free range. Most people eat unhealthy amounts of meat and eggs and dairy. Those foods in any amount are unethical in my opinion — even if they’re grass fed and free range. Exploitation of animals as objects and their suffering for our pleasure is not compassionate. We don’t need animal products to live healthy lives — as my example shows — so the only reason to eat them is for our pleasure (we like the taste).

The Tiger Mom book controversy continues


Here is an update to my post “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (1/24/11)

The debate over Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” has spilled over into China and intensified as the Chinese-language version of the book hit the shelves in Beijing.

The Chinese edition’s title translates to “Being a Mom in America,” or “Being an American Mum.”

The cover of the Chinese edition of the book is substantially different from the original, featuring a photo of a smiling Amy Chua standing against a red, white and blue map of the United States.

You can read more about it in the article “Amy Chua an ‘American Mom’ in China” on

Parenting books are very popular in China, especially those on how to raise smart and gifted kids. No doubt, Amy Chua’s book will be a bestseller in China, just as its English version is in the US now. As of today, the English version is number three on Amazon’s bestseller list. It’s very likely that it will take the top spot soon.


Jack LaLanne strikes a muscular pose.

As an immigrant who came to the US in my late twenties, I have a huge gap in my knowledge of the American culture. When a coworker mentions something or someone’s name from the past that is well known for the general population, I often have to ask: “What/Who is that?”

Yesterday I got the following email about Jack LaLanne, a name I had never heard before and didn’t know who he was.

After reading about him on NPR, I realized he was a great American icon. He was “The Godfather of Fitness.” 

For me the interesting thing about him in the NPR article was on how he changed his life around at age 15:

“Until his life changed at 15, he was miserable. He says he was a sugarholic who even considered suicide.

“[I] tried to kill my brother, had an uncontrollable temper, set the house on fire,” LaLanne says. “I can’t believe it. I was a maniac. I was a psycho. Had these headaches all the day, couldn’t stand the pain. All from sugar, sugar, sugar.”

When he was 15, LaLanne attended a lecture by a health nutritionist who told audience members they could be born again if they obeyed nature’s laws: exercise and eat proper food. Young, impressionable Jack was hooked. The next day, he says, he stopped eating sugar, became a vegetarian and joined the YMCA in Berkeley, Calif.”

Jake died on Jan. 23, 2011 at the age of 96.

I really like what he practiced and preached his whole life. So I am sharing some of his wisdom here. 


Jack LaLanne fervently believed every human being can attain maximum body health and fitness if they will practice moderation, eat the most natural foods, and exercise on a regular basis. Over the years on national television, radio talk shows and in feature stories written about Jack, certain ideas stated by Jack have become little gems known as “LaLanneisms”

Here are a few of Jack’s words of wisdom:

  • Anything in life is possible if you make it happen.
  • Anything in life is possible and you can make it happen.
  • Your waistline is your lifeline.
  • Exercise is King, nutrition is Queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
  • Don’t exceed the feed limit.
  • The food you eat today is walking and talking tomorrow.
  • Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.
  • Better to wear out than rust out
  • Do – don’t stew.
  • People don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity.
  • First we inspire them, then we perspire them.
  • You eat everyday, you sleep everyday, and your body was made to exercise everyday.
  • Work at living and you don’t have to die tomorrow.
  • I can’t die, it would ruin my image.
  • If man makes it, don’t eat it.
  • If it tastes good, spit it out.
  • What’s it doing for me?
  • Your health account is like your bank account: The more you put in, the more you can take out.
  • If one apple is good, you wouldn’t eat 100.
  • It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts.
  • Make haste slowly.
  • Eat right and you can’t go wrong. The only way you can hurt the body is not use it. Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it’s never too late.

“Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”

The recent article in Wall Street Journal (1/8/11) titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” contains an essay excerpted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School. It has caused quite a controversy in the Chinese-American community and among the parents and readers in America in the last two weeks. There are more than 7000 comments to that WSJ article.  

The book was just published on 1/11/11 and there are already over 200 reviews on Amazon.

This is a book that people either like or hate.

I haven’t read the book itself. I only read the WSJ article and some reviews. I can see why Amy Chua’s extreme parenting methods have caused so much negative reaction.

I am a Chinese mother with two kids. I consider myself pretty strict. If you ask my kids, they will certainly agree with that. But comparing to Amy Chua, I am way too soft. I have allowed my kids to do all the following that her kids are not allowed to do:

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play (None of my kids like to be in play though)
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin (my son plays clarinet now in the school band)
  • not play the piano or violin (My son quit piano after about 5 years)

This book reminds me of another book – autobiography by Lang Lang, “Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story” ((Random House, 2008). I wrote about it in Life is more than success.

Success is more than just academic excellence, musical mastery and professional success. The author focuses too much on those aspects of success. Chinese parents in general do tend to emphasize education over anything else. But Amy Chua is too extreme even for the Chinese parents. She is not representative of the Chinese mothers. That’s why many people in the Chinese American community reacted negatively to the book.

To watch an interview with Amy Chua, visit Today Show and click here.

Print book vs. e-book

Recently I needed to read a book for a work assignment. I checked out an e-reader device – Kindle from my library that has the book downloaded on it.

I would prefer the print book, but it was not available yet. With an e-book, you can purchase it online with a credit card and it is available on your Kindle in a few minutes. But with a print book, it takes a few days to arrive.

Half way through the e-book, I abandoned it and changed to the print book that finally arrived. I had to reread the print book from the beginning.   

When I read, I love to flip back and forth between the table of contents and the pages, to go back and review what I read before, to make notes. I am a visual person. I find it very difficult to do that with the e-book. I easily feel lost, not knowing where I am in the book. The e-book tells me the percentage of the contents I have read, but that is not as helpful as flipping through the pages, see the actual page numbers, to see where I am according to the table of contents.

E-books are not for me, but I know there are people who love e-books. Both formats have advantages and disadvantages. And people love each format for different reasons.

Print book advantages:

  • People love the feeling of actually holding the book in their hands and turning the pages.
  • People love reading at night in bed. It’s more comfortable to cuddle up with a book. It’s just not the same feeling to cuddle up with an e-reader. There’s nothing like curling up with a good book.
  • You can touch and flip between the pages and see more at once.
  • Quality hardcover books are still the easiest on the eyes.
  • Book cover/book jacket has its appeal that is lost in the e-book.
  • It is more reliable. Print book can be used anywhere. E-book is subject to power shortage, hardware malfunctioning and software glitch. If the hard drive is damaged or wiped out, the books are gone. E-reader also needs recharging or boot time.
  • Real ownership – Once you purchased the print book, you own it. You can sell it, loan it and give it away. But with e-book, you don’t really own the book. You are granted the right to read an e-book, but no right to resell it or even share it with a friend.

E-book advantages:

  • Instant gratification and speedy access – buying an e-book is easy and instant. You don’t have have to wait and don’t have to go somewhere to get it. It’s easier to download a book than to go buy or borrow one.
  • Convenience, flexibility and portability – the e-reader is light and easier to carry around and pack for travel. You can read it on your phone, Kindle, desktop and laptop.
  • Better price – digital editions are cheaper than their print edition counterparts, though you can buy used print books very cheaply at shrift stores and garage sales, but e-books are not resellable.
  • Space saver – the e-reader can hold thousands of books and doesn’t take any shelf space.
  • Free books – classics and books that are in the public domain can be downloaded for free.
  • More privacy – with e-books, no one can see what you’re reading. Others can’t see your book cover.
  • Being green – e-books can save trees.

In the Aug. 9, 2010 issue of Newsweek, an article on print books vs. e-books shared some interesting facts:

  • Average production cost  is $4.05 for a $26 hardcover vs. $0.50 for a $9.99 download.
  • Average author royalty is $3.90 per book vs. $2.12 per download.
  • Carbon emissions required to make 40-50 books equals to make one e-reader.
  • Walking to the library is still the most ecofriendly way to read.
  • 2009 publisher sales totals is $249.2 million for books vs. $29.3 m. for e-books.

While e-books are certainly gaining in overall market share and becoming more mainstream as time passes, the print book industry is still the dominant player. I don’t think print books will ever go away. As long as there are people like me, the print books will never become extinct.

Day 21- Review & Your Best Health Ahead

This is Day 21 and the final day of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

My goals for the 21DHL Challenge were –

Eat better
Lose weight
Exercise more
Get more sleep
Be more patient
Be more mindful

I’ll give myself a 7 score on this challenge. I didn’t put enough time and effort into several tasks. However, the challenge does affirm me that I am on the right track.

The challenge has inspired me to eat more raw food. Going 100% vegetarian and all raw diet is something to think about down the road.   

My challenges and goals for the future are still pretty much the same – go to bed early to get more rest, find time to exercise/meditate, lose a few pounds and maintain the weight, etc.

In addition I also need to reduce online time and increase quiet reading time. Over time my quiet reading time has given away more and more to online time (emailing, writing, web browsing & reading). It takes me longer to finish a book. So I need to reclaim the time for reading.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


This is Day 21 and the last day of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you’re new, learn more about 21DHL. Check out the latest Tweets on #21DHL. Subscribe to the free newsletter for lifetime access of personal development articles and future challenge announcements like this one.

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Welcome – today is Day 21 and the final day of 21DHL Challenge :hug::hug:glompglomp

I congratulate you for getting to this day and going through the whole 21-day challenge. No matter what happened in the process, whether there was a day when you felt you slipped up, whether you didn’t follow to your plan to the extent you envisioned, or whether you didn’t stick to a habit as much as you wanted, YOU are already a winner. Because you are in a better place today than if you completely did not sign-up or take part in 21DHL at all. You are already more aware of your own health/fitness needs, of what it takes to become a healthier, better person, of how it’s like to eat properly/work out properly, and how good it feels when you stick to your health goals/plans. All these are the very important seeds that have been planted through the challenge, seeds that will now on germinate, grow and create huge changes in your life.

I started 21DHL because I saw health and fitness as an important priority in our life that should not be neglected. I know many of you are truly serious about your growth and what it really takes is some form of platform, a catalyst, a trigger point so we can get to act on our health and fitness goals proper. And we have. Like all of you, I joined in 21DHL with my own health and fitness goals. In the end, I gained so much in the past 21 days for my health/fitness than I could ever imagine. I have:

  1. Overcame a bingeing problem that had been in my life for the past 7 years or so
  2. Successfully transitioned to an all raw diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, -permanently-. Unlike in the past 2 raw trials I’d been on, I have absolutely zero interest in returning to cooked food after this. Zero. They simply do not appeal to me anymore.
  3. Developed a truly, truly ideal and healthy relationship with food. After so many years, I now finally see food as what it is – something that gives us energy to live. I no longer have an entangled love-hate relationship with food like I used to have, no any cravings whatsoever, no inclinations to eat beyond physical hunger, no binge attacks, nor any desire or wish to eat something is not the best for my body. Before, I would have never thought such a state even existed. I feel incredibly liberated.
  4. Experienced huge, *huge* changes in my health, vitality and wellness (and it’s just been 6 days into my all-raw diet)
  5. Learned to prepare my own meals that I truly love
  6. Learned how to sustain on my raw diet permanently in the long-term
  7. Learned more about my body’s nutritional needs and my ideal meal plans that perfectly meet these needs
  8. Increased my activity level daily and made exercising fun for myself such that I want to do it regularly
  9. Made incredible new friends and connections who are passionate about living their best life and having their best health as well
  10. Got to know all of you, whom I’ve never got a chance to know personally, thanks to you being part of the community

I believe I’ve also lost a good amount of weight since moving to all-raw 6 days ago. I can already see that I’m visibly thinner in my face and body (in a good way) – I haven’t looked like this since I was 21-22? I’m not jumping on the weighing scales yet as the number is not important to me. It is the knowingness that I’m on the healthiest diet I can ever have for myself that is the most important thing to me, and knowing that every day as I’m consuming these healthy foods, my own health and wellness is increasing dramatically. My skin is dramatically better – I used to have fairly oily/combination skin and now it’s not that way anymore. My pores have dramatically reduced. I would have occasional zits/pimples and breakouts every now and then, and I can see all of them clearing up right now. I feel that I now look better than I have ever looked and I look a lot younger than I did before going raw this year. Besides that, my energy and mental clarity are at their highest ever. It’s like we’ve always had all these energy, power and vitality and sub-par diets have been suppressing them all along. And that’s just 6 days on the all-raw diet so far. I’ve no doubt that the positive changes will continue to come as I continue on the diet.

