Heart Choices: 2008-10-19 -->

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World Series Baseball

It's the Tampa Bay Rays versus the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series this year. I'm excited about this series for several reasons.

My dad is a huge sports fan and he's so excited! He watches every game and reads the sports section of the St. Pete Times every single day.

When the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the World Series back in 2001, my dad was just as excited as those of us living in Phoenix. And it was something we could share together, even long distance. He would call me during half time to discuss the plays. I loved that he cared enough to be so interested. And he was so excited when they won, even though we're originally from New York (sorry Yankee fans).

I remember it was such an exciting time for Phoenix as the whole city seemed to become friendlier. Everybody was talking about the Diamondbacks. I'm sure that's the way it is in Florida now. An interesting tidbit is that Clearwater is the host for the spring training for the Philadelphia Phillies. I know my dad has attended many of their games at the stadium that is close to his house. But make no mistake, I know who he is cheering for!

My brother and sister live in Florida too... so the whole family is cheering for the Rays.

Can you see my niece Kristin's Rays T-shirt? I heard she got to go to the first game of the series at the stadium in St. Pete. Way to go! Here she is with her new friend Kevin.

Why post about baseball on Heart Choices? Well, I think having fun is good for the heart. I also believe that taking time to share the interests of loved ones helps you bond closer together.

My dad's wife Shari told me that she has learned to love baseball... because she loves my dad. Since it's so important to him, she wanted to be a part of that. I think that's a pretty smart choice to make, especially since I know my dad so well.

So, Greg and I will be cheering on the Rays. I think some of my bloggy buddies live in Florida too ...so do I really have a choice? GO RAYS!

Wellsphere Health Blogger

Wellsphere is a new online resource where you can go for answers to your health questions. After visiting my Heart Choices blog, Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge contacted me and invited me to participate as a featured blogger in their Heart Health Community. Dr. Rutledge taught and practiced Internal and Emergency Medicine for over 25 years at Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools and is currently the Health Information Officer at Wellsphere. Well, I was honored ... and so I proudly and humbly accepted his invitation to be a part of the Wellsphere community.


Heart Choices will continue to be focused on body, mind and spirit... and how our day to day choices determine what our tomorrows will become. The blog isn't moving but some of the posts will be included in the Wellsphere community.

Wellsphere has compiled a video of some of the participating bloggers. The theme is "We Care".

I hope you enjoy the video and that you'll hop over and visit Wellsphere from time to time.

Thankful Thursday - Special Friendship

The Thankful Thursday theme for today is "Who is your Elizabeth?" Iris is the blogger who started Thankful Thursday and she wrote that the inspiration for this week's theme came from a post she read by Joanne at Laced with Grace.

Joanne wrote about women being relational and that when something big happens, we want to share it with a friend. When Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus, she had to share the news. And who did she run to? Elizabeth, her cousin.

I am so blessed with many good friends but if I had to choose one who is my Elizabeth it would have to be...Helen.

I met Helen when I first started going to church, about thirteen years ago. We were in a class that was doing the Henry Blackaby study called "Experiencing God". After that, we went to an Anne Graham Lotz conference together and had time to spend quality time together. It was at that time that we decided to become prayer partners. Although we pray together ... we also have fun together.

Helen and I share many common interests and... a few that we don't. She likes to fish and to go to garage sales. I must confess I haven't done either of those activities with her ...yet.

I'm trying to encourage her with her exercising and she's been walking in the morning...yeah Helen! We both like to eat and find great recipes and garden and offer encouragement to others. At one point, we even made some encouragement baskets and dreamed of having a business that offered some of those services.

We've gone through many highs and lows together. But we were able to share our hearts, to laugh and even to cry together. Helen is my Elizabeth ...and I'm very thankful on this Thursday and every day for her.

So, who is your Elizabeth? Joanne writes that:

"Your Elizabeth should:

Have a steadfast walk with the Lord.

Give Godly counsel in truth and love.
Encourage you in your walk with Jesus.
Encourage you in your marriage.
Be someone whom you desire to learn from.
Pray for you.
Rejoice in your successes.
See your God-given gifts and encourage you to use them.