(For those who are interested to read/learn more about raw foodism, I’ll continue to write more about it at TPEB in the future)

As today is the last day for 21DHL, let us now take a step back and review our past 21 days. This is not the last official post for 21DHL – tomorrow, I’ll create a 21DHL Round-Up post to get all of your feedback – how your 21DHL experience has been, what you’ve gotten out of these 21 days, what was the best thing you liked about the entire challenge, and what you’d like to see moving forward. Stay tuned for this tomorrow!

21DHL Final Day – Review & Your Best Health Ahead

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1) Finish Up All 21-Day Tasks Before Continuing On

The 21DHL experience is about *both* completing our 21-day action plan as well as discovering new things about our health & our self through the 21-day tasks specially set aside for all of you. There are new things to be learned about us with each task, however small they seem. Have you completed all tasks for the 21 days? If not, fall in line with them now.

2) Reflect on Your Past 21 Days

For the next few minutes, think about how the past 21 days has been for you, in the area of your health and fitness. Think about your experiences with your 21-day action plan, your intentions when you started this challenge and your status right now.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, give yourself an overall score on how you’ve done for the past 21-days. Why did you give that score?
  2. What have you accomplished/achieved for yourself in the past 21 days in the challenge?
  3. What are the biggest things you have learned about yourself and about living a healthier life in the past 21-days?

3) Your Healthy Living Plan Ahead

During 21DHL, we had our 21-Day Action Plans to guide us. Now moving forward, let’s now plan for our health & fitness ahead.

  1. What are your key goals for your health and fitness moving forward? You can list down overall goals or break them down into the 3 key areas of (a) Diet (b) Fitness © Lifestyle
  2. What are your key action steps to 100% ensure that you’ll achieve these goals? I.e. HOW are you going to achieve the goals you wrote in #1? Look back at what you’ve done/learned from the past 31 days and apply them as much as possible.

Help from Woodbury Community Services

Today I was reminded once again how fortunate I am to live in Woodbury.

I locked my key in the vehicle and someone from the  Woodbury Police Department’s Community Services came to my rescue.

After my daughter finished swimming at Woodbury High School, we went grocery shopping at the nearby Rainbow. Then I planned to stop by at Kohl’s to check on something I need. When I shut the trunk door after loading the grocery bags, I realized that my key was left in the trunk along with the bags.

I went to Kohl’s and asked for help. A cashier found me a non-emergency phone number for the Woodbury Police Department. I called the number (651) 439-9381 and provided the information about myself and the location of my vehicle.

Less than 10 minutes later, a vehicle with the Woodbury Community Services on it came. It took the officer a couple of minutes to unlock the vehicle.

I was thankful. I know you can’t expect the same kind of services in places like St. Paul. The officer said: “Yes, it’s nice to live in Woodbury.”   

I totally agree.

In addition to unlocking vehicles, the Woodbury Community Services also help with the following:

For more information, visit Woodbury Police Department website

Why volunteering?

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.

During the current season of my life, I spend a lot of time on my two kids. On most afternoons or evenings they have activities for which I am the dedicated chauffeur. I don’t have much time left to pursue other interests besides reading and writing.

One thing I would like to do is to volunteer. I have volunteered to do fundraising for non-profit organizations, to help with library book sale in the community and with health & wellness related causes in my workplace.

I would like to do more when I have more time in the future.

Last week I went to a presentation on volunteering by Sue Moyer of the Greater Twin Cities United Way Caring Connection to learn more about volunteering. Sue Moyer shared the following interesting facts about volunteering.

According to University of Minnesota Psychologist Mark Snyder, PhD, who studies volunteerism, 45% of adults in US volunteer. The # 1 reason for volunteering is a matter of values. Concern for others, altruism – part of being human is helping others.

Dr. Snyder identified five primary motivations for volunteering.

(1) Values. Volunteering to satisfy personal values or humanitarian concerns.  For some people, it’s an expression of faith – desire to serve and give back.

(2) Community concern. Volunteering to help a particular community, such as a neighborhood or group, to which you feel attached.

(3) Esteem enhancement. Volunteering to feel better about oneself, or escape other pressures.

(4) Understanding. Volunteering to gain a better understanding of other people, cultures or places.

(5) Personal development. Volunteering to challenge yourself, meet new people and make new friends, or acquire new skills and further one’s career. Unemployed wants to work for a nonprofit to enhance her resume and gain experience. Volunteering can lead to full-time employment.

There are many benefits of volunteering. In addition to what’s mentioned above, volunteering can improve personal health and wellness.

Survey done by UnitedHealth Group and Volunteer Match in March 2010 (4582 respondents) shows:

  • 41 % of the people they surveyed had volunteered in the past year
  • 52% of those reported volunteering on a regular basis
  • 45% of the volunteers donated 50 hours or more a year (the mean was 120 hours)

Most popular volunteer activities reported in this study were:

  • Fundraising (26%)
  • Collections, preparation, distribution or serving of food (21%)
  • Tutoring or teaching (20%)
  • Provide professional or management assistance, including serving on a board or committee (18%)

The following are a few things to consider when you think about volunteering:

  • Why? What’s the motivation? – what do you want out of it? Meet new people, learn new skill, expression of faith, desire to give back?
  • What? What issues interest you? – What are you passionate about? hunger, homelessness, literacy, animal, children?
  • How? What are your skill sets? – technical, musical or learn a new skill
  • When? What’s your time frame? – how much time, time of day and day of week, ongoing or one-time commitment, etc. 
  • Where? What location? – close to home or work

How can you find volunteer opportunities?

Use United Way Caring Connection. It’s a searchable database with several parameters:

  • interest area
  • by agency
  • projects good for – groups, teens – find an activity for your family, kids or 55+
  • distance from your zip code

Remember, helping others can enrich your life and make your community a better place to live.

Day 20 – No soda and coffee

 This is Day 20 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

Today’s task is super easy for me. I don’t drink coffee, soda or alcohol anyway. I never had the habit of drinking these. I usually just drink water. Only on rare occassions I try a little bit of coffee at parties.

Speaking of soda, I would like to share the following info I got a long time ago. I am not sure who wrote it, maybe it’s from Wayne Green, an interesting guy I heard on Coast2Coast AM Radio.  And I am not sure how true it is. But I think there is a lot of truth in it. It seems that Coke serves better as a cleaning product than a drink. I hope after you read it, you will consider quitting your soda habit.  At least it will make you think twice before you drink coke next time.

  • The active ingredient in Coke is phosphoric acid. It’s pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in about 4 days.
  • To carry Coca Cola syrup (the concentrate) the commercial truck must use the Hazardous material cards reserved for Highly Corrosive materials.
  • In many states the highway patrol carries two gallons of Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.
  • You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone in two days.
  • To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl…Let the “real thing” sit for one hour, then flush clean.
  • The citric acid in Coke removes stains from vitreous china.
  • To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a crumpled-up piece of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil dipped in Coca-Cola.
  • To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.
  • To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the rusted bolt for several minutes.
  • To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan; wrap the ham in aluminum foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke for a sumptuous brown gravy.
  • To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of greasy clothes, add detergent, And run through a regular cycle. The Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.
  • The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for about 20 years! 
  • One can of Coke gives you 12 teaspoons of sugar, an addictive, deadly slow poison; plus caffeine, a faster addictive poison, plus its mystery ingredients; plus whatever aluminum is dissolved from the can by this highly corrosive liquid. Scientists questioning Alzheimer’s patients say they don’t remember how much cola they drank.
  • Think what coke and other soft drinks do to your teeth on a daily basis. A tooth will dissolve in a cup of coke in 24-48 hours. And that doesn’t count any aluminum you get from the cans. That also doesn’t count the effect that the 12 teaspoons of sugar you get with each can are going to do to your body.
  • When we get thirsty and turn to soda and coffee, it causes a net loss waterwise. This dehydrates our cells, weakening our immune system, setting up the stage for cancer, high blood pressure, and so on.

In summary, Coke is fine for cleaning toilets and car engines. Like other cleaners, it just should never be swallowed. As one author said in the following article, “Avoiding soda can be the best thing you can do for your teeth, your waistline, and your overall health.”

If you have to drink soda, drink it all at once, and not sip it all day long. Rinse your mouth with water immediately afterward.

There is a lot of information on the Internet about the effects of soda on your health. Here are just a couple of links. 

8 Reasons Why People Drink Soda & 16 Reasons To Give Up Soda Drinking

Why Drinking Soda Can Destroy Your Health


The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 20: Have a Caffeine-Free Day

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I used to be a huge soda drinker when I was young. It wasn’t until several years ago that I decided to cut it out once and for all. And I’m glad I did that, because in retrospect I was taking in so much chemicals including caffeine into my body with every drink. Today, getting my fluid intake via water and natural fruits has really rejuvenated my life and my thinking.

I wrote about the negative effects of caffeine before in 5 Reasons TO Quit Drinking Soda Drinks and How To Do It

Quote:Caffeine… is a diuretic. A diuretic is a drug that speeds up the rate of urine production – meaning it removes water from your body. While you can get your thirst quenched when drinking Coke, you do not get as hydrated as compared to if you just drink pure water.

Not only that, Caffeine is also a psychoactive stimulant drug. What is a psychoactive stimulant drug?

Quote:…It affects the central nervous system and alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behavior. By increasing the levels of adrenaline (a stress hormone) in your body, you end off setting off feelings of anxiety and tension in your body. Instead of being able to operate as a fully conscious being, you end up having less control of your thoughts, emotions and behavior.

I noticed that whenever I do drink Coca-Cola or soda, my mental thinking is not as clear. It feels as though my thoughts become more rapid, jumbled and haphazard. Even though I’m supposedly more alert, I’m not fully in control of the higher faculties of my mind. It feels more like my mind is operating by itself and my conscious self is only allowed to observe in the background to give limited inputs. If this was in the past where I was drinking Coke every day, I would never have been able to make this observation. However, drinking Coke after being Coke/soda-free for many months made the contrast very stark to me.

While you may appreciate caffeine for keeping you awake for a particular morning meeting or presentation, bear in mind that the boost is only temporary and at the expense of the natural functions of your mind. While you may feel more alert after a dose of caffeine, it is just a stimulated feeling. Whenever I consume caffeine, I feel like my mind has been pried awake beyond its desires. Even though the lights are on in my brain, I can only perform low level tasks which do not require much thinking. Higher functions of my mind seem to be beyond me. I pretty much feel like a zombie walking around with limited mental capacities and a body heavy as lead.

To make things worse, after the initial effects wear off, I am left with a state of fatigue worse than before since I was denying your body of the rest it deserved. To quote Jacob Teitelbaum, “Caffeine is an energy loan shark. What it lends you in the morning it takes back with heavy interest in the afternoon.”

Not only that, most caffeine drinks are colored, which makes them stain your teeth too. Not exactly helpful if you’re trying to get pearly whites!

Hence for today, let’s go for a day without caffeine!

Common drinks with caffeine:

  1. Soda
  2. Coffee
  3. Tea
  4. Energy drinks
  5. Alcohol by itself does not have caffeine, but a lot of alcoholic drinks have it

After today, I challenge you to try going caffeine free from just a day to a week, and see how it feels. And from a week, to a month. In not drinking caffeine, you may find some new things about yourself that you didn’t notice from before.

Day 19 – Go Barefoot Walking

This is Day 19 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

This time of the year, it’s impossible for me to do this task, without running the risk of frostbite. I can’t even walk barefoot indoor, let along outdoor.

I probably have to wait 6 months before I can try this. We have accumulated so much snow, some snow banks are as tall as I am or taller than I am, it will take a long time to melt.

I rarely walk barefoot indoor or outdoor.

Inside the house, I wear socks and winter slippers when it’s cold. Since my feet always feel cold, I like to wear socks to bed as well.   

In summer, I wear slippers in the house most of the time, because the floor feels cold to me.

We always take shoes off at the door and change to slippers that are used indoor only.

A lot of things we do in daily life are just habits.

Occasionally when I walk barefoot in the house or outside on the grass in my yard in summer, I do feel more alive with sensations, more connection with the ground and with the nature.

I will try to walk barefoot more this summer.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 19: Go Barefoot Walking

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Today’s task is about barefoot walking. I wrote about Barefoot Running/Walking and 10 benefits of doing so in May last year. In the article, I shared the experience of my first barefoot walk:

First thing I felt when I stepped out of my house was how cooling and smooth the surface of the pavements were. I never realized this since I always wore shoes going out. I felt present and connected with every step as I walked over to the lift, stood around in the lobby and took the lift down to the ground level.

As I walked to the park, I walked on different surfaces, including concrete pavements, roads (asphalt concrete) and cemented ground. It was interesting feeling the different textures and temperatures of the grounds – definitely something I had not paid attention to with shoes on. Concrete pavements felt very cooling and smooth – as if you can just slide on them. Roads felt rough and grainy.. somewhat prickly too. Cemented grounds felt like an in-between of concrete and roads.

It was just 2 minutes walking to the path, and I already felt more mindful and present than my normal self when walking with shoes. I was aware of every step I take, how it felt and my connection with the ground whenever my foot touched base with it.

The thing about barefoot walking/running is that it has helped me feel more connected and more aware of the whole walking/running process. In the past when I run, I would just feel the cool air and soak in the sights of the sky/trees/stars while running. Walking/Running barefoot has added a new dimension – I feel a whole level of connectedness to the ground, and the universe itself. Every step I take, I’m aware. Every time my foot touches the ground, I can feel both the ground and my foot. During my walk/run, I am present, of myself, my posture, my surroundings, my environment.

Not only that, barefoot walking/running gives you stronger feet. Shoe wearing over the years has made our feet weak and soft. In fact, some of us wear poor-fitted shoes that cramp our toes/feet. Here’s an interesting excerpt from an article “Go Barefoot to Get Stronger“:

Quote:Through years of wearing shoes, our feet lose their tactile capacity, which is bad enough. But they also fail to develop to their proper size and shape. Tendons and ligaments shorten, muscles weaken, and the risk for foot and ankle injuries increases.

If it sounds like the ancient Chinese tradition of binding the feet, it kinda is. “It’s identical, but to a lesser degree,” Rooney says. “Shoes crush the foot into abnormal positions and you don’t get the movement the foot is designed for.”

Today, I’d like to invite you to barefoot walking. Not go to work barefoot (unless your office is cool with this sort of thing), but to just get outside for 10, 15 minutes today and walk without footwear. Do it during morning or evening when the ground is cool. You can do it while you’re out doing grocery shopping or simply walking/strolling around your neighborhood. If you run/jog, try running barefoot during your runs!

If there’s snow in your area (like for Matt and Xina), then don’t try the task just yet! You can do so when the snow clears up and winter is over.

Day 18 – Hug and Love Yourself

This is Day 18 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

It feels a little odd, but I did give myself a hug and told myself that: “I love you.”

What does “love yourself” mean?

To love yourself means to have self-acceptance, self-respect, self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive self-image. It means to accept yourself as who you are, with both strengths and weaknesses, to appreciate yourself for the unique talents and abilities you have, to believe in yourself that you can achieve greater things in life, and to know that you are worthy as a human being no matter what.

I know I am not perfect just like everyone else. There are a lot of things I do that are simply not lovable and I am not proud of. But I accept myself as I am, come to term with what I can’t change and try to improve what I can. 

How do you love yourself?

You love yourself by working on yourself and on becoming the best you possible.

When you love yourself, you take good care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You take time and make effort to nurture your body, mind and spirit. That’s what I am doing with this 21DHL challenge.

Your body needs proper nutrition, exercise and rest to function well. So eat well, exercise regularly and sleep adequately to keep your body in its top form and in good shape.

Your mind needs nourishment and exercise just like your body.  Learning new things to keep your mind active and function at an optimum level.

To live a balanced, fulfilled and meaningful life, you also need to take care of your spirit and soul. Forgive yourself as you should forgive others for mistakes and shortcomings. Connect with yourself, with your spirit and with the high power through meditation and silence.

Only when you can love yourself, you can then love others. Without loving yourself, you cannot love others.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 18 – Hug Yourself

[Image: hug-yourself.jpg]
Image ©

Today, your task is to give yourself a hug. And live the day with love and joy.

For Dec ’10 30DLBLers, re-read what you wrote for Day 20’s task on loving yourself and ask yourself if you’ve been living true to that for the past 3 weeks since the Dec 30DLBL ended. If not, how can you live true to it moving forward from now on?

No matter who you are, what you do where you come from, know that you are loved, always. I’ll always love all of you. :hug:

Day 17 – Floss Your Teeth

This is Day 17 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

Flossing is one of those things that you don’t miss if you have never done it and don’t have the habit of doing it, but you don’t want to miss it once you have established the habit of doing it.

I started flossing  a few years ago after listening to my dentist telling me again and again at every teeth cleaning visit that I should floss and after hearing a coworker telling me that he couldn’t stand not flossing every night.

Now I floss every night after brushing. It has really helped improve the health of my teeth.

I used to have really bad gum disease. Growing up in China I never visited a dentist, at least I don’t remember I ever did. In China we only went to the hospital when we had a health problem. There was no preventive care. Gum disease was not considered a big problem. I remember whenever I brushed my teeth, my gum always bleed.

I had my first teeth cleaning in Germany when I was a student there in my early twenties. My gum disease was so bad, the dentist had to do deep cleaning for my teeth in several separate sessions. From then on, my gum disease was gradually cured.

After coming to the United States, I have been keeping up with the regular preventive and maintenance care of my teeth. I have my teeth cleaned twice a year as my insurance permits. Now my teeth are healthy, without gum disease and any cavities.

My dentist once made the comment: “I wish everyone has such nice teeth as you have.”

Keeping my teeth healthy is not only good for my overall health, it also saves money.

Today I took my daughter to the dentist to have one filling done. Just one filling cost me $144 out of my pocket. That’s after the insurance copay (60% coverage) and with $50 deductible. It was quite a surprise. The price was over $40 more than I expected because it had just been changed after January 1, 2011. I wish my salary would increase that fast.

So I advise everyone to take good care of your teeth by brushing and flossing every day for better health and saving money.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 17 – Floss Your Teeth

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Do any of you floss your teeth? I do – but I didn’t used to do this in the past. According to a 2008 survey, only 49% of Americans floss daily, and 10% never floss.That’s unfortunate because flossing is even more important than brushing in preventing gum disease and tooth loss. When I was younger I thought flossing is an unnecessary step in dental care. It was when I got braces (when I was in my early 20s) that I was more conscious about dental hygiene – and I realized that flossing is a very important step in properly cleaning your teeth.

From WebMD:

Quote:“There is no instant gratification with flossing — that’s the problem,” says Alla Wheeler, RDH, MPA, associate professor of the Dental Hygiene Program at the New York University School of Dentistry. “Patients don’t think it does anything.”

But flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque, from your teeth. Plaque generates acid, which can cause cavities, irritate the gums, and lead to gum disease. “Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don’t floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean,”Wheeler explains. “Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria.”

If you experience bleeding during flossing, that’s an even clearer sign that you need to floss. The bleeding occurs because plaque has already built up in the area and would have continued to corrode your gums if you didn’t floss right there and then!

Today, let’s practice our best dental hygiene. Brush your teeth before you sleep/after you wake up. Rinse your mouth/brush your teeth in between your meals. For those of you who already floss, continue doing so! For those of you who don’t floss your teeth normally, let’s try flossing today!

Here’s a short 1:54 minute Youtube video on how to floss your teeth properly.

Day 15 & 16 – Meditate & Breathe

This is Day 15 & 16 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

Meditation and breathing usually go hand in hand. So I am combining both together.

I believe in the power and benefit of being still and meditating. But busyness of life and distractions in life often get in the way of doing what I would like to do.

Today after my kids went to bed, I did take some time to sit quietly in the yoga pose, had my eyes closed, doing nothing, just focused on breathing deeply and fully. I felt peaceful and relaxed after that.

In my workplace, we have weekly yoga provided by volunteer fellow employees and monthly relaxation/meditation session provided by Beth Freschi. I try to go whenever I can. Meditation and yoga, both incorporating deep breathing, are all great for relaxation and stress management.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 15 – Meditate

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Today’s task is on meditation. In Weeks 1-2, we focused on healthy living with regards to our diet and fitness. These are the physical aspects of a healthy life. However, there are other aspects that are equally important too. Healthy living also involves purity of our mind and our soul. With a mind of negative thoughts and emotions, it doesn’t matter how much healthy food and fitness we do. We’ll still be weighed down by the negative energy and baggage.

This is where meditation helps. Meditating helps us to lift the negative thoughts and baggage from our minds and souls. By itself, our body has the ability to cleanse itself from unwanted energies. It’s only because we’re constantly bombarded by stimuli and noise from our external environment that our self-recovery mechanisms become impended. However, when we spend just 10, 15 minutes a day sitting by ourselves, simply being an observer of reality, that’s when we find that our thoughts become clearer and lighter. Ideas flow easily and we become less disrupted.

(As meditation was also one of the daily tasks for 30DLBL, I’m pasting what I wrote for the September 30DLBL run. For those who have a copy of the 30DLBL Book, refer to the improved version of the task on Day 21)

I’ve written a lot already on my experience with meditation, how I got started and the benefits of meditation, which I invite you to read here first: 10 Reasons You Should Meditate

Whether you practice meditation in your daily routine or you only do it sporadically, meditation brings you increased clarity and centeredness within yourself. People who meditate regularly experience a huge slew of benefits, compared to those who don’t.

Let’s now take a breather through meditation.

Your Task: Meditate

  1. Clear your mind before you start. Take a few deep, slow breaths.
  2. Follow the 5 steps outlined in How To Meditate In 5 Easy Steps.
  3. Meditate for as long as you want, till you feel cleansed, purified, refreshed and good to go. I recommend 30 minutes to start off. If you want to meditate longer, that’s even better. (Back when I went for the Vipassana retreat, I underwent almost 100 hours of intense meditation, and processed a lot of latent memories and thoughts I didn’t know were there!)

Observe all the thoughts going through you meditate. Don’t engage in the thoughts; just sit and observe, as an external observer of reality would.

Some related articles I’ve written before on meditation for you to check out in your own time:


Day 16 – Breathe

Today’s task is a natural step forward from yesterday’s task on meditation. It’s on what’s seemingly the most basic of human functions, yet something which most of us take for granted – Breathing.

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Breathing is the foundation of life. Do you know that most people don’t breathe properly? Majority of people in the world are shallow breathers. We only use only the top portion of our lungs for our breath, whereas a full breath is one where your lungs are completely filled, your abdomen expands and there’s minimum movement in your shoulders. An average person takes about 15 breaths every minute, for about 21,600 times a day. That’s a lot of goodness and air we’re depriving our body of with shallow breathing.

Why is breathing so important?From How Stuff Works:

Quote:Breathing oxygenates every cell of your body, from your brain to your vital organs. Without sufficient oxygen, your body becomes more susceptible to health problems. For example, in a study published in The Lancet, cardiac patients who took 12 to 14 shallow breaths per minute (six breaths per minute is considered optimal) were more likely to have low levels of blood oxygen, which “may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance.”

In contrast, deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health in many ways — from stimulating the digestive process to improving fitness and mental performance.

All of us already know how to breathe properly – babies are known to have the most natural breathing in all our life stages. It’s because of all the stress, tension, external influences that cause our breathing to become incorrect.

Here’s a test to tell if you’re breathing correctly.

  1. Put your palms against your lower abdomen and blow out all the air.
  2. Now, take a big breath.
  3. What happens? Does/Do (a) your chest puff out, your shoulders rise and your stomach gets sucked in or (b) your chest, shoulders and stomach remain relatively still as air flow in deeply to the pit of your stomach?

If your answer is (b), you’re on the right track. If your answer is (a), you’re relying on your external body to breathe rather than using your diaphragm. Key reasons why we breathe this way include being in a constant state of tension (which causes light, shallow breathes), constantly “sucking” in our stomach to look like we have a tighter abdominal/smaller tummy, or possibly negative experiences from the past.

However, that’s a bad practice. Our abdominal area contains the most vital organs and it’s important to let it pulse. Tensing our stomach all the time like a perfect statue creates tension in our body instead. It is by practicing the proper breathing techniques that we automatically gain the right posture at the same time.

Today, our task is to breathe deeply and fully, throughout every moment of the day. With every breath you take, lower your diaphragm muscle and expand your abdomen. Breathe in deeply. Don’t use force – breathe naturally and with ease. Allow the fresh air to fill you from inside out. Visualize how you’re getting more power, vitality and goodness from the universe with every breath you take. Enjoy today with love, peace and harmony. :hug::heart::heart: Let’s all live healthily in life together.