Your Elizabeth should not:

Gossip with others about things you have shared.
Disrespect your husband or family.
Remind you of past failures, or make fun of your shortcomings.
Pull you away from others.
Discourage you from serving the Lord.
Be in competition with you, or insecure in your achievements."


Increase Brain Power With Exercise

Exercise can help reverse age related brain decline. If you needed one more reason to get motivated to exercise, maybe this will be the one to push you over into acceptance...and just start doing it.

Model of human brain

Professor Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D. conducts research at the Beckham Institute at the University of Illinois and he focuses on changes in brain structure and function that occur as people age. He recently published a study with strong evidence that aerobic exercise can actually reverse mental decline. In a report in The Telegraph, the research actually suggests that the benefits of regular exercise are not only seen in the normal aging process but also for people with Alzheimer's disease.

So, what does this mean?

Aerobic exercise can help increase your brain power? YES!

Gosh, I like that. As I'm getting older, I often hear myself and my friends complain about forgetting things or finding it harder to remember things like "where did I put my keys?"

Hmmm...so if exercise can help my brain, that's a good thing.

What exactly is aerobic exercise anyway? Aerobic exercise simply means a type of exercise that uses is a continuous, rhythmic activity using large groups of muscles for a minimum of twenty minutes (40 minutes is ideal). Some examples include walking, bicycling and rowing. By the way, this is a great way to increase your metabolism... which helps with weight loss.

Professor Kramer writes in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that about six months of physical activity should be sufficient to see an improvement in brain power.

So, what are you waiting for? What's been holding you back from getting started?

Losing Weight

Losing weight seems to be the on the minds...and waistlines of so many people. Even though I am one of those people who has consistently exercised, I still love to cook and eat. And as I get older, it seems to become harder to lose weight.

When I was younger I never seemed to be tempted much by sweets. It's not that I didn't like an occasional chocolate but I just wasn't the kid with candy on my mind and in my mouth. I actually loved apples, can you believe it?

However, it seems that after menopause (dare I mention that word?), I've developed a love affair with some sweets. And the biggest culprit for me are the sugar cookies from Barb's Bakery. I don't mean to tempt you... but who can resist cookies that are so cute? They make all kinds of designs for holidays like cookies in the form of flags or Christmas trees or angels. Gosh, I've got to stop obsessing over something I need to stay away from right now. Because my habit lately has been that when I'm stressed... a cookie from Barb's Bakery tastes so good.

As it goes down, I smile...but then I think about how many calories it contains. I know that once in a while is OK but I've taken to freezing them in individual baggies for future eating. And if it's in the house, I will eventually eat it.

This post is supposed to be about losing weight, right? I need to get back on topic.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that... to lose weight you need to eat less calories than you burn each day.

But if you cut back too much on the calories, your metabolism slows down and besides that... you get hungry! So, if you make the choice to exercise each day that helps to increase your metabolism which helps with weight loss.

I want to share a secret with you...spoil your appetite. A Penn State research study found that eating a salad or soup as a first course can actually decrease the calorie intake by 12%. Now remember not to slather your salad with high calorie dressing. But filling up on the more water rich foods will give you a feeling of fullness and you may be less inclined to eat so much food at each meal. Also remember to eat slow. If you eat too fast you don't realize how full you are and then you've already consumed much too much food.

I want to share a recipe for Gazpacho soup. I found the recipe in Ina Garten's cookbook "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook". If you've ever seen Ina on Food Network TV, you know that she isn't known for her low fat healthy recipes. But her recipe for gazpacho is very healthy and low in calories and it's delicious. During the summer, I keep a container of it in the fridge so instead of eating a sweet or other snack, I have a cup of cold gazpacho. Since I live in Phoenix, I tend to eat it year round and besides that a cold soup is very convenient.

Gazpacho (from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Serves 8-10 (I half this recipe)

2 hothouse cucumbers halved and seeded, but not peeled
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
8 plum tomotoes
2 red onions
6 garlic cloves, minced
46 ounces tomato juice (6 cups)
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess! (I don't use the food processor but chop it myself)

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.

One note of caution: If you have a history of congestive heart failure or have been told to watch your salt intake, tomato juice is fairly high in sodium.

How about you? Do you have any tips that have worked for you? What foods do you struggle with (like my Barb's Bakery cookies)?

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