Day 13 – Cleanse Your Kitchen

I was busy in the last few days and got behind with doing the daily challenge task. Now I am doing catch up.

This is Day 13 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

Cleaning kitchen is an ongoing task for me.

Every day after dinner, I make sure that dishes are washed, counters, stove surface and sink are wiped clean. 

I clean my fridge whenever is needed, usually when I notice some spills or stains. 

In terms of clutter, I know I have a lot of work to do. I have junk drawers and stuff in pantry that need better organization.

Clutter is a problem I cannot seem to eliminate from my life. I love to keep stuff and reuse as much as possible.    

When I visit American homes, I often get the impression that they don’t cook at home much or at all. Their stoves look spotless and clean.

In my home, we cook Chinese food every day which can get messy and greasy. I keep the kitchen as clean as possible. I know my kitchen will never be as clean and tidy as many American kitchens are. But that’s OK for me. I am not a perfectionist. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I would rather doing something else than trying to keep my house spotless and in perfect condition.

I don’t buy much unhealthy food in the first place. The groceries I buy every week are mostly veggies and fruit. So there is not much unhealthy food in the house. But since I am not the only one doing grocery shopping, it’s unavoidable we will have some unhealthy snacks that my kids love to eat.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 13 – Cleanse Your Kitchen

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Today’s task is to cleanse your kitchen! That includes:

  • Purging unhealthy food
  • Removing clutter (30DLBL Day 11)
  • Cleaning your kitchen
  • Cleaning your fridge
  • Stocking up on healthy food
  • etc

That’s because our environment plays an important role in the success of our goals. Having a positive environment that supports healthy living will no doubt support us in our journey to live a healthy life.

Below is an example of what I did when I first switched from an omnivore diet to a vegetarian diet:

Article: Using Your Environment to Achieve Your Goals Wrote:…. If you only planned to accomplish the 21 day program through sheer motivation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were unable to nail down the habit in those 21 days. Relying on the initial burst of motivation can only get you so far. You need to use that spike in the beginning to create the environment to ensure your success.

For example, when I wanted to try out being a vegetarian 2 years ago, I spent a few days setting up an environment that is conducive for my goals.

  • I went to buy a blender, so I could easily make my own fruit smoothies.
  • I went to the supermarket and stocked up on vegetarian food so I would have a constant food supply at home.
  • I did up a goal sheet for my vegetarian goal, writing out my motivations for trying out the vegetarian diet and plastering the sheet with pictures of nice, appetizing vegetarian food.
  • I set my desktop wallpaper with a picture of a whole variety of juicy, fresh fruits.
  • I told the people around me that I was going to try out vegetarianism for the next 1 month, so they would be walking reminders of my goal.
  • I joined vegetarian online communities to acquaint with like-minded folks.
  • I placed bookmarks of vegetarian sites in my browser.

All these were done so I would be able to stick to a vegetarian diet for the entire month. And because I created the right, conducive environment to achieve my goals, I was able to hit my goal, surprisingly easy. And I never looked back ever since.

Let’s do a kitchen cleanse today! And feel free to share before/after pictures when you’re done! 

Day 12 – Explore Your Relationship With Food

I was busy in the last few days and got behind with doing the daily challenge task. Now I am doing catch up.

This is Day 12 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

I think my relationship with food is mostly healthy and non emotional. I eat because that’s part of my daily routine. I eat when the clock tells me it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I usually eat less than full.

If I skip a meal or two, I don’t feel any physical discomfort like many people do. I can also eat more than I normally do if I want to.

I don’t think I eat for reasons such as feeling stressed, bored, frustrated, unhappy, guilty, or depressed.

I did grow up with the doctrine: “Don’t waste any food.” That’s the only emotional connection I can think of.

I can think of a few situations when I tend to either eat more or eat not so healthy food.

  • Go out to eat Chinese buffet. Read A love/hate relationship about eating buffet.
  • At parties and events where there is free food
  • Don’t want to leave food for the next day so I will eat everything even though I have eaten enough.
  • Don’t want to waste food so I will eat more than I need.
  • I tend to snack more at work than at home. When I sit in the office all day, I eat more snacks than I do at home.

Since I eat light and healthy most of the time, I don’t have big concerns about my relationship with food.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 12 – Explore Your Relationship With Food

Today’s task is about exploring our relationship with food.

Looking through everyone’s journals including mine, it’s interesting to see the words we use to describe food.

“I love steak. I’m never going to give it up.”
“I love cookies. They’re so delicious.”
“I have sinned because I ate that piece of cake.”
“I cheated on my diet.”
“I love this salad that I’m eating.”
“I feel like crap because I didn’t stick to my diet and ate cheese.”
“I feel so happy because I’m drinking my favorite smoothie now.”
“I feel guilty for for eating that chocolate just now.”
“I hate myself for overeating.”

It’s funny because all these are extremely strong words we’re using. Love. Hate. Sinned. Cheated. Crap. Guilty. All these are strong emotions that we’re evoking, all in the name of food. Yet is food a living thing? It’s not. Food is not alive. It’s dead. It’s a non-living thing that just sits there in the kitchen counter/fridge/container we’ve put it in whether we like it or not. No matter how much we love it or hate it, it’s not going to bounce out and hug us. It’s never going to return whatever emotions we hold for it.

Because this is a 1-way relationship that is never going to be reciprocated, the intense emotions we hold towards our food leads to an unhealthy, erratic eating behavior. From depriving ourselves of a certain food because we’ll feel guilty about eating it, to binging that exact same food the next moment. From feeling ecstatic about getting to eat our favorite food, to feeling upset and unhappy when we don’t have it. From rewarding ourselves for adhering to our diet, to beating ourselves up when we fall off our tiny wagon.

The emotions we created from food didn’t just appear out of nothing of course. They have been built since our childhood, from the advertisements we see of happy people eating a certain food (think fast food, like McDonald’s and KFC); from billboard pictures of food items; from situations we experience with food (e.g., celebrating an event such as a birthday with lots of food); from things people tell us about food (e.g., “If you eat this you’re a good child”).

For me, my relationship with food was one that was forged between my parents and love. When I was young, my parents, especially my mom, would buy a lot of food for me and my brother. For them, buying food for us is their way of expressing love. Hence, the link that eating/food = love became deeply embedded in my subconsciousness. As I grew up, eating became a natural reaction to situations I face, particularly frustration and stress. Whenever I’m working, I’ll feel like eating something, even if I just ate.

The key to addressing this isn’t to negate your existing emotions for food, but to understand where they stem from. For example, if I specifically my current love for smoothies and salads, it’s because of the vitality and high energy they bring me. Hence, it’s not the smoothies and the salads that I love – it’s the increased energy, which lets me feel more alive, hence experiencing life on a heightened scale. Knowing this helps me to unchain any unnecessary emotional links I have with the food itself, and connect with the underlying reason, so that I can then focus on living life with vitality vs. craving for smoothies/salads to do that.

Today, let us spend some time to explore our relationship with food as a whole, via our eating habits. The more conscious we are of our eating behaviors, the more it’ll help us develop healthy eating habits and live a healthy life.

1) What are your eating triggers?

In the ideal world, our relationship with food will be one where we eat only when we feel hungry and we stop eating immediately once we are full (vs. eating to finish the plate etc). We do not eat based on any extrinsic factors (such for as a celebration, or stress, work, boredom, to feed a feeling of depression, etc), but based purely on intrinsic factors (i.e. whether we’re hungry or not).

For many of us though, a lot of our eating/non-eating occurs outside of hunger. It’s because of this that there are problems such as obesity, underweight, anorexia and bulimia are prevalent in the society.

If you think about it, what are your triggers for eating/not eating? Below are some common examples:

  • Stress – Do you eat when you feel stressed / under pressure? While I don’t consider any of the work I do stressful at all, I do notice that I reach out for food whenever it’s time to work (even in the past, when I’m studying). In my mind, food is like a companion that gives me energy/ideas while I work.
  • Frustration – Do you reach out for food when you are frustrated? When something is not going the way you want? When you overate and you are beating yourself over it?
  • Boredom – Do you eat when you feel bored? When you are at a loss of what you should be doing?
  • Guilt – Is food an outlet to release your guilt? This is an area I fall under as well, though not to the same extent as my natural reaction to eat when I’m working. If I ever fall off track in my diet/plans, I’d forget it all and just binge for the whole day. After all, since I’ve already eaten that pastry, what does it matter if I eat everything else that’s there?
  • Happiness – Do you eat as a way to celebrate?
  • Depression – Do you eat when you feel down/unhappy/depressed?
  • Social – Do you eat when you’re out with friends, even though you don’t feel hungry?

2) Understand why you eat under those situations

Why do you eat during those situations you identified in #1? For the answer that comes up, continue to ask “Why” until you have arrived at the underlying root cause. This is also what I call as the digging exercise, as you’re literally “digging” to uncover the fundamental reason why you’re triggered to eat when you feel stressed/guilty/frustrated/bored/happy/etc.

For example, if I dig into why I eat when I’m working, these are the answers I get:

Why do I eat when I work, even though I’m not hungry?
– Because I need to eat while I’m working
– Because I can’t work without eating
– Because it’s my source of life
– Because food is like my companion. It accompanies me as I work.
– Because I feel empty without it.
– Because when I eat food, I feel love.
– Because food is a reward. Because when I was young, dad and mom would buy lots of food to show their love. They’ve always said it’s important to eat to stay alive and healthy. In chinese saying, 能吃是福, meaning it’s a blessing and gift to be able to eat.

Because of all the conditioning when I was young, I have developed the link that food = love. This is one of the answers that come up when I explore why I eat in the context of work. When I explore it in the context of guilt, a different set of answers come up, whereby I’m trying to punish myself by overeating.

Keep digging across the different contexts relevant for you and you may find some mind opening answers. The power of your realizations is dependent on how deeply you’re willing to dig. The deeper you dig, the more powerful your realizations will be. You know you have reached the underlying root cause when you get an a-ha moment and when you reach an incident(s) that led to the belief being formed vs. the belief itself.

3) What can you do to restore a healthy relationship with food?

Given your answers in #2, what can you do moving forward to develop a healthy relationship with food? List down your key action steps. The results may not be immediate, but this is the start of a journey to creating that healthy relationship with food, and to living a truly healthy lifestyle.

For me, my key steps are:
1) See food for what it is – something to sustain life vs. a companion or friend
2) Continue to build positive relationships with my parents
3) Do the digging exercise whenever I eat in spite of not feeling hungry
4) Continue to love myself more (Day 20 of
5) Continue to eat a high raw food diet and transition to a raw diet in the long-term, which will help me become more conscious of my eating habits and develop a positive relationship with food.

The biggest speech of my life

If you ask my kids or anyone in my family whether I am funny and have a sense of humor, they will for sure say: “No.” They can’t picture me as being funny and humorous. And that’s true.

But somehow, some people at work think differently of me. They think I can entertain people and make people laugh. That’s why I was invited to speak at the farewell party for MnDOT Deputy Commissioner Khani Sahebjam today. He was roasted by several high profile speakers from the federal, state and city governments, from the state legislature and consulting firm. 

Being invited by the MnDOT Commissioner Tom Sorel to speak at the event was an honor for me. I was the only female on the panel and I am no body, i.e. not someone with an important title, but I sat among the others who all have impressive titles. It was truly an honor. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak. I made the biggest speech of my life in front of 100-200 people.

Don Theisen, Washington County Public Works Director and County Engineer was among the guest speakers. I didn’t know him at all, but I took the opportunity to thank him for the work his Dept. does. Thanks partly to the nice work the Washington County and Woodbury Public Works Departments do, Woodbury made it into several Best Places to Live lists in the last few years.

Woodury does feel like a better place to live, especially after a snow day.

After we had the biggest snow storm since 1991 on December 10-11, 2010, I was able to dig my car out of my garage and drive from Woodbury to work in St. Paul on Monday, but my coworkers who live in St. Paul were not so fortunate. They couldn’t go to work in St Paul, because their streets were not plowed for a couple of days.

I enjoyed the public speaking, something I just discovered recently. It was fun to make people laugh.

10+ life lessons I have learned

[The topic for this post was chosen for a reason. Since this is my 400th post on this blog. I decided to put a little bit more time and thoughts into it and have it posted on 1/11/11.]

Life is a journey. On this journey we learn many lessons. It’s a great idea for each of us to take a moment and reflect on what we have learned. We have learned a lot and we have a lot to share with each other. We still have a lot to learn. Sharing what we have learned so far and learning from others help us grow and live a better live.

I rarely read a book twice. One book I did read twice several years ago was Hal Urban’s “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things that Matter.” I just love to read life lessons others have learned and to share.

Recently after reading 22 Things I Wish I Had Known Earlier In My Life by Abubakar Jamil and some other posts in his Life Lessons Series, I thought about some lessons I learned on my life’s journey. I was inspired to write this post.

Here are 10+ life lessons I have learned or I am still learning.  

  • Knowledge does not worth much if I just keep it in my mind and don’t put it in my action and apply it to my life. Doing is definitely a lot harder than knowing.
  • I am a spirit with a soul who is having a human experience. What I can see is temporary, but what I cannot see is eternal and more important.
  • We don’t need a lot in life. We don’t have to be perfectly made or perfectly looking. What we really need in life is to have a heart of contentment and gratitude, to know that we are wonderfully made and to find the purpose God has for us. Read Being content.
  • Life is more than success. Finding meaning in life is a life long learning and searching process.
  • Life is a balancing act. Finding balance in mind, body and spirit is vitally important to live a life of health and well-being.
  • If I pay attention and be mindful, I can learn important lessons in all circumstances, in successes or failures, or in simple daily activities such as gardening. Read Lessons, garden style.
  • Ask and you shall receive. I have done some fundraising in the last few years. I am often surprised by how easy it is to get what I ask for if I just take the time and have the courage to ask. 
  • Each of us speaks a certain language in order to understand and be understood. Each of us also has a love language. Learning the five love language is important in order to love and be loved the best we can.
  • There is power in the written word. Take the time to write a letter or note to express your gratitude, best wishes, regrets, forgiveness, etc.
  • Don’t blindly trust any doctor or financial advisor. Only you have your best interest in mind.
  • Everyone is normal till you get to know them. The grass is not necessarily greener on the other side.
  • and more

More good news for Woodbury

Today I heard some more good news for Woodbury as one of the best places to live. listed Woodbury as No. 5 on its list of  10 Best Places to Buy a Home in 2011. It called Woodbury the best place to raise kids among its top-10 list unveiled Dec. 31, 2010. 

Last year Woodbury made it into Business Week’s 2010 Best Places to Raise Your Kids list.

Last year Woodbury was also selected by Money Magazine as one of the 100 best places to live in America. Woodbury ranked no. 13 on a list of 100 of America’s Best Small Cities.   

No wonder Woodbury is one of the fastest growing suburbs in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Day 10 – Calculate Your Daily Energy Expenditure

This is Day 10 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.

I am not really interested in doing today’s task, so I am not even going to try it.

I can add, subtract, multiply and divide pretty well. But that’s all the math I can handle. Anything beyond that gives me a headache.

I do not like to calculate, to measure, to do statistics or anything that has to do with numbers. That’s all very dead boring to me.

The most boring class and the most boring professor I had in my whole life was the statistics class and the professor who taught it during my graduate study at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. It was a total waste of my time.

BTW, even though I didn’t do exercise today, I still felt really good, because I was working on interesting things at work. It shows that mental health contributes greatly to a person’s total well being.


The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 10 – Calculate Your Daily Energy Expenditure

If you have weight loss/weight gain goals which you’re serious about achieving, then you have to know your daily energy expenditure (Thanks HotChildInTheCity for introducing this term to me!). Total Daily Energy Expenditure (or TDEE) is the total number of calories you burn in an average day, including all the activities you do.

If you remember, during Day 2 we talked about your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR stands for the minimum caloric requirement to sustain life in an individual, and doesn’t account for the exercises/activities you do. TDEE, on the other hand, takes into account our activity level, and is a closer measure to the calories we burn on an average day. Basically

TDEE = BMR (Calories burned at rest) + Calories burned from activities (This is a calorie expenditure that occurs on top of your BMR)

Consuming lesser calories than TDEE will lead to a weight loss. On the other hand, consuming more calories will lead to a weight gain. Consuming the same calories will lead to maintenance of your current weight.

To figure out how many calories you should eat a day to achieve your weight goals, we need to first know your TDEE. Hence, today’s task is on calculating your TDEE!

Step 1: Calculate Your TDEE

There are 2 general methods to calculate your TDEE:

  1. The first method is to calculate an overall TDEE, based on your activity level throughout the week. You can use the TDEE calculator here. The figure you get represents your average TDEE every day. Mine is 1740 calories, meaning I burn 1740 calories every day.
  2. The second method is tedious but precise. Calculate your BMR first via the BMR counter. This represents your caloric requirements purely to sustain your body. Multiply it by 1.2, which will give you your caloric expenditure on a day with minimal activity. (Thanks Jade for highlighting this!) Then, for whatever fitness activity you undertake, use this activity counter to measure that. Sum up the 2 figures and you’ll get your TDEE for the day.
    For example, if your BMR is 1400 and you went jogging today and burned 300 calories, your total energy expenditure will be 1400×1.2 + 300=1680 + 300 = 1980 calories for the day.

Step 2: Calculate your calories intake per day to achieve your weight goal

To lose/gain weight, you’ve to consume lesser/more calories than your energy expended every day (or if you prefer to exercise, you need to burn x more calories that day). It’s generally recommended not to set a calories difference bigger than 500. So if your daily energy expenditure is 1700, you should have a calories intake of less than 1700, between 1200 to <1700 calories.

By setting your ideal weight and the date you want to achieve this ideal weight, you can then work backwards and calculate your calories intake a day.

  1. Calculate the difference between your ideal weight and current weight. If your ideal weight is 60kg and your current weight is 63kg, the difference is 3kg or 6.6lbs (1kg = 2.2lbs).
  2. To lose 1 lb, you need to have a calorie deficit of 3500 lbs. Multiply the difference between your ideal and current weight in lbs by 3500. Example: If you have a 6.6lbs difference, that will be 23100 calories.
  3. When do you want to achieve your ideal weight? Calculate the number of days between now and your ideal date. If you want to achieve your ideal weight by end of Feb (it’s Jan 10 now), that’s 50 days left.
  4. Last but not least, divide your total number of calories/deficit by total number of days. Example: 23100 / 50 = 462 calories per day. This means you need to eat 462 less calories or burn 462 more calories (vs. your TDEE) to achieve your ideal weight of 60kg by end Feb.

Step 3: Design your ideal healthy living plans to fit your daily caloric target

Now that you know your daily caloric target, what is your ideal healthy living plan (incorporating ideal meal plan (Day 3) and exercise) that will help you achieve this target, while meeting your nutritional needs? Design a few healthy living plans (one for each week, so you have variety) and then start following these plans from today onwards!

Day 9 – Understanding Your Trigger Foods

This is Day 9 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

When it comes to health, I consider myself as a lucky person. Not only do I have no big health concerns, I also have no big challenges and roadblocks.

I do not have trigger foods. I have no craving for sweets – candies, chocolates, ice cream, cakes, cookies or salty snacks – chips, pretzels, etc. They are not part of my daily diets.

As a kid, I rarely had sweets. So I never developed any sweet teeth.

When sweets and chips are available at parties or when people bring them to events in offices, I’ll eat some. Junk food do taste good, but they don’t trigger me to eat more or get my diet out of control. 

No trigger foods, lucky me.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 9 – Understanding Your Trigger Foods

[Image: trigger-food.jpg]
Do you know what your trigger foods are? Trigger foods are the food items that make you go berserk and binge like crazy after you eat them. Everyone’s trigger foods are different, but generally trigger foods are candy bars, chocolate, confectionery, chips, cookies, or anything with high level of refined sugar, salt, fat or flour. These foods cause a blood sugar imbalance, hence triggering one to eat more.

My trigger foods are pasta, noodles, cookies, bread, donuts, pastries, (anything made from dough for that matter), fries, chips, and anything that’s deep tried. In the past, whenever I have any one of these, I’d abandon my ideal diet and binge on anything and everything I could find.

Looking back, there were a few reasons. The first is an all-or-nothing mindset – Since I had already eaten something that was not part of my plan, I had “failed” and it didn’t matter even if I had stuck to it. Of course, that was a fallacy in thought. The second reason is because a lot of doughy foods are non-filling (at least, in my opinion). I never fill full from eating cookies. Hence, I would eat a lot of them, which made me feel worse about myself, which then caused me to eat more of them, hence creating a self-enforcing bingefest.

Being aware of my trigger foods really helped me to transition to my ideal eating habits. Rather than eat them and binge afterwards, I avoided these foods altogether. I became more conscious of my food choices. As I did that, my trigger foods stopped having a hold over me – for example, today I can eat just a cookie or bread without binging later. However I don’t eat them anymore as I prefer raw food now :D.

By knowing what your trigger foods are, you can then consciously avoid them in your diets, and move a step closer toward your ideal diets. Today, our task is to identify our trigger foods and remove them from our diet!

Step 1: List Your Trigger Foods (10 min)

  1. Think about the times when you veer off-track in your diet. What were you eating at the point when you decided you’re going to binge?
  2. What are the foods that make you go “crazy” and veer you off track in your diet?

As I mentioned above, trigger foods tend to be high in sugar – like candy bars, chocolate, confectionery, cakes, chips, cookies, or anything with high level of refined sugar, salt, fat or flour. My trigger foods tend to be doughy/breaded food and deep fried food. When I was younger, my trigger food was donuts – I could eat a lot of them at one go! Thinking back it’s quite gross and extremely unfulfilling.

Step 2: Remove them from your current diet

How can you remove the trigger foods from your diet today?

There were several things I did in the past to remove trigger foods. Firstly, my parents, particularly my mom, often bought bread, and fried finger food home. My dad would buy a lot of biscuits and cookies as snacks for the family. Every time I ate a trigger food, I’d end up binging. Eventually I asked my parents to stop buying these trigger foods home. A lot of times they would forget and buy them home anyway, or a variation of those items, so I kept telling them the same thing. Today they hardly buy them home anymore.

I also avoided my trigger foods altogether. In the past I would eat, say, a cookie or two, thinking that it would be okay. It didn’t work though – I would keep eating them since the first one never felt satisfying enough. So rather than just have one or two, I learned to say no to all my trigger foods.

I also stocked up my kitchen with healthy snacks. When I feel hungry, I would be able to eat these snacks rather than turn to trigger foods. It worked quite well.

How about you? What are your key action steps to remove your trigger foods from your diet and your life?

Day 8 – Get a Great Workout!

This is Day 8 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

I am a day behind with my post.

I checked out the aerobic video on Youtube mentioned below, followed the video and did some exercise right in front of my computer. I thought it was a great idea.

There are several thousands of aerobic videos on Youtube you can use. No need to buy videos or join a gym or even leave your house. You can exercise right at home, any day, anytime, any weather condition. How convenient is that? There is no more excuse that you can’t do exercise.   

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 8 – Get a Great Workout!

[Image: exercise.jpg]

Today is Day 8, and our task today is to get a great workout! :dance::dance::dance:

Just like our diet, exercising is a core aspect of living a healthy life. Even if you eat your healthiest diet and meditate regularly, you can’t hope to be truly healthy without exercise. There have been countless research that shows a clear link between increased activity in life and better health. Research has also shown that exercising daily brings tremendous benefits to our health, including increase of life span, lowering of risk of diseases, higher bone density and weight loss.

Hence today, let’s get out there and get a good workout! If you’re already exercising today as part of your 21-Day Action Plan, that’s fantastic!

Here are some tips to integrate exercise as part of your life:

  1. How can you increase your activity level on a daily basis? Besides the standard sports and running, exercise can also come in other forms, such as brisk walking and stretching. Choose walking over transport for close distances. Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift. Go for a walk in the park.
  2. Pick exercises you enjoy. When you enjoy your exercises, you’ll naturally want to do them. Exercise isn’t about suffering and pushing yourself; it’s about being healthy and having fun at the same time.
  3. Have a variety of exercises to choose from. Adding variation in your exercises will keep them interesting. Have in mind 3-4 exercises that you can do for your exercise sessions, and rotate across them to keep things fresh.
  4. Group exercises. Individual exercises are great but sometimes they might get a little stale. Pick some group exercises every once in a while and play with your friends. The fun will increase your enthusiasm by multiple folds and you’ll naturally give them your all.

Home Aerobics

I’ve had many times when my exercise plans get cancelled due to bad weather or other reasons, and it was very frustrating. Until I found a solution to the problem – Home Aerobics. It was a godsend. I’m now able to get my fill of 30 minutes of exercise whenever I need to, regardless of the weather! Simply load up 3 videos (each video is 10 minutes long), and get going with what the instructor in the video says! (Here’s a websitethat lets you download Youtube videos to your computer.

Here, I’m going to share an aerobic video, and feel free to get more videos here.

You can do home aerobics by yourself too! Set 30-40 minutes for yourself, play a few of these videos and follow what they’re doing! In fact nowadays, I prefer this to actual class aerobics now because it’s so convenient and you can do it in your room whenever you want to.

Continue this habit for the rest of 21DHL

Remember that exercise isn’t a 1-day thing – it’s a lifelong process! Add exercising into your 21-Day Action Plan (if it’s not there already) and follow up with your exercises when the day comes.

Day 7 – Review & Plan for Week 2

This is Day 7 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

I think I did OK in the first week of the 21DHL Challenge.

  • Diet – Tried to eat more raw food. Ate mostly as usual, and added more raw veggies.
  • Fitness – Tried to exercise more. Walked stairs, added two more rounds, but some days I was busy and didn’t have time to do it. 
  • Lifestyle – Tried to sleep more. I used to go to bed at 1 am or later. In the last week I went to bed at midnight on most nights.  

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 7 – Review & Plan for Week 2!

While our challenge is set for 21 days, healthy living is for life. It’s about creating this healthy lifestyle that will sustain itself in the long term, no matter what happens. 21DHL is meant as a trigger to help you jumpstart your healthy living goals, via a combined platform where different individuals all around the world get together to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

[Image: 21dhl-review.jpg]

Some people might face the problem where they face success with a renewed lifestyle for 1-2 days, then revert back to their old habits and behaviors after that. That’s because they see it as a short-term goal rather than a lifelong journey.

It’s normal to have disruptions in our diet, exercise and lifestyle goals. If you feel you have “fallen” off the wagon in the past few days, I want to let you know that it doesn’t matter. If you haven’t been able to catch up on some of the tasks, I want to let you know that it doesn’t matter either. Beating yourself up isn’t going to help you live a healthier life. The question isn’t about whether you met the target for the day or not. The question is whether you have learned from what happened so that you’ll get better at doing it. The question is whether you know what are the key actions to take to succeed in your plan moving forward.

So today, we’re going to review our past week of 21DHL and plan for week 2 ahead!

Step 1 – Fall in line with the 21DHL Tasks

Review our first 6 tasks for 21DHL. If there are any tasks you haven’t done yet, today’s the best time to catch up on them!

Step 2 – Review Your Past Week

Review your past week with the 21DHL challenge. Think about your experiences with your 21-day action plan, your intentions when you embarked on 21DHL and your status right now.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your health and fitness for the past week (including your diet, fitness and lifestyle goals)? Why?
  2. Were there any times where you fell off track in your healthy lifestyle goals?
    1. Diet
    2. Fitness
    3. Lifestyle (Waking/Sleeping times, Other habits like meditation)
  3. If so, what happened during those times that took you off track? What can you learn from the incidences?
  4. What can you do differently moving forward in living an even healthier life?

Step 3 – Set Your Week 2 Action Plan for 21DHL!

As we move into Week 2 of 21DHL (of 3 weeks), what are your key goals for the next week? Review your 21-Day Action Plan and add on/revise your tasks/goals for week 2 where needed. If your goals are the same, you can stick with what you’ve written.

Then, write down your key action steps that will enable you to accomplish all your week 2 targets. What are you going to do in preparation for Week 2 ahead? How can you make Week 2 even better than Week 1? :dance::dance:

Here are some of my action steps to create a successful Week 2 ahead:

  • Research on raw recipes
  • Work out a range of ideal meal plans for different weeks, so I can pick out whichever meal plan I want for the week
  • Go grocery shopping and expand my vegetables/fruit selection so I have even more variety
  • Stick to my exercise timings – Finish work on time so they don’t overrun into my exercise sessions.

How to stop eating after dinner

I mentioned in my ideal meal plan about eating nothing after dinner.

A reader asked: “Tell me, on not eating after dinner…are you simply satisfied or do you need to make a conscious decision every evening not to eat? I find evenings my hardest time of day to refrain from eating mindlessly, and I would love to know how you accomplish that. Thanks!”

After dinner around 5:30-6:00 pm, I usually don’t eat any more. I am just not hungry as I sit most of the time. Sometimes if there is leftover fruit I prepared for my kids, I will finish that, but nothing really sweet, like cake, cookies or ice cream.

The following ideas might help people stop eating after dinner:

  • Brush your teeth as soon as you finish dinner.
  • Don’t have the snacks in front of you or in the house to attempt you.
  • Keep yourself busy. People tend to eat when they get bored.  Instead of eating, go for a walk, read, or just do something you like that consumes your attention and energy to keep your mind occupied and off from food. If you watch TV aimlessly and mindlessly, you are more likely to eat snacks mindlessly at the same time. I am usually busy with kids or reading or blogging in the evening that I don’t have time to eat mindlessly.
  • Don’t mistake thirst for hunger. Instead of grabbing a snack, grab a water bottle. Drinking water might just help to curb your appetite a bit.
  • Chew sugar free gum.
  • If you do eat after dinner, at least have the healthy snack handy, such as fruit and raw veggies, and no junk food.

Have a full stomach when you go to bed is not a good and healthy thing. So remember:

Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar!

Special deal on Pioneer Press

I subscribe to Woodbury Bulletin and Minneapolis Star Tribune (Sunday only). I always read the weekly Woodbury Bulletin from cover to cover, except the sports section, to get the local news. As for the Star Tribune, I do look through the Sunday ads, but I don’t read the whole paper, just some selected sections, because I don’t have time to read all. 

I had St. Paul Pioneer Press from time to time. I alternate between the two Twin Cities papers. Last summer I switched to Star Tribune. Since then I got marketing calls from Pioneer Press. I always said no. But last night when I got another call, I said yes, for two reasons.

One, it was a really good deal to which it’s hard to say no. For $0.25 a week or $13 a year, I get the Thursday, Friday and Sunday papers.  Two, my son likes the paper. He prefers Pioneer Press than Star Tribune. 

To get the special deal, I had to prepay the $13.00 for the 52 weeks. I put it on my credit card.

If anyone is interested in the deal, you can call A Market Resource at 651-255-5842.

Day 6 – Eat 5 Servings of Fruits/Vegetables

This is Day 6 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

Eating 5 servings of fruits/vegetables is not difficult for me. I can easily meet that requirement every day.

Today I had an orange, a pear, baby carrots, cauliflower, onion, and Chinese napa.

The challenge part is to get my kids to eat that amount of fruits/vegetables. At every dinner, I try my best to make them eat some vegetables and later some fruits as a snack.

I wrote about my daughter who is a picky eater. She only ate a banana a day. That was all the fruit she would eat. The good news is, starting with the New Year, she has been adding an apple to her fruit intake every day.  I am happy about that.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 6 – Eat 5 Servings of Fruits/Vegetables

Today is Day 6, and our task today is to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables! :dance:

[Image: fruits-3.jpg]

Do you know that it’s recommended that we have at least 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables EVERY DAY?

Here’s a quote from site:

Many experts suggest we need from five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That is a total. Older or inactive women and smaller children need at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. Growing kids, teen girls, most men and active women would eat at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit everyday. Teen boys and active men should eat at least five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit. Unfortunately many people fail to eat even five servings each day.

Unfortunately most people don’t even have at least 2 servings, much less 5-9! The health benefits of fruits and vegetables need no introduction. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals – they pretty much contain every single nutrient we need to live an extremely healthy life (with the exception of vitamin B12).

Hence for today’s task, we’re going to consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables!

Knowing what’s a serving size

If you’re wondering what counts as a serving size, here are some examples:


  • one banana
  • six strawberries
  • two plums
  • fifteen grapes
  • one apple
  • one peach
  • one half cup of orange or other fruit juice


  • five broccoli florets
  • ten baby carrots
  • one roma tomato
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • half of a baked sweet potato
  • one ear of corn
  • four slices of an onion

Pick bright colored fruits/vegetables, in different colors

Fruits and vegetables with bright colors are usually high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants are good for health because they remove free radicals in our body that damage our cells. So get your fill of fruits/vegetables of different colors:

  1. White: Bananas, Mushroom, Onion, Potatoes, White Corn, Sprouts
  2. Yellow: Pineapples, Mango, Yellow Pears, Starfruit
  3. Orange: Orange, Papaya, Cantaloupe, Apricots, Carrots, Grapefruit
  4. Red: Apple, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon
  5. Green: Guava, Avocados, Cucumber, Lettuce, Celery
  6. Purple/Blue: Blackberries, Eggplant, Prunes, Grapes, Blackcurrents

More examples of fruits/vegetables under the color wheel.

Different Ways of Meeting Your 5-9 Servings

If you are wondering how you can meet your 5-9 servings quota today, here are some tips:

  1. Mix them in a smoothie. This is the most effective method. You can easily take in 3-4 servings this way!
  2. Have a fruit with every meal. Having fruits for breakfast is a fantastic way to start off your day!
  3. Replace your daily snacks with fruits. Highly nutritious and low calories! What more can you ask for? :D

Day 5 – Go Grocery Shopping

This is Day 5 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

I didn’t go grocery shopping today. I did it yesterday, without knowing about today’s task.

I do not use grocery shopping list when I shop, just as I do not use recipes when I cook.

I buy what I need and normally use. For that, I do not need a list.

I always read the Sunday ads from the grocery stores and see what’s on sale for veggies and fruits. Then I bring the paper with me to remind me of buying those items on sale.   

I usually do grocery shopping on Fridays or weekends. But since last week was no school days and holidays, we were home and ate more. We were running low on veggies and fruits. So yesterday I went shopping. I bought oranges, tangerines, celery, asparagus, cauliflower, baby carrots, bags of frozen corn. At the checkout, the cashier made the comment: “You have loaded up with veggies today.”

That’s what I normally do when I go grocery shopping.

BTW, one thing I really liked about living in China, as I did last summer, was the neighborhood farmer’s markets. They are open all year round. They are both indoor and outdoor. They are right there where people live. My parents only need to walk about 3 minutes to reach the neighborhood farmer’s market and a grocery store.  

In China, when they build residential areas, apartment buildings or houses, they always include farmer’s markets, grocery stores, resaurants, schools and other services in the neighborhood. So you can take care of your basic needs within walking distance. I think that’s great.


The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 5 – Go Grocery Shopping!

Today is Day 5, and we’re going grocery shopping!! :dance:

[Image: grocery-shopping.jpg]

Yesterday we had a test run of our ideal meal plan. While some of us may have carried it out with good success, sustaining our ideal diets in the long run requires us to do some shopping and preparation.

After I began doing my grocery shopping and preparing my meals with the start of 21DHL, I’m experiencing the joys and benefits of the whole exercise. For one, I get to control everything that I eat. No more subjecting myself to sub-standard, low nutritional food in my house. Two, no more trying to search for restaurants/eateries for things that I want to eat. (For a while last year, I had to keep hunting for salad bars because the salads sold in normal restaurants are not all that great.) Three, it has made it SO easy to follow my ideal meal plan. While previously I easily go off track within the 1st, 2nd days of trying to maintain a healthy diet, right now I’m on Day 5 and going stronger and ever. Absolutely enjoying my meals every minute of the day right now.

Now, let’s get started!

Step 1: Write out your standard grocery list

Think about how your ideal meals are like (you can refer to Day 3 too). What food items do you need to purchase for these meals? Write them down.

For me, since my ideal meal is a raw vegan meal, my key food items can be categorized into 4 segments – Veg, Fruits, Dressings and Nuts.


Step 2: Highlight the items which you need to purchase today

Some of the food items may already be present in your house, while some may not. Highlight the items which you need to purchase.

For me, the key items which I need to stock up on today are:

– Button mushrooms
– Bean sprouts (they perish very quickly, so I need to replenish every 3 days or so)
– Lettuce (only have 1 lettuce head left for my salad later)

The rest are good as I just did my grocery shopping 2 days ago.

Update: I’m also going to buy a slicer to slice my carrots so that’s going into my list too :D

Step 3: Go shopping!

Today, take some time to shop at the grocery shop or the supermarket. If you’re working, drop by the supermarket during lunch or after work. Take this list with you as you do that, and get the items you’ve highlighted in Step 2! At the same time, keep your eyes open for any healthy food items, and get them if they complement your ideal healthy diet! (For example, I never thought of having bean sprouts in my ideal meal plan until I saw them at the supermarket during my grocery shopping this week! I realized that sprouts would be a great addition, hence bought them and am loving them in my salads nowadays!)

Day 4 – Follow Your Ideal Meal Plan

This is Day 4 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

Yesterday I wrote down my ideal meal plan.

My ideal meal plan includes:

  1. Breakfast – mixed bean soup or oatmeal soup, smoothie
  2. Lunch -Salad of fresh garden vegetables with nuts and fruit, squash or brown rice or whole grain bread
  3. Snack – Veggie juice, nuts
  4. Dinner – Salad, wild rice soup or squash
  5. Nothing after dinner.

Today I am supposed to follow my ideal meal plan.

But you how things go. Between ideal and reality there is always a gap, more or less for everyone.

For various reasons, including both subjective and objective reasons, I didn’t follow my ideal meal plan. But I did eat mostly healthy:

  1. Breakfast – a sweet potatoes
  2. Lunch – mixed bean and rice soup with an egg
  3. Dinner – white rice with stir fried celery, carrots, tofu and pea pods.
  4. Snack – crackers
  5. Raw food – a pear, a tangerine, a few baby carrots, a dozen of almond nuts, a little bit of leftover of a smoothie with a banana and an apple that I made for my son

During our long and cold winter months in Minnesota, I eat less raw vegetables. I eat better in summer when I can pick fresh veggies from my own garden.

I did exercises. I walked up and down a 10-story stairway 5 times.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 4 – Follow Your Ideal Meal Plan

That means that your task today is to bring your ideal meal plan to life! :dance:

[Image: salad2.jpg]

Treat this as taking your ideal plan for a test drive! Firstly, you might find that there are other changes that can be made to your ideal meal after you try it out. Secondly, since this is your ideal meal that makes you feel 200% after you have it, we might as well make that happen, starting from now! That’s a lot more empowering than wait for X thing to happen and Y condition to fall into place. It’s food, and we have to eat every day, so we might as well start off with the best things we want to eat in life.

Some of you might not be able to adhere 100% to the ideal plan (e.g., an ingredient is needed which is not available in the supermarkets in your vicinity), and it’s okay! It’s about using your ideal plan as inspiration for everything you eat today. Your ideal plan isn’t just 1 menu – there can be different iterations (for example, my ideal meal plan includes eating lots of fruits, vegetables, salads and a raw meal. Within that frame work, I can come up with a large varieties of different meal plans. Stick to the framework of what you see as an ideal diet and follow that today.

Now, let’s get started!

Step 1: Write out your key action steps (10 min)

What do you need to do to make this happen? Do you need to visit a different eatery for healthier food options? Do you need to prepare and pack your lunch today? Do you need to visit the supermarket and buy some food stuffs during lunch? Do you need to whip up dishes different than what you usually prepare? What food items do you need to buy then? If your meals are intended to be self-made, do you need to do some research to learn how to do that?

Write them all down in your journal!

Step 2: Take action!

Then, take action on the steps you wrote in Step #2! Relish in the food items you have today as they’re healthier than ever. Improvise where necessarily. Remember it’s not about being precisely in line with your ideal meal plan as it’s about taking in your healthiest foods for your body.

Step 3: Review your ideal meal plan (15 min)

At the end of the day, review your meal plan. How do you feel following this today? Do you feel healthier? More energetic? More vitalized? Why?

Separately, are there any adjustments needed for this plan? If so, what are they? How can you improve on your ideal meal plan?

Step 4: Integrate this plan into your daily life (15 min)

Now that you have embarked on your ideal meal, now the question is to make this a part of your every day life. Think about the key action steps you need to take to continue with this ideal plan tomorrow, the day after, and after, the week, every week after that, and so on. Then, get started on these action steps.

Someday is today

I think “someday” is a word I use quite often in my thinking and writing. 

“Someday I will do this or that.”

In fact, I just used this word in my previous post an hour ago.  I said I would love to try that diet someday.

Then I read the following sentence in an article: “There are seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them!”

That’s a simple yet quite profound statement. It made me stop and think.

Someday is an easy excuse for not making the commitment and taking the action today. 

We all have heard the old saying about tomorrow: “Tomorrow is not guaranteed” or “Tomorrow never comes.” Someday is even more distant and exists only in our imagination.

If you talk about taking action “someday,” it probably will never happen and someday will never come.

If you seriously want to do something, you need to stop thinking about it, dreaming about it, talking about it, reading about it, watching others doing it, and putting things off till tomorrow or getting around to it someday.

If you seriously want to do something, you need to take action and do it today, this present time, now, instead of waiting for someday.

You can only take action today.

There is no someday, we only have today.

Day 3 – Create Your Ideal Meal Plan

This is Day 3 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

My ideal meal plan includes:

  1. Breakfast – mixed bean soup or oatmeal soup, smoothie
  2. Lunch -Salad of fresh garden vegetables with nuts and fruit, squash or brown rice or whole grain bread
  3. Snack – Veggie juice, nuts
  4. Dinner – Salad, wild rice soup or squash
  5. Nothing after dinner.

My ideal meal plan can also be The Hallelujah Diet. I would love to try that some day.

I eat more fresh vegetables in summer when I have them from my own garden.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 3 – Create Your Ideal Meal Plan

Today’s task is about creating your ideal meal plan. Writing out your ideal meal plan for the entire day – from breakfast, lunch, all the way to dinner.

[Image: salad.jpg]

Why is it important to have our ideal meal plan? The thing is, more of us probably eat based on what’s around us. Feeling hungry? Let’s see what’s there in the fridge. Want to grab a bite? Let’s head to the fast foods and get something quick. Is there food right there on the table? Let’s munch a little on it – it wouldn’t make a difference.

What we’re doing here isn’t eating based on what we truly want to eat, but merely eating because it’s convenient and accessible. And the thing is, this will keep happening all the time simply because we subject ourselves to what’s there in the environment. The pattern keeps looping over, and over, and over again, repeating and never stopping. The only time when it stops is when we put a stop to it. And for that to happen, we have to first be aware of what exactly we want to eat in our ideal diet. And that’s what we’re going to do today! :mrgreen:

Step 1: Write out your ideal meal plan for a normal day (10 min)

Imagine you are in your ideal day now. What’s your ideal meal like, the meal that will bring you to your highest pinnacle of health and wellness? What would you want to be eating when you wake up? What would you be drinking? What would you have for lunch? How about in between meals? What would you have for dinner? Lastly, would you be eating anything in the few hours before sleep? If so, what would that be?

Write down all the foods that you’ll be eating in your ideal meal plan, including serving sizes where possible. Keep working on it until you’re 110% happy with this meal and you know that this is a meal plan where you’ll absolutely feel the happiest, the healthiest and most vitalized.

Step 2: Do a nutritional check with your plan (15 min)

Here, we’ll be doing a quick check on the calories and nutrition level. Just like what you did yesterday (via the calorie counter sites in Day 2’s task), check on (a) Calorie count (Cal – 1 cal = 4.18 KJ) (b) Fat content, in grams © If you’d like to record other information in your list (such as protein, carbs, vitamins, minerals, etc), feel free to do so!

Ensure that the calories and fat meet your nutritional requirements. Your calories should be in line with your BMR (or -/+ 500 calories lesser if you want to lose/gain weight, as recommended in the health industry). You should have a range of vitamins and minerals in your diet too. Click on this link and scroll down a little for a chart of important vitamins and minerals, and the role they play in your diet.

If you feel it doesn’t meet your nutritional requirements, go back and make adjustments to the plan until it does and you’re 110% happy with it.

Day 2 – Create a Calorie List

This is Day 2 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

The Day 2 task is a little too complicated and difficult for me to do. Here is why.

Three times a day, I eat home cooked food, made from scratch. I rarely eat from a can or a box, so there is no way I can read the label and count the calorie and fat content of the items I eat. And I have never done that.

To make things more complicated, I don’t measure how much I cook or eat.

Unlike in the Western countries where cookbooks and recipes are popular and widely used, most Chinese people don’t use cookbooks and recipes. We simply cook using what we have and by experience – taste as you go. I never follow any recipes or measure the ingredients I use.

I eat more if there is more or less if there is less. Sometimes I eat a few extra bites if there is leftover that I don’t want to leave it for the next day. I am a flexible person, it also applies to my meals and food intake.

Here is what I had for today:

  1. Breakfast – a bowl of thick rice soup made of rice, dried split green beans, and sweet potatoes, and a little bit of fermented bean curd. I usually have mixed dried beans and rice soup every morning.
  2. Lunch – Fried rice with rice, egg, peas, corn.
  3. Afternoon snack – Pieces of apples, oranges and pears.
  4. Dinner – Bread and baked squash left over from a couple of days ago;  stir fried eggplants and sweet peas; tofu, peanuts, soybeans, bamboo, tiny dried shrimp cooked in a salty black bean paste; chicken soup.

I usually don’t eat meat and deep fried items. So I don’t think I need to worry about the calorie and fat content. But one thing I know I need to be more careful about is that I tend to eat a little bit too salty. I like salty stuff such as salted vegetables and fermented bean curd.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 2 – Create a Calorie List

Today’s task is to create a calorie list. What’s a calorie list, you may ask? It’s a term I use to refer to a list of food items that we commonly eat, along with their respective calorie and nutritional information.

[Image: calorie-list.jpg]

Why is it important to have a calorie list? It’s not intended for us to count calories of every single thing we eat in an obsessed fashion. Not at all. I’ve tried counting calories for an extended period of time before (1 year actually) and it was quite tiring. I felt that I was on some kind of leash when it came to eating.

On the other hand, I gained important knowledge in the process. The process made me more aware of the calorie and nutritional level of the foods that I was eating. I realized some of my favorite foods that I’d eat a lot of, were not only high in calories, but extremely low in nutritional level. I also realized that there are many healthy food sources which are low(er) in calories and power packed with nutritions (vegetables for one, salads, fruits, sprouts).

It’s important to have a calorie list because it helps you to be aware of the calorie and nutrition level of what you consume. It helps you to be conscious of what you’re putting inside your body. Do you prefer to consume high calorie, low nutritional level food or healthy foods with high nutrition? Surprisingly, a lot of the foods we eat actually are much higher/lower in calories and nutrition than we realize. And it is through creating a calorie list that we can get clarity on that.

Hence for today, we’ll be creating our own calorie list!

Step 1: Write down a list of foods you commonly eat (5 min)

First, start an excel spreadsheet or create a table in word document. Think about all the foods that you typically eat and write them down. Be exhaustive. Your list should include:

  1. Foods you’ve been eating in the past week
  2. Foods you want to keep out of your diet but end up eating anyway
  3. Any food that you have an interest in eating

Be specific with your items. If you eat fruits, don’t just list “Fruits” since there are many different kinds of fruits and each have a different nutritional information. A good, specific list will be like the one below:

  1. Oranges
  2. Apples
  3. Walnut
  4. Green peas
  5. Brown rice
  6. Instant noodles
  7. Pasta (Penne)
  8. Dressing (Thousand Island)

Step 2: Record the calorie and fat content of the items (15 min)

Create 2 new columns beside the food items to record the (a) Calorie count (Cal – 1 cal = 4.18 KJ) (b) Fat content (g). We’re recording calories because it’s the overall measurement of energy. On the other hand, we’re recording fat because we’re in a society today where most of us have extremely high fat content in our diets without even knowing it (average American consumes nearly 50% of fat in their diet!!). High fat diets are slow contributors to many heart diseases and illnesses and it’s important to be conscious of the fat levels in our diets. On the other side of the spectrum, we may have people who may be eating little, but their fat intake may be way high! That’s extremely unhealthy as well. Calorie is merely one part of the equation in living a healthy life.

If you buy your food from the supermart, they usually have nutritional labels, so get the information directly from there. If you don’t have the labels – it’s okay! There are extremely useful calorie counters online that you can use!

  1. The Calorie Counter
  2. Calorie Count
  3. New Calorie Counter
  4. Live Strong (for common Singapore food items)
  5. Nutrition @ SG(for common Singaporee food items)
  6. Spark People (You’ve to sign up to get access to their counter – sign-up is free)
  7. Fitness Pal(Thanks participant clarkindee for the recommendation! You’ve to sign up to get access to their counter – sign-up is free)

Remember to record down the unit of the food for the respective calorie/fat (lbs, oz, pieces, slice, etc). Otherwise the numbers wouldn’t mean much by themselves!

If you’d like to record other information in your list (such as protein, carbs), feel free to do so! Just ensure that you record the calorie and fat.

Step 3: Track your food intake today

Now, as you progress through the day, record everything you eat and the unit sizes. Go about it as a usual day without intentionally trying to restrict yourself just because you’re tracking calories. The intent of this exercise is become aware of the amount of calories we take in every day with our typical eating habits. Are we overeating or under-eating every day? We’ll find out soon enough!

Since your calorie list is supposed to be a comprehensive list, it should include the foods you’re eating today. If not, add on to the list!

Step 4: Evaluate your calorie and fat intake (10 min)

At the end of the day (when you’ve finished eating), do a round-up of the calories and fat you’ve taken in for the day.

Your Calorie Count

  1. Calculate the total amount of calories you’ve taken in (Cal)
  2. Compare this with your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Is it higher, same or lower? If it’s not the same, how much higher or lower is it? (If you don’t know your BMR, use this BMR counter.)

Your Fat Count

  1. Calculate your total fat intake (g) today.
  2. Now, calculate the percentage of your fat intake relative to your total calories. 1g of fat = 9 calories.So if you took in 60g of fats today and consume 1,700 calories,
    – Calories by fat = 60g x 9 = 540 calories
    – Percentage of fat intake = 450 / 1,700 x 100% = 32%
    There are a lot of different takes on what is a healthy level of fat intake (ranging from 10-30%), but basically the general consensus is that anything 30% and above is too high. My personal target is 15%.
  3. How much is your fat intake? Is your diet high fat or low fat?

Step 5: Reflect on Today’s Exercise (10 min)

Looking at your calorie and fat intake today and taking into account the foods you’ve been eating in the past period…

  1. Are there any implications of your current diet on your health? If so, what are they?
  2. What should you do then?

For the next couple of days, continue to track your calories to get the hang of your calorie intake. Keep doing it until you have a strong feel of the right amount of food to meet your daily calorie target. We’ll continue to use your calorie list in a later exercise!

Published in The Dollar Stretcher

I subscribe to the online newsletter “The Dollar Stretcher: Living Better…For Less” and love to read frugal living tips. Occasionally I like to make a contribution by submitting a tip of my own.

My recent tip It Pays to Check Your Bills was published in the Volume 16, Number 1 (January 3, 2011) issue of The Dollar Stretcher.              

If you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter, send mail to: or visit

It Pays to Check Your Bills

Checking your bills is important in this era of automatic bill pay

Ten-Second Summary

  • Most of my family’s bills are paid automatically either from our credit card or bank accounts.
  • For credit card statements, I cross check what’s on the statements with the receipts I have.
  • When I contact credit card companies for any of the problems, they are very good at helping me and getting the problems resolved.
  • I also look at my receipts when I do grocery shopping. Over-charging happens.
  • It pays to check bills and receipts, and take the time to ask if you notice any problems.

Most of my family’s bills are paid automatically either from our credit card or bank accounts. Whenever possible, I set up an automatic bill payment plan, using a credit card. For companies that don’t offer automatic bill pay plans, or charge extra fees for paying with credit cards, they can usually be paid automatically from our bank account.

This saves time and money. And I don’t have to worry about late payments and late fees. I only need to make sure that there is enough money in our bank account to cover the credit card bills and a few other bills.

I usually check all the bills I receive. I like to get a clear picture of what I am paying. For credit card statements, I cross check what’s on the statements with the receipts I have.

I found mistakes with double charges. I had charges made from an Arabic country on my statements that I didn’t recognize. I also disputed charges because of bad services or products. When I contact credit card companies for any of the problems, they are very good at helping me and getting the problems resolved.

I also look at my receipts when I do grocery shopping. Over-charging happens. At one oriental food market I frequently shop in St. Paul, the error rate was unusually high. I had to bring it to the manager’s attention.

Recently I received one subscription renewal notice from the local newspaper. When I put it in my file folder and took a look at last year’s notice, I noticed two things. First, this year’s renewal date is one month earlier than last year’s. Second, this year’s price has doubled from last year’s.

I had to call the paper to find out why. It turned out that the renewal date was indeed wrong. It was one month earlier than it should have been. I don’t know how it happened. I got an apology. I wonder how many customers have the same error on their renewal notices and how many people would even notice this.

When I was told that the subscription price has increased for all, I simply said I wanted to cancel the paper when the current subscription expires next month. The customer service representative said that she did not want to lose me as a customer and she wanted to check with her supervisor to see if she could offer me a better deal. Seconds later, she told me that I could keep last year’s rate. OK, then I’ll keep my paper. I felt like I was talking to a car sales person.

It took me a few minutes of time, but I think it definitely is worth it. It pays to check your bills and receipts, and take the time to ask if you notice any problems.

Qin Tang is a librarian and writer. She has a passion for healthy, green, simple, frugal, mindful and soulful living. Visit her blog at

“Time for Truth”

Today I finished reading Nick Bunick’s book Time for Truth that I recently found on the New Book Shelf at the local public library.

I never heard about Nick Bunick. He was the subject of the best-selling book “The Messagers” published in 1997.  

Time for Truth is definitely an interesting and mind-opening book. It will make you think of the Catholic Church and Christianity in a new or different way.

The author talks about several wrongdoings by the early Christian leaders, mostly to control the lives of their followers by instilling fear and guilt in them and to maintain their power and control:

  • Distort the teachings of Jesus and turn words of love into words of fear
  • Create the concept of original sins
  • Invent hell, Satan and sinners
  • Make believe that the Jewish people were responsible for the death of Jesus
  • Make believe that we are responsible for the death of Jesus and place the burden of guilt on God’ children, for we are all sinners
  • Remove writings about reincarnation from the Bible
  • Remove the important roles women played in the early church
  • Only men could hold positions of leadership and they must remain single and celibate

I am not in the position to judge the truthfulness of “Time for Truth.” But it certainly gave me something to think about and made me think things a little differently.

Day 1 – Drink 8 Glasses of Water

This is Day 1 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

This 1st day challenge is quite easy for me to do, as I already drink water every day. It’s basically all I drink. I occasionally drink a cup of juice or coffee at parties. And I don’t drink sodas at all.

When I go somewhere, I usually take a bottle of water with me. I have the habit of refilling my own water bottle. I like to reduce and recycle.

Drinking 8 glasses or 52 ounces of water comes easy on weekdays as I mostly sit all day in my office. But on weekends at home, I tend to drink less as I am more on the run. So I need to make a conscious effort to slow down and make sure that I don’t drink water until I feel really thirsty.

The following is from the 21DHL Forum.


Day 1 – Drink 8 Glasses of Water

If you’ve read 45 Tips To Live a Healthy Life post on TPEB on Dec ’10, you’d have seen the first tip, which is to drink more water. Why? Because water is life. Water is essential for our body to function – Do you know over 60% of our body is made up of water? Water is needed to carry out our body functions, remove waste and carry nutrients and oxygen around our body. Since we lose water every day through urine, bowel movements, perspiration and breathing, we need to replenish our water intake.

[Image: water.jpg]

Furthermore, drinking more water alone actually aids in losing weight. A study carried out among overweight/obese people showed that water drinkers lose 4.5 more pounds than a control group. The researchers believe that it’s because drinking more water helps fill your stomach, making you less hungry and less likely to overeat. I agree with that, and I have an added take that your body tries to retain whatever water you take when you don’t take in enough water, leading to increase in weight. Whereas when you regularly drink water, your body knows that it’s going to get its supply of fluids, so it doesn’t try to retain more water.

Shockingly, most of us actually do not drink enough water. We only drink like 1-2 times a day, during the meal times, and we do not hydrate ourselves at all in the other times of the day. Hence, our first task of 21DHL is to drink water – specifically the right amount of water for our best health.

Step 1: Calculate the amount of water you need to drink

To estimate how much water you need to drink, use the method below.

  • Divide your weight (in pounds) by two. This is the amount of water intake (in ounces) you need in a day. (150lbs = 75 ounces/day) Or;
  • If you use the metric system, divide your weight (in kg) by 30. The answer is the amount of water intake (in liters) you need a day. (66kg = 2.2 liters/day)

Then, take the number and multiply it by 80%. Food intake contributes about 20% of our fluid intake, so this final number is the actual amount of water in fluid form that you need to drink. This is a rough estimate – if you’ve an active lifestyle, you live in a warm climate where you perspire a lot and/or you do high level of physical activity (sports), you can add about 5-20% more.

Remember, when in doubt, use your own body as a gauge. If your lips/throat feel dry, your lips look dry, and you feel dehydrated, that means you should be drinking more water.

Step 2: Drink this amount of water today

Make sure you drink this amount of water today (slightly more is okay too). Water here refers to pure water, NOT soda, coffee, tea (drinks with caffeine) or alcohol! These are diuretics – mean they cause a fluid outtake rather than intake when you consume them!

Don’t drink them all in one go because it’s not going to solve the issue! (We’re not a camel; our water isn’t going to distribute itself when needed) The point is to distribute our water intake throughout the day. The best times will be when we wake up (since we’ve been sleeping for some time), before/after our meals, while we’re working, and at night before we sleep.

If you’re not sure how much water fills a glass, simply use a soda can as estimation. A normal soda can is 330ml or about 12 oz. If you have a large glass that can contain all the water in a can, that means you’d need 8 glasses for 2.6-2.7 liters of water fluid intake.

Some tips to help you in this goal:

  1. Carry a water bottle – You never know when you’re going to get thirsty! This way you can drink wherever you are.
  2. Have a big drinking mug at your desk so you only have to refill once in a while
  3. Having a jar/flask of water right at your desk is really useful for the same reason as #2
  4. Buy a large flask and fill it in the morning with the amount of water intake you need for the day. Drink only from the flask the whole day so you can use it as your gauge. At the end of the day, it should be empty! If not, finish it up.
  5. Set reminders (either in your phone or computer) on a busy day so you don’t forget to drink (by participant Rohit)

Step 3: Continue this habit for the whole of 21DHL

After you’ve completed this habit, continue on for all the days of 21DHL! Create a tracking table with 21 columns that represent the 21 days of 21DHL. Mark a tick whenever you have finished drinking your required amount of fluid intake for the day. Mark a cross when you haven’t. At the end of 21DHL, you’ll be able to see how you fare in this area.


“Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days” Challenge

Happy New Year to everyone! Wish you a healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2011!

I have joined Celestine Chua’s “Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days” Challenge which officially starts today!

The 21DHL Challenge was announced on Celes’ The Personal Excellence Blog a few days ago and daily posts with tips and discussions take place at the 21DHL Forums.

I am healthy and live a pretty healthy lifestyle. But I know I can do better, especially in terms of exercise.

My goals for the 21DHL Challenge are –

Eat better
Lose weight
Exercise more
Get more sleep
Be more patient
Be more mindful

Hope the Challenge will motivate me do more and do better.

Keep your private information private

Do you know how much information you think is private is actually public and can easily be accessed by anyone on the Internet using a simple search of your name?

Check out and you might be surprised by what people can find out about you in a few seconds – your home address, your marital status, religion, hobbies, names of friends and family members, personal photos you have posted on the Web, a satellite image of your home, your estimated income, home value, credit score and age.

Spokeo.comis basically an online USA phone book with personal information. It is a search engine that aggregates information pertaining to individual names, email addresses, and phone numbers from online public sources such as phone books, government records, plus profile entries from websites like Facebook, MySpace,, LinkedIn, Flickr, and many others (the Spokeo site lists upwards of 50 potential data sources).

The website does provide a form whereby you can delete your individual listing.

To your individual listing, search for yourself on to find the URL of your page, then go to the bottom of the page and click on the Privacy button to remove yourself.

But keep in mind: simply removing your search results from doesn’t prevent anyone from accessing the same data by other means. It just makes it less convenient for others to find the information.

Check out the Wiki article for more information.